The euphoria at Nasa over the successful landing of Curiosity on Mars is infectious. The public seems to have joined the scientists’ celebrations with a fervour similar to that shown by the British for their Olympic team’s successes. As one wag posted on Twitter: “Gold medal for Nasa in the 563 billion metres.”
Be careful, though, in extrapolating from either the Mars mission or the Olympic triumphs the easy conclusion that “aiming high” gets results. As I’ve written, the achievement of even quite small steps can have measurably positive effects on a team’s performance and morale. Similarly, missing the big goal might prove a crushing blow – I watch some of those heart-rending interviews with athletes that fell short of their and their countries’ expectations at the Olympics and wonder how they will start to recover. Read more
This weekend, NBC kicked off its expensive coverage of the London Olympics by cutting out the part of the opening ceremony that commemorated the victims of the July 7, 2005 bombings, in favour of a soft soap interview with Michael Phelps, the record-breaking swimmer. Then, when Phelps swam (and lost) the next day, it waited eight hours to televise him in action.
Halfway through my evening at Wembley Stadium on Sunday I realised why watching Olympic football – or any Olympic sport for that matter – feels strange: it’s the absence of advertising. A stadium normally decked in every type of corporate branding was dominated instead just by the Olympic rings, the participants’ flags, and the purple hues of London 2012. Read more
Embattled defenders of horseracing in the UK and Ireland will allow themselves a wry smile at China’s decision to buy into Irish thoroughbred racing and breeding expertise. Just as communist China is trying to breathe new life into a sport it once outlawed, racing is under fire in the decadent west.
The 2012 Grand National at Aintree – next time, Tianjin? (AP Photo/Jon Super)
The news that Ireland will help China set up a $2bn national equine centre came the day after critics renewed calls for a ban on the Grand National – English racing’s best-known and most gruelling steeplechase. Two horses had to be destroyed after falling in Saturday’s race. Read more
Real Madrid says it has an estimated 300m fans globally, more than half based in Asia. So I shouldn’t be surprised that it wants to put its name to a $1bn theme park in the United Arab Emirates, closer to that growing fan-base.
Computer-generated image of Real Madrid Resort Island (AFP Photo / Real Madrid)
Even so, I worry that such hubristic brand-building projects – the chief executive of Real Madrid Resort Island describes it as “sportainment”, a term I dearly hope never catches on – could distance football clubs further from their roots. Read more
Stuart Pearce is an unlikely management hero. The former England footballer became caretaker manager of the national team when Fabio Capello resigned abruptly last month. He may yet lead England into the forthcoming Euro 2012 tournament if his masters can’t get around to naming a permanent successor.
A highly paid manager doing his duty for the nation resigns in a huff after his ultimate paymasters interfere with his right to manage. Fabio Capello, manager of the England football team, has done what Stephen Hester, chief executive of state-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland, declined to do.
Mr Hester – who spent most of Wednesday doing interviews to explain his decision to stay, despite the row over his bonus – has told the world that it would have been “indulgent” to resign. At the same time, he has sent a strong message to the government that if it wants to earn a return on the taxpayer’s £45bn forced investment in RBS, it should leave him alone.
To use Mr Hester’s terminology (and assuming that the England manager jumped and wasn’t pushed), by comparison, Mr Capello’s decision looks, frankly, indulgent. If the FT’s Simon Kuper is right, the resignation has less to do with the Football Association’s decision to override his view on whether John Terry should keep the England captaincy, and more to do with England’s poor prospects in the coming Euro 2012 tournament and the potential that it would put a blot on Mr Capello’s reputation. Read more
Soon to be available in light blue
The shift of economic power eastwards from crisis-hit developed nations has another milestone: the publisher of Wisden – the annual “bible” of English cricket enthusiasts – is licensing production of an edition tailor-made for the Indian market.
A bit like Hermès, with its recent launch of a range of saris in India, Bloomsbury Publishing and its partner want to recast a western brand for enthusiastic Indian consumers.
The deal – with FidelisWorld FZ, a sports and entertainment management group – comes wrapped in the sort of biz-speak that would make John Wisden, the cricketer who founded the almanack in 1864, shudder. FidelisWorld, says the press statement, “aims to unify the fragmented sectors [of the Indian market for cricket information] into a consolidated whole… thereby achieving synergies and building value”. Read more
Fifa’s “council of wisdom” is shaping up to be one of the oddest advisory boards in the history of governance. Sepp Blatter, world football supremo, has sent invitations out to former player Johan Cruyff, ex-diplomat Henry Kissinger and opera-singer Plácido Domingo.
