Forcing authenticity

November 7, 2014


Ok, he got THE SHOT. A successful content-generation effort, or so it seemed.


Nine times world champion Valentino Rossi, one of the greatest sportsmen of all time, and certainly one of the most popular and loved (internationally), is seen hugging the 2015 Yamaha R1 unveiled at EICMA this week. One of the things Vale is known for is his genuine love for the motorcycle, very often demonstrated by his hugging and kissing is racing machines, especially after winning a race.


For the unveiling of the new flagship Yamaha, the corporation got Rossi to ride the bike in its promotional video, ride it onto the stage and speak about the new bike's features. He was great, and it was undoubtedly great for Yamaha.


BUT, at one point in the presentation an executive from Yamaha turned on THE PITCH and turned Rossi from hero to shill in one embarrassing move designed to get THE SHOT, pictured above and across media worldwide.


The presentation was awesome up to that point. (Well, the video was a bit much, but that's product marketing, isn't it?) Vale was sincere in his praise for the new bike, measured as it was, giving the praise and brand authenticity. It was perfect. I, a die-hard Ducati fan, was set to place a deposit on the new R1. But when the executive asked, then pushed and insisted that Vale hug and kiss the Yamaha, because he wanted THE SHOT, it all fell apart. You can catch a glimpse of it in the photo, but the video captures it all. Vale is not "happily embracing the new R1," despite the PR-crafted photo caption. He's embracing the R1 because he was told to by the corporate executive. More than once. 


So he did it. He gave the man what he wanted, THE SHOT. 


But first Rossi gives the executive a look. And another. And finally, reluctantly, he hugs the bike and smiles for the cameras. But he didn't give the bike what the executive most wanted, the KISS. Valentino, ever the media and communication genius, knew what he was doing. That was his eff you to the executive, and reminder to his fans that Rossi is real, authentic, and you can trust what he says. He's not a shill. And the fans got it. The Rossi brand stayed strong. That Yamaha executive...well.


The presentation continued, but it was marred and just not the same from that point on. My bet is that, if we could see the retention analytics, that's where the viewing dropped off.


But that's OK. We got to see Vale introduce an awesome new bike. And we got a free reminder lesson: Forcing authenticity for THE SHOT doesn't work.  

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