Dear Sears, Do You Really Want Brett Favre Associated With Your Brand?

Posted: September 22, 2009 in Advertising/Marketing, Business, Video
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sorry To Break It To You Sears, But Putting Brett Favre In Your Commercials Would Have Been A Better Idea 4 Years Ago

A Proven & Long Standing Method of Branding has been to align your brand with a celebrity. An icon whose image you aspire to emulate or whose image you’d like consumers to associate with your brand.

I could mention a few examples, but there are so many I wouldn’t know how to choose. Athletes, Hollywood Stars & Starlets, Models, Musicians…Even Lindsay Lohan in the crux of her fall from grace, found her way into a Fornarina Spot (Whatever Fornarina is).

Bottom line – Iconic, Celebrity Spokespeople can do wonders for selling you brand and your product. But choosing the right person to endorse your business – Identifying the persona to which your target audience will relate & figuring out who you want associated with your brand – Therein Lies the Difficulty…Apparently…

It doesn’t seem like such a tough thing to do. I didn’t think it was. But Sears has proved me wrong. This past Sunday – Amidst My 8 Hours of Football Fandom (Jets HUUUGE Win over the Pats & The Terrible Cowboys Loss to the Giants) I saw, several times, as Sears’ Electronic Blue Crew (terrible name, IMHO) attempts to sell a one, Mr. Brett Favre, Legendary, Record Holding QB, Formerly of the Green Bay Packers, Formerly of the New York Jets, And Now Of the Minnesota Vikings, a new TV.

For those who’ve been living in an igloo up in Siberia for the last few years, Brett Favre has retired and unretired from the NFL what feels like 2 dozen times in the last few years (hyperbole acknowledged). Yes, I get that they’re playing off this fact in the spot by having Mr. Favre act a bit wishy-washy on his decision to purchase the TV and ending with a “No Regrets” Line”

I think that line of thinking is topical, relevant, and creative. The only problem is that when I see Brett Favre, I no longer think of someone who I respect and admire. I see Indecisive, Fickle, Desperately-Trying-To-Stay Relevant Douchebaggery.

Even Vikings Fans don’t seem to like Favre These Days (Feel Free To Correct Me If I’m Wrong). The Man Is A Legend Who Has Spent The Last Couple Of Years Tarnishing His Own Reputation With Ongoing Capriciousness. These ARE NOT QUALITIES I WOULD WANT TO REPRESENT MY BRAND.

Maybe you disagree…maybe you see the sears commercial and say, “Oh Brett Favre Wants to Buy From Sears…Oh, The Sears Blue Appliance Crew is Helping Ol’ Fickle Here Make Up His Mind…I’ll Buy From Sears.

But For Me – I see Brett Favre, and it evokes frustration, disappointment, even a bit of anger & lost respect. Now, I associate these emotions with Sears…

So where do you stand? Bad Play Calling By Sears to Star(t) Favre? Or Will Consumers Look Past His New-found Personality Flaws To His Glory Days – Making This A Win For Sears?

  1. Brenna says:

    Yeah Favre should have retired at the height of his career but he loves the game. Maybe he just wants to play and doesn’t give a crap about how its perceived. If I’ve played football all my life and then all of a sudden I was retired, I would change my mind too. I think he just wants to be in the game, regardless of who he plays for or what people think.
    If this is true than yes I want someone who shows qualities of passion to represent my brand. The guy plays football.. that is what he knows .. that is what he loves. I dont think he is doing it as an attempt to “desperately stay relevant”.
    But those are just my thoughts.

    • Aerocles says:

      Well, “Your Thoughts” Are Just As Valid As Mine! I’m just curious if other people are as surprised by the choice as I was. When picking a spokesperson, there are hundreds of viable athletes the brand execs could have chosen from – why pick one with such a recent history of fodder for criticism (does that make sense?)?

      • jeffespo says:

        It doesn’t make sense at all. They were going for the comedic angle and where probably filmed before he decided to further taint his GB legacy.

  2. jeffespo says:

    I agree that Favre would have been a better fit five years ago, when he was still a viable athlete, wait scratch that QB, no INT Machine. However, I don’t think he fit the Sears brand because he wasn’t old and retired (he still isn’t) and the commercial kind of pokes fun at that. As a Jets fan you should be used to the agony, I would think that there would be more straight hate coming out of Wisconsin.

    It is an interesting take though on tying emotions to brands. Note how quickly Disney or McDonalds cut ties with controversial spokespeople.

    The line: I see Indecisive, Fickle, Desperately-Trying-To-Stay Relevant Douchebaggery. Is perfect for ole #4, but I wonder how many will lash out against the brand like you.

