Week 6 Mr Motivator

Video Reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVhoOtFbpGg

Today’s lecture brought yet another case study, Reebok’s campaign to promote its brand here in Singapore. I know what you are thinking: “Dude, not another case study, where is my pedantic psychobabble phantasm-level philosophical posting?”. Well, sorry to disappoint but there isn’t sufficient insight for me to discuss those at length. For now, I promise I will discuss

  1. the ethical considerations of media relations as per the propaganda model,
  2. the grey area of astroturfing and Google-Bombing,
  3. and why reactionary media relations might be a better approach than proactive ones,

in my next few posts.

Last year, Reebok attempted to boost its brand imaging by bringing a foreign celebrity into Singapore to conduct some mass-exercise events and create media coverage. Most of the facts and results can be seen on Reebok SG’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ReebokSG.

The celebrity was Derrick Evans@Mr Motivator. The short story is that Reebok brought him to conduct fun workouts, and managed to get a lot of media coverage of him, and thus created mentions of Reebok, linking it to a fun, healthy and active image. Notably, Reebok targeted the young female adult public to brand itself as a fun and attractive label.

The general strategy worked to some extent. It achieved media coverage which was rated at several times the amount Reebok had invested into the PR effort(according to Ms Tanya Wilson). However, I personally found out nothing about the campaign and to some extent I wonder if Reebok’s brand image has truly changed for the better. Or perhaps I live in a sphere where PR is rendered meaningless. But I digress, Mr Motivator was featured in a number of media outlets, including Channel News Asia’s morning news broadcast(live from the studio), several articles in tabloids, a live radio broadcast, and other miscellaneous events media like this. Reebok also leveraged heavily on its facebook page and other online presences to publicise the events and cross-referenced the mainstream media references online.

The general execution(tactics) went like this. Firstly, Reebok drew crowds to malls with offers of free goodie bags for participants at workouts at 313 Somerset and Vivocity(popular malls in Singapore) and leveraged on the success and newsworthiness of these events to create media coverage. During the appearances by Mr Motivator, mention would be given to Reebok and the final part of the strategy, a workout cum-competition for females-only at Zirca(a nightclub). Again, goodie bags were given to early birds and the contest had a prize for “Singapore’s Most Motivated Girl”, a trip to Jamaica being the top prize. Of course, this event also proved to be good publicity material. There is even an account of the Jamaican trip by the winner of the contest on Reebok SG’s facebook page. All of these point to a resounding success in the media relations department, with virtually all mainstream media channels mentioning the celebrity/event, and Reebok getting sufficient mentions.

While strictly speaking, in monetary terms, the PR campaign was a success in getting media coverage higher than the money invested in the event(and thus can be said to have met its objectives), I question whether the goal of establishing Reebok from its competitors as a robustly fun and sporty brand has been established. I think most of us forget the morning’s news by the time we watch the next morning’s news, much less a passing reference to a brand made ubiquitous by the sporting goods market being hypo-saturated in Singapore. While participants in the events would have stronger memories, I find that beyond blind greed prompting them to seek free goodie bags and competition prizes, for participants, was an image of fun and activeness really left behind? I see only calculative manipulation and a film-star cult-following surrounding Mr Evans. All of it is nice wrapped up in  a rosy package of healthy lifestyle and weight loss fun. I am inclined to say that fitness is the result of iron discipline and a dedication that overcomes all preferences for non-fitness activities. Fun is but a by-product of meeting your objectives, good to have but not truly necessary.

Allow me to conduct a straw poll by asking of you: do you remember what was on yesterday’s morning news? Or in one of the inside pages of yesterday’s papers? Or what was playing on the radio as you travelled to work yesterday? If you can, then perhaps you can find this PR campaign a success. But for me, I see nothing noteworthy, nothing that changed Reebok’s already decent image. If anything, I have come to dismiss media relations even more than before.

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