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Posts Tagged ‘Lance Armstrong’

What A-Rod Should (But Probably Won’t) Do

Today in Ridiculously Overpaid Athletes Are People Too news, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is the latest beefed-up domino to fall in baseball’s ongoing steroid scandal. MLB commissioner Bud Selig decided to make an example of “Captain Rodriguez” with the longest suspension in the history of America’s Pastime.

The MLB Players Association appealed the decision on behalf of A-Rod, who is the only one of the 13 accused players to fight his suspension. Quite telling that the other 12 immediately ‘fessed up, isn’t it? The ensuing legal back-and-forth ensures that he will be able to wear a Yankees uniform for the rest of the season (which won’t last very long, considering the Bronx Bombers’ current 56-55 record).

PR to the rescue! According to The USA Today, Berk Communications President and “A-Fraud” publicist Ron Berkowitz posted a since-deleted tweet on Tuesday that read a little, shall we say, combative.

Hello Chicago!!! Lets do this!!! #fighting

—   Ron Berkowitz (@ronberk1) August 5, 2013

What was that all about? Well, in what one reporter called “an exceptional lack of self awareness,” A-Rod told the media “I’m fighting for my life,” strongly implying that Major League Baseball has it in for him. Poor guy.

So what will he do? And what should he do?

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Niche Marketing Sends Nike Sole Searching

Chances are you, or someone you know, owns a pair of shoes. Now consider there are currently about 7.078 billion people on earth. That’s how big and lucrative the shoe industry is, and for decades Nike has been at the forefront of shoe sales.

But times changed.

Nike’s original young demographic grew up and had its own kids. Spokesman Michael Jordan retired… twice. Competing brands gained influence. Technology turned the world inside out, and the public began consuming information a la carte instead of off the menu of mainstream television networks and newspapers.

Instead of being a lumpy, amorphous, loosely-defined mass of humanity, the public became a collection of niches. This may be a welcome development if you sell horse magazines or pirate-themed paper plates, but for Nike this changing reality is a big challenge. To reach customers Nike must exploit every channel from Twitter and Facebook to Youtube and traditional television, and it must do it in a way that resonates with the various sensibilities of different niches of people.

That’s hard to do.

Instead of courting famous athletes like Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong (look how well that turned out), Nike should exploit the new niche reality by going directly to its source: customers. The future of Nike’s brand shouldn’t focus on how far someone can jump from the free throw line, but on health, competition and style—the core interests of its dynamic target demographic.

Or it should go back to selling the original Air Jordans. Those are timeless.

7 Tips for Your Next Big Apology Tour

Last week brought news of disgraced general/CIA chief and potential presidential candidate David Petraeus‘s first post-scandal appearance. Petraeus used a speech before a University of Southern California dinner honoring the military to effectively begin his apology tour. We and everyone else in PR are obsessed with damage control, and we feel like Petraeus got it right. Now we’d like to take a moment to relay seven lessons from recent scandal-wracked personalities who didn’t quite get it right.

1. Make it public — but not too public: Whoever told Arnold Schwarzenegger that appearing on every interview show ever to talk about his affairs and his out-of-wedlock child while simultaneously hawking his new book was very wrong.

2. Be humble. Seriously: Jonah Lehrer didn’t get the message that being a public intellectual does not allow you to avoid taking the blame for your own failings by over-intellectualizing the whole thing and pontificating about the why and the how. “I need rules because I don’t trust myself to not be arrogant”? Come on, man.

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Victoria’s Secret Gets an Earful from Irate Parents

The public doesn’t appreciate brands that cross invisible but well-established lines in our culture, particularly in the name of greed. For example, don’t break out your storefront Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving Day. Oh, and don’t sell lingerie to girls who are still convinced they’re going to marry Justin Bieber under a rainbow.

By selling lingerie to the “tween” demographic, Victoria’s Secret has broken all sorts of unspoken public relations rules, most importantly “don’t piss off parents”. (We had a feeling this wasn’t going to go over well.) Brands attempting to court the tween demographic should remember one fact: these girls are too young to legally hold jobs, so their primary source of income (and purchasing decisions) is their parents.

Apparently Victoria’s Secret forgot this, didn’t think parents were paying attention, or honestly didn’t believe there was anything inappropriate about a tween girl and her divorced father’s new girlfriend going shopping together for something hot and spicy at the local VS.

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Nike and Tiger Woods Lose Focus in the Name of Winning

The public loves tenacity. We understand that people go through difficult times, and many of those struggles are self-inflicted. But we love a good comeback story because we believe that tough times build character.

We all fall down, and most of us get back up again. It makes us better, more compassionate people. (This is why our Dad made us play soccer even though we had asthma.)

OK, so what’s up with the new Tiger Woods and Nike ad celebrating the golf legend’s recent return to “top dog” status in his sport? It shows Tiger measuring up a putt with the tagline “Winning Takes Care of Everything” over a Nike Swoosh and the word “Victory”. Is that the lesson Tiger learned from his sex-addicted meltdown and subsequent costly — on every level — divorce? Is that what Nike learned from former sponsor and fraud Lance Armstrong?

