As a long-suffering Mets fan, I know quite a bit about losing. So, as you might expect, I was fascinated to read the savage attacks on the perennial winning, cross-town rival New York Yankees in the wake of their total collapse against the lowly Detroit Tigers in the recent ALCS.
I won't repeat what's already been said, but the sportswriters seemed to save the most poisonous invective for Alex Rodriguez (or, A-Rod, if you prefer). The once heavily muscled, steroid-injecting superstar was benched for most of the series while still drawing every penny of his $29m annual salary.
Just about everyone is blaming A-Rod, and his fellow overpaid, underachievers for the Yankees' failure. In fact, a quick review of the past 10-years shows that, despite boasting the highest payroll in the Major Leagues, the Bronx Bombers have only won one title. That's a worse ROI than Bernie Madoff's investors realized.
PR has its own version of the Yankees. They're the world's self-proclaimed largest PR firm in the world. And, they routinely hire free agent superstars who are my industry's version of Number 13.
Typically, a PR version of A-Rod is either a former White House Communications director, chief communications officer of a Fortune 10 corporation or head of the Environmental Protection Agency during President Reagan's second term.
In exchange for being paid ungodly salaries, the PR A-Rod bring three things to the plate:
– Access (she's on a first name basis with Barack, W, H.W., Rummy, Al, Hillary, and other A-level players).
– A gold-plated Rolodex (our A-Rod not only chills with Bill, he also has Jeff Immelt, Jamie Dimon and other corporate gods on his speed dials).
– Gravitas. When the world's biggest firm trots in two or three of these living legends to a new business pitch, the collective jaw-dropping among the prospect's decision-making team is truly awe-inspiring.
There's only one problem with paying top dollars for superstars in baseball and in PR: they immediately raise unrealistic expectations. So, when they inevitably crash and burn (as many do), it's big news.
That's why I just love to see my peer group (i.e. Coyne, Taylor, CRT/Tanaka, etc.) either beat our industry's Yankees in a new business pitch or, as is more likely the case, simply inherit their big name account because the client is SO disappointed with Team A-Rod's performance.
It's interesting that the team with the best record in the American League is seen as a failure. Indeed, most pundits say they need to completely reconfigure the team. All of which prompts my question of the day:
Why do sportswriters cover ALL of the ups and downs of the guys in pinstripes while our trade press seems content with merely re-purposing the positive news being disseminated by our George Steinbrenner?
I'd go on, but we're looking to land a few financial services sector A-Rod's for Peppercomm (and you would not believe the size of the signing bonus these guys are demanding!)