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Category: Marketing & PR

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NHS boss condemns English cricket’s sponsorship deal with KP Snacks

Simon Stevens says ECB’s Hundred tie-up with maker of Hula Hoops undermines fight against childhood obesity The head of the NHS has criticised English cricket for letting KP Snacks sponsor a new tournament that is designed to encourage young people to …

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Juventus and All Blacks turn to TV shows to win fans

Netflix and Amazon sign up big sports teams for docu-series like Last Chance U aimed at broadening clubs’ global appeal Sports clubs hoping to expand their fan base in an increasingly competitive international market are turning to Amazon Prime and Net…

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Wayne Rooney: Apocalypse – why the movie business loves footballers

Football films are almost universally terrible. But that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from using the beautiful game to flog its latest blockbusters

If Hollywood and football clubs are keen on one thing – apart from paying their stars salaries big enough to capitalise the state banks of small European nations – it is making money. Which is why a trend is emerging of clubs and movie studios teaming up to help hawk each others’ wares – led, naturally, by Manchester United. Here are four of the best efforts from Hollywood FC.

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Maria Sharapova chocolate to go on sale in May despite drug ban

Baron Chocolatier, which is producing the sweets for her Sugarpova brand, robustly defends player after she failed drug test

Maria Sharapova’s brand of high-end chocolates will launch in May despite the tennis player facing a lengthy suspension after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.

Baron Chocolatier, which is producing the sweet treats for the five-time grand slam winner’s confectionery business, Sugarpova, has robustly defended the player, saying the company believed she had made an honest mistake. Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer, Sharapova’s most lucrative sponsors, have cut their ties with the player.

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Maria Sharapova chocolate to go on sale in May despite drug ban

Baron Chocolatier, which is producing the sweets for her Sugarpova brand, robustly defends player after she failed drug test

Maria Sharapova’s brand of high-end chocolates will launch in May despite the tennis player facing a lengthy suspension after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.

Baron Chocolatier, which is producing the sweet treats for the five-time grand slam winner’s confectionery business, Sugarpova, has robustly defended the player, saying the company believed she had made an honest mistake. Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer, Sharapova’s most lucrative sponsors, have cut their ties with the player.

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Roy Keane sues Paddy Power over Braveheart poster image

Republic of Ireland assistant manager seeks compensation from bookmakerRoy Keane, the former footballer who is now assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland team, has launched a legal action against the bookmaker Paddy Power.He objects to the use of…

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Barcelona 0-3 Nike FC: is this a glimpse of football’s future?

Mega brands are the real superpowers of the sporting world, so surely it’s only a matter of time before they buy into Europe’s top leagues Continue reading…



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From the Olympics to recruitment: why data can’t replace human interpretation

Eleanor Dallaway considers how statistics really work, the future of data-led team selection and the importance of retaining a human touch in sport and in business Continue reading…

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Andy Murray’s new logo gets thumbs up from fans and marketing experts

New logo ‘overdue’ but ‘does the job’, says sports marketing expert, ahead of launch at Australian Open
• Andy Murray unveils personal logo before Australian Open
Can you design a better logo for Andy Murray? Continue reading…

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What the social evolution of World Cup marketing means for brands

The prevalence of social media means companies of any size can take advantage of the fever surrounding the tournament Continue reading…

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Chelsea in Springfield of dreams after tie-up with The Simpsons | Media Monkey

Chelsea star David Luiz is often called Sideshow Bob due to his haircut (and sometimes comical defending) – and now the comparison is even more apt after the Premier League club signed a merchandising deal with The Simpsons. Characters from the Fox series, which was voted Best Show of the 20th Century by Time magazine, will feature on a new range of Blues’ merchandise … So, with Bart and Homer Simpson appearing at the Bridge, what other collaborations can we hope for? Queens South Park Rangers? Fans sitting in the Family Guy Section? Or maybe Manchester United’s new shirt sponsors could be Duff?

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Base79 reaches out beyond YouTube

UK multi-channel network is targeting brands and ad agencies eager to create their own online content

There may not appear to be much connection between Aston Villa FC, French comedian Remi Gaillard and the nightclub-cum-music-label Ministry of Sound. But all of them want to attract more subscribers to their videos on YouTube, and they have chosen UK-based company Base79 to help them do it.

