By Paul Kennedy
So what's happens to a star from a marketing perspective when things go
wrong? How do you turn a negative into a positive? One of the biggest surprises in the history of American soccer took place earlier this year when Jurgen Klinsmann
cut Landon Donovan
from the 2014 World Cup team. For more than a decade, Donovan had been the face of American soccer, and marketing campaigns featuring
Donovan were already underway with the World Cup just weeks away on that day in late May when he was told he wouldn't be going to Brazil.
"I remember very vividly getting a call right
after Landon left the practice field," said Richard Motzkin
, his longtime representative, "and he was shocked and surprised, as was I, when he found out he had
been cut from the team."
Millions of dollars had been spent on marketing campaigns, and Motzkin, the executive vice president & managing executive of global soccer at Wasserman Media
Group, had to take the calls -- the good and the bad -- with the companies Donovan was endorsing. But just as important he had to help Donovan deal privately with the disappointment and anger and then
begin to shape Donovan's message to the public.
At MediaPost's recent Marketing: Sports: Soccer in America
sponsored by Soccer
Motzkin explained how he helped get Donovan through the initial period that allowed him to then connect with sponsors, old and new. Here are a few keys
Discussion: Promise, Peril, And The Occasional Bite in Star Endorsements: Video
1. Use player's social media.
"It came quickly to a point that didn't exist a few years ago and we let Donovan get his first message out on his social
media." 2. Take the high road.
"At the end of the day, I think you need to take the high road so we came up with in collaboration with Landon a
very crafted message that expressed gratitude for everything he had achieved to date and appreciation for his fans." 3. Be authentic.
the next point was probably anger. It was OK for him to say to the public how he felt about his omission and to say he didn't agree because that's how he felt." 4. Show perspective.
"As Landon has gone through his last few games here, I think people understand and appreciate that as good a soccer player he is, he's actually an even better person
and he's got a really good perspective on life. One of the things he's said about the cut is that in many ways it helped make him a better person in the sense he got perspective." 5. Offer empathy.
"He had always been a guy who had gotten everything he wanted in life and this had really been the first time on the soccer field he didn't get what
he wanted. He was able to step back and have empathy for the players who had been the final cuts, and learn from that, and figure out how do you grow from that, how do you grow from rejection, how do
you use that to be more empathetic to people who might be in that position or will be in that situation in the future." (Those interested in submitting
Soccer Business Insider columns related to soccer and business should email Soccer America's Paul Kennedy for guidelines.)