SBD/February 8, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • Groupon Makes Rare Branding Misstep With Widely Panned Super Bowl Spot

    Chicago-based Groupon "chose the Super Bowl to make its first foray into television commercials after two years of word-of-mouth and online advertising," and its debut "turned out to be the biggest flop of the night, angering consumers and marking a rare branding misstep for a hip startup that counts irreverent humor as one of its hallmarks," according to front-page piece by Wong & Karp of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The ad began discussing the plight of Tibet, but then cut to actor Timothy Hutton noting he "saved money at a Chicago Himalayan restaurant" via Groupon. The "backlash was felt immediately on social media platforms such as Twitter," and many consumers "flocked to Groupon's official blog site, where they used words such as 'tasteless,' 'tacky,' 'vulgar' and 'detestable' to describe the ad." Groupon "intended its ad campaign to be a send-up of pompous, celebrity-narrated public service announcements." The company also wanted its commercials "to tell viewers about 'Save The Money,' a philanthropic campaign to raise money for a group of partner organizations, including the Tibet Fund." But in a "critical gaffe," the ads "made no references to the charities or the Web address" for "Save The Money." Groupon CEO Andrew Mason "responded to the criticism in a Monday blog post, explaining that the ads were meant to draw attention to philanthropic causes by humorously highlighting 'the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues.'" Mason noted that Groupon is "tweaking the end of the ads to make the call for donations clearer," but he "defended the spots against criticism that they made light of serious issues." Mason wrote, "We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes -- even if we didn't take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/8).

    GAME-TIME DECISION: Groupon PR & Consumer Marketing Manager Julie Mossler said that company officials and reps from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami, "went back and forth about whether to include the reference in the Super Bowl commercial." But she indicated that "all involved in the debate finally decided to make reference only to the Groupon website, since the company was spending $3 million for the Super Bowl air time to drive awareness of Groupon." In Chicago, Lewis Lazare writes the ad "isn't likely to help Groupon in establishing operations in China, which the company is said to be in the process of doing." Thousands of Chinese reportedly "responded negatively to the 'Tibet' ad on the Internet after the ad was posted there" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/8). BRANDWEEK's Brian Morrissey reported Groupon "will match the first $100,000 of donations" to The Tibet Fund. The company "has the same program in place for charities linked to the causes of the other commercials like whale preservation and rain forest protection" (, 2/7).

    TAKING OFFENSE: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott notes a group of students at Northwestern Univ.'s Kellogg School of Management assessed Sunday's Super Bowl ads, and marketing professor Tim Calkins said of Groupon's "Tibet" ad, "A lot of our panel thought it was fairly offensive." Calkins: "It makes Groupon seem somewhat insensitive as a company. It might have done quite a bit of damage." A survey by AceMetrix, which "measures the effectiveness of the creative content of television ads," ranked the Groupon ad "54th of the 58 spots that were tracked." Elliott notes Groupon is "known for so-called stunt marketing that is intended to attract attention" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8). In Boston, Thomas Grillo reports Groupon "drew fierce criticism yesterday for its last-minute Super Bowl ad that made light of the plight of Tibetans." Tibetan Association of Boston member Lobsang Gyaltsen Nanchung: "I was angry when I saw the ad because it made fun of a very serious situation in Tibet." Conover Tuttle Pace Exec Creative Dir Grant Pace: "Between the use of the celebrity and the subject matter, it seems like the perfect storm of bad publicity" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/8). But Wedbush Securities analyst Lou Kerner said that "any negative effect would likely be short-lived and that it's better for companies to take a chance with provocative advertising rather than sitting on the boring sidelines." A source close to Groupon said a "minimal" number of people unsubscribed from the site because of the Super Bowl ads (N.Y. POST, 2/8).

