Good and Bad PR: European Super League is the worst, followed by Marks and Spencer and Sky Sports

No time for niceties, we have so much to go through this week, and what a week it has been in comms land. The common theme through all the bad shizzle that has hit the bizzle world has to be the clear lack of listening to PR advisors at the very top level. 

If the Super League and Marks and Sparks C-suite had took guidance from their PR people instead of legal-land, the media landscape would have looked very different over the last seven days.

Bad PR

Marks and Spencer

Let’s start with Marks and Spencer. Oh dear, we all know the story, our nan’s favourite brand, that is largely being held afloat by its food and grocery sales, decided to take legal action against Aldi over the budget brand ripping off its caterpillar cake. PR stunt? Nope, M&S doesn’t do stunts, so let’s rule that out straight away. This is clearly someone in the C-Suite getting their brand “Autograph” Y-fronts in a knot.

Aldi’s social media team rubbed their hands with glee and dominated Twitter with a series of “actually made me laugh out loud” tweets that clearly put it on the front foot and left the old-school retail giant looking rather behind the times. Meanwhile, “internet sleuths” (TM from Netflix) set about ripping apart M&S arguments, citing its own rip-off’s of Mr Kipling’s fondant fancies and Toblerone chocolate. By the way, that last sentence was never one I thought I would write whilst doing my PR career training.

Finally, Aldi came up with a fantastic idea around selling both styles of cakes to raise money for charity and M&S issued the worst corporate shanter I have seen, well, until the Super League was announced. What a mess. M&S has reserved the option to take on all the supermarkets that also have a caterpillar themed cake which is… all of them. It clearly thought Aldi was the safest legal option however, it seems to have not remembered it is German owned, and Zee Germans do not put up with bullying. Good PR for Aldi, scheisse PR for M&S.

European Super League

Talking of scheisse PR, step forward the Super League and, in particular, the English element of this. There are so many layers to dive into, but there are two that I think we should focus on. The first is around the announcement. Bodged by the owners of the clubs would be too kind a word, it came complete with leaks the night before, no-pre-briefing for those in the game that may have offered them some wise counsel and without consulting the highest levels of management at the teams that they owned.

I cannot think of a term that suitably sums up how wrong the decision-making process must be for this to have ever been considered as a potential idea, let alone a good one. Just calling it “bad PR” is not enough. To give it context, it was such a bad idea that it even managed to make the UK Government look good in its own response.

Good PR

Footballing community

The Super League fiasco does have some Great PR elements though and this is around the footballing community. On the day the story was officially announced I have never seen the football community come together quite as much as they did. The night of the announcement saw LFC (one of the break-away clubs) play Leeds. The pre-match show was tub-thumping at its very best. I would love to see the viewing figures for the first 30 minutes of that show.

Elder footballing statesmen Carragher and Neville stood like shining beacons of hope for all of the footballing community, calling on rivalries between clubs and even broadcasters to be set aside so we could all unite against the Super League. I would have marched for those two and my only wish is that they are now given full reigns over the management of our COVID response because their speeches showed what amazing leaders they could be.

Bad PR again

Sky Sports

Switching back to the bad PR side of this story and during this show, and as part of a contractual obligation to talk to Sky Sports before a game, Jurgen Klopp, probably the joint most influential manager in the UK alongside Pep Guardiola, was forced to speak to Neville and Carragher and co about the situation. He clearly knew nothing of what had been agreed and spoke vehemently about how he disagreed with the owners of the club. I am no HR genius, but even I gathered that this was a very risky move on his part and could even have been classed as gross misconduct and risked his own job, but he went for it anyway.

The fact that LFC’s owners, Fenway Sports, would do this to their own team manager, and throw him under the bus like this, is damming in its own right. I don’t expect Klopp to forget this.

In the end, The Super League has collapsed and at the time of writing one of the US owners of the teams, The Merseyside Reds, has issued a video apology that is clearly rushed and, frankly, embarrassing. The guy appears to have gone for the dressed-down Bond villain look, complete with gilet and check shirt that makes him look like he has just come back from a hunting trip, probably shooting pandas. This will not be the end of this story and it has already revealed some interesting nuggets into the revenue sharing of the Champions League money pot that makes the Super League entrants look even worse. What a mess.

Good PR again

All of this has left wider PR-land very muffled, but there have been some brilliant campaigns and initiatives also pushed out this week. Notable Good PR gongs go to H&M for its free suit rental service for those attending interviews and also Lidl Ireland who has announced free period products to try and help combat period poverty. A massive thanks to @RobynMunroPR off the dynamic JBH PR for the heads up on those two… If you do spot something, give me a shout.

Finally, I made a fleeting return to the office this week and was over the moon to have been anonymously sent a hugely offensive (but entirely accurate about myself) T-shirt. A pic of which is over on my Twitter stream and I can’t force myself to repeat its slogan on such a family friendly website… anyway, I thank whoever sent it to me.

Written by Andy Barr, owner of 10 Yetis Digital. Seen any good or bad PR lately? Abuse and contradictory points welcomed over on The Twitter @10Yetis or andy@10Yetis.co.uk on email