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Posts Tagged ‘Tennis’

The US Open, with strings attached

While Britain recovers from the expected nadir of Murray’s loss and the majestic Federer’s subsequent victory at Wimbledon, and the tennis world celebrates a champion of the sport, the next Slam – the US Open, in New York – looms close by on the horizon. Zeitgeist will be going, but, like many others, had a terrible time purchasing tickets online.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”. So says the moniker on the Statue of Liberty in New York, welcoming immigrants to the United States. The US Open grand slam tennis tournament released its tickets to the public several weeks ago, and for the first time offered fans on Facebook the opportunity to purchase tickets a day before anyone else. Unfortunately, not only did they neglect to stipulate that this offer was only available to American buyers, they also had more broader problems with their system that day, creating an enormous backlash of ill will seen on Facebook. On Twitter, the US Open official account kept having to explain itself.

Providing fans with the tickets they want is a hard business. Someone will always be disappointed. And credit should be given to the organisers for trying to do something innovative and rewarding. However, thinking that the reach of the US Open does not extend beyond the nation’s boundaries was a massive, massive mistake in today’s world. They really lost a lot of their brand equity and trust that day.

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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.

Manhattan Musings

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Manhattan skyline sunset US Open 2011

While in New York recently, Zeitgeist was privy to a few interesting examples of brand activation and digitally engaging experiences that it thought worth sharing.

It just so happened that during the visit to New York, the fourth and final tennis grand slam of the year was in full swing in the form of the U.S. Open. Zeitgeist was impressed with the official site’s homepage, which had lagged behind that of the other slams in recent years in terms of user engagement and interactivity. Most impressive was the video functionality, which allowed live, crystal-clear streaming of all recorded matches, in a pop-out window that included information on important match statistics, a chat forum and even picture-in-picture capability so that the viewer could watch more than one match concurrently (see below picture). Also pleasing to see was an article written at the end of the tournament on the greatest matches of the 2011 Open, which included dozens of comments from people via Facebook. Zeitgeist was taken through to the site after seeing it linked from the U.S. Open’s Facebook page. Nice integration.

While most of Manhattan’s citizens had sensibly fled the city’s dog days of summer, some were still caught in the rat race. It was good of HBO then to attempt to bring some enjoyment into the workers’ commute, in a stellar piece of brand activation that lasted for several days. The cable network HBO has had an astonishing run of successful series – recently noted in The Economist – popular with audiences and critics alike, from Sex and the City through the Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and now with Boardwalk Empire. According to the Gawker, the network had spent so much on advertising on the Metro over the years, “the MTA let them buy the entire car”. The Prohibition-era series came to life for several days with passengers able to ride an authentic 1920s traincar, replete with the odd advertisement promoting the upcoming new season of Boardwalk Empire. It’s a superb idea, something very engaging while at the same time actually serving a purpose (functioning as an otherwise normal subway train). It also fits in very well with a particular fascination New York seems to have currently with speakeasies, a number of which have popped up in midtown and lower Manhattan.

Similarly, BMW have also been taking over a space, this time in the East Village, promoting the automaker’s take on what sustainability means in the form of the BMW Guggenheim Lab. The Lab will include more than 100 free lectures, movie screenings and discussion, according to an article on Luxury Daily, which quotes Harald Krüger, BMW board of management member, as saying “premium is also defined by sustainability”. PSFK called it an “urban curiousity hub”. A picture of the Lab is below.

BMW Guggenheim Lab NYC

It was also interesting to wander through the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition entitled ‘Talk to Me: Design and Communication between People and Objects’. As the website blurb says,

“The exhibition focuses on objects that involve a direct interaction, such as interfaces, information systems, visualization design, and communication devices, and on projects that establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.”

Running through November 7th, one of the more interesting practical things Zeitgeist noted about the show was the introduction of Augmented Reality as a way of enhancing some of the pieces exhibited. Also included were QR codes featuring more information for visitors, as well as hashtags for each object, to encourage people to talk about them and discuss them more easily via Twitter. Really interesting stuff.

