Tag Archives: advertising

ROLE MODELS? WHAT, FOOTBALLERS? YOU MUST BE KIDDING

West Bromwich Albion v Leicester City

Q: I notice Leicester City footballer Jamie Vardy (pictured above) has apologised for what he calls a “regrettable error in judgment” and will be investigated by the club over a video showing him allegedly using racist language to a fellow gambler in a casino. He called him a “jap” three times. Do you want to hear his explanation?  “It was a regrettable error in judgment I take full responsibility for and I accept my behaviour was not up to what’s expected of me.” What does he mean, “what’s expected of me”?

A: I guess he thinks people regard him as a — and here comes that term again — role model. I can barely think of a term so hopelessly overused in recent years. Let’s just pause and consider what exactly a role model is: a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated. That seems a reasonable working definition. So, who in their right mind regards footballers as exemplary citizens whose behaviour should be imitated?

Q: Hang on! Before you get going on one of your usual tirades, I think a lot of people do regard them as role models. If they didn’t, why would we be kicking up such a fuss over this guy, and, while we’re on the subject, the three players who Leicester sacked (Tom Hopper, Adam Smith and James Pearson) after they filmed themselves hurling racist abuse at three local women during an orgy on the club’s trip to Thailand in last May?

A: First, because it makes a brilliant story for the media. Sorry to sound crass, but it does. Second, because football’s governing organizations have historically set themselves up as the moral guardians of the sport. In truth the Football Association are proficient in negotiating lucrative contracts with the media, but have no meaningful way of controlling the behaviour of ill-educated young men with incomes comparable with movie stars.

Q: Ill-educated? You sound your typical arrogant self. What right have you got to characterize professional footballers in such a negative way?

A: Football clubs scout players voraciously nowadays. That means with great enthusiasm, by the way.

Q: Let me qualify my use of “arrogant”: egotistical, conceited, supercilious and self-important, too. Move on.

A: As a consequence, they are lining up prospective players at younger and younger ages. At nine, Wayne Rooney was in Everton’s youth team, and he made his professional debut in at the age of 16. That was 2002. Cristiano Ronaldo was played high quality football for Andorinha at 12. Today, it’s the norm to approach players before their teen years. If someone approached you when you were, say 13, and said: “Sign with us and you’ll be a professional footballer the second you leave school. You can order that Aston Martin now, if you like. You’ll have a million in your bank account before you’re old enough to vote,” it would hardly incentivize you to study for your GCSE’s or start applying to universities. Basically, it means you no longer have to study. I didn’t say footballers were not intelligent. Many are. But you’re just not going to be motivated by education when you can earn a fabulous living doing what a great many boys and young men love doing for nothing.

Q: Are the clubs obliged to arrange education for younger players?

A: Yes and several clubs have admirable academies. But, as you know, to get anything out education, you have to be motivated to learn. If you’re head is elsewhere, you’re not going enrich yourself intellectually. And this leaves us with a generation of players who are largely uneducated, bringing me back to the question: who thinks they are role models?

Q: So what are footballers for?

A: To entertain us, and to induce us to buy stuff. The world loves watching football, as we all know. So footballers provide great entertainment. Their other main function is to appear in advertisements for practically every product under the sun. We associate them mainly with sports gear, but just pick any pro player and trace how many products he hawks. The likes of Ronaldo endorse dozens of products. What they don’t do is instruct us. They never offer themselves as exemplary citizens or moral paragons and I doubt if anybody seriously regards them as such.

A: But the implication of what you’re saying is that we should allow players their lax behaviour and forgive them for their trespasses, so to speak.

Q: I wouldn’t go that far. We embarrass, sometimes even shame celebrities from other sports and difference branches of the entertainment industry. Politicians are a bit different because they are meant to be exemplary — well, to an extent. So I think, if a footballer abuses someone and behaves boorishly, then they should be accountable. I just don’t think we — and I mean all of us — should think they have let us down. What else do we expect of them? Every time we learn about an incident like the Vardy case, we start tut-tutting and complaining how the transgressing players have let us all down. They haven’t. If anything they live up (or down, depending on your perspective) to our expectations. Role model is just a term the media like. Nobody seriously thinks footballers are there to be emulated. Heaven forbid if they did.

NIKE: IN CRISIS, OR GETTING STRONGER? OR BOTH?

Justin Gatlin-Men's 100m Final-London 2012 Olympics

Q: Wearing any Nike clothes?

A: Eh? No, I don’t think so. Oh, wait a minute: I’ve got some Nike socks on – I’ve just been for a run. I imagine everybody reading this is either wearing something with the “Swoosh” logo on it, and, if they haven’t, they’re bound to own something from Nike. It’s one of the most ubiquitous and most profitable brands in the world. Forbes rated Nike’s brand value at an incredible $15.9 billion and, only last month, Nike reported $7.46 billion in revenue for the previous three months alone. Why do you ask?

Q: Because I notice Nike has been drawn into two scandals over the past week: Alberto Salazar was the subject of a BBC Panorama investigation into doping and his training base is at the Nike Oregon Project in the USA, where Mo Farah, among others, trains; and Nike has been implicated in the Fifa scandal – according to the American US Department of Justice’s indictment filed against 14 Fifa officials and marketing executives, in 1996, “Company A,” which is now widely accepted to be Nike, agreed to pay $40m in “marketing fees” to the Swiss bank account of an affiliate of Brazilian sports marketing firm Traffic “on top of the $160m it was obligated to pay”, apparently to secure the sponsorship of the Brazilian football team. Traffic billed the company for an additional $30m in fees between 1996 and 1999, according to the indictment.

A: I can’t think of another global brand that has courted controversy quite so often as Nike and yet still emerged, not just intact, but actually stronger. In marketing terms, the company is living testimony to Nietzsche’s dictum, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Just think about the previous scandals in which Nike has been involved courtesy of the athletes with whom it held contracts.

