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Volume 6 No. 266
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Hangin' With ... Wish Managing Dir Of Partnerships Sam Jones

Sam Jones said that much of a campaign's value is seen early, making the short-term nature of "Time On Your Hands" attractive.
Photo: Sam Jones

SAM JONES is the managing director of partnerships for online retailer Wish. The global e-commerce company made its first foray into sports by partnering with the NBA L.A. Lakers for a jersey sponsorship ahead of last season. Jones joined the company in December, having previously gained experience in sports sponsorships through a series of apps he developed in Asia. Earlier this year, he helped conceive the brand's "Time On Your Hands" campaign, which centers around int'l footballers not participating in the World Cup, including GIANLUIGI BUFFON, ROBIN VAN PERSIE, CLAUDIO BRAVO, GARETH BALE and TIM HOWARD. Also involved in the six-spot series are PAUL POGBA and NEYMAR. It aims to give fans a glimpse of what these athletes are doing while the global tournament takes place and shows the players using the Wish app instead of watching the games. Jones spoke with SBD Global about how Wish approaches sports sponsorships, the process of developing its current campaign and the role of social media for an online marketplace.

On Wish's approach to sports sponsorship ...
Sam Jones: If you're looking at a team, then you've obviously got to look at which markets you're big in and how much air time that league gets. We are very big in France. It's a huge market for us as a company. So we're very interested in that league but that's probably a domestic play for us because, as of today, it's nowhere near as popular as the Premier League. The Premier League is very interesting for us but it's very big in certain markets where we're still growing. Also, the Premier League is incredibly tribal. ... If you sponsor Manchester United, does that distance you from others?

On Wish's selective nature ...
Jones: We're probably the biggest nightmare for sports sponsorship executives. We always try to be friendly and we're obsessed with data in our company, so we always listen to anyone. And we look at their data online and how many fans they've got and so on. And we look at whether it's a good fit for our consumer base. We've met with a lot of teams, a lot of leagues, but we've been very selective in the deals we've done.

On deciding to sponsor the World Cup ...
Jones: When I came into the company, there was a lot of discussion over what would be the right league for us, should we be looking at a national team sponsorship, should we be looking at sponsoring a league itself, and we had a lot of dialogue around that. And I don't think we concluded that conversation until January of this year, when it dawned on us that this was a World Cup year. The World Cup just kind of trumped anything else we looked at.

On initial discussions for the campaign ...
Jones: We talked about, Could [DIEGO] MARADONA be in his lounge and instead of watching Argentina, he's actually playing on the Wish app? ... But the problem with that concept was Maradona has a very tiny social media [following] and, secondly, a lot of our users ... don't even know who Maradona is. So we started to think about using more current players, who are just not going to the World Cup.

On the appeal of the campaign's players ...
Jones: When we kind of sketched all these players out, it covered probably 70% of the markets that we care about. You can't necessarily do that with a team quite so easily. The downside of doing the project with the players is it's a short-term deal, which is good because it's a short-term burst, but we need to then build a longer-term sports strategy, which we're now starting to look at.

On the players' willingness to participate ...
Jones: We started to call the players and their representatives and say, "We've got this idea of making this advert in the next month and it centers around you not going to the World Cup." We didn't know if they'd find that interesting or whether they would tell us to jump off a cliff, because it was a sensitive topic. But I think because we wanted to make it quite humorous and because there was a potential gang of other superstars, they were all very receptive to it.

On the role of social media ...
Jones: From the very outset, we saw this as a social media campaign as much as a TV campaign. We bought TV ad slots all over the world -- primetime, live soccer spots. But we really wanted to push this on the players' social media channels -- and with the channels we spend so much money with, Facebook and others. So when we tied the players down to their contracts, we ensured that we had player posts so they could share the videos.

On reaching Wish's audience ...
Jones: When you have such a bold, global ambition, there are certain sports that are a great fit for reaching that audience -- like soccer, like basketball. There are other sports which are potentially just too small in terms of their following. ... When we look at sport, it's about legitimizing the Wish brand. ... The truly great thing about sport, or athletes, is there's no way these athletes put their name to something unless this company’s legitimate. I don't know anything else we could've done other than sport to get through that.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.