Blatter, re-elected as president of the world governing body last week, hopes this eclectic bunch – which he also called a “committee of solutions” in a frankly odd CNN interview on Tuesday – will help clear the pall of scandal hanging over Fifa. Read more
The acquisition of a minority stake in Liverpool football club by US basketball star LeBron James looks high on (self-)publicity and low on detail to me. Here’s the FT:
James’s LRMR Marketing & Branding group will take a “minority interest” in the club as part of a sponsorship deal agreed with Fenway Sports Management, a subsidiary of FSG [Liverpool's owner]. Financial terms were not disclosed.
This is a long way from a deal to use some of the Miami Heat star’s millions to build a new stadium for the UK club, or apply his business acumen to ensuring its survival. Read more
Ricky Ponting has resigned as captain of the Australian national cricket team, but he intends to stay on as a player. If he were chief executive of a business, however talented, he would never try to pick up the threads of his earlier career as, say, a top salesman. Why not?
Ponting, 36, was the most successful international cricket captain ever, but he was widely perceived to have failed recently. His team just lost to India in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Yet as a batsman, Ponting still has plenty left to offer. Indeed, the World Cup quarter-final saw him return to form, scoring a typically brave century. As he told the press in relinquishing the leadership:
Now that I won’t have all the extra responsibility of the captaincy, I think I can turn myself into a better player than I’ve shown in the last six months.
Iran’s threat to withdraw from the 2012 London Olympics must be the first time anybody has tried to boycott any event because of a logo.
Iran’s claim that the collection of irregular polygons conceals the word “Zion” is only the latest, albeit the highest-level, objection to the design. It triggered controversy (of the “what the heck is it?” rather than the Iranian “it offends our moral principles” variety) as soon as it was launched in 2007. The BBC asked for suggestions and received 600 alternative logos and 10,000 comments. Read more
Opinions vary on whether the new Nike advertisement featuring Tiger Woods is tasteless exploitation of his dead father, Earl Woods, or a masterstroke of counter-intuitive marketing.
Personally, I think the television ad, made by Nike’s long-time agency Wieden + Kennedy, it is a clever piece of emotional brand rebuilding.
The ad, which you can view above, has been produced to coincide with the Masters golf tournament and Woods’ carefully orchestrated return to professional golf following his public humiliation as a result of having affairs with women.
It should thus be taken alongside Woods’ penitent press conference earlier this week in which he said he had been in therapy and was trying to become a better person, and the highly critical comments of Billy Payne, chairman of the Augusta National club where the Masters is played. Read more
Siemens is no longer in stormy seas. That at least is the message from the art in its chief executive’s office.
A gloomy picture of a stormy sea long hung in the German group’s headquarters. In his first interview as head of Siemens two years ago, Peter Löscher told me he wanted to banish the picture and replace it with work from his private collection. Subsequent visits to his office showed Europe’s largest engineering group still to be in the midst of rough weather (at least to lazy journalists in need of a metaphor). Read more
Tiger Woods’ personal crisis shows little signs of receding – fresh revelations about his “transgressions” keep on being published and his mother-in-law was briefly taken to hospital on Tuesday. So it is not surprising that there are hints of his sponsors’ support wavering.
Although companies that have affiliated themselves with the golfer’s name – including Nike, EA Sports, Gillette and NetJets – insist they still have faith in him, PepsiCo has dropped a Gatorade drink named after him. Read more
I wrote a piece in the Weekend FT on the vagaries of concert halls and baseball stadiums:
If you build it, they will come. But they will not know what to expect. Read more
Prompted by The Masters golf tournament, Justin Fox has an interesting analysis of the comparative wages of golf caddies and skilled manual workers in the US. His conclusion is that, while it used to be just about as rewarding to work in a factory as to caddy for a tournament player, those days are long gone.
Of course, the caddy-plant operator wage disparity is a microcosm of a broader truth about western economies – that it is very hard for a high school-educated man to get a well-paid job these days. A lot of the economic strains in advanced industrialised societies are caused by this fact. Read more
Having just had the satisfaction of sitting in New York watching the New York Giants win the Superbowl, I have had plenty of time to reflect on Simon Kuper’s article in the Weekend FT on why US sports have not spread around the world like British sports – notably soccer and cricket.
Among the oddities of American football is, of course, the fact that a game that only takes an hour on the clock actually lasts for three hours or more. The drama is even more drawn out by the proliferation of Superbowl ads, which can be viewed here and briefly summarised here.
The baseball scandal in the US is an extraordinary story of an entire sport seemingly getting caught up in illegal drug-taking. Watching the press conferences given by George Mitchell, who conducted the inquiry into Major League Baseball, and others on Thursday I was most struck by the dog-in-the-manger attitude of Don Fehr, the head of the players’ association.
Mr Fehr spent most of his opening statement complaining about Mr Mitchell and the way that the inquiry had been conducted rather than apologising for the conduct of his members. True, it is only alleged conduct in the particular cases of the 89 players named in Mr Mitchell’s report. But Mr Fehr cannot seriously dispute that baseball has a big problem and that at least some of his members are part of it. Read more