  • 1992: Eric Cantona was banned by England’s FA after his infamous kung-fu kick on a fan.
  • 1997: Mary Decker-Slaney was banned from competition after an irregular doping test result, which she explained as the result of her taking birth control pills.
  • 2003: The NBA star Kobe Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman, who eventually dropped her case.
  • 2006-2010: Sprinter Justin Gatlin (pictured above, right) served two suspensions for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs)
  • 2007: Michael Vick, the NFL quarterback was jailed after being involved in a dog-fighting ring.
  • 2009: Tiger Woods’ “transgression” led to several other companies dropping him. Nike’s ten-year contract with Woods is worth $124 million.
  • 2012: Lance Armstrong had been associated with Nike since 2006 and had insisted he hadn’t used PEDs.
  • 2014: Disabled runner Oscar Pistorius was convicted of shooting dead his girlfriend.

Nike stood by all but Armstrong and even then stated, “it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him.” His contract was valued at over $7 million per year. In the other cases, Nike has ridden out the storm and suffered no obvious collateral damage. So my guess is that it will distance itself from the Salazar case for the time being and, if the situation demands it, reiterate its stance on doping and remind everyone that its training facility in Oregon is not a panopticon i.e. a structure in which everyone can be observed at all time.

Q: But the Fifa scandal is a different matter, right?

A: Yes, I think so. But remember how Nike managed to navigate its way through the sweatshop controversy. “Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse.” Who said this? A protester at a G20 summit? Someone from the North Korea Confederation of Trade Unions? Unicef? Actually, it was Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. In 1998, faced with the uncomfortable reality that Nike, despite its position in the market and its reputation as a global brand, was being embarrassed by constant revelations about its treatment of workers across the world. Nike employed nearly 800,000 workers in 52 countries. Ninety-eight percent of its shoes were, at the time, produced in four countries: China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. For a long time Nike  it had to defend itself against criticism of its apparent exploitative workplace practices in the emerging world. Nike’s business model is based on outsourcing its manufacturing, and using the money it saves on aggressive marketing campaigns. Nike put its hands up: as Knight’s admission indicates, the corporation was prepared to concede that its early efforts of setting codes of conduct and monitoring compliance didn’t end the abuses across its factories that produced its goods. It needed more comprehensive action. Perhaps more importantly, people believed Knight when he said he was going to pursue this kind of action, augmenting efforts to improve labor conditions with environmental programs.  So it advertised that it was monitoring its outsourcing labour practices and rectifying them and, basically, advertised its way out of trouble. That’s what it does so brilliantly: advertise in a way that persuades consumers that, by buying Nike products, they are involving themselves with a brand that is basically … well, cool.

Q: All the same, the company is going to be hard-pressed to extricate itself from the Fifa scandal, isn’t it?

A: Hard-pressed, maybe. But it’s not beyond Nike to turn a negative into a positive. Think how all the previous scandals have involved or seemed to involve some kind of wrongdoing. Nike can appeal to what we might call unstated sensibilities. For example, people might publicly decry maverick figures, rebels or rule-breakers, but they might also secretly admire them for having the audacity to flout authority. So I think Nike’s cunning advertising creates a way in which consumers can identify with rule-breakers but without openly acknowledging it.

Q: And the Fifa case?

A: The corporation has claimed the overpayments were not bribes or kickbacks and pointed out that the indictment does “not allege that Nike engaged in criminal conduct” or that “any Nike employee was aware of or knowingly participated in any bribery or kickback scheme.” And I have no doubt it will maintain this throughout the coming weeks. As long it remains a peripheral presence in the scandal, it continues to thrive. Like all scandals, there are personal focuses, like Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner and Chuck Blatter. While these are portrayed as pantomime villains, no one will think too much about the more abstract Nike brand. Compare this with another example of potential brand damage: Alton Towers is going to have to work hard to rehabilitate its brand after last week’s crash. Consumers will experience the impact of the event by imagining, “there but for the grace of god …” and this may affect the way they think and respond to the Alton Towers brand. But no one is going to think if they buy a new Nike top or a pair of trainers that they’re suddenly complicit in an attempt to undermine the integrity of a sport they like, or even love. The associations are not immediate. As I argued earlier, Nike’s ability to weather storms is based on its credibility and its preparedness to own up to its own sins and meet the challenge set by the consumer market. My guess is that Nike will emerge unscathed, its position as the world’s market leader in sportswear unchanged.

 

 

 

SLY STALLONE: IS HE WORTH IT (TO WARBURTONS, THAT IS)?

Q: Yo, Adrian! I see Sly has taken a job as a delivery man for Warburtons bread. I love the commercial (above), but I’m scratching my head: what on earth did the toughguy want to do this for?

A: I’ve give you a clue: five letters beginning with “m” and ending with “y.” Not that Sly is short of a few bucks. But the days have gone when A-listers thought twice about cheapening themselves by becoming pitchmen or pitchwomen for products they had probably never heard of until their agents called.

Q: I hear the total commercial, including production, cost in the region of £15 million, which includes Stallone’s fee, their ad agency’s commission and so on and so forth. Warburton’s are going to have to sell an almighty number of loaves to justify this. It hardly makes commercial sense, does it?

A: Not on the surface: customers are no suddenly going to rush out and buy Warburtons bread as a result of viewing the commercial. But advertising doesn’t worth in such a straightforward fashion. In his book Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion, Michael Schudson makes a good point: “Advertising is much less powerful than advertisers and critics of advertising claim,” but qualifies this with “advertising helps sell goods even if it never persuades a consumer of anything.” He argues that a self-fulfilling prophecy operates, with key personnel tending to believe advertising works. In other words, if retailers and sales staffs think advertising works, they tend to push one product rather than another. For an ad to work, it must be seen to work.

Q: Let me get this straight. If an advertiser can design some way of not just distinguishing a product, by distinguishing it in a way that enables both vendors to stock it and consumers to confer extra value on it, then they have something like the goose that laid the golden eggs.

