Guest Blogger: Michael Chase
Michael Chase is an account director at Element 79 and a man with both a deep track record with sports brands and an enviable short game. He came to Element 79 to work on Gatorade and help develop Element 79 Sports with projects for clients such as Discover, US Soccer, the Wade’s World Foundation, and Chicago 2016. Before returning to Chicago, Michael spent six years in Portland: two working on Nike Golf (and his short game) and four at Weiden and Kennedy where he first began working on Nike (and his short game). He began his career with sports projects for Coors and Midas at Foote Cone and Belding after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder (where the mile-high altitude helped his drives). Later this afternoon, Element 79 will be relying on Michael’s total game at the AAAA golf outing in Harborside. Long and strong Michael, long and strong…
Throughout my career, I have had the distinct fortune and pleasure of working with a number of wonderful companies and brands with their sports-related advertising and marketing initiatives. While I have a great deal of passion and energy for the business of sports, I am also a fan. Okay, not just a fan, but a fanatic.
Growing up, if I wasn’t playing baseball, football, soccer, basketball tennis or golf, I was watching it. Some of my favorites in no particular order were John Elway, John McEnroe, Jack Nicklaus, Pele, Nolan Ryan and of course, MJ. And like the rest of my friends, I bought what these athletes used, wore, and endorsed.
I loved watching athletes in advertising. From Mean Joe Green and Coke to the cast of characters for Miller Lite’s Taste Great/Less Filling campaign, from Nike’s “Bo Knows” to Gatorade’s MJ taking on himself, the great ads came from brands with clearly-defined understanding of their roles. The best brands tapped into insights that resonated with sports fans and took the time and energy to find exactly the right athlete to deliver their message. I cannot stress that last point enough.
It has become more and more challenging for brands to find the right athlete. For years, Element 79 Sports helped brands do just that. But with our seemingly unlimited media access to our sports hero’s lives, we know too much about today’s athletes and recognize they are not the bulletproof, do-no-wrong heroes they once were. Worse, with so many sports vying for our attention and so many new media outlets splintering our focus, some of the old luster is gone. Combine all this with a down economic climate where limited dollars exist to sign athlete endorsers and showcase them through marketing and it’s obvious the old rules have changed. Those rules may even be gone completely and it is time brands recognize this.
Gone are the days of scouring the Q scores to find the best athlete for the job. Today, brands need to consider a multitude of criteria to make this crucial decision. Excelling at their sport and demonstrating an interesting personality is simply not as important as it once was. One of the most important emerging criteria to consider is whether the athlete is doing a good job of marketing themselves. Do they have their own website? Is it any good? Are they active in social networking? And if so, as this recent SI article about Twitter and professional sports asks, are they being followed?
Some of the most popular athletes in the world of Twitter may not be among their league’s leaders in stats, but definitely make the most entertaining use of less than 140 characters. This list of the Top 10 Twitter athletes tells an interesting story; while it contains some of the biggest names in sports (Shaq, Lance, and Serena), you might be surprised by some of the others (skateboarders Ryan Sheckler and Tony Hawk? Nick Swisher? Kareem?). A new site called Athlete Tweets aggregates thousands upon thousands of tweets from hundreds of athletes from all different sports creating a sort of Twitter sports network.
PGA fans may know Stewart Cink but he is hardly a household name in sports. Still, Stewart has nearly 523,000 followers. He provides rich, personal details of his golf life through nearly 1,000 tweets and his Twitter bio, right down to which brand of shafts he uses in his clubs. Fans comment on the courses he plays and his club selection–they definitely notice.
The brands who recognize this new playing field, the ones who embrace it and use it to create even deeper relationships with athletes through it will win. Social networking will radically restructure who is chosen to endorse brands, how they endorse brands and how those endorsement deals will be structured. Brands can use sports to reach their consumers in more relevant and efficient ways than ever before. And the ones that do will win.
Last year Buick made the tough decision to end their long relationship with Tiger Woods because they could no longer afford him. Maybe they should call Stewart Cink. Actually, they should tweet him.