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  • Posted by: Patrick Kerns on Monday, October 11 2010 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

    If you’re a sports fan (and probably even if you’re not), you’ll certainly remember the night in early July when LeBron James announced his decision to take his talents to South Beach and play for the Miami Heat. You also might recall the study we released at the time that determined that Miami actually offered LeBron the least opportunity to maximize his lifetime earnings and brand value.

    Now, in our latest article, "MLS should look to the future for its stars, not the past," (which appears in Sports Business Journal), we argue that Major League Soccer’s current strategy of signing big name international stars at the end of their careers is leading MLS nowhere as a league or as a brand. While the strategy has provided some short-term bumps in attendance and interest, the positive effects of these signings have so far proven unsustainable, and the league is not positioning itself to succeed in the long run.

    The main issue is this: The MLS sells its image to sponsors and fans as the up-and-coming American pro sports league, but directly contradicts its brand promise by signing players like Henry and David Beckham – old, well-known players who are past their prime. We argue that the league should instead develop a strategy that is more consistent with its brand. It needs to practice what it preaches by targeting younger, faster, more exciting players and positioning the league as one of the future.

    Read the full Sports Business Journal article here.

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  • Posted by: Gabriel Cohen on Monday, July 12 2010 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

    After 31 days of intense competition, millions of Spaniards around the world will have woken up this morning (those who bothered going to sleep, that is) to the madre of all hangovers. Meanwhile, the Oranje nation will be coming to terms with a team that for the third time in its history couldn’t quite make it over the final hurdle.

    Although the curtain has been drawn for the FIFA World Cup on the field, what about the brands that spent millions securing the official partnership off it?

    If there was a World Cup of brands, which ones returned home early in disgrace along with the French, and which ones ended up with a Furia Roja tattoo (The Red Fury- nickname of the Spanish soccer team) emblazoned on their chests?

    During my 10-day visit to South Africa, I took in seven matches in six different stadiums (including THAT English shot that crossed the line) and was able to keep half an eye on the official partners. In particular, I noted how all tried to engage the attention of the millions — those who attended matches as well as those watching in the official fan parks, main squares and shopping malls.

    First round loser: Budweiser
    While no other brand was more in demand in the stadiums, Bud’s overall presence was virtually nonexistent. The brand invested heavily in advertising in major Western markets but appears to have ignored the host country. Did no one tell them that the largest groups of foreign visitors to the World Cup were Brits and Americans?

    Quarter-finalist: Hyundai
    Hyundai’s efforts were at least more interactive. To build on an extensive ad campaign, spectators attending games were invited to leave their World Cup legacy by signing Hyundai’s giant inflatable footballs, which matched the colours of participating teams.

    The clever branding of hundreds of Hyundai coaches that transported teams and dignitaries around the country was also a smart way to generate awareness.

     

    Runner-up: Sony

    Sony’s messaging was concentrated on promoting its 3-D television, a market that it clearly wants to own. By setting up a 200-seat pavilion in Johannesburg’s Nelson Mandela Square and smaller versions outside stadiums around the country, Sony was able to demonstrate the 3-D experience to thousands of consumers.

    While the product demonstration (showing footage of a game from the previous day) was impressive, the delivery was a bit too slick and mechanical. Messages were shoved down our throats with “make.believe” and “Sony brings you 3-D” repeated ad nauseam by the local presenters. The brand needs to loosen up its attitude in order to create a more authentic two-way dialogue with its fans.

    Winner: Visa

    Visa’s strategy in the World Cup was simple.

    1. Be everywhere
    2. Drive usage of Visa cards

    As well as having an enormous branded presence at all South African airports, every shop (seriously, every shop) in South Africa had Visa’s “Go Fans” signage plastered on windows, shelves and even hanging down off ceilings.

    A friendly shop assistant informed us that Visa achieved its ubiquitous presence by employing an army of foot soldiers to visit every retailer and offer giveaways, bonuses and end user promotions. Every two days a rep would return to ensure that all the signage was still in its proper place.

    Everywhere we went we were encouraged either implicitly or explicitly to pay with our Visa cards. Which by the time we got back on the plane left us thinking: Master who?

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  • Posted by: Peter Aldous on Wednesday, June 30 2010 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

    After England’s dismal failure at this year’s World cup finals, I read the headline “The nation expects” in one of our newspapers.

    It stuck in my mind – Expects what? All I expect now are excuses to flow in: another highly paid player blaming a new ball, the pitch, the team formation or the fact that the coach was foreign. After our team’s failure, I would have hoped to see the newspapers adopt a positive angle for once — perhaps, building the confidence of the team with articles about the skill of Rooney and Gerrard, not the indiscretions of Cole and Terry.

    Some may believe that countries football teams are not brands, but I respectfully disagree. A brand is the identity of a specific product, service or business. If you look at football, you will agree that financially it has become more than a game – it has become, effectively, a business.

    So in turn a nation’s football team is its product. Millions of pounds are spent on this product to improve its identity or brand. In turn, like all business’s you have expectations and objectives. This means that when you fail you need to look back and review.

    That’s why, in the case of England’s disappointing World Cup performance, I believe our nation’s brand was negatively impacted because our expectations turned out to be too high. If Microsoft expected to achieve 1000 percent profits each quarter, it would be seen to fail too. 


    Goalkeeping blunders and lack of club form in national colours aside, we should not blame the team for our expectations. We should look and review what we put on ourselves. It is the same for Wimbledon Tennis, England Cricket and even our Rugby team receive the “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech every major tournament.

