Jack Wilshere | Nike #MakeItCount

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today banned in it’s current form Nike’s #MakeItCount social media campaign.  Launched in January 2012, the campaign used Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney to send a tweet namedropping the initiative to their respective followers over six months ago at the launch!

Since January, Nike has taken the social media campaign across marketing disciplines including advertising and have used it’s rosta of athletes to remind consumers of the brand.  It’s become a campaign that’s been truly integrated, reaching across marketing disciplines.

The decision by the ASA, which took 6 months to reach and was the result of a single complaint, highlights how the organisation has entrenched itself in it’s traditional standard.  While it reviews advertising campaigns, in it’s adjudication it has social guidelines for advertising through social networking channels that any communications channels should not just be aware of, but be versed in!

The ASA did say that an indication that it was an advert, such as by having an #ad in the tweet, might have clarified the purpose of the communication.  So there, after 6 months you now know.

See the ruling here.

Niklas Bendtner’s pants, worse than racist chanting!

European football governing body UEFA handed out today an €80,000 Euro fine to Croatia for racist chanting by it’s fans during the country’s game against Italy during #Euro2012The fine was €20,000 Euro less than that imposed the day before on Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner for, er, wearing underpants promoting Irish gambling company PaddyPower.

While it is obvious that UEFA do not care about their reputation or that of the game that they claim to represent, such a decision continues to leave a big question about their commitment towards ending racism within the game.

UEFA’s inability to understand the issue and unwillingness to tackle racism casts a cloud over the sponsors that are supporting this #Euro2012 football tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

If this impotent governing body is not willing to tackle racism, then surely what is left to do is to follow the money and challenge UEFA’s paymasters to exert their influence so that this scourge can be got rid off.

When a sponsors reputation is called into question you see a reaction that is quick and decisive.  In business, reputation matters.  Governing bodies, with their monopolistic thinking, meanwhile believe that they are immune to negative exposure.  I am sure that UEFA has cleaner ears for those with the money, than those with the ‘monkey chants.’

The International Olympic Committee has released it’s Social Media Guidelines for participants and other accredited persons at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The four-page document is the IOC’s attempt to recapture the ground it never had when Twitter became the must-have channel for those competing at the winter Vancouver 2010 games.

Remember the death of Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili and how the footage of the tragic accident ended up on YouTube, Twitter and other social networking sites.  Happening just before the opening ceremony and the online chatter accentuated the lack of control and understanding that the Olympic committee had over social media and which cast a shadow over the Vancouver Olympics.

In the guidelines the IOC ‘actively encourages and supports athletes and other accredited persons at the Olympic Games to … post, blog and tweet their experiences.’ it directs those competing to avoid using social networking sites ‘for commercial and/or advertising purposes.’  If athletes and other accredited persons do break these guidelines then they risk accreditation being withdrawn.  More worrying for athletes is the threat of possible expulsion from the games.

So how will these guidelines affect the work of public relations agencies working with athletes and their sponsors?  Will non-accredited sponsors see these guidelines as a red rag to a bull?  How strong will ambush marketing play during the 2012 Olympics?  Remember how Dutch beer company Bavaria got, as The Daily Telegraph describes, ‘36 women wearing skimpy orange dresses attend the Holland versus Denmark game‘ to promote Dutch Bavaria beer in breach of Fifa guidelines.  Organisers of the stunt were then arrested.

What are your thoughts? How important will social networking play for brands that are sitting outside the tent and that will never be able to be a participant in the Olympic experience?

IOC Social Media Blogging and Internet Guidelines-London

England’s Football Association gave us a lesson this week on how not to secure change within FIFA to rid it of the ‘alleged’ <cough!> corruption.

For too long FIFA has been a self-serving and inefficient organisation.  Like many international governing bodies it’s executive committee has become distant from the supporters who actually and in this case own the game.  For FIFA football is all about the business – getting and securing the best sponsorship and trickling these deals down into local associations, many of which are run on a shoestring.  That said and as has been reported those who sit on the top table of this once venerable organisation have become unconnected with the people who play this sport.

The politics of sport is ugly and ruthless.  But let’s be objective, FIFA has 208 national member associations – more than any other international governing body.  The UN itself has 192 states as members.  These national member associations represent the world and it’s various and diverse cultures.  What is acceptable in some of these countries would be deemed unacceptable in western democracies.  But equally, some of the West’s own behaviours would be deemed wrong in many of the states that are represented within the FIFA family.  That still is no excuse for much of the activity that has become endemic within this broken organisation.

