Living with the Lions

I’ve just returned from a month working in New Zealand on what is unquestionably a career highlight: following the British & Irish Lions tour around the Southern Hemisphere on behalf of one of our longest standing clients, Standard Life Investments.

For those that don’t know, the Lions tours are the stuff of rugby legend. The 4 home nations come together every four years to form the ultimate team to take on the Southern Hemisphere’s finest: Australia, South Africa and this time the infamous All Blacks of New Zealand. No small task for any a team.

Standard Life Investments are certainly no stranger to sports sponsorship, having worked with the Ryder CupAndy Murray and the British & Irish Lions, both as a Principal Partner as well as shirt sponsor. Fortunately for me, I’ve been working with Standard Life Investments as a content and strategy consultant for the past year, and I just so happen to LOVE rugby having played at county level for many years growing up. Talk about a match made in heaven.

Working alongside internal Standard Life Investments and external stakeholders, we delivered a content strategy and execution plan that would bring the sponsorship to life, both on the ground in NZ and in the UK, ensuring it resonated with Standard Life Investments’ clients and the community of rugby lovers and sports enthusiasts following the Lions tour. The campaign was underpinned by Standard Life Investment’s key messaging tagline ‘One Team. One Standard’ and framed through four key messages: Potential, Performance, Teamwork & Analysis.

It was a fantastic experience and I’m sure the results will speak for themselves, but in the meantime here are the top 3 FAQs on the campaign:

How did you approach planning?

Meticulously. And in Excel.

We agreed early in the planning process that there were going to be a number of variables outside of our control while on the ground in NZ, so we needed a flexible approach to content production and distribution.

We highlighted three pillars that would form the basis for all of the activity:  

  • Planned – activity we had full control over: Twitter Amplify highlights clips, access to ambassadors, live match photography etc.
  • Planned Reactive – activities we knew would happen but weren’t 100% sure how they would materialise: the in-match live social commentary, on the ground activity that couldn’t be fully agreed until we were on the ground etc.
  • Reactive – the unknown activitiesthese are the bits you can never plan for; those last minute opportunities to interview players, capturing the amazing fan reactions and stories that are possible with a flexible client and approach.


Here is the comms and content plan in all its glory:

content plan.JPG










Once we had the content strategy in place, we looked at a number of elements to help build out the plan including:

The movements of the team (including BIL the Lion)

The movements of the team (including BIL the Lion)

Our access to training sessions and press conferences

Our access to training sessions and press conferences

The locations we were going to be in (including the steaming sulphur pools of Rotorua)

What other partners were doing, digitally and on the ground (including the nicest man in rugby, Scott Quinnell)

What other partners were doing, digitally and on the ground (including the nicest man in rugby, Scott Quinnell)

What the broadcast partners were planning e.g. Sky Sports

What the broadcast partners were planning e.g. Sky Sports

Potential crossover opportunities with the other Principal Partner activations in NZ

Potential crossover opportunities with the other Principal Partner activations in NZ


How did you determine which channels to distribute your content on during the campaign?

As with any content, distribution is fundamental to its success. Working with Standard Life Investments, we collectively defined clear roles for each of their existing channels and partner engagement with a view to ramp up activity depending on engagement, both organically and with paid support. As with all live events, being reactive is imperative as you never know whether you will win or lose or if the event will be a success.

Here’s how we handled our four main social channels:

Twitter – This was our main priority platform based on existing engagement and the opportunity to tap into existing conversations through tagging key accounts such as the Lions themselves, ambassadors and broadcasters. This also provided our greatest reach organically.

Facebook – We used this channel predominantly for key video pieces which we could apply reactive media spend to where appropriate.

Instagram - This channel wasn’t originally a key part of the approach but performed exceptionally well. Instagram stories proved successful, with our daily on-the-ground stories regularly being seen by over 50% of Standard Life Investment’s followers.

YouTube - This was the home for all our video content and the CTA destination for any videos supported with media spend.

Was there a point where you chose to adapt your strategy during the campaign?

We made some changes very early in the campaign in terms of both the video and image content we were creating. We had planned to create a lot more video content while in NZ, but factors such as far fewer fans than expected on the ground, short notice for interview access, and approvals with talent meant we refocussed our activity on imagery. In contrast, this content was generating far higher engagement across social media thanks to support from other partners, broadcasters and the official Lions channels as agreed pre-tour.

An unforgettable experience

This campaign really was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’ll be forever dining out on, from flying on the team plane and sailing the Steinlager 2 Americas Cup boat to hugging Scott Quinnell. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Now if anyone needs me, I’m packing my bags for South Africa 2021…


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