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Court Orders Retrial as Amanda Knox Preps for Publicity Tour

Amanda Knox Waiting to be HeardWe in PR know that bad publicity almost never doubles as good publicity, but exceptions do stand out. Accused/acquitted/accused again murderer Amanda Knox, for example, got $4 million to write a book despite the fact that — according to The Daily Beast, at least — she has “already lost” in the court of public opinion and can never again “control how she is seen.” (And yes, her family did hire a PR firm to manage her image.)

Today brings news that Italy’s top court has ordered a retrial for Knox, who was acquitted and freed after serving nearly four years in prison for the murder of her roommate in Italy (but you already knew that). Our point? This new twist is just icing on the cake for a story that will continue attract millions of eyes around the world.

We’re not too familiar with the details of this case, but we know that Knox is media gold: last month Diane Sawyer scored her first official promo interview and even that announcement was big news. It’s set to air on April 30, the same day the memoir hits shelves — and everyone will be covering it, because the public loves both train wrecks and apology tours (unless they involve Lance Armstrong).

The question: if you have a client like Knox, how do you play off her notoriety while insisting that she was innocent all along?

Burger King Gets Royal PR Boost from Twitter Hacking

We’ve all heard the tired maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity (though Lance Armstrong may disagree). So it makes us feel warm and fuzzy when this adage reveals itself to be true.

When news hit that the Burger King Twitter account had been hacked, PR professionals across the globe cringed. The amount of damage inflicted on a brand via a hijacked social media platform can be immeasurable.

When hijacked, the brand is at the mercy of whoever is in control of the account and information. If the hackers decide to bring the crazy, the brand had better prepare for a long and bumpy public relations response campaign. The mere perception of not being able to secure one’s own Twitter account raises a host of questions regarding basic competencies and safeguards.

Though the breach in cyber security raises some serious concerns for Burger King, the brand didn’t just dodge a bullet on this one–it received a significant social media boost.

It’s simple, really: unlike the BET/MTV fake hacking stunt, this little incident inspired a lot of people to follow Burger King, which means the audience for its next Twitter campaign will be that much bigger. Better get ready to bring your A game, BK.

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When Should Brands Drop Celebrity Spokesmen?

Image courtesy of European Pressphoto AgencyToday brought the completely unsurprising news that Nike has suspended its contract with Olympian “Blade Runner” and accused murderer Oscar Pistorius in order to “protect the brand”. Of course, the company also dropped Lance Armstrong last month after he confessed to being a cheater and a general jerk. Other athletes, however, have fared far better even after their bad behavior created PR problems for Nike. Remember the awful Tiger Woods/James Earl Jones commercial? Remember how Nike stuck with A-Rod after he admitted to using steroids?

We also find it a little strange to note that Nike still has a very cozy relationship with its biggest spokesman, Michael Jordan, who not only admitted to being a serial adulterer but supposedly taught Tiger how to follow in his footsteps. (Both Tiger and Kobe Bryant, another famous cheater and homophobe, have new Nike campaigns on the way. Tiger’s is titled “apologies.”)

Here’s what we take from this development:

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Drug Makers Turn Doping Scandals into Good PR

Lance ArmstrongHere’s an interesting way for controversial brands to maintain or improve their reputations: take an industry’s biggest scandal and turn it into a PR win through effective advocacy and counter-messaging efforts.

We’ve heard a good bit about EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs in the past few months thanks in large part to athletes like Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorious, the Olympian double-amputee and accused murderer who apparently liked to mix his alcohol with illegal steroids. Lest we forget, these drugs primarily serve as useful medicines that can help lengthen and improve the lives of those affected by chronic conditions like anemia.

In a determined PR move, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline–two of the world’s largest drug makers–have joined the World Anti-Doping Agency in an attempt to prevent the abuse of their products and protect their names from the inevitable backlash.

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Jonah Lehrer Can’t Save His Reputation Now

Jonah LehrerAt first the Jonah Lehrer plagiarism story may feel a little too “inside the media” for its own good–but it’s a very relevant case study for anyone involved in PR and reputation management.

In short, Lehrer was a promising essayist/journalist/public speaker whose career crumbled after a few investigative writers discovered that he had not only copied and re-printed sections of his own work (which were published by different companies, thereby violating copyright laws) but also copied from other blogs and completely invented elements like quotes from Bob Dylan.

Now for the lesson in crisis comm: Lehrer’s first response to the controversy was denial. He eventually admitted to plagiarizing himself and inventing the Dylan quotes and lost his various media gigs, effectively killing his credibility. Today brings news of the first step in his rehabilitation campaign: he was hired to speak on his own misdeeds at a Knight Foundation journalism conference in Miami.

The journalists on Twitter aren’t having any of it, though.

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