A: Yes. And this is, of course, where celebrities come in. Advertisers are always on the lookout for a “face of … “ some product or another, that is, someone who personifies a product or a range or products or perhaps even an entire brand. That someone might be the right match or fit for one type of product rather than another. Elizabeth Hurley was the spokesperson for and hence the face of Estée Lauder for ten years up to 2005. Presumably Lauder — which owns, among other lines, Bobbi Brown and Clinique — felt she radiated the kind of values it wanted associated with the brand. That is, until she hit 40, when Lauder replaced her with Gwyneth Paltrow, seven years her junior. Cheryl Fernandez-Versini endorses L’Oreal products. Budweiser or thousands of other products would have found little use for Hurley, Paltrow or Cheryl. Unless Bud decided to re-position its beer in the marketplace and tried to target women. This is an unlikely scenario: Budweiser knows its demographics, which is why the company often uses male artists, like Jay-Z, who are easily identifiable and embody the kind of values typically associated with an uncomplicated beer. Check out this commercial:

Q: Of course, we don’t need it pointing out, but, whatever the pitch, the appeal or the spiel, the consumer appears to get only one thing — merchandise. A celebrity’s approval might convince some consumers that they are buying something authentic, substantial or even profound. The product might be promoted as desirable and “real.” And the consumer might walk away from the store feeling like they have acquired something of genuine value. They might even believe they have taken another step toward being the person they want to be. That doesn’t alter the fact that they are buying a commodity, plain if not simple.

A: Value doesn’t exist in any pure form: products are invested with value. Think of the countless items discarded by celebrities and endowed with great value when circulated on eBay or some other exchange system. An old toothbrush, a used tissue or a worn sock become exceptional items. Most shoppers are aware that endorsed products are, essentially, the same as the generic ones: the majority of products are functionally indistinguishable. Advertising agencies are as aware of this as consumers; which is why they get paid to make those indistinguishable products distinguishable. Selecting a celebrity to advertise a product is a science, like astrology or alchemy; in other words, a nebulous, imprecise and uncertain one. The metrics are equivocal. Media visibility (exposure in print, television, radio and online) is a key factor. Hence film and television actors, tv personalities, models, sportsmen and woman, authors, musicians, comics and, of course, reality television figures are obvious candidates. Their visibility is measurable in terms of appearances and namechecks. Beyond that, the science becomes, at best, art, and, at worst guesswork.

Q: But there are some celebs, like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé or George Clooney who offer instant recognition practically everywhere in the world. The cut across all demographics. This surely makes them worth it to advertisers, doesn’t it?

A: Yes, they and the likes of JLo and Angelina Jolie are among an elite of celebrities whose name or image adds value to a brand and, in turn, make products move off shelves. In this sense, they are in the same league as Michael Jordan once was. Jordan is still busy endorsing Nike products, of course, but in the 1990s he was without peers. Then along came David Beckham and showed that Jordan wasn’t a one-off: sports celebrities are sought-after endorsers nowadays. Such is the confidence of advertisers in the added value brought to a product by the imprimatur of a celebrity that Chanel No. 5, in 2004, bought the services of Nicole Kidman for just one television commercial.

Q: Advertising has moved away from the practical approach in which product information was at the forefront. But seriously: does anyone else in the world believe Kim Kardashian or any of the other celebrities are sincere when they advocate, recommend or vouch for a smartphone? Is anyone so absolutely, completely and utterly gullible that they are prepared to accept the word of a well-paid mercenary when they part with their hard-earned cash?

A: I’d probably like to say the answer to all these is an emphatic no! On inspection, though, we probably conclude that it’s no-ish. If a person who is endorsing a product is believable, what he or she says is likely to be convincing; but the fit between the two is crucial. Both the statement and its source must be believable. When advertisers scan for likely endorsers, credibility is uppermost in their minds. If consumers regard the celebrity as credible, they’re more likely to take notice of the message. Which brings up back to Sly. No one thinks he is a devoted fan of Warburtons bread (I doubt if they can get it in Californian supermarkets, anyway). But he is known by everyone, well-liked (as the boxoffice of his movies confirms) and is not known for advertising any product that pays him. I still think it’s risky advertising, but the commercial has received national publicity, which means the ad has been seen over and over again and the name Warburton’s has been on everybody’s lips. Hey, it’s even got the like of you and me talking about it. So maybe Sly is worth it, after all.

ADVERTISING ON BBC? WHY NOT? WE’VE BECOME WALKING ADS OURSELVES!

Superdry

Q: I see the BBC has been in the news recently. Something about changing the way the licence fee is collected. What’s it all about?

A: BBC has been under pressure for as long as I can remember, particularly over the licence fee, which is currently £145.50, or just under 40p per day and is used to pay for the Beeb’s tv, radio and online output. The Corporation’s charter is good until 2017, but discussions have started to explore an alternative to the fee, partly because it doesn’t apply to tablets and smartphones. So theoretically you could watch tv without having a traditional set and be exempt. But the more pressing reason is simply that the licence fee is showing its age.

Q: Why do we pay at all? We don’t have to pay for ITV and, if we don’t want Sky and the other digitals, we can just choose to stick with Freeview.

A: BBC launched in 1922, but, of course, it was strictly radio back then. It started television broadcasts after the end of Word War II in 1945, but hardly anyone had tv sets. The first BBC studio in Shepherd’s Bush, London, starting making programmes in 1950. That was the start of the takeoff period for television. It’s important to remember that, when BBC tv started, it wasn’t intended to convey entertainment only: the other parts of its original remit were to educate and inform. In those days, it was by no means clear that television would grow into the dominant medium it became. Remember: cinema was in pole position and, a small screen showing black and white images in the corner of the room seemed to offer no challenge. BBC was in public ownership, of course. There was no pressure to operate as a profit-making company: it was, as we are still told today, a public service provider.

Q: So what changed?

A: Commercial television launched in 1955. ITV, as we know it today, was a network of regional broadcasters without public funding. So the organization took its cue from American television: in the US, the first tv companies were radio owners and were used to what we would call today a business model.  Radio was, after all, just another way of advertising products at a time in the early twentieth century when people were beginning to surround themselves with the kind of products we now take for granted. Advertising, in the 1920s, was quite primitive and radio offered a channel that was novel. The programmes were effectively just fillers for the ads. But important fillers: if nobody listened, the ads were reaching nobody. Television in the US was based on the same commercial approach and relied only on advertising revenue.

