Beyond Red | Origin Stories: Crabbies Grand National
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Origin Stories: Crabbies Grand National

Origin Stories: Crabbies Grand National

It’s widely regarded that John Smith’s did a pretty good job at landing their naming rights sponsorship of the Grand National. Recognition was high, recall was good, and the creative was, from memory, doing what it needed to do.

But with all long term sponsorship deals, it can feel a bit tired as time goes on. The danger of becoming stale is all too predictable; the risk of becoming invisible, part of the backdrop of the property, is feared by both the brand sponsor, and the property rights holder. As our colleagues at our sister agency Redmandarin have said before change the story – your audience wants to know that they are going somewhere. Or they’ll follow a more interesting story elsewhere.

So what happens when the shiny new naming rights partner strolls into town? What happens when you take on a second-hand title sponsorship? Well, in short, you have to be great, you have to be different, interesting, and importantly – you have to be useful. You need to earn your right to recognition, and you need to go into any naming rights deal knowing that it can be a significant time period before people stop calling your new property by its old name.

Enter Crabbies. The alcoholic drinks brand riding the wave of the post-cider zeitgeist, and on the outside, potentially a better partner for Aintree, who are trying to re-elevate their social positioning.

Crabbies faced at least two immediate problems; how to communicate the new partnership, and how to get away from those divisive but memorable Famous Five-cum-Stepford Wives adverts.

We discussed this at great length in the office – what could be the distinct and own-able positioning for Crabbies around the Grand National and why that platform? What is their attitude to horse racing?

We quickly came to realise that Crabbies genuinely had an interesting story to tell, they had a pedigree in horse racing, and specifically within the a Grand National. All of the components for a credible, engaging, narrative were starting to come together. They have permission to speak in this space, they have a story to tell about their history and the history of the Grand National. The idea of taking the audience back with an origin story greatly appealed.

In the end, Crabbies chose a different course – and although I think there’s still time for them to build a narrative thread to tie their media, PR stunts, hospitality and activation together, I think they missed an opportunity to create a compelling story out of the gates and to stamp their arrival in such a way that they could have cut down the naming partner transition period.

But all of this is just context for the real point of this post – to praise the team at 4Creative for their excellent work on creating the TV advert for the Crabbies 2014 Grand National. In 90 seconds, they manage to take the viewer back to the beginning, to tell the story of how a steeplechase of yore unfolded; a story of epic rivalry, of family feuds, and to give a real flavour of how the Grand National is much, much more, than just a horse race.

Tell an interesting story, tell a relevant story, tell an engaging story, and most importantly… tell it well.