Author Archives: meetnickthomas

“Click to Skip this Blog Post” – why disruptive “in-experience” advertising hurts more than helps

We’ve all been there…

“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make”
– William Bernbach, founder, DDB Advertising Agency (for you Mad Men fans, Sterling Cooper’s main competitor)

If this is true, Mr. Bernbach, then why is it that every 3rd video I click on YouTube forces me to watch an advertisement? Why is it that, as I scroll through my Instagram feed, I see a video for a VISA card I have no intention of acquiring? How about when I click a link on espn.com, instead of the article, I get an autoplay advertisement for the latest iteration of “Paranormal Activity”?

The answer is unfortunate for those of us who appreciate high-impact, creative marketing:
In-experience advertising in it’s current state is broken. In fact, it is counterintuitive. Advertisers have failed us – instead of coming up with creative ways to capture our attention and inspire action, they have chosen to force us to consume their messaging, at the expense of our time and more importantly, our trust.

Ultimately, the goal of any advertiser is to inspire action – their ads should motivate consumers to read about, talk about, and ideally buy, their product or service. Advertisers continue to stretch their imagination when trying to structure the timing and location of their messaging for the highest possible impact. As an example, this is precisely why SuperBowl ads come at a premium. Presumably, consumers are tuning in with the intention of being sold to. It’s why the “ad inserts” in your local paper contain 3x the content during “Black Friday” week. It’s a no brainer – consumers are in their most impressionable state of mind during these times, so naturally, advertisers are there to pounce. Consumers say “sell to me during these times” and advertisers respond in kind.

However, in recent years, we have changed the way we consume information, which has resulted in a very challenging position for advertisers. The pace of this change is accelerating at an amazing rate. Consumers are spending less time in front of their TV’s, and more time on their iPads. Less time reading Home & Garden, and more time reading their customized Home & Garden page on Flipboard. Content is instantly accessible from a variety of sources, and those sources are growing every day, making it increasingly challenging for companies to ensure their advertising dollars are being maximized.

So what’s a Marketing team to do? As with any other form of industry disruption…the answer is to panic. To bombard us in our most “vulnerable” state. The in-experience advertisement is a modern day version of the 7PM “do you want to sign up for the Washington Times?” phone call that comes right as you sit down to dinner with your family.  We’re better than this, folks.

If you wish to increase the effectiveness of your marketing/advertising spend, the first thing you should do is determine how and when you will reach your target audience during a time they are most receptive to your messaging. Take a tip from one of the best “experience” companies in the world – we were brainstorming this week around this very topic, and the theme for our direction centers around one statement:

“Our outreach should be immersive – not intrusive”

The next time you think about disrupting a user or customers’ experience to force them to listen to your pitch, ask yourself one question. “If I was the user, and all I wanted to do was access this content and <company x> was blocking me from doing so instantly…would I be more or less likely to utilize their service or buy their product?”

Consumers trust us to not waste their time or money – who wants to create or enhance their relationship with a brand that devalues either one of those assets regularly? The least lucrative of all demographics – no one.

Categories: Customer Experience, Leadership, Technology | Leave a comment

What are you really good at?

Think about that for a moment – what are you REALLY good at?

Honestly, when I critique myself I normally feel I’m not really good at anything. I’m kind of good at a lot of things…but I really can’t think of one thing that I truly excel at.  My friends and family may disagree, but that’s what they are for (I love you too Mom!)

When I focus this level of critique outward vs inward, I recognize talent, but frankly, don’t feel I appreciate it enough. Misery may love company, but when I then think of peoples’ reaction to astonishing talent…all too often I think we let our own ego, competitive spirit, and general fear of overwhelming enthusiasm get in our way of sheer appreciation for one anothers’ talent. Why is it so bad to be in awe of what makes one another special and unique?

Hang with me here – this concept of the difference between good and great really hit home the other day, and reminded me of how important it is to recognize one anothers’ talents and really appreciate who we are as individuals bringing a unique perspective to every interaction.

 

Last week I was fortunate enough to have ridden with a pro driver in an SLS AMG (those of you who aren’t car-dorks, it’s a fast car) around Laguna Seca….in the rain. My jaw was literally on the floor. “Now THIS is talent” – this guy has a gift that 99.9% of the world simply doesn’t have…he controlled the car as if it was an extension of himself. What propelled us through the straights and out of turns wasn’t 600 ft/lbs of torque – it was his supreme confidence and talent.

