Sports and Free Publicity: unforeseen events lead to big-time brand exposure

With the stage set for the Pittsburgh Pirates to face the Chicago Cubs in Major League Baseball’s 2015 National League Wild Card game, tensions were running high. The division rivals, who hold the second and third-best records in baseball, respectively, were meeting in a win-or-go-home, single-game elimination format that the MLB adopted in 2012. The winner moves on to play the St. Louis Cardinals, another division nemesis, and the loser would see their playoff run and 2015 season end after just nine innings of play.

For most of the game, Cubs pitcher and Cy Young Award candidate Jake Arrieta was virtually unhittable, much as he had been for the latter portion of the regular season. By the seventh inning, Chicago had a 4-0 lead on Pittsburgh. Arrieta would come to the plate to bat in the top of the inning, and an awry pitch from Pirates reliever Tony Watson plunked the Cubs ace in the hip. Intentional or not, Arrieta took exception to the bean ball, and the teams’ benches cleared. After some light shoving and a few words exchanged, the gathering dissipated and the game resumed play.

The one casualty of the minor scuffle was Pittsburgh first baseman Sean Rodriguez, who was ejected for attempting to throw a punch at one of Chicago’s players. It was clear that Rodriguez would spend the rest of the night outside the confines of the field of play, but before he left the building, Rodriguez did something unexpected. Upon reaching the dugout, Rodriguez proceeded to take his frustration out on one of the team’s Gatorade coolers with a flurry of combination punches.

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(See video and more from the seventh inning antics here.)

The moment was caught on the game’s broadcast cameras and quickly went viral. What followed was a whirlwind of internet activity, including tweets and memes centered on the cooler’s well-being. The Gatorade brand turned into a trending topic on Twitter in a matter of hours. A Twitter account for the cooler was even created that had nearly 7,800 followers within 16 hours and currently sits at just north of 10,000 followers.

Sean Rodriguez’s outburst unintentionally got the world buzzing about Gatorade, earning the brand a free boost in publicity. Gatorade has notoriously earned this kind of exposure for decades, as the sports drink has become the center of a victory ritual across the world of sports. The Gatorade shower is universally recognized as a symbol for champions, as victorious head coaches and players are doused after winning Super Bowls, National Championships, or even Wild Card playoff games. As a result, Gatorade’s parent company, PepsiCo, has reaped the benefits of sports drink’s success and sits at 99th on the Forbes list of The World’s Biggest Public Companies as of May 2015, with a market cap of approximately $143 billion.

Gatorade showers have become predictable in high stakes sporting events, but moments like Rodriguez’s one-sided boxing match cannot be foreseen. As pointed out by PR Daily, brands involved in an internet craze aren’t always quick enough to take advantage of the free publicity. Gatorade’s social media team remained quiet on the topic, perhaps missing the marketing opportunity of engaging with users that were posting about the incident.

In the age of constant media exposure, situations like this aren’t entirely uncommon. Other companies have leveraged random marketing opportunities sports can present when their brand becomes involved in an unpredictable scenario. Earlier in the 2015 MLB season, the Washington Nationals began celebrating monumental wins by dumping Hershey’s chocolate syrup on the head of the team’s hero of the game. As the team’s newest tradition quickly gained exposure, Hershey’s took notice. Although Hershey’s and the Nationals have no official partnership, the chocolate makers capitalized on the opportunity for free exposure, shipping out 108 bottles of syrup to the team to ensure that they would have enough to last them through the season.

hershey's

In a similar scenario, Skittles was quick to jump on the opportunity to play off of the superstition of loyal Skittles-eater and Seattle Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch. As a child, Lynch’s mom would hand him the “power pellets” before youth football games to help his success on the field. The tradition followed Lynch into his professional football career. Seahawks fans toss Skittles onto the field following Lynch’s touchdowns, and even inspired a ‘Beast Burger’ served at Seahawks home games with a side of the multi-colored candy. The team’s overall success also worked in the candy brand’s favor. It was estimated by Kantar Media that the Seahawks participation in the 2014 Super Bowl was worth up to $5 million of free exposure for Skittles. Consequentially, Lynch became the first athlete to sign an endorsement deal with the company.

