Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My boys are back!

My boys are back..and on Sports Center!!

ESPN has tapped some unconventional spokespeople for its flagship SportsCenter program and its fantasy football offerings: Geico's cavemen.

The insurance-shilling Neanderthals will be spotted frequently across the cable-sports behemoth's media properties over the next year as part of a novel integration deal between Geico and ESPN that casts the cavemen as fantasy-football salesmen, as well as stars of a series of vignettes promoting the network's flagship "SportsCenter" program.

"ESPN is basically using an advertiser's icon to drive viewers to its shows," said Bill Koenigsberg, CEO of Horizon Media, Geico's longtime media agency, which crafted the deal. "It's very unusual, but for these two brands we think it's a perfect fit."

The cavemen will appear on ESPN's TV, print, digital and radio channels, functioning as a "carnival barker" to draw people to its fantasy-football offering and to "SportsCenter," said Ed Erhardt, ESPN president for customer marketing and sales.

ESPN's online fantasy-football application went free three years ago and has since become the No. 2 fantasy-football website, trailing only Yahoo Sports.

Doing the usual shtick
Mr. Erhardt said the cavemen will be doing their usual, inferiority-complex-driven shtick in their appearances for ESPN. Typically, they've taken offense at Geico's claims that signing up for a policy on it website is "so easy a caveman can do it" but as they are deployed in a number of sporting scenarios, they'll apparently find new, non-Geico sources for offense.

Geico's brand will make some appearances in the creative, which is a product of a collaboration between Arnold Worldwide, ESPN's shop, and Martin Agency, Geico's agency.

Mr. Erhardt noted that the cavemen, like ESPN, tend to use self-disparaging humor in their ads. "We both take sports seriously and ourselves not so seriously," he said.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Geico Chief Marketing Officer Ted Ward said the cost of the yearlong deal was "significant."

Latest integration play
This is the latest -- and potentially most extensive -- integration play for the cavemen. In the past, they've been seen playing a Super Bowl Sunday round of golf with CBS commentator Phil Simms and, of course, they starred in their own failed ABC sitcom.

While he wouldn't provide details, Horizon's Mr. Koenigsberg hinted that Geico might be pursuing similar integration deals on other cable networks with its other mascot, the Geico gecko. Mr. Ward wouldn't comment on that, but conceded "the lizard is always hard at work trying to drum up another deal."

Those possibilities, Mr. Ward noted, are the result of an enormous investment by the Berkshire Hathaway-owned insurer in creating personas for its icons. Geico spent a category-leading $558 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

"We're in a unique position to leverage these characters we have," said Mr. Ward. "Not many brands can do that."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Get...Train...Retain and get outside the box


Three key words all companies should have on the top of the training manuals for management team members. Your team members make your brand..Get..Train..Retain. Sounds easy right? Well not for every company. I was talking to a friend who is a HR professional last week and we were talking about how to reward team members for thinking.

-One suggestion I had was to reward/bonus team members for ideas that didn't work! She almost spit her soda up at me when I said that. Why would you reward someone for an idea that didn't work she said. Why not give them a reason to be thinking and innovating. If they have an idea that is well thought out and documented on paper and the company tries the idea and it doesn't work as expected, give them a bonus for coming up with the idea. We are working on writing the idea up as she is going to present this idea and a few others to her CEO next week.... I will keep you posted if she still has a job!

Thinking outside the box...successful companies have the culture and most unsuccessful do not...we believe her company does, does yours?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Papa John's Is 'Cropping Up' At Democratic National Convention

Papa John's Is 'Cropping Up' At Democratic National Convention

Papa John's crop circle pizza adMore than 35,000 Democratic National Convention attendees--not to mention many thousands of other people flying in and out of Denver over the next few months--will undoubtedly be jockeying to get a view out of plane windows as they near Denver International Airport (DIA).

Not in hopes of spotting presumptive presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama on the tarmac, but to get a good look at the biggest "pizza" anyone's ever likely to see.

In a promotion that even Mel Gibson could love, Papa John's commissioned a six-acre crop circle depicting a pizza topped with pepperoni and other goodies to boost awareness of its new 100% whole-wheat crust pizzas. The crop circle also includes a Papa John's pizza box in its upper right-hand corner and the words "New 100% Whole-Wheat Crust Pizza" in its lower-right corner.

"We think the crop circle is a perfect visual for communicating Papa John's use of 100% whole grains to make our new whole-wheat crust pizza," summed up Bill Van Epps, president, Papa John's USA.

The crop circle, located a mile from DIA's runways and less than 30 miles from downtown Denver, is by no means a first in the world of marketing. It was created by Stan Herd, known as the "Michelangelo of earthworks," whose many natural creations have included some other commercial crop circles. However, Papa John's believes it's the first pizza brand to get the rural mural treatment, according to PR director Trish Muldoon.

The crop circle's concept and timing vis à vis the Democratic National Convention was "part strategy, part serendipity," says Muldoon. Papa John's introduced the new crusts in May, becoming the first national pizza chain to add 100% whole-wheat crusts to its menu. As it happens, the wheat used to make the Ultragrain flour used for the crusts is grown in Colorado--making Denver's hosting of the convention a large-scale opportunity for land-branding.

Tied in with the completion of the crop circle, Papa John's offered the whole-wheat crust pizzas at a special price--$8.88, on orders made through its Web site on Thursday and today.

Papa John's reported $572.4 million in revenue for the first six months of this year--an increase of 10.7% compared to first-half 2007. Net income for the period was $16.3 million, or $0.57 per diluted share, compared to last year's $20.2 million, or $0.66 per diluted share. That included an after-tax loss of $5.5 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, from the consolidation of BIBP Commodities, Inc., a franchisee-owned cheese purchasing company.