Branding Bernie (Part Three)

The Public Apology is proud to present its latest mini-series, ‘Branding Bernie’: How Bernard Tomic Got His Mojo Back. Here, we look at the forgotten man of tennis, Bernard Tomic, and his desperate bid to recapture the hearts and minds of the Australian tennis public…

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It had been weeks since Bernard Tomic had met with the experienced strategists at Brand Visioning, Sydney’s highest profile branding agency, to discuss his reinvention. He’d walked out of the meeting buoyed by the prospect of starting afresh, but lately, over the past week or so, nagging doubts had entered his mind. 

After all, Bernard Tomic was an established entity. Was he really going to let a bunch of ‘branding experts’ dictate his very essence? To redefine everything he stood for? Oh yes, he was nervous. Certainly much more nervous than he’d ever been before any match, as he sat in the meeting room, twiddling his giant thumbs, anxiously awaiting the big reveal.

“G’day, Bernie. Great to see you again,” said Alan Jacobs, chief strategist at Brand Visioning, as he bowled into the room, coffee in one hand, tie askew, trailed by the firm’s creative director, Brian Matthews, and his young accounts manager, Ally Beckinsfield.

“Apologies for the lateness – we’ve just come from an urgent client meeting. We’re working with an insurance company that’s trying to humanise its brand – it’s an absolute nightmare dealing with corporates…”

“No dramas, Alan. Good to see you too,” Bernard replied. He still wasn’t totally sold on the idea of being called ‘Bernie’ – it felt weird and artificial – but he didn’t make anything of it. After all, Alan’s job was to convince the world that Bernard Tomic was worth caring about. If it meant adjusting his moniker to ‘Bernie’, or dying his hair blonde and adopting an affected Northern Beaches accent, then so be it. 

Jacobs paused for a brief moment to catch his breath and adjust his $200 silk tie. 

“Bernie, we’ve had a few weeks to think about your brand strategy – and, to that extent, the precise message we want to get out to the public. We want to make getting to know Bernie as simple a process as possible. We’ve also come up with several campaign ideas – some of them safe, some of them a bit edgier – which we believe will help shape your narrative and brand essence.”

Bernard Tomic nodded as he reclined further into his chair, his body language suggesting an open mind. Jacobs grinned that 1000 kilowatt smile, and continued.

“The Tomic brand is premium. You’re the Rolls Royce of Australian tennis. Whether it’s your tall, languid ground strokes or your cool, calm on-court exterior, we need to focus on these elements in creating your overall brand message.”

Yes, I am ‘premium’, aren’t I?

“But the Australian public – indeed, the global public – doesn’t see this side of you. They see a young, entitled athlete who trashes hotel rooms, orders lap-dances, and hoons around the Gold Coast in his orange BMW, giving the finger to hard-working everyday Australians. Unfortunately, these minor, isolated misdemeanours have cheapened your brand.”

Bernard hung his head in shame. God, how could I have been so stupid? 

“We have to make you a luxury item, Bernie. We have to reposition you in the market. We suggest aligning with other premium, well-known brands in order to boost your own image. You know how Nick Kyrgios has partnered with Beats by Dre to cash in on his ‘bad boy’ image? Well, Kyrgios is many things, but he’s not premium in the way you are. You’ve got European sensibilities; you’re a discerning gentleman,” Jacobs continued, now firmly on a roll.

“We’ve got a bit of a partnership with the gin company Tanqueray. You’ve heard of them haven’t you? God, look who I’m talking to! Of course you have. Well, I talked with their head of marketing, and they’d be interested in working with you much in the way that Gillette works with Roger Federer. Two premium products, side by side, boosting each other’s brand. In this industry, we call that synergy.

Bernard raised his Slavic eyebrows.

Go on, tell me more.

Brian, the brilliant creative director, took his cue. “Images of you in a suit, holding a glass of Tanqueray, with the tagline… wait for it… ‘Gin and Tomic’ – a premium doubles pairing.”

The three Brand Visioning colleagues looked at Bernard with baited breath. At least 10 seconds of silence had passed. That was a long time, even in this industry.

“What do you think, Bernie? Are we on to something here?” Jacobs prompted, his eyes now perfect circles as he eagerly awaited a positive result.

