The Secret Marketer

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

There’s something about the advent of school holidays that starts you dreaming of sand and sea, and the added lure of The Open golf championship and The Ashes persuaded me that last week was the perfect opportunty to begin my own summer break.

At a time when retro brands have been hitting the headlines, I was privileged to see the legendary Tom Watson at Turnberry making what was perhaps the greatest comeback of all time. While I offer due deference to the Arctic Roll, Wispa bar and the many other FMCG comebacks of late, none are quite as remarkable as Watson’s near miss. In the decades since Cadbury axed Wispa, little of true confectionery class replaced it on the shelves, allowing it a predictably sweet return. However, when Watson faded from a decade of dominance in the early Eighties, he was quickly replaced by a new roll call of giants from Ballesteros to Faldo and Tiger Woods.

“Heritage is often confused with a refusal to innovate, yet Wimbledon has moved forward without spoiling its legacy”

Ultimately, a missed putt on the last hole denied Watson the crowning glory of his sixth claret jug, but his exploits last week have revitalised his brand franchise to capture a new generation of fans that will remain loyal forever.

Much is written about the importance of brand heritage, but rarely is it better demonstrated than in sport. The English sporting summer is a timely reminder of some of the strongest brands on the planet. From Royal Ascot to The FA Cup, to Wimbledon, the Open and The Ashes, we are blessed with examples of just how to treasure precious lifetime brand equity.

Heritage is often confused with a refusal to innovate, yet Wimbledon has showed us how to preserve its core proposition while innovating spectacularly. From the way it cherishes its former champions to the manner in which it has embraced Hawk Eye technology and built a stunning roof on centre court, it has moved forward without spoiling its legacy.

The skill of the brand managers of these great sporting brands is in striking the balance between nostalgia and modern relevance. It’s a lesson well worth us learning as we create our own special connections for brands that aim to ensure they will flourish long beyond our short tenure of guardianship.

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