    • Aerocles says:

      I’m not “Lashing Out” Just Trying TO Figure Out The Rationale Behind The Choice…Maybe Most People Haven’t Altered Their Perception of Favre Like I Have. Yes, I see Passion in Him (Like Brenna Pointed Out) But That was old Favre, Now I associate more negative personality traits with him, making him less than optimal as a choice for spokesperson. IMHO

  3. Colin says:

    I think because we work in marketing we have a much more critical view of this. Sometimes I wonder if we over analyze things. I had similar thoughts as you did the first time I saw this. That being said, I also laughed my a$$ off! I think fans in NY and GB and even MN might be more annoyed by this, but Sears’ ability to make it humorous might wipe out the “Indecisive, Fickle, Desperately-Trying-To-Stay Relevant Douchebaggery” feeling that so many of us have. Favre is still an icon to millions and I think most consumers will recognize it in that way and find it funny that he was able to allow someone to mock him.


    • Aerocles says:

      Maybe we are over analyzing it – but wouldn’t the marketers and ad execs who ideated this campaign have done the same? Maybe they had focus groups and it tested well, I don’t know…

      • Colin says:

        I think that the humor they found in the situation probably overshadowed the concerns of “Indecisive, Fickle, Desperately-Trying-To-Stay Relevant Douchebaggery”. I mean it’s not like he committed a crime, he’s just a pain. I don’t have an interest in any team he’s ever been with and I can’t stand him!

      • Aerocles says:

        Do you think most people watching the spot on TV pay such close attention to catch him poking fun at himself and analyze the commercial for subtle contextual humor or just see brett favre and make the brand association with the feelings he evokes off the bat?

      • maybe… but i also dont think that people whom watch NFL are exclusively uber fans with strong opinions about him going in and out (in and out) of retirement… But yet to the non layman fan (with a media/marketing/pr mind), this is a stupid move 100%.


  4. CT says:

    Interesting thing is that Favre’s commercial placement is pure deja vu from last year: Just before he unretired with the Jets, he was appearing in T-Mobile ads that foreshadowed his return.

    Remembering that, I was a little suspicious of the timing of this year’s Sears ads, as they came just as he joined the Vikes. Orchestrated?

  5. Kris Spurley says:

    I’m with Colin. I said early on that marketers could have a blast with Favre’s indecisive nature. Just glad Sears grabbed him first. He’s an icon, and this chapter is just part of the fun story that is his career. I’d love to see a follow-up where the Sears Blue Crew guy actually declares victory by closing the sale. That would help give Sears an added edge. But then again, the fact that they didn’t pressure him is nice, too.

  6. Tim Otis says:

    I agree, Aerocles. I think it’s like Michael Vick being in a KFC commercial featuring illegal cock fights. It may be a spoof, but I sure wouldn’t be fond of KFC after that. Then again, I’m not a fan of KFC anyway. BAD FOOD.

  7. @mosleyppr says:

    Agree with Colin at the end of the day this ad makes us laugh and Brett Favre is laughing with us at himself. Sears gets my vote because it was memorable and it made us laugh. I don’t know if it will sell more TVs or get more people into the store looking for help with purchase decisions… but it’s funny.

    In terms of Brett’s choices as a spokesperson..he is the perfect Sears every man hard working tractor riding, never call in hurt icon. So I don’t see the issue with his reputation there. I do agree that it’s just sad for Brett to be in this position to be mocked in the first place, but I am rooting for him to prove us all wrong again this year. That is of course as long as he doesn’t do it at the expense of the Patriots… I know I know…they lost…I KNOW. 😦


  8. abby carr says:

    Maybe he’s all they could afford? Seriously, he does have decent name recognition, is a guys guy and probably still appeals to women, who are at least half of the Sears audience.

    BTW, how can you call the Cowboys loss terrible? ; )

    • Aerocles says:

      Well, in addition to being a Jets Fan, i’ve loved the cowboys since I was a kid. A last minute Loss (& giving 17 points on turnovers) to Big Blue was quite painful to watch…

      I get the name recog & appeal to women, but i feel like his credibility is tarnished & for the masses that don’t pay attention to the nuances and subtle dialogue of commercials – like him poking fun at himself – they see Brett & sears and say “Uch”

  9. Nice post… like it. I will say that i agree with you 100% but also think that Sears probably did this to target the non-24 hour-fans of football — those not doing fantasy not keeping track, with no pools, etc but still watch the sport because well… it’s FOOTBALL.

