When Poor Execution Derails a Good PR Idea

Did you know that “Unbroken” came out on Blu-ray recently? I did, thanks to a social media campaign. You’d think that fact would probably be music to the ears of the Universal Pictures marketing staff, but I can’t imagine they are getting the kind of PR they had hoped for.

When Poor Execution Derails a Good PR Idea

           April 2, 2015         Celebrity endorsements, Communications, marketing, PR, Twitter,

Did you know that “Unbroken” — the film adaptation of Olympian and WW2 veteran Louis Zamperini’s inspiring life — came out on Blu-ray recently? I did, thanks to a social media campaign. You’d think that fact would probably be music to the ears of the Universal Pictures marketing staff, but I can’t imagine they are getting the kind of PR they had hoped for.

The backstory: I found out about the release by reading a story on the sports news site Deadspin, entitled, “Lots Of Athletes Are Identically Excited About This Mediocre Movie.” I can’t vouch for the quality of the movie — I actually haven’t seen it, nor have I read the book, although I’d like to at some point — but the article pointed out that a handful of relatively famous athletes posted nearly the exact same tweet about it. I’d encourage you to click on the link and see the tweets for yourself, but here’s a screenshotted sample.

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Those tweets are slightly different, but it’s pretty clear they all came from one source. The authenticity is lost, and therefore the weight of the endorsement is lost.

That’s too bad, because I think this was actually a good idea from Universal. Celebrity endorsements are typically great PR, and athletes would be particularly relevant in this case — as mentioned, Zamperini was an Olympic distance runner. And by using their own Twitter accounts, you are going directly to the people most likely to listen to what they have to say.

So how should they have gone about this instead? I think we can refer to a similar recent example from the sports world. While soccer has made great strides in the US, the sport still needed to take advantage of last summer’s World Cup as a way to build momentum for the game — as the sport’s biggest showcase, the World Cup is the best time to bring in new fans, but it only comes around once every four years.

If you live in the US, you probably (hopefully!) saw more people than you could count wearing US National Team gear last June. You perhaps also saw a famous person or two wearing jerseys — personalized with their Twitter handles — and posting photos of themselves to social media. That’s because US Soccer sent about 30 personalized jerseys to celebrities, both athletes (like Michael Phelps and Drew Brees) and non-athletes (Conan O’Brien, Condoleezza Rice) alike.

You can have a look at some of the tweets both here and here. You’ll notice that no two are the same, and they all feel very authentic. If US Soccer did write out suggested tweets for each celebrity (and who knows if they did), they took time to make them personalized. And the photos certainly help too — unlike Mark Henry’s photo from the Unbroken example, which pretty hilariously has nothing to do with the content of his tweet.

The end result is a successful, well-received campaign — had Universal followed its example more closely, the Unbroken campaign would not have found itself mocked on one of the world’s most popular sports aggregators.

As a final note, I know there are some who subscribe to the idea that any PR is good PR. Hey, even if it was being mocked, I still learned that Unbroken was available on Blu-ray, right? And I’m sure there are some people who only follow one of the athletes used for promotion, and don’t read Deadspin — those people may have sensed nothing out of the ordinary. But we don’t agree with that theory at 3Points. Publicity should not come at the expense of reputation. You can have both, but it takes more than just good ideas — those ideas need to be executed properly as well.

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