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(R)evolutions in television and film – Peter Pan and The Player

December 7, 2014 2 comments
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What goes around, comes around…

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose… TV executives’ concern over changing viewing habits is nothing new. Sports coverage continues to deliver; it’s such thinking that pushed BT to pay almost GBP900m to show some football matches. But it’s not just knowing the score as it happens that has kept audiences from time-shifting. We wrote a piece back in 2011 detailing how the industry was trying to put a renewed focus on live events. Social media have contributed to this; having a constant stream of wry comments on Twitter to snark at while watching Downton Abbey can vastly improve the viewing experience. This is somewhat lost if viewing the show later.

There was a time when live events were much more common on network TV. Back then it was other formats – radio and cinema – that were running scared from the box in the corner. Now it is television that is trying to retain eyeballs; DVRs and OTT rivals are diminishing its sway; the cable industry lost 2.2m subscribes last quarter and Fox COO Chase Carey recently conceded the cable cord was “fraying”. TV viewing in general dropped 4% last quarter, Nielsen reported on Friday. Mobile use in general seems to be the largest culprit (see chart, below). As part of a strategy to keep viewers glued to scheduled, linear TV, NBC has previously screened the live performance of Sound of Music, and recently announced plans for a live rendition of A Few Good Men. Like the latter piece on content, Peter Pan similarly began as a play, and this past week saw its own broadcast, live, on NBC. It was a fine tactic in a broader strategy. Sadly, execution, and timing, are everything. Salon saw much room for improvement. The New Yorker compared it with earlier TV adaptations (NBC did a live version back in 1955) and found it lacking. More damningly, it also saw a broader disconnection from reality, as protests swept the nation in reaction to events unfolding in Ferguson. Viewing figures were half what the network got for Sound of Music. As The Wall Street Journal points out, live events may be losing their pull; both the Emmys and MTV Music Awards saw dips in ratings this year. Meanwhile though, marketers are still willing to pay a premium for advertising during such shows. Brands are said to have paid as much as $400,000 per-30 second commercial for the telecast.

The nature of the internet as a platform for art is double-edged. The thing that makes it attractive — the fast turnover of content produced by unusual, gifted people — may be what stops it from bringing about a Golden Age 2.0.”

– India Ross, Financial Times

Another tactic in the strategy to retain eyeballs has been to license old seasons of shows still running to OTT providers like Hulu, Amazon and Netflix. On the one hand this may cannibalise viewers who are just as happy watching old episodes as new ones. On the other, it could provide a new platform to find audiences and increase advocacy and engagement. What Nielsen has found is that both are happening. As the WSJ reports, “Dounia Turrill, Nielsen’s senior vice president of client insights, said she analyzed the results of 16 such shows and found an even split of shows that benefited and those that didn’t”. Netflix, meanwhile, closed down its public API and is seeking world domination with culturally diverse content in the form of Marco Polo. Such OTT providers have their own problems to worry about, too; their niche is becoming increasingly cluttered. Vimeo is not mentioned often as a competitor to the likes of Amazon’s services, but it too is now producing original content for streaming, in much the same way as its peers, where shows are greenlit by popular demand and creatives given full rein. An article in this weekend’s Financial Times points out the limits of such a business model, “the internet audience — vehement but fleeting in its interests — may not always know what makes the best content for a more substantial series… returns are unreliable in a marketplace where even established services suffer at the hands of a capricious audience”.

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In film, new possibilities arise in the form of ticket-booking innovation. While TV is recycling old ideas of content and engagement, these new tactics look to push the industry onward. This month through January 17, New York’s MOMA hosts a Robert Altman retrospective. One of his seminal films, The Player, shows in some ways how far the film industry has come, and in others how we haven’t moved on at all. The New Yorker wrote a brief feature on the retrospective. It’s insightful enough to quote at length, below:

“In the opening shot of “The Player,” from 1992, Robert Altman makes an explicit attempt to outdo Orson Welles’s famous opening to “Touch of Evil.” He has the camera zoom in and out, track left and right, pan one way and the other, and, before a cut finally comes, pick up with most of the major characters of the film. The scene also situates “The Player”—a movie about a studio created on a Hollywood studio lot—in film history, with passing references to silent film, forties genre work, the sixties, and, finally, the Japanese, who were then moving in on Hollywood, and are seen looking the studio over.