Q: So BBC found itself in a market in the 1950s?

A: Sort of. But not in the sense that they were a competitor of ITV. BBC was guaranteed funding through licence fees. ITV and, for that matter, all the channels that followed, depended on advertising for their money. BBC isn’t unique in this respect, but it is unusual in one respect: most other public service television channels are not dominant. Australia’s ABC is an exception. BBC has remained the UK’s powerhouse broadcaster for many years. So ITV and then Channel 4 (in 1982) and, later, in 1995, Channel 5, while important players have never managed to challenge BBC. Everything changed in 1989 when the first satellites started transmitting and subscription tv arrived.

Q: You mean television that we paid for?

A: Yes, Sky and others charged a monthly fee to receive its programmes. Sky was one of Rupert Murdoch’s companies and looked as if it would fold quickly: it haemorrhaged money before Sky secured the rights to screen then then fledgling Premier League. Then it went from strength to strength until it had over 10 million subscribers.

Q: I begin to see BBC’s predicament: all the other tv companies — and there are hundreds now — rely on advertising money or subscription fees, but BBC occupies a privileged position because it gets the licence fee money no matter what. So what’s the problem?

A: This: with so many other broadcasters, consumers are asking why, if there is a television market, they’re not given the choice not to pay their licence fee. OK, it’s relatively expensive and presents pretty good value compared, for example, to Sky …

Q: … but not compared to ITV or the others on Freeview.

A: True. But think of all the BBC radio channels too.

Q: I take your point, but the solution to the whole problem is obvious, surely: let BBC show commercials.

A: This is an extremely sensitive subject because, the second the BBC allowed ads, it would lose the independence it’s held so sacred: it surrenders itself to market forces and, as such, would be bound to popularize its content.

Q: And the problem with that is … ?

A: BBC would become just like any other tv channel and lose the unique quality that has made it arguably the most admired broadcaster in the world. It could mean an end to adventurous programming and a reliance on proven commodities. Challenging dramas such as last year’s The Missing ( and the recent Wolf Hall (trailer below) and  might never have been made. I’m not saying ITV, Sky and the others don’t make quality programmes. Both broadcasters are successful. ITV, after a rocky period, can boast the best watched programme Coronation Street, and Britain’s most popular programme internationally Downton Abbey. And Sky has its Fortitude (trailer above). So I don’t think we can complain about quality.

Q: You missed The X Factor and Broadchurch. Both ITV.

A: Yes. ITV has proved it can survive and prosper in a congested market where it has to compete against, not just the BBC, but hundreds of other channels in the digital age. If you’ve noticed, it allows not just outright advertising, but product placement. This means that its programmes sometimes feature branded products that are in full view. It alerts viewers to this by showing a capital “P” on the screen at the outset.

Q: So why don’t BBC do something similar? After all, advertisers would clamour to get on BBC shows. It could also invite sponsors. You know. “A certain product presents EastEnders” or “So-and-so brings you Strictly Come Dancing.”

A: I imagine BBC have been contemplating this for years. It’s resisted any form of advertising, no matter how, subtle or unobtrusive and my guess it will propose some sort of tax, or levy, as an alternative to the licence, before it allows ads. But you’re right: this possibility is sure to be aired. After all, we are surrounding by ads whenever we go online, or to the movies or even just walking about — count how many people you see who have brands emblazoned across their shirts, or bags, or trainers (see the picture at the start of this blog). We’ve become walking advertisement without seeming to mind. So I suspect BBC will be asked to consider some sort of advertising. I don’t especially welcome the development, but I think it will be hotly debated before 2017.

WHY DO ADVERTISERS LIKE FOOTBALL SHIRTS?

Q: As a new football season kicks off, I thought I’d ask you about shirt sponsors. Hull City recently announced a deal worth “seven figures” with 12BETuk, which is a gambling outfit, and Everton has extended its contract with Chang beer for another three years; that’s worth £16 million to the club.

A: And don’t forget Everton’s neighbours, Liverpool, which gets £31 million per year for wearing shirts with Standard Charter emblazoned across the front.

Q: So my first question is: Why?

A: Simple answer is: advertising. The Premier League is broadcast practically everywhere on the planet, so every time a game is shown, viewers see 22 moving advertisements for their product. The cumulative viewing audience is colossal.

Q: When did all this start?

A: Well, you have to remember association football has always been sponsored. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, clubs were usually started by churches or factories. The factories in particular sponsored teams with kit, travelling expenses and even wages after professionalism was allowed in 1864. But they weren’t allowed to use their players’ shirts to advertise themselves. That crept in during the late 1970s, at first in Germany.  Eintracht Braunschweig carried the liqueur Jägermeister logo on their kit in 1973.

Q: That recently?

A: Kettering Town, when the club was in the Southern League, could actually claim to have been the first British club to wear shirts with a brand name, in this case Kettering Tyres, way back in the 1975-76 season. The late Derek Dougan (1938-2007, pictured above in early 1976) was the inspiration behind this innovation. The League told the club to remove the lettering. In 1977, Derby County explored a deal with Saab, the Swedish carmaker, and approached the Football League (this was before the Premier League) for permission. The deal didn’t go through, but, as the League approved it, Liverpool rushed in and clinched a deal with Hitachi.

Q: How much?

A: Difficult to know for sure, but £50,000 is the figure I’ve heard. It sounds a ridiculously small amount now, but back in 1978, no one had a clue whether it would be effective, so it was an experiment.

Q: It’s a wonder no one else came up with the idea before, isn’t it?

A: Not really. Football was a sport in the 1970s, not a popular entertainment. Let me explain: although it was a professional game and the players were well-paid after the maximum wage (i.e. wage ceiling) was abolished in 1961, football was not meant to be a business and fans were not customers; they were organic parts of the club. No one would have dared talk about a football market, as they do today. Clubs were wary of the accusation that they would be exploiting fans.

