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SKINS: Official Non-Sponsor

It’s January 2015. FIFA is an organisation seeped in accusations of corruption and malfeasance. Yet they continue to operate with impunity. No one seriously thinks anything can or will change.

SKINS has a history of sports activism and a brand purpose to fuel the True Spirit Of Competition. Doing nothing was not an option. SKINS could not just stand on the sidelines voicing politically-correct disapproval. We felt we had to directly tackle FIFA.

We wanted to draw maximum attention to the area that really matters to FIFA — their sponsorship income. Thus was born a two-pronged strategy: mobilise sponsors and compel them to influence FIFA change, and present legitimate recommendations for reform. In order to achieve the latter, SKINS’ co-established NewFIFANow, a reform group chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins.

The Idea: ‘SKINS: Official Non-Sponsor of FIFA.’

If sponsorship is about directly supporting the values of an organisation, then this ironic ‘non-sponsorship’ presented an attention-grabbing means to challenge and renounce FIFA’s practices, thereby highlighting SKINS’ values and beliefs. It was a simple and direct message that also challenged the conventional sponsors to think about what they were actually supporting.

We needed to mobilise public opinion to make sponsors re-think their association with FIFA and force them to use their billion-dollar influence to drive reform. Our vehicle to do this: social media.

The launch creatively subverted all of the classic sponsorship announcement and marketing tactics to ironic effect. Two launch films were released online, both of which encouraged consumers to visit our social hub – officialnonsponsor.com – where they could petition for change.

The hub also enabled SKINS to show a breadth of non-sponsorship activities, parodying all the content typically seen with more established sponsorships. It poked fun at FIFA on multiple levels, such as showcasing faux merchandise that was ‘transparent’ (unlike FIFA!) and ‘Official Non-Sponsor of FIFA’ guidelines, including lockups and artwork files that were sent to official sponsors via Twitter.

Phase II turned up the heat with a satirical film exposing sponsor hypocrisy in ignoring worker conditions in FIFA World Cup construction in Qatar they expressly would not allow within their own supply chain.

The launch achieved over 850k Twitter impressions and 35k engagements, 170k total video views and 100% positive sentiment.

The biggest success, however, was that a £50k social media campaign generated $50m of earned media. The campaign was featured in over 400 global publications, including the likes of the Telegraph, Sky News, Yahoo, Eurosport and Reuters. What’s more, SKINS’ Chairman, Jaimie Fuller, became global media’s go-to spokesperson for industry reaction, giving SKINS a constant presence on international rolling news.

SKINS’ ONS campaign fundamentally changed the narrative to make ‘sponsor complicity’ and ‘independent reform’ part of the FIFA story. The public, media, politicians, and finally Tier 1 sponsors publically and privately agitated for “independently-led” reform.

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