No surprise, these are going to be the most social of games, and LOCOG will have its work cut out for it, staying vigilant for ambush marketing. We’ve all seen it done in less than subtle ways in the past, like the incident with Dutch beer brand Bavaria at the last World Cup, but what happens when it’s the community who’s being ambushed?
Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshire and Nike were reprimanded by the ASA recently for tweets from the footballers promoting Nike but passed off as a personal statement. Rooney’s contentious tweet said:
The link takes you straight through to Nike’s website. The brand has defended Rooney, claiming that his followers are essentially ‘opting in’ to marketing messages by choosing to follow him on Twitter. Really?
Meanwhile, in even cloudier territory, Toni & Guy landed in trouble when TOWIE star Gemma Collins tweeted about a promotion at the Lakeside salon, which could be claimed by stating her name. The hair salon claimed no formal arrangement was in place. They say it was a spur of the moment idea that came about as a result of the team offering to waive the fee, Collins being happy with her haircut and a suggestion that she might tweet about it. Hmmm. Tricky. Or is it?
Irrespective of the defence these brands make for the behaviour of their endorsers, the fact remains that followers, fans and fellow pinners are there for a reason, because they think you have something interesting to share. If that interesting thing turns out to have an agenda behind it, the personal connection is eroded – probably weakening marketing messages in the future.
The good news is that there is a quite simple solution. The IAB Social Media Council (of which Headstream is a member) has recently published guidelines about paid promotions in social media, which include recommendations for legally appropriate behaviour on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums. All the above tweeters needed to do to comply with the guidelines is insert a simple #ad into the tweet to remain transparent about their activity. Using three simple characters, everyone knows you’re commercially involved with the brand and people can choose whether to follow the link or not.
With the marketing fireball that is the Olympics just a week or two away, it’ll be interesting to see how brands and sponsored athletes manage this new problem and more importantly, how consumers respond.