How Nike and Pepsi Again Hijack the World Cup


The world’s greatest sporting spectacle, the World Cup, began this weekend. Do you know who the “official” sponsors are?

You might think from the prevalence of its “Write the Future” campaign on the web and in pop culture, that Nike is an official World Cup sponsor. It’s not. Nor is Pepsi, whose “Oh Africa” has been racking up millions of views on the web since May. Rather, the official sponsors are Adidas and Coke — and both have also produced compelling online videos in association with their campaigns.

As we all know, brands often pay significant sums of money to be the exclusive sponsor for high-profile sporting events including the World Cup, Olympics and Super Bowl. These sponsorships typically include a number of elements and are supported by TV, on premise and promotional support. To their credit, the event organizers themselves go to great lengths in order to protect the value of the sponsors, and the relationship they have with the event.

I remember that before the Beijing Olympics, the government assumed control of the outdoor ad space so that the sponsors would be given access to it. I thought it was a great idea.

For as long as brands have sponsored these events, other brands have tried to ride along on the brand equity of the events as well. This concept, known as “ambush marketing,” involves running similarly themed campaigns around the time of the event without actually mentioning the event itself. A famous example of this was American Express’ campaign around the Barcelona Olympics, “You don’t need a visa to go to Barcelona” (Visa was the Olympic sponsor). Aware of this practice, sponsoring brands usually think ahead of how to counteract them on site or on TV.
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Enter the web…

As Nike and Pepsi have recently demonstrated, the open distribution and viral nature of the web create a whole new path for ambush marketing. In the “Write the Future” campaign, Nike produced a video starring their top-tier talent.

They then used the web as an initial distribution ground. Two weeks and 15 million-plus views later, Nike has created a brand association with soccer, and likely the World Cup itself. Adidas also produced a very compelling video using talent as well — only it debuted a bit later and was far less seen or distributed. While Adidas may have a significant TV or local presence planned over the next two weeks, it got hijacked online.

So what can a brand do to protect itself, or alternately, what can you do to best position yourself to steal someone else’s thunder?

Start early!!!!

While you might not be able to own the conversation, you can at least start it. Plan far in advance — it is better to be a bit early to the party than to miss it completely. Starting the conversation immediately allows you to insert yourself into it.

Spend early!!!!

Don’t just plan your viral campaign to start early — adjust some of the spending cycle as well. Social media, rapid news cycles and thousands of bloggers are all affecting marketing plans in ways no one would have predicted 10 years ago.

With these new tools, people have more outlets to talk about big events way in advance and websites actually have incentives to do so to increase search and other referral traffic. As a result, there is no shortage of relevant content to associate with from a very early stage, and users are in the right mindset well in advance of where they were years ago.

As a frame of reference, type World Cup 2010 into Google — you get 196,000,000 results. Think about that –- there are close to 200,000,000 million pages that have already been indexed about the topic and the event hasn’t even started yet.

Be Clear as well. While I assume that event sponsors have many restrictions on how they can market their association, it is increasingly clear that subtlety does not work online. As creative as the Adidas video is, it does not directly refer to their sponsorship.

Wow factor

It seems that the High Jackers always have more bling than the High Jackee. The videos produced by Nike and Pepsi both have what I call “the wow factor.” You watch the video and want to share it as a result of the story and creativity. Adidas and Coke also produced high quality content that was interesting and compelling –- but needed more “wow” to succeed online.
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Target an audience

Targeting a specific audience may seem like impractical advice when talking about events like the Super Bowl or Olympics, which are inherently broad and have mass appeal. In reality though, you need a core group of evangelists to help spread the word for you, or you will never reach the broad audiences. Reach out to these evangelists early, let them know what is coming and get them excited.

In today’s world, the web and social media are rewriting the rules of marketing. This presents both new opportunities and challenges for brands, but in any event, it is a factor that must be considered when hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorships are on the line.

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Wow! Tiger’s Nike TVC for the Masters


This week Tiger Woods is coming back to golf and to advertising.

Nike late this afternoon dropped an ad featuring Mr. Woods that’s timed for the Masters tournament, which starts tomorrow.

