A few weeks ago, a tweet by LA Galaxy, that was promoting an autograph-signing session with Juninho, caught my attention. The picture (or poster) in the tweet featured Juninho and explained where and when the autograph-signing would take place. In addition, three corners of the poster were filled with brands other than the LA Galaxy brand (see picture to the right). In my opinion, adding this specific selection of brands to the poster is an unnecessary undertaking, even though the brands are (or might be) sponsors. The brands do not offer relevant content to the observer and – I dare to say – it can be regarded as spam in the broadest sense.
Sam Fullerton explains in Sports Marketing that ‘marketers must create sports platforms to accomplish the task of marketing through sports. This refers to efforts to integrate sports within a marketing strategy that is designed to sell nonsports products. (2010:60)’ In this case, Mr Fullerton’s approach is an obvious business practice – namely, sponsorship – that brings money to the club and a marketing platform for the sponsor, who can access LA Galaxy’s audience. Nevertheless, that does not mean that branding gives permission to spam football fans.
In his book, Building Strong Brands, David A. Aaker underlines that ‘[a] brand can also be leveraged entering another product class, not by a brand extension, but by co-branding’, and he continues explaining that ‘[o]ne form of co-branding is to become a branded ingredient in another brand’ (1996:298). In the case of this post this means that Unilever, an Anglo–Dutch multinational consumer goods company, should become an ingredient brand in the LA Galaxy experience. Instead of simply putting random products/brands from their catalogue on the poster, which need a promotion boost, Unilever should depict products that could potentially be purchased at LA Galaxy matches. Especially food and beverage brands that can instantaneously be recognised at stadium stands. This could convey a sense of ‘Unilever and LA Galaxy actually belong together’. For instance, at BSC Young Boys matches at Stade de Suisse, Swiss food brand Thomy used to have a life-size mustard tube that led the players onto the pitch. Such an action only makes sense to the marketer in me, if the mustard used in the stadium is also from Thomy. And the same applies for LA Galaxy and Unilever: Make the brand an ingredient of the other brand.
There is also the co-branding possibility to create a composite brand. That is, ‘the bundling of two brands to provide an enhanced consumer benefit or reduced cost’ (Aaker, 1996:299). In regard to the case at hand, that could be, if LA Galaxy and Unilever would create the LA Galaxy Unilever Grand Night with Juninho. Both brands would make the best use of their brand power and create a new brand standing on two strong brand pillars.
However, in this regard, I dare to make the unfunded assumption that the target audience relates to football, and therefore to LA Galaxy, and does not care much about food brands. Because of that, I suggest for Unilever to create one or multiple ingredient brands that are integrated in the LA Galaxy experience. Furthermore, brand activation is a crucial point here, which needs to be considered by Unilever’s project managers. More to that in a later post.