As we hit the opening weekend of the Olympics, some thoughts on good moves away from London…
Manchester United Thinks Globally, Acts Locally: There is perhaps no more better positioned global sports brand than Manchester United. The club will play to packed stadia anywhere in the world and their web traffic, kit sales and TV audiences stack up against any other property in sports. So while scores of clubs came to North America for “friendlies” this July, Man U left the UK and went east for a China tour, further cementing their position as arguably soccer’s strongest brand in Asia. It was a big part of DHL’s sponsorship with ManU, which will also bring them across North Europe before heading back to start Barclays Premier League training.
While the club was on their whirlwind tour through China they made a very pointed move to connect, donning jerseys with Mandarin on the front, a departure from the English “AON” branding that adorns their kits the rest of the time. As brands still grapple with how to connect with the Chinese marketplace, this was a great example of understanding local culture. It is not all about saying we are doing “Hispanic” night and playing salsa music and putting “Los” on everything. It is about thinking and doing what that audience can connect with and making the effort to show that you understand what pleases them. The change of kits, even temporarily, showed supporters that ManU “got” them, and created a nice surprise, not to mention a great visual.
Great example of a global brand adapting and sending a message that no matter how big they are, they can identify with their supporters in every market.
PSU Speaks: The aftermath of the Penn State football situation will not be clear for a very long time. Regardless of which side one falls in the decision, it was impressive that players and coaches spoke in unison this week of their desire to stay with the program. Coach Bill O’Brien used the national media, with a day-long trip to ESPN, to speak to the nation and explain in his voice the challenges and potential opportunities that student-athletes may have with the sanctions, while players spoke in groups to support each other and the University. The program even was able to turn the recruiting habits of other schools looking for potential transfers into a rally point, with players speaking out against assistant coaches spread out across the campus trying to speak to players about leaving Penn State for their school. Perhaps it is short term messaging, and many thought it was expected for the players to rally, but the fact that almost all players spoke in support as one, and that Coach O’Brien went on the aggressive to the national media, gave the program a window of fresh air for a few days and set a tone that was the most positive element to come out of the program in a very long time.
The Value of “Intrepreneurship”: I don’t often use my blog to speak about brands I work with, but Friday while teaching high school students at Columbia University, Bloomberg Sports’ Bo Moon gave a nice talk on the value of being not an entrepreneur, but an intrepreneur. It is a word that has been around for a few decades, but raised many eyebrows in the room…the definition is: “behaving like an entrepreneur when you’re employed at a large corporation for the benefit of the corporation as a whole.”
Moon and fellow employee JB Lee became intrepreneurs at Bloomberg when they took the idea of using the company’s vast analytic engine for business to create a vertical business in the would of sports. They presented to senior management, were given some seed money and as a result of their efforts Bloomberg Sports was born three years ago, and recently was spun off partially to IMG.
They saw an opportunity that existed in a large company to create a new revenue stream and came up with a business plan to present to management to expand a potential offshoot which was away from the core business. They did it on their own time, explained it very clearly and when ready went to senior management with the idea. They didn’t have to go out on their own or be rebellious…they knew the workings of the company and how to unify and be inclusive and respectful as opposed to breaking away and trying things on their own. They did not know at first if they would get support with the idea, but their presentation made sense, especially in a challenged economy where a large business was looking for ways to provide new services using existing assets.
It is a great example of presentation and thinking “in the box” per se, vs. trying to go at something alone. Companies need to encourage more intrepreneurs as a way of growing, and Bloomberg Sports is a great example of how to do so.