Monday, 7 February 2011


Comedy has huge potential for brands, not least because of its power as social currency.  The question is, are brands making the most of this potential through sponsorship and if not what could a more socially-supercharged comedy platform look like and deliver?

Historically, brands have looked down upon comedy like it’s the dark arts.  The black sheep of the sponsorship flock.  Underground, unpredictable and grungy, not polished, planned and professional like sport or even music.  Interesting then, that over the last 18 months we’ve seen big brands including mobile phone operator 3, Innocent Drinks and Fosters shift sponsorship budget out of sport and music and into comedy.  Here they find loyal audiences, cost-effective access to talent and the opportunity to show they don’t take life too seriously.  And that’s not all.  Comedy isn’t just good entertainment.  It’s great social currency.   In a world where the right kind of content is shared more quickly and easily than ever before, comedy has massive ‘share value’.   Here lies the opportunity to get so much more from comedy sponsorship than awareness that lacks value, PR that lacks relevance and live experiences that lack reach.   

When you embrace the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of comedy fans out there, active across the social web, you open up a new dimension to sponsorship activation.  Online communities give you great insight into what fans want and the cost-effective channel through which to give it to them, thanks to the social web’s built in advocacy-button.  To get the true potential out of comedy, the first question has got to be, what do comedy fans really want

By tapping into live forums and social networks we can listen to the natural banter that runs through communities of everyone from comedy connoisseurs to everyday people who love to laugh (aren’t we all fans of comedy in some form or other?).  One thing rings loud and true.  People love live comedy and they want more of it.  How often have you heard someone say, ‘We went to a comedy gig last night.  Never heard of most of them but it was bloody brilliant.  Don’t know why we don’t do it more’? 

Where there’s desire, there’s opportunity to add value.  And it’s the stuff that’s valued that gets shared and remembered.  If we were a brand engaged in comedy sponsorship or thinking about it, we would set out to become the hosts and facilitators of the most active comedy community.  Nike boast the world’s largest running community.  It works because the fan base is there and the opportunity to add value is broad, varied and long term, from soundtracks to crowd sourced runs to product purchase.  This is not a dip in and out activation.  It’s a longterm relationship.  Running fans will love running til their knees give out, just like comedy fans will always want to laugh.

So, what would our Comedy Club look like and how would Brand X benefit?   Comedy Club would host the best of the best in live comedy content and give members access to an ongoing and ever-evolving calendar of live gigs, from up-and-coming talent at your local pub to Alan Partridge at the MENA.  Members would earn ‘Smile Miles’ when they shared their favorite content.  Smile Miles would act as live event credits, a kind of Comedy Currency.  On average, people share content with 66 others, so Comedy Club would grow and grow.  Brand X would support grass roots by rewarding the most shared talent with their own gigs.  Comedy Club would always lead with the best content as voted by the people, so quality of content would always be high. 

This is a platform built on audience insight first, not sponsorship opportunity.  Comedy Club would be fed by a number of sponsorship deals and associations with Brand X’s pick of new talent, big talent, venues and ticket sellers.  It’s hard not to point how incredibly appropriate Comedy Club would be as a footfall driver to pubs and bars, the natural home of easy-access live gigs.

Comedy Club is an example of what a more ‘social approach’ to sponsorship can look like.  It shows how a layer of real value that is often missing from traditional sponsorship activation can be created and how choice of assets should be driven by concept, not vice versa.

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