Archive for May, 2011

Attitudes to corruption differ across the globe. Attitudes to sponsorship money do not.

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

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Just how “beautiful” is the “beautiful game” of football these days?  Is the game still beautiful when it pretty much tolerates diving and penalty baiting and requires huge amounts of cash to pacify morally questionable prima donnas? 

Most fans would probably still say “yes it is”, especially following Barcelona’s performance last week – arguably the most beautiful football team since 1970’s Brazil side.

But the current controversy around Fifa won’t go away and threatens to make even the most devout football worshipper fall slightly out of love with the game.

Sepp Blatter, Fifa’s President, is all over the news as I write.  His smoothing over of bribery allegations engulfing football’s governing body has resulted in righteous indignation throughout the British press.  The story has moved from the Sports Sections to the news and business sections as some of the biggest sponsors of football in the world raise their concerns. 

Coca-Cola has said that the current allegations are “distressing and bad for the sport”.  Adidas have commented that the negative publicity is “neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners”.

Blatter has so far been apparently nonchalant about the allegations.  The Sun comments :” … incredibly Blatter defied the storm of sleaze engulfing FIFA – insisting it all was still BEAUTIFUL in the game.”


One thing we need to remember when trying to make sense of this story is that attitudes to corruption vary from nation to nation.   The Global Integrity Report for 2010 just published (at makes the differences worldwide clear.  The report doesn’t measure corruption per se by nation but assesses good governance and anti-corruption mechanisms across the globe.  Scores vary by nation from the maximum of 100 to lows of 25 in the latest report. 

When we read with some surprise that members of Fifa member Nicholas Leoz’s entourage suggested that he’d only come to London to watch the FA Cup Final if the cup was renamed after him, we must be careful surely not to be too parochial in our perspective. 

But if attitudes to corruption vary by nation, attitudes to sponsorship dollars do not. 

Although we do not usually look to major multinational corporations to set our moral compass, in this case Fifa’s sponsors may be able to play the role of ethical global policemen.  Blatter may be able nonchalantly to bat away questions aimed at him by journalists; but he won’t be able to do the same to the people who help to fund the global game.

The image of the sport is tarnished not by the allegations against Fifa but by Fifa’s dismissal of those allegations.  It is unquestionably a useful thing for the the big global brands who are sponsors of the game to ask questions of Fifa.  It is to be hoped that they will continue to ask those questions until Fifa, like Caesar’s wife, isn’t just not caught in the act but is beyond suspicion.

Singles are the new albums; short stories are the new novels.

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Book lovers are polarised on the Kindle, ipad and e-readers generally. Some authors I know have taken a violent dislike to the concept. Partly because I think they have a love of the physicality of books which is a reason they started writing in the first place. Partly because of a fear of losing control of their content in an unprecedented way. (As if no one ever lent a book to anyone in the past.) In fact rather outrageously in retrospect, my boss once gave me one of my favourite ever marketing books to read as a photocopy rather than buy me a copy.  (I’ve bought all John’s books since then so I have made it up to him.)

 I love my Kindle. I have been recommending it madly to people ever since I got to grips with it (which took a few weeks to be fair). A brilliant Christmas present the year before last. (Thank you Mark). One reason I love it is that I can take all my favourite books with me on holiday. Another reason I love it is that if I run out of things to read at midnight I can order and get a book within 5 minutes. And in addition it is expanding my vocabulary. An inbuilt dictionary means you can look up any words you don’t know. (Latest word : Negus – see below for definition).

 It does mean that I spend even less time in real bookshops than I used to, other than to browse for books to get for the Kindle.

 As HMV agrees the sale of Waterstones to Russion billionaire Alexander Mamut, The Sunday Times have entered the story telling business with enthusiasm. In the magazine this Sunday there was short story by Hilary Mantel followed by an ad for their “fast fiction” offer. Download a short story within a minute for as little as 99p.  Are newspaper brands the new outlets for literacy once more as they were in the days of Dickens?  Will this be one of the revenue streams to help to save print ? 

 On the one hand this is a great opportunity for sampling untried authors and new fiction. On the other hand there is a possibility I suppose that it might have the same effect on the world of literature as itunes is said to have had on music – that no-one will write a whole book anymore ? 

 By the way a Negus is a 17th century name for a spicy Port and Lemon. Yum.

Google Zeitgeist – The Uninvited

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

May 15 marks the start of Google’s annual Zeitgeist event when the great and the good of the world gather at an exclusive hotel just outside Watford to hear brilliant speakers and to network.

I’ve been to the previous two events, and indeed blogged about them here. Sadly I’m not invited this year. I’ve asked why not, and been told I just didn’t make the cut this time. I wish it were possible to know what it is you need to do to get up the rankings. I imagine that there is a kind of technique to it, just as there is a skill to achieving top of the natural search rankings at

There was a flurry of activity amongst those concerned with the dark art of search engine optimisation recently when Google rolled out its new algorithm, Panda, in the UK. Old techniques for climbing the ladder no longer worked as well, and some sites dropped off a cliff in terms of rankings. There were winners too and our head of SEO Omar Kattan thinks that Panda has largely been a good thing. “The brands that have done well are those with genuinely great content” he says. (More from Omar at

Perhaps being knocked off Google’s invitation list will be good for me – look for meatier more controversial content here for instance in future. Or does Google check in on what I search for in order to establish its invitation list? Maybe my search topics aren’t prestigious enough? I’ll give looking for Ferrari dealers a try and see what happens.

Meanwhile there is clearly a gap in the market out there for prestige invitation optimisation (PIO) consultancy for people who want to make sure that they get invited to all the right conferences, weddings, prom nights, 21st birthday parties and barmitzvahs.

Zeitgeist will be a marvellous event. I couldn’t make it this year as it happens as I’ve got a two day away-day with a client but it would have been nice to have been asked.

Are you going live this summer?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The line-up for the Capital Radio Summer Time Ball has just been announced, to considerable excitement amongst some people I know. Wireless is in the diary, and we’ve got tickets too for Feis this year. (Formerly known as Fleadh I have no idea how you pronounce either, but its in Finsbury Park, handy for the 29 bus). I might see you there, or at something anyway. Attendance at live music events is on the up and up (by over a third between 2005 and 2009 according to our research team).

At Hop Farm last year the demographic of attendees was apparently very broad. We picnicked at one point near to a family who’d brought a baby and a grandma with them. Whilst this festival in particular is broad in appeal for a number of reasons, live music is by no means as demographically limited as it used to be. Like the growth in watching event TV live there is a basic human drive to participate in emotional or at least sentimental feelings together which was given an enormous outing on April 29th  (which must have seen a spike in sales of Kleenex as well as sales of champagne.)

Being associated with a live event is full of difficulty for brands. A live event gets you in front of only thousands rather than millions. It can be much more  time consuming to organise properly. Can you cut through the clutter of other sponsors? Can you be of practical use on the day ? If you try too hard it’s easy to come across as the classic disco dancing dad – thinking that you’re down with the kids when in fact you’re being mocked or being ignored. 

If you can be part of the event in the right way however you can be unforgettable. Watching an arena full of teenagers playing along with the Cadbury eyebrow advert in a Guinness World Record at the Capital Jingle Bell Ball was a moment I won’t easily forget. Or hearing them chanting Windows 7 over and over again.

The effect on the thousands that you’ve reached live could be the tipping point that’s worth all the effort it takes to get it right.