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Friday, January 23, 2015

Soft Balls

The Super Bowl with its 100 million plus viewers is around the corner. The recent deflated football scandal from last week's conference championship game brought to light that personal brand is the ultimate selling point. Sal Paolantonio, reporter for ESPN, aka the Worldwide Leader in Sports, theorized that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, aka the best looking guy in sport and hubby of mega model Gisele Bündchen held a press conference yesterday to protect his brand. He reported that Brady was motivated to speak out of a carefully plotted plan to get back to pitching girly UGG Boots.

“Women don’t like cheaters,” said Paolantonio. “What’s the number one demographic that Tom Brady tries to sell Ugg boots to? Women. Guys are not going into the mall [and being like] ‘Let me get a pair of Uggs.’ No, guys don’t go into the mall for a pair of Uggs. Women do. This was clearly motivated because Tom Brady knows that his brand is damaged by this — not only on the football field, but what he sells off the football field.”

Moral of the story. Keep your balls firm when you're playing the branding game.

Speaking of brand, most celebrity endorsements seem rather obvious — or at least uninteresting and lacking inspiration. In the age of the second screen and on-demand information, when advertising is everywhere we look, it takes a lot more than Michael Jordan hawking his latest line of Nikes to get our attention. Advertising campaigns are at their most fun when we see something (or someone) out-of-the-box. When Wheaties recently put Madeleine Albright on the cover of their box, it prompted us to think of other unexpected brand representatives from recent (and not-so-recent) years.

Madeleine Albright

No, she was never an Olympic medalist or World Series winner, but former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is no less a champion — at least, according to Wheaties, who are attempting to redefine the term by awarding the diplomat the box-cover placement usually reserved for sports figures. And who are we to disagree? The former Representative to the United Nations has as many accomplishments in her field as star athletes have in theirs, making her as worthy of admiration as any Super Bowl MVP.

Joe Namath
Hanes Beautymist

Joe Namath was the ultimate counter-culture athlete at a time when America was questioning its identity. He grew his hair long, wore full-length fur coats on the sidelines, and famously backed up his guarantee of winning Super Bowl III. But he also had a charm and sense of humor that endeared him as a cultural icon, as he proved in this clever 1970s commercial for Hanes Beautymist pantyhose, which tricked many viewers into thinking they were admiring a woman’s legs. Sports have always been saturated with machismo, but only Broadway Joe was cool enough to pull off wearing women’s garments for millions to see.

Ron Burgundy
Dodge Durango

Okay, we’re cheating here, since Ron Burgundy is more of a fictional celebrity. But the real fun was how the Will Ferrell character touted the most basic features of the Dodge Durango, even going as far as appearing on Conan O’Brien's late-night show to call it “a terrible car.” Proving that there’s no such thing as bad advertising, the ads helped push a 59% sales increase for the Durango. Perhaps more importantly, the 70 clips produced for this campaign provided enough content to tide Ferrell’s fans over until the next Anchorman sequel.

Terry Quattro (Jeff Goldblum)
General Electric

Jeff Goldblum is also merely playing a so-called “famous person” here, but it’s too inventive to overlook. Directed by Tim and Eric, Goldblum’s "Terry Quattro" is only interested in how lighting can serve his vanity. Weird enough to be memorable and funny enough to be quotable, it’s also clever enough to use all these devices to effectively explain the advantages of General Electric’s new technology.

Tom Brady
UGG for Men

Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and is also lucky enough to have the All-American good looks many advertisers covet. But what makes him an interesting spokesman is how he compares to other athletes that are much more approachable, like fellow MVP quarterback Peyton Manning. While Manning uses his affable personality and charm to endorse everyday products aimed at more mainstream consumers, Brady has been speaking for brands like UGG and Movado. These ads aren’t clever or funny or even relatable — but they establish a vision of class and luxury befitting someone who has led his team to five Super Bowls and married a supermodel.

Penelope Cruz

From Coca-Cola to L’Oreal, Penelope Cruz has done plenty of the kind of advertising you’d expect from a popular Oscar-winning actress — so it was a surprise to see her in ads for a product usually marketed to gamers and kids. Nintendo hired Cruz to appear in commercials for the Nintendo 3DS XL in 2012, in which she loses a bet to her sister over a game of the New Super Mario Bros. 2. Her debt? She had to dress up like the iconic plumber, complete with mustache. In doing so, Cruz delivered a performance that easily beats Bob Hoskins and Captain Lou Albano as the Best Super Mario tribute ever.