Raymond Snoddy on media: Mercedes' face is less than fitting

We must always salute marketing people who do the unexpected, the truly creative. However, the person responsible for hiring Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney as the face of Mercedes has perhaps been more than a little courageous, as well as innovative.

Isn't there supposed to be some correlation in sponsorship deals between the brand values of the product and the subject? It seems that is now an old-fashioned concept. Totally passe, in fact.

In the 90s, L'Oreal signed David Ginola, the French international and Tottenham Hotspur player, to promote its hair products. He was good-looking, had long hair and spoke perfect English with just the right trace of a French accent. All this made him a perfect brand fit, according to conventional thinking.

Equally boring was Renault's choice of Thierry Henry, as an icon of Anglo-French co-operation, to promote its Clio. You could have thought that up over a coffee without the need for a single brainstorming session.

Mercedes' choice of an under-performing striker who wouldn't be allowed to organise most people's weddings is, by comparison, a flight of fancy of rare distinction.

Rooney must have arrived at Old Trafford for Sunday's game against Newcastle in his new, free, customised Mercedes Benz CL63, worth £121,200, as his £1m-a-year deal requires him to drive to all his matches, and most training sessions, in a Merc.

When he got there, Rooney failed to score as United dropped their first two points of the season, then got himself booked for pelting referee Mike Riley with a torrent of verbal abuse.

Evidently, the deal is already paying dividends for Mercedes. In fact, it is so brilliant that a great deal of mental effort is needed to deconstruct it. Obviously, the company is being very cunning, creating the subliminal message that anyone, absolutely anyone, can aspire to own a Merc - although, of course, it helps if you earn £100,000 a week.

As a proud owner of a Mercedes C230 - seven years old and bought for £6000 from a fellow QPR supporter, if you must ask - I am not sure the fact that Rooney drives a customised CL63 would inspire me to trade up.

But surely being the face of Mercedes demands more than just driving to a few matches in the right car? For £1m a year, you ought to do TV ads, which Mercedes cautiously says 'is an option' for Rooney. Presumably the hesitance is due to doubts over whether he has enough of what Henri might call 'va-va-Voom'.

Meanwhile, other automotive marketers must be scratching their heads, wondering how to respond.

Luckily, the Olympics is creating a raft of heroes, fresh off the media production line. Extreme visibility is guaranteed - more than 32m UK viewers watched at least some of the Olympics last week, and that is certain to rise as Team GB's medals haul grows.

Extreme care is needed in choosing a target. Beach volleyball and women's 10-metre air-pistol shooting don't have enough legs.

Swimming must be the sport. Its speed, elegance, widespread take-up and Rebecca Adlington's double-gold medal are all in the discipline's favour. Adlington herself could be a perfect ambassador, and survives on £250 a week - £999,750 less than Rooney receives in a year from Mercedes. She drives to training in a battered Vauxhall Corsa.

What an opportunity for Vauxhall. Or perhaps Skoda should jump first to supplement its otherwise admirable jokey ads with a real turn of speed ahead of London 2012.

- Raymond Snoddy is a media journalist and presenter of BBC Television's Newswatch

30 SECONDS ON ... OLYMPIC TV AUDIENCES

- The Beijing Games' opening ceremony took 51% of the UK audience, drawing 5m viewers on a Friday afternoon.

- An additional 400,000 watched live coverage on the BBC website, and 700,000 used audio and video during the afternoon. Prior to this, the record for one day was 500,000.

- Time zones have an inevitable impact on audiences. The Friday evening opening of the event in Athens in 2004, averaged an audience of 8.6m.

- Roger Mosey, director of BBC Sport, says online viewing is 'soaring' due to the time difference.

- It was a big weekend for Team GB, but viewing peaked at 5.8m last Sunday as Jamaican Usain Bolt won the men's 100m in a world record-breaking 9.69 seconds.

- Rebecca Adlington's 800m freestyle victory was watched by 500,000 people at 3am on Saturday.

- At 1am on Sunday, 2m people watched Paula Radcliffe's marathon attempt.

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