ESPN sports business writer Darren Rovell, author of soon-to-be-published The First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned The Science of Sweat Into A Cultural Phenomenon, has launched a weblog called Darren Rovell's Gatorade Blog. He's obviously a Gatorade fan but when we asked if Gatorade is behind the blog, Rovell said, "The book and the blog are completely unauthorized. I have their cooperation, but I report on the good and the bad and they know that. They have no editorial control over anything."
Assuming Gatorade truly has no influence over Rovell's blog, like the That Pepsi Girl blog, we can add this to the list of consumer brand advocate initiatives that have proliferated since the advent of "citizen's media." There's really no reason why a person couldn't or shouldn't write about a brand they love and, in doing so, become popular and aid the brand in spreading the it's message. The trick, though is proper disclosure and a clear delineation of the line between official brand messaging and unofficial.
After our conversation and to make clear the non-association with Gatorade, Rovell added the word "unauthorized" to the tagline of the blog which now reads, "An Unauthorized Look One of America's Most Dominant Brands."
Defending the recently launched Procter & Gamble character blog, Where the Sparkles Girls Get Real, a blog promoting Secret Sparkle Body Sprays, P & G blogger writes the blog "is meant to be just a fun little promotion where the characters on our bottles are played out. This isn't a blog that is meant to be a way for Secret to talk with our consumers about their likes/dislikes. Instead, it is meant to be a promotional tool where consumers (teens in particular) can learn about the Body Spray scents and interact with the characters. It's just meant to be fun. Why can't certain bloggers realize this?"
Scooter maker Vespa, working with CooperKatz, is launching two customer-written weblogs focused on encouraging more Americans to take up scootering. Vespa is accepting applications for bloggers and will "hire" two bloggers each for the two blogs they are launching. One blog will focus on urban mobile lifestyle and the other will focus on the journey of life - getting from point A to point B - existentially rather than physically.
Yesterday, Business Development Institute held a seminar entitled, "Blogging Goes Mainstream: Is Your Company Ready?", which examined how weblogs can benefit marketers. The largest theme at the seminar was that weblogs create conversations and, to take advantage of these conversations, marketers should join the conversation rather than try to manage it. In a world increasingly filled with consumer created content, created outside the control of big media companies, marketers must subdue their desire to launch the typical top-down, scream from the rooftops marketing campaign. Rather, marketers can leverage consumer created content to listen to what's being said about their brand and join the conversation, just as one would at a cocktail party, rather than attempt to control it.
Sprouting like flowers on steroids, blog advertising related companies are all the rage now. The latest comes from Roger Simon, Charles Johnson and Marc Danziger who plan to launch a network which would allow placement of ads a large group of blogs rather than the BlogAds service which allows for individual blog selection. While the yet to be named company has not launched nor full details revealed, one wonders why one would take the niche targeting benefits of weblogs, most of which focus on a single topic, and group them all together into yet another massive, nameless, faceless online network. Certainly, there are benefits of scale to advertisers and advantages individual bloggers can realize from this service but the selling point of weblogs in general has been their unique character and voice. Lumping them all into one big ad buy seems counter to what the medium has to offer advertisers. Yet, admittedly, no media buyer wants to mess with thousands of tiny sites when one larger collective will achieve roughly the same objective.
Separately, the three are launching Blog News Service, apparently a news service aggregating blog content. Now the circle is complete. The aggregation and re-reporting of other's content found on most blogs will now be tied up in a bow and spit back as a fancy news service. Intriguing indeed.
Just as we did a few days ago, as did BlogAds Founder Henry Copeland, Henry, again, is calling into question Volvo's sponsorship of MSN Spaces weblogs, Reacting to a Spaces blogger's post claiming BlogAds is just jealous that Volvo chose to advertise on MSN Spaces versus BlogAds, Henry counters with a point by point argument as to why sponsor-worthy weblogs can be found within the BlogAds network and not on MSN Spaces. In fact, responding to the Spaces logger's post in which the blogger cites some great Spaces blogs but writes, "I know I'm forgetting thousands if not millions more," Copeland challenges the Spaces blogger to list 20 Spaces blogs that have more than 100,000 page views per month.
Further questioning Volvo's decision to sponsor Spaces blogs, while indicating BlogAds can aid advertisers in selecting appropriate, targeted blogs as opposed to the mass blog buy Volvo made on Spaces, Copeland spent a quick five minutes coming up, via Google, with tens of thousands of Spaces blogs containing the words fuck (15,400), cunt (536), nigger (48), faggot (86), shit (20,900), tits (609), ass (17,400) and bitch (8,540. Obviously Volvo is thick skinned enough to realize people don't always write curse-free, Queen's English but when it's lined up that way, it does, at least, raise a few questions.
Finally, commenting on the ubiquitous Microsoft entry into every conceivable marketplace, Copeland writes, "I'm angry. I'm angry to see blogging -- which I revere for empowering excellence, autonomy and self-expression -- debased by Microsoft into another exercise in corporate mass-market drek marketing. I'm angry Microsoft has diverted money out of great blogger's pockets."
It should be noted that Volvo does sponsor the Autoblog blog and its podcast.
A quick review of weblogs listed as recently updated on MSN Spaces revealed few, if any, containing more than a post or two. Many simply state, "There are no entries in this blog." Apparently, Volvo, in its decision to sponsor MSN Spaces weblogs, did not see this as an issue. The car maker has entered a sponsorship deal with MSN Spaces whereby it will receive ad placement on the MSN Spaces homepage as well as at the top of each MSN Spaces weblog.
Ad Age reports MSN has indicated Spaces has been "wildly popular" and now has 4.5 million users. That's all the blogosphgere needs - 4.5 million more empty, useless, pointless weblogs. Boing Boing also reported in December, when MSN Spaces launched, the blogs are heavily censored which, as Microsoft should know, really negates the entire point of publishing a weblog.
Volvo, seemingly unable to realize MSN Spaces is filled with newbies with nothing to say when a plethora of intelligent, quality blog content is right around the corner at the BlogAds blog advertising network, BlogAd Founder Henry Copeland informs Adrants the car manufacturer has not yet used the network commenting, "these MSN Spaces bloggers are writing about random stuff rather than specific, publicly useful information niches. Spaces bloggers are newbies on the fringes of the blogosphere. MSN may well have promised Volvo 100 million page impressions a month, but these are impressions seen by nobody -- or more exactly "nobodies" -- people who are viewed as influentials only by their moms and ex-girlfriends."
Further questioning Volvo's absence from the BlogAds network, Copeland made an analogy to Volvo's well known brand position of safety saying, "If you want safety, wouldn't you rather sponsor name-brand bloggers like Markos Moulitsas, Glenn Reynolds, Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan and hundreds more in blogospheres ranging from law to music to baseball? Why advertise on blogs of the anonymous once-a-monthers, when you can associate your brand - probably for lower cost - with star bloggers, folks who have national reputations in their respective fields and are the hubs for rabidly loyal communities?" Very good question, indeed, Volvo. Perhaps Volvo should speak to Audi who has fully embraced "real" weblogs with a substantial buy on the BlogAds network.
Carat Interactive has launched a blogging practice for its clients which consists of a three step starter kit helping clients monitor blogs, advertise on blog and create blogs for themselves. Carat VP and Media Director John Cate hopes clients enter conversation marketing openly and attempt to glean valuable consumer feedback.