A Grand Slam for Milk?

Molly Sunderdick

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The recent “Got Milk?” TV spot produced by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has been under fire by Major League Baseball for making light of the steroid conflict within the league. The scene opens upon a player who was pulled from the game for “testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. ” The substance turns out to be a carton of milk found within the player’s locker. Major League Baseball claims the ad is a cruel mockery of a serious problem within the sports sphere, but Jeff Goodby suggests that their parody is “goofy enough so that people didn’t get upset. ”

Milk is in universal demand while MLB is working to please and maintain a rather tempestuous audience, otherwise known as fanbase. It is no secret that MLB has taken a hit with the exposure of steroid scandals. Without a doubt, baseball’s entire history has been littered with scandal, whether it be drugs, gambling or even fixing the World Series. The brand of MLB ebbs and flows every year, but somehow still manages to sell tickets and fill stadiums. In fact, sales are actually up in 2005, boasting an overall season record attendance of nearly 75 million people. So why is Tim Brosnan, the VP for business for baseball, up in arms? What does this milk commercial say to the customer, and does MLB have good reason to protest?

Famous “Got Milk” ads continue to appear on TV and in the most widely read publications. Various celebrities from multiple industries sport the “now cool” milk mustache while striking a sexy pose for the camera. The campaign was an immediate success, and a seemingly staple consumer product now had a face, a personality and, more importantly, a brand position. From a brand perspective, milk most certainly has permission to produce this form of advertising. In addition, Major League Baseball needs to recognize the healthy, rejuvenated exposure it receives from this “parody” ad.

You can draw a couple conclusions from this ad. First, that Milk has deliberately chosen Major League Baseball as a positive marketing vehicle during the MLB play- offs. Regardless of the parody or face value of the commercial, the TV viewer immediately connects with baseball; it becomes top of mind during a very crucial time period in the baseball season. The viewer thinks about baseball before he even sees milk.

Using something as popular and powerful as MLB is actually taking a risk for milk. Association can actually even be a mistake for the advertised brand. For example, Napster currently has a commercial where an iPod is seen as the object of focus before Napster’s logo even appears on the screen. Directly positioned against the iPod, Napster makes a large promotional mistake by even showing the iPod on the screen during their ad. milk, in this case, is certainly promoting baseball rather than discouraging it.

Secondly, milk has gathered enough brand muscle to put itself in the realm of sports while being “funny and cool. ” For once, Budweiser could not have done it any better. Sports teams never refute a silly beer ad that may or may not reflect poorly upon the sport (and its fans) because “it’s beer, and it’s cool. ” If Major League Baseball has an issue with a beverage, they should go after the alcohol served in all of the stadiums that cause injuries, drunk driving and improper fan conduct.

Major League Baseball should not take offense to this ad. It certainly was not meant to target Major League dissenters and to take shots at the league’s current steroid debacles; it was created to both promote the use of the product for athletes, contribute to the October play-off hype and to use the performance enhancing drugs as commercial foil for milk, “the real thing. ” Similar to the physical characteristics of the product itself, milk can only aid in the strengthening of the brand of Major League Baseball.

Molly Sunderdick
Brand Strategist
Stealing Share Inc


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