Tomic furrowed his brow, in deep thought, before allowing a broad smile to break out over his angular face.

“That sounds bloody good, guys!”

“Great, we’re on the right track!” Brian said with palpable relief.

“Now, Bernie,” Jacobs continued, “you’re a young man – and this is the 21st Century, where brands must have a strong online presence in order to succeed. While the ‘Gin and Tomic’ campaign will certainly work with traditional media – imagine that ad coming on your television during a Tomic v Federer prime-time semi-final at Wimbledon – we will also need to consider the web.” 

Brian, again, took his cue. He’d been working side by side Jacobs for the past 12 years and they had an almost telepathic connection. During a branding presentation, they were near unstoppable.

“Again, playing off the Tomic pun… what do you think about a web series starring yourself and Jim Courier, tailored for domestic audiences, entitled ‘Jim and Tomic’?”

Brian let that hang in the air for a moment before continuing. 

“We’re thinking that it would be just Jim and yourself having a conversation in front of the cameras, in an intimate setting, with a really corny, miniature tennis net separating you both – kind of like a ‘Between Two Ferns’ parody. We’d get to see the humorous side of Bernard Tomic – the self-depreciating boy-next-door. Australians love taking the piss out of themselves! The series, naturally, would be sponsored by Tanqueray.”

Shit, that’s bloody genius.

“So we’ve conquered the Australian market,” Jacobs continued, having assessed Bernard’s reaction as positive, “but we need to go global, now. We just think the name ‘Tomic’ has so much power and panache, that it would be a shame not to leverage it further. Your problem has never been the name of your brand, Bernie. It’s all been around the messaging.”

Bernie nodded, yet again, his eyes widening at the prospect of a delineated global branding push.

Jacobs took an deep, audible breath before asking Bernard a direct question, uncertain of the response it would trigger.

“Listen Bernie, how tied to the name ‘Bernard’ are you?”

Bernard took a moment to contemplate Jacobs’ question. “Well, it’s my name, so yeah, I guess I’m reasonably bound to it. Why, what are you thinking?”

“Well, we were thinking… and please, tell me if we’re out of line here… but, we were thinking, maybe, that you should change your first name.”

What? I’m not Bernard Tomic any more? 

Jacobs gauged Bernard’s response to be one of hesitation, so he continued on.

“Listen, Bernie. IF your name started with the letter A, we would be able to brand you globally as A.TOMIC (as in, the atomic bomb). So, if you’re open to it, maybe we can fashion a story around how you want to go by your original Yugoslavian name – which will start with the letter A – so as to brand you as the FUCKING ATOMIC BOMB!”

Bernard wasn’t sure about this. After all, this was his name. Of course, stranger things had happened in the world of sport. Ron Artest had rebranded himself as Metta World Peace recently, to stunning results. Artest had been vilified as one of the biggest thugs in the NBA, the key instigator in the infamous ‘Malice in the Palace’ brawl, but post-rebrand, he had become a much-loved symbol of peace and humanity.

“We’ve got some options, Bernie,” Jacobs said. “For example, the Yugoslav name ‘Andrija’ means ‘man’ or ‘warrior’ in English. Loosely, the name is translated as Andrew, which is a nice, clean, accessible Anglo name. Bernard still sounds a little severe and Germanic, whereas Andrew is a pleasant sounding, American-friendly name. We’ve done some market research on the name ‘Andrew’, and 9/10 people find it to be a lovely name.”

Am I Andrew Tomic, now? Can I be A.Tomic?

“Anyway, let that one sink in for a while, Bernie. Or should I say, Andy,” Jacobs quipped, to scattered laughter.

“Sure, mate. Let me talk it over with Dad and we’ll come back to you later this week,” Bernard answered.

Jacobs shot an uncertain glance to his colleagues.

“Mate,” Jacobs began, gently. “I think this is a decision for you to make. We don’t need to involve your father here. I mean, do you really want to play your whole career under your father’s shadow?”

“Well, no. I want to be my own man. I mean, I am my own man,” Bernard responded.

“Good! Well, as I said, have a think about it. Andrew Tomic… just let it roll off the tongue a few times, see how it feels. Andrew Tomic. Andy Tomic. A.Tomic…” Jacobs trailed off, eyeballing Bernard as he awaited his response.