All this doesn’t excuse the moralising of the UK press towards how FIFA operate.  If you read the media from around the world you would be forgiven for thinking that it is all above board.  In fact, read Spain’s sports daily Marca or As or any other title from South America or Africa and the only quotes about the alleged corruption come from local titles that quote the stings made by The Times and Sunday Times.  Moralising in my opinion doesn’t help with change.

To coincide the publishing of stories about corruption to days before the voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup was short-sighted by UK newsdesks.  Yet ask UK journalists and you’ll get an answer about public interest.  Really?  Is it better to run a story before the voting or possibly just after?  Would news outlets have got better stories in the lead-up to an English World Cup?  All very odd.  I’ve had conversations with a few journalists who’s view is that they should be independent and I agree.  But the question from a public relations perspective is how you secure change?  Are some outlets chasing numbers rather than using their skills to enable better transparency?

Public relations can be a force for good.  Sure, many people see this profession as one that focuses on spin and misinformation.  But, in countries such as the UK, with a good relationship with media outlets PR could work in harmony to achieve the change that is required within FIFA.

So as we approached this week’s FIFA’s 61st Congress we noted the media and the English FA once again making a stand for what they thought was right.  It was a question in my opinion of preaching and not teaching.  What they did was get it very wrong, to the extent that their behaviour possibly helped Blatter secure a fourth term in office.

The public relations campaign activity by The FA leaves a lot to be desired.  Fit for purpose?  I leave you readers to decide.

There used to be days when Britain was good at understanding the world, at doing deals and assisting and promoting best practice.  FIFA needs to change, but so does The FA, who is in grave danger of becoming irrelevant to the football family.

Bookmakers Better Bet have signed former Arsenal player Paul Merson as their new Brand Ambassador.  An interesting choice given that Merse claimed some time ago to have lost £7 million on gambling, which led to him being declared bankrupt in 2007.

So why appoint a self-confessed [former] gambling addict as the face of a bookies?  Surely appointing Merson is like appointing La Winehouse as the brand ambassador for the Colombian Tourist Board.

Since those dark days of his, Merson has been a regular on Sky Sports News as a pundit on the Gillette Soccer Saturday show.  So I guess that must have been the clincher for Better Bet; sign-up a pundit that regulars down the pub can recognise and your in the money.  Because I am sure that many people would want to place a bet after seeing Merse, after all, what could go wrong with one little wager, eh?

Brand Ambassadors after all are by nature people that can help promote and advertise a product, company or brand.  They have an element of celebrity that can help the company promote itself and its products in a controlled manner.  They become the human face of the organisation, a person that clients and importantly potential clients can associate themselves with and can help drive sales.  Ambassadors have to be asprational characters that can help get the clients messages through.

Just look at how David Beckham helped Gillette increase sales even with all the gossip that was surrounding him at the time.  Sales of Gillette products in the Far East, where there’s still an obsession with all things Beckham, broke records.  The deal was put together by Hill & Knowlton’s London office and while it was claimed to be one the biggest sponsorship deals the client was pleased with the results of their association with a person that even today is making headlines wherever his career takes him.

Meanwhile, in a statement Better Bet said: “The customers love Paul and can relate to him.”  Before adding: “I don’t know about his gambling problem in the past. He doesn’t hold an account with us or bet with us.”  It’s a kind of bearing your head in the sand after the horse has bolted (at the 3.15 at Lingfield no doubt.  Ed.) comment.

When researching candidates for the position of Brand Ambassador the first thing an in-house PR team or agency must do is analyse how candidates will affect the brand and reputation of their client or employer.  It appears that this hasn’t been done.

Sports sponsorship is an import tool in the PR armoury, especially in the US.  Get it wrong and you damage your brand.  Get it right and everybody wants a piece of the stardust that your ambassador brings to the company.

This is one to watch!

And if you want an alternative view on the deal then read ‘Celebrity Sell Out’s Altenative View of the Merson Campaign.’


Today, 26 March 2009, Betting firm Better have annouced that they have dropped their brand ambassador Paul Merson from the advertising campaign due to the large number of complaints they’ve received.  I wonder what they’ll be saying to their PRs?  A serious and harsh word if I were them.

More here: “Betting firm drops Merson from ad campaign.