Tag: sponsorship

Never underestimate real talent

I’m somewhat ashamed to say that following the London Olympics in 2012 I was relieved to turn my TV back to my normal viewing and didn’t give a second thought to the Paralympics. It wasn’t that I didn’t care as such, or that I didn’t think the talents of these athletes needed support, it was just that it didn’t really register with me.

This year, however, is a totally different situation and much of it, I believe, is down to The Last Leg and Claire Balding. I make no secret of the fact that I love The Last Leg, it is one of few programmes that can effectively debate really serious global issues with humour, and Claire Blading is a great example of a presenter that manages to be both professional and personable while having an edge.

I also commend Claire for providing some continuity as she chose to go from presenting the Olympic Games to the Paralympic Games despite the channel change – I’m sure a pay cheque was involved along the way, but it has given further credibility to the coverage none-the-less.

Thanks to the way in which Channel 4 have taken the Paralympics, added some personality and made it a ‘must watch’, for the first time that I can remember people are discussing how many medals we have won and sharing details of the athletes that are competing each day.

Jonny Vegas may not have been an obvious choice where athletics and elite sportsmen and women are concerned but he’s added a comedy to the Games that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. Nominated to get the crowds going, he has shown his stomach painted as a Union Jack, handed out shower caps and screamed with delight throughout each event.

What better way to champion our Paralympic athletes than by celebrating in the only way he knows how – with real gusto! Like a true Brit on tour, he’s had people chanting, singing and dancing and it hasn’t always been in support of England with him cheering on Jamaica despite them turning in a less than medal winning performance.

And perhaps that’s part of the appeal. The Paralympic Games aren’t taking themselves too seriously. It’s not that the athletes don’t deserve the commendation or the support they have received – quite the opposite in fact – but what has become apparent is that these sportsmen and women have personalities and they are ‘real people’ beyond their chosen events.

Like any athletes they have dedicated their lives to training, they are elite, they are the best, they are of a gold winning standard but they are also husbands, wives, sons, daughters, dads, mothers and friends.

I would like to think that what Channel 4 have successfully done is two-fold; they have raised the profile of the Paralympic Games to a mass market, allowing people to feel involved and showcasing how inclusive it can be – something that I feel has previously been notable in its absence – and they have created opportunities for these athletes to secure sponsorship from brands, an essential consideration for their future careers.

For once, I can see Paralympic athletes being just as appealing to brands as Olympians and rightly so. If you work hard to become the best and you dedicate your life to taking part in a tournament that will see you represent your country you deserve something back.

So, which brands will be the first to take to the podium and to give something back to these amazing individuals? Who knows, we might even have a sports personality of the year within the Paralympic Team GB. Let’s be honest, much stranger things have happened.

More than just a PR agency

We often say to the businesses that we meet that we are more than just a PR agency but this can be difficult to substantiate. It doesn’t mean that we are professing to be a full service agency – we aren’t – we are specialists in PR but we also make recommendations that we feel will add value to the brands we work with even if this falls outside of our typical remit.

Ok, so again, what does that mean? Well, as an example, last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of spending an evening with 192 seriously ill and disabled children. As the PR agency for POM-BEAR we were contacted by the team from Dreamflight, a charity that takes poorly children on the trip of a lifetime.

At a cost of almost £750,000, the team fundraise throughout the year before chartering a Boeing 747, which then takes the children all aged between 8 and 14, along with a team of volunteers and medical experts, to Orlando in Florida.

Initially the team were just requesting snacks, and as an agency that deals with many food clients we are used to these calls. We always make a judgement and put forward our recommendations to the client to provide a rationale for offering free products. In this instance, it seemed to make perfect sense – it was a party setting and as POM-BEAR are gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and have no artificial flavours or colours it was a treat that many of the children could enjoy.

In addition to offering snacks we also suggested that POM-BEAR make an extra special guest appearance to add some more magic to the pre-flight party, which took place at the Renaissance Hotel in Heathrow. So that’s what we did. From 6pm – 9pm POM-BEAR danced, ‘high fived’ and hugged as many children as he was able to. It was a little warm for him at times but he certainly got into the spirit and was even handed a glow stick by one of the children – an honour in deed.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous before joining the team at Dreamflight. I was concerned that I may get upset, on the basis that the children are seriously ill and disabled, but the look on their faces said it all – they were absolutely delighted to meet with POM-BEAR and to have him come along and join in at their party, and who was I to start blubbing – they certainly weren’t.