Bernard tried it out. “Andrew Tomic. Andy Tomic. A.Tomic. Yeah, feels good. Feels real good, actually…”

Bernard rose to his feet and firmly shook the hand of Alan Jacobs.

“I’ve got a good feeling about this, Alan.”

By Dave Edwards

PREVIOUS: Branding Bernie, Part One

PREVIOUS: Branding Bernie, Part Two

Branding Bernie (Part Two)

The Public Apology is proud to present its latest mini-series, ‘Branding Bernie’: How Bernard Tomic Got His Mojo Back. Here, we look at the forgotten man of tennis, Bernard Tomic, and his desperate bid to recapture the hearts and minds of the Australian tennis public…

*  *  *  *


“Who are you, Bernie?”

The question was deliberately blunt, designed to disarm. Jacobs, head of brand strategy at Deep Visioning, was a skilled excavator – and he knew that, at first meeting, businesses were heavily guarded. To penetrate, to achieve the cut-through he was known for – the cut-through that had won him dozens of industry awards – he needed to ask some tough questions in order to confront uncomfortable realities.

“Umm, well, I’m a tennis player, ranked 25th in the world,” Bernard stuttered.

“Sure, sure. That’s who you are, on paper. But who are you?” Jacobs persisted, eyebrows arching inquisitively as he leaned forward against the mahogany desk, wanting more, much more than his client was willing to give.

Bernard wasn’t sure, and that was the truth. For years, he had been les enfant terrible of Australian tennis, but now, that title belonged to Nick Kyrgios. So what did that make Bernie? Who was he?

God, how do I answer this?

Jacobs broke the silence. “Ok. Maybe we can try a different approach to start with, but I want you to think about that one, Bernie. We’ll come back to that.”

Brian, the creative director, seized the limelight. The brilliant bald visionary swung around in his chair to meet the client, face-to-face.

“Bernie, if we were to look ahead three years from now, to 2018, how would you define success?” he probed.

“I’d like to win a major,” Bernard responded with alacrity. “I’d be 26 by then, and I want to be a top ten player and have at least one major under my belt.”

“Good, that’s good!” Jacobs said. “So, you want global recognition. You want to be recognised by your peers and you want to be taken seriously as a top 10 contender.”

Jacobs scribbled some notes on a large piece of yellow paper – 1. Global Recognition. 2. Respect of Peers. 3. Awards – and ripped it off its easel, sticking it onto the wall like an oversized post-it note.

“Great, we’re getting somewhere now!”

Bernard shuffled awkwardly in his seat.

“Now, Bernie,” Jacobs continued, “let’s talk about your competitors. Who are they – and what’s your major point of differentiation in relation to them from a branding perspective?

This was the question that vexed Tomic the most; the cause for many of his sleepless nights.

He knew who the main competitor was – it’s Kyrgios! Bloody Nick ‘Silver Spoon In My Mouth’ Kyrgios! – and this brash upstart from suburban Canberra was quickly eating his market share. To the Australian public, Tomic was now a mere afterthought.

Silence, again, ensued.

“Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment, if I may,” Jacobs said, interrupting Tomic from his thoughts.

“There are three major players in Australian tennis – it’s a trio-poly, if you will. There’s Lleyton Hewitt, there’s this Kyrgios fella, and then there’s the incredibly likeable Sam Groth…”

“What! Groth! That one-trick pony?! He’s a fucking nobody!” Tomic blared, surprising himself with his aggression.

“Just wanted to see if you were paying attention, mate!” Jacobs shot back, stifling a giggle. He continued.

“Obviously the three major names in Australian tennis are yourself, Hewitt and Kyrgios. Now, Lleyton is close to retirement, but we mustn’t forget his importance in this competitive market place. He, himself, was once les enfant terrible of Australian tennis, but now, he’s a true statesman. A real family man; the darling of Women’s Weekly and other such venerable publications. He’s someone who deserves plenty of respect.”

Bernard nodded to himself. Jacobs pressed on.

“Anyway, let’s focus on Kyrgios for now: He’s flashy, has the earring, the entourage, the Beats by Dre sponsorship deal. He’s shiny and new. He’s got sex appeal and roguish charm.

