US keeper Tim Howard broke World Cup records and, while his 15 saves against Belgium couldn’t prevent his side being beaten by Belgium, several brands (both sponsors and ambushers) were quick to leverage his achievements.
The dominant approach to leveraging Howard’s impressive performance was to jump on the Howard meme internet bandwagon.
While fans, mostly Americans, began to post and share a slew of Howard images and copylines across their social channels – by labelling him the #SecretaryOfDefense and linking him to trending hashtags such as #thingstimhowardcouldsave ((eg Titanic, Lehman Brothers etc) and #timhowardforpresident – brands shared their own message memes.
Bookie Paddy Power, for example, inserted the Everton stopper into the classic Jaws movie poster and claimed he was good enough to stop the shark catching swimmers.
Other sports rights owners got in on the act too. For instance, the Mercedes AMG F1 team posted a picture of its car and joked Howard could save the brakes during a Grand Prix race.
While his official sponsor Nike congratulated the goalie via Twitter not only with a congratulatory #RiskEverything tweet describing him as ‘fearless’, but it also launched a Howard-focused cut-down from its animated The Last Game cartoon film which it posted on Nike Soccer’s YouTube
and turned into a shareable Vine video.
The sports giant’s daily animated ‘Ask Zlatan’ webisodes also featured Howard with the Swedish striker (and fellow Nike brand ambassador) Zlatan Ibrahimovic honouring the American’s World Cup showing in typically egocentric style by claiming the ‘USA was like a country shaped like me’.
When he first appeared in Nike’s flagship World Cup animated short film The Last Game (see case study), many expressed an element of surprise that the goalkeeper was put into the company of Nike’s elite soccer star endorsers such as Ronaldo, Iniesta, Ribery, Luiz and Rooney.
But few can think he looks out of place now – especially after lasting longer and playing better than many of the other stars of the animated short.
After his personal outstanding performances during the World Cup and soccer in the USA seemingly reaching a tipping point taking it into the mainstream during Brazil 2014, Howard clearly has a window of marketing opportunity to make the most of his feats with appropriate advertisers.
He could become the next unlikely US sporting super stars following in the footsteps of basketballers Jeremy Lin and Jason Collins.
The rise of his and his team’s popularity was further fuelled by the President’s very public interest in the side’s Brazil 2014 performance, which even resulted in Obama calling Howard after the team were knocked out.
In addition to Nike, one of his few pre World Cup campaigns was fronting an ‘Ink Not Mink’ campaign for animal protection outfit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
This included a powerful TV commercial,
plus press, outdoor and online work.
‘Protecting animals is very important to me, and I think speaking out against fur is an amazing cause’, said the Everton goalkeeper about the cause campaign.
The organisation’s ongoing ‘Ink, Not Mink’ program features a number of people showing off their tattoos as a way to discourage consumers from wearing fur or other animal products.
Tim Howard Facebook
Nike Risk Everything YouTube
PETA ‘Ink Not Mink’ Website