Have you been brand-washed?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. That's my excuse, anyway, for spending an improper amount of time this week gazing out of the office window.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. That’s my excuse, anyway, for spending an improper amount of time this week gazing out of the office window.

In pleading guilty to these lapses in concentration, I’d like to claim mitigating circumstances: The AEGON International has brought world-class tennis players here to Eastbourne and PRG’s offices sit right beside the grass courts. Not every day you get to see Venus and Serena Williams whacking tennis balls right past your windows.

Even if you love your job as much as I do, you would be distracted, wouldn’t you?

By watching these stars at play, however, I have ended up thinking about work. By work, I mean marketing, and by confessing that sublimely talented tennis players make me think of marketing, I fear I really am a dull boy. But – no offence intended – perhaps you are prone to these thought patterns too? Perhaps, like me, you could look out at a tennis match and end up thinking about a corporation that sells life insurance and pensions.

I ended up thinking this because there’s no escape from the effectiveness of marketing. From my office window I see flags fluttering in the seaside breeze, posters slapped on walls, tickets clasped by fans – all bearing the blue-and-white logo of AEGON. At the same time, of course, TV broadcasters are smuggling the sponsor’s name into the front rooms of countless households.

It would be nice to think sports sponsorship is benevolent patronage – the rich (corporations) bringing world-class entertainment to the poor (or at least the indebted middle-classes). In truth, we know differently. Sports sponsorship raises brand awareness in a way that’s appreciated rather than resented, can be a cost effective means of gaining media coverage, makes a connection with certain demographic groups and tells us something about what the brand stands for. In marketing speak, sponsorship helps build ‘brand personality’ – and when selling products or services almost indistinguishable from competitors’, that can be crucial.

Seeing the AEGON flags reminds me how I formed fuzzy but lasting impressions of brands after seeing them associated with particular types of sports or sports personalities. I’d like to think I was especially impressionable during my youth, which is why any mention of JPS or Marlboro gets me thinking about the glamour of F1 racing rather than the grim realities of lung disease. But an hour on the psychiatrist’s couch would no doubt reveal I am still influenced by the context in which brands place themselves.

And you?

In your youth, did you form a fondness for certain brands? And now that you have to go through life pretending to be grown-up, are you really entirely responsible and logical when making purchasing decisions, or do you still prefer certain brands for emotional reasons too?

Phil Bingham

Account Director


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