Burger King uses Fifa 20 to nudge Stevenage FC to internet glory 

Fast food brand sponsors a little-known football team to make them the biggest online club in the world

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our online intelligence tool. To find out more click here.

As part of its sponsorship of 4th division UK football team Stevenage FC, Burger King launched a campaign that aimed to transform a relatively unknown team into one of the biggest online clubs in the world.

The brand partnered with David The Agency to launch the Stevenage Challenge, which invited players of the popular football game Fifa 20 to select Stevenage FC from the list of teams and complete a series of in-game challenges. Players could also bring in high profile, non-Stevenage players to play for the team, and every player appeared in Burger King’s branded jerseys. 

Fans were encouraged to upload videos of their completed in-game challenges, such as scoring a goal from a free kick, a chip shot goal or putting one in the back of the net from past the half-way line, and share them with Burger King on Twitter to be in with a chance of winning prizes.

The global campaign launched across the USA, in China, Mexico, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Spain. The brand offered rewards including free delivery, free Whopper meals and even the chance to win free Whoppers for a whole year.

Contagious Insight 

It’s in the game / The Fifa game franchise is the bestselling sports franchise of all time, with the game’s developer Electronic Arts (EA) revealing in September 2018 that across all Fifa titles, the company had sold more than 260 million units since it launched in 1993. The audience numbers are impressive too, with EA reporting that the 2018 version of the game saw gamers playing 7 billion football matches and scoring 17 billion goals, while the competitive global series of Fifa had 20 million players across 60 countries.

The Stevenage FC stadium will play a maximum of 52 games a season, which could either be home or away across the league. Its home ground, the Lamex Stadium, has a maximum capacity of 6,722 people, which is small when compared with England’s national team’s Wembley stadium, which has 90,000. Compared with the limited brand exposure at physical games, the digital Fifa 20 platform could put Burger King in front of the game’s audience all day, every day. Stevenage is at least three years away from being in the same league as the biggest clubs in the country, and it lacks the equivalent talent or investment to achieve promotion to the Premier League. Considering that Manchester United FC was paid £64 million ($82 million) by Chevrolet by way of shirt sponsorship this season, Burger King’s back door route into the same digital exposure is a thrifty move.

The underdogs / Sports marketing provides a fertile landscape for brands to find the stories of underdogs and thrust them into the limelight. In 2018, Burger King’s parent company Restaurant Brands International reported that the fast food chain achieved revenues of $1.6 billion. Despite its success, Burger King still positions itself as a challenger brand in the fast food market, consistently flinging jibes at market leader McDonald’s with activations like the McWhopper, The Wropper Detour and Scary Clown Night.

Burger King’s sponsorship of Stevenage FC is a partnership that complements the brand’s personality and comms, because it takes the opportunity to support a little guy who could do with a boost. At the time of publishing, Stevenage is currently in last place in League 2 of the English Football League, making them the most ‘underdog’ team in UK professional football.

In the 18/19 football League Two season, Stevenage finished the league at 10th place in the table. While league success for Stevenage FC may be looking unlikely, other brands have backed underdogs to considerable success. Recently Contagious covered the story of Bud Light backing the Super Bowl-winning NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles, who at the start of the season had 50-1 odds of winning. You can read Contagious’s Insight & Strategy piece on the Philly Philly campaign here, which shows that there are big gains to be won from backing the little guy.

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