Sport’s 24/7 ‘wingman’

18 Oct 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

Creative content agency WING, which has been behind two winning BT Sport Industry Awards films in the past three years, is making a big statement to the industry with the launch of its “Wingman 24” spin-off. The 24-hour offering is specifically designed to service the growing demand for fast-turnaround video content, with half of all brands now commissioning new film work every week.

WING does 70% of its production work in sport, and founder Will Ingham, a former sports producer with Sunset + Vine, believes the sport sector has a unique need for his company’s new proposition. He sat down with Sport Industry Group to tell us more. 


What’s the thinking behind Wingman 24?

Well, last year, for the first time ever, we saw a bigger spend towards content than advertising in our sector. 

This new proposition is reflecting how the industry has changed. Brands still want high-production film content, but they also want high-churn stuff, which is still high-quality but perhaps not quite as considered – which comes and goes away more quickly.

There’s also the way that comms, brand, marketing and PR all seem to be becoming a hybrid. They used to be different departments, but now they all seem to be one department. It means the brands come to one agency to try to cover all bases.

So at WING, we’ve grown by bringing in a slightly more agile and younger proposition alongside our senior people.

Wingman24 is a really solid proposition, but it’s not the same production quality or the same way of working. Wingman24 is probably as important as WING but in a very different way. 

To be able to have a defined sectional offering is really useful. Clients like it because they know what they’re going to get. There’s also a comfort in knowing that Wingman24 work will still have a clear WING DNA to it. 

Having said that, we can also be quite flexible, for example pairing a really amazing director with a very quick edit, if that’s what clients need. We’re different in our ability to do that. A lot of agencies can only offer one price point. We can slice and dice a bit more because we have so much in-house.

 

How did the concept evolve?

We were starting to see lots of people asking us for two-day turnaround jobs. I thought “Why don’t we ‘badge it’ as one day?” It’s a strong statement to say it can be done. When I told the crew, there was a slight intake of breath, with them thinking they’d be working all night. But it’s not necessarily true. And the fact is we do it already.

Everyone talks about being “agile” and I’m really bored of hearing it. The old ad agencies are saying they’re “agile” when really they’re absolute behemoths. So I’ve started using the term “hyper agile” to describe what we do at WING.

True agility is what we did for the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay: 440 different films in 97 days. We travelled 20,000km with a moveable edit suite and a satellite on top of it – and with two or three cameramen driving around Brazil delivering rushes. 

Honestly, we have a pretty unusual offering, because we can do quite creative work extremely quickly. It’s because of the way we’re set up, but also the culture and mindset of our people who are used to this way of working.

 

What are the key drivers of this growing demand for high-churn content?

I can’t say it’s been an overnight change, but a slow move, with the advent of IGTV, Instagram stories, Facebook Watch and YouTube vertical video, for example. All these changes are driving more fun derivatives of the way to publish content. Brands have to be aware of that way of marketing; otherwise they’re off the pace.

Ultimately, smartphones have changed everything. You know, I watched a film walking up the road to meet you today. It’s all about pushing messages out quickly and regularly. 

At WING, we’re responding to that culture shift too, for example with our fun WhatsApp client management system that uses GIFs, based on avatars of our team, to give hourly progress updates. It’s designed to give a warm ‘cuteness’ as well as 24-hour feel. It’s recognising that advertising can be a bit precious. With Wingman24, we’re trying to be a bit more honest and real. 

We’re in no way trying to make it a factory. It’s about understanding where the future is: every brand wanting to make content quickly and still looking really good. 

 

To what extent is this move a reaction to newcomers to your marketplace?

Part of it is about responding to the rise of the influencers, who are able to turn around content really quickly because they do everything on their phone. And the public accept that because it’s part of their offering. 

There are two ways of looking at the influencer model and both are right:

  1. That it’s amazing;
  2. That influencers are turning into advertisers, which means that they’re doing themselves out of a job. The whole reason they were so successful is because they were seen as honest and real. Now suddenly they’re being paid huge sums by big brands. 

But if you manage them right, and have micro-influencers, they still have a massive reach. They have brought a whole new way of marketing. It’s really exciting because the game has to move on. 

 

Is there greater demand for this high-churn content from sport, compared to other sectors?

Sport beyond any other sector is driving the demand for this kind of offering. It’s such a crazy category because everything happens so quickly. The World Cup was a pretty long event for sport, but I bet people already can’t remember who was on the perimeter hoardings. So those sponsor brands (Coke, McDonald’s etc) need to be very reactive to what’s happening on and off the field. Being swift and smart is key to brands in terms of monetising the opportunity. Sport has its own unique place in that respect.

 

What about the parallel development of AI-driven, high-speed video editing? How does that fit or compete with your offer?

Everything has its place. For me, that’s not craft. There’s massive value in it; you can cut highlights of a match really quickly and well now using AI, but I don’t think you can make branded content with robots yet. I hope you never can!

 

We ran a piece recently with Josh Connell from H+K Strategies, arguing that high-churn content delivers ‘fake views’ as opposed to the meaningful engagement that long-form can deliver. What’s your take on that?

I agree with him. We (WING) also do a lot of long-form. I think long-form branded is massive, though it’s a totally different market and Netflix has obviously changed the game there as there’s so much opportunity.

But Wingman24 is about servicing a totally different market. Wingman24 is not about banging out churn; it’s more about servicing press launches or “hygieney”-type pieces.

It’s about your Instagram 60 rather than something you really sit down and engage with, like Nike’s “Breaking 2”, for instance. There’s an example of an amazing sports long-form investment by a brand – and they obviously, rightly, cleaned up with it this awards season. 

There’s a place for both, but it’s a very different way of marketing. Wingman24 is about an offering that many people require but know is not going to deliver anything really crafted.

 

How do you feel about brands and rightsholders launching their own media houses, bringing stuff in-house?

That trend started off with the ad agencies, who used to think people like us were just web people, but began to see a reasonable amount of money in content. So now you see content agencies within the ad agency – BBH Black Sheep, for example; M&C Saatchi have just launched one. They still treat content like advertising, which sometimes works well, as, for example, with the amazing Lucozade piece with AJ that won at the BT Sport Industry Awards earlier this year. That was done by an ad agency (Grey London), but for online, so the line is quite thin. But they’re following the trend in terms of how content and budget is moving.

Brands aren’t very good at it. They keep talking about how clever they are, bringing everyone in-house, but they don’t talk about the quality of the work. If you work inside a brand, making films for that brand, that’s not creative. If I was embedded with one client, I wouldn’t have any objective skills. I’d be hammered with one brand in my head and I wouldn’t be able to see the wood for the trees. I don’t believe in that model at all. Obviously, I would say that!

Perhaps the exception is Red Bull. They do have huge creative sway – but then they have Red Bull Media House, which sits outside the brand.

 

 

Finally, then, which two of your pieces best exemplify the respective WING vs Wingman24 offerings?

With WING, I’d point to our ‘Jaguar: show your edge’ work this summer. We took Andy Murray and saw him in a totally different light. Even his agent said he’d never seen him like that. We sat him in a room just with me and Matthew Syed. And he was amazing. He was really injured at the time, so very emotional and reflective on his career. I used to work with him on the ATP Tour, which maybe helped, and he just really let his guard down.

For Wingman24, a good example would be our recent work for Enterprise Rent-a-Car and their UEFA partnership, which was very fast-turnaround. Then, of course, our Olympic (Torch Relay) stuff: the definition of “hyper agile”, working on the road, for four concurrent clients, in a 97-day non-stop production.