Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Marketing ploy, or a job for the brand police?

During the Cleveland Cavaliers grueling series against the Washington Wizards it is no secret LeBron James was fouled – a lot. Given that he is Cleveland’s most valuable player, he is going to be given the ball more than his fellow players and thus, he will be fouled more than others.

Area Washington DC Papa John’s pizza locations felt he was taking advantage of his stardom and being a “CRYBABY” about being fouled too hard. A few locations took it upon themselves to order T-shirts with the number 23 and the word “CRYBABY” on it – complete with Papa John's logo.

In Washington, Wizard fans went nuts for this shirt on Friday night’s game 6 against the Cavaliers. Fans wore this shirt, piggy backing on the taunting the Wizards had started before the series began.

So, what’s the problem then? The corporate office of Papa John’s pizza never authorized the use of their logo on the crybaby T-shirt. The Washington Wizards are also not taking blame for the distribution of the T-shirt. Fingers are pointing to a franchise in the Washington DC area responsible for this entire mess.

The international franchise is now faced with a huge problem – thousands of upset Clevelanders. In order to rectify the situation they are offering a single item, large pizza for only 23 cents all day Thursday to the more than 40 locations in and around the Cleveland area (including the Toledo and Youngstown areas). They are also donating all proceeds to the Cavaliers Youth Fund along with $10,000 of their own money to hope salvage their reputation and beg forgiveness.

This begs the question – was this planned all along as a marketing stunt, or was this a failed use of brand police? Sure, any marketer would hear this story and laugh, such as I did. And yes, it will up the sales significantly in both regions, but what are the long term effects Papa John’s will have to endure?

There is a truth in order to protect your brand from being used inappropriately ("CRYBABY" shirts included) you need to have standards and set guidelines set forth by your company. In order to protect brand equity, these certain guidelines have to be set forth when using your company’s logo and representing your brand.

For instance, a T-shirt directly targeted at one of the most valued and respected NBA players of all time with YOUR company’s logo on it – not so smart. I can assure you if this franchise would have run this past their corporate headquarters, this T-shirt never would have made it in to the public. And, the person responsible for this idea would still have a job (I am assuming they since have been asked to leave).

If you have to stop and think, “Is this wrong?” Chances are, it is. Sure, Wizard fans will have a keepsake of one of the most controversial T-shirts in sports history, but all of Cleveland will be enjoying this marketing mistake in a large Papa John’s pizza tomorrow night, watching our Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs. I know I will.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems we are not the only PR firm to question this. Below are a few links agreeing with our idea.

1. Bad Franchisee, Good PR - Daily Franchise News

2. Hey, Cleveland! Here's how to get 23-cent pizza - The Plain Dealer