Advertising and Editorial Part Two
Yesterday I wrote a post about advertising and editorial relationships specifically as the issue pertains to a recent snowboard magazine cover. The bulk of that thought involved the compensation for Photographers, writers, and even the athletes when the editorial becomes an ad campaign. This post was to draw attention to Mike Berard’s great post and discussion on the subject.
Later in the day I added a note to the post:
The biggest, and most important question I see (and one that no one seems to be asking) is this — If brand X can pay to insert its logo on any photo in a magazine, in the case of TWS a cover shot, what incentive do they have to sponsor athletes?
This morning I thinking further about the significance of this. I’ve posted two recent covers above. One is the TWS in question, with a company’s logo allegedly added in post production (and allegedly without the rider in the photo, who doesn’t get paid ensorsement from BPF, having knowledge of it), and the other is a recent cover of the BMX Magazine Dig (which I was reminded of by @harrisonboyce on Twitter). In all reality, the branding on the Dig cover is far more “in your face” yet there can be little debate over it. Levis and Monster energy both pay Jamie Bestwick to endorse their product. The benefit being that Jamie, one of the best in the world on a BMX bike, is associated with their products in the eyes of his fans and readers of BMX media. Jamie is paid to represent those brands when he gets coverage for his skills, like on the cover above. Those brands support Jamie in his efforts to do what he does, and he supports them. They’ve essentially worked with Jamie to get that cover exposure.
The snow cover has less prominent branding, allegedly added after the fact, to a photo from a Team Shootout presented by an advertiser. A huge factor that no one has been talking about (or maybe even considered until I wrote about it yesterday) regards the athlete endorsements. Despite the fact that Jamie wins nearly every competition he attends, he still depends on endorsements not only for income but for support. A winning rider like Jamie is an exception even. The majority of athletes in action sports who compete on a professional level go into competitions with the “I have to get at least 8th place to eat next week.” That’s a lot of pressure. Winning is a lot easier when that pressure is off. The brands benefit, and the riders benefit. Endemic companies like BMX brands and snowboard manufacturers often have low margins and are able to pay their athletes very little salary. Those non-endemic brands become that much more important. A rider like LNP is paid by brands like Rome Snowboards to produce video parts and get coverage like this particular TWS cover. The brand and the athlete are in a relationship and they work hard to promote each other’s interests.
So back to the question this all raises. Now I know that Levis is down for BMX, and has been remarkably supportive in their program over the last few years. But if the high ups at brands like Levis are presented with the opportunity to have their brand positioned prominently every time, why wouldn’t they go for it? Even the best in the world doesn’t get a magazine cover every month. But print and online coverage is one of the things a brand hopes to get out of a top rider. If they can buy their way onto a prominent position, what’s their incentive to support the athletes day in and day out? As much as some of these brands have done great things and been incredibly supportive, they are in it for the money.
There is no question that new relationships need to develop between print and advertising in order for these publications to survive. But to what extent should those lines be blurred, and what is in the best interests of the professionals who make these sports what they are? While the Team Shootout was a sponsored feature, presented by an advertiser, it’s not presented that way on the cover, at least in my opinion as a reader. I’m all for sponsored content, but what’s next? Adding a delicious looking product to a rider’s hand? We are on a scary and slippery slope. A slope who’s only interest in mind might be keeping a magazine around a few extra months. At what point do you pull in the reigns?
In reality I’m presenting these issues more as questions and points of thoughts than as criticisms of Transworld. I think there are some big picture issues here in regards to publishing, media, and action sports that need to be discussed. It’s not the advertisers fault, they are just looking for the best marketing opportunities to reach out to their consumers. They should be doing anything they can to send their message. It’s the Publisher who makes the ultimate decision.