As they say, success often comes in unlikely places. So it’s hard to believe that Ted Lasso recently debuted their 3rd season of fancy and frolic on and off the pitch.
Yet the show’s runaway success cannot be denied as it is amongst the most watched on Apple TV. It’s won 11 Emmy Awards over the last two years, and lead actor/writer Jason Sudeikis now makes a cool $1 million per episode.
But most remarkably, it’s become a multi-million-dollar brand, signing merchandise and licensing deals with companies like Nike, the Premier League, EA Sports, and FIFA.
Remember, it’s a fictitious storyline centred on a fictional football club, Richmond AFC, although I am sure there is some truth in the characters, motives and politics that unfurl.
What can we learn from its success as marketers?
We first need to understand the journey to get to grips with the result. It is pretty exciting and started back in Amsterdam, where the co-producers Sudeikis, Hunt, and Kelly conceived the idea while playing FIFA!
A comical satire that told the story of an American coach coming in to coach a UK football team without even knowing the rules. It was all a bit of fun at the time.
In 2013, the nucleus of a thought germinated as NBC Sports signed a deal to broadcast the English Premier League matches in the States.
Sudeilkis was asked to create a promo for the network.
So he whipped out his notepad, remembering their idea in Amsterdam, and made two hilarious adverts based on an American character coaching a British team.
The trio decided to turn the concept into a show in 2015, and as they say, the rest is history.
Taking a risk
Now, the trio admitted they didn’t know if the idea would take off. However, they did have some evidence in the adverts to give them some inclination that they were onto something.
In addition, the Premiership’s popularity grew exponentially in the States, with NBC Sport paying over $2 billion for the same broadcast rights just a few years later.
Similarly, in the marketing world, we often need to join the dots considering trends, society and evidence before diving into something.
However, all this is unquestionably clearer with hindsight, and therefore, at the moment, it does take a certain ‘eyes and ears open’ mentality to be able to read the signs.
More important is the ability to act on it. For Ted Lasso to be conceived, many stakeholders must be convinced of the vision Sudeikis, Hunt, and Kelly had. In a world where there are usually ten reasons why something amazing almost didn’t happen, this show could have easily been a non-starter.
In the marketing world, we walk this narrow line and must be willing to go all in ourselves and then be master convincers to take everyone on the journey.
Regarding plot twists, Ted Lasso has it all.
The main scenes centre on Richmond AFC’s season, the highs and lows present a rollercoaster journey.
However, the pivotal twists and turns have got to be the sub-plots off the pitch. For example, the owner wanting to bring the Club down to get back at the previous owner.
In the end, Ted’s personality and charm win over the crowds.
Similarly, marketers need to take their audiences on a journey. The role emotion plays on building memory structures is well documented. Research from Les Binet and Field highlight that by delivering feeling, you can 2x market share and profit.
But significantly, it’s not just pulling at the heartstrings that matter. Research has shown there is power in humour, suspense and even a little shock.
It’s the most unpredictable of plots, which creates jarring moments that are most remembered.
This lines up with the Von Restoff effect, where the thing that stands out the most is the one likely to have the greatest re-call.
The very concept of Lasso being an American coaching a British side at their own game, creates this sort of Von Restorff effect for the show.
Distinctive Brand Assets
Distinctive brand assets are one thing Ted Lasso has in spades. It’s is the very reason why they are getting sponsorship deals in their droves.
From the jerseys to the AFC logo, symbols, and colour schemes, all make the show stand part of the rest.
Add a good measure of music and theme tunes, and you’re really onto a winner.
The marketing world can certainly learn a thing or two from the show in this regard.
Creative consistency and how you weave the brand assets into every major scene seamlessly are vital.
There is also something magical about the soundtrack, which mixes the right level of fast-paced action music with slower more emotional tunes to draw the audience into the moment.
Music plays such a fundamental role in scene setting and taking an audience on a journey.
This is done to a tee in Lasso.
Look at this System 1 study that shows us the type of assets that drive memorability.
One of the significant points of the show is how Lasso is a rather unusual, yet endearing character. Very atypical of a coach and brings in a human sentiment to the show.
Arguably, he is the magic; without him there would be no show.
But, of course, the rest of the cast do a brilliant job, from the egotistical football star right through to the pompous, yet soft and insecure owner.
It all plays into the theme of Losso somehow working his magic.
Characters, whether celebrities, authentic personalities or even Tik Tok influencers, play an essential role in marketing. An excellent example of this in marketing is the recent ad campaign from We Buy Any Cars with their agency Brothers and Sisters. It features Tik Tok legend Mufasa, which was an ideal choice to bring this creative and new movement to life.
Reach and Placement
The next instalment in Lasso’s success has got to be the reach through Apple TV. Distribution or a means to reach a huge mass audience is the final piece that has made this show so special. And it’s truly a global audience.
Now every marketer worth their salt knows that reaching new audiences is critical to gaining market share. But it’s the very light buyers (or in this case, consumers) that make all the difference.
So with a global distribution engine like Apple fueling your fire, you are assured mass reach. This is exactly what propelled the show to new heights. However, marketers need to find their routes to market that will deliver them right into their audience’s heartland.
For instance, here is an excellent illustration of the power of ‘light buyers’ using a banana, created by Wiemer Snider. It highlights that its those that purchase from us occasionally are the ones that are important to our brand’s success.
Ok, so it’s a TV show. They could have been happy with rights deals from Apple TV. Move on to the next thing. But actually, this is where a real gem of learning comes in.
You see, we marketers are often to quick to move onto the new and shiny, rather than sweat our assets. Ted Lasso is a great example of looking at novel ways to extend their fan base and build greater engagement, which opens new commercial doors.
Merchandise, sponsorship, licensing, and brand placements are just a few ways they extended their commercial value. The show has also collaborated with ice cream brand Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams on a “Biscuits with the Boss” flavour, and Airbnb is now offering fans the chance to stay at The Crown & Anchor (the local pub that they use in the show) for just $13 per night.
So next time we have an advert and a proposition, we should ask ourselves; are we doing everything we can to sweat our assets? There will always be more ways to monetise whilst harnessing greater engagement with our audiences. So don’t be too quick to move on to the next thing.
So there you have it. Ted Lasso truly is a remarkable show in so many ways. Beyond being a pleasure to watch, it also has so many hidden gems in its wings that we, marketers, can learn from.