Founded in 2007 by Ashley MacKenzie, son of former Sun editor Kelvin, Base79 has been at the forefront of what it calls “making YouTube simple” for its clients. It has successfully ridden the wave of YouTube’s phemonenal growth, clocking up an impressive client list including sports agency IMG. MacKenzie, 41, says it is on course to become profitable for the first time later this year.

Recent layoffs at Base79’s London HQ led to rumours the company was hitting a wall, but MacKenzie insists it is merely reconfiguring now that new technology has been built. Meanwhile, its newest clients, the Jim Henson Co and Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox, are indicative of fresh growth. Fox is Base79’s first major studio client and has signed a wide-ranging global contract that marks a simultaneous move by the UK company into marketing and promotion services as well as embracing the online video needs of advertisers and brands more directly.

Base79 belongs to a group of companies – Elisabeth Murdoch’s Channel Flip is another – known as multi-channel networks (MCNs) because they manage and monetise multiple channels of video content on YouTube, where every month more than 1 billion viewers are watching over 6bn hours of video. It is one of the biggest MCNs outside the US and is YouTube’s largest channel-management partner in Europe, generating 800m views a month across its 1,800 channels, including Simon Cowell’s You Generation.

MCNs as a group are “refining their business models and focusing on sustainability,” notes Eva Knoll, an analyst at Enders Analysis. “So far we have seen little consolidation, but I do expect a number of bigger players to evolve who will then be more dominant in the space.”

For the past 12 months Base79 (79 is the atomic number for gold) has been in investment mode after raising $10m (£7.5m) in 2012, from the Chernin Group, founded by former senior Fox TV executive Peter Chernin and talent agency Creative Artists Agency. The deal reportedly valued the business at £37.5m and triggered a board restructure which resulted in Kelvin MacKenzie stepping down as chairman.

The MCN has used its latest funds for new technology developments and to open offices in France, Germany, Spain, Australia and Los Angeles. Last summer one of YouTube’s most senior employees in Europe, Patrick Walker, jumped ship to join Base79 as its chief content officer.

The new money has also been put towards funding the 20 channels that Base79 owns outright, including a parcour and free-running channel called Flow that in less than a year has clocked up 177,000 subscribers around the videos uploaded by participants. “It’s about leveraging insights about audience demand and then letting these people create a brand that they can call their own,” explains Jason Bergsman, senior vice president of the Chernin Group and a Base79 board member. “We believe brands such as Flow have a very good opportunity to stretch onto other formats and platforms, be that Xbox or Sky Sports, for example,” says MacKenzie. “We are still making measured bets in content creation, however, and working for third parties remains the core of the business. We don’t see that changing, certainly not in 2014.”

Some media owners have decided they want to keep closer control of how their rights are exploited online, the kind of move that is Base 79’s biggest threat. Last month, Big Brother producer Endemol pulled back control of an animated Mr Bean channel on YouTube that Base79 had built to over a million subscribers. Endemol is launching its own MCN as part of a £25m digital video project announced last November.

“We were disappointed that Endemol decided to leave. But it’s one of over 800 partners we have and we are signing up new ones all the time,” says MacKenzie.

“Our core business is still building online audiences for content owners. But we are now taking the technology and the skills that we have been investing in really heavily over the last year and using it to the benefit of advertisers.” Under a new sub-brand launched earlier this month called Brand79, MacKenzie is pitching to brands and advertising agencies eager to create their own online content. “It’s clear to me that content marketing is set to grow and grow and we hope that the Brand79 products are the ones chosen. So one day perhaps, when a client signs off a media plan, instead of having YouTube written on it, it has Brand79 written on it.”

• The headline of this article was amended on 17 February 2014 to better reflect the focus of the article’s content

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Manchester United: brand on the run?