The ad shows a close up of Mr. Woods face as he’s questioned by the voice of his late father, Earl Woods, with flash bulbs going off.

“I want to find out what your thinking was, I want to find out what your feelings are, and, did you learn anything?” the elder Mr. Woods asks as Tiger stares blankly into the camera.

While former Woods backers Accenture and AT&T dumped Mr. Woods in the wake of revelations about his prodigious marital infidelity, Nike has been his steadiest corporate supporter, in part because its entire golf business — an afterthought before Mr. Woods came along — is so closely identified with him. They have no choice.

I believe that if he wins the Masters sponsors like Nike will never look back.

‘Warrior’ aims to be China’s ‘Chuck Taylors’

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“Warrior” is a 75 year old shoe brand from Shanghai. Its original mission? To outfit China’s athletes with a simple and lightweight canvas trainer.
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Shanghai’s Warrior shoes is trying to beat Nike and Adidas on its home court. Known in Chinese as “Hui Li” (回力), the brand was a footwear favorite in China from the 60s to the early 80s. Today, not so much. Most Chinese youth prefer to be seen in Nike or Adidas.

But these days, “Warrior” is out to score a new audience in the West by positioning itself as a sort of hipster trainer with a story to tell.
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And let it be known, these are award-winning shoes. According to its China-based website, “Warrior” shoes have “successively won the State Silver Medal for Quality, the prize of the Chemical industry Ministry for high-quality products and the prize of Shanghai for products.”

These look like my old Chuck Taylors…I must have a pair.

Five marketing trends that will emerge from the recession.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you: We’re in a recession.

The doom has advertisers pinching every penny and ad agencies continue to face facts and figures like these, from Forrester’s 2009 Global CMO Recession Survey: 71% of marketing budgets have been reduced this year, and more than half reported reductions greater than 20%.

But I have a unique take on the situation…well at least an optimistic take on it.

I think this might be the best thing that has happened to our industry in decades. Yes, you read this correctly. While I have empathy for those that have lost jobs and the extra pressure many of us are facing, it’s also forced us to innovate, reinvent ourselves, think more strategically, and most importantly bring a level of sophistication and maturity that has been desperately missing from digital advertising throughout most of the industry.

There are five trends I believe are reshaping the face of marketing.

1) We’re moving away from short-sighted, highly sales-driven marketing campaigns in favor of long-term brand platforms that use evergreen content to add value to your day.
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Examples include Nike+, whose latest effort serves as an enabler of self-discovery and health and delivers a sense of community within the running world.

Bank of America’s Small Business Online Community is also a great example in that it helps business owners to share knowledge.

A final example is Kraft’s iFood Assistant iPhone app, which adds convenience to recipe planning.

All these initiatives gave something while asking for little or nothing in return. But they’ll ultimately help foster a relationship with the consumer that builds brand value, loyalty and engagement for less money than the cost of repetitive ad campaigns.

2) Distributed Content moves us more in line to the modern digital ecosystem. It’s fragmented and complex, with consumers interacting through many devices and sites. Modern digital marketers have recognized that in terms of the consumer, the center is everywhere. As a result, digital content is now designed to be syndicated, re-skinned and reformatted while still remaining relevant.
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This evolution is pushing advertisers away from building million-dollar micro-sites and toward smart, tactical ideas that revolve around specific needs or even communities.

Now consumers can access similar content across primary websites, partner sites, widgets, applications, social presences, blogs and mobile devices. They can even enjoy entire rich experiences without ever visiting a primary brand site.

3) Customer service as marketing. While a great product or service backed up with great customer support or service remains your biggest asset in achieving success, never before has the vehicle of customer service become one your best methods for connecting with consumers in a social-media-driven web.
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Big business is taking notice, with brands like Comcast and Dell changing consumer sentiment around their brands and engaging them in the communities in which they reside. Better yet, they are doing so in a way that feels natural and adds value to the conversation, all while driving additional sales, boosting loyalty, and lowering operational and marketing costs.

