This weekend a few sport-loving Engineers made the trip up to Manchester to watch John Mousinho, son of our Joint Managing Director Katy Mousinho, play in the League 2 Play-Off final for Stevenage Borough FC vs. Torquay United FC. Despite the horrendous traffic on the M6 we all made it in time to see a Stevenage victory, made even sweeter by John scoring the only goal of the game in the famous Stretford End at Old Trafford.
Having only secured promotion to League Football last year the prize at stake for Stevenage Borough was promotion into Football League One, a new challenge which begins in August. Congratulations to John and the Stevenage team from a very proud Katy and everybody at The Value Engineers.
Strolling through the tube tunnel at the South Kensington station I noticed an ad poster in which a young, strong-looking bloke is looking right at me with more than a glimpse of attitude. The bold tagline proclaims ‘I AM THE RULES.’ The NIKE swish in the corner of the image seems to belong there – this is precisely the fierce, youthful and defiant campaign we have come to expect from this brilliant brand.
As I prepare to trot on through the freezing tunnel, the poster right next to it catches my eye.
In it, the guy is also young and oozing urban cool and confidence. A prominent shrift declares a stunningly similar-sounding line: ‘WE ARE LONDON.’ But this second ad is not Nike – it’s Adidas.
You could argue that because the bloke in the Adidas ad looks more laid-back and is not looking at you in such an assertive way, the message is different. However, there is another Adidas poster right next to these two, in which a guy does look straight into the camera with the same insolent look in his eye as the Nike bloke.
After about 20 seconds of contemplating these adjacent posters I decided that there is after all a difference between these campaigns: Nike is more crisp, innovative and cosmopolitan, whilst the Adidas campaign is more rooted in London street culture and thus has a rougher feel to it. But seriously – how long does an average consumer spend looking at ads, let alone actively seek out to distil their essence?
Both of these leading sports brands have successfully developed exciting, eye-catching but most importantly – indistinguishable – poster campaigns. At The Value Engineers we often talk about how our focus on brands rather than consumers adds a competitive edge to our clients. If ‘customer-centric’ marketers working for competing brands all talk to the same target group and analyse their research data in the same rigorous way, all brand managers end up with the same output and brands begin to lose their differentiating qualities.
On Friday November 19th Blackburn Rovers announced that they had been taken over by the Rao family for £43m to become the first Indian owned Premier League club. The BBC article quoted….
The new owners believe their experience in India means they will be able to open a huge new market for the Lancashire outfit. Venky’s director Balaji Rao said the firm intends to “exploit our in-depth knowledge of the Indian market in particular, and beyond that, the whole of Asia” to develop the club’s fan base”.
But what about the local fans? A lot of clubs are following trends of trying to exploit new markets, but what about the actual game day experience and the impact in the home town?
A recent example of local focus can be found across the pond in Chicago where the Chicago Blackhawks went from zero to hero in less than 4 years and won the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Champions in 2010.
Back in 2006-07 the average attendance was 12,727 with the team marketed to Chicago (when you could find it) as “All 4 One”. In 2007 the Blackhawks hired John McDonough as President and he set about changing the internal mentality to a more accessible and community based franchise. Blackhawks, who for years had remained anonymous in the city, started to appear everywhere at community events and begun building links not just with local business but financial institutions such as CBOE. In 2008 they introduced their new marketing campaign: ‘One Goal’. This became synonymous with the Blackhawks and what they wanted to achieve. It became part of every Blackhawks communication and the cornerstone for introducing the players to a city who had for years ignored them.
Backed with increased support, great player acquisitions and top coaching they achieved their “One Goal” in 2010 by winning the Stanley Cup, increasing the average attendance to 21,356 in the process: a 67% increase from 2006-07.
Could this work in the UK? A trend in current football clubs is to largely ignore their historic mottos. Take Blackburn Rovers as an example: their motto is ‘Arte Et Labore – By skill and hard work’.
