Blues marketing operations under the microscope / International / France /

At the beginning of last week, Kylian Mbappé was at the origin of an unexpected drama in the tranquility of the Château de Clairefontaine. The Bondy boy’s fault: knowingly drying up the marketing operations of France’s national team partners. Close-up of these meetings organized at each meeting of the Blues, not necessarily very popular with the players, but essential for the finances of the FFF and precious for the image of the brands in question.

The spring meeting of the French team has come to an end by one master class Kylian Mbappé against South Africa, Tuesday in Lille (5-0). The PSG striker was also the great entertainer at the start of this international window. For other reasons. On March 22, the 23-year-old stayed calmly in his room. while his companions went to meet the members of the FFF, present at Clairefontaine to prepare future advertising content. The number 10 of the Blues had the firm intention of boycotting brands with which it did not wish to associate its image (an initiative approved by the majority of the French), and even the call of a somewhat embarrassed Noël Le Graët changed nothing. But, in reality, what do these marketing operations consist of?

“We can’t say that this is her favorite moment in Clairefontaine, that would be a lie. » Frank Hocquemiller, image agent

Side by side, tight times and fictitious supports

The device is now broken. At each world champions match, a moment is foreseen so that the partners of the French Football Federation (in addition to the equipment supplier Nike, the “main” partners are Crédit Agricole, EDF, Orange and Volkswagen) can have access to the players. . The sponsors settle in a space in the Château de Clairefontaine set up for this purpose. The stands are very close together, as in the Agricultural Show. For two or three hours, the players go from one workshop to another, sometimes for a photo shoot, sometimes to record a short clip, which is not easy at all, because the time is very tight (from fifteen to twenty minutes). to dedicate to each partner). ). Important detail: being collective image rights, the Blues must be at least five to appear in each of the advertising content. If they play with a good heart, the players do not necessarily have an undying memory of these marketing meetings. “You want to stir up controversy! » answers a former international when asked about it. “They do not like the masses, it is a bit of a mannequin going from one position to another. But they do it, because they know that the money is donated to the associative environment” explains Lionel Maltese, professor at the University of Aix-Marseille and specialist in sports marketing. “We can’t say that this is their preferred time in Clairefontaine, that would be lying.”recognizes Frank Hocquemiller, image agent and president of VIP-Consulting. However, my players don’t take it as a restriction, because it doesn’t last very long. And then, it allows them to gain credibility in relation to the blue jersey. Just don’t do it randomly. »

Conflicts of interest and vital runoff

For the image agent, who currently defends the interests of Lucas Hernández and Corentin Tolisso and had Raphaël Varane hired when he was at Real Madrid, these marketing operations are the subject of continuous dialogue upstream. The goal: to avoid conflicts of interest at all costs. “When the player is in the France team, he is still paid by his clubrecalls Frank Hocquemiller. However, if the main sponsor of the club is a car brand and the player advertises a competitor when he is in the selection, that goes beyond the conflict of interest. There is almost a failure of the employee towards his employer. The only way to overcome this problem is to communicate intelligently. The Fed cannot take into account 23 special cases, it is impossible. So we ask in advance what the program will be, we point out a possible conflict of interest and, above all, we agree to shoot other commercials instead. » This constructive dialogue, the FFF must ensure that it is maintained to pamper its partners and continue receiving the 108 million they pay annually. A substantial part of this sum then reaches the amateur level. In other words, by fulfilling the marketing requirements linked to their presence in the national team, internationals participate in the financing of football from below. “These sponsorship contracts are particularly juicy. They bring to life all of French football, or at any rate a large part of it. insists Gérard Coudert, vice president of the Center for Sports Law and Economics (CDES) in Limoges.

“Sports marketing has strongly evolved towards the visibility of the athlete, which has prevailed over the team brand. » Lionel Maltese, AMU Professor and Sports Marketing Specialist

When the individual weighs more than the team

As for the partners, finally, the challenge that a marketing operation with the Blues represents is far from trivial. “The meetings allow us to build our activation programs on the occasion of the great competitionsexplains Stéphane Tardivel, director of sponsorship, partnership and events at Orange. For us, it is an opportunity to promote a new product, a new service and support our main communication campaigns. » In this search for visibility, the sponsors bet as much, or even more, on the image of a few strong people than on that of the French team as a whole. “In recent times, sports marketing has largely shifted towards athlete visibility, which has taken precedence over team branding.says Lionel Maltese. With this partnership, sponsors get something they wouldn’t get from a traditional newspaper or outlet: a human connection. For a few seconds or minutes, your brand is associated with an athlete. Inevitably, the emotional impact is stronger. “Mainly we associate our image with a collective, but obviously we are sensitive to having great actors to lead the campaign” admits Stéphane Tardivel. “We may be running a campaign months before it airs. Therefore, it is important to focus on veteran players, who are selected periodically. , specifies Guillaume Saez, head of communication for KFC France (which, as an “official” partner, does not have access to the same shooting sessions as the “main” partners). Therefore, it is not surprising that brands often ask to have access to the same elements, that is, those best known by the general public and those most followed on social networks. “The agreement, however, mentions a mandatory rotation between the players” emphasizes Frank Hocquemiller, who points out another problem: “We make the players validate a photo with a white background, but never the final publicity, nor the edition. This is not normal, because the advertising message may not correspond to what you want to convey as an image. »

“If certain prominent actors refused to participate in couple photo shoots, that would greatly devalue the show’s portrayal. » Stéphane Tardivel, Director of Sponsorship, Collaboration and Events of Orange France

Now it remains to be seen if Kylian Mbappé’s position will have repercussions on the attitude of the other Blues, that of the partners and, wellFFF finances. “Mbappé, we are not going to say anything to him. But she opened the door and if, tomorrow, others have the same demands, we can clearly see that there is an economic danger. It’s going to get very complicated, you know? » asks Gerard Coudert. “What can be dangerous is that a group of players refuse to associate their image with a sponsor. Athletes have the power to break a record.” , Lionel Maltese abounds. And would the brands consider parting ways with 3F if such a scenario took shape? “Currently it is not relevant. We are particularly attached to this association, which allows us to support amateur football throughout the territory and contribute to the emergence of young talent.” says Guillaume Saez of KFC. “It is clear that if certain lead actors were to refuse to participate in couple photo shoots, it would greatly devalue the show’s portrayal.admits Stéphane Tardivel, from Orange. Breaking our contract with the FFF is not an option at all, but it’s obvious that we would have a discussion about it. » In June, on the occasion of the next meeting of the Blues, the partners hope to see Mbappé come down from his room. And that none of his companions will want to boycott them.

By Raphael Brosse
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