'Radical' Vodafone marketing change

Vodafone unveiled a "radical break" from its usual diet of sporting sponsorship today by pledging to focus more on social media-driven events.

30627f12-60c3-11e3-ba3b-0a0c0223000020131209T182741
Vodafone is to concentrate its marketing on a "Firsts" campaign.

Vodafone unveiled a "radical break" from its usual diet of sporting sponsorship today by pledging to focus more on social media-driven events.

The drive by the mobile phone giant will target examples of first-time accomplishments inspired by its technology, from world-first events to those centred on the ambitions of individuals.

It represents a significant shift from nearly a quarter of a century of "badge branding", which saw the group grow awareness across the world by associating itself with big names such as Formula 1's McLaren racing team.

Plans to scrap that McLaren partnership were announced in March, when a review found more than 90% of people in its operating markets were already aware of the Vodafone brand.

The Firsts strategy, which is believed to require less funding than the Formula 1 deal, will build on this awareness by seeking direct interaction with its more than 400 million customers.

The new approach will kick off in London on New Year's Eve with what Vodafone claims will be the world's first multi-sensory fireworks event, in partnership with food scientists from Bompas & Parr.

Those unable to attend in person will be able to join the experience with a free augmented-reality smartphone app.

Details of further events are expected in the next few weeks and will include a famous sportswoman who will take her first steps to protect vulnerable women, a professional surfer, a musician using sounds from remote locations to create his first recording, and a new approach to conducting an orchestra.

Vodafone brand director Barbara Haase said: " Firsts represents a radical break with almost a quarter of a century of Vodafone-branded badged sponsorship.

"The concept is simple: we know that our technology can enable and inspire people to do something amazing for the first time, from making their first call to sharing their first video.

"Firsts is designed to reflect that sense of empowerment and excitement by using our technology and connectivity to enable a diverse range of people to achieve their remarkable ambitions."