Q: I imagine the Football League was concerned too.

A: Absolutely. The lettering on the shirts was restricted to a maximum size, 2×8 inches back then, which is a lot smaller than the logos we see splattered across shirts today.

Q: But I guess it caught on straightaway, right?

A: Not quite: the television companies opposed it. BBC didn’t allow advertising of any kind and either refused to broadcast games featuring games with teams playing with sponsored shirts, or made those teams cover the lettering with tape. ITV opposed it for a different reason. As the company relied on advertising revenue, it hated the prospect of effectively advertising products and not only not receiving money for it, but having to pay for the privilege. So it was a highly controversial development. The television companies relented in 1983.

Q: Did fans wear the replica shirts with the sponsors’ names back then?

A: No. If you saw someone in the 1970s wearing a football shirt and trainers, you’d assume they had been playing football. The shirts started to be worn as casual clothes around the mid-1980s. Now, this was a crucial development because when fans started wearing replica shirts, it meant that a commercial sponsor had it’s name or logo worn not just by eleven men, but by thousands and, in the case of well-supported clubs millions of people. I know it’s not a reliable figure, but Manchester United claim over 600 million fans around the world, which is why Chevrolet is paying the club £357million to plaster its logo on shirts for the next seven years (see picture below).

Q: So the fans became walking advertisements?

A: Precisely. If one person had dreamt this up, he or she would have been called a marketing genius. But it came about almost by accident. Remember the figure Liverpool gets paid by Standard & Charter bank: £31 million per year. This reflects Liverpool’s huge fan base, a global fan base too. So all over the world, fans are walking around advertising the bank.

Q: That sounds like exploitation.

A: It is. But no one is forcing the fans to pay fifty quid for the 2014-15 shirts, and, if you tried to sell the shirt without the sponsor’s name, fans would complain that it wasn’t an accurate replica. So they willingly agree to be like sandwich board carriers.

Q: So let me try to sum this up. You’re saying that shirt deals have to be understood in the context of changes in the sport rather than just changes in the regulations?

A: Yes. When shirts sponsorship was introduced, many people thought it was against the spirit of football and hurt its integrity. It also used the fans, rather than respected them. The idea of exploiting fans appalled most people. But, as football has become an entertainment industry, the fans have become customers and, as such, they are there to be squeezed. Look at the hikes in season ticket prices as another example. Fans enjoy wearing team strips and they want their shirts to look exactly the same as the players’. They say the most effective form of advertising is when people don’t realize it’s advertising. This is a perfect example.

MO JOINS BOLT AND PULLS OUT OF GAMES. WHY? EASY …

COMMONWEALTH GAMES DON’T PRESENT A MARKETING OPPORTUNITY FOR ONE OF SPORT’S MOST VALUABLE BRANDS

If you’re grumbling about the number of athletes who have opted out of or are still prevaricating about whether to compete in the Commonwealth Games, blame Usain Bolt. The most charismatic and globally popular sports star since Muhammad Ali has decided to skip the games’ individual sprint events and run in only the 4x100m relay. Bolt (pictured above) has redefined track in much the same way as Tiger Woods redefined golf and Michael Jordan basketball: not with his style, so much as his brand – his name, image and imprimatur sell goods, most unrelated to sport, to any market in the world. Last year, Bolt renewed his endorsement deal with Puma, which lies well behind adidas and Nike, the sports goods market leaders. The deal is worth $10 million over two years (until 2016) to Bolt, who also has promotional contracts with Virgin Media, Visa, Nissan, Gatorade, Swiss watchmaker Hublot and Soul Electronics with which Bolt will develop his own line of headphones. He has also published two books, pushing his early earnings to about $20 million.

So for him, the prize money available on the IAAF Diamond League circuit from which most athletes earn a stable living (winners are paid $10,000 per event) is negligible. Typically, Bolt will command an appearance fee of between $200,000 and $350,000 per meeting. Promoters may balk at this, but his appearance guarantees a full stadium. He alone would have conferred respectability and glamour on the Glasgow tournament. So why isn’t he interested?

A Commonwealth Games medal would not add commercial value to Bolt’s brand and, a defeat or disqualification (remember: he was DQ’d from the 2011 World Championships) would be damaging from a marketing perspective. Bolt’s declination is a big blow for the Commonwealth Games. But imagine the cost-benefit calculation behind the decision. The tournament has nowhere near the lustre of the Olympics, nor even the IAAF World Championships. Its television audience is relatively small and interest among the world’s richest economic nations – and hence the most prosperous markets for advertisers – is limited. The Commonwealth embraces some of the world’s poorest countries, such as Mozambique and Rwanda. Thirty-one of the member states have populations of 1.5 million or less.

So while there is a collective population of near two billion and a few fast-emerging economies, the games do not present an especially attractive proposition for advertisers. One can imagine the global corporations that pay Bolt wondering out loud whether it is worth risking his reputation in a tournament that counts for little. Those who reject this explanation as too cynical should recall the fuss Bolt kicked up last year when he was invited to participate in a post-Olympics event. HMRC, the British government’s tax service demanded its cut of his earnings. Because he spends so much of his time in the UK, he is liable to pay 50 per cent of his earnings in tax.

A tax amnesty was brokered for the 2012 Olympics, but Bolt was reluctant to return for only half his usual fee. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson was obliged to step in to help induce Bolt, though British taxpayers were understandably upset at the prospect of a multimillionaire athlete’s being excused paying tax, while they were forced to surrender a chunk of their wages to the government. Asked if it was because he would lose as much money as he would earn from running in London, Bolt replied: “That’s what my agent told me.” And, of course, agents are in business to make money. It may disappoint fans to learn that their heroes are motivated by much the same pecuniary incentives as everyone else, but sports stars are not idealists. The Chariots of Fire have long since bolted. Nowadays professional sportsmen and women are working for money. Bolt’s official position is not clear: he is apparently not injured but just hasn’t trained enough. His fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has also decided to miss the games. Yohan Blake followed Bolt’s example and pulled out of the Commonwealth Games. While Blake pulled up in a race last weekend, few believe it is an injury that is prompting his withdrawal: the double Olympic silver medallist said he could not put his preparations for Rio 2016 at risk. Translated, this is: “The Commonwealth Games are worthless. There is no money, prestige or any kind of benefit to be gained from winning a tupenny ha’penny medal at a third-rate Games.”

