06 August, 2007

Sticking It to Barry Bonds...for Fun and Profit

So Barry Bonds hit homerun number 755 this past weekend, tying Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s career record; with it, our collective karma no doubt swirled a bit closer to the hole in the cosmic toilet bowl. But as much as I’d love to devote a post to flaming the guy, this is an ad blog, and I’m getting paid the big bucks to come up with groundbreaking, industry-relevant material. Plus, I see the potential for someone other than Mr. Bonds to benefit from it.

See, Barry breaking the record may be bad for baseball, but it could be gold for your brand.

With the exception of the friendly confines of San Fran, Bonds is generally loathed throughout the sports world. Whether it’s his personality, his apparent disregard for the integrity of the game of baseball, or the ‘roids debacle, he’s worked hard to be hated. When he breaks that record, though, a perfect storm of emotions will converge around one little, white ball. It will become the Holy Grail of baseball, a symbol of what’s right and wrong with game. From the moment the lucky fan gloves it, the possibility for an adventuresome business to build its brand (at a bargain price) begins.

Let’s talk numbers. The ball Bonds hit for his 73rd homerun of the season in 2001 (the MLB record) sold for over $500K in 2003. Nice chunk of change at the time. But as steroid allegations built up a frothy head in the court of public opinion, sentiment quickly turned. A telling indicator: Bonds’ 70th homerun ball from that season (tying the previous HR record held by Mark McGwire) recently fetched a meager $14K. Analysts predict Bonds’ 756th homerun ball could get as much as $750K, but that number could fluctuate wildly based on an assortment of variables (including whether or not he is indicted for perjury).

In the ad world, large companies don’t flinch at the prospect of doling out ¾ of a million bucks for a brand campaign. Herein lies the possibility for an edgy company to define its image on the cheap simply by making a bold move. Here’s my two-step approach to adding value to your brand with the help of Mr. Bonds.

Step One: Buy the ball. Immediately.
The mere publicity of purchasing the ball is enough to get your company on the front-page (bottom fold) of papers across the country. The sooner, the better. Don’t let the electricity surrounding the record dissipate before you make your move. Overpay if you have to.

Step Two: Do something spectacular with it.
Here’s where the fun begins. Your goal is to milk it for all its worth. There are a number of roads you can travel down, depending on the image you want to project to your consumers. Some ideas:

The Altruistic Approach: Bonds has already announced that, even if he were able to obtain the ball, he won’t give it to the Hall of Fame. To baseball purists, that’s despicable. That ball is an historical artifact and deserves to be in the one place dedicated to celebrating the history of the game. Announce that you’re donating the ball to the Hall. Fans and non-fans alike will respect the gesture. It’s a commercial world where very little is sacred, and any time a company transcends the muck and the mire of it all, it’s noteworthy.

The Interactive Approach: Give it away. Seriously. Have a contest and advertise the hell out of it. Along the same lines as the Doritos Super Bowl Ad campaign, challenge consumers to create a commercial for your product with a thematic tie-in to the ball. Let people across the country vote for their favorite commercial, and give the ball to the lucky winner. It’d be an unprecedented undertaking. Anyone can raffle off a car or a house. But it takes a special company to give away history. Added bonus: everyone who registers for the contest (or the opportunity to vote) provides useful consumer information (buying habits, contact information, demographic stats, etc.).

The Democratic Approach: Create an online poll, and let folks vote to determine what you should do with the ball. Again, consumers register for the right to vote, and in doing so, provide useful information about themselves. Give each registrant a coupon or some other incentive for participating. Perhaps trial samples of “The Clear”.

The Tie-In Approach: Connect the ball with your unique selling proposition. If you’re Fed-Ex, promote the reliability of your service by having the ball delivered all over the world (safe, sound and on time). You’re Brinks? Drop the ball in one of your fire-proof safes, stick it it in a furnace, and film the demonstration. How about Black & Decker? Use the ball to demonstrate the sharpness and precision of your new table saw. Then mail it to Barry Bonds. COD.

Ultimately, the opportunities to give your brand the unfair advantage over the competition are endless. You just have to be willing to take the chance. In his own strange way, Barry would be proud of that.

--M.M. McDermott, Senior Copywriter

EDIT: Bonds hit his 756th homerun on 7 August 2007. Four Horsemen charged the field in celebration as a horde of locusts cleaned out the concession stands.

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1 others 'fessed up:

georgeconfused August 8, 2007 at 10:18 AM  

It would be like selling your soul to the devil, but getting an awesome mail-in rebate. M&M, I love it.

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