Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sports sponsorship takes a further pounding

First there was the Michael Phelps “Bong-gate” saga. Then A-Rod’s steroid drama and now there’s the crisis surrounding Texan billionaire Allen Stanford. Why can’t the sports sponsorship industry take a trick at the moment?

So far 2009 hasn’t been kind to the world of sports endorsements.

Firstly the impact of the recession has meant brands are cutting back on their expensive sports partnerships, which is a global trend that has hit everything from F1 to the English Premier League, golf, cricket and tennis.

And then came the News of the World’s Phelps scoop, which was a wake-up call to many brands. Then one of the world’s most famous baseballers Alex Rodriguez admits taking steroids, news that can’t be good for his partners Nike and Activision. Another sports star to hit the limelight recently has been the NBA’s Dwayne Wade, who is going through a messy divorce and has been accused of allegedly doing drugs and holding orgies. But his sponsors are sticking by him.

And then there’s sports very own version of Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford, who’s financial transgressions are having a big impact on English and West Indian cricket, several tournaments he sponsors and the likes of football’s Michael Owen and golf’s Vijay Singh.

Where has it all gone wrong?

Sports stars mucking up is not a new trend, it's as old as the hills. It will always happen and it's are one of the inherent risks marketers should be aware of when endorsing any sports brand. But this bad run coupled with the dire reality of the economic crisis is a double whammy for the sports sponsorship industry. It needs it now like it needs a hole in the head.

When iconic sports stars and blue-chip brands like Tiger Woods and LeBrone James are losing sponsors, simply because companies are cutting their sponsorship budgets and through no fault of their own, you know your in trouble.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The downturn’s digital drumbeat

Digital marketing continues to rise in prominence in the wider marketing communications industry in Singapore, if an event held this morning is any sign.

About 100 people turned up to the Old Parliament House to see Lori Sobel from Google and Siva Ganeshanandan from Interwoven battle it out in The Great Marketing ROI Debate, which was organized by Marketing magazine.

We had some great presentations from the two speakers and some great debate from the floor, clear evidence that as the recession kicks into another gear the industry is turning to digital solutions and strategies to be their savior. There definitely seems to be a hunger from Singapore marketers to learn more about how to maximize their online investments.

After the event we caught up with Google’s Sobel about search marketing, why traditional media is not dead and asked how what affect the downturn is having on Google’s business in the region.

We also chatted to Interwoven’s Ganeshanandan about why optimizing your online content is so important and the fact that most websites aren’t actually engaging for users.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Dragon’s fire

More great work from JWT for Nokia featuring martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

This viral for the N96 phone in China is one of a series of ads. And in this one you see why Bruce would have been handy if you needed a light.

I blogged about the first Nokia viral featuring Bruce’s ping-pong ability back in November. You can see that clip here.

I’ll be stunned if this work doesn’t win some awards.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lessons from Obama

There’s a lot that marketers in Asia can take from Barack Obama’s ground-breaking use of digital in his meteoric rise to the US presidency. And one of the most telling insights for marketers, according to Fleishman-Hillard’s global digital guru David Wickenden, is that they simply can’t ignore online as a medium and as a powerful marketing tool anymore.

I caught up with David yesterday in Singapore.

Obama not only invested a lot in his online strategy, in staff, hardware and software, but his people fully believed in the power of digital. There was constant engagement from the Obama team with the public, a complete understanding of what users wanted and how to help them get involved, a leveraging of all the channels they used (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, mobile, etc etc) as well as total commitment to the digital campaign from the Obama camp. This was no half-assed, toe-in-the-water strategy.

Wickenden said we have “left the world where you can shovel out a marketing message”. Marketers must now add value to consumers, give them content and entertain them.

He said marketing has become a service, and if brands have a “lame product or a lame message, you can use all the social media you like but it won’t work”.

Wickenden also said marketers can’t avoid digital anymore as that’s where today’s audiences are, and he cited Dell’s initiative and General Motors portal (a portal which focus on the future of the car) as two examples of recent innovative digital marketing.

Wickenden is managing director and senior partner for Fleishman-Hillard’s Digital Intergation Group, which worked on the Obama campaign, and he has more than 20 years experience in designing and managing large-scale integrated communications campaigns, working on digital strategies for the likes of AT&T, the US State Department and Visa.

Do you agree that its essential that marketers in Asia must saddle up for the digital express?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SingTel remains open on cuts

While SingTel admitted its taking a hit due to the ongoing global crisis, like most companies, CEO Allan Lew said that its important for the telco to continue strengthening its brand identity.

Lew mentioned, while continuing to invest in customer acquisition, SingTel would "adjust" its marketing budget according to the current climate. So he's leaving the door open on potential reductions in 2009. Here is what he had to say:

Grey’s downturn tips

During the recession better creative work will be more leveragable than ever before, and the smartest marketers will continue to experiment and innovate. Business will need to be done differently and agencies must raise their game, according to Grey’s global management.

