Only as good as your last job

I wonder sometimes if some people, or their line of work, are indeed damage proof. This week, the JJ Abrams penned TV series LOST just finished its six year run with a truly baffling finale. Sven Goran Erickson is managing the Ivory Coast at this summer’s 2010 World Cup despite poor recent return from in his England and Mexico roles. And Adam Crozier has started his tenure at ITV after controversial stints in charge of The FA and The Post Office.

Three guys, seemingly worlds apart, are to me linked by at least one recognisable trait. The ability to continually create for themselves significant career opportunities despite disappointing in previous roles.

Allow me to elaborate. JJ Abrams came to prominence as the creator of a TV spy series called Alias. After 5 long seaons, it adopted a bizarre season ending storyline around a medieval inventor who created an apocolyptic device and spread the pieces to the corners of the earth. A race against time between good and evil ensued. He then created Lost which started out as a desert island plane crash, quickly turned sci-fi then time travel and in its conclusion, was maybe just one character’s dream. I’m still undecided – which is the problem. In between there was the film Cloverfied, a Godzilla meets Blair Witch experiment set in New York and filmed on handy cams. All great ideas that sucked the public in, but in the final analysis ultimately failed to live up to billing. But what happens? He gets the Star Trek reboot and other projects in the offing, despite leaving scores of fans continually frustrated.

Sven. Tremendous club manager in his native Sweden and Italy. Took the England football job and with the best group of players in a generation failed to get beyond the quarter finals. Tactially inept and never able to drop underperforming stars, this didn’t stop him picking up subsequent high profile and high salary jobs with Manchester City, Mexico (with little overall success) and now the Ivory Coast in a World Cup year.

Crozier. Did little to improve grassroots football in the UK during his time at The FA, failed to modernise The Post Office or make it more effective and efficient, he now has the opportunity to spearhead the revival of the country’s second largest TV station with established shows and talent like Ant n Dec and Simon Cowell locked in.

I might be harsh but it seems to me that short term box office seems to win out over long term secure revenue generation. In business, stakeholders of all kinds need to be satisfied and taking the ‘box office’ approach could be the quickest road to ruin. Customers expect more and can afford to be more selective.

So it seems odd to me that there appears to be, in some ares of business, an ignorance of the theory that you are only as good as your last job.

Scoring a World Cup own goal

The Fifa World Cup kicking off on 11 June in South Africa offers incredible promotional opportunities to brands of all shapes and sizes. In doing so, it brings out the very best and very worst in marketers.

The advertising is kicking in and the level of World Cup / football related email is increasing in volume. But recent research by atmAd suggests that a significant group of consumers within the target demographic will only respond to campaigns from main sponsors. These valuable consumers, will they say, fundamentally mistrust guerilla attempts from other brand marketers.

Why? It’s to do with relationship and permission. The 13 main tournament sponsors pay millions for exclusive access to the tournament and the ability to promote their wares as an official sponsor. In some cases these relationships have been built by brands like Coca Cola and Mastercard over the last 3-4 tournaments and a 16 year period.

Some brands like Nationwide and Pepsi claim a justifiable indirect relationship through their tie-ups with related and aligned parties such as being official suppliers to the England team or The FA or by running campaigns involving particular footballing personalities.

What is obvious is the World Cup is a clear consumption occasion opportunity. Snack, food and beverage, barbeque, televisions and furniture brands will all position around watching the match as a social occasion.

But how does this translate to b2b? I’m not convinced it does. Even the most creative business marketers will be hard pressed to justify exploitation of the event – but it won’t stop them trying.

But be warned. Official and indirect sponsors take a dim view of attempts to sabotage their official relationships. And they, and Fifa, could come down hard legally on businesses that try to do so. Critically from a marketing perspective, a lazy campaign leave customers and prospects feeling you’re a lazy company.

Taking advantage of the World Cup in your marketing is a high risk strategy. Before cashing in on a tenuous association, consider how that one email, mailer or advert could damage your reputation and the years of investment you have already made.

Marketing lessons from the Football League

Football clubs in the UK often come in for a rough ride from the business community due to their lack of strong commercial focus and acumen. At the lower end of the spectrum clubs are getting into financial trouble due to their falling gates, spiralling costs and lack of qulity sponsorship agreements. At the higher end, top clubs are over-spending on players to try and compete at the top level.

I think it is interesting that the recent round of FA Cup games demonstrated how clubs across the leagues in the UK have come to prioritise the tournaments they enter, and to that extent show how clubs are now considering the bigger picture and the longer term.

There were expected to be a number of dicey ties for a number of struggling Premier League clubs including Burnley, Sunderland Bolton and Wigan but all sailed through as their opposition picked teams bearing in mind important league games.

Fielding weakened teams is nothing really new in the modern game, whether it is to win a league, gain promotion or even fight to stay in a league. It shows a commercial and strategic focus which provides a powerful lesson in staying fixated on your business goals, whatever type of business you are in.