The firm was established in 2001 by telecommunications leader Ericsson and consumer electronics outfit Sony Corporation. Its mission is to establish Sony Ericsson as the most attractive and innovative global brand in the mobile handset industry.
The brand has established itself at the forefront of innovative, engaging live communication. In particular, it has cemented strong associations with music, tennis and imagery. "Sony Ericsson is an energised, passionate and innovative brand and this has to come through all the communications and experiential work we do," says Dean Taylor, senior marcomms manager, global marketing. "Events and experiential marketing has always been an important tool for engaging and communicating with consumers in a more personal way."
At a global level, the brand has been title sponsor of the Sony Ericsson Women's Tennis Association Tour since 2005, working closely with the sports body to promote the tour in 80 cities. In addition, it sponsors the Sony Ericsson Championships, and the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami that takes place this month.
As part of its mission to help raise the profile of the women's game, the brand supports pre-tournament player parties. "To enhance the game for fans and newcomers, we will continue to focus on driving entertainment and experience at tournament events and help build the glamour of the sport by supporting the parties," says Taylor. Last year, such events included pre-tournament gatherings for the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and for Wimbledon, with a party at The Roof Gardens in London.
At a regional level, the brand also recently launched its Beach Tennis Tour, which took place on seven beaches in Spain and Portugal.
Complementing its tennis projects is the more unusual 'Night Tennis'. Having worked with UK agency Iris for several years, Sony Ericsson teamed up with the firm's experiential division Iris Experience (IE) on the project.
"It's about trying to find a way to bring tennis to younger consumers. We received a brief to come up with something that would engage young people," says Iris Experience managing director Henry Scotland.
The concept is a simple but effective one. Tennis is played in the dark with ultra-violet lights highlighting the players, ball and court boundaries. The rules of the game are tweaked in order to make it faster and more relevant to the setting. After the mini tournament, the court is turned into a dancefloor with performances from a range of top-class DJs. These have included Paul Oakenfold, Groove Armada and Masters at Work.
To date, the activity has visited Madrid, Miami, Zurich and most recently Melbourne, and has been used in tandem with other promotional activity. There are currently discussions taking place with local markets across the world to roll the concept out further.
Continuing the tennis theme, this year Sony Ericsson signed an exclusive four-year sponsorship agreement with Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova that will see the player become established as the company's first global brand ambassador. "Following the announcement, we look forward to adding even more glamour and exclusive experiences and opportunities" says Taylor.
Sony Ericsson launched its first Walkman handset in August 2005, and establishing an association with music has become more and more of a focus. Its Ibiza Rocks project is approaching its fourth outing, having launched in 2005. The gigs, at Manumission's Bar M on the Balearic isle, have included performances from Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi and Kasabian.
"We were looking for an alignment that was affordable and effective," says Scotland. "Sony Ericsson requires it to change every year because the world of telecoms is moving so fast. It's about building in more content and capitalising on what we have."
Throughout the event's history, it has incorporated mobile technology through Bluetooth downloads, messaging and even producing DJ sets using the Walkman handsets. "The event fits so well because the brand values are about innovation. Sony Ericsson has always been focused on energising consumer experiences," adds Scotland.
New for 2008 is the Ibiza Rocks Hotel, a destination hotel in San Antonio offering live music events, pool parties and DJ sets.
In February 2007, Sony Ericsson and Iris Experience teamed up again to create one of the brand's most ambitious live projects. Gig In The Sky involved 150 guests flying from Munich to Athens while enjoying a live set by Jamiroquai. This activity was picked up by 30 countries with a 'golden ticket' promotion running across all of them. "Among its objectives was to raise awareness of the brand and its involvement in music," says Scotland.
Each market was given seven tickets, which they could offer to customers. The flight broke six world records, including the highest and fastest gig in the world, and when it arrived in Athens there was an aftershow party for 700 guests in the terminal building.
Back in the UK, the brand has teamed up with Channel 4 talent contest Mobile Act Unsigned. As part of the activity surrounding the programme, it launched a roadshow in October involving a stand with either a 'green room' or karaoke setting that visited shopping centres, offices and the competition's regional finals in Bristol, Newcastle and Leeds. The space provided an area for staff to interact with consumers and incorporated content and handset demos.
Last year also saw the introduction of the Music Monster proposition that aimed to give an identity to the music activity. The creation of the character formed part of a wider campaign, with the team at Iris Experience helping to manifest the monster in a three-dimensional way at the O2 Wireless Festival. An inflatable monster structure contained a bar with DJ and a chill-out area. It also incorporated a Bluetooth photo area and touchscreen pods where consumers could make their own Music Monster.
With music technology and content continuing to develop, Taylor stresses the importance of music in Sony Ericsson's strategy. "With a significant portfolio of Sony Ericsson Walkman products and music accessories, and with our forthcoming Play Now Arena service, music is a significant focus for us," he says.
With its Cyber-shot range aiming to take visual communications to another level, Sony Ericsson has invested in its imaging category. At a global level this is showcased by its Worldview campaign. The imaging campaign involves a competition to find the best camera-phone shots from around the world. The project launched in 2006 with 15 countries taking part. In its debut year it received 30,837 entries. Last year 24 countries were involved and 74,355 entries were received.
The 2007 winner won a photography trip for two, while three runners up received a goodie bag of phone accessories.
With all these projects forming just part of Sony Ericsson's global live communications strategy, its commitment to producing engaging, innovative campaigns is clear. "It allows us to bring our products and services to life in a deeper and more engaging way," concludes Taylor.