So as you can see, there is an awful lot of interesting and relevant stuff going on in the city that never sleeps. FYI, Zeitgeist will be accepting commissions for future trips, especially ones that involve further investigation into the speakeasies mentioned earlier.

Serving up a good online experience

As with every summer, the tennis season kicks into high gear with the French Open (aka Roland Garros) in Paris in May, and the Championships at the All England Club (aka Wimbledon) just two weeks later. Brand Republic today published their list of the 10 Best Tennis ads. The sport’s popularity pales in comparison to other pursuits in the UK, and questions always abound at this time of the year as to the country’s woeful showing at the majors. It’s an especially sore point when one looks at recent successes in golf.

Demand for tickets however at the four annual Grand Slams has never been higher. Getting a seat at such events then is a tough ask. Recently, the French Open began making tickets available online for direct purchase. This included being able to select specific days, courts and seats. Of course, having such an easy route meant that there were one or two people who had the same idea as Zeitgeist. Even accessing the website on the stroke of the hour the tickets became available put him behind 3,560 other eager tennis fans (see picture at end of article). Prima facie then this democratisation of ticket availability – rather than having a lottery and corporate hoardings – is a good thing. From a practical perspective however, does it make sense to do it this way? Can or should there be priorities given, based not just on how much people are willing to pay for tickets? Why not give those who actually play the sport more of a priority, or using Foursquare, see how many other tennis tournaments people have attended and judge their passion for tennis based on that. Can they have ticket giveaways to those who “like” Nadal, Federer, etc. on Facebook? It’s a thorny issue; perhaps the route the French Open has taken is the least worst option.

All the slams provide diverting iPhone apps too. However, if you’re going to the effort of providing a service, better make sure it works. Zeitgeist was presented with the below image on their phone while sitting on Court 1 at Wimbledon on Monday, June 20th.

tennis french open wimbledon online

The (Deceptive) Art of Performance

On the way back from Paris two weeks ago, Zeitgeist was treated to a magnificent sunset as the Eurostar sped through the francophone countryside. It occurred to him how much more enjoyable the journey would be if the whole of the shell of the train were transparent, one giant window. Aside from structural engineering issues, this might also pose difficulties with the heat and light from the sun. Nevertheless, those hypotheticals did not give Airbus pause when it announced earlier this week they would be building a transparent plane ready for 2050.

Indeed, Zeitgeist has been thinking a lot about transport recently. In the past several weeks we have written about planes, trains and automobiles. The above spot, via Creative Criminals, for an M-powered BMW is a guilty pleasure, what do you think to its authenticity? These sorts of virals / candid shots / advertisements are becoming increasingly popular – though BMW years ago produced the perfect example –  as typified by the below video featuring a tennis player and a suspiciously nice-looking Mercedes. This is not the first time that Mr. Federer has shown off his viral-inducing skills. Could this sort of practice be extended to other brands? How about a blurry video of someone looking remarkably like Gordon Ramsay rushing into the Tesco Express that sits two doors down from his flagship restaurant on Hospital Road for some last-minute ingredients?

One question to ask might be whether the authenticity of the video even matters if it creates and stimulates discussion about the brand. In large part it is the aura of candour that provides excitement to the viewer; ‘this wasn’t meant to be released, you shouldn’t be watching this’, or ‘you are one of a select few who can’. As one blogger notes on a Mercedes forum, speaking to these types of video, “Fake, but I enjoyed every one of them :D”. And that, surely, is the point.

Gambling with Engagement

Understanding + Innovation = Real Engagement

Though not yet quite falling into the category of a degenerate gambler, Zeitgeist regularly receives communications from various bookmakers keen to incentivise a bet or two. Indeed we’ve previously commented on the activities of bookmakers and the gambling industry both good and bad.

It is an unusual category, one where the consumer has a number of suppliers to choose from and the product is abstract.

Consquently the service is essentially the same across brands – anyone can take a bet – and punters can visit sites like oddschecker.com to find out the best odds on a given event.

In such a market, the equity each brand has, from a long heritage in a given sport to their brand attitude and from levels of innovation to ease of use, becomes ever more important as a means to differentiate them from their myriad competitors. Marketing activity becomes crucial as brands try to establish their territory in a cluttered category.

