Sears executives were giddy with their casting. I even asked them if they knew something the rest of the world didn't about Favre's future. No, they replied chuckling, they didn't know anything, but they felt confident the commercial would help them during the fall football season.
Shortly thereafter (it couldn't have been more than a week, really), Favre announced he wouldn't be returning to professional football, passing on the Vikings offer. Tough break for Sears, I thought. I've covered the company through a marketing lens for more than 10 years, and they never seem to get any traction. This was just another step in the company's long, slow, unfortunate decline.
But, in the back of my mind, I couldn't let go the twinkle in the Sears' executive voice when talking about Favre. They seemed to know more than they were letting on. They had already filmed the spot with Favre. In this economy, with the retailer about to make a big push into an electronics void left by Circuit City, it seemed they were pretty confident in their decision about a spokesperson.
So imagine my "surprise" Tuesday when Favre announced for the second time in his career that he would "unretire" and play quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings this season. On Wednesday, I was later shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- to see a release from Sears proclaiming that their new commercial featuring Favre would make its debut this Saturday, only days after Favre said he would return to football.
The only reason I'm stopping short of calling Favre's "retirement" then "unretirement" a marketing ploy is because I think that's giving Sears too much credit. But think about this description of the new commercial (taken verbatim from the company's press release): "Astute football fans will catch subtle humor in the commercials as Viking ships sail on the Samsung TV screens in the Sears electronics department, a play on his decision to return to football with the Minnesota team."
Now, I ask you, ladies and gentlemen of the marketing jury: How silly would Sears have looked running that commercial with Favre spending his Sundays in a Barcalounger in Mississippi?
So, now Sears and its Blue Electronics Crew commercial are intact. But I'm not sure it works to its advantage any more. Yes, Sears gets the name and face recognition of Favre, and it's airing its commercial at the right time to capitalize on the hype of his return. But it's still stuck with a spokesperson who's in the declining years of his football career and whose indecision -- which is mocked in the commercial -- has him running dangerously close to joke status. (The only thing keeping him from actual joke status will be appearing on David Letterman's Top 10 list. Mark my words, that will happen.)
In her status update on Tuesday, one of my "Facebook friends" wrote she "really doesn't care, but in my narrow opinion, part of being a good quarterback is the ability to make decisions and commit to them. Clearly [Favre] struggles with that."
The same could be said about corporate spokesmen.