The balls to be…not that different

Men are beginning to be something of a problem for marketers – on the one hand, they are being told that men have become 21st Century “metrosexuals” who are no longer afraid to let their feminine side hang out, while on the other, they are bei

Though men are more at home with their ‘feminine side’, football, beer and babes are still fail-safe ways to grab their attention in promotions – albeit with a humourous or ironic twist. By Martin Croft

Men are beginning to be something of a problem for marketers – on the one hand, they are being told that men have become 21st Century “metrosexuals” who are no longer afraid to let their feminine side hang out, while on the other, they are being told that men are becoming 21st Century cavemen, in reaction to women’s liberation and a subsequent wave of male bashing in the media and advertising.

So what is a poor marketer to do when developing a sales promotion targeting men? Given that the past few months has seen an orgy of football-related promotions, almost exclusively targeting men, you might be forgiven for thinking that they have decided to completely ignore men’s softer, gentler side and concentrate on the beer-swilling, football-loving stereotype.


But some sales promotion experts argue that men are actually very complex creatures – there is no reason why they cannot be both metrosexuals and cavemen. As Rob Gray, managing partner at consultancy Purity, says: “A beer-drinking, football-watching male may also now have an interest in skincare products and healthy eating.”

It’s certainly true that men are now purchasing things that only ten years ago they would have run a mile from – skincare products, for example, though promotions for such products have to be carefully targeted. While men may be more inclined to buy skincare products they may not be too happy admitting as much in a heavily male environment.

Gray says that Purity was asked by Nivea Skincare to find a way to get men to try its new men’s products. But, he says, “entering a busy pub on a match day and trying to engage men about their skincare routine wouldn’t necessarily have worked.” So the agency took the Nivea products to men in the office environment. Gray adds: “If the brand gets the environment right, then the actual activity can be created to best communicate the brand proposition and values.”

Frazer Gibney, a partner at Inferno, says: “It’s true that there’s a lot of clichéd marketing to men out there – ads with fighter jets to promote razors for example⦠but it works. I’ve got a Gillette razor, despite the ridiculous brand name and advertising. There are some stereotypical images that strike a chord with mass male audiences – football, for example. And the success of magazines like Zoo and Nuts also shows what works with a broad male audience, not those metrosexuals living in London’s Zone 2.”

Inferno recently ran a promotion for Budweiser to raise awareness of the brand’s link with F1 racing – it is a sponsor of the BMW Williams F1 team. “The prizes on offer – a driving lesson with F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, and five F1 customised Mini Coopers were prizes that most men in the target market would find hard to resist,” explains Gibney. “The campaign worked not because the promotions steered clear of the usual products and ideas associated with men, but because it used them to its advantage.”

Agency Billington Cartmell has worked for a number of years for brewer Carlsberg. Billington Cartmell senior account director Bruce Ferguson says football still works very well as a means of reaching men, and Carlsberg marked the World Cup with a TV ad, Old Lions, featuring a pub football side made of former England greats, and the slogan: “Carlsberg don’t do pub teams, but if they did, they’d probably be the best pub team in the world.” Billington Cartmell supported that campaign with a text-to-win mobile promotion offering a free official England Carlsberg pint glass, with the Cross of St George on it – “phenomenally successful,” according to Ferguson.

That promotion underlines one of the main differences that experts say exists between men and women. Women are in it for the long haul, and are prepared to be patient; men want it now, so a promotion has to give instant gratification.

Geoff Howe Marketing Communications managing director Ed Hughes says: “That’s why ‘Spot the Ball’ competitions work. Men want to put an ‘x’ on the spot and know instantly if they have won or not.”

Hughes also argues that men respond very well to promotions that involve technology or gadgets. Some years ago, Geoff Howe created a t-shirt for a Budweiser promotion: the design featured a scene from the ad campaign in use at the time, featuring a group of frogs in a pond croaking out the word “Bud⦠wei⦠ser,” while microchips embedded in the t-shirt repeated the ad soundtrack when pressed.

And, of course, the latest developments with coupons sent to mobile phones can combine two male obsessions – instant win and hi-tech gadgets. Add mobile phone wallpaper, pictures or videos of babes in bikinis, and no doubt you will have a sure-fire hit.

Of course, men may be predictable – in their response to booze, babes, sport and gadgets – but that does not mean they are unaware of their own predictability. Some promotions that use what might at first sight appear to be the crassest, most exploitative and most stereotypical materials may actually be using them in a clever and ironic way, with men recognising this and enjoying the post-modernist approach.

You’ve pulled – a pub

Using tried-and-tested mechanics, but in a novel way is another way to get men’s attention, for example by offering them not a free pint, but a free pub (or a free cinema or some similar party-theme). As Geoff Howe’s Hughes observes, offering a prize that can be used by a large group appeals to the desire of all men to be seen not as “Nobby No Mates but as Nobby Lots of Mates.”

So, 21st century or not, it seems it is a brave marketing chief who will sign off on a new promotion offering free “manbags” (handbags for men, for the fashion-uninitiated). They may go down well with the fashionistas and metrosexuals, but your average male is still more likely to react better if you offer him a pint – or a pub to pull it in.

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