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Reversing the Curse and Advancing the Brand

by Ellen Weiss  |  
November 30, 2004
  |  7,611 views

If you've been eating your daily dose of the "breakfast of champions," you will have noticed that Wheaties has been reasonably cautious when determining what sports idols to recognize for their athletic achievements. It was Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001, Hank Aaron in 2002, and Wayne Gretzky just last year—all, to put it gently, with "mature" and "fulfilled" careers.

According to the New York Times, tight marketing dollars have forced companies to sign endorsements with athletes who are known for their long-lasting successful careers rather than "one-hit wonders." Stability and consistency are preferred over fleeting, momentary stardom. Don't expect to see Anna Kournikova gracing us with her beauty on the orange box any time soon.

So when every marketer grabbed at the idea of endorsing the Boston Red Sox, despite what some may call a lucky win, they were no longer conforming to the idea of "let's stick to continual success."

Whether you despise the Sox or worship them, everyone can admit that the team's victory was a truly memorable, inspiring and significant event in American sports history.

In addition, the Red Sox and their infamous curse have a national following encompassing several generations. Many might consider the championship a fluke that won't happen again for another 86 years, but exactly because it has been so long since the neglected Red Sox have been victors presents an opportunity for brands to jump on the bandwagon and endorse the Bambino's old team.


We live in a time when brands crowd our every thought. Associating with or endorsing an athlete, actor or other prominent figure offers a brand the ability to break through the clutter and have consumers relate the two: the brand and the celebrity. Nike has proved extremely successful in endorsing athletes—and thus creating a relationship between the two: Nike and the successful victor.

Nike's poignant portrayal of a family of fans cheering at Fenway Park through eight decades of changing times (and continual Red Sox defeats) is a powerful and effective Nike endorsement. In the viewer's mind the commercial creates a relationship between Nike and the struggles of the Red Sox: that is, through the good times and the bad, Nike will be there.

The advertisement ran twice nationally (more often in New England) and was responsible for a 10% surge in traffic to Nike's mini-Web sites. Additionally, according to Nike's ad agency Wieden & Kennedy, the site received the most traffic ever in the case of visitors going online to watch an advertisement. Without a doubt, the strength of the brand Nike only grows stronger after endorsing national icons. Well done.


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Ellen Weiss is the founder and principal of BrandFare LLC (and is not necessarily a Red Sox fan). She can be reached through the company site (www.brandfare.com).

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