After getting out of the car, I realized just how amazing and unique that experience was. Yes it was a blast, but more importantly, on a relationship level, this guy just shared the very essence of who he is. His talent is so overwhelming, it actually defines who he is. Very few words were exchanged (mostly “YES!” and “WHAT THE ___”) but I learned more about that guy through those 2 laps than any conversation could have produced. What did I learn?

A) Kudos to people who have the ability to look inward, identify their talent, and pursue a career in that field. The occupational dream we all really do chase is talent + happiness + career = nirvana. Many folks buck the trend of school/safe job/401k, and 10 times out of 10, they are successful because of it.

B) Lighten up a little, will ya? EVERYONE is really good at something, and more importantly, we should actively appreciate each other for it. Have you ever seen a guy throw a baseball 100mph? It looks unnatural, literally not possible. Breaking the situation down, and not just appreciating the outcome, but appreciating the person for producing the outcome is such a cool feeling. Watching that baseball hit the mit will produce a smile. Watching the pitchers’ face as he realizes what he just accomplished produces a tear.

So think about that question again…and this time be honest with yourself. I will too. What are you really good at? Next time you show it, know that someone is looking, and that someone is in awe of what makes you really special.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The iPhone 5 is the latest example of “The Apple Effect” – how do they do it?!?

New product launches are like walking on thin ice. Same goes for service providers and retailers entering new markets. You can never truly predict how the market will react. You can have the best marketing campaign in the world supported by all the statistics money can buy, and still come up short. You could gather a lineup of Obama, Michael Phelps, Justin Bieber, RG3 (!), and Oprah jumping up and down on trampolines with big signs saying “greatest product in the world”, and still people may not be so quick to engage.

Enter the iPhone 5. Apple continues to be a marquee brand that other organizations aspire to be like. Regardless of industry, people look at what Apple has accomplished in terms of Customer Loyalty and constantly ask – how can we generate that same loyalty and enthusiasm within our industry?

Check out this video – can you imagine someone walking into a Volkswagen dealership and having the same reaction to a “new car”…that it turns out they already own?

Jimmy Kimmel: What Happens when we “Introduce” the iPhone 5 to the public – with an iPhone 4s?

While Apple detractors can use this as proof that Apple products aren’t all that great and it’s all about the “mystique” associated with the product, savvy marketers watch a video like this, their jaw sinks, head shaking, asking “wow how do they do it?”

Apple has a different approach than most organizations, one focused on what should be, not what can be. Jobs’ team is famous for running through boundaries when others are frozen by them. Let’s break it down by talking about the Apple experience in the context of Who, How, and Why.

Who?

Let’s focus on their 2 most high impact organizations – Design/Development and Marketing.

Apple does not develop their products based on what people WANT. They develop them based on what people don’t know they want…yet. Here is a great quote from Jobs that summarizes:

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”

– Steve Jobs

People are inspired by innovation & change…and ultimately, that’s what any strategic marketer wants to do to grow their customer base and take market share – motivate their promoters to keep buying and promoting while activating the need to change amongst their competitors’ customers.

As great as their design team is, Marketingis where Apple really shines – some may say it’s easy when you’ve got great products, but the main thing Apple does better than everyone else? They believe in the Customer EXPERIENCE, not Customer SERVICE. What makes the people in that video so inclined to trust their emotions over their actual physical senses, when they are holding this iPhone 5 imposter? Apple has set the expectation that their brand is associated with innovation, improvement, and agility…regardless of if it actually is.

How? Apple does a better job of communicating with the consumer than nearly anyone else, in any industry. Whether it’s communicating with you via an interactive digital experience (App Store updates, iOS updates, iTunes, etc), or via an in-person experience (retail stores, call center, etc), they focus on 2 things – adding value, and measuring your experience while doing so. Just like a puppy who jumps when they hear the treat jar lid spring open, consumers jump when they are alerted to a pending Apple Experience…and they want in.

Why? Confidence. Consumers are confident that every Apple experience will meet their expectations, or exceed them. Apple builds confidence amongst consumers by constantly delivering on their promises. When they don’t – they want to hear about it. Heck, when they do, they want to hear about it. I have never seen an organization so dedicated to their engagements with consumers – if Apple could ask you every day “give me one word that describes Apple” (shout-out to BrandTags) and track that sentiment, taking into account all of the external variables (seasons/weather, market share, spend, product releases, etc) to measure the reasoning behind customers’ feedback they would. Apple has a level of respect for consumer sentiment that is unmatched in any industry. This allows them to align their delivery to their customers’ expectations, and ultimately drive consumer confidence and loyalty through the roof.