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The great thing about sports is that they are inherently unpredictable in nature, but the final score doesn’t tell the whole story. Things happen along the way that are televised and then publicized for the world to see by the millions of users of social media. And occasionally, brands find that they are in the middle of an unforeseen whirl of media attention that can be utilized for free exposure. If one of these golden opportunity strikes for your brand, be prepared to pounce.

Al L.

Ladies Take the Lead with Athletic Endorsements

Sportswear companies have historically used radically different approaches to market products to men and women. For men, endorsements by athletes are the most common marketing tool, featuring powerful and well-known athletes using or wearing the products. However, this method has been less popular for marketing these same products to women. Instead, sportswear companies tend to favor showing their products as used by female models, frequently sporting mantras of anonymous “girl power.” But this discrepancy is slowly fading into the past.

According to Adweek, a strong female presence in athletic advertising is on the rise. Male-centric endorsement deals are becoming less and less dominant as female athletes ascend to similar statuses of fame and fortune as their male counterparts. In the past, we have seen star male athletes, such as LeBron James, slam-dunk over $65 million through endorsement deals alone. However, with a wider fan base starting to follow women’s athletics, as exemplified by the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup’s massive audience, the new face of athletic endorsements are the women themselves.

This year, Forbes reported that Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams were the only two women to make it to the top 100 of the list of highest-paid athletes, earning $23 million and $13 million in endorsements, respectively. Williams’ most recent endorsements deals include contracts with large brands such as Gatorade and Beats by Dre.

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Aside from an increasing interest in women’s sports, the recent shift can also be attributed to advertisers’ need to please the female consumer population. Women hold most of the market’s purchasing power, making up 70-80 percent of consumer purchases.

The New York Times identified the women’s athletic apparel brand Oiselle as the frontrunner in the race to push women to the front of athletic endorsements. The 20-employee Seattle based company has become the first solely women’s sports brand to outfit a major college running program: the cross-country and track teams of Yale.

With established powerhouse sportswear brands such as Nike and lululemon pushing brightly colored leggings and patterned sports bras, Oiselle had little room to flourish in this market. Instead, they are playing smart and capitalizing on the intrinsic connection between feminism and athleticism to their target audience. By establishing a female-centric marketing strategy, brands are peeling off the flower prints and lace to reveal what truly counts: the athletes themselves.

Matt Powell, sports analyst at NPD Group, commented, “Women have always performed at a high level. But the industry has started to figure out that they’re not just celebrities and fashion icons, but athletic heroes as well.”

These newly-recognized athletic heroes will be playing first string this year with endorsement deals with brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and McDonalds. So, let’s hear it for the girls!

-Madeline S. 

Under Armour Is Playing a New Social Media Game: Leveraging Owned Media

When it comes to customer interaction for businesses, social media is the modern battleground. Social media is no longer something that brands leverage to seem trendy; it’s become an expectation and a necessity.  One company that has flourished within the boundaries of social media is Under Armour. The sports clothing and accessory company has cultivated an impressive social media presence with 535,000 Twitter followers and 1.4 million Instagram followers.

However, according to PRWeek, only nine percent of Under Armour’s revenue comes from outside of the U.S. The company wants to break into European markets, and to do so, they are considering launching their own social media platform:  an interconnected fitness network.  This move by Under Armour could potentially transform owned media, an impressive feat for a company still in its teen years.

The development of its own social media platform comes on the heels of the launch of Under Armour’s first major brand campaign, “Rule Yourself.”  This campaign helped Under Armour usurp the number two spot from Adidas, solidifying their top position in the U.S. market.

To combat their small international market share, Under Armour’s new social media platform blends social media and technology to connect users through a fitness network that monitors health.  In order to facilitate the far-reaching goals of interconnected fitness networks, Under Armour will require serious technological advancement.

