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It’s an ambush

Reflecting on recent events, I thought that I would pause to think about some of the more memorable ambushes in the sphere of marketing tactics (“ambush marketing”).  A definition is: “Ambush marketing is an emotionally charged phrase that refers to the practice of appearing to align a brand with an event for which that brand has not paid for the right to be a sponsor.”

The inspiration for this post was after Wimbledon’s Champion, Serena Williams, was reprimanded once again for breaching sponsorship rules at the Women’s Singles final by taking her Gatorade bottle into the post-match press conference.  Naturally, she represents Gatorade sports-drinks product, but everyone knows this tennis event is the exclusive territory for Robinsons drinks through its sponsorship agreement.

Well here are some other instances of ambush marketing that I can recall:

In 2010, a Dutch beers promotional activity was seen as a blatant infringement, during the Football World Cup in South Africa.  36 ladies from Holland were held after breaking the law and sponsorship protocol at this tournament, all after scantily clad, blonde girls, in orange miniskirts caught the cameramen’s attention and thus executed this ambush.  How else would we know of Bavaria Beer?  Unfortunately, an ITV pundit lost his job in connection when his tickets were traced to this orange ‘wave’. Budweiser was the aggrieved party in this instance.

In 2009, Six Nations Rugby campaign, adverts for Fuller’s beer included a picture of rugby post and the strapline, “Support English Rugby”.  The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had to get involved given that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) objected as the brewery had not actually paid for the privilege of any association.

In 2008, Adidas had spent circa $200 Million to become the official sportswear brand at the Beijing Olympic Games.  Little did they know an indigenous ‘hero’ would undermine their plans.  The Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning (created by a former gymnast) had its’ moment of fame as he was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony. Li Ning was China’s most decorated Olympian and a National hero. This media exposure effectively gave his Company a free ten-minute advert across China and the World. After the introduction of the gymnast by acrobatic wires to the main stadium, Li Ning’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped 3.4%.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in the run up to London Olympics 2012 has said: “Those hoping to bask in London’s moment in the sun may be surprised at how restrictive the provisions of the Olympics Act are”. This being legislation introduced for purposes of protection.

The organisers of the 2012 Olympics have already taken the precaution of booking almost all the City’s billboard space during the games.  Also, any infringement using Olympic identity can result in a fine and penalty of £20,000.  But watch this space, the creative industry would see any fine as ‘small fry’ given the right exposure for an adventurous brand!

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Stub born

It’s an interesting model that has only been agreed today by Sunderland AFC – and I have to confess an area that I have not delved into too much until recently.  I refer to the contractual deal between that club and US-owned, StubHub. 

StubHub, a rival to the more established Viagogo, has only just come to our shores.  It is an online “secondary ticketing” business which wants to establish itself  in the UK.   The Sunderland deal follows a similar contract worth an estimated £1.7M, with Everton.  A key focus is trading of season tickets. A service that I have used for hospitality at times of ‘peak demand’, so seen first hand how it works.

Viagogo are allegedly in the process of doing the same at Fulham and Newcastle.  It was piloted last season by them at Aston Villa.

Premiums are often prevalent in this ‘reselling’ – reporting suggests high prices but also more competitive prices may occur dependant on a given ‘supporters’’ aspirations.  The drivers behind this new model are supporters’ feedback on difficulties in acquiring tickets online for matches.

StubHub is an online marketplace owned by eBay, which provides services for buyers and sellers of tickets.

US of A

To be quite honest, I’m spoilt for choice today, on football finance stories to mull over.  What with Rangers omission from the SPL etc.

However, I want to reflect on the happenings at Manchester United, perhaps coincidentally this American Day of Independence. Today actually means more to me as it’s my Father-in-Law’s birthday, Necati Kur (pictured). Those of you that know me or read my posts are aware of my contractual allegiance to the FC United of Manchester rather than its ‘big brother’. This team formed in reaction to dissatisfaction with the affairs surrounding the American businessmen, ‘The Glazers’’ takeover. 

Late last night, and so mainly aired today, ‘Man U’ announced that it would seek to raise circa $60M via the New York Stock Exchange.

MUST (Manchester United Supporters Trust) has commented: “Until we have more detail it is impossible to say with certainty what this will mean for Manchester United or its supporters. However, from the initial information we have it appears that the new A shares on offer will be inferior to the Glazers’ own B shares as they will carry only 1/10 of the voting rights. Furthermore the preliminary filing appears to indicate they will not be paying dividends either. So a minority shareholding with inferior voting rights and no dividends is going to severely impact on the attraction to both financial and supporter investors.  However if it turns out that the vast majority of the proceeds are used to pay off the debt that is certainly something MUST would welcome and entirely vindicates our longstanding position that their debt was damaging our club.”

The Barclays Premier League’s Club filed documents with the United States Government’s Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. Man U would use the money raised from the flotation to reduce its substantial (some might argue unsustainable) debts.

This latest tactical move by The Glazer’s hierarchy, is hot on the heels of the $1Bn (£640M) flotation tried last year via Singapore’s equivalent stock market.  The plug was pulled on that due to the volatility of the World’s economy.

The BBC reported that: “The Glazers borrowed large sums of money to buy the Club and the interest payments on this debt are onerous. In 2010, the owners converted these loans into a bond in order to reduce the interest, but analysts say the share sale demonstrates how the club remains weighed down by its heavy debts, despite its huge global fan base and promotional and marketing efforts. The Club currently owes £423M”.

Playing financial-football with a global brand?

Abject marketing

I’ve ‘banged the drum’ for sometime about the inadequacies of marketing and commercial activities at many a lower league operation.  It was interesting to note this Week, Marketing Week’s article that suggested: “Football clubs have earned billions from sponsorship and broadcast rights but their approach to marketing is often as abject as England’s performance against Italy.”

Next Year is the 20th anniversary of the Premier League. Since BSkyB’s deals injected large sums into the game through broadcast rights, English football has changed.  But in my opinion, some still accept this as the status quo without any contingency should the deal be removed from the table.  Unlikely, maybe just yet, unless a rival bids (thus, monies remain) – but there were debates on the Scottish game with a refusal of New Rangers FC’s admission in to the SPL or even a move South of the border.  How quick would a return to the predicament of clubs post ITV Digital’s demise be seen?

Reliant on BSkyB, stadiums, ticketing, corporate boxes and especially players’ wages have spiraled. Even some of the “big boys” have seen some income reductions resorting to new tactics and territories.  I’ve just been offered a Contract with one to prospect and negotiate deals in a Middle Eastern terrain.

Despite the economy the call upon pockets of the fan-base will not be restrained. New kits, new seasons. County’s ‘Mad Hatters’ pricing failed – and personally I didn’t find the compromise an attractive marketing proposition.  BSP fixtures tomorrow, new kit the week after.  Hope it’s not along the 1883 leisure brand launched as casual wear.  Understand the reasoning but it could have been better IMVHO.  Why not listen to all fans – although a couple of branding novelties may have a role in modern day offerings.  What did you think? (1) Refreshing the Oldham Athletic badge for commercial propositions (2) a ‘real’ line for the Liverpool 3rd kit as Warrior clothing stamps its’ mark.