Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chris Bosh and Steve Nash in the Wall Street Journal

I found this interesting article in today's WSJ about athlete's creating their own internet ads. I really like the one from Steve Nash, he looks like he's a pretty good soccer player.

Athletes' New Game: Their Own Web Ads
Low-Budget Spots Put Stars in Control of Their Marketing

January 17, 2008; Page B5

Basketball star Chris Bosh, known for his power and finesse around the basket, is trying out a new off-court move.

Mr. Bosh, with help from his girlfriend and brother, recently wrote and shot his own Web commercial. The ad, in which Mr. Bosh takes on the persona of a Texas-fried used-car salesman to ask fans to vote him into the National Basketball Association's All-Star Game, has become something of an underground hit, racking up more than 376,000 viewings on YouTube.

Steve Nash's ad

Mr. Bosh isn't the only athlete moonlighting as an adman. Steve Nash, an All Star who usually represents Nike Inc., enlisted Lola Schnabel, the daughter of artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, to shoot a self-styled Web ad for the shoemaker. The spot, "Training Day," is a pseudo-documentary look at Mr. Nash playing basketball (including dribbling while riding a skateboard), soccer and tennis in New York, his off-season home. It ends with the Nike swoosh.

Most athletes promote themselves relentlessly, and Web sites and blogs are almost de rigueur among sports stars. Messrs. Bosh and Nash go a step beyond that, effectively taking the creative reins from the professionals and selling themselves directly through their ads. At a time when user-generated content is all the rage, marketers and the athletes say it's only natural that celebrities, too, would want to exert more control, and they expect more such ads to come.

For marketers, the user-generated trend is a double-edged sword. When it works, the results can be thrilling for a company, because the promotion is cheap to produce and the message is organic. But there is always the danger that the maker of the message will go too far, creating a public-relations mess that the marketer later has to clean up.

"It can go sour," says Dean Crutchfield, senior vice president of marketing for branding firm Wolff Olins. "You can't really control a strong celebrity like an athlete."

Mr. Nash, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, says he is happy with how Nike has marketed him but felt he could come up with an ad that reflected more of his personality. There was little financial risk to Nike, since the campaign would require no ad buy. He says he got the idea from the young fans who take pictures of him with cameras and phones during his informal workouts. "There's such an appetite for the ordinary stuff I do every day," he says.

Chris Bosh's ad

Mr. Nash received little input on the shoot from Nike, which pays him about $1 million a year to promote its sneakers, although the company provided one of the two cameras and edited the piece.

Both ads were done on the cheap. In Mr. Bosh's case, the shoot took all of an hour and cost him $20 -- and $15 of that was for the cowboy hat he sported, he says.

A Nike spokesman said the company has no problems with Mr. Nash's ad and welcomes other athletes to follow in his footsteps. "If an athlete remains true to him or herself and respectful to others and the brand, then it is hard to envision a conflict," Dean Stoyer said in an email.

The ad by Mr. Bosh, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, spoofs the low-grade used-car ads he grew up watching in Dallas. "Fillin' out these ballots is as easy as cow-tippin'," Mr. Bosh, sporting a bolo tie and a fake gut created by a T-shirt stuffed into his clothes, proclaims in the ad.

"I wanted a cheap, cheesy feel to it," he says.

Mr. Bosh has one of the richer pay packages in the league. The Raptors are paying him more than $13 million this season, and he has sponsorship deals with Nike, Rogers Communications Inc., Upper Deck Co., Topps Co. and Frameworth Sports Marketing that are worth a combined seven figures, according to a person familiar with the deals. The purpose of the new ad was to drive traffic to his Web site, says Hadi Teherany, who runs the site, which includes news about Mr. Bosh and a blog, as well as T-shirts for sale.

Since the video went up in late December, Mr. Bosh's site has seen a surge in new, unique visitors, Mr. Teherany says. Mr. Bosh also saw an 86% jump in his All-Star votes in the week after his ad appeared from the week before, according to the NBA. By comparison, fellow Eastern Conference forwards LeBron James' and Kevin Garnett's respective tallies climbed 28% and 27%. (They maintain a wide lead over Mr. Bosh in overall votes.)

In part thanks to the ad, Mr. Bosh now has his own "brand channel" on YouTube, which pays him 55% of ad revenue earned there. The site says he is the only athlete with that arrangement.

How much money has Mr. Bosh made so far?

"It's not a great amount of change," Mr. Teherany says.

No comments: