Too many advertisers are too quick to hype unproven commodities

Have you seen the Under Armour TV spots featuring some of the top NFL draft picks? There’s Ohio State’s AJ Hawk running agility drills and Maryland’s Vernon Davis whipping through some sprints. Each college phenom looks like the lean, mean fighting machines they undoubtedly are.

But, here’s the problem with companies like Under Armour spotlighting these guys before they’ve ever played a minute in the NFL: the odds are good one or more of these athletes will be a big bust. For a precedent, one need not look further back in the rear-view window than the most recent Winter Olympics where advertising poster boy Bode Miller stunk up the slopes in Torino.

The NFL’s "hall of shame" is chock full of top draft college picks like Hawk and Davis who advertising agencies featured in commercials only to see them flame out on the field. Among the more prominent were Ryan Leaf, Blair Thomas and Johnny "Lam" Jones (the latter two cut particularly close to the bone since they both bombed for my beloved Jets). The all-time, high-profile top draftBrian_bosworth_1  pick flame out, though, had to have been the "Boz." Brian Bosworth was all-everything in his college days as an Oklahoma Sooner. And, the advertisers couldn’t wait to feature his bizarre crew cut or  snarling visage in an endless number of print and broadcast spots. So, what happened? The Boz bombed in the biggest way possible and was summarily drummed out of the NFL.

So, here’s hoping (but not expecting) that advertisers like Under Armour will "exercise" a little restraint in the future and at least wait for these college stars to actually prove themselves in the NFL before paying them big bucks to flex and frolic on the boob tube. In my opinion when these guys flame out, their personal reputations also take a beating because of all the incessant TV chest thumping they did "before the fall." It’s too bad the advertisers aren’t held accountable as well. Sadly, like the Energizer bunny, they’ll just keep on going and going, spotlighting one unproven jock after another.

30 thoughts on “Too many advertisers are too quick to hype unproven commodities

  1. Ok I-Man, I agree AJ Hawk is probably not the ideal subject for the point I was trying to make, but I do think it qualifies as yet another example of how we as a society can be too quick to praise heroes before they have proven themselves. The Boz and the pre-Olympic hype around Bode Miller stand out as a couple of the better examples I can remember.

  2. rep, thanks for the response. when you say we are too quick to laud heroes for short term results, that is true, but putting aj hawk in a commecial or danica patrick in a calendar is not “lauding.” if we created a national holiday called aj hawk day you would have a valid point. but creating a bobblehead doll of d’brickashaw ferguson is not going too far. as i said before, its marketing theory- if you throw enough crap at a wall, eventually something will stick.
    in terms of the pr pot shots, all i did was turn around your posts and essentially replace the word advertising with pr. in my opinion, you are taking pot shots at advertising.
    if you want to debate the issues i disagree on, lets do so…

  3. I-man, you raise a few valid points in your numerous posts. The original blog, however, was about a larger societal trend and not intended to create endless debate between you and Jimmy. In my opinion, our society is too quick to laud heroes for short-term results. This, in turn, cheapens the definition of success and sends the wrong signal to our kids. If you’d like to debate larger societal trends, rather than take pot shots at PR, let’s do so.

  4. by the way repman, maybe your next blog should be titled “Too many PR FIRMS are to quick to hype unproven commodities.” After all, hype is typically associated with PR.

  5. thanks briza. i hope the repman responds as i would love to hear him debate that point, but as i said yesterday, i don’t think he will. more likely than not, we will get a “you missed the point, go back to selling gauze” comment. some things never change…

  6. interested to hear repman’s response to farb’s last post. it’s scary to think that farb-O was on PepperCom’s (notice the big C) new business committee. how did that happen?

