Pitch Marketing Group’s Tim Maddin on fan-focused strategies, earned-first campaigns and launching TNT Sports

Posted by Lauren Harris in Case studies

2 months ago

Pitch Marketing Group has used its knowledge of fandom and experience of influencer marketing to help launch BT Sport and TNT Sports, tap into the European market and shape EA FC on TikTok.

Pitch delivers a range of marketing and communications services for some of the world’s biggest brands, rights holders and media companies, and maintains multi-year relationships – both retained and project-led – with many of them.

Senior account director Tim Maddin tells CORQ: “We’re an agency built on our understanding of what drives intense fandom – originally through the lens of sport – but now into broader passion areas, from music to cars and everything in between.

“We’re 100% employee-owned, an agency of 50 entrepreneurs, and that level of ownership is an extra driver to do amazing work and contribute to the growth of the agency.”

Key takeaways:

  • Pitch PR was founded in 2002 by CEO Henry Chappell as the UK’s first creative comms agency specialising in sport
  • It rebranded as Pitch Marketing Group in 2016 and now helps build brands people are passionate about, within an employee-owned company model
  • Its clients include ASICS, Beats by Dre, Betfair, F1, Gallagher, Red Bull, the Premier League, EE and EA Sports FC
  • During the past year, it has worked to help launch BT Sport and Warner Brothers Discovery’s joint venture TNT Sports through influencer events and digital campaigns that drove millions of impressions
  • According to CORQ data analysis, the most engaging influencer Instagram post about TNT Sports from the past 12 months was a joint post with former racing driver Billy Monger
  • Pitch senior account director Tim Maddin tells CORQ about the importance of earned-first campaigns, how the TNT Sports partnership evolved and its key successes, and what’s next for the ambitious team that constantly strives for growth

When it comes to influencer marketing, a huge priority for Pitch is producing successful earned-first campaigns – gaining genuine attention and benefiting from “true influence”, rather than paying to get in front of an audience.

“If we can empower creators to make content they want to make, it benefits all parties,” says Maddin. “We exist to find those sweet spots and maximise the most of a known and engaged audience with content and influencers. For digital marketing, it follows the same philosophy – what is the medium, the message, and are you adding fan value?”

For earned content, Pitch aims to use tracked links wherever possible. Typically, Pitch tracks pieces of coverage, influencer posts and impressions, and benchmarks those figures against each other to better understand the impact of a campaign. However, Maddin advises against over-processing data – “it’s not about what the data says but how you use it to your advantage.”

He explains that more and more clients are looking for earned-first creativity that can be amplified across multiple channels, delivering a singular message but tailored for different touchpoints. This includes campaigns that bridge the digital/physical divide, a strategy that has been utilised for Pitch’s Six Nations partnership with pub company Stonegate.

TNT Sports launch

One of Pitch’s biggest projects during the past 12 months has been assisting with the launch of TNT Sports – the joint venture of BT Sport and Warner Brothers Discovery.

The marketing group has worked with BT Sport for more than a decade, having helped grow the channel in 2012 with the overarching goal to build credibility in a market used to the dominance of Sky Sports.

The team was involved in several award-winning creative campaigns, such as Unscripted (a Champions League-themed awareness campaign that resulted in 30% more BT Sport subscriptions) and Moving Day (to welcome WWE back to BT screens), which benefited from their expertise of utilising influencers to not only spread the message far and wide but also to articulate the story in an emotive and compelling fashion.

For Unscripted (£1.7m in earned media, 128 pieces of organic coverage), influencers such as Spencer FC, Charlie Morley, Theo Baker and Smiv joined the campaign, recording their reactions to the AI-generated Premier League 2019/2020 season “script” – Spencer FC’s version received 468K views.

For Moving Day, influencers were invited to the live wrestling event at the BT Sport studios and posted about their experiences live from the showcase (20 media and interview attendees, 157 pieces of earned media coverage, 35 pieces of social coverage).

In 2023, Pitch was on hand again to support the launch of TNT Sports. “We assisted in amplifying their fan-first strategy, welcoming more than 100 media and influencers to an event that generated 650+ pieces of coverage and 36 million impressions,” says Maddin.

Creators who attended included Marnie Swindells, Harry Pinero, Michael Griffiths, Elz the Witch, Joseph Garratt, Mikey Cobban, Joel Beya, Kalia Lai, and Frankie Davey.

The presenters and pundits were announced in July and include Laura Woods, Reshmin Chowdhury, Rio Ferdinand, Peter Crouch, Ugo Monye, Suzi Perry, Carl Frampton and Radzi Chinyanganya. Maddin said diversity and inclusion is always at the forefront of Pitch’s work and this aim is shared by TNT Sports.

“Our objective in the short term for TNT Sports was two-fold: educating consumers in a bid to ease the transition from BT Sport while showing how TNT Sports puts fans at the heart of everything they do. With this mantra in mind, we recently launched TNT Sports Foreign Exchange,” he says.

“We knew that European football was about so much more than just what was happening on the pitch – it’s about the travel, the cuisine, the culture and the traditions – so we wanted to give fans the chance to experience European football through the eyes of a foreign fan.”

To achieve this, a content creator was paired with a local fan who enveloped them in the local culture and matchday traditions. During the group stages of the Champions League, this saw FIVE go to Copenhagen (43K views), JJ Charlton go to Paris (2K views plus 171K views) and Slaney of Open Goal go to Madrid (62K views) – eight influencers/fan channels engaged, 122 total social posts, 20.7m total social reach, 12.3m total impressions.

“The activity generated engaging short and long-form content on the creators’ own channels across a variety of platforms, incorporating brand messaging to help drive brand awareness and subscriptions, and will continue into the qualifying rounds,” says Maddin.

According to CORQ data analysis, the most engaging influencer Instagram posts about TNT Sports from the past 12 months included Billy Monger (7% engagement rate), Andrew Mensah (5%), Kalia Lai (3%), Remi Akande (3%), Rio Ferdinand (1%) and Thomas Skinner (1%). The posts showcase the range of TNT Sports’ offering, such as motorsport, football, boxing and rugby.

Goals for 2024

Pitch has ambitious growth plans for 2024, commercially, culturally and creatively, says Maddin.

“Our social and digital division launched in 2022, has seen strong growth and remains a key focus in 2024, with more and more brands leaning into earned-first agencies to create truly shareable content – not adverts,” he says.

“We picked up EA Sports FC’s TikTok remit in September 2023 doing just that – reactive, TikTok-native content that taps into what’s culturally hot on the platform.”

2024 is shaping up to be a huge year for sport with the Paris Olympics and the Euros on the horizon, and Pitch’s partnerships team has a “really exciting” Team GB sponsorship activation campaign in the pipeline. An expansion into the “sport-adjacent” and booming wellbeing sector (from technology to nutrition and fitness) could also be on the cards in the next 12 months.

By Lauren Harris, CORQ editor. Picture credit: Pitch Marketing Group