Recently in Singapore for Grey’s Asia Pacific ‘Business Unusual’ conference, global chairman and CEO Jim Heekin said those in the industry must “use this time to get even better”.

“Now is the time to innovate. The best companies are experimenting. We won’t let all the doom and gloom slow us down out here,” Heekin said. Here I had a chat to him:

Grey Group has bold ambitions for Asia Pacific, which we have reported previously here, as it sees the region as its primary growth market for the future.

Heekin said growth in APAC will be achieved in three ways – opportunities with current clients, attracting new clients and through acquisitions “in markets where we don’t have critical mass”.

Tim Mellors, Grey’s global creative director, agrees with Heekin and believes the standard of creative work in the industry will rise during the downturn, as greater pressure leads to greater work. Mellors plans to raise Grey’s creative profile in APAC.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Australia - The Bit that Broke Off (in Maori)

In timing with Waitangi Day, the public holiday held each year in New Zealand to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (New Zealand’s founding document) on February 6, a viral ad attracting Kiwis back from Australia has been doing the rounds.

The continuing exodus of Kiwis to Australia has long been a source of debate, for both countries involved, and this ad from New Zealand global talent network Kea has a go at luring a few of them back.

They say their intention is for it to generate growth in Kea’s membership numbers and to get the word on Kea out to New Zealand expats and friends of New Zealand around the world.

It’s basically a fictional look at the origins of the New Zealand-Australia relationship and it has a dig at the age-old Aussie habit of claiming successful Kiwis as their own.

Ian Haigh did the viral animation while the Australian-based brand consultancy Yello Brands worked on the creative. It was sent out to Kea members on Waitangi Day and will hit other channels such as Facebook and the Air New Zealand database soon.

Haigh is in the process of putting the ad up on YouTube but for the meantime, here’s the link - it's worth a watch.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Microsoft Advertising to focus on ROI, better creative

Microsoft Advertising plans to squeeze as much as it can out of its allotted budgets to maximize ROI, push the boundaries of creativity and offer deeper solutions to clients during the downturn, according to greater Asia Pacific general manager Richard Dunmall.

It’s a view in line with what we have been hearing from several industry bigwigs and creative top brains for sometime now.

Dunmall joined Microsoft Advertising, following the acquisition of ad network aQuantive, which he headed. He’s got fair amount of experience on the agency side, having worked as MD for MindShare Interaction UK and mOne UK, a digital and direct marketing offering set up by MindShare and Ogilvy.

I caught up with Dunmall when he was in Singapore and spoke to him about the new Windows Live, Microsoft Advertising’s plans to counter the downturn and much more.

Take a look:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Newspapers go back to the future

It’s a fact of life that many newspapers all over the world are feeling the pinch, suffering from declining circulation, ad revenue and readership as many people turn to the internet. But this was foretold a long time ago.

The past few months have been dominated by bad press (excuse the pun) for the newspaper industry. In the UK a former KGB spy took over the trouble London Evening Standard and The Independent is now up for sale, just two of many papers there in dire straits, while in France even president Sarkozy has joined in trying to revive the ailing French print industry. In Australia jobs have been cut and the five top newspaper editors in the country have been replaced.

And let’s not even start on the US, where too many papers to name are in strife. The newspaper industry in America is not on its deathbed yet, but it looks like it's not far off.

Funnily enough though, the problems of newspaper reader and advertiser migration online is not a new problem. Just check out this video, a bit of an eerie and amusing view back in time.

So if the industry or at least parts of it has been vaguely aware of this issue for nearly 30 years, why hasn’t a solution been reached? Or is there just no solution?

It seems as though its going to be survival of the fittest in the newspaper market and many papers, some great brand names, will sadly become extinct.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Super Bowl ads fall short

As always, there was about as much anticipation surrounding the commercials played during today’s Super Bowl as the actual game itself.

But following the Pittsburg Steelers’ 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, it wasn’t just the Cardinals left disappointed by the end result. On the whole, the ads were a bit of a letdown.
Of course there were a few exceptions but it’s fair to say none of the 2009 selection will go down in history like the McDonald’s commercial from 1993 featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird playing for a Big Mac and Fries.

The recession was obviously a popular theme and it was actually these ads which were the pick of the bunch. Hyundai had a couple of beauties – and this ad is definitely worth a couple of looks.

Bob Dylan has lent ‘Forever Young’ to Pepsi – with a cameo from Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas – while the Doritos and Denny’s commercials should also prove pretty popular.

It’s hard, however, not to get the feeling that a lot of the commercials were only rehashing old material. Talking chimpanzees certainly aren’t innovative, nor are talking babies, and the majority of the celebrities hardly produced anything memorable.
The number of Budweiser commercials fell terribly short.

That said, it’s hard not to enjoy this effort from

Here are a couple of others which managed to stand out from the bunch: