MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Could Lowes buy a football team? It’s not that unlikely ..

You can never discount a rumour in this business, however ridiculous it might sound. Take some of Campaign’s stories last week. Ogilvy & Mather falling foul of the race issue with a Ford execution again? Surely not, when even the deputy managing director of the agency denied any knowledge.

You can never discount a rumour in this business, however

ridiculous it might sound. Take some of Campaign’s stories last week.

Ogilvy & Mather falling foul of the race issue with a Ford execution

again? Surely not, when even the deputy managing director of the agency

denied any knowledge.



Fortunately Ford came clean. And what about those rumblings that the

Office of Fair Trading is investigating TV sales, even though all

parties concerned insist it’s a non-issue. Can’t be true. Except that it

is and the OFT says investigations have only just begun.



So when we heard that Lowe Howard-Spink was plotting to buy Manchester

United, we didn’t think it as daft as it sounds. Particularly in the

light of last week’s news that Rupert Murdoch had splashed out pounds

210 million for the LA Dodgers baseball team.



Murdoch’s acquisition is, of course, based on some very sound commercial

thinking. The deal will give his Fox Group the Dodgers’ stadium in LA,

their training facilities and, crucially, the broadcast rights to the

Dodgers’ games. But this is not a new game. Fox already controls the TV

rights for 22 Major League teams and knows full well how important sport

is in driving TV audiences. If you own the team as well as the TV

rights, the sky’s the limit on how you exploit the commercial

opportunities - and you can bet Murdoch’s done all the calculations.



Which is exactly what Frank Lowe is rumoured to have asked his media

operation, Western, to do: work out the sums involved and the potential

advertising and media pay-offs. OK, it may all sound like the stuff of

fantasy but think about the implications. Ad agency buys football team

(leave aside, for a moment, the fact that Man United’s price is running

a little higher than most could afford), controls commercial

exploitation and even, perhaps, launches a Man United TV channel.

Imagine the advertisers who’d like to buy into that little package, not

to mention the fans prepared to shell out to see the games.



Advertisers are even doing it for themselves. Nike recently spent

dollars 200 million on a sponsorship deal with the Brazillian football

team in a tie-up that also gave the sportswear giant TV rights to a

number of games.



The arguments in favour of advertisers getting closer to TV’s editorial

product and exploiting that association off-screen are well-rehearsed

and sport gets top marks as a prime marketing vehicle.



With O&M proving that a seemingly inoffensive 30-second ad can be

fraught with problems, and the OFT illustrating the potential pitfalls

of TV trading, it’s no surprise that the big agency networks are

embracing the higher margins and fee income of areas such as event

ownership and event marketing.



And while Murdoch’s personal interest in the Dodgers’ performance is not

well documented, Lowe’s passion for Man United is not in question.