Event Based Promotions

Some activities are based around major sporting or cultural events such as the flyer below which was distributed in Paddington Station during the Cheltenham Festival a couple of months ago.

From the tone of the copy and the reference to a girlfriend rather than wife, one might infer that the target audience for this communication was a male up to the age of 40. However, this particular flyer was handed to a female colleague who indignantly passed it on in exasperation at such a poor piece of targeting.

While some media platforms don’t allow brands to ensure their message only reaches their target demographic, it is one of the benefits that handing out flyers does offer.

It’s simple really. If the message on the leaflet isn’t relevant to someone, don’t give it to them.

Given that there are more women than men in the UK it is entirely possible that some might like a wager or two.  Indeed the recipient of the flyer is a sports enthusiast who regularly places bets.

So why didn’t Boylesports produce a flyer that would appeal to women too? Or failing that, why didn’t they educate the people giving out the leaflets as to who they should be targeting?

They may only be leaflets handed out in a busy railway station, but just because an activity is intended to be quick and cheap doesn’t mean brands can be lazy and allow standards to slip.

In addition to short term tactical executions such as the poorly executed Boylesports example, some bookmakers also invest in attempting to build longer term engagement with initiatives that show an understanding of their target customer and the kinds of things that will appeal to them.

Trends

Since Conspicious Consumption and the Age of Bling disappeared along with our wealth, consumers have increasingly sought cool experiences that not only break the stress of daily life but also act as a form of social currency. By providing or enhancing such experiences, brands are able to create an emotional connection with consumers.

Whereas boasting about material wealth is seen as crass, sharing the fantastic things you’ve been up to with friends is perfectly fine.

As we live our lives ever more publicly, we can begin to experience a low level sense of peer pressure as we try to keep up with our more exciting friends. Tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare allow us to share what we are up to before we do it, while we are doing it and then upload photos after the event.

Another unsurprising consequence of the economic downturn is that people don’t have quite as much money to spend and as such want to get value out of any money they do spend.

For some, gambling might seem like a way out of financial strife but for the majority it is something that makes sporting events a bit more exciting and let’s us back up our hunches.

Innovative Engagement

For the past few weeks Zeitgeist recently been monitoring the development of a new initiative called BetDash which has been created by Paddy Power, a brand that is all too aware of the need to differentiate and maintain a high profile.

The site, currently in beta, claims to be Europe’s number one ‘Social Betting’ site and allows players to ‘buy’ a £100,000 bankroll to gamble on real events. The cost of the intial £100,000 is variable, ranging from free, then increasing by £5 to up to £50 and directly influences the potential winnings.

After 21 days the player wins cash depending on how well they have done – if they’ve been lucky enough to turn their money into a million pounds they win twenty times their original stake, otherwise they have to settle for smaller rewards, all the way down to nothing if they’ve blown the lot.

The site works because it simultaneously allows people to experience the thrill of making a bet worth tens of thousands of pounds with the safety blanket of not losing more than their initial stake. Importantly, it also allows people to compete with their friends and make the experience a shared one.

The site has a Twitter account which updates occassionally with news of new ‘millionaires’ and the odd retweet and a Facebook fan page, though they appear to be more of an exercise in getting ready for when the service is fully developed.

To that end, BetDash impressively crowdsources improvements via a page through which users can recommend improvements to the service.

With ‘gamification‘ a hot topic, Betdash taps into the trend and offers players rewards, such as free bets and badges for returning to the site on a daily basis and achieving feats, like winning three bets in a row. You can also challenge other players bets and laugh at their wagers.

And for those who still find it hard to pick a winner, there is a list of the trending bets so you can see what everyone else is betting on. If 96% of bettors think Watford will win and 94% have bet on a Federer victory then maybe you’ll feel safer putting money on a double.

With the curtain having just come down on the current football season players will have to try and make their fortune on summer sports, though with each round lasting 21 days that’s only three rounds until the 2011/2012 seasons kicks off.

In the meantime, the BetDash development team will be no doubt be busy implementing the ideas users recommend so that the site is ready for next season.