    We forget our expectations are magnified intensely upon the shoulders of the players. It is very easy to quote formations from our armchairs and say where you would have buried that penalty. However, while we want our team to do well, we should be proud of our players – good or bad. We should not be so quick to condemn.

    We have an opportunity to build a stronger country brand if we create the appropriate brand image. Wembley Stadium and the Olympics help our cause. The right expectation however can be crucial for the optimum brand experience.

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  • Posted by: Jeremy Sampson on Tuesday, June 29 2010 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

    First published in Times Live

    Some of the sponsorship ''wars" are predictable and to be expected. But does the ''non" sponsor resort to a simple publicity stunt, guerrilla tactics or outright ambush marketing?

    Bavaria Beer of Holland managed to orchestrate 36 nubile ladies in body-hugging orange mini dresses sitting together for the Holland versus Denmark game.

    Of course, they did the same thing during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But now we have a potential diplomatic incident brewing (pun intended), with a Dutch embassy spokesman in Pretoria saying they have asked for an explanation from the South African authorities. "We are not aware of any South African legislation that allows people to be detained for wearing an orange dress." But things are different in Germany. South Africa agreed to all Fifa's demands, and ambush marketing is indeed a criminal offence here.

    As one wag (no, not ''wives and girlfriends") put it: South Africa has been rented out to Fifa for the next few weeks. In the cases of Canon (Sony is an official sponsor), Castle and Carling (Budweiser is a sponsor) and Nike (adidas is the sponsor), they are maintaining a high media presence without a hint of being mischievous.

    It is also fascinating to watch all the television commercials, both those we are allowed to see in South Africa and those flighted on international channels. If you miss out, just click on YouTube. Just as repressive regimes have tried to block access to global communication - as in Iran, so Fifa has failed in its attempts. In some cases, the games people play have turned nasty, wars are raging. But for media junkies, we can watch the branding wars both on and off the field.

    Are you aware that ''The Fifa Partners", the premier division of sponsors, comprises just six players: adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai-Kia, Sony and Visa? And of the second tier of eight, the ''Fifa World Cup Sponsors", three are hardly known, while Budweiser is making no effort to leverage any activity outside of the stadiums. Why should they, the product is only available in stadiums.

    MTN, the local sponsor with the highest profile, continues to cluster bomb the media, having spent about R1-billion on the World Cup. The third tier of ''National Supporters" lists five members, with Telkom and FNB the most prominent. BP South Africa has taken a low profile; perhaps its woes in the Gulf of Mexico have played a role, although its TV commercials have prompted a few chuckles. But how many people have heard of Prasa or Neo Africa?

    Arguably the most bitter battle will be between Adidas, a long-time partner of Fifa, and since 1954, sponsor of the German team and 11 other teams, and Nike. The German team alone costs $25.7-million a year, and other football sponsorship deals a further $125-million. In 2008, Adidas soccer sales were $1.8-billion versus Nike's estimated $1.7-billion. That is big business in anyone's book. But then, marketing is war. Perhaps another reason Nike's chief executive has been in South Africa, to be involved first-hand at the front line.

    Certainly for the major sponsors, being part of the world's major sporting event is an opportunity to leverage their brands big time. Another major beneficiary should be Brand South Africa. On the one hand, we are told the event will add an estimated $13-billion to the economy - partly offset by the $2.6-billion spent by the government on stadiums, transport, infrastructure, ceremonies, and so on. Visitors will be about 385000, down from the initial 483000; and global television viewership of the final is expected to be about 715million (Time magazine); for 2010, the 64 games will be watched by 28billion viewers (Fifa), and it is estimated that over the four weeks, South Africa will receive the equivalent of R2-billion in ''free" television coverage. Both socially and economically, the positive impact should be significant. After all, in 2006, the German economy outperformed the rest of the world by 9%.

    Watching all the television coverage and reading all the special sections in various international publications, one cannot escape the conclusion that on balance, South Africa is the winner. No one can escape the fact that the World Cup is happening in South Africa.

    Some ambush marketing overseas is seeing the battle fought outside of South Africa. The boost to local manufacturers of merchandise has been limited. But retailers and supermarkets are having a field day as merchandise flies off the shelves.

    In Germany in 2006, research showed that brands that demonstrated they ''were there for the fans" benefited from ''brand love". The year 2010 is one of the few truly global marketing opportunities to get your message out there and your brand up there.

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  • Posted by: Graham Hales on Wednesday, June 23 2010 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

    Do you ever find yourself marveling at the contradictions of your own psyche?
     
    OK, maybe I'm on my own here, but whilst I'm repelled by everything North Korean, oh excuse me, the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea, I'm falling for their football team. Although their 7-0 annihilation by Portugal is perhaps a truer reflection of North Korea’s World Cup potential, they showed admirable spirit and pluck in their 2-1 Brazil match.
     
    Maybe it is the appeal of the underdog, but considering the frankly dull first round matches, the North Koreans felt like a stand-out team. And as a brand consultant, I quickly found myself scanning to see what brand sensed early on that this team might be a prospect for sponsorship.

     
    It turns out to be Legea. This, ahem, household name of Italian sportswear came forward and released its coffers to the tune of $4.9m.
     
    Can you imagine being in the meeting when the North Korean team was proposed as Legea’s team? What risk analysis was conducted? How does the North Korean team mirror the values of Legea? Or do the values of Legea find a kindred spirit within the North Korean set up? And why wasn't I involved in any way? I'd have a great story to tell if the games got dreary!

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