Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Power Behind Brand Placement

Monday night while watching The Bruins game:
Me: Fun fact, the ad agency we work with helped name the TD Banknorth Garden.
Friend: Really? People think about that… I just thought they wanted to keep “Garden” in the name.

* * *

Clearly the Cleveland Jersey didn't know his place...

Now for all of us brand folk we might take this comment and laugh. Of course, silly, everything has been thought about: the logos on the ice, how large they are, what they look like from the first row, the last row and TV. How the logos face the fans as they look at the benches – or at the direction in which the game is most often filmed, making them legible from TV.

Everything you see has been thought about.

The details of the players' jerseys, what size the number is on the back compared to the last name and what consistent colors fit into the crafted brand color palette (all which will be included in marketing materials, signage and merchandise). Who will tweet every second of the match and in what context they should refer to certain plays like penalities, what player will stay for the media conference, what hat they wear and what sports drink sits in front of them on a table… planned, planned and planned.

If you’re seeing something at a sports game – live or on TV - it’s because you were meant to see it.

Advertisers are trying to give you a message about their brand. It’s cool. It’s fun, It’s what athlete’s drink so you should drink it too. No, you’re not going to see those exact words on the ice, thank God. But advertisers hope you can subconsciously make the connection for yourself. And if you can’t, don’t worry, there will be a commercial with lots of trained “lifeguards” in bikinis telling you to drink Miller Light – which I’m sure every kid under 10 watching hockey with his Dad is happy to see. 

Side note: Because I’m not the target market for this ad, which is most likely males from ages 21-35 and/or a college students, I thought this was a Bud Light commercial until I looked it up on YouTube. Proving that the brand didn’t stick with me – I only knew it was a beer commercial.

So why is all of this important? Because brand placement is important and you, as a member of society, have messages that reach you daily. And because there is a level to which one has to understand that everything is a business – even sports. Think about it, really good athletes get paid a really good salary because the value to their team surpasses their physical ability. They now are part of the team brand. They talk on behalf of the team, do community work, offer their name on a back of a jersey so the multitude of fans that love them can wear it to the game. 

I’m not saying go home and tell your eight year old son there’s no magic to professional sports. I actually love watching professional sports. I’m just saying be aware that if you see a McDonald’s goal came next to a Gatorade water bottle followed up by puck dropped just left of a Chipolte logo, you were meant to see it.

Everything you see has been thought about. Not only in sports, but also at a place like the grocery store. A place where us vegans visit quite frequently. Look around next time you’re in the grocery store. What items are eye-level as you walk through every aisle? Which items are clumped together? Do you spend most of your time in the health food section? If so, why is Newman’s Own Organic products eye level compared to others, maybe smaller companies? Why are Gatorade gel training snacks next to Larabar’s? My guess would be money. Some companies may have better ethics than others, but food is still a business and placement is important.

Look at the packaging. Why do you think Lunchables are bright yellow? To attract kids. Why does Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer recyclable bags with their on name it? To build their brand and help save the Earth as you walk down the street with your 365 paper towls.

I think as a society we just need to be aware of the level to which our lives are branded. Be skeptical, ask yourself why you’re seeing advertising in your environment and what interest a company would have in advertising to you as a consumer. If you see your favorite player wear a hat to a press conference, will you be more likely to buy that hat? If you see a name, or a logo, or a brand sponsor something, it’s probably because it aligns with their initiatives from a business or community standpoint.

Brand placement is important and how you view branding as a consumer can help to make you more educated about the intentions of great brands and great companies.


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