Cheap Ginola newsjack’s hidden price

David Ginola’s much-trumpeted, opinion-splitting foray into the world of football politics may have been quickly dismissed as a failure, but in terms of promoting his sponsors it has been a runaway success.

Famously, Ginola was paid £250,000 to put himself up as a challenger to Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA, football’s world governing body, and the move has generated huge amounts of news coverage. In marketing terms, the initiative has been seen as a significant coup.

But as other online casino and sports betting operations like 32Red, BetFred, RoxyPalace and others continue to fight to establish the credibility and legitimacy of their activities, there is a wider, and more serious, price to pay.

Former French international Ginola, who retired as a player in 2002, attempted to stand for the FIFA presidency on a populist mandate whereby he pledged to ‘reboot’ football’s administrative leadership.

But as a man known more in recent years for advertising grooming products than getting to grips with the intricacies of international sports politics, his bid was always more purposefully eye catching than it was vote winning. At time’s Ginola’s inability to seriously address the issues in play were little short of embarrassing. And that, it seems, was entirely the point.

Blatter’s unpopularity does not extend to the national football associations and hence the FIFA delegates who will actually get to vote in the election which is set for May 29th.  The 78-year-old is seeking re-election for an unprecedented fifth consecutive term. In the face of such a heavyweight, Ginola’s candidacy only ever carried as much punch as his famously photogenic coiffure.

A short-sighted strategy

For all the flamboyant Frenchman’s protestations, his bid has been more about promoting the sporting connections of his sponsors than anything else. It has been, in effect, an exercise in guerrilla marketing on a scale rarely witnessed before. It represents a cheeky subversion of the normal rules of doing politics. The fact that Ginola – well paid as he has been – has steadfastly maintained the seriousness of his bid throughout means that the whole charade has been allowed to continue in a way that, whatever it does for Paddy Power’s profile, can only reflect poorly on the industry as a whole.

At a time when the industry is fighting for worldwide political acceptance such a public show of disregard for the electoral processes of an organisation that is famously close to national governments is distinctly short sighted.

Key constituency

The move is, after all, only a step away from sponsoring a candidate to stand against David Cameron in his Witney constituency at the forthcoming British general election. Such a scenario might similarly win applause form the man in the street, but it would do little to further the reputation of the gambling industry as a responsible and trustworthy member of the business community amongst those whose approval really matters.

In the short term Ginola’s high-profile pantomime has proved to be a masterstroke in terms of its return – in terms of media coverage – on that £250,000 outlay. The peculiar angst that football fans feel towards the game’s authorities have made it an ideal scenario for such a news-jacking opportunity. But the short term, brand specific gains that such tactics return – whilst they may show a marketing advantage – only do so at the expense of the overall market.

A different approach

There is little doubt that successful marketing is fundamental to the continuing development of new and established brands alike. For example, 32Red’s chief executive officer, Ed Ware, recently pointed to the impact of his firm’s recent marketing operations. Ware cited successful marketing as the catalyst for a year-on-year 26% hike in revenues during the 12 months through to December 31, 2014.

In a recent trading update the company announced total net gaming revenues for 2014 of £32.1 million (€42.4 million/$48.1 million), up from £25.4 million in the previous year. 32Red also enjoyed a 15% year-on-year increase in active players, attracting 44,385 new players, 17% more than in 2013.

“We performed well throughout the year with an accelerating performance in the second half following increased investment in our business,” Ware said. “Our marketing and operations have never been in better shape and we are excited by the opportunities for 32Red to further develop this year both within and outside the UK market.”

Needless to say, 32Red’s approach to marketing has been of a very different order to that represented by the Ginola stunt. Such a restrained – not to say business-like and professional – approach to the attraction of new customers represents the sort of behaviour that is not only likely to win the appreciation of prospective customers over the long term, it is also one that can be counted on to find favour with the rest of the business and political establishment. Regrettably, the Ginola candidacy is unlikely to be the last news-jack that we see trotted out in 2015, and for all the fun and froth such moves excite, there is also a political price to pay.

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