Our daily lives are constantly integrated with new technologies.  What started with smartphones has spiraled into a storm of smart TVs, smart glasses and smart watches.  Under Armour wants to lead that march forward, announcing that it is working with electronics company HTC to create a new line of wearable technology.

Under Armour envisions a world where social media and smart technology intersect.  It wants to turn clothing into a new type of wearable.  The company is working towards connected clothing with embedded sensors that directly interact with the brand’s digital assets.  Soon, we may very well live in a world in which our pants tell everyone when we skipped leg day in the weight room.

Under Armour UA Record

Under Armour will no longer earn its social media presence through content.  It will own it—along with a slew of apps that have the potential to seep into every imaginable part of your life.  This will mark the first merge between social networks and fitness apps. With Under Armour’s vision, brands may soon be expected to leverage digital assets in increasingly comprehensive ways, much like they’re currently expected to have a social media presence.

There’s something to be learned from Under Armour.  Creating the latest social media phenomenon may no longer be the future of technology.  Just look at the thought patterns of Under Armour and its aggressive leveraging of earned and owned media.

Ten or 20 years down the road, when you’re having a conversation with your shirt about cholesterol, remember Under Armour.  Until then, we’ll be watching the brand’s venture into owned media as a breathing case study on the meld of social media and technology and the opportunities this presents.

-Mic F.

5 Steps for Dealing with Negative Social Media Feedback

Social media has paved the way for increased connectivity between businesses and consumers, providing customers a platform for direct interaction and engagement with companies. This has given formerly detached companies a human side, making brand loyalty stronger than ever. However, this also means that every dissatisfied or angry customer now has a voice that can be plastered on the Internet permanently. The possibility of negative social media feedback on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs can seem like a serious threat, especially since they are out of a company’s control. However, with proper execution, it can be dealt with in a way that is beneficial to everyone.

Here at Intrepid, we use a variety of methods to handle negative social media feedback. Here are five simple steps to help you plan ahead for dealing with negative posts with productive, positive responses.

  1. Be aware so you can react.

In order to respond to negative social media comments, your business needs to be aware of your company’s social media presence. The expansiveness of the Internet might make this seem like a daunting task, but it is much simpler than you think. Tools such as Google Alerts allow companies to monitor social media posts by sifting through specific terms and keywords that relate to your company and emailing you when they appear. Tools like this will help your company gain a better understanding of its reputation on social media, as well as ensure you are responding to negative comments in a timely manner – something that could make or break you.

  1. A prompt response is key.

Features such as sharing and retweeting can help a negative post pick up traction very quickly. To avoid a snowball effect, responding swiftly is crucial. On social media, this means in a few hours or less. Customers often turn to social media when they feel that their voices are not being heard anywhere else. Even a quick “We are sorry to have inconvenienced you in any way. Please DM/message us so we can address your concern.” is sufficient to buy time and make the customer feel noticed. This also takes the conversation out of the public eye while showing that your company is diligent about addressing its customers’ concerns. Ultimately, a prompt response could be the difference between retaining a customer and losing them, and even some of their followers, forever.

  1. Know the difference: customers vs. instigators.

That being said, social media gives everyone a voice. This means that companies must be able to identify between legitimate customer concerns versus an Internet troll. Usually, customers who post on social media are using it as a platform to vent to their friends and followers but would prefer to stay a customer. Simply listening, acknowledging their complaint and following up with a course of action, in some cases, is often enough to satisfy them and retain them as a customer.

Sometimes, however, people’s complaints can seem to be irrelevant or insubstantial. In these instances, responding politely with the facts is the best course of action. If a complaint really does lack merit, ignoring it is also a possibility. Remember, removing the post should always be a last resort. Deleting posts only irritates the customer and can add fuel to the fire, so this should be reserved for extreme cases such as if the post includes distasteful statements that might offend other customers.

  1. Keep a file of social media interactions.

To make sure a negative comment doesn’t spiral out of control, make sure that you document the original post and your response. Features on Facebook and blogs allow users to modify comments after they are posted, which could be problematic if they try to twist your responses or change their original complaint. Taking a screenshot of the original post and response will allow you to protect your company and will ensure your company is not blindsided or forced to look incompetent in the public eye.