Glasgow 2014 will, for sure, be a specular success: it will be efficiently organized, well attended and viewed by television audiences all over the …. er, Commonwealth. It is just not a marketable product; it does not present a commercial showcase in which “brand ambassadors” can advertise their sponsors’ wares to an international market. Even if the individual competitors are enthusiastic about the event, their agents and sponsors will be deterring them. Bolt may be secretly disappointed: an appearance at a venue full of adoring fans where he can do his usual shtick in front of tv cameras and pick up another medal for his cabinet would not be an onerous task for him, even if he does end up weighing-in to the British taxman. But he isn’t in control: like other pro sports stars, he’s made a Faustian pact that renders him at the mercy of his corporate paymasters.

Sponsors care about Fifa’s corruption. Do fans?

FOOTBALL IS MORE ADDICTION THAN ATTRACTION

Qatar 2022: Fifa partner Sony call on governing body to investigate World Cup corruption claims

Q: Sony is demanding that Fifa “appropriately investigate” the corruption claims that have been flying about lately. What authority has Sony got?
A: The authority that comes when you pump $305 million per year into football, that’s about £182 million, enough to buy a pretty decent Premier League club, every year. So Fifa will take notice of this.
Q: I guess Fifa depends on corporations like Sony for sponsorship money then, eh?
A: And how. Coca-Cola and adidas have pumped money into Fifa for years. And more recently credit card giant Visa and Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, and Hyundai, the car manufacturer have joined them. They each sponsor Fifa. Collectively, they contribute probably close to £1 billion per year. The World Cup alone is expected to fetch Fifa $730 million, or about £445 million, in sponsorships. So Fifa will not want to get on their wrong side.
Q: But the sponsors have made noises before, haven’t they?
A: Yes. In 2011 when Fifa was in the middle of another corruption scandal, Visa said: “The current situation is clearly not good for the game and we ask that Fifa take all necessary steps to resolve the concerns that have been raised.” Coca-Cola, the single biggest sponsor, released a statement: “We have every expectation that Fifa will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner.” That was three years ago, remember. So they must be thinking Fifa have not just failed to resolve the matter, but have become involved into an arguably more serious episode — this one, as we know concerning the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. There could come a point at which the likes of adidas and Hyundai ask themselves: “Are we doing the image of the company any good by associating ourselves with a sport that is tainted?
Q: I suppose so, but, so far, only Sony has spoken up and the electronics giant hasn’t threatened to pull its money, has it?
A: No. That’s because Sony, Coca-Cola and the others are confident football is so incredibly popular that, by the time the World Cup is over, everyone will be feeling so jubilant that they’ll have forgotten about how dirty Fifa is.
Q: Are they right?
A: I suspect they are: Fifa has a habit of riding out these scandals and stay in tact. The reason is simple: fans don’t much care.
Q: You’re kidding, right? Fans surely care that the game they love is riddled with corruption, bribery, matchfixing, bungs and all sorts of other skulduggery.
A: Well, they know association football is endemically bent. But I’m not sure they care that much. I mean, once the big games start on Thursday, this crisis will vanish and all the fans will care about is the tournament. Tom Peck, of the Independent, wrote a biting story the other day, in which he suggested: “When the whistle finally blows in Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo on Thursday night, a football-addicted planet will get its first sweet quadrennial pull on the World Cup crack pipe and all will be right again.” And I think he’s right. I’m not sure his conclusion is accurate: “It is this addiction that hides from the football fan the extraordinary truth.” Fans know the truth; they just don’t care that much.
Q: That’s a bit of a compliment with a criticism inside it, isn’t it?
A: Let’s put it this way: fans are clued-up, they know about the politics of the sport; but they also realize that, in practical terms, there isn’t much they can do about it.
Q: But, as we both know, there is.
A: I see what you’re getting at. Imagine if football fans decided to boycott, say, Budweiser beer, McDonalds, or Johnson & Johnson products. They’re all sponsors and stand to benefit from football’s greatest tournament. They could force change in the way in which the global game is run. Sony is probably aware of the potential impact of negative publicity and that’s why it’s put out this statement. Remember: some sponsors are quick to sever links with athletes who are convicted of doping offences: they think their brand will suffer by association. Others just ride out the storm, assuming sports fans are just not motivated enough to put their convictions into action. Are they really going to stop buying adidas gear or scissor their Visa cards?
Q: I’m asking the questions … are they?
A: No. I’m afraid I agree with Peck: football is more of an addiction than an attraction. I hate to say it, but I think this scandal will have been forgotten by the time the whistle blows to end England’s first game. All the same you have to wonder if anyone benefits from all this. I bet Nike, Pepsi, Toshiba, Burger King and the other rivals of Fifa’s main sponsors are having a quiet laugh. Nike, in particular, has opted to capitalize on the World Cup and other Fifa tournaments with ambush marketing and sponsoring national teams, like Brazil’s. But, as Nike has no direct link to Fifa, it won’t incur collateral damage. The others’ reputations are vulnerable.

