Sponsorship: Signs of the times - The effectiveness of broadcast sponsorship means that clients want more control and exclusivity. This is creating conflict between channels, programme makers and the ITC LOUISE BISHOP reports.

Bullish confidence versus reserved introspection sums up many aspects of Anglo-American relations, but it is particularly apt when talking about the different status of marketing on either side of the Atlantic.

Bullish confidence versus reserved introspection sums up many

aspects of Anglo-American relations, but it is particularly apt when

talking about the different status of marketing on either side of the


Over here the profession is putting itself through the mangle as it

debates its questionable status in the corporate hierarchy. This topic

has been chewed over for the past few years, accompanied by reports from

consultants such as McKinsey and Coopers & Lybrand urging the marketing

function to reinvent itself.

But in the US, marketers are puzzled by the navel-gazing of their

British cousins. Their can-do culture, which feels uncomfortable

discussing failure, and where pessimism is frowned upon, does not

encourage the same self-deprecation. Some similar questions are asked,

but the impression is that these are challenges to be met, not problems

to be solved.

The key problem over here - that marketing does not command sufficient

respect inside and outside the company - does not apply over there.

Allyson Stewart-Allen, a UK-based American consultant with International

Marketing Partners, says: ’Marketing in the US is a profession in its

own right.

Witness the academic publications and marketing strategy that have grown

up. This reinforces that fact the marketing is a body of knowledge that

deserves respect and formal qualifications.’

Distinctive values

This means that in many major US corporations, marketing is seen very

much as a distinct set of skills, and not an adjunct to sales. That is

not always the case over here, she says. ’In the UK and the rest of

Europe, marketing and sales are often combined in the same unit. This is

a profound mistake because they are separate functions, and if you put

them together they get blurred. What happens is that the tools in each

of those respective professionals’ kit bags don’t get the attention or

merit each deserves.

It can also mean that the chief executive and the board don’t fully

realise the value to the bottom line that those two disciplines can

bring independently.’

The view that US companies do value marketing is backed by Sybil

Stershic, chairman of the board of the American Marketing Association

(AMA) and president of Pennsylvania-based consultancy Quality Service


’The reason marketing continues to enjoy prominence is that as business

moves from being product-driven to customer-focused it has been

recognised that marketing has always been the customer’s advocate.’

The academic underpinning, enhanced by gurus such as Michael Porter,

Philip Kotler and Theodore Levitt, also means marketing can take hold

early on. For example, the AMA claims almost 400 collegiate chapters in

North America. According to Stershic, as well as looking good on the

resume, joining a student marketing club is considered ’very


It is not all that surprising that marketing is so much more established

in the US. After all, America is its birthplace. It was during the 50s

that the US began to establish itself as the powerhouse of consumer

brand marketing, with companies such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble

leading the way.

Roberta Khoudari, executive director of marketing at The Conference

Board, the New York-based global business organisation, points out:

’These companies produced a cadre of brand managers who came up through

the ranks and moved into all kinds of industries.

’For example, in the 80s, you saw financial services firms being

populated by graduates from Procter & Gamble and General Foods, which

helped permeate a marketing mentality through that industry and


Broader horizons

Geography has also been a critical factor in marketing’s ascendancy.

As Steve Cuthbert, director general of the Chartered Institute of

Marketing, who has worked in the US, says: ’You are judged there on the

ability to meet customer needs: when, how and where they want things,

whether it is South Bend, Indiana or Manhattan. It is much more

demanding doing that over such a large geography, which has probably

helped make marketing more effective in terms of getting market

feedback, distribution and so on.’

Although their status is not under attack, some of the preoccupations of

US marketers are echoed in the UK, going by the Marketing Forum’s draft

agenda for the US event, to be held on the QE2 next May. There will be

keynote speeches on topics such as branding, technology, dealing with

media complexity and inflation, data mining and warehousing, strategic

alliances and improving marketing effectiveness.

Globalisation is also on the menu - quite rightly, according to

Stewart-Allen. In her view, US marketers, who are used to dealing with

such a huge market, can make the mistake of thinking that what they do

there can simply be translated elsewhere.

’They generally do not have a global perspective, or a perspective

outside the US,’ she says. ’They tend to use a cookie-cutter approach in

foreign markets and then are stumped when it doesn’t work. There is a

rather arrogant feeling that because we are the most powerful economic

power, the loudest and the strongest, and because we wield the most

resources, then of course people will do what we tell them.’

Fear of the unknown

Alyson Henning, chief business development officer worldwide for

Ammirati Puris Lintas in New York, attributes this attitude to fear more

than arrogance.

’When it comes to going global, a lot of marketers say they know they

have to do it, but they don’t really know what it means. After all, this

market is so big that they have never had to worry about anything

outside it until now. A number are scared, but the really good ones have

jumped in because they realise the only way to figure it out is by doing


While dealing with globalisation is a major issue, US marketers also

have to cope, like their UK counterparts, with the trend toward

cross-functional working. The AMA’s Stershic says: ’If you ask them what

keeps them up at night in terms of their own careers, it is the fact

that organisationally marketing is becoming a much more shared function.

The good news is that more people are responsible for marketing, but the

challenge is that, with that kind of restructuring, marketing as a

formal function is at risk. Working in multi-functional teams can be a

threat to marketers who are happier in a more traditional role.’

Nevertheless, that will not lessen the demand for marketing talent.

Henning believes: ’You can have the right product, the right pricing,

the right distribution, but if you don’t have the right message, forget


UK marketers may take heart from the fact that their US cousins have

some similar problems, but without the same status and respect they are

not as well equipped to solve them.


George Arabian, vice-president of international marketing and sales at

San Francisco-based NetObjects.

NetObjects, founded in 1995 and backed by investors like IBM, devises

software tools that automate and simplify the design of Web sites.

With a background in high technology, including a stint at America

OnLine, Arabian believes that the demands of the market, particularly

the advent of the Internet, is pushing marketing to the forefront in

what has been the fast-moving, more sales-oriented high-technology


’Marketing is being given that push because the business models are not

solid, not proven, and so you have to create brands in a new media.


requires more marketing than pure sales expertise,’ he says.

For him, a big issue is globalisation. ’It comes down to being able to

get people internally to think globally but also understand the need to

implement on a local basis. That requires a core vision and guidelines

to maintain consistency across geographical boundaries, without ignoring

local differences. You have to make sure you have the resources to lay

the groundwork for sales growth. That can be a battle, as the process is

not quantifiable.’


John Wallis, vice-president of marketing at Hyatt International


’I am in the business of trying to drive revenues and increase profits,

of which marketing is a function,’ says Wallis. This includes

responsibility for ensuring brand consistency through marketing, sales,

promotion, advertising and public relations.

British-born and a graduate of a Swiss hotel school, Wallis is sceptical

of taking an academic approach to marketing. ’What seems to happen in

the US is that a professor comes up with a new buzzword and everybody

follows it until someone comes up with another one. There is a lot of

theory and a lot of people making money from teaching it. You mustn’t

forget that the US is a country of MBAs, but to me marketing is common

sense.’ The issues facing Wallis would strike a chord with marketers

throughout the service sector: finding and keeping valuable customers

not just through external but internal marketing.

’Technology now means that we can cluster groups who behave the same way

and be more relevant in our communication to them. But we also have to

make sure that everyone down the line totally understands the message.’


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