The power of sponsor love

Staying with a problem athlete is not an easy decision for businesses and many times it proves to be a very costly one. For example, in 2009, when the Tiger Woods cheating on his wife scandal broke out, in just a couple of months, major sponsor companies such as Nike experienced a decline on the stock market in the order of billions, attributable to the scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal. Time has passed and Nike stuck with him, and even helped Tiger create the famous “apology” commercial. Nike didn’t stay beside Oscar Pistorius after he was arrested or with Marion Jones after the steroid scandal. The brand is still alongside tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, despite the 2-year ban from competition for using meldonium.

Speedo also supported their star athlete Michael Phelps through his marijuana and DUI adventures, only for him to ditch them in 2016 for a new company. What Speedo would have loved to know beforehand is probably Ryan Lochte’s storytelling skills, for the whole robbery saga that was created at the Rio Olympics. The company did drop him, together with his other sponsors, before any official legal charges were made. So where is the difference? What are the criteria used for making the decision whether to continue supporting an athlete?

First, you can easily add the word “star” before the name of every athlete sponsors continued to support even in a moment of crisis. Woods, Sharapova and Phelps are all superstars and champions in their sports and overall.

Second, it is usually about the nature of the offense, how consumers perceive it and the degree of negative attitude it receives. The Jones and Pistorius scandals were unforgivable and unforgettable, something not good for a brand. The Lochte scandal appears to easily go away (he is on Dancing with the stars); however, Speedo wanted to be able to fully take advantage of the positive aspects of the Olympics and not have consumers distracted.

Third, it is also about the length of the relationship, the sentimental connection. Athletes like Tiger Woods and Sharapova have worked since their debut with Nike, making the company a lot of money and also establishing rapport with the organization. It is not easy to let a lifetime of happy and profitable relationship go away, even in business. Unless consumers signal that time has come.

Image source: WVUsports.com, 2017

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at mpetresc@nova.edu

Stay Positive! A Case of Place Marketing

What is required to successfully change the existing negative image and promote a location? MiMo District as a destination that people want to visit and is located on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami between 54th and 77th street. MiMo is an architectural style that started in South Florida after the Second World War in 1945. The area was known for its prominent style, Art Deco. Indeed, most of the buildings in that area emphasized geometrical shapes (MiMo Boulevard 2016). However, after being a celebrity destination, MiMo became an area deserted by locals and tourists. Indeed, the area had a negative reputation and was known as an area with high crime rate. In addition, there was a high volume of traffic on US 1 which was the main artery on the Boulevard. Some restrictions were also imposed by the city where buildings could not be taller than 35 feet. Therefore, revitalizing the boulevard has been a priority by the MiMo association so that the area who used to be one of the top destinations of celebrities such as Franck Sinatra can once again become the destination of locals and tourists and attract more real estate investments.

Therefore, first and foremost, as researchers we studied and analyzed MiMo’s current situation. We also assessed and evaluated several other competing destinations to find out what they have done to promote their areas, and how they stayed successful. We suggested changes ranging from streets to buildings, prices to accommodations, businesses to people, funding to community service, and promotions to entertainment. All aimed at enhancing the image of MiMo and attracting more people, and eventually putting it at par with destinations such as Clematis Street, Brickell Avenue, Coconut Grove, and maybe one day, South Beach.

One of the strengths in MiMo’s marketing efforts is the support and connections it has within the local media, one of the local stakeholders. Local newspapers and blogs (such as Sun Sentinel, Biscayne Times, Miami Herald, and Miami New Times) have shown support for MiMo’s events and are promoting the area’s projects, restaurants, and events. More recently, publications such as the Miami Herald have realized the efforts being put forward to revitalize the district and have been placing a more positive spin on the area in terms of being a dining and cultural destination. However, one of the weaknesses is related to the inconsistent media image of the area and a lack of coordination of stakeholders when dealing with the media. In the past, the media’s attention towards the destination has always been negative in terms of the location’s crime and neglected facilities. The new attempts of publicity continue to conflict with the negative image that MiMo still receives from other media outlets. Establishing a stronger movement to create a positive image of the area and communicating it to the media in Miami, through a strong public relations campaign, is necessary to eliminate this weakness. 

In addition, a weakness in the marketing and communications tools is the lack of consistency in the promotional efforts. Efforts such as events and banners do not seem to be related with the image that MiMo wants to project as a historic district. MiMo has great opportunities being re-branded as a prosperous and vivacious 1950’s historic district. However, the efforts have to be consistent with that concept, otherwise the public will find it difficult to understand the historical value the area truly has, and will not be able to identify how MiMo is different from the competition.

