Much Ado about Guerilla Marketing: Bad Boys Bail Bonds vs freedom of speech

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Saturday, October 1, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Bad Boys Bail Bonds freedom of tshirt speech

Sometime’s hockey can be ridiculous. Without as much mainstream attention as other major sports, coverage can occasionally veer off into the nonsensical. That was the case last week when San Jose Mercury News reporter Bruce Newman published an item titled Tempest in a t-shirt. It was reported that the San Jose Sharks/HP Pavilion management would ban the Bad Boys Bail Bonds contigent that sits directly behind player benches from wearing bright, neon-colored advertising apparel at games. After they declined to renew a $70k advertising package for player benches, Bad Boy co-owner Jeffrey Stanley believed a new “enhanced ticket policy” was created to prohibit ticket holders from wearing clothing items that promoted other entities. “They’re targeting just us” he told the Mercury News.

The Sharks gained a new advertising sponsor for the player benches this year in Porsche Automotive. Sharks Sports and Entertainment VP Malcolm Bordelon said that the team did not want competing messages sent to its sponsors in the form of garrish t-shirt advertisments, face paint and wigs. “That type of ambush marketing is what we’re trying to protect them from,” Bordelon told the Mercury News. The tongue in cheek freedom of speech angle Bad Boys Bail Bonds took with the Mercury News was amped up with Yahoo Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski a few days days later. In addition to furnishing the letter sent by the Sharks regarding the new policy, Stanley also offered that he had sought consitutional law counsel. “My constitutional attorney says we have a legal right to wear the shirts at the game,” he told Yahoo.

Wyshynski playfully asked if the Sharks violated a fans freedom of speech. Uh, no. Tickets and ticket policies are a binding contract that all fans agree to when they step inside the door. Then there is simple common sense. First, if you have lived anywhere from a 50-100 mile radius of San Jose, you know several members of the Bad Boys Bail Bonds crew whether or not you have been to jail and/or needed a local bailbondsman. The Bad Boys Bail Bonds commercials, several of which are on youtube, were on a late night rotation locally for several years. Bad Boys are known as much for their aggressive marketing as they are for their neon pink and neon green. Aggressive marketing that was supplemented by a large fleet of cars and trucks emblazoned with the Bad Boys logo. Several parked directly across from the courthouse downtown for extended periods. The Bad Boys contigent enjoy themselves at Sharks games as any fans would, but they have also lead cheers and angled to get in camera shots when they were focused on players or coach’s at the bench.

It is classic guerilla marketing 101. Nationally guerilla marketing has had its highs and it’s lows. A high point had to be in 2001 when news came that the aging Russian Mir space station would re-enter earth’s atmosphere and land somewhere in the South Pacific. Fast food giant Taco Bell quickly went into overdrive and dropped a 40×40 foot inflatable target in a vast stretch of the Pacific Ocean. That was followed by a national press release that went viral. If the Mir space station hit the target, everyone in the U.S. would get a free taco. A guerilla marketing low may have come with the 2007 Adult Swim cult marketing campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force animated television show. That underground campaign consisted of a computerized version of their character magnetically attached around Boston under bridges and overpasses. With blinking lights and exposed motherboards and wires, many passersby thought they may have been bombs. Authorities in Boston had to respond to a rash of bomb scares for several hours. The resulting headline in Wired Magazine: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Sparks Bomb Panic in Boston. Fail. Locally guerilla marketing may have reached it’s zenith with the dot com technology boom of the late 90′s. Several small companies with little to no marketing budgets went to extravagent lengths to get their name out to people that mattered. One startup dressed completely in guerilla suits, bought dozens of pizzas, and stormed a venture capital firm looking to make an impression. It did not go over well.

The Bad Boys campaign earned it’s share of attention, but as noted in the orginal article by Bruce Newman, they were going to milk it as far and as long as possible. That aggressive push lead to several local television segments. Bad Boys co-owner Jeffrey Stanley also was a guest Thursday on KNBR 1050AM with Damon Bruce. Last week Bruce publicly supported comments Jeremy Roenick made about Patrick Marleau that even Roenick backed away from (although poor word choice does not equal wrong). This week Bruce hopped on the tail end of this non-existent and over-hyped scandal. If there is another scandal next week, it may signal a trend that could increase if the NBA lockout continues.

“This smacks of sour grapes from a team and a franchise that has had very few public PR gaffes. I think they are making one,” Bruce said. The veteran radio and post-game host often comes at sports issues with intelligent and fresh opinions. This was not one of those times. Stanley noted that he wasn’t interested in moving his seats, and said his dispute over the tshirt policy did not color his feelings about the team. “We didn’t want it this controversial,” Stanley said on KNBR. “We support the team, we love the team, love the coaching staff. Great people. I just thing managment is taking it own their own to strong arm me into advertising with the team.”

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