So to recap – how does Apple create a culture of loyalty so strong that anticipation, emotion, and promotion takes precedence over features and functions? Thank goodness for simplicity and flowcharts.

Disruption–>Innovation–>Commitment–>Engagement–>Experience–>Confidence–>Loyalty–>Revenue–>Profitability–>Shareholder Value–>SUCCESS

Simply put by Jobs himself:

“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply”

Nice job Apple. Like my man Aziz Ansari said, “that’s how it’s done son!”

Categories: Customer Experience, Leadership, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animal cruelty….in shelters designed to prevent animal cruelty – say what?

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We adopted this beautiful Belgian Malinois 2 years ago, her name is Terra. She has come a long way from being a frightened, nervous, anti-social dog to a generally happy, playful, warm-hearted friend. She still has room to grow (she follows me everywhere, is still very suspicious of new people, specifically men due to prior abuse) but despite this Cobain-ism from Kurt himself, she is the best pet I could ever hope for.

In my eyes, dogs (and most animals for that matter) literally can do no wrong. Like, to a fault in most peoples’ eyes. When Terra had her growing pains, I would always point back to what we did to put her in the position to make the mistake. Their bad behavior is indicative of the conditions/treatment they have been exposed to by a human sometime in their life. If a dog goes to the bathroom in the house, it’s probably because they need to get on a schedule, and the owner is responsible for that schedule, not the dog. If a dog is aggressive towards other people, there are actions you can take to socialize the dog, and getting physical or just saying “no” isn’t the answer.

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OK OK I have made my point, time to get off my soapbox, but I just came across a statistic that, honestly as an intense animal apologist, frightens me.

According to various sources on the interwebz – only 19 states have outlawed the use of gas chambers  as a means to euthanize animals. Math isn’t necessarily my strong suit (nor is torture frankly, although some passengers in my car may argue Pantera on full blast officially qualifies me), but I think I got this one – THIRTY-ONE STATES approve of the use of a terribly cruel method of performing this horrible, but unfortunately necessary at this point, practice of animal euthanasia. Not to be morbid here, but at first glance, worst case you may think “so what, I mean, they are being put to sleep, right. well…” Without going into horrible detail here, this practice is unnecessarily painful for innocent animals – it simply doesn’t have to be this way.

So while all of us can sit back and talk about how everyone should adopt dogs, I’m a firm believer in the old adage that everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think adoption isn’t for you, well, that’s unfortunate in my eyes but hey, you have your reasons, totally OK.

The harsh reality is it won’t work out for every animal put up for adoption, and this outcome is inevitable for some. In the event that euthanasia is the only option, the fact that 31 states still employ a cruel, painful method of ending these innocent animals lives is simply disgusting.

If you’re interested in doing something about it…then let’s do something about it. I know i am. I will be reaching out to our local representatives and dedicating time to fixing this at a local level one step at a time.

For more specifics on collective efforts to end this cruel practice – watch the video here from CNN. Way to go Kim Kavin for spreading awareness, thank you for the eye opener!

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why not???

You know when you come across a great quote in a book that makes you stop reading and say “wow, that was concise and hits the nail on the head!” I wanted to share one of my all-time favorites from a book that many of us consumer-experience-geeks have at arms’ length at any given time. The reason this resonates with me so much is because it addresses the very essence of human relationships, and speaks to a very positive approach you can easily refer to in every meaningful interaction, every day. From our friend Fred Reichheld at Bain:

“It always seemed to me that success in business and in life should result from your impact on the people you touch – whether you have enriched their lives or diminished them”

For whatever reason, my brain processes information chunks at a time, much in the same way I eat (slowly, enjoying bite by bite), so quotes like this that deliver a range of applicability in 10 seconds or less really put me in my place.

Yes you have to make a conscious effort. So why try to contribute positively in every interaction? Why make an effort to add to each others’ success and enjoyment as often as possible? Why break down the barriers and get to the root of what matters?

When you think about it, whether individually, or as a business…WHY NOT? Why operate any other way? The most innovative companies in the world have adopted a methodology to implement and manage this within their day to day interactions, to maintain the fundamentals of a consumer-centric culture. We as individuals can do it for free.

Speaking of which, looking at the expression on my wife’s face as I type this over a longgggg slowwww breakfast (naturally),  it looks like I’ve got some enriching to do myself. Sorry babe, off we go!!!