Surely you can build some community and team spirit around that…
‘Trends on the Horizon’ brings you the latest emerging patterns that we’ve spotted in consumer behaviour and asks how they could be relevant for brands.
As many of you will know our trends practice at The Value Engineers has been going strong for a number of years. Being responsible for identifying and researching sport and exercise trends I could not help but comment on the latest manifestation of the male mid-life crisis; the unstoppable rise of the MAMIL.
This wonderful name - an acronym for ‘Middle Aged Men In Lycra’ - refers to those lycra-clad 30 plus men we are seeing more and more on the roads of Britain at the weekend. Having denied themselves the purchase of the Porsche they have instead opted for an altogether healthier and more holistic approach to recapturing their youth, with the purchase of a souped-up road bike. Instantly recognisable in their tightly fitting lycra and bulging midriffs this new tribe of endurance fanatics have even generated interest in the press of late.
Kirsty Robinson’s summation of moobs to lose and something to prove nicely encapsulates the attitudes of a demographic who are ditching the all too clichéd extra maritals with the secretary for a love affair on the saddle of a super light turquoise Bianchi. Far from being the cheaper alternative, the kit that goes with it can be astronomically expensive. A carbon framed road bike can set you back anything from £2000 to £7000 and that is before you have even begun to think about a list of accessories long enough to make James Bond rage with envy.
Symptomatic of a wider trend which reports certain male demographics as being more interested in expressing the value of their existence on planet earth through lived experiences over commodity ownership, the rise of the MAMIL has already made a mark on the world of brands….
The most recent campaign for Lucozade Energy – with the strapline of ‘Do More’ – siphons elements of the MAMIL mind-set and relates it to a wider audience.
The brand ForGoodnessShakes has built up a core following, riding a boom in endurance sport (particularly triathlons).
Nokia, among countless other brands, have aligned themselves to recognise this life-stage rite of passage with event sponsorship and organisation on an international scale.
The affluence of their target demographic is helpful as it de-limits the scope for servicing their needs. Despite this, if brands are going to convince middle aged soul-searchers to part with their hard earned cash for their goods and services rather than spend it on the wife and kids there is one key point to remember. The trend relies on a search for experience over commodity ownership; the journey is paramount to the destination. For these men it is no longer about how many cars are in the garage but rather how many Ironman events they did last year. Brands that recognise this and use that knowledge in an authentic and relevant way will be those who most successfully attract the attention of the MAMIL.
“A kiss off the eight, a bank off the six. Double bull in a single throw, three pints in. Picking up a spare on the final frame….these are the providence of the after hours athletes”.
Puma’s latest ad, a eulogy to unofficial social gaming, oozes chic cool. “When last call calls”, a gruff crackling monologue states, “don’t answer”. It projects a potent mix of attractive 20-somethings, casual competition and alcohol, stitched together with some great shots and a soaring string rift, to portray an alluring utopia to the viewer. After watching it I certainly wanted to buy more Puma (….and take up ping-pong).
This isn’t exactly new territory for America’s major sportswear brands. In many ways Puma is following in the footsteps of Adidas, whose Originals range is positioned to very much play in the same area. Adidas’ the street where originality lives showed a similar group of free-spirited youths getting up to urban japes. The latest version of that advert - a twist on the famous Star Wars bar scene released around the World Cup – explores much the same theme.
But for me, Puma has trumped Adidas here. The Originals range communication has always appeared a little muddled. Why is Snoop Dogg used? Beckham’s appearance is more understandable, bringing a link to the sporting world that Adidas sits in. Is the idea to infuse the ads with celebrity cool? In which case does this not jar with the understated nonchalence of Originals?
Puma Social, on the other hand, has firmly linked itself with the resent resurgence in popularity of quasi-sports in America – pool, ten-pin bowling, ping-pong, pin ball – many of which already have established cult status (Big Lebowski’s The Dude springs to mind). Above all, the brand fit just works: Foosball feels a far more comfortable association for a sports brand than Star Wars.
As the Puma advert states: “The night too is a for sport. And they are the Champions”.