RAWR: "We want emotions to be at the center".

The Webrepublic agency continues to expand - and founds a new brand: With "RAWR by Webrepublic", a marketing partner for digital strategy and innovation in the sports and entertainment industry starts work these days. FIFA and the Locarno Film Festival are already on board as clients, but the initiators are already thinking ahead: Werbewoche.ch conducted an exclusive interview with Tom Hanan and Robert Dorlin.

Webrepublic founder Tom Hanan (left) and Robert Dorlin, Managing Partner of RAWR by Webrepublic, talk to Werbewoche.ch about the new brand.

Johannes Hapig: Tom Hanan, this Monday at the Swiss Brand Congress, you will be announcing the launch of a new Webrepublic-.Brand "RAWR by Webrepublic", a marketing partner for digital strategy and innovation in the sports and entertainment industry. How did this venture come about?

Tom Hanan: You may remember that I gave you a tour of Webrepublic's new premises here on Bederstrasse in the fall of 2018. Back then, I told you how shortly before, we had the privilege of orchestrating the digital marketing around the World Cup in Moscow for FIFA. With a fantastic team working around the clock, we played out nearly 60 campaigns worldwide in eight languages with over 10 billion impressions in six weeks. Data and innovation driven: That's Webrepublic's DNA, it's been our core competency since we founded the company in 2009. And especially in the area of sports and entertainment, there is still an incredible amount of potential to be activated in digital communication. Especially if you think and act holistically.


What exactly do you mean by that?

We don't see the event organizer as the customer on the one hand and the sponsor as the financier on the other. Instead, we combine the two and think about how we can generate and play out content in such a way that organizers, sponsors and the target audience - the fans - are happy with it and are moved and activated. How do we channel the strong emotions that arise at live events and weave them into a perfect experience for everyone involved, regardless of time and place? The 20-person team behind RAWR combines strategy consulting and creative concepts with performance-driven marketing and data intelligence, bringing the sponsorship business into the digital age. And bringing our clients closer to their fans.


And because you also won the FIFA mandate for the World Cup in Qatar, does it make sense to formalize your sports and events offering?

First of all, my team, which is now around 250 people strong, and I as Founder and CEO of Webrepublic still enjoy growing, investing in new areas, trying things out. I believe stagnation is very dangerous. Then there's the mandate for this year's World Cup in Qatar, eSports tournaments, and the Women's World Cup. But we've also already been able to sign up the Locarno Film Festival as a client, helping them build a digital infrastructure that can grow far beyond movie theaters and annual industry gatherings. It's simply time to give all these projects their own home with the new RAWR brand. Because the world of digital sponsorship is still in its infancy.


And with Robert Dorlin, as Managing Director of RAWR, you have gained a real sports fan - and a former Webrepublic customer to boot - for the new venture. How did this contact develop, Robert Dorlin?

Robert Dorlin: When I was still at EF (Education First, an education and travel services provider, editor's note). we were looking for a "rock star agency" to support us in the digital field. Tom and I then got to know each other better and better, exchanged ideas - and realized: We want the same things and pursue the same goals - even if from different perspectives. And I love live events, so we talked about that all the time, too. That's how one thing led to another.

The head of the new RAWR by Webrepublic unit: Managing Partner Robert Dorlin (left) and Head of Growth & Innovation Alex Riggers lead the 20-strong team from the areas of strategy, sports marketing, digital marketing and technology. (Image: zVg.)

You are not only responsible for the operational set-up of RAWR, you also had the idea for the brand name.

That was at the beginning of January this year, yes. I was officially employed at Webrepublic for a few days, for a project that didn't have a name at that time. (laughs). We just knew where we wanted to go with it and what we had to do to get there. And then I saw the ski race in Adelboden on January 8 - one of the first events with relaxed pandemic restrictions, 16,000 people live on site, a feeling of collective liberalization. Marco Odermatt crosses the finish line with shaky legs, stretches his skis into the air - and the crowd roars, raves, cheers, pours out all its energy. A murmur and roar goes through the snow arena. That's when I knew: RAWR (based on the English "Roar" for "roar, roar, roar", editor's note). would be a perfect name for our venture. Because what happened there in Adelboden is what we're all about.