Once a leading global brand, Man United’s fortunes are plummeting, on and off the pitch. Stuart Jeffries seeks out some business advice on how to get back in the game

Three years ago, a survey claimed that Manchester United was the most hated company in Britain. How strange – it hadn’t done anything wrong. It had never lost an item of luggage, never served up a duff burger or lukewarm latte, never hiked utility bills, its managers didn’t have their snouts in the bonus trough, it had never been bailed out with taxpayers’ billions, never buggered up your broadband. But it was still more loathed than RyanAir, McDonald’s, Starbucks, British Gas, RBS, Lloyds or BT.

Why? The best a spokesman for Online Opinions could manage was: “Manchester United is possibly a victim of its own success and the way it is viewed by passionate fans of its rivals.” For the passionate fans of Manchester United, though, this hatred was a badge of honour. In the 1970s Millwall fans devised the chant: “No one likes us. We don’t care.” For decades Man U’s fans could chant the same thing. They could afford not to care. Just look at our cabinets of silverware, its fans could have chanted, not to mention our unprecedented penetration of the increasingly lucrative far-east Asian market and our well-diversfied portfolio of regional sponsorship deals.

“There’s been so much arrogance around the brand that it was bound to be hated,” says Mark Borkowski, the PR guru whose firm aims to fix brands that are having the wrong impact. “Any brand needs the haters. RyanAir know this. You have a Marmite existence – for huge marquee brands like Man U that’s the deal. Live with it.”

How much the haters must be loving January. The most loathed brand in football, the most detested company in Britain is getting its comeuppance. First, the champions of England are out of the Premiership title race. And it’s only January! Second, they got dumped out of the FA Cup by Swansea City on 5 January.

Third, on Wednesday night, the Red Devils found themselves in a new circle of hell. For 120 nightmarish minutes in Old Trafford’s so-called Theatre of Dreams, Britain’s most successful team couldn’t put Wearside minnows Sunderland to the sword, but instead became embroiled in disaster teeming with tragicomic vignettes. Goalkeeper David de Gea’s fumble for Sunderland’s goal! The parade of jelly-legged overpaid chokers in the penalty shoot-out! The faces of Sunderland’s Man U rejects (John O’Shea and Wes Brown) as they realised they were on their way to confront Man U’s parvenu nemeses Man City in the League Cup final in March at Wembley!

And then there was the drunken Man U fan who dialled 999 and demanded to speak to the former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “Obviously,” said the superb police statement, “it can be a sad and depressing moment when you’re [sic] football team loses but can we all please remember that 999 is to be used for emergencies only.”

Welcome, Man U supporters, to feeling as wretched as the rest of us football-deranged losers feel pretty much all the time (I write as that dedicated follower of disappointment, an Aston Villa fan).

Fourth, the morning after Man U lost to Sunderland, the club was busted out of the top three by Bayern Munich in Deloitte’s league of the leading revenue-generating teams worldwide. Even off the pitch the team was plummeting. Could schadenfreude taste sweeter?

So what’s wrong with the Man U brand? “They could become an irrelevance and Man U fans don’t really get that,” says Borkowski. “They don’t realise the truth of the Orwellian quote that you’re only six weeks away from bankruptcy.”

When I put this to long-term Manchester U fan Michael Crick, I sense rage coming down the line. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re a football club, not a bloody brand. In the long term, financially we should be strong with a huge ground, hundreds of millions of fans worldwide, the prestige of playing for MU, and a great youth set-up. The only problem – admittedly a big one – is the Glazer debt.”

Oh yes, the Glazers: while Man U was tanking, Man U chairman Avie Glazer was at the World Economic Forum in Davos with Goldie Hawn and Bono, tackling problems more intractable than those of a mere football club.

Crick, who is not only Channel 4 News’s political correspondent but author of three books to do with Manchester United (one is a life of Ferguson, the club’s most successful manager who last year ceded duties to fellow Scot David Moyes) says he can deal with all the detractors. It’s the hubris of his fellow fans that needs puncturing. “Schadenfreude? That’s football. We were just the same when Liverpool and [Manchester] City were in decline. Some of the newer glory-hunters may struggle to cope with it, but older fans like me went through the real agony of going to every match the year we were relegated! This is nothing in comparison.”