When it came out, “The Player” was regarded as a scorching attack on greedy and unimaginative Hollywood: in the film, the industry’s shining past surrounds the executives at the studio and shames many of them. Twenty years later, the huge profits from big-Hollywood movies—digital fantasies based on comic books and video games—have washed away that shame. The executives in “The Player” have stories pitched to them constantly by writers, and then they say yes or no. They don’t consult the marketing division on what will sell in Bangkok and in Bangalore. The thing that Altman may not have anticipated was that one would be able to look back at the world of “The Player” with something almost like nostalgia.”

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Super Safe Super Bowl

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The Super Bowl, an annual orgy of excess for those seeking to tubthump their products on television, where a 30-second spot can cost up to $4m, is taking an increasingly holistic approach to promotion, using social media to make for a more integrated offering. In the end it was Twitter that came to the fore during this year’s event, when a power cut during the game created a captive audience for savvy brands (such as Oreo) to take advantage of.

It was interesting yesterday to hear the talking heads of CNBC reviewing the success of the advertisements that played during the game (click the headline image for a link to the discussion). Zeitgeist’s thoughts were provoked particularly on the question of whether the risk of outrage from social media backlashes was now so great that advertisers were becoming far more risk-averse than in the past, preferring instead to tug at heartstrings with ads like Budweiser’s, below, which was admittedly Zeitgeist’s favourite.

Could sponsors hold the key to stopping racism on the terraces?

October 22, 2012 Leave a comment

So Lance Armstrong (under)stated recently that he’d had a ‘difficult couple of weeks’.

Just to recap. In the last fortnight or so (and despite his protestations of innocence), Armstrong has gone from being a much lauded athlete who overcame serious illness to dominate one of the world’s toughest sporting competitions to a discredited drugs cheat and stripped of all his titles.

A ‘difficult couple of weeks’ by anyone’s standards.

Since the evidence against him grew and former team-mates spoke out about his role in the doping culture in the US Postal team, the position of sponsors such as Nike has shifted. Where initially they stood by their man, they ultimately decided to cut the relationship, citing that he had “participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade“.

It’s one of the inherent dangers of sponsorship.

While your endorsee is sweeping all before them you are associated with success and glory. But as Tiger Woods sponsors found out a few years ago, if that star misbehaves your brand is associated with someone getting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The news that cycling has/had a doping problem is both unsurprising and depressing.

Unfortunately, the same can also be said for the experiences of the England U21 side in their recent play-off in Serbia.

Racism in football

Having been subjected to racist chants throughout the game, things came to a head at the final whistle when Danny Rose was sent off for kicking the ball into the abusing crowd and punches were thrown as players and coaching staff jostled their way towards the dressing rooms.

Racism is a blight on society. It exists in the UK and while it is not tolerated in public arenas, the economic downturn hasn’t helped our natural tendency to tribalism when things are tough.

For nations that haven’t experienced the levels of immigration of other ‘races’ that the UK has, attitudes to people with different colour skin are not as liberal. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t all plain sailing and painless for us to get to where we are.

Terminology that was common just a couple of generations ago is now taboo. TV shows of the 1970’s wouldn’t even be considered now. And footballers in the UK used to have to run the gauntlet due to their skin colour as recently as the 80’s and indeed, incidents are still being reported in 2012.

None of this excuses what happened in Kruševac and nor does it excuse the lenient approach footballing authorities have taken with racist incidents in the past. In a multi-billion pound industry, fines of tens of thousands of pounds have little impact.

FIFA and UEFA are keen to cite the power of football to change society when awarding tournaments to countries like Ukraine and Qatar but plead impotence when it comes to topics like racism.

The natural indignation in England has lead some to suggest that we should pull out of international tournaments to make a point. Such an action would most likely be met with champagne corks popping in Nyon and Zurich, and would only serve to further dilute our voice in the global game.

The Serbian FA could have offered UEFA a get out of jail card. A statement recognising the monkey chants, apologising to the FA and footballing family and a clear plan of action to ensure it never happens again would have enabled the games rulers to give them a slap on the wrist.

Yet the Serbian FA refuted clear evidence of racist chants and stated that any claims to the contrary were malicious.

FA of Serbia absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Kruševac. Making connection between the seen incident – a fight between members of the two teams – and racism has absolutely no ground and we consider it to be a total malevolence.

Had they sent a letter saying ‘Fuck you! We did nothing wrong and we’re not changing!’ their attitude couldn’t be any clearer.

And in doing so they batted the ball firmly into UEFA’s court making the question very clear.

