Tuesday, July 19, 2011

They Lost a Match, Not Endorsements

When women play sports for a large public to see, we automatically go into these deep trenches to either celebrate or condemn the players and the game they are taking part in. we go into this soliloquies about the importance of their feats or the insignificance of them. There are even these illogical connections to what’s going on with their male counterparts (take this absurdity for example).
Via Yahoo! Sports
Beyond the expected commentary, there was probably nothing that stuck out to mind regarding the end of the 2011 Women’s World Cup quite like the words dotted on the web pages of Advertising Age.

Yesterday, Rich Thomaselli wrote about how apparently the United States Women’s National Team
lost about $10 million in endorsements for their loss to Japan on Sunday. He said that sports marketing experts believed that the faces of the team – forward Abby Wambach and goalie Hope Solo – lost up to $4 million per year because of the loss. Though no companies were mentioned save for that of an analyst he quoted, you’re lead to believe that food and beverage companies, automakers and even apparel retailers had been drafting contracts as the match was taking place.

Because that’s IMMEDIATELY what came to mind when Solo couldn’t handle the winning penalty kick. Sure.

Sports marketing – endorsements, sponsorships, etc. – is a fascinating discipline and if successful, it can be an exciting marketing platform for businesses. It’s beneficial beyond words for the endorsing sports figures, even in a more aware and discerning consumer culture we live in today. Unfortunately, people get so caught up in the discipline and the hype around it that they tend to forget that every play on the field – er, pitch, rather – is not connected to what goes on off of it.
It is without question than few even know that Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) exists; a league that was built after the fiscally-unsound WUSA folded in 2003. So the idea that this game; this tournament, could increase the league’s visibility is on the money. That it helped shine a light on women’s soccer as a whole isn’t too farfetched either as there were plenty of young girls who found players to emulate when they grab their first pairs of soccer cleats.

However, to think about how they left money on the table seems wrong because… well, who knew there was money on the table?
See, the issue isn’t with the author at all, although he may actually be right, based on his years of experience writing on the advertising and media world and understanding how it operates far better than yours truly. The problem is that articles of this nature tend to give you this impression that some company was scheduling meetings with Megan Rapinoe’s agent as she made play after play in this tournament. It makes you believe that when the Americans decided to play the equivalent of ‘prevent defense’ at the end of regulation, that they equally preventing goals and the loss of personal service contracts.

Most people didn’t even know there was a Women’s World Cup until national pride (or xenophobia) shook life into a buzz-less summer season in sports. So despite providing more eyeballs than several major sportingevents – including this weekend’s British Open and last week’s MLB All-Star Game – these women cost themselves $10 million dollars they probably didn’t know even existed? That they weren’t even thinking about?
It seems as if this is how sports work in this era. A young, maturing athlete or team finds success quickly; receiving all sorts of adulation and media attention because of such impressive play, a unique back story and a flair for the dramatic. Immediately, casual onlookers make observations and feed the hype machine, even though they may not commit to the product (athlete or team) long-term. Finding that a large audience as amassed itself in a relatively quick time, marketers look for something to latch onto in hopes that there are potential new consumers to reach and new manners to communicate to their loyal ones.

In victory, they can ramp up speculative numbers in anticipation of millions wanting to buy Wheaties boxes and sports drinks. In defeat, they can talk about these future stars coming up short and missing out instead of being realistic about jumping the gun on their potential campaign.
The truth is that in the throes of competition, athletes are not generally hearing cash registers in their heads. They’re thinking about that cliché we get tired of hearing; making a play. It’s not to say that that they don’t think about it and they’d be foolish not to, if they possess such elite skills to succeed in the public view. Yet, to think that those penalty kicks or the bad defense took away from potential marketing purses is a bit unfair when those women lost something that may mean a bit more; a chance to call themselves champions.

Say What?!?!: Tremendous composure and persistence by the Japanese women. They won. Period.

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