    Folks liek you and me whom are fully entrenched within the NFL when it’s on know the pain and headache Bret’s back and forth caused the league, so we’re more passionate about shunning him… I agree that this will not make me buy from sears, and was thinking hey at least this isn’t an appliance commercial (i.e. LG over Sony)… that would just be totally ridiculous, and would justify an even bolder post IMHO.

    Douchebaggery… nice =)

  10. Steven Melfi says:

    I thought the commercial was brilliant. While I was tired of the Farve story line or will he or won’t he come back, I thought the self deprecating humor was great. Like it or not, Farve is still an icon and I thought this was a smart move on Sears part to get involved. I don’t have the bitter taste though of being a Jets or Green Bay fan so maybe my view is skewed.

  11. Lauren says:

    Very thought-provoking. I admittedly skipped down to the Brett Farve video, watched it, then read your comments about the clip. While I for sure understood your points about a well known icon with a less-than-stellar reputation giving off the wrong vibes for an ad campaign, the Farve commercial didn’t bother me all too much, most likely because I don’t know much about him; I found myself thinking, “Well, even if people think he’s wishy-washy, I guess the point of the ad is to put a familiar face with Sears, not necessarily to tempt us to ‘do as the Farve does’ but just to create a memorable commercial that might stick with us and come to mind next time we’re at the mall…”

    *However*… then I watched the Lindsay Lohan video. I don’t care for her as an actress or as a role model (and when brands use someone “famous” in a commercial, satirical plots aside, it’s usually because they think their demographic might see them as a role model). I thought, “Ugh! I don’t even know what the heck Fornarina is but no thank you!” Perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction, but after all, isn’t that all it takes to dissuade me from brand purchase?

    Well played, sir.

  12. Mattie says:

    I agree with Brenna. Brett Favre is doing what he loves to do. He’s been playing football since I’m guessing he was seven. Even though I do not agree with his indecisiveness, at least he is willing to laugh at himself. And if you ever watch him in press conferences he says all the right things and acknowledges that he has made decisions that have irked people. Now I am woman and do not live and breathe football, so my opinion may be different than most. But before that diminishes my opinion, I would like to add that I grew up in Dallas, Texas (where football is our religion) and weekends were split into college football Saturday and pro football Sunday.
    So personally, I do know if I would have put Brett Favre in my commercial but Sears has at least gotten a lot of people talking about it.

  13. Abby says:

    I also agree with Colin. I think people may be looking too deeply into it. As a Vikings fan, I wasn’t excited to have Favre join the team. Despite that, I have no problem with the commercial. I personally find it clever and funny. Favre is well known and has been a hot topic lately, so I think he was a good choice for the spot. When I watch it, I don’t associate Favre or his (lame) actions with the Sears brand. I more see it as Sears recognizing that Favre looked like a fool to most of America and jumping on board to poke fun at him.

  14. I will preface this by saying I am not the target audience and I HATE Brett Favre. With a passion. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I am a HUGE Bears fan and I have no desire in seeing him succeed, even as a Falcon/Packer/Jet/Viking.

    That being said, I think Sears is right on track here with their target audience. I also love that he pokes fun at himself. I agree with Colin that we tend to be more critical than most – maybe none of us are the target market. But I’d be willing to bet this worked HUGE in focus groups and that “Joe Plumber” will buy from Sears because Favre does.

    To Brenna’s point, I don’t know what I’d do if I had to retire from running a business, go to work for a big PR firm, only to realize my true love was in growing a business, even if I was past my prime. It’s the Michael Jordan saga, as well. Competitiveness is hard to give up!

  15. Deirdre says:

    What a great post! I’m biased, so it’s hard for me to objectively say if this is a bad play for Sears or if consumers would see this as a win. I used to be a HUGE Brett Favre fan. As a matter of fact, I walked a few holes on the golf course with Mr. Favre during an PGA NFL pro golf tournament. At one time (of course when I was much younger), we decorated our livingroom Greenbay Packers and this wasn’t even on Game Day. For me, I can’t connect with Brett anymore and I think it’s a bad play for the brand. The last thing the commercial does is make me want to purchase from Sears. But, I’m one of those disappointed fans. As for the rest of the consumers who were never big Brett fans or closely followed his career, this could be considered a cleverly done commercial. This is a good case study on what happens when a consumer is frustrated with a brand that doesn’t live up to expectations!

  16. NFL Fan says:

    I think this was a very smart choice by Sears. Brett Favre is rugged, tough as nails and charismatic. I think those are qualities that any company would want to associate with their product. Also, for all the people that say they now are Favre haters, he still sells the most jerseys of any player in the NFL by a landslide. He must still have some fans.