“And then, there’s you: the humble young man, born to poor Yugoslav parents, who migrated here as a three-year-old to start afresh in a brave new world, free from the threat of ethic conflicts and political upheaval. You’ve been around longer than Kyrgios, but no one really knows you, do they?”

Bernard listened intently to Jacobs’ compelling version of events. Sure, Jacobs was taking some serious poetic licence – after all, Tomic’s parents had migrated from Yugoslavia to the safe, clean confines of Germany before Bernard was even born. At the age of three, the Tomics chose to move to the sunny Gold Coast – beautiful one day, perfect the next – before enrolling Bernard at the exclusive Southport School. It was an idyllic upbringing, to put it mildly.

But Jacobs’ story of adversity was truly captivating. Perhaps this was the story he needed to run with?

“If you look at Kyrgios – your main competitor – we’re talking about a privileged kid who grew up in Canberra – the capital of Australia, for Christ’s sakes! – with a doting, mollycoddling Malaysian mother who still fights his wars for him!” Jacobs continued, eyes blazing as he stared directly into his client’s eyes.

“But you, Bernard, you are true grit. You’ve had it tough. Things haven’t always gone your way. You came to Australia out of necessity; the Tomic story is one of overcoming tragic circumstances and succeeding in Australia. It’s the classic migrant tale of triumph!”

Shit, maybe this bloke is on to something?

“So how do I convince the public that I’ve changed? Because they don’t see this side of me. They see an entitled youth with a tennis tyrant of a Dad. So what can we do here,” Bernard inquired, now thoroughly engaged.

Jacobs adjusted his tie and turned to his colleagues. “Well, that’s where we come in, Bernie. Once this meeting is over, I’m going to draw up a brand strategy for Brian to work with, creatively. We’re going to come up with a clean, concise external message for the Australian (and world) public to buy into. We’ll also develop a separate internal message for your brand, too, which will help drive morale within the Tomic camp.”

“Sounds good. What else?” Bernard asked.

“We need to come up with a tag line, which will be derived from your essence. Basically, we’re go…”

“Hang on just a minute,” Bernard broke in. “What the fuck is an ‘essence’?”

Jacobs chuckled, thrusting a knowing glance at his Deep Visioning colleagues. “You wouldn’t believe how often we get that response!”

Brian, the creative director, chimed in. “I’ll take this one, Alan. Bernie, ‘essence’ is basically the true soul of your brand. It’s a guiding philosophy built on a compelling truth that expresses exactly what the brand stands for.”

“Mate, can you speak English? I’m just a tennis player,” Bernard quipped, to smatterings of laughter.

“Sure,” Jacobs answered. “You know Nike, right?”

“Umm, yeah.”

“Well, they successfully condensed their brand essence down to just three words: Just Do It. This brand essence is the basis for their entire company – it drives brilliant, fresh creative. Nike knows who they are and what they stand for. If we can nail your essence, then the rest will flow like water my friend!”

“So you’re saying that you will develop a tag-line, that defines me, and then we can revolve my brand around that ethos?” Bernard asked.

I’m getting this!

“Exactly!” the Deep Visioning team chorused together.

Jacobs continued. “So we’re going to draw on the themes of adversity and self-made success. We’ll talk up your escape from ethnic conflict and your commitment to family – the Tomics sticking together through thick and thin. Sure, you got into a bit of trouble in your teens and early 20s, but shit, who hasn’t, right?”

“Yeah, that’s what I keep telling people, but no one understands,” Tomic muttered, crossing his arms petulantly.

“But Bernie, you are the physical manifestation of modern day Australia. You are the face of new wave migration, making a name for yourself through sport. And you’ve made it! We just need to make you approachable; to make people want to get to know you; to leverage your natural attributes and backstory. To soften your image. Because you are the future of Australian tennis. Not Kyrgios. You.

Yes, that’s who I am! I finally know myself!

“This all sounds great, guys,” Bernard said. “So… what do we do now?”

“Leave it with us,” Brian said. “I’ll work on the creative this week and we’ll touch base later in the week to set up a second meeting. By then, we should have nailed your essence – and the brand strategy will be well on its way.”

The four of them stood up to shake hands. “I think we’ve made some real progress here,” Jacobs said with a grin, motioning Bernie towards the door.

Yeah, I think we have.

By Dave Edwards

PREVIOUS: Branding Bernie: Part One