Categories: Customer Experience, Life | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

“Our Mission” – get it right and stick to it

Mission statements have come a long way. Remember back to your first exposure to business plans and the concept of entrepreneurship – “what does your company stand for?” The mission statement was this cold, mechanical message about delivering “value” and “the best products for ____ in the world.”

Over time, these statements often became another channel for marketing, leveraging “the mission statement” to attract consumers. Unfortunately the quality of their artificial content conveyed that intent.

Today, consumers have more access to data than ever, and we can now qualitatively evaluate the validity of these mission statements. Ultimately, organizations are losing credibility by claiming to deliver an experience that they simply aren’t backing up. We as consumers have the power to hold these organizations accountable for the experience they claim to deliver, and when they don’t….well, we feel cheated and in turn defect to the competition, or even worse become detractors.

Social media has exponentially multiplied the impact of that sentiment. When a company promises to deliver something and fails, that failure can, in seconds, be exposed to over 2.2 BILLION people worldwide with internet access.

Alternatively, when a company has a well defined mission statement that they clearly back up, it can drive customer loyalty and turn passive promoters into walking referrals. Take Philz Coffee, my favorite spot to grab a 6AM coffee & blog sessh in Palo Ato:

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Hey, they are playing Billy Idol right now while we’re having a great early morning conversation about the best single on Green Day’s “Nimrod” (Clearly Haushinka, by the way) Doesn’t get much more random, and that’s exactly how I like it. My day is off to a great start, thanks to the great culture of positivity here.

When you think about it – a mission statement should not be some long sentence filled with 12 letter words and complicated cliches. The purpose of a mission statement is for an organization to identify what they want to be, communicate that desire to employees so they uphold the intended values of the company, and communicate that to consumers so they know what to expect from their experience. “Expectations” – the most dangerous word in any B2C OR B2B transaction – for the provider, choose your words carefully; for the buyer, you have every right to demand authenticity and alignment to the expectations that were set up front.

Take a look at some of your favorite brands’ mission statements – are they upholding their end of the bargain, or have they lost their way?

Categories: Customer Experience, Leadership | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

“Don’t talk back!”

Remember when you used to hear that as a child…all…the…time. Well I did. That and “because I said so, I am the parent, you are the child, you need to do what I say!”

For our entire formally educated lives, we are rewarded for falling in line, following the rules….not being insubordinate. If you couldn’t already tell, I am a BIG fan of insubordination. Not the kind of obstinate, purposeless, stubbornly defiant insubordination that creates conflict. The productive kind. The kind that fires you up and motivates you to change something that is unnecessarily broken. If something can be improved…why shouldn’t it? Because someone says something is just the way it is…well why?

I am reading a terrific book entitled Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan and pals, which essentially breaks down how tribes, or groups of like minded people, determine the fabric of a company’s culture. Logan goes into great detail on how these tribes are created and how we as members of tribes in various stages, can inspire others to become leaders and help fundamentally improve or progress the culture of an organization.

One of the most interesting paragraphs in the book takes a look at how, throughout our lives, we are taught to stay in a box. School bus is here, get on. Bell rings, class starts. Bell rings, class is out. Your 10page essay on the cultural impact of “the Joy Luck Club” is due Thursday. 1000 words or less. Arial font only, and staple in the upper right hand corner please. WHY? Because I said so.

For many people, this doesn’t change when you enter the workforce. “that’s the way it’s always been done, it’s just the process ” – have you heard that one before?

Well Mr. Lumbergh, frankly, your process sucks as much as your giant honeycomb tie. OK, you’re right, let’s try that with a little less emotion. Yesterday’s interview with Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip, offered a much more accurate and appropriate definition of this apparently destructive “insubordination” we have been taught not only to avoid, but to prevent others from embracing:

“I have very little regard for regulations that make no sense. The fundamental trait of an entrepreneur is questioning the status quo”

(credit Bay Area News Group)

Wong is one of the youngest people to ever win venture backing when he was just 19 years old. Imagine how many times this guy must have been told he was nuts…at 19 he was asking for millions of other peoples’ dollars. This is a guy who graduated college at 18. His whole existence is the epitome of going against the grain.

Much to the chagrin of my own parents, I have often said that if we are blessed enough to have children one day, the best day of my life will be the first day I lay down the boundaries and my child looks up at me and asks me simply “why?”  I know you experienced parents out there are literally choking on your blueberry scones laughing so hard. Is it so crazy?

The chase for improvement is what fuels me. Every day I look around, as a consumer, as a son, as a husband, as a friend….how can we improve?

The answer exists somewhere out there, and if you don’t talk back….well how is the world going to embrace your great idea?

