Louis Vuitton’s Viral Soccer Campaign Strategy

Louis Vuitton’s latest luggage campaign is hard to miss.

Annie Leibovitz’s image of soccer superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in a friendly game of chess, released on Saturday ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, has exploded on social media. By Monday, Louis Vuitton’s tweet with the image (with the caption “Winning is a state of mind”) had been retweeted more than 55,000 times. On Instagram, Ronaldo and Messi shared the image, gaining a total of 65 million likes, the most in the history of the platform.

On one level, the company’s success came down to numbers. Ronaldo has the most popular Instagram account with over 500 million followers. And only a brand with the marketing budget of Louis Vuitton could shock and awe by featuring not one, but two of the world’s best footballers in one look.

But the image also had a peculiar emotional resonance. Both Ronaldo and Messi have said they plan to retire from football soon, with the 2022 World Cup likely to be their last. The idea of ​​the longtime rivals taking their rivalry to the more contemplative and mature arena of chess has clearly struck a chord.

Shows of sportsmanship and mutual admiration tend to generate strong reactions: tennis greats Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have long drawn attention to their affectionate exchanges on and off the court, culminating in a highly emotional (and highly shared) match at the start this year, when Federer was preparing to retire from the sport. It’s a moment that brands like Louis Vuitton dream of being associated with—so why not create it?

Chess fans have also noticed that the campaign’s timing coincides with the iconic 2017 showdown between chess champions Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, adding a layer of intrigue and a topic for internet buzz.

Louis Vuitton has deftly capitalized on the surge in interest in soccer ahead of the World Cup, sidestepping controversies surrounding the event, from Qatar’s ruthless treatment of LGBTQ minorities to the exploitation of migrant workers (thousands of whom are estimated to have died during the construction of World Cup stadiums). Sportswear giants such as Nike, Adidas and Puma (which together outfit more than 80 percent of the teams), beverage partners such as Budweiser and Louis Vuitton (which has produced a special case for the trophy since 2010) are reluctant to give up on the the most popular tournament.

Louis Vuitton is collaborating with the case again this year, as well as selling a World Cup-themed capsule collection. But none of these Instagram activations have been publicized — and they won’t need to be unless the bad buzz about Qatar dies down. Thanks to the checkerboard photo and corresponding media coverage, the brand has already garnered about $13.5 million worth of online attention in just 48 hours, according to Launchmetrics. That’s more than double Adidas’ recent collaboration with K-Pop supergroup Blackpink and about 40 percent higher than the initial buzz surrounding the revival of Versace’s “Jungle dress” with Jennifer Lopez in 2019, according to the consultancy.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman declined to comment on the controversy surrounding this year’s World Cup or say how much it cost to sponsor Messi and Ronaldo.

Louis Vuitton’s football marketing coup comes during a key holiday shopping season as luxury brands seek to maintain their post-pandemic momentum amid strengthening macroeconomic factors. After growing 22 percent this year, consulting firm Bain & Co. expects luxury industry growth to slow to 3-8 percent next year thanks to inflation, lower economic growth and strict coronavirus measures hampering China’s retail recovery.

In an uncertain economy, Louis Vuitton seems more invested than ever in broadening its broad appeal, featuring celebrity ambassadors with timeless pieces that are unlikely to go out of style. Annie Leibovitz’s campaign is an aesthetic callback to the Core Values ​​series she shot for the brand from 2007 to 2010, which promoted monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage alongside celebrities such as Russian statesman Mikhail Gorbachev, directed by Francis Ford and Sofia Coppola and football greats Pele, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane. The ad aimed to balance perception in favor of the brand’s storied territory of travel and craftsmanship after its push into pop culture and fashion under designer Marc Jacobs.

“This kind of advertising is not aimed at a specific product, but at the appeal of the brand,” said London-based luxury consultant Mario Ortelli, who called the new company “masterful.” “It’s about reaching a very broad consumer base with a message of heritage and exclusivity that is relevant to everyone,” he added.

The luggage promotion could help protect Vuitton’s marketing territory as a travel brand after key rival Kering-owned Gucci tried to push its own monogrammed bags and suitcases into the a major marketing push by Ryan Gosling.

The photo of Messi and Ronaldo also raises awareness of Louis Vuitton’s Damier Azur checkerboard motif, a best-selling signature for which the brand has repeatedly lobbied for trademark protection with mixed results. While rivals argue that the checkerboard is too commonplace to qualify for trademark status, Vuitton argues that its long history of investment in marketing the pattern makes it a brand mark worthy of protection. In October, the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office said Louis Vuitton had failed to prove “distinctive character acquired through use” across the EU.

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/luxury/the-strategy-behind-louis-vuittons-viral-football-campaign/ Louis Vuitton’s Viral Soccer Campaign Strategy

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