Athletic-shoe companies have been using popular athletes to endorse their products and serve as advertising pitchmen for years. Traditionally these companies would stay away from controversial athletes and sign players with a clean-cut
image who could create a favorable association for the product as well as the company. Superstars such as Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, Grant Hill, and Kobe Bryant have been used by companies such as Nike, Fila, and Adidas because of their likable personalities and their image as positive role models. However, in recent years many athletic-shoe marketers have been moving away from athletes with squeaky-clean images and hiring spokespersons who are known as much for their alleged misdeeds off the court or field as for their accomplishments on it.
Among the first of the "bad-boy" pitchmen was former basketball star Charles Barkley, who appeared in a Nike commercial in the mid-90s in which he glowered at the camera and declared, "I am not a role model." Basketball star Dennis
Rodman was also able to parlay his irreverent and rebellious image into an endorsement contract with Nike, as well as a number of other companies, although his antics eventually became too much for most of these companies. The new generation of bad-boy pitchmen includes NBA stars such as Allan Iverson and Lattrell Sprewell as well as retired athletes such as baseball star Pete Rose and former Oakland Raider football players Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum.
Iverson, who came into the NBA in 1996 as a first-round draft pick, is among the best known as well as the most controversial of the new generation of endorsers. The Philadelphia 76ers star is viewed by many as the poster boy for a generation of unruly young players who many feel are damaging the image of professional sports: a rap-loving, inner-city type with too many tattoos, a closet full of gang wear, and a history of run-ins with the law and the league. Coca-Cola let a one-year deal with him lapse after he was arrested in 1997 on gun and drug charges and placed on probation. However, Iverson led the 76ers to the NBA finals in 2001 and was named the league's most valuable player, and he began changing his image into a model of courage, toughness, caring, and humility. In December 2001, Reebok signed Iverson to a lifetime contract guaranteeing him he would remain a Reebok endorser throughout his pro career. The company began developing an extensive line of Iverson's signature I-3 products as well as extensively promoting his signature shoe, the Answer, by increasing his role in print and TV ads. However, just seven months later Iverson was charged with multiple felonies after he allegedly went on a gun-wielding rampage in pursuit of his wife. Most of the charges were later dropped and Reebok has expressed unwavering support for Iverson.
Upstart basketball sneaker and apparel brand And 1 also decided to go the bad-boy route by hiring New York Knicks star Latrell Sprewell to endorse its shoes. Sprewell became one of the most vilified athletes in sports a few years ago when he choked and assaulted his Golden State Warrior's coach after becoming upset with his sarcasm during a practice. And 1 featured Sprewell in a controversial TV commercial showing a tight spot of him getting his hair braided. In the spot, Sprewell says, "People say I'm what's wrong with the sport. I say I'm a three-time NBA All-Star. I say I'm the American dream." Jay Gilbert, And 1's vice president of marketing, defended the spot by stating that it brings the company's target market closer to Latrell and the And 1 brand. He noted, "It will make a lot of people uncomfortable, but he represents the dream to the ballplayers that are our core consumers."
Urban sports brand Pony decided to go a slightly different route in using bad-boy athletes as endorsers with its "Why Not?" campaign, which addresses why three athletes have not been named to the Hall of Fame in their respective sports. The ads feature baseball legend Pete Rose, who was banned from the sport for gambling; former NFL quarterback Kenny "the Snake" Stabler; and Jack "the Assassin" Tatum, the former Oakland Raider who was known for his crushing hits while playing on the team in the 1970s, including one that paralyzed an opposing player. Rose appears in three ads featuring the question "Why isn't Pete Rose in the
Hall of Fame?" while the ad featuring Tatum in Pony attire asks, "Why is the Assassin not in the Hall of Fame?"
