Magazine article Marketing

Look before You Leap

Magazine article Marketing

Look before You Leap

Article excerpt

Sponsors must have a recovery plan in place in case sensitive ads go viral, writes Sarah Shearman.

When a Nike ad featuring England rugby players diving through the air in celebration of a presumed Grand Slam victory found its way on to YouTube, it not only rubbed salt into the wounds of disappointed fans: Nike was left embarrassed and tried in vain to pull the video as it went viral.

The TV ad, created by Wieden & Kennedy, was intended to be shown only if England won its final 6 Nations match against Ireland on 19 March However, England lost and the ad was leaked from an internal Nike email.

'Like any sponsor, we had to plan potential communications in advance of the game,' says a Nike spokesman. 'Obviously, our pre-game optimism was misplaced, and the video was never meant to see the light of day.'

Therein lies the dilemma, says Nick Farnhill, founder and partner at digital agency Poke. 'If they had won it, that's a fantastic thing to get out quickly and celebrate with an audience,' he adds.

With dozens of sponsor brands planning their content for London 2012 Olympics advertising, featuring teams and individual athletes, second-guessing results will increasingly be a job for the marketing department.

The Nike ad scored more than 200,000 views on YouTube in a matter of days and a spoof has appeared, making its deletion nigh on impossible.

'In a situation like this, the brands' reaction is more important and influential than the episode itself,' warns Toby Horry, managing partner at Dare.

In every competition there has to be a loser - not to mention the possibility of star athletes failing a dope test. So how should brands avoid such content going public and, potentially, viral?

1. React quickly

Active management and moving quickly are crucial, particularly when content can be so easily shared. Talk to the agency, PR team and, in some cases, risk-management specialists, to draw up a plan of action.

Beyond the initial response, brands should continue to monitor and react to a situation, remembering that content does not die once it is released online.

2. Apologise

Sorry may be the hardest word to say, but brands should hold their hands up and apologise when things go wrong. This should be done where the content is being shared or viewed, according to Farnhill. 'All too often, the apology is in the form of a press release, which does not get seen by the intended audience,' he says. …

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