Do UEFA believe there was racism at the game and if so, do they consider it acceptable?

Driving behaviour change

Behaviour change and persuasion are all about understanding what motivates of the people you are trying to influence. This means putting your own motives to one side for a moment.

In other words, if we want UEFA and FIFA to impose stronger penalties for incidents of racism we need to understand what influences them.

And let’s be honest, British indignation has never kept them awake at night.

Much higher on the list of priorities are the many sponsors who provide a huge chunk of the money that powers the multi-billion pound football industry.

Just like Nike and Lance Armstrong’s sponsors, FIFA and UEFA’s backers (which include brands like Coca-ColaMcDonalds and Adidas) have a rare opportunity to make their opinion on an unsavoury topic clear.

No brand wants to be associated with racism and upsetting the sponsors is something the footballing authorities do not tolerate. Just ask Niklas Bendtner who was fined £80,000 for showing his Paddy Power lucky pants during EURO2012.

Compared to the fines given to national associations for incidents of racism, it seems rather excessive.

Let’s face it, for all the anger,  griping and T-Shirt protests in England we simply don’t have the clout to demand action.

The sponsors are the ones with real power to influence, and maybe only a rebuke from the people who line their pockets will make finally FIFA and UEFA start taking racism in football seriously.

Films, Football and Uninformative Advertising

Zeitgeist saw the above ad on the London Underground earlier this week, advertising the new version of the Total Recall film that Sony is imminently releasing. (As if anything could beat the Arnie version).

It’s a nice ad because it doesn’t directly advertise the film, but rather cheekily promotes the central product in the film instead, in an attempt to blur the worlds of reality and fiction (it’s all very postmodern). It appears they’ve also thought about their European target market, by featuring football-related imagery, rather than something more American, like baseball, or something involving large cars.

A similar campaign was featured on the Tube last year for the film Limitless, with Bradley Cooper from The Hangover. The ad itself hawks the pill that forms the crux of the plot, rather than the film itself. We wrote about the promotion as part of a broader article, here. Arguably the first proponent of such a tactic in guerrilla film marketing occurred way back in 1999 for The Blair Witch Project. This kind of advertising also fits nicely into recent findings showing the power of “uninformative advertising”. According to Yale School of Management:

“Using a game theory model, Mayzlin and Shin show that when advertising a high-quality product, specifying product attributes can be counterproductive, because a firm can describe only a limited number of those attributes. An uninformative advertisement, on the other hand, can prompt viewers to seek out additional information on the product, and in the process learn about more of its positive attributes.”

Tesco’s surprisingly refreshing offer on Coca-Cola

May 8, 2012 1 comment

After enduring a series of rainy days that have seen Noah put on standby, the drenched British public could do with something to cheer them up.

Luckily Coca-Cola have built their whole proposition around ‘happiness‘.

In sunnier climes this has manifested itself through the celebrated ‘Happiness Truck‘, a branded lorry dispensing presents ranging from surfboards to footballs to free Cokes.

Sixpence of Happiness

With the economy double dipping into recession like a hungry George Costanza at a funeral adding to the misery, Zeitgeist wondered whether the UK team had come up with a more straightforward and practical way to raise a smile.

A recent visit to a local Tesco Express to stock up on some essentials for a night in found this offer where shoppers were actually paid 6p to buy a second two litre bottle.

Clearly the offer is retailer lead. Much as Coca-Cola might want to sell more product they don’t have to resort to paying people to take it. Assuming it isn’t some kind of error, it highlights the power retailers have over manufacturers.

If a brand as loved and powerful as Coca-Cola can be devalued so easily what hope do lesser brands have?

Despite offering shoppers a great deal the promotion doesn’t really work in the retailers favour either.

As a compact store on the high street with no nearby parking available, most people shopping there would have been topping up. By incentivising them so heavily to buy an extra 2l bottle, Tesco are limiting how many other full price items shoppers can carry home.

In fact, the only obvious winner here was me, with an extra bottle of Coca-Cola and 6 pence in my pocket.

I promise to invest it wisely.

PR own goals leave Germans feeling cold

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

As if their continued efforts to save the Euro weren’t giving them enough of a headache, recent German attempts to sell cars and excite football fans have also failed to hit the mark.

As any Englishman will tell you, the weather has a nasty habit of messing up the best laid plans. From BBQs to Wimbledon, the rain can be relied on to appear when it is least welcome. Similarly the winters of 2009 and 2010 were unusually harsh just when retailers most needed people to be able to get out and spend their money.