  7. agreed jimbo..would love to hear the repman address the points I just made. although, based on recent history, we are more than likely to hear we all missed the point…

  8. repman, to further the point, what you take issue with above (per the title) is essentially what marketeres do each and every day. they take products, services, etc., some proven, some unproven and they market them. sometimes they hit a home run and sometimes they strike out looking.
    so are you suggesting that pr firms, ad agencies, marketing companies all take a moral and ethical high road and not take on a client until they have proven results? after all, they wouldn’t want to risk their reputation or the reputation of their client, would they? maybe you could get the PR council you just came from to endorse the “No PR for 5 Years” rule and have all agencies band together to not promote a product or service until said product or service pays its proverbial dues.
    come on repman…

  9. something slipping by i-man’s mental grasp. stop the press!
    let’s wait for Rep to weigh in on his thoughts…we’re just tiring our fingers at this point.

  10. by the way, i just realized something about this blog that I would like to address to the repman. your title of “too many advertisers….unproven commodities.”
    again, you go off on the advertising industry like you have a bone to pick with them. im sorry, but i didn’t remember the last time a company came through a PR firm’s doors trying to hype one of its own great new UNPROVEN ideas or technologies and the pr firm saying “come back to us in 5 years after you prove to the world that you guys aren’t a flop.” how many iMOJO’s have come through the doors with nothing more than some guy saying they have a great technology to save the world, and all you (meaning pr firms) want to do is tell them how many technologies you have launched and how you will host a “technology day” at grand central station and viral market them like never before. i find it amazing how you try ever which way to knock the advertising world…but i got to hand it to you, this one got by me until a few minutes ago…

  11. briza- what’s the difference if they have a degree or if they are in diapers. the same way child actors make money for a talent, athletes/celebs no matter how old or young have a right in a free market society to make money if someone wants to offer it to them. if you had a kid and gerber offered you 100k to put his/her face in a print ad, are you saying that you would even think 2x for a second? you know you wouldn’t.
    rep’s original point (and we can debate who missed what point) was that advertsers shouldnt throw money at these guys and the athletes should take it. but that is simply not what society dictates. i think there are far bigger problems in this world than aj hawk doing a spot for under armour. and for rep to suggest that it will hurt his reputation is flat out comical. the day that danica patrick posing for a calendar becomes a real world issue is the day we all breathe a little easier…

  12. Davey Jones,
    Let’s not even bring college degrees into this, please. Dexter Manley played 4 years of college and had a great career. However, he couldn’t even read a playbook let alone sign a personal check.
    You’re off the mark, bub.

  13. Fellas,
    These athletes are adults who I believe have college degrees. The real problem lies with the companies using high school student-athletes that are making the jump from high school to the pros in their spots.
    As Repman would say, ‘this sort of approach is dead wrong.’ But what’s to stop a company like Nike from inking a deal with Lebron James, Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady out of high school?

  14. Jimbo, see I agree with you but when I replied to the repman about the advertisers, he told me:
    again, you’re missing my point. I’m not talking about what Under Armour has lost. I’m talking about what people like AJ Hawk may lose from apersonal image and reputation standpoint if, like the Boz, they flame out and disappear into oblivion. Read the original blog: I’d like to see Madison Avenue reward long-term performance, not the latest 15-minutes-of-fame hot shot.
    So the question is, which is it? My comments were that neither party has a rep issue and I said it was a win-win. But rep, as he does so often, said I missed the point. So when I reply directly to the point he just made, you tell me I am missing the point.
    Jimbo, I didn’t take any small part and make it the theme, I took a direct quote and replied.