WORLD CUP WILL BE A MONTH-LONG ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

Q: What’s this? The first World Cup ad?
A: Yes, adidas has launched the first commercial of its campaign and, as you can see, it’s provocative.
Q: Why provocative? I can recognize Kanye West on the soundtrack, but so what?
A: Because adidas have edited the track so that the references to “cocks” and “muthfuckas” and so on have been expunged.
Q: Perhaps that will make adidas appear edgy and appeal to the demographic they want. But, hang on a minute: doesn’t Kanye do something similar for adidas’s arch rivals Nike?
A: He did. Last year, he switched to adidas: the terms of the new deal mean that, just after the World Cup, there will be a new lines of shoes and apparel bearing the Kanye West imprimatur.
Q: Eh? What’s an imprimatur?
A: A sort of personal guarantee. West licences out his name. Most A-list celebs do this sort of thing nowadays. It’s pretty standard practice: you’ll notice Kanye West-themed adidas gear everywhere.
Q: I can see the logic of this if an athlete endorses the clothes and shoes. I mean, Nike and Michael Jordan was the most productive marketing tie-up in history. But Kanye West is a musician. What’s he got to do with sportsgear?
A: The only thing that matters is that consumers know and identify with West. Precisely what he’s known for is irrelevant. Sports stars are used to advertise all sorts of products that have nothing to do with sport. Musicians can reverse the process. Anyway adidas has done its homework: the company will know its customers like and follow West.
Q: It’s clever marketing for West too, I suppose.
A: Definitely. He’s trailing the new track “God Level” in an ad that is going to be seen and heard globally. So it’s effective advertising for him as well as adidas. It’s called cross-promotion. Advertising today combines products in such a way that the consumer isn’t expected to know it’s actually an ad at all: they just immerse themselves in the video. In this sense, I think you’d have to conclude the new ad is successful.
Q: This is the first seriously big ad campaign, isn’t it?
A: Yes, over the next couple of months, we are all — and I mean everybody in the world — going to be bombarded with ads for so many products it will make our heads spin. The World Cup is, on one level, a sports tournament; on another level, it is an marketing extravaganza. It has become such a globally popular event that advertisers know they can get the attention of literally millions. Fifa has been criticised for inflating viewing figures, but there is still nothing to touch the World Cup when it comes to bringing viewers to their screens; and remember people will be watching on portable devices too this time. You also have to remind yourself that the advertising doesn’t stop when the whistle goes. Hoardings will display ads for the whole game, players will wear branded footwear and, on commercial tv, halftime breaks will be crammed with advertising. Britain’s ITV will probably charge £300,000 for 30-second slots during the pregame, halftime and postgame intervals.
Q: I hate to bring this up, but it strikes me that when we are watching the games, the advertising will still be working on us.
A: Which leads us to ask: are we being entertained by the competition, or are we being sold stuff? The answer is, as you’ve already guessed: both. Everything comes with a price tag, right? Even watching a game on commercial-free BBC will implicate you in an advertising interaction. Consumption doesn’t just mean buying products for their use: it’s become a relationship through which we gratify ourselves and, strange as it seems, make our selves. Things are parts of our identities. adidas may sell products, but they also provide identity accoutrements.
@elliscashmore

 

Entertainment and advertising — the same thing?

HOW CIGARETTE ADS SNEAK INTO OUR MINDS

Britney Spears

Children and young people are being encouraged to try electronic cigarettes by social media and celebrity culture. At least that was the conclusion of a recent report by Cancer Research UK. The organization doesn’t want e-cigarettes banned. As many ex-smokers confirm, e-cigarettes help wean them off the smoking habit. But Cancer Research UK argues that children should be protected from what it calls the “unregulated marketing” of the products. This has got me thinking: what is “unregulated advertising”? In fact, what isn’t advertising today?

First let’s distinguish between the different types of advertising that surround us. Above the line advertising, often abbreviated to ATL, refers to what most of us understand as advertising: paid-for ads in publications, physical and online, commercials on television or at the movies, and hoardings, posters and street installations. This type of advertising is regulated and is usually clear; in other words, we see recognize it as advertising and know its purpose – to make us buy stuff. Below the line, or BTL, advertising is a little more difficult to identify and this is, presumably, the kind of surreptitiously invasive advertising that concerns Cancer Research UK. It covers all sorts of advertising that can’t, in practice, be regulated. For example, earned media means positioning a brand or product in the public eye, not by paying for advertising space or time, but just by creating or responding to news in an interesting enough way gets the attention of the media. This is valuable exposure and many companies hire public relations (pr) companies with the simple remit to get the company namechecked in the media as frequently as possible.

BTL advertising also includes sponsorships, which ensure a brand name appears in mentions of an event or on the physical presences of people involved (like on the shirts of footballers). This is paid-for, rather than earned, but it’s thinly disguised as something other than advertising. That’s the trick of BTL advertising: to convince consumers they are being agreeably engaged while subtly promoting a brand in their consciousness, though not in a way they would find offensive. But I don’t think Cancer Research UK has any of these in mind. BTL incorporates product placement: watch any movie with a pen-and-paper or your tablet at the ready and take note of every branded product you see on the screen. You will end up with at least 20 names and, in a Bond movie or a Hollywood blockbuster, many more. Car-makers, soft drink manufacturers and IT companies are among the thousands of advertisers who pay to have their products placed prominently in films. The bigger the boxoffice potential of the film, the more valuable the product placement. Television is also fertile territory for product placement: watch for the capital “P” in the corner of the screen, which alerts viewers that branded products will soon be in view. Again, I’m not sure Cancer Research UK have this method in mind.

The organization could be thinking of tweeted endorsements: this involves companies paying celebrities to use twitter to rhapsodize over certain products. Celebrities are paid to tweet enthusiastically about a product. Bosses at itv recently denied allegations that some Coronation Street actors had received gifts or been involved in any “unlawful marketing promotion.” An actor like Brooke Vincent, who has a twitter following of about 400,000 and can boast a certain influential cachet among fans, could be a valuable resource for advertisers. Strictly speaking this form of advertising is now allowed, though it is, for all practical purposes, impossible to regulate: how do you distinguish between a celebrity who genuinely likes a product and wishes to name it, and a celeb who is just paid to namecheck a brand? Unless, of course, you have evidence of pay-offs, which is rare. I don’t know of any tweets extolling the virtues of e-cigarettes though. So what is Cancer Research UK talking about?

