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.
Undeniably, not all brands can capitalize on the Red Sox legend and victory. The bond must have relevance and meaning to the consumer, or it could backfire and confuse. But with some creativity, a brand can make the link work. Or maybe not.
Metamucil, for example, found it appropriate to also endorse the Red Sox. In a full-page advertisement, Metamucil said, "Congratulations Boston on your World Championship. Let's hope it becomes a regular thing!"
In my view, the correlation drawn between Metamucil and the Red Sox win does not seem strong enough to create a strong brand image in the mind of the consumer. When people think David Beckham, they think Adidas; when people think William Shatner, they think Priceline; and when people think Michael Jordan, they think Nike. When people think Red Sox, or baseball in general, they think Nike, Budweiser, or ESPN, not a fiber supplement.
Who is Metamucil trying to reach? Is it the retired husband-and-wife duo, which all of their pictured advertisements suggest, or is it the chip-eating, beer-guzzling baseball fan and his team of buddies? Perhaps Metamucil notices an opportunity to attract a younger audience, or maybe it wants to stand apart from competing brands such as Citrucel or FiberCon.
Despite the reasoning behind the attempt to associate Metamucil with the Red Sox, using the victory as an opportunity to connect to baseball fans seems unlikely to prove effective. An endorsement should directly equate the product to the appeal of a celebrity; the lack of this association could potentially weaken Metamucil's brand and confuse or discourage loyal consumers.
Endorsements can prove to be excellent ways to create a genial relationship between your product and the person or team being endorsed. Just be wary of capitalizing too quickly on a media event that may not be advantageous for the brand. A celebrity endorsement boils down to the ability to communicate to the target market that not only the celebrity can benefit from the brand… but that the consumer can, too.
So go grab your appropriately endorsed Wheaties box and pair of Air Jordan Nike shoes, because you and your brand, despite today's clutter, can become champions too!
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