  1. Saying sorry is usually the best solution.

Finally, when responding to a customer, simply apologizing can go a long way. Saying sorry can be difficult, especially when you know it is not entirely your company’s fault that something went awry. But it is still important to think of the issue from the point of view of the customer. They probably do not have the same information as you do about a snafu at the factory or a delivery problem, so it is usually most beneficial for everyone if your company takes accountability and offers compensation of some sort to fix the issue (tip: apologize publicly, but offer compensation privately so that other users don’t try to take advantage of your company). This is the easiest way to ensure that a customer remains a customer. In most cases, it also halts the potential for others to jump on the bandwagon and sharing the negative post across other social media sites.

Social media can be a tricky territory with the interactivity that comes with it, so having a game plan and understanding how to respond to aggravated customers will do a lot to benefit your company in the long run. Following these steps will guarantee social media remains a helpful tool instead of a destructive force.

-Nicole F.

4 Best Practices for Your Company’s Social Media

It’s no secret that social media has taken over the Internet waves. From thumbing through breaking news via Twitter to sharing exciting milestones on Facebook, social media has become almost as important for companies as it has for your average tech-savvy grandmother trying to keep up with her grandkids. At Intrepid, we have discovered these four tips to transform your company’s social media from fruitless to favored.

  1. Exploit the cover photo. At Intrepid, we like to utilize the cover photo as much as possible because it has endless Facebook benefits. For one, the cover photo is always public, even if your profile is set to private. But most importantly, the cover photo is, obviously, the largest visual piece of a Facebook profile. It is a perfect location to promote, captivate, entertain and grab users’ attention with aesthetically pleasing graphics or an enticing photo. Whatever your company’s preference, treat this space as your company’s free, personal billboard!
  1. Timing is everything. It’s time to use a little common sense. There are times to post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and there are times to not post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Let’s agree that 2:00 a.m. is off the table. Our research has led us to conclude that timing of posts depends on which social media outlet you choose. For example, Facebook posts should be uploaded at a different time than an Instagram photo to achieve maximum engagement. Whichever outlet your company chooses to utilize, ensure your message reaches a large audience by understanding the “hot” times to post.
  1. Images are important. People like to see, rather than read: we’re visual creatures. Whenever possible, try to attach an image to your tweet, as posts with images receive more retweets than posts without. Sometimes it is not possible to add a photo, so don’t force it. At Intrepid, we have found the best way to solve an image-less crisis, is to use quick and efficient messages with Twitter. However, whenever possible incorporating images into your posts will greatly increase activity.
  1. Interact, interact, interact. When users comment on a post, they are taking the time out of their day to do so. As a company, you should do the same. If a user comments on a recently uploaded photo, respond. A simple “thank you!” will suffice. Interacting with users is a great and easy way to create a relationship with that person. Remember: comments, retweets and shares raise a post’s weight on a news feed/timeline. Take the time to intermingle with your followers, not just for the post relevancy, but to establish a positive and long-lasting rapport.

Follow these simple suggestions to create a pristine and memorable presence for your company’s social media.

–Megan G.

Changing Media Landscape Brings a New Visual Trend

In a growing age where consumers want information fast, it’s difficult for people to find five minutes to read an entire article to find information they are looking for.  Consumers would rather spend 15 seconds viewing the same information in a graphic format. Because 95 percent of consumers prefer shorter content formats, companies are recognizing the importance of and choosing to utilize the infographic.

The infographic has been one of the chief visual content tools to watch, as it has grown in popularity in recent years. According to Unbounce, the media world has seen an 800 percent increase in Google searches for infographics in two years. That is a huge – but accurate – percentage to digest.

If you are still not convinced that infographics are a highly influential creative tool, think about this: the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. This information solidifies the idea that media consumers prefer visual content. Once media strategists discovered this statistic, the infographic was born.

