If the result of the Presidential election achieved nothing else, it illustrated the power and influence PR has on the world stage.
Donald Trump’s use of his social channels and its subsequent influence on the electorate and media was an important contributing factor to his success. Whilst social media amplified Trump’s ideas, it also recruited voters and prompted discussion around his policies, which was not only powerful, it was highly cost effective in a campaign that ran into a reported $795 million.
Notably, Jeb Bush spent more than $80 million dollars on media advertising during the Republican primaries, dwarfing Trump’s $10 million, however, the New York Times reported that Trump gained an estimated $2 billion in free media coverage. His speeches, for better or worse, were brutally candid, resulting in an unprecedented amount of column inches in traditional media debate, meanwhile, his online presence was unlike anything previously witnessed.
Like it or not, this is where Trump and his team deserve commendation. Not only did they boost political engagement and shed light on underlying tensions within American society, their implementation of social media as a political tool was ground-breaking. Twitter, for example, has typically been used politically to push campaign messaging rather than for engagement. Trump harnessed the power of both landing messaging and engaging with his audiences, by instigating and reacting to the news with his own unabashed, unfiltered opinion.
It was this consistently brash, uncompromising attitude that created worldwide headlines and endeared Trump to the sort of voters for whom political correctness had been a cause of alienation. By being steady in this approach Trump was positioned as if not honest, then certainly transparent; with his outlandish, inappropriate and spontaneous content gaining him notoriety. Conversely Clinton’s carefully managed posts were felt to compounded feelings of secrecy and distrust.
Alongside the rise of ‘personality politics’ has been the higher rise of political PR; charisma and image almost equate with policy for many voters. The balance of PR’s role is tricky, the presence of a public relations team can promote disenchantment amongst the electorate, despite being employed to do the opposite. That said, an invisible PR vehicle is still one of the most important facets of a political campaign and, whether you agree with the outcome or not, this is where the new President and his team came up Trumps!
The chat at Sports Technology Awards’ Towers yesterday took an interesting turn; we were discussing the timeframe we should impose on innovative tech. In reviewing the relative merits of offering people 12, 18 or 24+ months, someone made the point that just because something is new, doesn’t mean it is actually any better than what went before.
We’ve all seen the ‘new and improved’ claims splashed all over a variety of household goods but start to apply the same process to the sports sector and it does make you think.
The most immediately obvious example of this is F1; over past seasons a variety of teams have been subject to technical rules not to make the cars they are designing better per se but to ‘improve’ viewing of races.
Another example is in football. Anyone who played 10 years ago will remember what it was like to hoof a ball and you knew when you had connected with the sweet spot. The flight of the ball stayed true to contact and only the those who possessed immense ability would be able to curl the ball with aplomb. Today’s balls have been designed with a larger sweet spot and made from lighter synthetic materials, enabling greater degree of spin and additional flight which will ultimately end up with more goals per game. Undoubtedly this is innovative, is it better, well presumably yes it is. There may be a few moans and groans from the men between the sticks, however football is about entertaining spectators and as in F1, an enhanced viewing experience comes when there are high scoring matches.
A third example can be found in skiing. The evolution of skis is such that it has made a difficult sport much more accessible to a far greater number of people - as anyone who has queued for a lift during half term or spring break can testify. However these changes have created a leisure industry valued at $3.4bn in the US alone.
It is always easy to knock custodians of elite sport but, ultimately, they usually are exceptionally passionate about the sports in their care. They want their sport to be as accessible to as many people as possible but here’s the rub, only true purists value excellence to the exclusion of competition, most of us prefer an unpredictable battle. For any doubters, think of the way Steve ‘Interesting’ Davies was decried for being ‘boring’ when he was actually virtually unbeatable during the 1980s – and there are countless other examples which fans of different sports can cite.
With this in mind are Governing bodies which see a way to artificially level the playing field for the wider good of the sport wrong to do so? Surely challenging sport to be more innovative to ensure its longevity is innovative in itself?
As Team GB’s medalists return to Britain, some will go back to business as usual whilst others will be hoping to capitalize on their success, build a bigger personal brand and reap all the benefits that comes with it.
For some time now, the term ‘brand’ has been successfully applied to athletes as well as the clubs they play for or the sponsors which support them. Brand Beckham was probably the first of the modern era – thanks in no small part to Victoria - since which time athletes from all areas of sport have vying to ‘do a Beckham’.
