What does modern marketing have in common with fantasy football?

Female footballer, women's football

Like it or not, football is firmly back on our screens and for many, it’s a welcomed sign that things are very slowly returning to some kind of normal. The new season also means several sports fans are kickstarting their Fantasy Football teams, but what if there’s more to the virtual, drag-and-drop nature of ‘the beautiful game’, and it actually represents the future of the modern marketing solution? Founder and CEO of virtual agency network Pimento, Stephen Knight, shares his thoughts…

Welcoming in a time of change

It’s hard to make it through a day without a discussion around the ‘new normal’ and how adaptability is going to be crucial for business continuity in these unprecedented times. With much of the world still working from home, there has been a real shift towards embracing a more digital daily routine – such as video calls for client meetings and team check-ins.

In some cases, companies have adapted their entire proposition to help the NHS – such as setting up 3D face mask printing services – while others have completely pivoted and changed their entire offering, in an attempt to remain buoyant within the marketplace.

However, no matter which category they fall into, we are all united in the sense that businesses of all sizes and across all sectors have experienced this time of uncertainty together. And team-wide collaboration and thinking-outside-the-box has been key in helping to weather the storm.

While we are in no way through this challenging period, it has become apparent that cross-team creativity is crucial to deliver client projects on time, on budget and on brief – especially in the case of agencies.

Yet while COVID-19 may have forced many companies’ hands when it comes to embracing the virtual meeting, it has unfortunately had an adverse effect on many marketing budgets – seeing them reduced by up to 70 per cent.

But in a time where all brands should aim to keep talking and keep their communications flowing clearly and effectively, how could an approach similar to the iconic football loan scheme help agencies navigate the current sea of uncertainty, create a more agile way of working and ultimately strengthen their proposition?

What does this have to do with football?

Well, the basic rule of Fantasy Football is that competitors each have a budget and must pick their so-called ‘dream team’ for that week’s fixtures.

The simple concept is that users score performance-related points depending on their role and individual KPI. For instance, a goal keeper’s main focus is to defend the goal, while a striker’s position is to attack and score one – either player could probably turn their hand to the other’s role if they tried, but it’s not their specialism and they wouldn’t fulfil it to the same quality standard.

And this analogy, in many ways, can, and should, be applied to the modern marketing industry.

Every agency has its specialism – whether it’s PR, design, social media, events, digital or print – and while some may offer a mixture, there are undoubtedly strengths which stand out from each one.

But how do agencies know whether the client on the end of the phone has a complex brief which perfectly aligns to their proposition, and how do clients know that the agency they’re contacting has the expertise they’re after to successfully deliver the project?

In this sense, it’s often a bit of a lottery as to whether the partnership will be a successful fit for both parties – but if the industry embraced more agency-wide collaboration and a virtual working model, this would arguably remove any doubt and increase trust.

The concept of a virtual agency network mirrors the Fantasy Football model as it sees hundreds of members – different agencies – pooled together in one place to be cherrypicked based on their skillsets for the right ‘match’, or in this case, brief. Only then, when you have the right men and women for the job is the squad complete and set for success.

And this highlights an emerging trend within the industry – the importance of harnessing the era of the specialist and recognising that no single agency can wear all the hats.

Collaboration knows no boundaries

There are many articles floating around the media landscape about the ‘death of the office’ as we know it – with some agencies having abandoned the physical workspace altogether, in favour of a more virtual one.

However, no matter which side of the fence you are on in this respect, or if you’d prefer a combination of both, inter-agency collaboration can take place with or without bricks and mortar –  all it takes is a fresher approach to thinking and a digital style of working.

Being one key player within a larger team allows agencies to focus on their individual specialism, fostering a more joined-up and less siloed approach to modern marketing. With the tools and infrastructure there to make this a reality, it’s now in the agencies’ hands to speak up about their strengths and wait to be picked to play in their dream match.

Stephen KnightAbout the author

Stephen Knight founded virtual agency network Pimento in 2005, in a bid to offer clients and brands an alternative way to manage their agency resources.

Previously chief marketing officer for The Walt Disney Company (EMEA), Stephen’s aim with Pimento was to shake up the traditional client/agency relationship. Since its inception, the firm sought to establish new ways to support clients’ marketing needs through flexible agency models.

Fast-forward to now and Stephen’s team has revolutionised the way the marketing industry responds to client requirements, creating bespoke teams, structures and fresh ways of working – adapting to the needs of the market.

As one of Europe’s leading independent agency networks, Pimento boasts over 200 agencies and consultants, employing 5,500 specialists covering every aspect of the marketing services mix. Passionate about making the outsourcing process as bespoke and simple as possible, the ensuing collective is able meet the complex demands of clients by creating bespoke teams, drawn directly from its members.

As its tagline ‘one agency, many flavours’ suggests, Pimento handpicks the brightest and best in each field – such as Brand, digital, PR, social media, design, web development and advertising – to work on any single brief and deliver the highest quality outcome.


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