Categories: Leadership, Life, Technology | 1 Comment

Slow down!

So as I reach my 30’s, I am realizing a few things happen…first and foremost you get more comfortable with yourself, who you are, and what you can do to constantly improve. Second, you begin to realize that everyone telling you “life is short” for the last 30 years…well they are right. It’s moving quickly!!

One thing I don’t do very well is slow down. I have come to realize the importance of simply stopping what I’m doing to take a deep breath while appreciating my surroundings. My wife does this very well, but I tend to err on the side of 1000mph more often than not. Keeping consistent with the car analogy, it’s amazing how stopping along the way to your destination a few times during the trip can actually get you there faster…or in some cases ensure you get there period. Uh huh, see what I did there? Fisher Price My First Metaphor!

So from time to time I’ll take a photo that really captures the natural beauty of my surroundings at the right time and right place. I have the photographic skills of a 16 year-old blind one-armed orangutan, but lucky for me as they say even a broken clock is right twice a day. Here is the sunrise over Hana Bay, during a moment of pure, unfiltered beauty that I’ll never forget experiencing.

This particular picture, and sunrises in general, are meaningful to me, but what about you? What are some methods you utilize to slow down and enjoy the moment?

Categories: Life, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Delighting the Customer Episode 1: Filson

Identifying the most effective way to take consumers down the buying path is something every organization on the planet spends a tremendous amount of time and resources accomplishing. Every promise of growth to stakeholders/shareholders is dependent upon not just retaining current customers, but finding new ones. For any organization focused on their brand, the tremendous effort to take prospects from unaware–>aware–>interested–>purchaser–>loyal–>promoter requires a sound strategy and flawless execution. However the top .01% of  companies…the cream of the crop…they are focused on simplifying the above maturity path. They constantly ask themselves “how can we take someone from being unaware to being our biggest promoter immediately?”

Most land on the same fundamental approach that got them to where they are in the first place – go above and beyond for your customers. Succeeding in delivering a phenomenal experience requires a dedicated focus on the areas where a direct connection exists between your brand and your customer – advertising, web experience, the ordering process, store experience, and customer service. That’s a lot of areas to address – so what’s the common theme? Your people!

The people you choose to represent your brand either reinforce or take away from the principles you hope to convey. Every single person who interfaces with the customer should be trained as a problem solver. Not a rule follower and certainly not a standard call-taker. Yes, the top companies in the world actually advocate navigating around policy, and put their margins in the hands of their customer service teams. It’s not all that crazy when you think about it – if you as a company invest in anything, shouldn’t it be your customers? This is the model that wildly successful companies like Amazon and Zappos have embraced as a vehicle for growth acceleration and brand loyalty.

Every week on the blog, I’m going to do my best to point out an example of a company, team, or customer service professional who really gets it, delivering an exceptional customer experience that drives brand loyalty and accelerates the path to becoming a promoter. 

This week I am going to focus on Filson, the retailer best known for offering some of the most durable and high quality luggage and outdoor clothing on the market. To better identify with their customer-centric approach, just check out their warranty:

“We guarantee every item purchased from us. No more, no less. Your satisfaction is the sole purpose of our transaction.”

I recently visited Filson’s site to order 5 duffle bags – 1 for each of the groomsmen in my wedding. Much to my dismay, the bags were listed as “sold out” with an estimated ship date 2 months out. Ouch. A quick glimpse into my personality – I don’t accept failure well at all, in fact it just pushes me to work harder…it’s like a game. If something is impossible…well I want to make it possible. Not on a soapbox here, this can be as much of a deficiency as it is an admirable trait…just ask my wife who has to deal with my maniacally stubborn pursuits.

Anyway, I had my heart set on these bags, and I was going to find them! Lucky for me, Zak @ Filson was up to the challenge. Upon calling Filson’s customer service line, Zak informed me that they were indeed sold out for the next 2 months. He then proceeded to check their system inventory to see if any Filson retail locations had the bags in stock. According to him, what he saw in the system “didn’t add up” so he wanted to make a few calls. In the meantime, he provided me with the numbers for my local authorized retailers to call them while he was hunting. At this point, I’m loving this. I just picked up a partner! Zak and I are on a mission, we are determined to find these bags, the dynamic duo of duffle bags – Zak & Nick!