So what does this mean for our medal winners? Unfortunately, it is a universal truth that in any team – football, rugby, cricket, and now Team GB – there are usually three or four people who stand out and the rest are … well, exactly that. Not convinced? Take England’s last two World Cup wins; in the 2003 rugby team, most people remember Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson but would be hard pushed to name a third. Matt Dawson or Ben Cohen may make the cut owing to their TV or tabloid profiles but few people, beyond hard-core rugby fans could name the others from that great night in Sydney. The intervening period since 1966 makes this test trickier but could many list more legends than Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Gordon Banks? Even if that doesn’t convince you, name a cricketer from Michael Vaughan’s 2005 Ashes’ team apart from the captain, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff. On top of this, all these sports have major annual clashes, long seasons and good broadcast deals which keep them in front of the public; most Olympic sports dream of enjoying the same exposure.
So with Team GB arriving back, who are the winners and losers? Without a doubt Laura Trott has the world at her feet; she already enjoys several lucrative brand partnerships and with the prospect of good times in Tokyo, she can build on her medal haul and her bank balance. If she can persuade her partner, the equally stellar Jason Kenny, to take a cannier commercial stance, their rewards could be exceptional – especially as the popularity of cycling continues to escalate. Realistically Trott and Kenny have eclipsed everyone else in the cycling team and whilst highly marketable riders, such as Becky James and Callum Skinner, will doubtless do well, their rewards won’t be anywhere near that of these two.
Another two athletes who look set for greater things are Adam Peaty and Max Whitlock, not least because they enjoy an impressive blend of charm, looks, eloquence and admirable achievement. For most Brits, interest in swimming and gymnastics is a four-year thing so they will have to balance media and endorsements with competition to keep their brands relevant but if they continue on their current trajectory, they too could do very well.
The other star likely to have been born in Rio but who will have to wait for their brand to mature is Joe Joyce; whilst he ‘only’ achieved silver, if he turns pro – and why wouldn’t he – he can look forward to some very exciting times ahead. His self-assigned brand strapline ‘He’s no ordinary Joe’ could certainly catch on.
Many stars from London 2012, including Tom Daley, Jess Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford have probably reached their pinnacle in terms of their brand, not least of all because their stock was so high four years ago that they couldn’t realistically get any higher. The chances are they will score a TV job on a reality series or presenting sport but it is hard to see what else they can do to capitalize on their profiles, especially for any who retire. Probably included in this group, surprisingly – and frustratingly - are Mo Farah and Nicola Adams; despite having a phenomenal time in Rio the biggest thing holding them back is that their sports simply don’t enjoy mass appeal outside the Games.
In many respects, the brand that is set to do best from Rio is the Team GB brand itself. Having hugely exceeded both its medal target and made the unprecedented step of beating China in the final medal tally, the brand has never been better positioned to eclipse any individual competitor who sits within it. The Team GB sponsors, which include Adidas, Aldi, BP, DFS and Nissan, can consider themselves very well served by their deals and, if they haven’t already renewed, would do well to see what the plans are for Pyeongchang and Tokyo. Team GB’s management has already proved itself successful and forward thinking off the field as well as on it, the popular Stella McCartney designed kit being an obvious example of this. If it continues in this vein, of all Rio alumni, Team GB could well be the one to watch.
The long-awaited Pokémon GO app was released yesterday in the UK and has already taken the nation by storm. Social media blew up with pictures of people catching Pokémon in the wild streets of (in our case) London and cities around the world.
Impressively, the game has already overtaken instant messaging giant; WhatsApp, as the most-used app in the world with people spending roughly 43 minutes per day on the game, compared to the 30 minutes that kept Whatsapp at the top/
The hype around Pokémon GO is largely fuelled by millennials who grew up with Pokémon throughout their childhood – it is not so much children playing the game, as one would expect, but young adults in their early to late twenties. This is what makes the augmented reality game so beneficial to brands and businesses alike; the people playing the game are more likely to engage directly with your brand or business, rather than having to target them through a third party.
So what is the best way to capitalise on the popularity of Pokémon GO? Here at ENS, we spent the majority of our evening ‘researching’ the game and all of its many features:
Here is where the teams come in useful – as a brand, pick a team and declare your allegiance to them. Not only will it start conversations with potential customers, it also offers you the chance to make exclusive deals and offers to people on the same team. You don’t necessarily have to be near a Pokémon Gym to take advantage of this but it helps when people actively seek out those locations to battle at.
Another huge benefit for brands and businesses are Pokémon lures (these are called Incense in your inventory) which essentially just attract Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes.
It's already making the rounds on Twitter with businesses offering the lure as an incentive for anyone that visits their location or buys something with them. Lures are limited though and once you run out, you’ll have to buy more with PokéCoins or real money but if it’s attracting potential customers, it’s definitely worth investing in.