Crick may well be right. Man U, vexingly for the haters, may be wobbling rather than in terminal tailspin. “I  argue, and my friends agree, that Moyes was left a very mediocre squad by Fergie.” He points out that the team has only two world-class players, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. “[Roy] Keane and [Paul] Scholes were never properly replaced, there are too many inconsistent midfield mediocrities – Anderson, Kagawa, Young, Nani, Cleverley, Fellaini.”

My attention wanders as Crick expatiates on squad minutiae. I wonder, rather, how a well-managed brand could let things come to this pass. I think of David Moyes’s big, staring, mirthlessly Buster Keatonesque eyes on Wednesday night and experience a new emotion: pity for someone on the Old Trafford payroll.

“Ferguson handed Moyes a hospital pass,” says Borkowski. “Ferguson is a very ruthless guy and he passed on the results of last season but not a team that could repeat those results. That’s unacceptable. Every brand is about a team of people involved, never just the figurehead.

“The history and heritage of the Man U brand is there but it has been woefully lacking in attention to its future.” Borkowski tells me that, as we talk he is walking down Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. “In front of me is a 42-ft poster for David Beckham in his pants. Now that’s a successful brand. But Man U let him get away.”

Forget (if you can) about Dagenham Dave in his undies. The brand Borkowski reckons Man U needs to learn from is the House of Windsor. I’d suggested to Borkowski that Manchester United’s woeful January is shocking, even if pleasurably so. But aren’t the monarchy and Great Britain cruising for a brand bruising too? When Liz finally hangs up her crown for the last time, the monarchy risks collapse. If and when Scotland plumps for independence, Britain will lose, not just the Saltire from its flag, but its brand identity. Like Man U, both are passionately adored and neither has been nurtured properly.

“I disagree!” shouts Borkowski down the phone from LA. “I’m no monarchist but after their annus horriblis [1992, the year Charles split from Di, the other Fergie split from Prince Andrew and Windsor Castle burned] they have done a remarkable job on themselves. They’ve brought in new people to replenish the brand.” Perhaps that wasn’t how William put it to Kate when he proposed. “Other brands should look to the royal family, which was staring defeat in the face.

“And are Scots kilt-wearing Bravehearts bent on independence? I don’t think so. I think Brand Britain has re-emerged newly strong. You can’t move for Beatles ads here – they’re reforming even though half of them are dead. And the ads are covered in the Union flag. What a brand!”

What’s the lesson in all this for Man U? “It’s a very competitive world and brands need to be managed accordingly. Three or four years ago I picked up a guy who was developing a piece of global software. He was on to me 24/7. I said take some time off, get a good night’s rest at least. He said: ‘All the time I sleep, someone in another part of the world is dreaming up my competitive nemesis.’ Man U don’t seem to have realised that truth. To be successful as a brand you have to be relentless. You have to work doubly hard.”

No doubt, but when an established brand struggles – especially one that seems to be a fixture in our culture – it is shocking to behold. Thanks to the recent years of austerity and the rise of online shopping, we’ve witnessed the drawn-out death of the British high street (sorry, Mary Portas). We’ve witnessed the obliteration of much-loved brands that used to make us glow with nostalgia.

This time last year, for instance, there was a wave of remorse over the collapse of HMV, admittedly it was diluted by the fact that gift vouchers bought at Christmas were invalid. Now there’s a new lament for HMV; when the shutters went down for the last time earlier this month on its flagship store on Oxford Street in London, a Banksy-style illustration appeared on a wall in Soho, depicting HMV’s icon Nipper the Dog with earphones and MP3 player, in front of a symbolically cracked LP. He was downloading from his laptop (somehow) tunes from Spotify. Poor mutt, instrumental in the demise of his own business model.

Perhaps, in the future, our descendants will feel as nostalgic about the collapse of iTunes and Spotify too. Brands are, like everything else, perishable. You have only a brief time in the sunshine, says Borkowski, or, as Yeats put it in The Second Coming, things fall apart. The centre cannot hold. What Yeats didn’t add is that Ryan Giggs will never see 39 again, nor that if Marouane Fellaini is the answer, you’re asking the wrong question.

