By Dr. John Tantillo
Brand Talk’s “Go Brand Yourself”
WVOX Radio, New Rochelle
With all the commotion surrounding the A-Rod brand concerning his PED use, you would think that when he came to the plate, there would have been an overwhelming outcry of dis-satisfaction concerning this high negative profile brand! But no. Despite what many would have predicted, the jury was split, and it was only when A-Rod failed to perform that he was jeered by the NYC-based crowd. Simply put from a branding perspective: it was not his supposed “cheating” that caused a negative crowd reaction. It was his performance (or lack of it) that wounded the brand, for at least one game.
And why—Alex Rodriguez like all athletes is a performance brand whose popularity rises and falls based on how they behave — nothing more, regardless of what fans and critics like to say. It is not that fans are duplicitous. No, it is more basic than that. It is that fans (myself included) simply forget all shortcomings of a personality brand when our needs are met — winning, especially for the sports minded individual. And this obsession with winning was clearly seen when on Sunday, he homered, singled and played solid defensive baseball with us assigning little regard to his issues with MLB.
Sports fans are a different type of species who have a special kind of appreciation for victory. Whether you are a NY Yankees fan or not, you are passionate about rooting for your team—so passionate that one’s feelings toward A-Rod may be based on some other dynamic that one can only speculate. Let’s face it, fans are folks who take their sports very seriously and are committed to winning, in spite of it all.
Their beliefs are wedded to the quote most associated with the great Vince Lombardi that “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing!” And for the majority of this target market of “sports fans” it is winning that trumps any sense of decency. Unfortunately, this shibboleth motivates them to conveniently forget any negative attributes associated with the personality brand they are rooting for. And causes others to criticize A-Rod even more for his purported lying, cheating and carrying on!
Athletes behaving badly is nothing new. Tiger Woods, for example was able to find a new position in the hearts of enthusiasts through his recent successes on the links. It is Tiger’s golf skills not his peccadillos that draw fans to him, no matter what critics say. And so fans give him a second look because he satisfies that need to win, within this market segment.
Alex Rodriguez is no Tiger Woods. Woods was a womanizer, while Rodriguez is this and more. The addition of PEDs into A-Rod’s talent mix, is the “more” that could destroy his brand by preventing him for doing the very thing that fans want to see — his outstanding on-field accomplishments.
This all comes down to whether you like/dislike or are an Alex Rodriguez fan/customer. Fans are rooters; customers are buyers and for marketers these are important factors when assessing the robustness of a brand. Whether we root or buy the A-Rod brand depends on your personal needs. If you are not a sports fan, chances are, you really don’t appreciate Alex Rodriguez no matter what anyone says.
By now, you have probably concluded that sports fans and celebrity watchers have different expectations concerning the brands they appreciate. It is all part of Targeted Relations and why marketers (and A-Rod) must worry about their target market (fans and customers) and forgo what others may think. And based on an individual’s “wants” any good marketer can intelligently assess where anyone stands on the A-Rod brand issue. So Alex, if you want to improve your brand image, just hit those homers, get those base hits, win games and you will be just fine, from the brand side of your personality.
And what can we learn from Alex Rodriguez? Know your customers and always satisfy their needs.
And oh yes, it is always easier when you have branding and marketing in mind.
Dr. John Tantillo is president of Branding and Marketing Group, Inc. He also hosts a show “Go BrandYourself” on WVOX, New Rochelle, NY. He can be emailed at JTantillo@BrandingandMarketingGroup.com.