What lessons can brands learn from this summers World Cup marketing failures? Mark Terry-Lush, CEO at Renegade Media, takes a closer look at sport as a branding tool, and how marketers can do to avoid scoring more own goals ahead of London 2012.
So If I’ve got this right, people who shop at Marks & Spencer are overpaid, incompetent underachievers and those using Nationwide are churlish, selfish and lacking in national pride.
That would seem to be what the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston was saying in his blog a few weeks back.
The man that brought us the scoop on Northern Rock claimed that the England team that both organizations have stumped up to sponsor is the “diametric opposite” of what their brands are supposed to embody.
If you follow his train of thought, building societies and high street retailers are not the only ones to have netted an own goal.
You could argue Nike’s Write the Future campaign has hardly been a glowing success after most of the stars that performed in it flopped in South Africa.
Yet a report by Nielsen claims the commercial has had twice as many references related to the World Cup than its rival, World Cup official partner Adidas.
And if 18.5 million (and counting) viewers on YouTube is anything to go by, it’s a fair assumption that a lot of people now associate Nike with great footballers and a great advert.
With all banks and building societies delivering similar products, Nationwide can rest assured that many people will choose them because blanket coverage has made them front of mind.
After all, more Britons trust a meerkat with a dodgy Russian accent than a business editor with strangulated diction when it comes to financial advice.
It could also be claimed that Nationwide, in negotiating a deal that ran out after the World Cup, gave themselves the space in which to make a rational decision about extending it once they knew how England had got on.
I wonder if their non-renewal is less about crisis management and more an opportunity to cut down their marketing spend in difficult economic times?
And as for blokes buying suits, are they not more likely to do so because the England team looked good in theirs rather than worry that their poor performances will rub off on them when they turn out for their local five-a-side on a Sunday morning?
The fact is there a number of brands involved here. Among them are the England football team, the English FA, manager Fabio Capello and of course the individual players themselves.
And if questions are being asked of them, surely similar investigations have been launched in France, Italy and Brazil whose fans experienced similar heartache?
The England football brand has certainly been tarnished over the past month, but fans have an emotional attachment to the game that immunises them against the hard times.
A few changes to the team, a few good wins and these brands will bounce back strongly.
It’s not as if the English FA have been short of sponsorship suitors in the past – or will be again – once the dust has settled over this latest debacle.
In the run up to this summer’s tournament they bagged more sponsorship income than any other national governing body, with annual revenue from deals totaling £49m. The next nearest was the Italian FA, which brings in £27.6m a year.
The game of football as a branding tool itself is still in good shape and provides excellent opportunities for company’s showcasing their wares.
The English Premier League and the Champions League have huge viewing figures around the world, particularly in the all-important Asian market.
Branding in sport is simple: it lifts a company’s visibility and gives them the opportunity to recruit customers from the fans attracted to it.
Potential sponsors just have to do their due diligence before they get involved. If they didn’t realise it before they now know that identity and reputation is precious, hard-earned and easily changed.
Many commentators have predicted that supporters will register their disgust by staying away in their droves, for the next few games.
Even if this does seem to be the case, you can bet your boots they’ll be back. And so will the sponsors.
By Mark Terry-Lush
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