So what's behind the decisions by these companies to use bad-boy pitchmen? One explanation is that athletic-shoe companies are trying to reach young, trendsetting urban males who identify with the rebellious and scandalous image these athletes represent. One sports marketing expert notes that when a company attaches its brand to these anti-heroes. "it's a way of saying we're in touch with someone who is street real." Gilbert of And 1 argues that personalities like Iverson and Sprewell can slowly change society and notes that "they really force people to look at them without blinking and say, 'Can you accept this?'" Perhaps the ultimate reason companies use such spokespersons is that they help the firms sell their shoes and apparel. Iverson's shoe line has consistently been among the top two or three basketball sneakers and his 76ers jersey is the NBA's top seller. Even after his most recent arrest, sales of Reebok products continued to increase. In the current market for athletic shoes, it appears that the nice guys do finish last and it is the bad boys who are winning the endorsement game.
Sources: Rebecca Winters, "Bad-Boy Pitchmen," Time, Aug. 19, 2002, p. 18; Hilary Cassidy, "Pete Rose, Ken "Snake" Stabler Star in Pony Ads," Adweek, May 14, 2002; Stefan Fatsis, "Can Iverson Pitch to the Mainstream?" The Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2001, pp. B1, 4.
In this chapter, we analyze the major variables in the communication system: the source, the message, and the channel. We examine the characteristics of sources, how they influence reactions to promotional messages, and why one type of communicator is more effective than another. We then focus on the message itself and how structure and type of appeal influence its effectiveness. Finally, we consider how factors related to the channel or medium affect the communication process.
To develop an effective advertising and promotional campaign, a firm must select the right spokesperson to deliver a compelling message through appropriate channels or media. Source, message, and channel factors are controllable elements in the communications model. The persuasion matrix (Figure 6-1) helps marketers see how each controllable element interacts with the consumer's response process.1 The matrix has two sets of variables. Independent variables are the controllable components of the communication process, outlined in Chapter 5; dependent variables are the steps a receiver goes through in being persuaded. Marketers can choose the person or source who delivers the message, the type of message appeal used, and the channel or medium. And although they can't control the receiver, they can select their target audience. The destination variable is included because the initial message recipient may pass on information to others, such as friends or associates, through word of mouth.
Promotional planners need to know how decisions about each independent variable influence the stages of the response hierarchy so that they don't enhance one stage at the expense of another. A humorous message may gain attention but result in decreased comprehension if consumers fail to process its content. Many ads that use humor, sexual appeals, or celebrities capture consumers' attention but result in poor recall of the brand name or message. The following examples, which correspond to the numbers in Figure 6-1, illustrate decisions that can be evaluated with the persuasion matrix.
1. Receiver/comprehension: Can the receiver comprehend the ad? Marketers must know their target market to make their messages clear and understandable. A less educated person may have more difficulty interpreting a complicated message. Jargon may be unfamiliar to some receivers. The more marketers know about the target market, the more they see which words, symbols, and expressions their customers understand.
2. Channel/presentation: Which media will increase presentation? A top-rated, prime-time TV program is seen by nearly 12 million households each week. TV Guide and Reader's Digest reach nearly 12 million homes with each issue. But the important point is how well they reach the marketer's target audience. CNN's financial show Lou Dobbs Moneyline reaches only around a million viewers each weekday evening, but its audience consists mostly of upscale businesspeople who are prime prospects for expensive cars, financial services, and business-related products.
3. Message/yielding: What type of message will create favorable attitudes or feelings? Marketers generally try to create agreeable messages that lead to positive feelings toward the product or service. Humorous messages often put consumers in a good mood and evoke positive feelings that may become associated with the brand being advertised. Music adds emotion that makes consumers more receptive to the message. Many advertisers use explicit sexual appeals designed to arouse consumers
Figure 6-1 The persuasion matrix
Dependent variables: Steps in being persuaded
Independent variables: The communication components
Message Channel Receiver Destination
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Since World War II, there has been a tremendous change in the makeup and direction of kid baseball, as it is called. Adults, showing an unprecedented interest in the activity, have initiated and developed programs in thousands of towns across the United States programs that providebr wholesome recreation for millions of youngsters and are often a source of pride and joy to the community in which they exist.