The site hopes to create a behaviour amongst users that gets them thinking and talking about bets they’ve placed socially. From gambling being something personal and secretive it will become something to be shared – there will be little stigma as you are gambling with imaginary money. The aim will be to make BetDash one of those handful of sites you visit with regularity.

And of course, if you see a bet that you think is too good to pass up, PaddyPower will no doubt be delighted to let you stake some real money.

Since we opened our account (for research purposes!), Zeitgeist has already bet on football matches from Poland, Russia, Japan and South America, not to mention Boxing, Tennis and Horse Racing with mixed success as we try to grow our bankroll.

We’ll be keeping an eye on BetDash to see how it evolves, but in a category where differentiation and staying front of mind are key, we’d bet that this type of innovative activity will prove more popular than poorly distributed flyers in train stations.

Check us out

February 14, 2011 1 comment

As we celebrate our first anniversary and approach our 150th post, please join us in celebrating our 30,000th hit.

Over the past year, we’ve written on a variety of subjects. Some articles have commented on whole industries or cultural movements, some on incidents of spectacular successes or dismal failures.

We’ve written on the changing face of masculinity, and how men shop in the second decade of the 21st century. We examined why England lost it’s World Cup bid, and what the World Cup meant for the world as a whole, and the businesses that aim to profit from it.

We talked about the future of content; what it means to own something that only exists as a file on a computer, but you still have to pay for, as bookshops and videostores fade to dust and intellectual property rights evolve along an uncertain path.

How social media is used for good, for ill, for Gatorade and for Conan O’Brien.

We’ve ruminated on leadership, on how luxury justifies itself post-recession, and how antique brands like Louis Vuitton attempt to keep themselves fresh, as well as ultra-premium.

We’ve talked about how movie studios win by marketing their product, and how auction houses lost out to the pitfalls of behavioural economics.

We’ve debriefed you on our visit to the UK’s Google HQ, while waxing lyrical on Nintendo as it moves from taking on Sega to taking on Apple.  We’ve asked what it means for the future of TV when everyone has Sky+ and a broadband connection. And we’ve looked at several examples of superb brand activation.

Lastly, we’ve tried in vain to present the glory of Roger Federer.

Stick around and have a browse, we’re not going anywhere.

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.

A Close Shave with Tennis Greatness

August 18, 2010 9 comments

Roger Federer, the world’s most successful tennis player with a staggering sixteen Grand Slams to his name, shows here why he is so great. This ad appeared on YouTube earlier this week from Gillette. It appears to be an unofficial edit from when Mr. Federer et al were breaking between shooting a commercial. The Wall Street Journal recently added to the mountain of editorial written over the past 18 months predicting Federer’s demise – Federer’s reaction was to win three more slams in that time, an achievement which most tennis players spend a career trying and failing to obtain – with coda that attempts an abrupt volte-face, perhaps having already learned from last year to never, ever count Federer out.

Your views on the authenticity of the shots in this ad are welcome. Is it a William Tell-like feat of extravagant excellence caught in a candid moment? Or a nice bit of CGI in a very constructed environment? Federer, according to Reuters, remains coy on the subject. Regardless, Zeitgeist is definitely playing tennis in a suit tonight…

UPDATE: The video has officially gone viral.

Serving up a winner – How timely context enhances a message

Two brands, both alike in dignity, in fair Wimbledon, where we lay our scene. Those lucky enough to be at this year’s Championships at SW19 witnessed a record-breaking feat; the longest tennis match ever. While an exhausted John Isner and Nicolas Mahut – it would almost be a disservice to label either of them as not winners – were convalescing in ice baths with IV drips and (no doubt) comely women at their sides to mop their sweaty brows, it was not just John McEnroe that paid attention to the importance of the match, which ended 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

KitKat came up with a simple but brilliant execution for a print ad that ran soon after the match – the principle image being a terrifically distressed tennis ball, along with the final scoreline – that was perfectly on-brand and in sync with its proposition “Have a break”. The second, more amusing exploitation of the match was by Durex, with the end-line “Take pleasure in coming second”. See the ad below. (UPDATE: The video has now been “removed by the user”. Zeitgeist can’t seem to find it elsewhere online. If, good reader, you know where to find it, please let us know.)