Also, there are no signs indicating arrival to the MiMo district and there is nothing being done to promote the brand in this manner. Thus, the logo, tagline, web page, banners, advertisements, and events have to be related to each other and to the 1950’s theme in order to bring the whole historic concept together; there must be a strategic direction and coordination. The prices of restaurants and retailers can be considered a strength since it is relatively similar in comparison to other areas. High-end places like the fashion designer Julian Chang or the restaurants Soyka, Michy’s and Casa Toscana are considered strengths because they bring variety to the area, where locals and tourists can find all kinds of prices and qualities.

MiMo BIC and MiMo Association’s website has a lot of interesting content about past events, restaurant, and motel listings. However, it could be used much more efficiently by collaborating with all affected stakeholders in the process of brand promotion. MiMo is finding difficulties in getting the public to assist at these events, a result of no community cooperation, no competitive advantage, lack of positioning, the area’s public perception, and lack of stakeholder involvement.

Analyzing MiMo’s current situation gave us insights on what paths we ought to take. We were able to develop a survey that was administered to locals in order to find out the main priorities within the area.  Promoting the name and image is of the utmost priority, since most people do not know what MiMo is, or where it is located. Changing the name to MiMo Avenue on the stretch between 50th and 79th street, and installing signs that tell drivers they are in MiMo. Launching new events, along with public relations campaigns can prove to be very effective when trying to promote a brand name and image. Keeping close ties with the media is very important, especially during the re-branding phase of MiMo. Being an up-and-coming area will help feed the positive image to that curious segment of the population who’s looking for new things to try and adventures to experience. As the MiMo District looks to build stronger and positive brand awareness, it is essential that local associations are included in its target market; associations of arts and history along with educational organizations. Consumer motivation to visit the area could become high as the MiMo District presents a new territory for these associations to voice their culture, art, and history at reasonable expenditures. By pushing the MiMo District’s historic value, organizations looking for a destination with strong benefits in this sense will provide a good target market. Their need to market their culture, art, and history in a location that exemplifies these elements is essential. In addition to local arts and history associations, MiMo should also target travel agencies to voice the new messaging associated with the district.

Based on the survey, the marketing objectives for the MiMo District should be directed towards building a new, positive brand image for the area with the goal of maximizing safety and cleanliness, while increasing awareness of the historical location. By positioning the MiMo District as the “up and coming”, businesses can become attracted to the potential traffic and revenue associated with it.

In the process of all this, some of the important steps are: capitalizing on the positive aspects, scheduling mega-events, launching familiarization tours, and using selective promotions. But ultimately the most important advice for those working on repairing a negative image is to always remain positive.

Image Source: www.metro1.com, April 3, 2017.

Selima Ben Mrad, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at sbenmrad@nova.edu

Kathleen O’Leary, Ph.D., is Chair and Associate Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at koleary@nova.edu

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at mpetresc@nova.edu

Be careful with whom you associate: Brand building through association

The recent incident with the Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte who filed a false robbery claim while at the Rio Olympics, has led to sponsors Speedo and Ralph Lauren withdrawing their sponsorships. Other well-known sponsors have also withdrawn their sponsorships. This is not an isolated incident. Many other stars have lost their sponsorships due to some form of misconduct.   Maria Sharapova lost some of her endorsement deals after testing positive for a banned drug, Manny Pacquiao, the eight times world boxing champion lost his Nike sponsorship for disparaging remarks about gay people, and running back Adrian Peterson lost his Nike and Castrol sponsorships after he was indicted on child abuse charges. Ray Rice, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Luis Suarez, Ryan Braun…the list goes on.

Many people make mistakes in their lives. So is it worth the risk? One should ask then, why do organizations endorse and sponsor well-known sports personalities? A major reason is brand building. Consumers see athletes as experts that fans look up to and even idolize. The bottom line is it helps their revenue and profit. But what happens when a controversy arises? The brand could be negatively affected if firms don’t break with the transgressor or at the very least, have a good reason to stick with them.

Brand building requires firms to use multiple athletes if they can afford to do so in case they have to drop one because of misconduct.  Firms must also realize that brands are built in many ways, but a major effort should be through other brand associations. Endorsers are just one type of association. The person an organization employs is also a critical association. For example, faculty credentials are a major reason for a university’s good or bad reputation in the eyes of its stakeholders. Other brand associations include organizations associating with causes, for example, a commitment to sustainable practices. Organizations could also associate themselves with other brands, for example, Delta airlines serving Starbucks coffee or Diet Coke sweetened with Splenda. The point that firms need to remember is that their brand is often judged by whom and what they associate with.

Russell Abratt, Ph.D., is Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at abratt@nova.edu

Who Are You?

In today’s world, good ideas seem to show up as a ‘buzz’ word or a clever ‘tweet.’ One such buzzword that has shown to be a keeper is ‘PERSONAL BRANDING.’