The organization has named online promotions, including competitions, apps on phones and discounts of e-cigarettes. But is this a problem? It’s obvious that this is advertising. Were I charged with the responsibility of discouraging smoking, my concern would be with the manner in which the habit is still associated with glamour, elegance, self-confidence and all-round coolness. These associations have held sway since the golden age of Hollywood in the 1940s, when stars such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable used cigarettes to enhance their alluring, slinky desirability – and were paid by tobacco companies to do so. Despite all the negative connotations attributed to smoking in subsequent decades, it seems to have retained attractive qualities. What Cancer Research UK might be concerned with is breaking this association. This is no easy task, especially when we think of A-list celebs who make no bones about smoking: Britney Spears (pictured above), Johnny Depp, Paris Hilton are among those celebs. Some will argue that, as role models, they should set a good example. I personally think they can do as they please. But the problem for Cancer Research UK remains.

Whether we like it or not, these celebrities are living, moving advertisements for smoking. But, if I can broaden my point: advertising is simply inescapable today. And I mean BTL advertising that manages to sneaks under our awareness. I’ve mentioned product placement in films and tv shows; but have you ever wondered what’s happening when you watch a game of football? Advertising hoardings at the stadium are in full view, the logos of sponsors are plastered across players’ shirts, the competition probably bears the name of a brand, which is usually referenced by the commentators. If the game is shown on Sky Sports or itv, there are ATL commercials before, after and during halftime. So are you watching a sport or being subjected to a two-hour advertisement? Like an alien abductee, you’re held captive while the advertisers stealthily invade your consciousness. Think about this next time you’re enjoying the game.

Cancer Research UK will be heartened by the new movie Saving Mr. Banks, which not only deliberately avoids product placement for cigarettes, but changes history to accommodate its clean image: the film is about Walt Disney, who was an inveterate smoker, and is played by Tom Hanks. The film has been made by Disney, a studio that operates an absolute ban on screen smoking. Rather than flout its own policy, the studio has chosen never to show its founder lighting up or smoking cigarettes, though he is seen stubbing out a ciggie. Disney also favoured scotch and was famously potty-mouthed, but the film painlessly renders him a more wholesome figure by not featuring him having a drink or uttering a swear word. @elliscashmore

 

They must be worth it

…  SO WHY DO CELEBS ADVERTISE STUFF? (CLUE: 5 LETTERS BEGINNING WITH ‘M’)

adele

Selecting a celebrity to advertise a product is a science, like astrology or alchemy; in other words, a nebulous, imprecise and uncertain one. The metrics are equivocal. Media visibility (exposure in print, television, radio and online) is a key factor. Hence film and television actors, tv personalities, models, sportsmen and woman, authors, musicians, comics and, of course, reality television figures are obvious candidates. Their visibility is measurable in terms of appearances and namechecks. Beyond that, the science becomes, at best, art, and, at worst guesswork. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, or David Beckham offer continuity and consistency in the way they go about their business efficiently and reliably: the chances of a scandal erupting around them are slim and they are known to a wide spectrum of people. Not that a hint of indecorum is a bad thing. Sales of Katie Holmes’ high-end ready-to-wear fashion line, Holmes & Yang, increased in the wake of her unsavory divorce from Tom Cruise. “Unsurprisingly, the label has benefited from Holmes’s increased visibility,” confirmed Charlotte Cowles, of New York magazine (July 30, 2012).

Jennifer Lopez, a prodigious endorser of, among others, Kohl’s clothing and lifestyle collection, was caught up in an eighteen month on-off relationship with Ben Affleck in 2003 and 2004. The Latina singer-actor was one-half of “Bennifer” as the couple was known. The tumultuous relationship coincided with a career slump defined by boxoffice flops (Gigli, Jersey Girl) and disappointing cd sales (Brave, Como Ama una Mujer). Becoming a judge on American Idol smacked of desperation, yet it turned out to be a career saviour and, by 2012, at the age of 42, she was, according to Forbes, the most sought after celebrity by advertisers. Idol regularly pulled 26 million viewers to their televisions (i.e. a 9.8 per cent of the total potential audience), most of them in the 18-49-year-old segment advertisers love. JLo used the series as a showcase to premiere music videos and perform singles. “On the floor” went multi-platinum, and the music video amassed over 530 million YouTube views. Mariah Carey must have been enthused by the prospect of emulating JLo when she accepted the offer of becoming a judge on Idol, though the $18 million (£11.6m) one-off fee was a further incentive. Mariah’s advertising file included T-Mobile, Mariah’s …  fragrances and Jenny Craig, for whom she directed a diet plan commercial.

JLo and Mariah are among an elite of celebrities whose name or image adds value to a brand and, in turn, make products move off shelves. And you imagine L’Oreal considered Adele (above) in the same league when the company offered her £12 million to appear in its advertising a couple of weeks ago. The big surprise was: she turned it down. This is an exceptional occurrence nowadays. A huge endorsement contract is almost a membership card to the A-list, and Adele would have become one of the highest paid advertisers in L’Oreal’s stable, which includes the likes of Cheryl Cole, Eva Longoria and, of course, Beyoncé. Of all the endorsers used by L’Oreal, Beyoncé is perhaps most closely associated with the brand and its signature tagline “ … because I’m worth it” (a slogan dreamt up by Ilon Specht, of McCann Erickson, in 1973 and which is now recognized by 70 per cent of consumers.

But seriously: does anyone else in the world believe Kim Kardashian or any of the other celebrities are sincere when they advocate, recommend or vouch for a cellphone? Sharon Osbourne is hardly likely to shop at Asda, particularly after that same supermarket chain paid her millions to appear in its ads in 2005. Is anyone in the world unable to spell out the motive behind celebrities’ behavior (clue: five letters beginning with “m”)? Adele earned over £11m last year, so maybe she doesn’t need the extra cash.  Is anyone so absolutely, completely and utterly gullible that they are prepared to accept the word of a well-paid mercenary when they part with their hard-earned cash? We’d probably like to say the answer to all these is an emphatic no! On inspection, though, we probably conclude that it’s no-ish. I’ll explain what I mean in a later blog. @elliscashmore