    CHANGING THE FORMULA: USA TODAY's Bruce Horovitz notes "several top-rated commercials this year were shown first where consumers are spending increasing time: on social media." Volkswagen, Doritos and Pepsi Max officials "had strategically posted" their Super Bowl ads "on Facebook and YouTube -- and had been tweeting about them like crazy ... long before their ads were broadcast by Fox." The success of these ads "could quickly change the ad world's long-held strategy of keeping Super Bowl ads under wraps until Super Sunday." Volkswagen's "The Force" ad was "posted on social media five days before the game and had 13 million views by kickoff." Volkswagen of America VP/Marketing Tim Ellis: "I continued to hear that was the wrong way to go. But if you want to be part of the national discussion, you not only have to be on the Super Bowl, but you have to fully leverage social media." Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light ad about dogs catering a party was "not seen until" the Super Bowl broadcast, but A-B is "considering posting some of its ads online before next year's Super Bowl." A-B President Dave Peacock: "You get too coy with your work and you can lose consumer interest. We're learning from everyone else about the formulas that work" (USA TODAY, 2/8). Meanwhile, AD AGE's Brian Steinberg wrote, "Perhaps the time has come for Super Bowl stalwarts PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch to take themselves out of this particular game." Each ad the two companies debuted during Fox' Super Bowl coverage Sunday "seemed worse than the one that preceded it." PepsiCo's "consumer-generated portfolio of stupid men getting smacked in the groin, ducking a can thrown in anger or being tackled by a dog seemed ripped off from previous, better Super Bowl work." Meanwhile, A-B "feels directionless," as Sunday's "shenanigans -- yes, even the partying dogs -- were about as memorable as whatever Skechers hurled at the screen" (, 2/7).

    MOTOR CITY MARKETING: NM Incite, which tracks online buzz, indicated Chrysler's ad featuring Eminem was the "big story of the night" Sunday. The company noted that consumers "repeated the 'Imported From Detroit' slogan in online comments" (AP, 2/7).'s Joe Lapointe wrote the Chrysler ad is an "astonishing work of art and one of the best television commercials ever made, a mini-documentary about the history and current personality of a region" (, 2/7). CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS' Bill Shea reported the Chrysler 200, which the ad touts, was the "most-searched thing on hours after the spot aired" (, 2/7). At presstime, the ad has more than 3.7 million YouTube views (THE DAILY). Meanwhile, Colle + McVoy President & CEO Christine Fruechte said, “What blew me away ... was just the amount of auto advertising.” Fruechte said the auto industry “is trying to regain consumer confidence" ("In The Loop," Fox Business, 2/7).

    PUTTING IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE: Richter7 CEO Scott Rockwood said the Super Bowl advertising was "a little disappointing overall." Richter: "I don't think there was an advertisement in the group that will go down as one of the great ads in Super Bowl history." Richter7 gave its "most valuable ad" award to Volkswagen "for its affectionate tribute to 'Star Wars' and to the child who played the villain Darth Vader trying to start his father's Passat." The agency gave the "best low-budget award" to Doritos for its "Best Part" spot "for its finger-licking and pants-licking gross-out" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/8). Villanova School of Business marketing professor Charles Taylor: "I'd call it a good year, even though the public perception seems to be that it was pretty mediocre. The problem is that people have developed very, very high expectations for these Super Bowl commercials. So the advertisers are having to take bigger risks to get noticed. That results in a batch of ads that has both hits and misses" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/8). ESPN's Skip Bayless: "This was the worst overall batch of Super Bowl commercials I can ever remember" ("ESPN First Take," ESPN2, 2/7).

    Print | Tags: Anheuser Busch, PepsiCo, Chrysler, Marketing and Sponsorship
  • Rodgers Poised For Endorsement Windfall After Super Bowl MVP Performance

    Rodgers participates in Disney World parade the day after Super Bowl XLV

    Marketing experts said that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers "could become another Peyton Manning on Madison Avenue" as a result of his MVP performance in Sunday's Super Bowl XLV, according to Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. Rodgers before the Super Bowl ranked behind Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger "on the Davie Brown Index of endorsement potential," but that is "going to change." The "low-key Rodgers has mostly avoided big-time endorsement deals," but Worldwide Partners President & CEO Al Moffatt said that if Rodgers "wants to cash in, he could pitch consumer brands that stress accuracy and reliability." The Marketing Arm Group Account Dir Matt Delzell: "When it comes to endorsements, brands like winners and they generally like winners who do it the right way like Aaron does. Not a lot of talking, not a lot of flash. Just go out, do your job and be the best at it" (USA TODAY, 2/8). In Milwaukee, Don Walker writes Rodgers is a "marketing star on the rise." Rodgers' "I'm going to Disney World" ad is "already out, he did a 'milk mustache' ad and he flew to Florida on Monday to be part of the annual Super Bowl MVP parade celebration" at Disney World. Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing President Doug Shabelman said Rodgers is the "next up-and-coming guy in the NFL." GMR Marketing Exec VP/Client Management -- North America Greg Busch: "He's got a ton of upside. His on-field performance puts him on a different level. And he said all of the right things after the game. He's good looking and well-spoken" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/8). AD AGE's Rich Thomaselli noted now that Rodgers has led the Packers to a title, experts said that he will be joining Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady "among the game's elite endorsers." Premiere Global Sports Exec VP Robert Tuchman: "He no doubt will get rolling out the endorsements in time for next season -- if there is one" (, 2/7).