But what is Personal Branding? And how does one get a Personal Brand? We all know the term branding. Products are branded – Air Jordan’s, Beats, Ferrari – Services are branded – Jet Blue, Ritz Carlton, E Trade – People are branded – Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, President Obama – why not you?

Most of us think we know whom we are, what are passions are, how we appear to others. Think again. How we appear to others and the opinions others form of us in a short period of time may not be the same as what you perceive.  You would not post the same content on your personal Facebook page as on your LinkedIn page!  This is an important concept in today’s business world. When you are in the job market competing against people with similar talents and backgrounds, what will set you apart? Why will your brand be chosen for the job or promotion?

While there are many ways to develop your personal brand, most experts agree that the way to start is to do a ‘Brand You Audit.’ In the book, “Brand You, by Jerry Wilson and Ira Blumenthal, seven steps to Brand You include:

1.      Do the Brand Audit

2.      Assess your Brand You image

3.      Determine Your Brand You identity and Essence

4.      Position your new Brand You

5.      Set your Brand You goals

6.      Establish your Brand You strategies

7.      Implement. Monitor and Adjust your new Brand You

So get started on developing your personal brand and see how it can affect your future!!!

Resources:

Chritton, Susan (2014), “Personal Branding for Dummies,” John Wiley and Sons, 2nd ed. Hoboken, N.J.

Clark, Dorie (2013), “Reinventing You,” Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, Mass.

Wilson, Jerry and Ira Blumenthal, (2008), “Managing Brand You,” Amacon, New York, N.Y.

*Image sources: www.unomaha.edu; www.socialmediatoday.com

Kathleen Bay O’Leary, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Marketing in the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. Contact her for more information on Personal Branding at koleary@nova.edu or 954-262-5173.

Get Real...

More and more, customers are placing a high value on "Authenticity". Maybe it's a reaction to years of being pummeled by artificial product news, but there appears to be burnout with the pursuit of "flavor of the month" marketing.

Over a hundred years ago, the H.K. McCann Company launched their ad agency with the credo "Truth Well Told". Today, we know this company as McCann-Erickson Worldwide, part of the Interpublic Group. In 1969, this agency created the "It's the Real Thing" campaign for Coca-Cola. Many marketing people feel this was the last time Coke had a meaningful brand message.

Brands that are authentic ring true with consumers. After all, a Brand is a set of promises. If those promises are real at their core and are delivered on a consistent basis, the Brand connects with the customer, and a relationship is formed.

Our Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza Brand is built on three promises- the old world art of cooking in a coal oven (ensuring a unique taste); a simple menu (do just a few things really well); high-touch service (that makes you feel like family). Not very flashy. In fact, we are really "old school". Hardly what you would expect in a world where your smart phone can do everything but make breakfast, and where Caitlyn Jenner is a national hero. But in a very competitive category with hundreds of millions of dollars of promotional spending, we have grown to 50 stores in six states.

McCann knew it 100 years ago, "Authenticity" never goes out of style!

Nicholas Castaldo, M.B.A. (Harvard), is a Lecturer in Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. Professor Castaldo is currently the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza. He can be reached at castaldo@nova.edu

The Volkswagen Corporate Brand Challenge

CNBC reported that Volkswagen stock fell over 20 percent on Monday September 21 2015, after it told U.S. dealers to halt sales of some 2015 diesel cars, following regulators’ discovery that software designed for the vehicles gave false emissions data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that the software deceived regulators who measured toxic emissions, adding that Volkswagen could face fines of up to $18 billion as a result. Such actions by one of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers, whether by design or not, can have a negative effect on the VW brand and hurt its reputation, at least in the eyes of some stakeholders.

One of the important strategic differentiators of organizations is their corporate brand. A brand is the promise it makes to stakeholders and reputation is the degree to which a company fulfills that promise. Your reputation is important among stakeholders because you need customers to be loyal to repeat purchase and recommend your brand. Policy makers and regulators should give you the benefit of the doubt, the media should support you, suppliers and other partners should provide you with high quality product, and your employees should be engaged to support you and be brand ambassadors.

Companies like Volkswagen must build their corporate brand by first building their identity. Corporate identity involves answering two questions, who are we and what are we? Corporate identity thus involves strategic choices by the organization’s leaders which include the development of a set of values and a code of ethics. Identity also involves the expression of identity. This involves the development of the brand promise, visual identity elements like the corporate name, slogan, colors and symbols, and other forms of communication. It also involves developing the brand personality.

All of these elements lead stakeholders to form impressions about Volkswagen.

