Newsjacking 101: Definition, Examples, Tips and What Not To Do Live

By Rachel Hahn

Newsjacking during events like the 2014 World Cup can a be very powerful tool -- if you know how to use it.
by Pablo Alvarez

Every year, official sponsors of the World Cup spend about $10 to 25 million each for the honor of being associated with FIFA — and they’re not even the top level of corporate contributors. Partners of FIFA reportedly each spend $25-50 million a year on the relationship.

Obviously, beneficial relationships like these are not in every brand’s budget (or interest). But any size enterprise can use social events, like the World Cup, to position their brand -- like these guys

They’re using an approach that’s gaining popularity: a technique that combines elements of ambush marketing and content creation. It’s even earned its very own compound word thanks to media types who are fond of linguistic mash-ups for the sake of celebrity relationships and marketing strategies alike. 

Newsjacking is the art of leveraging current events for your own (or your brand’s own) positive exposure.  

It sounds a little dry and heartless, but Newsjacking can be a positive thing for society and communities too. Take the example of Duracell after Hurricane Sandy, when they deployed charging stations throughout the affected areas. Equipped with laptops, wifi and batteries for home electronics, the mobile units were 100% on message for Duracell and its brand positioning of empowering people through devices and connecting families.

Duracell Power Forward @ Hurrican Sandy sizzle video
by Win Sakdinan via YouTube

Of course, practicing any art (marketing related or otherwise) requires guidance and a good heaping of finesse – we’ll help get you started with these main points to work on.

Don’t choose blindly

Newsjacking is about aligning your brand with an event. Using the example of Duracell again, the event was mass power outages. Duracell, power outages: it makes sense. Now, how about political riots and high-end fashion? It’s not really a fit, especially if you get the tone as wrong as Kenneth Cole did when he sent an infamous tweet declaring the people of Egypt must be rioting with excitement for his new spring collection. Any points earned for using #Cairo to drive readers to his content were obscured by the totally off message and offensive content.

The moral of the story? Ask yourself if associating with a specific event makes sense for you and your brand before you make a move. Just because something is trending, popular or important doesn’t mean it’s right for your marketing position. But don’t shy away too quickly either. Connections may not be obvious at first, but if you can hone in on a universal experience – like the embarrassment of toilet paper stuck to your shoe – you’ve got a winner.

Be prepared to act fast

Some things we can plan for — The Olympics, the World Cup, Kanye and Kim’s wedding. These things all have fixed dates which means you can use the lead time to develop a solid marketing strategy for leveraging the event. But life is unpredictable. 

Acts of Mother Nature aside, you can be surprised by a company’s announcement, a break through in science and technology or even just a really good meme. Tide did a good job of jumping on the action during the Super Bowl blackout. By aligning yourself with an unforeseen event quickly enough, you can actually become a part of the news surrounding it. Thanks to Google search algorithms, once you publish content about an event it becomes research material for curious journalists and public members alike.   

Don’t get arrested

Brands pay big money for marketing rights, so it’s no surprise organizations like FIFA and the IOC are diligent in protecting the exclusivity of their sponsorship agreements. The NFL is notorious for protecting the Superbowl like a 250 lb. lineman, even going so far as to try to prevent companies from using the term “The Big Game”. 

Intellectual property infringement can result in serious fines and even jail time, so practice safe newsjacking by being aware of legal restrictions. To that end, check out this Digiday article about market ambushing the World Cup at your own risk. 

FIFA also released their Intellectual Property guide just prior to the games kicking off this year – an invigorating, if slightly intimidating, read.  


Tap into the human emotion

Companies can’t copyright feelings (yet). And what with human emotions being a universally experience, tapping into them is a good marketing strategy. 

Nike nailed this with their FIFA campaign “Risk Everything”. Without being an official sponsor, they’ve positioned themselves in the eyes of consumers as being at the heart of athletic endeavor and the passion for victory against all odds. Who can’t get behind that?

Nike Football: Risk Everything. Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. & Wayne Rooney
by Nike Football via YouTube

Finally, social media campaigns are particularly good at tapping into the emotional side of things because (when they’re done properly) they connect people. Don’t underestimate the power of the hashtag.

Be sure to follow Engage Magazine on Twitter to get more lessons about the right ways to reach an audience. ScribbleLive can help you turn your fans into advocates and use content to meet your business goals.

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