So while we applaud their innovative thinking we can also sympathise with German agency Sassenbach Advertising who have seen their clever weather themed idea turn into a icy nightmare.

Seeking a “wind and weatherproof idea” to support the launch of the new Mini Cooper Roadster, they took advantage of the “adopt-a-vortex” scheme run by Berlin’s Free University and named the current high pressure front sweeping across Europe ‘Cooper’.

All was going swimmingly until ‘Cooper‘ dropped to -33 Celsius, disrupted transport across the continent and claimed over 100 lives.

The campaign also involved buying a low front to be called ‘Minnie’ later in the year that one hopes will be less destructive.

A statement from BMW confirmed that while they had bought the names they didn’t have control over when they were used and that clearly, they regretted any loss of life.

While the whole episode has been highlighted as a bit of an gaffe, BMW and their agency haven’t done anything wrong and the €299 price tag for naming the weather seems cheap even though the publicity it has provoked isn’t what was planned.

The same can’t be said for German football giants Bayern Munich who upset their fans with an ill thought out launch of an app.

Last week, as the January transfer window was coming to a close, the club told their 2.7m Facebook fans that they had just signed a new striker who would be announced exclusively via a Facebook app in around an hour.

Naturally, the announcement set social networks alight. To set the scene, Bayern had recently lost to Borussia Mönchengladbach and seen target Marco Reus sign for rivals Borussia Dortmund.

As the clock ticked down, fans debated which star they’d be seeing at Allianz Arena with Manchester based duo Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov among the suggestions.

However when the announcement was made it became clear that the club had misjudged things enormously.

A live stream with Markus Hörwick (Comms Director),  Chrsitian Nerlinger (General Manager) and Philipp Lahm (Club Captain) announced that the new star player was actually the fan themselves, the 12th man of the squad.

The app then showed fake press announcements, mock interviews with star players welcoming the ‘new player’ and shirts with the users name.

What could have been a great value added experience resulted in a terrible user experience, compounded by the app crashing, with fans venting their anger on various social networks.

The press, who had also been kept in the dark showed great schadenfreude, gleefully spreading news of the failure which ended up trending worldwide on Twitter.

Within three hours the club had received over 5,000 complaints from angry fans and was forced to offer an apology.

Both brands will survive their difficult week. Mini because they didn’t do anything malicious and Bayern because disappointment is all part of being a football fan.

Let’s just hope their fiscal policies have better results.

Sports journalist scores own goal with Twitter let down

January 28, 2011 2 comments

Too much hype can be a bad thing if you fail to deliver.

You will no doubt already be familiar with the fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

In it, the title protagonist is a third century BC Greek shepherd boy with a 21st century attention span.

Sadly, born in a time long before iPods, Playstations and Kindles the only way he was able to amuse himself on cold nights was to shout that an imaginary wolf was attacking his flock and so summon all the villagers from their warm beds to chase it off.

So amused was the shepherd boy by this early attempt at trolling that he repeated it, each time winding up the locals more with his false alarms.


How Aesop may have communicated his fable in 2011

Inevitably, as we all know a hungry wolf did turn up shortly afterwards and the villagers ignored the boys pleas for help, refusing to fall for what they assumed was another trick.

The tale has been told many times to warn children of the dangers of telling fibs and seeking undue attention.

It would appear from a modern interpretation of the story that the Guardian Sports Desk could urgently do with a copy of Aesop’s Fables (available for as little as £3.99 on Amazon).

At around 15:30 yesterday afternoon, respected Sports Editor of the Guardian Newsdesk Ian Prior tweeted that there would be a

Two hours was more than enough time for football messageboards to go into overdrive as fans hypothesised as to what the scoop could be.

Perhaps an announcement on the Olympic Stadium? Was Ferguson going to retire and Mourinho replace him? Could another Arab billionaire buying out a major club? Would Barcelona finally get round to offering a record breaking fee for Lloyd Doyley?

Or maybe as the other half of Zeitgeist prayed, Roger Federer’s defeat in the Australian Open had been misreported and he’d actually beaten Novak Djokovic – into a pulp.

As the deadline drew closer, F5 buttons were being smashed around the world and the Guardian homepage finally refreshed with the scoop.

It turns out that Inter Milan might make a bid for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. For £40m. In the summer. No sources at either club quoted.