Is Man U perishing, and poised to go the way of HMV into that branding netherworld visited only by a dwindling band of nostalgists? Michael Crick says not: he reminds me that Moyes’s Man U is still in the European Champions League, playing better than under Fergie last season, that Adnan Januzaj is brilliant and only 18. He doesn’t even mention that the cavalry, in the form of £37m Spanish midfielder Juan Mata, is on its way up the M6 from Stamford Bridge. Things are looking better for Man U, damn them.

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Beautiful Games: north v south all star football – what if?

‘I doubt it would ever happen, but I do love the idea of an All Star game,’ says designer Dave Williams, who has fashioned these marketing proposals for an annual match featuring the best Premier League talent. His idea is a simple one – divide the teams north and south, allow fans to vote for their prefered players, select the top two from each team and let regional rivalries take hold. Safe to say the idea of Wayne Rooney teaming up with Luis Suárez against their southern counterparts would be mouthwatering. In design terms, Williams has used chevrons and architectural landmarks throughout the branding and kit designs to create a sense of belonging. Williams works as a senior designer in Liverpool and says, tongue in cheek, his big break came when he won a Pizza Hut colouring competition aged seven. Among his broad portfolio, we also like his post-match postcards which illustrate every Liverpool fixture Continue reading…

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Xbox One: Steven Gerrard stars in ad for new games console

Microsoft also recruits Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto for multimillion-dollar marketing battle against Sony’s PS4 launch

Microsoft has recruited England football captain Steven Gerrard and Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto for the global TV advertising campaign for its new Xbox One games console, which launches next month.

Sony has already launched teaser ads for its rival PlayStation 4 console, also going on sale next month, in the first shots in a worldwide marketing battle with Microsoft likely to be worth several hundred million dollars.

Microsoft declined to comment on the cost of its Xbox One campaign, the largest ever undertaken for its flagship games console brand. However, the cost of such a global marketing blitz including TV advertising is likely to be at least $100m, according to industry sources who have worked on such campaigns.

The ad campaign features Gerrard, Quinto in character as Star Trek’s Spock and other stars, along with characters from top games titles – such as games Dead Rising 3, Ryse and Titanfall – “beckoning” to viewers to join them in the Xbox One revolution.

Microsoft’s Xbox One campaign will launch online on Friday. The campaign breaks in the US on Sunday, and in the UK next week, prior to the Xbox One going on sale on 22 November.

Sony’s PS4 launches in the US on 15 November and in the UK on 29 November. The Japanese electronics giant has already put out teaser ads for its PS4 launch – including the nostalgic “For The Players Since 1995”, looking back over the PlayStation console’s 18-year history, and “Perfect Day”, using the Lou Reed song. Sony’s PS4 promotional push also includes a “Greatness Awaits” website.

Microsoft’s campaign, “RSVP”, acts as an “invitation” to fans and will include cinema, radio, digital, social and retail marketing, as well as big scale promotions with global brands such as Doritos and Mountain Dew.

Xbox One is Microsoft’s first new console since the XBox 360 debuted in 2005, with the software giant promising a range of innovations includingvoice and gesture-activated features.

Microsoft said it was launching a “fan-centric” campaign that aims to position the console as the “only all-in-one entertainment system that brings together content loved by gamers, movie buffs, sports fans, and TV lovers, all in one place”.

Piers Harding-Rolls, director, head of games, at analysts IHS, said that the launch is critical in Microsoft’s battle against rivals such as the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation franchise.

“Xbox One is enormously important to Microsoft and represents the company’s core strategy for engaging the consumer in the living room,” he said. “Microsoft aims to spread its gaming and entertainment wings on to new Windows platforms and third-party devices to maintain direct engagement with consumers across multiple screens.”

According to IHS, sales of the existing Xbox 360 will hit almost 80m globally by the end of the year. Rival PS3 will have sold 75.4m consoles and the Nintendo Wii 97.8m.

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Next Fifteen shares fall amid fraud investigation

PR group delays results after it notifies FBI about alleged fraud at Bite PR, whose clients include Microsoft, Nokia and SonyShares in public relations group Next Fifteen tumbled more than 13% in early trading on Wednesday, after the London-based compa…