    HITTING THE TALK SHOW CIRCUIT: Rodgers appeared on CBS’ "Late Show" last night, where he was greeted by a loud ovation. Host David Letterman told the audience, "Don’t make me cut off beer sales." Letterman asked about former Packers QB Brett Favre's indecision regarding retirement: "Did this become a distraction as you were taking his place on the team?" Rodgers: "I don’t think it was a distraction. I was the guy who took all the reps in the offseason and he was the guy who took all the reps during the season." Letterman: "So there’s a certain justice in this, isn’t there?" Letterman: "There’s only a handful of men who do this -- and some women -- and is it impossibly hard to be an NFL quarterback?" Rodgers: "I don’t know how to answer that. If I say I don’t think so, it makes you sound arrogant." Letterman said at this "stage of the game, you don’t get guys coming into the huddle saying, ‘Now is that where I go left or is Larry going left?’ At this point you don’t get that, do you?" Rodgers: "Well, actually you do." Letterman, in reference to his Favre interview, later asked, "So you think you’ll play next year?" ("Late Show," CBS, 2/7).

    Print | Tags: Green Bay Packers, Football, Marketing and Sponsorship
  • Packers' Super Bowl Gear Flying Off The Shelves In Wisconsin

    Packers' Super Bowl merchandise flying off shelves following victory

    Packers fans "swarmed local retailers" in Wisconsin yesterday following the team's Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers, and "many stores opened their doors" at 6:00am CT yesterday to accommodate the shoppers, according to Steve Contorno of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. The Packers Pro Shop at Lambeau Field was "bustling all morning, selling out of just about everything." One store employee said that "shipments came in every hour to keep up with the demand." Replica T-shirts of "those worn by the players after Sunday night's win were available at most locations, but the bulk of the world championship apparel won't be in stock until later in the week." Contorno notes even after "this week's surge, businesses expect sales to remain high for months." Packers fans can "expect shirts commemorating Aaron Rodgers' Super Bowl MVP win to be sold as well." Mike Walters, a Manager for The Jersey Store in Ashwaubenon, Wis., said that the Packers QB has "been closing the gap on Clay Matthews' lead for top jersey sales at The Jersey Store" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 2/8). In Wisconsin, Deb Cleworth reports some local store managers "expect sales for Super Bowl apparel to be even higher than those of NFC championship gear." A wider "variety of clothing and the Super Bowl hats" is expected to hit stores today. A Manager at the JCPenney's in Wisconsin Rapids "made her second trip to Wausau to get more merchandise Monday afternoon" (WISCONSIN RAPIDS DAILY TRIBUNE, 2/8).

    Print | Tags: Marketing and Sponsorship, Green Bay Packers, Football
  • Hero Worship: NBA Joins With Marvel Comics For Superhero Merchandise Line

    Marvel/NBA deal calls for New Era making headwear and C-Life making apparel

    The NBA and Marvel Entertainment are “launching a co-branded merchandise line that puts Marvel’s biggest superheroes” in uniforms that have team colors, according to John Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The multiyear deal “calls initially for apparel and headwear,” and deals have been secured “with New Era for headwear and C-Life for apparel.” Products will “debut at Jam Session during All-Star Weekend” in L.A. later this month, with the NBA and its teams “subsequently responsible for marketing the products.” This partnership is “not related to an agreement between Marvel and ESPN that featured NBA stars on Marvel comic book covers earlier this season.” After the new merchandise rolls out at All-Star Weekend, it “will be made available nationally through NBA distribution channels and via sporting goods retailers.” The line will be “branded for each NBA market.” The NBA and Marvel “likely will add novelty merchandise -- such as mini-basketballs and pennants -- along with the apparel and headwear” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/7 issue). The AP's Matt Moore noted the “super-hero-inspired line will ultimately be sold nationwide in an array of NBA cities, as well as online and in traditional stores.” Modell's and MSG “will launch the New York collection and the Staples Center will be the first destination for L.A. Lakers co-branded merchandise.” Marvel President for North America Consumer Products Paul Gitter said, "We decided, for instance, it makes the most sense for the Knicks to have Spider-Man since he's associated with New York City. When you look at characters such as the Hulk, you look at Green and you think Boston Celtics. There is a method to the madness" (AP, 2/7).

