Campaign UK - - NEWS - Jeremy Bull­more wel­comes ques­tions via cam­paign@ hay­mar­ket.com or by tweet­ing @Cam­paign­mag with the hash­tag #Askbull­more

Q I am a mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor of a sports brand that has her­itage in spon­sor­ship of a col­li­sion-heavy sport. I am con­cerned about the im­pact of col­li­sion on the ath­letes we spon­sor and have had no re­as­sur­ances from gov­ern­ing bod­ies. Our spon­sor­ship is com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful. Should I pull? It’s no sur­prise that the gov­ern­ing bod­ies have been un­able to re­as­sure you. The only sur­prise is that you thought they might. All col­li­sion­heavy sports will leave some par­tic­i­pat­ing ath­letes per­ma­nently im­paired. It’s sel­domly ad­mit­ted but this, in part, is what makes col­li­sion­heavy sports pop­u­lar. If For­mula One cars never crashed, and were known never to crash, For­mula One rac­ing would lose much of its at­trac­tion.

So you face the prob­a­bil­ity, maybe even the cer­tainty, that one or more of the ath­letes you spon­sor will sus­tain se­ri­ous phys­i­cal in­jury. You now have to be ex­tremely clear-headed about a re­al­ity you’d rather not face. You say you’re con­cerned – but what are you con­cerned about? Are you con­cerned for the ath­letes you spon­sor? Or are you more con­cerned for the col­lat­eral dam­age your brand might suf­fer?

If it’s your brand – and only your brand – then you can sleep easy. The harsh truth is this. Your brand owes its rep­u­ta­tion to its close as­so­ci­a­tion with a manly sport. When those who play that sport are badly in­jured, it’s just fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion of its man­li­ness. It’s the play­ers who run the risk; not the spon­sors.

Red Bull does it all the time.

Ten mil­lion peo­ple were watch­ing live when Red Bull paid Felix Baum­gart­ner to jump out of his bal­loon at a height of 24 miles above the Earth. Surely this could have been one of the great­est PR dis­as­ters of all time? In fact, chill­ingly, Red Bull was run­ning no risk and show­ing no courage. Had Baum­gart­ner per­ished while the world looked on, Red Bull’s rep­u­ta­tion for spon­sor­ing scary, haz­ardous, manly events would only have been height­ened. The risk was all Baum­gart­ner’s.

So you, as mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, can feel at ease. You’re not be­hav­ing ir­re­spon­si­bly. Your brand is not vul­ner­a­ble.

But you as hu­man be­ing? There’s no es­cap­ing the fact that your com­pany, through fi­nan­cial in­duce­ment, is en­cour­ag­ing healthy young adults to en­dan­ger them­selves.

You can prob­a­bly take com­fort from the knowl­edge that, even if you weren’t pay­ing them, they’d choose to do it any­way. Q

I head up a sig­nif­i­cant brand at a ma­jor media agency and my chief ex­ec­u­tive just wrote a think piece for a trade pub­li­ca­tion about how the in­dus­try should bet­ter flex to re­tain fe­male tal­ent. I am about to re­turn from ma­ter­nity leave and my line man­ager has re­fused my re­quest for a four-day week. How should I pro­ceed? I ex­pect you’ve al­ready ar­ranged for your chief ex­ec­u­tive’s think piece to be left ca­su­ally open on your line man­ager’s desk?

Af­ter that, I sug­gest sweet rea­son. Avoid in­dig­na­tion and out­rage. Keep your baby-min­der out of it. Don’t even hint that you might have right on your side. In­stead, start by recog­nis­ing the in­con­ve­nience that your four-day week would cause oth­ers. (It will. They al­ways do. It’s no­body’s fault but it’s in­sult­ing to pre­tend oth­er­wise.) Itemise those in­con­ve­niences, never brush­ing them aside – and show how you plan to neu­tralise them. I’m not in any way sug­gest­ing apol­ogy: just imag­i­na­tive thought­ful­ness. Fi­nally, give pass­ing credit to your CEO for hav­ing so pub­licly paved the way.

If that doesn’t do it, send for re­in­force­ments. Q

I was re­cently pro­moted to a new board-level role and I have hired a great mar­keter to re­place me. How­ever, as we be­gin to plan our Christ­mas cam­paign, I’m find­ing it hard not to med­dle as it’s so im­por­tant (plus it’s fun as well). Shall I carry on stick­ing my oar in or get out? You know per­fectly well. Carry on med­dling and you’ll end up with a mess. And you’ll fi­nally ad­mit it’s a mess too late in the day to start again. You’ll blame the new mar­keter and the new mar­keter will blame you. The new mar­keter will be in the right but, be­ing new, will carry most of the blame. And you’ll have a piss-poor Christ­mas cam­paign. Con­grat­u­la­tions.

And you thought it was go­ing to be fun?

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