Rare Pokémon are usually extremely hard to find and, as a result, extremely in demand. By alerting people of your find, you’ll be able to maximise your brand awareness and again, be able to incentivise the opportunity.
Perhaps the easiest way to make the most of Pokémon GO is through the medium of social media. Within hours of the release, PokemongoUK was trending on Twitter and Facebook, behemoth brands such as Virgin Media were rolling out GIFs and memes about it and ordinary people were posting images of the Pokémon they had caught. Join in the conversation – make your whole office support one team and then try to take control of the closest gym, organise a meetup in a crowded location for people to come together to play, or simply post about catching Pokémon in your office! One of the most impressive aspects of the game is the sense of community it promotes and social media is a great way to get involved in that community.
In short, Pokémon GO looks set to be a worldwide phenomenon and it will only get even more popular when the developers start releasing more features for the game. If you can engage your brand or business now, you’ll more than likely continue to benefit from the game in the future.
ENS MD, Rebecca Hopkins, shares her thoughts on Maria Sharapova. First published in PR Week.
Maria Sharapova has been handed a two-year ban for using meldonium, a drug which treats heart disease. The star had been using it since 2006 but WADA outlawed its use in sport at the start of the year. By taking it, Sharapova tested positive at January's Australian Open and whilst the infringement was not deemed intentional, culpability through ignorance will see her off the circuit until 2018.
Keeping tabs on what substances are and aren’t legal in sport is often presented as a herculean task and to a degree it is. However there are plenty of resources freely available to anyone competing to make sure they know what they can safely take. Certainly it adds a level of admin to your life but it isn’t really the most arduous task. Commute this into other professions and suddenly it doesn’t seem such a big ask; plenty of (less well paid) jobs demand that practitioners keep abreast of the latest legislation, why then is it such a big ask of athletes to do the same? If a doctor, accountant or lawyer screwed up at work, they too could well find themselves facing sanction – as well as a few choice news reports.
According to Forbes, Sharapova’s career earnings reportedly exceed $20 million, the majority of which are from endorsements. A key part of her wider brand is her ‘Sugapova’ confectionary operation. And here in lies the PR conundrum; Sharapova has marketed herself – or has allowed herself to be marketed – as a canny business women. Someone genuinely this savvy would surely take far more direct interest in her own bottom line? Consequently that she is now contesting her innocence based ignorance doesn’t really ring true – and if it is, how much of a clever head really sits on those tanned shoulders? As a personal brand, sport or otherwise, you really can’t have it both ways.
Whilst a two year ban for such a talented athlete is a crying shame and deprives the game of a great performer, the ATP needed to issue a warning to others that taking banned substances will not be tolerated. Sharapova’s public omission of guilt may have pulled on the heartstrings of some but, for the good of tennis and sport, it had little effect on those that mattered. Unfortunately for Sharapova, her justification for this mistake was simply not good enough and this is clearly reflected in her sentencing.
In the wake of the outcome of Joe Marler’s World Rugby hearing, I think World Rugby ultimately got it right. Those who govern modern, professional sport are under huge pressure not only to react but to be seen to react. And here’s the thing, as is usual in this situation, you get a lot of other people reacting too, which is their right but in no way terribly helpful to the people concerned.
I feel sorry for Joe Marler; he seems a decent enough bloke who said something fundamentally misguided and has found himself caught up in a row which rapidly became less and less of his own making.
With contentious issues, such as race, gender and sexual orientation, the degree to which they are offensive is best gauged by the reaction of the person to whom they were directed. The problem with this from a sanctioning viewpoint is that there is no ‘one size fits all’. This means the powers that be have to legislate for issues along fairly hard line parametres, rendering ‘banter’ an outdated justification for insults.
From a PR point of view, aside from the original misdemeanour, Joe Marler did exactly the right thing. He apologized swiftly, has put out some heartfelt mea culpa messages and has otherwise had the wisdom to shut up. The problem, as so often in these cases from a PR perspective, is that his network has waded in to support him. It is testament to the man that he can command such loyalty and to his colleagues that they are willing to give it but, unfortunately, this type of vocal support heaps fuel on the fire of the story. From the RPA’s statement to the numerous comments of pro-Marler teammates, every quote inflates both the coverage and the issue.
Whilst I can perfectly understand the RPA rushing to Marler’s defence, I am intrigued as to whether they asked him if it was welcome? More to the point did they ask Sampson Lee if this was something he too would appreciate? In the whole affair, I suggest sympathies should lie most with Lee, after all would you want your 2016 6 Nations’ contribution remembered for this if you were him?