There didn’t need to be. Within minutes both clubs had denied the story.

A scoop. But not anywhere near as major as people were hoping.

The let down and collective fury at such a mundane story getting such a build up lead to a mass venting against Prior and many rivals taking the opportunity to put the boot in.

The Daily Mirror back page references Prior’s imfamous tweet

Theories began circulating that Prior may have sacrificed himself in order to then compose an article on the power of social media or that the whole exercise was a critique of the hyperbole that surrounds football, particularly during the transfer windows,  but it seems unlikely that a Sports Editor would embarass himself for such reasons.

To his credit, Prior has taken the stick with good grace admitting that he was

retweeting a campaign to get people to stop following him

before accepting defeat

and announcing the end to a long day with

Indeed his positive attitude and willingness to take it on the chin has helped deflate much of the ire and avoided prolonging the situation. Prior isn’t the first person to mess up on Twitter, he can add his name to an ever-growing list that contains the likes of Habitat, Stephanie Rice and Courtney Love.

Though his faux pas was not as bad as the others mentioned, the lesson however is clear. Social media is a powerful medium to reach people with an interest in what you have to say.

But let them down and they’ll leave you to the wolves just like a bunch of tired Greek villagers.

Luxury LVs Football

Louis Vuitton, like everyone else, is keenly aware that the World Cup is approaching. Zeitgeist has a habit – recently pointed out by a colleague over lunch – of rarely making statements that would encompass what the whole of Zeitgeist would think about a certain subject; much like the Holy Trinity, though we are many, we are one. E pluribus, unum. In this instance, the worlds of Zeitgeist have collided together.

Ogilvy Paris started the “Journeys” campaign for Louis Vuitton in 2007, and since then, brand ambassadors like Gorbachev, Sean Connery and tennis legends Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff have been featured. In it’s latest inception, three football phenoms – Maradona, Zidane and Pelé – are caught in an empty café playing table football together, while to the side sits monogrammed Vuitton luggage. In the spot below, Maradona introduces the clash of the titans between Zidane and Pelé. Vogue has more. To vote for who you think will win, click here. It’s a timely piece, one that fits nicely into the rest of the campaign, and the interactive feature is a nice touch. Could they have done more though? There’s nothing on Vuitton’s Twitter or YouTube accounts about these new ads yet.

The company’s holding group, LVMH, meanwhile, have launched a new website “that allows luxury brands to showcase high-quality branded film content against a more sophisticated design aesthetic and insider editorial voice that luxury-goods consumers have come to expect”. PSFK has more. If you’d like to do your own little bit for LVMH and tell them about your perceptions of luxury brands as well as your Twitter use, click here.

Mars sign Barnes to recreate famous rap

April 15, 2010 1 comment

With the FIFA World Cup getting ever closer, Zeitgeist was excited to learn that Mars have recruited former Watford, Liverpool and England legend and scorer of a wonder goal in the Maracana, John Barnes to recreate his ‘World In Motion’ rap for their new TV campaign.

However, we were slightly less happy to be reminded that the original song accompanied Bobby Robson’s sides brave run to the semi-finals in Italia 90. Was it really 20 years ago?

Barnes’s famous rap was arguably the pinnacle of normally dire team bonding songs that generally accompany a foray into a large tournament or cup final – apologies to Ossie Ardiles and Baddiel and Skinner – because it actually demonstrated genuine musical ability.

As part of their campaign, Mars are offering 15 people the chance to appear alongside Barnes in the recreation which will include slightly altered lyrics to incorporate the Mars brand.

Given the FA’s decision not to launch their own World Cup song, for the first time since 1966, hopefully the nostalgic Mars recreation will be matched by a slightly more successful campaign on the pitch.

All we need now is for Kleenex to sign Gazza to recreate his famous tears

Faciamo qualcosa “Viral” adesso

Zeitgeist is not extremely comfortable with the idea of two football-related posts in a row, however circumstances dictate it must be so. The sport is was riddled with corruption in bella Italia (and elsewhere), but that doesn’t stop the sport from entertaining millions upon millions. Heineken recently hosted a superb activation event, news of which comes courtesy of the great Digital Buzz Blog via a Zeitgeist apparatchik. It’s a cunning and humorous ploy that plays on the odd stereotype or two but is harmless nonetheless, and very enjoyable. Such a tactic would not have been suitable for other brands; Heineken pulls it off nicely.

UPDATE: Another Ogilvy blog has also written about this.