  17. Brittiny says:

    This commercial misses the market on multiple levels. While I agree with all of you about Brett Favre being a poor celebrity to associate for brand association, I think that’s only the start of the problem. Statistics show that women make 85% of all brand purchase decisions. While men might be the ones to go in and close the deal, chances are that even in the sale of electronics, a woman has done most of the product research. The “cold feet” theme of this spot is a horrible turn off to the female audience.

  18. Yeah, Favre is a bit of poison when it comes to deciding whether or not to play in the NFL, but he still has an “everyman” appeal of a guy who has lived his life in the public eye. From his successes to his drug addictions to the death of his father to his wife’s cancer, he has been an open book.

    This spot actually helps Favre more than it does Sears, in that he comes across as understanding that his flip-flopping is pretty terrible. The fact that he allows himself to be the butt of the joke shows that he does “get it.”

    Sears, on the other hand, is featuring a past-his-prime, divisive character. In the 1990s and early 2000s, we were a nation of Favre fans (most of us, anyway). But now? Most people just want to see him go away.

    Great move from the player, bad move from the company.

  19. Jessica says:

    I loved the commercial, but I’ve been a fan of Favre since the days of “There’s Something About Mary.” I never really understood the hatred for him because he can’t make up his mind about wanting to retire…

    Maybe he’s trying to make his transition into comedy, not unlike the beloved Manning brothers. 😉

  20. Tanya Flynn says:

    I liked the commercial and think the target audience can relate – have you ever been to an electronics store with a man trying to pick out a TV? I thought it was funny and down to earth. Personally, I can’t relate to most of the celebrities in commercials, but I can relate to someone who is indecisive about giving up something they love or picking out something that will sit in their living room for years.

  21. Favre probably still has a moderately high enough Q score to make it worthwhile. Michael Jordan came out of retirement, Hank Aaron played for the Brewers for a season…oh, we could go on.

    The bigger issue, to me, is the fact that Sears doesn’t really “get” who they are. Big Box retailer? Best Buy-colored shirts? Craftsman Tools? Kmart?

    This is part of the Sears “spaghetti phase” of marketing – throw many noodles against the wall. One will stick.

  22. Joe Vasquez says:

    looks like a perfect match to me. both brands are old and need to re-invent themselves fast.

  23. kevin says:

    To me, and I am probably in the minority, having a celebrity represent a brand does nothing to make me want to support that brand. It may hurt if I don’t like the celebrity, but if I like the celebrity it doesn’t increase the chance I will buy. Having said that, my reaction to the commercial was to laugh. I enjoyed watching Brett make fun of his recent situation. I think the commercial did more to help his image than it did to improve the Sears brand, directly, that is. Sears may have indirectly improved its brand by playing the supportive role to Brett Favre. Interesting approach in my opinion.

    I don’t see Brett Favre the same way you do. Many of us agonize, go back and forth, or waffle over a career decision, automobile purchase, hair cut or one of many other life decisions. The difference is that most of us are not high profile athletes who deal with constant media attention. I am not a Packers, Jets, nor Vikings fan. In fact, I root for the Patriots and Bears so one would think I would react differently to Brett Favre, but I say let the man be. If he wants to play football and a team is willing to have him then good for him. If he’s having trouble making the decision and has come across indecisive, so what? Is he really hurting anyone?

    I don’t think it was a bad idea for Sears to use Brett Favre in its ads. Many people relate to him more than they do most other athletes. If nothing else, it gets folks like us to talk about the commercial and that can’t be all bad for Sears.

    Thanks for the post,


  24. Nice post Aerocles – you seem to have really touched a nerve.

    I think Sears capitalized on the fact that with his ‘un-retirement’ Favre was top-of-mind with people (many of whom still like him), and that over his career Favre has never posed any brand risk with his off-the-field behavior (like a certain dog enthusiast who shall remain nameless). Favre’s self deprecation in the spot actually creates a degree of empathy, because we like people who don’t take themselves too seriously. At least, as a viewer, that’s how I felt.

    What I am really curious about is how, with the Vikings now 4-0 (off of Favre’s late heroics), your commenters feel about the commercial now?

    I also recently wrote a post about how the NFL could do away with commercials. I’m curious to see what you think –

  25. Lea Ann Wolcott says:

    I am not in marketing; however, have PR degree. Yes, you are overanlalyzing this. I think you would be surprised to find that outside of diehard football fanatics, most people do not see Brett’s move as a betrayal. He loves the game, someone asked him to play some more, and he said yes. As my husband (diehard football fanatic and not a Favre fan), I would play for $5 if someone gave me the opportunity. He is a legend and a frickin awesome player. The commercial is funny. Good move Sears.

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