Piotr Jakubowski – Mind over Marketing

Phelps – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
November 26, 2008, 5:15 pm
Filed under: advantage, advertising, at&t, guitar hero, michael phelps, phelps, Uncategorized

In conjunction with my previous post about overstretching the Michael Phelps brand, I decided this week it’d be a great opportunity to feature these spots that he’s in.

The Good


Everytime I watch this spot, it definitely makes me chuckle. How in the world could Bill Curtis, this old guy in a suit, ever be faster than Michael Phelps. He challenges him to a race, and beats him. The entire concept is a great parody on the fact that Michael Phelps is not invincible, and that there are things faster than him. Memorable spot – now the question is does the product follow through on the promise?


So here’s an ad for a product that Phelps probably actually uses. And if anyone watched any of his races in August, you’d notice that he does. Although the FastSkin itself isn’t accessible to the average day-to-day swimmer, the endorsement is legitimate. Like LeBron pimping his basketball shoes and Ronaldinho his football boots, Michael Phelps should be promoting Speedo. 

The Bad

Guitar Hero 

I really don’t know what Guitar Hero has to do with any of the people in the spots, except that the money paid to the 4 athletes in the commercial probably eclipsed the rest of the production costs. Phelps is already large and awkward as it is, and his 1-2 second closeup doesn’t do him any justice either. Seems to me like just another “throw some money at a celebrity” act. The product, with its gameplay and record sales is fantastic already. There have to be other ways to show it. 


The Ugly

Rosetta Stone

Ever since I first saw this spot I was quite disappointed with it. I don’t know how much I believe that learning Chinese was the first thing Phelps thought about when going to Beijing for 3 weeks. I can’t imagine anyone taking this type of approach to learning languages. It gives off the vibe that you can learn a language in a month, or even five months – without being in that country. Now maybe there are some geniuses out there who are capable of doing that, but for the general population – I think the spot is misleading. It tries to capitalize on the Phelps is Phast mania, and in my opinion – fails. I’m sure Rosetta Stone is a great product, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone can legitimately admit to speaking a language “after just a few minutes”.


What do you think?


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I saw that Rosetta Stone one today and man does he just look bad. The whole emphasis is on speed… I agree doesn’t make much sense. The speedo ad is mad nice though.

Comment by imaclellan

Did you know that the Beijing Olympics appointed an Esperanto translator and that CRI (Chinese Radio International) now broadcasts in this language? see http://esperanto.cri.cn/

An interesting video can be seen at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations, in Geneva. Other information can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

Comment by Brian Barker

I really liked the rock band ad! I thought it was funny… and sometimes they switch it up with the Heidi Klum one and that other guy (I’m spacing) so you’re never sure which ad you’re gonna be watching…

As for Rosetta Stone, it was just kind of sad to watch. Like really sad.

Comment by Natalie

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