You can almost see the ad. Maybe it's for insurance or beer, or the perfect ...whatever: The sun sets over a bridge. Umpire Jim Joyce stands on the edge, so distraught about the Galarraga call that he has decided to end it all.
Just then, Detroit Tigers' Armando Galarraga shows up, pats Joyce on the back and tells him that anyone can make an honest mistake. But only (beer brand) can make a perfect beer. Cut to a bar, where they are clinking bottles of (brand). Tag: "(brand). The perfect beer."
Okay, maybe not. But if anyone has ever gotten famous fastest for having defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, it's Galarraga. And there's nothing new about athlete spokespeople getting advertising mileage out of their mistakes, odd statements, or odd circumstances. Recall the recent Hyundai Sonata ad that aired during this year's Super Bowl, in which Brett Favre is dithering about whether he'll retire or not. And there's the recent, far less humorous ad (although there were YouTube parodies) of Tiger Woods staring at the camera, "listening" to his dad.
But what makes this different is the character Galarraga showed and the scope of the media attention, Jose Villa, president of L.A.-based market research firm Sensis, tells Marketing Daily. "There's a thousand different creative angles here," he says. One is the fact that of the 20 perfect-game pitchers, only one other -- Dennis Martinez -- was Hispanic.
"The Hispanic community coalesces around its stars," says Villa, noting that in the weird calculus of sports publicity, Galarraga may actually be more famous now for almost having pitched a perfect game than if he actually had done so.
"I think the guy has more PR potential now that this unique thing happened," says Villa. He notes that with few exceptions -- Oscar de la Hoya, for instance, or Sammy Sosa -- country and region define celebrity in the Hispanic community, but that Galarraga might transcend that regionality, at least for a Warholian moment.
"You really don't see many Hispanic sports figures with national reach -- people who have surpassed their ethnic background and become heroes. For instance, there are a lot of Hispanic ballplayers in New York who are huge in New York, but not nationally. And you see them in regional ads all the time. But Galarraga -- he could transcend that because what happened has been front-page news across all Hispanic media as it was in the general market. Everyone knows his name now."
But Matt Delzell, group account director at Davie Brown Entertainment, the entertainment marketing division of Omnicom's The Marketing Arm, disagrees. "Other than some local stuff that will have happened recently for him, because it's a unique story, I don't think he'll get anything nationally," he says.
"This was a spike on his radar that people paid attention to for a few days. But if people mention his name a week from now, nobody will know whom they're talking about. So he will get some short-lived opportunity."