Business Society

What the Oscars and your business can learn from the NBA

Yannis Antetokounpbo is not your average Greek.  Born in a poor neighborhood of Athens.  Nigerian parents.  2.11m tall and with amazing physique, he is a wonder to watch whether it is in the Greek all star game, Team Africa or the NBA.  A young man with a great smile he can get Nigerians, Greek and people from Milwaukee excited.  At the same time!

When Dirk Nowitzki plays in New York, Germans flock to watch him.  Maybe because he won the  German Sports Personality of the Year in 2011, maybe because they knew someone who played with him at Röntgen Gymnasium or maybe because he was the first non American to win the Naismith Legacy Award.  In all, around 100 non American players from 37 countries or territories play in the NBA.

There are young American kids, black, white, yellow or red, buying basketball jerseys with the name “Kristaps Porzingis”.   Ever heard of that name before?   In fact the Latvian player is fourth in jersey sales after Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.    And those names you have probably heard of!

Now let’s compare that to the way Hollywood works.  Another year with protests about no black nominees.   Don’t see many Greeks there.  Nor Nigerians for that matters, or Germans or Latvians.  And you are surprised the ratings are down?   When a young basketball player like Porzingis is truly amazing, it is simply a matter of time before he “ends up” in the NBA.  Family, medical or political conditions can’t stop the process.   As an audience we demand that the best on the planet gather to entertain us.  We want to see how the twenty year old 2.21m power forward can manage against Nowitzki or LeBron.  It is the Gladiator arena of our age, except we pay them well instead of killing them off at the end.

An excellent foreign actor, director or composer is not sure to end up with an Oscar.  In fact he or she might never even make it to feature films.  There is no draft, no preselection, no scouts sending videos to CEOs saying “hey!  You have to watch this and get this kid on the team!”   No detailed statistics about shot percentages, rebounds or blocks per game averages.  Hollywood is a closed club where who you know is more important than what you do.  No surprise then that the old white guys in there tend to select other white people.  There is no mechanism to freshen them up as long as people keep going to the movies.

The National Basketball Association on the other hand is race agnostic.  A team owner who made racist remarks last year was instantly vaporized.  No pseudodemocratic dilly dallying or decision by committee, he was out with the first retweets.    Your business should be more like that.  Not just colour.  Forget degrees, business sense or even attitude problems with the kids you are looking at; focus on anything amazing and unique around you and build a work environment which thrives on it.  Remove obstacles like racism or any such -ism.

The NBA is where the best basketball players in the world gather to complete and put on the best show in the world.  For the entire world.  By the entire world.

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…