Thursday, September 29, 2011

The magic of free publicity

While giving a class in marketing communications this afternoon, I showed my students a screenshot of the homepage of Andrea Petkovic, a female tennis player, to explain some point being made in the course. At that moment, something peculiar about the site struck me. Just like her colleagues, Andrea of course endorses a number of brands (her sponsors). I do not know about how lucrative these deals are, but I guess she will be rather glad with the pay check. She does, however, provide free publicity to a number of other brands: facebook, twitter, and youtube. What is even more surprising is the size and placement of the publicity: these free endorsements are about as prominent as the paid endorsements and they have the more prominent left position on the screen.

This left me wondering whether the same would be true for other sportsmen and -women. I analysed a small sample of Belgians and found the same thing. Just check the following examples:

  • Kim Clijsters: She devotes as much space to Twitter and Facebook as she does to all her eight sponsors
  • Romelu Lukaku: The only endorsement on the landing page is the brand on his shirt (in a picture), social media are clear and clickable
And I guess the same is true for international stars. For instance:
  • Mark Cavendish
  • Roger Federer (except that he's making a lot of publicity for his own RF brand)
  • Usain Bolt (the logos of his sponsors were even slower to load than the social media logos)

The only exception I found in my quick-and-dirty search: Formula 1 racing.
(Given my former passion, I should give credit to Marino Vanhoenacker, a world class triathlete who has an old school site with no social media references and a left banner stacked with sponsors. Go Marino!)

So, here we are, with celebrities and their endorsement contracts all giving free publicity to media networks. This seems a bit like reversed reality. Of course, I know that these celebrities use these media to engage in conversations about their personal brand and thus to even increase their market value, but I still found it intriguing.

Even the traditional paid advertising media (TV, newspapers, etc.) are actually endorsing these social networks, by having twitter integrated in their newsfeeds, as a column or as a second screen catalyst.

Quite ironically, the Ad Age site this week reported on fresh Nielsen data showing a very similar thing going on in a totally different forum (read the article here). Twitter, Youtube and Facebook appeared in the top ten most appearing brands during prime time entertainment TV. Again, free publicity given to media networks...

So the bottom line of this post is: If you're desparate for free publicity, just start a very cool social network and you're in.

Update: A nice addition is the following tweet by Belgian professional cyclist Philippe Gilbert

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