  15. The RepMan said:
    “But, here’s the problem with companies like Under Armour spotlighting these guys before they’ve ever played a minute in the NFL: the odds are good one or more of these athletes will be a big bust.”
    Then, the RepMan added:
    “So, here’s hoping (but not expecting) that advertisers like Under Armour will “exercise” a little restraint in the future and at least wait for these college stars to actually prove themselves in the NFL before paying them big bucks to flex and frolic on the boob tube.”
    What point did I miss, I-man? Just because a sentence or two fits your theme nicely, doesn’t mean the entire theme of the blog can be pegged to it.
    I googled “cognitive skills” and this was the first link. Apply it to Rep’s entire blog, ok?
    “”Reading and writing rely on a specific set of cognitive skills such as attention, memory, symbolic thinking, and self-regulation. As children learn to read and write, they continue to improve these skills, making them more purposeful and deliberate. Deliberate attention is required to differentiate between letters, even if they look alike, and to isolate specific portions of a word for encoding or decoding it. Children must remember the previous words as they decode the subsequent words in a sentence. If they do not make a purposeful attempt to remember, they cannot extract what the sentence means. . . Finally, self-regulation must be in place so that children can monitor their own understanding of the print so they can abandon ineffective reading strategies and move on to more effective ones.”
    I was going to replace “children” in the above with something more fitting, but then i concluded it was the perfect term for this debate.
    LOL. Just playing…don’t police me, Andrew.

  16. By the way Jimbo, in the original blog, Steve takes issue with the advertisers but also throws in the athletes for good measure. Then in his post blog comments he says I missed the point and its the athletes that are at issue here. I disgaree that either one has a “reputation” problem and I explained why above. So instead of jsut trying to mock my posts, why don’t you discuss the issue and read the points.

  17. Jimmy- you might want to take a reading lesson before you post again. This is Steve’s comment above:
    I’m not talking about what Under Armour has lost. I’m talking about what people like AJ Hawk may lose from apersonal image and reputation standpoint if, like the Boz, they flame out and disappear into oblivion.
    So it looks to me like Steve IS talking about the rep. of the athletes. Maybe that Migrane is from the stress of not being able to read…

  18. I-man – the needles are either stuck in your viens and you’re losing blood, or you are just totally rockbrained.
    It isn’t the reputation of the athletes Steve is dissing (for lack of a better term)…it is the advertisers and their agencies.
    Sheesh…I think I just got my first migrane.

  19. James- exactly, it takes two to tango. And if a million bucks is being thrown at a 21 year old to hawk some soap, shirt or syringe, do you think for a second they will turn it down b/c it “might hurt their reputation?” That notion is so far from reality, its almost comical. Maybe the name of this blog should be the MoralManBlog.

  20. So, can’t we agree that it takes two to tango?
    One – Madison Avenue should try to avoid the flash in the pan approach. (It won’t, but we can kick them in the knees for it anyway!)
    Two – You can’t fault newly minted celebs for wanting to cash in when they can. Everyone knows that 15 minutes of fame isn’t all that much.
    Three- Rep posts smart thought-provoking blog, then I-man disagrees. I’m losing track of the days here, guys.

  21. And that is where I really disagree, namely what Hawk and Co have to lose- which is nothing! So what if they flame out- how exactly does their reputation suffer? 99% of NFLers couldn’t give two snaps about the part of their reputation you are discussing. They are concerned with 2 things- making money and playing football. If you think for a second that most of the guys think to themselves “maybe I shouldn’t take that million bucks from Poweraide b/c I might be a flop, and that would hurt my rep” you are really kidding yourself.
    Sure, it would be great if we lived in a utopia where athletes would pay their dues before getting an endorsement, and celebs would be clean cut and go to church instead of some of the places they hang out. But that is not the case- you know that and so do I. Should athletes and celbs care about their reputation? Sure. But society allows them not to and it ain’t gonna change anytime sooon. I got a funny feeling that we will be celebrating a Jets super Bowl win and a Mets world series win in the same year before you see any of this matter to AJ Hawk and Danica Patrick. And by the way, just b/c I think this is the case, doesn’t mean I believe this to be moral and correct.

  22. I’m not sure where you got GE or GM since neither were mentioned in anything pertaining to this blog but, again, you’re missing my point. I’m not talking about what Under Armour has lost. I’m talking about what people like AJ Hawk may lose from apersonal image and reputation standpoint if, like the Boz, they flame out and disappear into oblivion. Read the original blog: I’d like to see Madison Avenue reward long-term performance, not the latest 15-minutes-of-fame hot shot.