    Print | Tags: NBA, Marketing and Sponsorship, Marvel Comics
  • Sponsors Are Lining Up For The NHL's Feb. 20 Heritage Classic In Calgary

    The Heritage Classic is less than two weeks away, and the NHL is “already seeing the benefits” of having the Flames and Canadiens play outside at McMahon Stadium on Feb. 20, according to Chris Johnston of the CP. Sponsors have “lined up and embraced the event to a degree not even seen for the Winter Classic outdoor game on New Year's Day -- widely considered the signature date on the NHL calendar.” NHL COO John Collins said this year's Capitals-Penguins Winter Classic at Heinz Field was "by far the biggest event business that we've had to date," and he added, "We've got more sponsorship dollars against this game than we actually did even (at the Winter Classic) in Pittsburgh, which is amazing to me.” Tim Hortons signed on as title sponsor of the Heritage Classic -- the company's “first ever partnership with the league -- and will be joined by other sponsors including Canadian Tire, Scotiabank, BlackBerry and Budweiser.” The NHL “hasn't brought an outdoor game to Canada since the very first one was held at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in November 2003.” The league has “no official plans for future outdoor games.” But Collins acknowledged that Tim Hortons' contract to sponsor the Heritage Classic “is for ‘multiple years’ and virtually every team has expressed interest in the event.” Johnston wrote, “When you couple that with the sponsorship success in Calgary, it's reasonable to expect another Canadian outdoor game sooner than later” (CP, 2/4).

    A NORTH AMERICAN TRADITION?’s Pierre LeBrun noted the gate revenue for the Heritage Classic “won't be as much" as it was for the Winter Classic "because there aren't as many seats” in McMahon Stadium. But the “corporate base has really jumped on board.” Collins: "To really make the model work in these less than NFL or big-time baseball stadiums, sponsorships needs to really carry the day. I think the size of the sponsorship market and also the activation by the sponsors is going to be even bigger than the Winter Classic." LeBrun wrote it was a "no-brainer for the NHL to extend itself with two outdoor games,” but it remains to be seen “whether or not having two games will dilute the product.” Collins said, "I always resist the idea that the Winter Classic is a U.S.-only event, similarly now I'm going to resist the fact that the Heritage is just a Canadian event" (, 2/5).

    Print | Tags: NHL, Hockey, Marketing and Sponsorship
  • We All Scream For Ice Cream: Li Na Signs On As First Athlete Endorser Of Haagen-Dazs

    Li Na now has deals with Haagen-Dazs, Rolex, Babolat, Nike and SpiderTech

    Australian Open women’s finalist Li Na will endorse Haagen-Dazs in a deal unveiled in Beijing this morning. It is believed to be the first athlete endorsement deal for the premium ice cream maker. The press conference, at a Haagen-Dazs store in the city, represents Li’s first appearance in her home country since becoming the first Asian -- male or female -- to make a Grand Slam final. She is also unveiling a new endorsement with Rolex this week. Max Eisenbud, her agent at IMG, is moving quickly to capitalize on her Australian Open run in part because at 28, she likely only has a few more prime years to play. It has only been since ‘08 that Chinese athletes have been able to keep a majority of their income. Li, who is ranked No. 7 in the world, now has deals with Haagen-Dazs, Rolex, Babolat, Nike and SpiderTech for medical tape. The Haagen-Dazs deal is global, though it will be largely focused in China. It is worth about mid-six figures annually for several years. Asked why an ice cream maker would use an athlete, Eisenbud replied the themes Haagen-Dazs will tape in ads are guilty pleasures and romance, using Li’s relationship with her coach, who is also her husband.

    Print | Tags: Marketing and Sponsorship
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