Olympic Branding? What’s the Point

20 05 2010

Could we expect anything less from the country that brought us Poobah and Teletubbies?

Is this what Olympic branding has come down to? And what does it say that the mascots are “created” by someone who builds them out back in an old shed and who come to life by the power of magical rainbows, and who are good at copying everything they see?

Joking aside about the 2012 London Games Mascots…can we take a step back and ask ourselves: Why? Why mascots? ┬áThere have been very few good mascots in the history of sports. And by my count, most of them have gotten their praise by what they do rather than what they look like or their mystical background (i.e. an old man who retires, builds grandkids some tinker toys, and add in a rainbow and voila, the London Games mascots are born!). Take the San Diego Chicken for example:

Or the Phoenix Suns Gorilla

But outside of a select few entertaining mascots, most are questionable at best. What’s their purpose? Good mascots take attention AWAY from the game. For some sporting events, that’s good. If you’re a Houston Astros fan or a Los Angeles Clippers afficionado you’ve got to have entertainment somehow, right? But for good sporting events, what’s the point? Sure, marketers will say: It’s for branding. Good recognizable images are memorable, and memorable = good branding = good marketing.

But I have to raise the question: Why do we need to brand every Olympic games? Branding just for branding’s sake isn’t a strategy. And don’t we have the rings already anyway? The branding has been done, and frankly, I can’t imagine that any spectacular mascot is going to improve what’s already recognized as one of the most visible sporting events in the world. I mean: do we ever see anything similar in other world events? The World Cup every four years has no mascot that I know of. The worldwide economic summit in Geneva? Nope. (Though, who says economics couldn’t use a little extra fun in them?).

For once, I’d like to see a team (or Olympic Host country) just say “no” to mascots. Otherwise, it’s an ongoing joke we keep renewing every four years.

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Power to the Classroom?

27 09 2009

So, President Obama thinks kids need even MORE time in the classroom? Typical.

I think we’re all missing the point. Kids need more time with parents who are willing to teach their kids. If Obama wants to fix America’s problems, he’ll write legislation that requires parents to show their kids an iota of attention, and build a society centered on the family.

A wise man once said: No success outside the home can compensate for failure inside the home.





Surprise, Surprise

30 01 2009

AP NEWS ALERT: Exxon Mobil shatters US record for annual profit

The economy is down to a 25-year low. Layoffs are at an all time high. And somehow, Exxon Mobil is turning a profit…and not just a good profit, but its breaking ITS OWN RECORD for a US Company.

Somehow, I don’t think many of us are surprised. In fact, I don’t think any level of public affairs can change the brewing suspicion that Exxon Mobil has been pillaging our wallets. Piracy at the gas pump.





A Sign of the Times

23 01 2009

I like to find quotes that reveal, perhaps, more than what the quoted thought he or she was communicating. Here’s one that I just couldn’t ignore, from an article in Yahoo Finance about the sagging economy, and consumers’ new aversion to spending…

“People are so scared they’re starting to save.”
-Howard Davidowitz, chairman of New York-based retail consultant and investment bank Davidowitz & Associates.

I don’t know if this is more a tongue-in-cheek comment, or indictment of the American way of life.





Light at the end of the tunnel

27 10 2008

So, admittedly, it’s been I’ve been a little absent from blogging…but rest assured, it hasn’t been for naught. I have just completed my written and oral comprehensive examinations for my doctoral program, and will be defending my dissertation prospectus on December 19th. This is where the rubber hits the proverbial road for me…and I’ve been planning for my research topic for the last two years, having done several related and even pilot studies.

The topic: Integrated Public Relations

One question that keeps nagging me is how does public relations fit into an integrated environment? And by public relations, I mean much more than just the publicity-type.

Research has focused primarily on the nature of integration and marketing’s role in integration. In fact, case studies I’ve been reviewing show how public relations is used primarily as publicity, aiding marketing’s efforts to sell a product or service or build a firm’s brand or reputation. However, I think that it goes much deeper than that. PR is more than just publicity, and my aim is to build a model for public relations in an integrated communication environment.

I get the impression that there is an underlying need to explore this. As I posted earlier, I was at a conference in Slovenia three months ago that was dedicated to integrated communications. I expected a defining symposium, where, as scholars, we proposed the unified future of the integration of communications. Instead, the conference, though beneficial in its varied topics and research, had no realy unifying theme or definition of integrated communication, which is probably representative of actual practice. Integration may be a topically thrown together initiative, with each communication function vying for a role.

What we need is an understanding of public relations and integration. We need to define public relations’ role beyond publicity or promotion, and clarify what integration can and should look like in the process.

I have my own assumptions going into the project, one of which revolves around PR as relationship-building. It’s one of the few things that truly differentiates PR from Marketing. Public Relations builds relationships with distinct stakeholders or organizational publics. I think there is a real opportunity here to redefine public relations as relationship cultivation and distinguish it from marketing activities like promotion and publicity.





A Boy, His Tiger, and Qualitative Research

1 08 2008

You want the story WITHOUT animals? This question, asked by the young Pi Patel in Yann Martel’s triumph Life of Pi of two inquisitors researching into the ship-wrecked boys’ survival story featuring seven months at Sea with a Bengal Tiger is the essence of qualitative research, in my mind.

(A bit of background: I have just finished listening to Life of Pi on CD while I have concurrently been burying my head in qualitative research books taking copious notes–is there any other way to take notes?–in preparation for my comprehensive exams in September)

I have come to the conclusion that, for good or bad, a researcher will get what he or she wants in research, and Pi Patel’s loaded question of his two inquisitors at the end of Life of Pi is a perfect representation of the pitfalls of bias in research. Incredulous of Pi’s story about surviving 7 months at sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger, the inquisitors press Pi for a different story–one without animals.

I wonder how often we enter a research project–theories in hand, and solution-stamp ready to be applied, but unwilling accept an answer we have not prepared for. We talk of validity, reliability, generalizability, and any other word you can tack -ability onto, to evaluate the usefulness of a research project. But in the end, I think the accuracy–the truth–of a research project comes down to evaluating what you’re looking for, and how willing you are to be surprised. In Life of Pi, Pi rails against the inquisitors who have a problem with “hard to believe” elements of his story–explaining that it isn’t that they have a problem believing, it’s that they don’t like being surprised. You set out on a research quest(ion) and you get an answer. The answer that surprises you is the one that you hoped you wouldn’t get. The “Validity” of your research then, lies in your ability to believe. AND, how you rationalize the answer. Did ask the right questions? Could this have led to the “wrong” answer? Did you ask the right person? Could there be another explanation?

In the end, if you want the story without animals–that’s the one you’re going to get.

Note: If you have not read Life of Pi, you should. If for anything, the last 3 or so chapters are the quintessential treatise on research methodology.





What’s the difference between Fish and Chips and Violence?

24 07 2008

Apparently, one can’t be a name in New Zealand, and the other can.

Frankly, I think it’s about time we start cracking down on poor name choices. I have heard of too many people wanting to name their kid “Braxton Hicks” or some other unfortunate name…