  23. Rep, what works for the GE’s and GM’s of the world is not what works for the AJ Hawks of the world. Again, you have generalized which is why I disagree with your opinion. Sure, companies like GE are in it for the long haul, but AJ Hawk has a very small window of opportunity. On the flip side, Under Armour uses Hawk as a newly minted celebrity who is popular with the fan base and won’t command a huge dollar figure. That is why this marriage is a win-win.
    And, let’s say for a second that Hawk is a flop, ala Leaf, Thomas and co., what has Under Armour lost? Do you think for a second that any consumer might not buy their product in a year b/c they had a first round bust “hawking” their product a year earlier?

  24. Actually you’ve missed the point, I-man. The original blog bemoans the “cash in today, for tomorrow we die” mentality of Madison Avenue. It isn’t about what one has done over a long career, but rather what he or she has done in the past 15 minutes that matters. As someone who is trying to instill values in my kids and takes professional pride in helping to build and nurture client reputations, this sort of approach is dead wrong.

  25. Rep-
    I was going to leave this one alone based on the original blog, but your f/u comment is one I will comment on. You have stated before and did so again today that these guys are “out to make a quick buck.” I think this is a case where you make a point by missing the point. These future NFLers, like Danica Patrick are a brand whose shelf life is not much more than the gallon of milk you bought over the weekend. That said, they NEED to make a quick buck and there is no reason they shouldn’t cash in on their celebrity status. And on the flip side, I do not claim to be a sponsorship expert, but I would venture a guess that Under Armour is paying a lot less to have AJ Hawk in a commercial then they would for Peyton Manning or the like. Based on that, using Hawk and others is a business decision that allows these companies to use newly minted celebs at bargain prices to hawk (pardon the pun) their goods. Like we used to say a PCOM- a real win-win.

  26. Yup, it is sad. That’s exactly what should be done – put these newly minted millionaires on allowances.

  27. No argument, Jimbo. But, that’s also what’s worng with society today. Everyone is out to make the quick buck. I don’t blame the kids. I think the advertisers, coaches, parents, etc., are to blame. It’s just so sad to see so many kids washed up at so early an age because they didn’t invest the time to study and learn as they were breaking high school and college records. Hopefully the washouts (who are the majority) at least have the sense to find a good financial planner so they can make whatever bucks they earned early on, stretch over a lifetime.

  28. Also, considering that the NFL should really stand for “Not For Long,” you can’t blame these kids for cashing while they’re being courted. I have a client who manages money for NFLers, and studies show that 33% leave the league in worse financial condition than when they entered. Also, most of these kids will only sign one contract, not 2 to 3 worth multiple millions.
    I realize I am not speaking for the advertiser’s side and only for the “players,” but if anyone caught any of the Boz’s movies, you would know that this guy did, in fact, have some real [sic] talent.

  29. You may be right about their pay packages. I wouldn’t know. But, I think the spots are indicative of the ADD society in which we live. My point is that there’s too much focus on the “here and now” and not enough on the athletes who have produced over a long period of time. I’d rather see these same athletes profiled after a successful rookie season in the NFL. Then, they’ll have something to back up their boasts.

  30. I would assume that these Under Armour commercials will end before the start of the season. If that’s the case, then I don’t see the problem.
    The NFL draft is like a national holiday for some. What’s wrong with a company doing commercials featuring the league’s up and coming stars and top draft picks? The company is not suggesting that these athletes will become stars. Are they?
    Repman, you can make the case that sneaker companies like Nike, Adidas, etc. are putting their brand reputations on the line when they ink kids’ fresh out of high school to lucrative endorsement deals. I don’t believe Under Armour is paying these athletes ‘big bucks’ at this point.
    I would think these athletes are simply signed-on for Under Armour’s campaign, which is limited to promotions surrounding the NFL draft and leading up to the start of the season.