When Mike Tyson speaks, people cower

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Mike Tyson as TV host? Speechmaker? Corporate pitchman? All of the above, if Harlan Werner has his way.

Mr. Werner is the president-CEO of Sports Placement Service, a marketing firm that specializes in representing mostly retired athletes-Sandy Koufax and Joe Namath among them-and capitalizing on their names with licensing deals, book deals, speaking engagements and, yes, commercial opportunities.

Mr. Werner's California-based company just signed the retired boxer to a deal.

The same Mike Tyson who, despite being the youngest man ever to win the heavyweight title, became better known for, oh, a series of transgressions, acts and comments that include: being a convicted rapist; biting an ear lobe off Evander Holyfield in a championship fight; saying the best punch he ever threw was the one he landed on actress and then-wife Robin Givens; telling reporters he wanted to stomp on their testicles (not pretty); and threatening to eat boxer Lennox Lewis' children (even less pretty, although Mr. Lewis didn't have any kids at the time).

Adages won't even get into the time Mr. Tyson bitch-slapped fellow fighter Mitch "Blood" Green outside a Harlem clothing store at 4 a.m., or the time he ran his Bentley into a tree, or . . .

Anyway, what makes Mr. Werner think he can market Mr. Tyson?

"America wants a happy ending," he said. "We want to see something positive. Mike Tyson is a young man. He's only going to be 40 this year. Now it's a different time in his life."

Only in America. Wait, who else said that?

Puppy gets paper trained

More than a decade since the dawn of interactive advertising, people still aren't that eager to interact with toilet paper online. The category has only one really relevant touch point, a place best left unmentioned. And so toilet-paper marketers have not been big internet users. Until now, perhaps. Kimberly-Clark Corp. on June 27 breaks its PuppyTracksUSA.com campaign, in which the Cottonelle Puppy, that adorable little yellow lab, visits nine "quirky roadside destinations" across the U.S. Needless to say, the world's largest fire hydrant in Beaumont, Texas, is one. People will be urged to submit ideas for the pup's 10th stop, with the best winning a $90,000 trip to quirky international destinations.

Cottonelle will use online ads, including search, to drive people to PuppyTracksUSA. While Cottonelle owns the top position for "toilet paper" on Google, that's not as heavily trafficked a place as you might imagine. So it's going to concentrate on vacation-oriented search words for this campaign, said Stuart Schneider, associate marketing director for Cottonelle, to capture people as they do their summer-vacation planning.

The idea is to forge closer emotional bonds between consumers and the pup, and between the pup and Cottonelle in people's minds, Mr. Schneider said, which is easier than forging closer emotional bonds with the product, or even its cushy ripples. "It's not easy to have a conversation about toilet paper," he said. "This allows us to have that conversation in a fun-loving and mischievous way."

Surf's up in Nashville

TBWAChiatDay, Playa del Rey, Calif., is having some fun with the interior design of its new office in Nashville, where roughly 40 staffers will service Nissan North America for its headquarters' relocation from Southern California. Rob Schwartz, the shop's global executive creative director for the automaker, said to expect surfboards; one in the works now will carry the Tennessee state flag. "It's sort of surf meets South." He said all the conference rooms will carry names tied to the state: Dolly (Parton), Tennessee Ernie (Ford), Old Hickory (Andrew Jackson) and Elvis (needs no explanation).

Contributing: Jean Halliday, Jack Neff, Rich Thomaselli Surf over to kwheaton@crain.com
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