Quite simply, sporting events, concerts and film festivals are all about experience and emotion. You want to help event organizers and sponsors translate both into digital communication that really reaches viewers and fans - and is cleverly branded at the same time. That's one way to describe your business model, isn't it?

Hanan: In simplified terms, that is correct. But I would like to add something: The way events are consumed today - both sporting events and cultural events - is fundamentally different than it was just a few years ago.

Dorlin: My son, for example, is the biggest Liverpool fan imaginable, yet he doesn't watch a whole game at a stretch. Changing viewing habits, data and digital transformation are driving a revolution in sports and entertainment. And we're helping our partners prepare for and take advantage of just that.

Hanan: Gen exactly, fragmentation has increased extremely. A World Cup today also takes place on YouTube, on Instagram, in TikTok clips that are only a few seconds long. How can we ensure that brands that want to show themselves in this fragmented environment are seen? We believe it takes a longer-term collaboration between organizers, sponsors and agency; building a brand narrative across all conceivable channels. And associated with that, always the question: Which KPIs do we follow?


KPIs have become more important in sponsorship than they were a few years ago.

Hanan: If I may say it a bit casually - I hope no sponsoring executive will be angry with me afterwards. (laughs) - In the past, sponsorship was sometimes understood as logo presence and VIP hospitality, and that was it. But today, sponsorship managers have to give their companies a precise account of who they have reached with which measures. Sponsorship has become a measurable marketing function, and is linked to the same expectations of those who do it.


Will the World Cup in Qatar cause reservations among sponsors? After all, there is the risk of controversial reporting on living and working conditions in the country, which could then spill over to participating brands.

As I said, our task is to measure emotions and moods and adapt digital communication to them. Of course, we respond to current developments, to feedback, to media criticism in order to provide our partners with the best possible support. But we cannot and do not want to make the decision for clients and sponsors as to which environment they should and should not be involved in. That would be a drastic expansion of our competencies, and for that we would first have to found a PR agency. (laughs).


...I see a new business idea and nervousness among the market companions in the Swiss PR...

No, no, that's really not an issue for us at the moment. We focus on something that unites people: the joy of sport and what it stands for.

Dorlin: We sit here together among friends (laughs)so may I perhaps risk a little pathos? I would say that athletes are the heroes of our time. Look at Rafael Nadel, how he fights on hour after hour on the tennis court despite pain. How a stadium literally explodes when the Swiss national team defeats the world champions France in the European soccer championships. Where else can you find something like that today? Webrepublic has shown in recent years: No one understands digital marketing and distribution as well as we do. And we will now use this to close the circle to the core of marketing. To storytelling. Sport reminds us of the oldest ideas of heroism and tragedy, of passion and suffering. You could probably say a football game today is the modern form of tragedy. It shows the overcoming of obstacles, the existential struggle for sporting superiority, and then in the last minute - the liberating goal. People lie crying in each other's arms - and that's exactly when we send out the messages that are important to our partners.


Which team will you - Tom, you're Swiss, you Robert a native Englishman and expat in Switzerland - be supporting at the upcoming World Cup? And how do you rate your teams' chances?

Hanan: Switzerland, for sure. The team is always good for surprises - and I'm a loyal fan anyway, even in defeat (laughs).

Dorlin: I wish it were that easy for me! My heart beats for both Switzerland and England - but my wife is Swedish, which means she's rooting for the Tre Kronor. And our kids tend to take after her in terms of loyalty to country teams. So it's definitely going to be exciting again at home.

RAWR is the Marketing partner for digital strategy and innovation in the sports and entertainment industry and aims to activate the full potential of sponsorship for brands, event organizers and clubs. RAWR combines technology with innovation, performance with passion and generates measurable added value across the entire spectrum of digital business development.

As CEO, he is responsible for Tom Hanan the strategic orientation of Webrepublic. Before founding the agency, he was the first employee of Google Switzerland, building the business for Google in Switzerland and Austria. Before that, he managed Yahoo! Switzerland for three years.

Robert Dorlin is Managing Partner of RAWR by Webrepublic. Previously, he served as Global Head of Digital at EF Education First for eleven years, where he brought his expertise in digital marketing. 

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