1. Is it a mistake on VW’s part or was it deliberate deception?

2. Will the brand be hurt in the short or long term?

3. Who is responsible for an incident like this?

4. What has VW got to do now to recover its reputation?

Whatever happens, this recall seems to be very serious for VW.

Russell Abratt, Ph.D., is Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship. He can be reached at abratt@nova.edu

Athlete Endorsers - Risky Business?

Many of us are aware of Oscar Pistorius who is now on trial for murdering his girlfriend in South Africa. Pistorius made history at the London Olympic Games in 2012 by becoming the first double amputee to participate in the games.  He at one time received endorsements of $2 million a year. Oakley has cancelled its contract with Pistorius, and Nike has "no further plans" to use him in advertisements. This is not the first athlete who has run into problems. There are many examples of popular celebrities transgressing in some way. Michael Phelps lost a Kellogg’s endorsement for inhaling from a bong at a party, Michael Vick was dropped by Nike when he was charged with participating in dog fighting, and Lance Armstrong lost endorsements from Nike, UPS, Oakley, and RadioShack among others when he admitted to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Tiger Woods at one time was making over $100 million a year in endorsements before some of them dropped him after he was involved in a car accident outside his home following an argument with his wife. 

Marketers have for many years used popular athletes to endorse their products and services. Selecting the appropriate source or communicator to deliver the message is an important part of communication strategy. Marketers realize the value of this form of communication. But what happens when these athletes transgress in some way? No company can monitor its endorsers all the time. Can it have a negative effect on the brand? The quick answer to this question is that it depends on a number of things. The answer lies in the question: how does a company choose an athlete or some other celebrity to endorse their product or service?

First, the endorser must be credible and match with the target audience as well as the product or service. The athlete’s familiarity and likability with the target audience is important. Tiger Woods for example may not have any influence with non-golfers but is certainly a credible golfer. Second, the overall image of the athlete is important, as well as his trustworthiness. The target audience must find the athlete believable. Third, the cost of acquiring the celebrity must also be considered. They are not cheap.  Phil Mickelson made over $50 from endorsements in 2012, and Maria Sharapova is paid $22 million from her deals with Nike.

Celebrity endorsers are big business. They have large followings. They “sell” products. But they are also human. The Oscar Pistorius trial - likely to be a long one – serves as a reminder that some of the most admired athletes are only human and transgress like many of us.

Is it too risky, therefore, to use athletes to endorse products?

Do you think Oscar Pistorius is likely to get endorsement contracts if he is found not guilty by the court?

Reference
Belch, G., & Belch, A. (2014). Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective, 10th Edition: McGraw-Hill.

Russell Abratt, Ph.D., is a Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga Business School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at abratt@nova.edu 

What’s in a Name? Everything, or is it?

One of the most important concepts in marketing is branding. We as consumers' do not buy products and services, we buy brands and we shop at stores we know and respect. We shop at Publix or Macy's. We don't buy toothpaste we buy Colgate, we don't buy a car, and we buy a Chevy. We don't go to school. We go to Nova. Some of us are so impressed with brands we pay premium prices for products like Apple. As a result, organizations spend a lot of resources on building their brands. Brand building takes time, sometimes many years, much money is spent on building brand identity and firm's employ branding experts just to give focus on brand development. There are even specialized agencies that would value your brand. An example is Interbrand, who put the value in 2012 of the world's two top brands, Coca-Cola at $77.8 billion, and Apple at $76.9 billion. Thus brands are one of the most valuable assets of an organization.

So why then do we have a company like Maroone rebranding to AutoNation? Is there no brand equity in the Maroone name? This is not the first or only time organizations have rebranded. I am sure that you can think of many. The airline industry has also lost some big brands recently. Continental is now United Airlines, Northwest is now Delta and the most recent is US Airways becoming American Airlines. As there is great value in brands, and we as consumers love brands, why do companies rebrand?

There are generally speaking four reasons for organizations wanting to rebrand. First, there could be a change of ownership structure, usually as a result of mergers or acquisitions. This was certainly the case in the airline industry. Second, there could be a change in corporate strategy. For example, the company wants to have one name nationally and internationally. This could be the reason in the AutoNation example. Third, there could be a change in the competitive position. A company could have reputation problems or an outdated image. Last, there could be a change in the external environment, for example a legal obligation. This happens when government owned companies become publicly owned ones.

A rebranding exercise is costly, risky and time consuming. Just think of all the logos and signs that have to change, all the advertising and promotion that needs to be done in order to create the new image. It is also risky. Will the staff "buy" into the new name. Will they identify with the new brand? How will consumers react?

So what do you think? Is it good for a well-known and respected brand name to change its name even for one of the reasons stated above? Will they lose or gain business?

Russell Abratt, Ph.D., is Professor of Marketing at the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at abratt@nova.edu About the Contributor