What can go wrong?’ asked the headline in The Sun just before the first England match – as the newspaper sent free copies of its appallingly jingoistic This Is Our England special edition to 22 million homes. What could go wrong? Well, we could lose our first two matches, that’s what.
But what of The Sun’s investment costs in the TV campaign, the print run and the distribution? What did its advertisers think after the defeat? What about Coke giving away 1.25 litres of Coke Zero in all the major supermarkets, Mars with 500,000 personalised England shirts to give away, the Domino’s Pizza promotions and the Sky TV deal? All are very significant marketing investments. There are, no doubt, many marketers’ hearts in their throats right now.
So why do they do it? Well, many brands like to take advantage of the “borrowed interest” of opportunistically associating themselves with significant national and global sporting events. They believe that it makes them appear more “local” and streetwise to the population. These events also serve as a hook to hang a price or added- value promotion on.
The problems arise when results don’t go to plan, and the consumer’s enthusiasm for the event runs out before the special stocks and in-store activities do. The legacy which follows is of excess stocks to be discounted, the concomitant disturbance to the next part of the brand’s and retailer’s plans and a general impression being built in the shopper’s minds of the outlet concerned not being quite up to date.
It is often safer to build support around the overall event or sport rather than a specific individual or team. Marketing around the overall World Cup, the Olympics, Wimbledon or indeed generally against football, rugby or tennis is safer and, if undertaken creatively, has greater durability and longevity than putting all your eggs in a one- team basket.
Just as with real-life gambling, the backing of an unlikely winner can yield enormous sales benefits to the brands and the retailers concerned, but the odds on it happening are very long. Tread carefully. Manage by fact not emotion.
ANDREW MARSDEN is a consultant and former president of the Marketing Society. He was also Britvic’s category controller, responsible for Pepsi and launched a range of innovations including J2O.