4) The increased us of next-generation listening and targeting. As the way people spend their time becomes increasingly fragmented and marketers continue to face growing pressures to demonstrate the value of our services, the tools we are using to do so have undergone a significant evolution.

More than 100 technology firms are offering variants of social-media-monitoring tools that measure not only references to key search terms but also the sentiment of the messaging around them. In doing so, these tools not only provide insight into customer behavior that extends miles beyond surveys and focus groups, they help to inform media strategies that include both media buying and influencer marketing.

5) As an industry we have moved beyond basic web and campaign analytics. Marketing firms are now able to monitor the entire customer life cycle with significantly more accuracy and then track the correlation between traditional, digital and commerce channels and customer conversion.

Metrics with deeper analytics and tracking are enabling meaningful insight. As a result, in its ongoing path to full maturity, digital marketing is finally adopting meaningful metrics that we can equate back to real business value. Now marketers are moving beyond digital-campaign measurement standards such as traffic and are instead mapping key performance indicators back to metrics and ultimately the conversation funnel, which includes the different levels of engagement — awareness, consideration, purchase intent, purchase and loyalty.

A massive recession is never a good thing, but it’s safe to say that someday we will find that some good came from it.

YouTube Still Growing as a Marketing Tool

Yet another reason for traditional TV outlets to worry about their relevance: YouTube.com, the hot new outlet for people to post and share homemade videos, has caught the attention of big-name marketers.
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Nike, Warner Bros., MTV2 and Dimension Films are among the firms seeding the site with commercial clips. Now, along with consumer-made videos of newborn babies, weddings and teens pulling pranks, is a short of soccer star Ronaldinho in his new Nike sneakers.

Part of YouTube’s lure is its ease of use. Consumers and advertisers can upload clips quickly.
The site, which is like a virtual photo album that hosts millions of short videos, is simple to search.

As broadband penetration grows, and consumer appetite for on-demand entertainment swells, video-sharing sites such as YouTube are taking off.

That buzz has piqued the interest of major marketers, ad agencies and media buying firms.
“From a brand standpoint, it’s become another way to reach consumers,” says Barry Lowenthal, president of ad buying company Media Kitchen.

In a world teeming with cynical consumers and ad-skipping devices such as TiVo, YouTube’s edge is that its users actively seek out content. When word-of-mouth built about Nike’s gritty Ronaldinho clip, consumers e-mailed the video to friends and embedded it in their profiles on social networking sites. It has been viewed more than 3 million times.

The price for Nike? Not much. The sneaker maker shot a digital video, then uploaded it for free.
As YouTube’s must-see status swells, some firms want more formal arrangements. E Networks and YouTube struck a deal for the site to feature various E program clips.

Deep Focus, a marketing firm representing studios such as The Weinstein Co., and MTV2 have both worked with YouTube on promotional opportunities.

Weinstein ran a trailer for Scary Movie 4 from its Dimension Films division. “Within 24 hours, we had 250,000 views of the trailer,” says Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer. “Within a week, we had a million.”
Deep Focus also placed the worldwide premiere trailer for Clerks II, which Weinstein released with MGM. It was viewed 150,000 times in the first two days, says Schafer.

YouTube won’t disclose financial or other details, but in most cases, those companies get preferential treatment, such as plugs on its home page.

Clips that run as part of more formal agreements are usually marked with the logo of the firm that placed them to let viewers know they are promotional.

Other firms aren’t officially working with YouTube but are uploading videos on their own. To hype Superman Returns, Warner Bros. posted video blogs from the movie’s director.

“It’s fantastic from a consumer research standpoint,” says Lowenthal. “You can type in a search for ‘shopping’ and then see (videos) of people showing their shopping habits. It’s almost like a global focus group — all for free.”
As it grows, YouTube’s challenge is to turn the rising tide of advertiser interest into dollars.

The company expects to reap ad revenue but is cautious. To remain relevant, it needs to serve paying advertisers without looking like a sellout to its millions of average users.
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“We want to be sensitive on how we deal with that,” says CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley. “Because we really are a community, we want to build things for our users and not alienate them.”