The Spin King and I

As the owner of a marketing company I attend a range of conferences, seminars, social and client functions every year. If you were to pick any one of those events, I can guarantee that after the formalities, one of the first question asked of me is “What made you pick Shane Warne as your company’s ambassador?”

Shane Warne is arguably the most recognised sports personality in Australia, but he’s also been one of the most controversial. So why would any company choose to sponsor a sporting personality/renegade/rule-breaker to raise brand awareness? It’s simple really, when Warnie talks, people listen.

It was 2005 when I began searching for a prominent sporting personality to sponsor and by the end of my search I had narrowed it down to two: Ben Cousins and Shane Warne. Shane was embroiled in controversy at the time and a number of marketing people told me to go with the safe choice – Ben Cousins. I approached Ben and asked him what he’d want to be the face and voice of Messages On Hold, but never heard back from him. A few weeks later I attended a Test Match dinner at Perth’s Hyatt Hotel where I collared Shane on the way to the men’s toilets and gave him a note offering him some cash to do some voice recordings.

I knew we’d put some people off-side by sponsoring Shane, but I figured I’m never going to do business with every organisation or person in the country, so what’s the point in trying to please everyone? This is where, I believe, most businesses fall short – they’re simply too frightened to try things that might alienate people.

We secured $1.8m of media exposure the day we launched with Warnie. It was like winning the “marketing lottery”. Since then we’ve used Shane in numerous unorthodox and creative ways – e.g. “Warnie’s Words of Wisdom“. Messages On Hold clients and prospects sometimes receive a personalised voicemail message from the great man. They hear Shane greet them by name and play the entire message to their friends and associates, at the same time promoting our brand – bless them for that!