Zak and Nick preparing for battle

Side note – one thing you may be thinking – “why didnt Zak just call your local retailers himself if he’s so good?” Simple – because I didn’t want him to. Zak could hear I really wanted these bags, he was trained well to understand that I wanted to remain part of the process. Think about it – I didn’t trust the information on the website, so I called customer service. I have already established that I am the type of consumer where “just checking” isn’t enough for me, so Zak did us both a favor by taking the lead and assigning responsibilities. I put up no argument and in fact was energized by the chase.

So after my assignment resulted in all my local retailers being out of stock…I get a phone call from Zak. He’s red hot on the trail of the LAST 5 BAGS in the country. My eyes lit up…a crack of light! He found 3 in Portland, and had the store manager holding them, and was just about to walk down to the Seattle store to get his hands on what may be 2 bags hiding out in the stockroom. Fast forward an hour, I get another phone call from Zak saying he’s got all 5 bags, truly the last in the country, and will have them sent to me before the day is done.

The bags were on my doorstep less than 72 hours later. From zero to hero.

Zak probably broke 6 or 7 rules along the way, simply to make me happy. I have told this story to dozens of people since this transaction, resulting in numerous new customers for Filson. Message – go above and beyond for your customers and we will do the same – it truly works!

What’s the best part about this story for Filson? Just 6 months ago I didn’t own a single Filson product. Guess how I found out about them? A recommendation from a friend. In 6 months and over the course of 3 transactions, based on his recommendation and my experiences, I have gone from unaware–>brand promoter.

Do you want to create a customer base filled with promoters? Do you want to accelerate the pace of promoter development? Invest in your customers. We will repay you. Way to go Filson, this is how it’s done.

Categories: Customer Experience | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Should Olympic athletes have the right to traditional sponsorships?

Ari Jacoby, CEO of Solve Media, recently wrote about a topic that I am surprised, in this day and age of media and sponsorships, hasn’t been reversed yet. Why can’t Olympic athletes benefit from the same sponsorship opportunities as everyone else in the world?

First off, if you don’t know Solve Media, check their site out – they offer an extremely innovative way to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your advertising dollar, while also simplifying a common web annoyance – the randomly generated “type what you (can’t) see” Captcha”. You gotta LOVE companies built on innovation that provide a service that benefits both businesses and consumers.

So before we talk about the Olympics specifically, let’s take a look at the precedent that has already been set worldwide with regards to sponsoring athletes and teams:

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(NBA to begin allowing jersey advertisements in 2013)

So what do the above pictures have in common?

They are all athletes.

They are all (relatively speaking) highly paid athletes.

They are all highly paid athletes wearing the logo of a corporation.

So we have established that a precedent has been set, worldwide, that pre-game, in-game, and post-game sponsorship is acceptable to viewers. The public is perfectly OK with seeing corporate logos during competition.

Furthermore, the above players are free to promote any sponsor they want, regardless of the teams’ sponsorship decisions. In-game and post-game press-conference action aside, they can promote that sponsor when they want, how they want. Want to tweet “Coke Zero helped me win!” after the NBA finals? Go right ahead.

Now let’s take that concept and compare it to current Olympic policies. According to Olympic rules in London, no athlete is allowed to promote any non-official-sponsor for (roughly) the duration of the Olympics – July 18th through August 15th. Want to upload a picture of you eating a McDonalds’ salad? A-OK, they are an official sponsor. Panera? No way, they may be YOUR sponsor, but they don’t buy into the Olympics.

Sure, not a big deal for some Olympians like Michael Phelps who have a huge bankroll from post-Olympic sponsorship revenue. However the majority of these athletes are just regular people who are immensely talented, devoting a good portion of their lives to a sport they love. After the Olympics, they see a bit of local fame, then it’s back to reality. An Olympian typically makes just shy of nothing. Travel expenses are funded by private donors, and there are bonuses IF you take home a medal.

The Olympics are all about capable people seizing an opportunity, and the committee’s financial interests should not limit the extent of that opportunity. Companies should be able to invest in athletes and athletes should be able to, in turn, promote their chosen sponsor in the same appropriate way every other athlete can.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for companies like Solve who aim to improve something so simple, yet so broken. Captchas that contain strange words and distorted letters are annoying, period, and their solution eliminates that annoyance for consumers. My admiration for the company aside, Solve Media did a terrific thing by sponsoring two world-class athletes, despite the mandatory limitations that exist in their ability to actually promote the brand. They are no dummies either – this will certainly result in some positive press. For example, Forbes and others have picked up the story. Simply good business all around.

Now let’s hope Rio thinks big in 2016 by letting Olympians’ share in the same sponsorship benefits enjoyed by their peers all over the globe.

Categories: Sports, Technology | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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