Making lemonade from lemons?

Generally, I’m an optimist. I try to see the opportunity in everything. I’m also loathe to carry on a meaningless conversation when there clearly is the proverbial elephant in the room. So you think I would be happy with Versus decision to attack the doping problem in its promotion of the Tour de France. In a cautious way, I am.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) describes Versus advertising campaign designed to attract viewers to its Tour coverage. Print ads contained a thinly veiled reference to the UCI pledge with the line, “Commitment isn’t just something you can sign your name to….You either have it or you don’t. And you won’t find proof of it in the ink on some dotted line. But you will find it in the mountains of France.”

I think it is courageous for the network to take this tack. You can’t continue pretending everything is perfect. You also don’t want to incite your core audience either.

Versus is getting some heat. Marketing agencies are calling the decision “questionable” Cervélo is confused stating that you don’t see the major US TV networks doing this with baseball. Versus response lends you to believe that the network, which is owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast, finds themselves in a corner.

Versus is in the middle of a transformation from a nice little niche network to a full blown sports network capable of challenging ESPN. Part of that strategy included a name change and acquiring the rights to the National Hockey League.

Hockey lost a season due to an owner’s lockout and has yet to fully recover. Cycling lost Lance Armstrong, and the American Market has not fully recovered either. On top of this, add Floyd Landis and Operation Puerto. What would you advise the network to do?  If you like Marketing and you like the sport, it is an interesting read and an interesting business case.

I guess it is easier to go all in when you are already down to your last stack of chips.


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