Finally, it’s September. Seven long months without NFL football come to an end next week with the start of the regular season. However, with the recent discussions on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, some fans got the impression that behind the scenes it’s more about greed and making more money than having fun and enjoying the game.
Ironically, one of the most entertaining NFL news was triggered by a sponsor earlier this week. I actually have no idea why a professional football league needs an “Official Shampoo”, however consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble bought that spot for their “Head and Shoulders” brand.
In my article on Five Rules for successful Sponsorship, I mentioned “Product Relationship” as a key element. While you might begin to wonder what the relationship between pro football and shampoo is, Procter & Gamble selected the player with the most flamboyant hair style in the league and started a great campaign with him.
Troy Polamalu, five time pro-bowler and strong safety at the Pittsburgh Steelers, didn’t have his hair cut for the last ten years. It’s now nearly three foot long and became his trademark. Procter & Gamble did not only sponsor him, which would not have been a story fascinating enough to make the news or appear interesting to potential customers. Instead they decided to buy an insurance for Polamalu’s hair for the entire season. So #43 now has his hair insured for one million dollars at Lloyd’s of London.
In addition, they created a website called “troyshair.com”, with a lot of small fun apps like uploading your or your friends face under Polamalu’s hair, a poll with the chance to win Superbowl tickets and, yes, some information on their products and how happy Troy is to use them.
The approach is unique and unexpected, the media attention they get is very good and with every blog relating to their site (like this one does), the smiles at the Procter & Gamble headquarters will grow bigger.
I have no clue how they really came up with the idea to insure Polamalu’s hair, but it is a great case to explain an interesting, yet quite simple creativity technique: The linking of attributes of a product or service to a potential stage, canvas or framework.
The idea is that you take a step back from the process of using your product or service and try to describe the value proposition by gathering value attributes. In this case, this means not just think about washing hair with a good shampoo. That would have resulted in just another one of those commercials in which a celebrity washes his hair and they tell you how great the results are. That’s pretty unemotional and research by consumer goods companies has also shown that in many cases it is even counterproductive: The viewers of these kinds of ads tend to remember the celebrity, but not the brand.
Instead, think about the value your product creates. In the case of Head & Shoulders, the key value selected by the product managers was obviously “protection”: On the website, they offer the following three “protective” major advantages of their product: “defending you against a thin look”, “hair endurance” and prevent from “damage”. I have no idea if any of this is true and I’m not trying to sell the shampoo to you, but taking the main theme of “protection” and bringing it out of its current context – in this case hair and football – may have lead to the idea of “insurance”. An insurance is a symbol for protection, by using that analogy in the given context, Procter & Gamble manages to create a product relationship which is creative, unexpected and emotional.
So let’s summarize: Find key product values, find analogies that stand for those values and then bring these analogies back to the context of your product.
No, that’s no rocket science. Still I see tons of celebrities washing their hair on TV instead of creative approaches like insuring Polamalu’s head of curls. What a waste of resources!