When creating an infographic, however, one must be strategic. When outlining an infographic, it’s important to include the correct information, to order the content cohesively and to effectively design all elements. At Intrepid, we have found that there are a lot of elements to consider. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking to put textual content into this type of visual form:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Limit text.
  • Utilize white space.
  • Focus on the title.
  • Numbers are your friend.
  • Share, share, share.

Infographics can be produced with a number of mediums, including some free (but limited) online websites. However, these avenues do not allow much customization and requires users to follow strict templates that might take away from a brand’s creative voice.  Intrepid’s creative capabilities have helped us discover the best way to create successful and shareable infographics that are fully customizable to your wants and desires.

Want more information about how to push your visual media content to the next level? Visit our website and contact us for further information.

–Megan G.

Auto-Play Makes Facebook More Attractive to Advertisers

In 2014, Facebook introduced auto-play for videos on the news feed. As users scroll through their news feed, videos will play automatically, allowing them to instantly discover new content.  According to Facebook for Business, video views grew more than 50 percent from May through July in 2014. Since June 2014, an average of 1 billion videos has been viewed on Facebook per day.

The increase in video viewing and sharing has positioned Facebook as a competitor to YouTube as a platform for video marketing and advertising. According to Business Insider, Facebook has an average of 1.4 billion active monthly users compared to YouTube’s 1.3 billion active monthly users.

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Online video sharing grew by 33 percent in 2014 and is estimated to grow another 29 percent per year through 2017. This is the highest projected growth in any digital category. Experts believe that while Facebook is beneficial to companies who want to increase their own brand awareness, the platform is becoming increasingly useful to entities that want to advertise specific services and products.

Facebook’s decision to use a native format for video sharing on the website – unlike YouTube’s embedded video sharing format – was no mistake. According to Facebook, advertisements delivered in a native format generate an 18 percent higher purchase intent among consumers.

These are the numbers that advertisers want to see. Facebook’s video innovations are making it easier for advertisers to deliver content. Stay tuned to see if Facebook surpasses YouTube as the go-to platform for videos.

-Matt M.

Periscope: The Hot New Social Media App

Over the past few months, a new social media app called Periscope has become increasingly popular. It’s highly likely that you’ve heard of, if not used, this app. But, what is Periscope?

It’s an app that allows you to live stream video content to your followers. They can then reply with comments or send “hearts” to the streamer.

Periscope launched around the same time a similar app, Meerkat, was running a flashy social media launch. However, Periscope’s acquisition by Twitter helped the app gain traction with users and surpass Meerkat in popularity. Its connection with Twitter means that broadcasts are automatically tweeted from your linked account when they start. These videos are stored on your account and played back later.

According to The Week, Periscope had one million users within ten days of its launch. It is now widely used by everyone from journalists to politicians and brands such as J. Crew, Taco Bell, and even Kensington Palace.

Check out the Wall Street Journal’s explanation of how it works.

Periscope’s website states that their app is “the closest thing to teleportation.” They continue, “While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized that there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video.” They even suggest the app could be used to livestream protests.

In addition to being used for personal communication, Periscope can be a powerful PR tool. It encourages a great level of interaction with an audience and has the ability to give exclusive content to a niche group of strong supporters of your brand. Periscope was found to be particularly popular with the more difficult to reach millennials, according to a survey by Horizon Media.

So, how exactly can PR advisers utilize Periscope to their advantage? Because of its interactive nature, the video-streaming app is particularly useful for Q&A sessions. From livestreaming speakers at a conference to demonstrating new products to giving sneak previews of upcoming launches, MarketWired Blog suggests many ways that brands can utilize the new app. News outlets can show behind-the-scenes footage while covering an event; singers can give previews of their new songs; restaurants can give viewers a peek into their kitchens.

While it’s always hard to determine whether popularity will last, brands continue to utilize Periscope. It may not be the right fit for every company, depending on the kind of content you have available for live streaming. However, like other social media platforms, it is useful to have a working knowledge of how the app is used. Periscope seems to be the new social media tool that you need to know about.

-Nicole A.