C74 Tries Marketing to Kids (and Soccer Moms)
With an enigmatic name that refers to a specific time and activity of questionable relationship to the organization’s actual purpose, Cycling ’74 has received its share of athletic sponsorship requests during its nine year history. Typically these have been bicycle tours or related events, and after careful consideration, we have rejected all of them. However, when I received an urgent call from the coach of my son Bruno’s soccer team saying that they were flirting with disqualification for lack of a sponsor, our corporate policy of exhaustive review (involving multiple levels of committee meetings) was carelessly discarded in order to seize the opportunity to market advanced audio and video software products to sports-minded 11-year-old boys and what we hoped would be their easily influenced parents.
The kids chose to be referred to as the Pandas, and who could blame them? Unlike their namesake, the Pandas were anything but lumbering bamboo aficionados on the pitch this year, continuing a three-year unbeaten record. Not all games were terribly competitive, but a few went down to the wire and required some late heroics. Particularly memorable was the last game of the season, the Pandas’ one and only draw. With about ten minutes remaining, the Pandas looked like they might go down to defeat for the first time 1-0, but despite losing their talented half-Brazilian midfielder in the second half (he had to rush off to perform in a musical adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast”), the team maintained a relentless level of pressure and earned one corner kick after another. Finally, a lovely cross came in front of the goal that was headed in for the equalizer. This happened to be the first goal ever scored by the team on a header. After some smart last-ditch Panda defensive play foiled a couple of breakaways by the opposing team, the game ended, both teams celebrated, and the mood of the subsequent year-end party was salvaged. As company representative, I was presented with a sponsorship plaque not unlike those my kids used admire at the local Dairy Queen until a recent soulless interior redecorating removed all traces of indigenous content. We’ve set it proudly next to our product awards on the mantel above the non-functional fireplace in the front room of our San Francisco headquarters.
Since none of the kids seemed terribly curious about their sponsors, and frankly, visual programming has not yet caught on with the pre-teen set in the way I dreamed it could, it’s not clear Bruno’s friends will be terribly psyched if Cycling ’74 gets another panicked phone call next September. But just give them a few years. When our teenagers have experienced the sad limitations of online casinos, cell phones, and Middle Eastern airlines, creative media software should arrive in its rightful place at the center of their digital athletic lives.