Business Communication

Guerilla brand marketing at the World Cup

The Greek army was a terrible bunch of  civil servants when I served.  The fact that I had experience from the British Territorials only made it worse.  From a well disciplined, goals oriented, clear management situation in South England to a bunch of fat, always smoking group of imbeciles in various camps around Greece.  I quickly made up my mind: if there is ever a war in Greece I will leave for the mountains and do guerrilla resistance.  In fact I even have a Band of Brothers, people with a similar view on it, and we have a secret rendez vous location on a Greek mountain in the event of war.

Checking out the buzz reports for the first three weeks of the World Cup, to my great pleasure it wasn’t Sony that topped the charts of risers. Sure, in the UK and Germany it was second and third fastest riser. Visa did well in UK and US (third biggest rise). And Emirates did well in Germany (second) and UK (fifth) which makes sense considering their relatively less known brand in these regions.

But the real winner was Nike. Topping UK and Germany charts with +6.8 and +3 points respectively and a very decent + 0.7 in the difficult US market. And they aren’t even an official sponsor!

It just goes to show that careful media planning and correct brand positioning can work wonders. The world cup worked for Nike because they had aligned themselves well. If you are about to spend a lot on major sports events you need to carefully think what you want to achieve.

Nike’s sales in the run up to the World Cup were up a whopping 39% whereas Adidas (official sponsor) came nowhere close in growth. Nike did the things like opening stores in Soweto that double as AIDS testing centers or installing massive TV screens in town. It is an 11Million football shoe and apparel world market and Nike has firmly set it’s sights on the developing market which is growing by 30% year on year. It will demand more than 250 new Nike stores around the planet and renewed efforts online which now accounts for just 5% of their sales. Though small relative to Nike’s overall sales, they are using the football category to penetrate and will sell Converse and their other brands on the back of their success.

Nike and Adidas battle it out at every World Cup.  In 2006 Adidas had again cornered the official side of things and Nike’s digital strategy fell flat.  A much vaunted collaboration with Google for was a total failure.  By luck a Puma sponsored team won and saved Nike’s sales.   (Though Adidas always has more teams wearing their shirts.)  This time around it was a campaign called “write the future” on facebook which worked though.  Great content, great execution.    And TV ads to support it.  So the World Cup related buzz went to Nike.  30 vs 14% according to Nielsen.  Nike is embracing full interactivity in all their activities, encouraging participation at every level.   It’s latest shoe comes with a unique code which unlocks training programs which you can even download with an app to your phone.

The buzz measurement wars will continue.  It is a pretty hazy metric still.   My mountain guerillas may be the only Greek army standing in the event of war and sometimes it just takes well designed orange football shoes to sell…


Mussolini, the world cup and financial regulation in Greece

There is a long list of blatantly obvious match fixing scandals during the world cup.  Minor lists of mistakes like the ones compiled for the 2010 games in South Africa pale before them.  Mussolini extended a match’s running time until Italy won!  In fact, I would argue that football is a sport actually designed to encourage match fixing.  After all with such a large playing area, all it takes is a bribe to any one player, anywhere in the field to win.  With only 10 bad runs (ie run to the ball slow enough to let the opponent get there first) any player will be effectively giving the opponents an advantage similar to getting a red card.  The rest of the team will have to work harder, will have to cover the gaps created and sooner or later the opponents will score; especially if they know which player is bribed and have adjusted their strategy.

I try to learn from my mistakes.  My tenure at PublicWorld taught me a lot about the corporate world.   I welcomed the opportunity to see the other side of things. As an entrepreneur I always tried to figure out why as customers, large corporations very often ‘acted crazy’.  My contacts would vaguely mention a board meeting, the stock exchange or something similar and we would leave it at that.

But I didn’t spend all that time studying and travelling for nothing.  1200 mainly foreign contacts at LinkedIn are there to teach me stuff!  A lot of reading since and armed with my experience first hand, I kept tab on the company over the past year.   As a learning exercise.  It wasn’t just an ego thing or the curiosity to discover whether my conclusions were more accurate than the managers staying behind.   It became a proper learning exercise.  So when something major happens, like Fnac leaving a market, I decided to revisit in earnest.  Why on earth should Public (a retailer similar to Fnac in many ways) buy two of the three stores Fnac is leaving behind?

While the Obama administration battles to pass it’s second major bill after healthcare on financial regulation, it is obvious that there is long way to go yet.  Not only is the global playing field completely uneven, but there are still huge loopholes.  I received today a copy of the published accounts of PublicWorld.  At the bottom the chartered accountants boldly state:  “Without any further doubt in our opinion you should take special note of the fact that the company’s own assets are now negative and so call for application of article 48 of law 2190/1920.”  This is a clause which specifies that suppliers can demand immediate payment because the company is deemed uncreditworthy.  It is approximately the same as Maradona using his hand to score a goal.  The entire planet sees it, yet not the player, not FIFA or anybody else does anything about it.   The referee is the only one with an excuse as things happen quickly and he honestly might have missed the cunning move.

The media of course do nothing about it.  There seems little demand.  In football the fans want to believe the myth of fair play.   In financial markets, small players who are effectively gambling, want to believe that there is a sense of logic in what they are doing; that it is better than visiting the casino…