It was a fantastic event and I can’t reiterate enough how much work and effort clearly goes into this event. As a PR agency we do provide recommendations on sponsorship, brand buddying and product donation and this is one activity that I would happily be involved with again and again.

The children have now set off on their once in a lifetime trip to America and I hope that they have an absolutely fantastic time – each and every one of them truly deserves it.

PR stands for Press Release

When you work in PR (public relations) there are some days when you wonder what your job description may look like if you were to write down everything you were asked to do. This is no bad thing you understand, as the huge variety of tasks certainly helps to keep things interesting, while raising a few exciting challenges along the way.

This is perhaps why I find it so frustrating when people tell me that they can ‘do PR’ because they have written a press release or had something printed in a newspaper. The purpose of appointing a PR agency shouldn’t be to just write copy – that’s what copy writers are there for and the clue is in the title.

A PR agency is there to manage a brands reputation, to identify opportunities that will extend the messaging of a campaign to take it to a totally new level, or to come up with creative recommendations that will deliver a stunt that will capture the attention of the media, while also educating consumers about what that particular product or brand has to offer.

There’s also the corporate side of things, when an agency may be appointed to manage a stakeholder or internal communications campaign, ensuring that a message is clear and concise, using the right tone of voice and being disseminated in the right way, to the right audience.

Sponsorship often falls under the remit of a PR agency, along with third party associations and event management. Although you may find that copy is required to support these activities, it isn’t the sum of the process and everything from launching to making sure the brand gets the most from an association – which often includes sampling – can be included along the way.

Really the job of a PR has no defined start or finish, as long as you are managing and supporting the reputation of a brand and business, focusing on how it chooses to communicate and engage with its target audiences, then it kind of falls in to our remit.

As we have said in the past there is no point in trying to be all things to all people and that isn’t what I’m suggesting – there are times when we work with other specialist agencies to deliver integrated briefs and this is when you can take one concept or theme and really push it to make as much noise across as many mediums as possible.

At the moment we are working on so many different things that when Friday comes around I feel like my head is spinning with ideas and variations on the campaigns and proposals that we are working on for clients both in business to business and consumer markets.

PR is creative, expressive, exciting and demanding and writing is just one element of what we do on a daily basis to manage the reputation of the brands and businesses we work with. So next time you hear someone say that they can ‘do PR’ because they can draft a press release, please pass on my advice, they can’t! If you think that PR is all about writing a press release then it’s time to take a long hard look at your future career in the business because it won’t last long.


Does celebrity endorsement really add value to a brand?

Having worked in PR for more years than I care to remember, I have had the chance to work with a number of celebrities who have supported clients with the launch of new products and services – I think my claim to fame has to be having the mobile number for Mr Motivator at one point!

Now there is no doubt that with celebrities come press coverage but when does the battle to land column inches or secure air time discredit a brand rather than adding value?

It was when watching the TV last week that I noticed Myleene Klass is now working for Littlewoods… erm, I thought she was one of the many celebrity faces of M&S? It is examples like this that make me question the value of celebrity associations.

In contrast, you could argue that Gary Lineker is synonymous with Walkers and that the brand gets great value from the long running relationship but perhaps that’s the key; when choosing a celebrity you have to know that they are going to be a genuine brand ambassador and not just show up, smile and leave never to mention your product again.

As far as I am concerned you have to choose very wisely when you are considering which celebrities to work with. You don’t have to look far to find some horror stories about sponsorships and endorsements that have led to brands pulling the plug and quickly disassociating themselves because one celebrity or another has been caught doing or saying something they shouldn’t.

Then there are the celebrities who will go to the opening of an envelope. They mean well and support several brands with the launch of anything from baby products to trainers, food supplements to charities. I can never really see the point in using someone who has no affinity with the brand that you are trying to promote, so this is something that I think needs a great deal of thought. It isn’t good enough to simply look for the latest King / Queen of the Jungle (groan!) or someone who will sit within the limited budgets that you have.

Perhaps times have changed but I think the value of a celebrity needs to be considered longer term. What will the benefit be to the brand once the photocall is over and how will that association build over time?

The strongest associations are those which develop organically but you cannot always rely on the fact that a celebrity will tweet about a product because they genuinely love it. Unfortunately when well-known faces are being paid to tweet about products it becomes all the more difficult to identify what is real and what is forced.

So, to conclude, for all those brands who are considering celebrity endorsement, I would advise that you think beyond the photocall or the product launch and think more about how longer term you will get continued value from the association. The most important question is to decide if you want a genuine brand ambassador or just ‘hired help’ for the half day you’ve budgeted into your campaign.