ON N.J. SPORTS MARKETING
Selling eye black as your main source of income is not an easy business. Does it work, should it stick, can’t I just use dirt? Is it to make me look cool? Is it actually just a gimmicky form of real estate where someone can slap a name or I can out my favorite bible verse? From the pee wees to the pros, the eye black business is a tough one.
So what to do if you happen to be in the business and take it seriously as more than just a little marketing ploy? Have some fun with it. That’s what the folks at Farkas Original Eye Black did this week, finding an original story (the company president is the grandson of the “creator” of eye black), leveraging an affordable and engaging athlete (the Jets' Jim Leonhard) and creating a viral campaign that pokes fun at the uses of eye black but then delivers the key messages to drive some interest in a brand many may not have heard of. Quick, simple, fun with a nice assist from Trenton Area based HHR Marketing.
The campaign uses the Jets’ safety (with no NFL marks or references, thus saving lots of licensee dollars) and former Wisconsin Badger as the honorary Chair of “Athletes Against Stickers,” an organization which promotes the on-field superiority of eye black over stickers, and the role of professional athletes in setting a positive example for youth players on and off the field.
The majority of what is considered eye black in the field is of the sticker variety, which, according to a Yale study mentioned in the promotion, has no effect on glare at all. Leonhard’s role in the video uses lots of other “stickers,” including cute flowers and other kids toy products to poke fun, lots of fun, at the sticker business in testimonial fashion. He delivers the simple message to all watching…the original product, rubbed on, is what you wear for safety.
So what is Farkas Original Eye Black? That’s the rest of the compelling story. Farkas Original Eye Black was founded by the grandson of former Washington Redskins great Andy “Anvil” Farkas, who is credited with literally changing the face of the American athlete by being the first to wear eye black. The Anvil’s grandson, Brian Farkas, is the visionary behind the campaign and is running the company these days.
And why is this a good campaign?
-It is lighthearted: The last thing consumers want is to be “dazzled” with “facts” of a marginal product. The campaign doesn’t take itself too seriously, but is still strong enough not to lose the message…that this product is the best.
-It is cost effective: I can’t imagine that the eye black business generates millions of dollars for smaller players. By targeting the core audience with a smart viral campaign, the business is reaching the micro-consumer at the core.
-It uses a spokesperson who gets it: Leonhard is not the biggest name jet, but he has a cult following for his style of play and he is dedicated both to use the product and to help get the word out. That buy in at any level is very important, and it works in this case.
-It is a good story, and we love good stories in sports: If this was produced in a lab by scientists and not with the buy in of the “father of eye black,” who outside of players would really care. The Farkas story gives it legs outside of that very small core.
-It is a recognizable product to a casual fan: Anyone around sport has seen some form of eye black. It doesn’t take much to explain what it is, and just a little more time to say what it does.