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…

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PART TWO: BRAND ESSENCE

“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

My Emotional Journey: One Man’s Effort To Run 14 Kilometres Sequentially

Last Sunday, The Public Apology’s Alasdair McClintock partook in the annual City2Surf in Sydney with roughly 80,000 other humans. It was his third year competing in the famous race – and possibly his last. Like many civilians, he struggled massively – both physically and mentally. Here, he describes what was going through his head during the painful journey, warts and all…

1-4 KILOMETRES

I leave with the Red Group, a privilege allowed to me due to my sub-70 minute time last year. It means I don’t have to dodge prams and people in costume at the beginning of the race, but also makes me acutely aware that I have undertrained for this event. One 8km run just isn’t going to cut it. I am out of my depth. But I can’t turn back now. I just hope I don’t suffer the embarrassment of being overtaken by anyone in the Green Group. I was in their equivalent last year, yet I already look down on them.

It is noticeably quieter with the elite. These people are serious. The on-course entertainment (and I use the term loosely) has yet to really warm to their task, which only contributes to the eerie stillness of a few thousand people quietly panting in unison. I pass one man in a superhero costume not even looking at the race. He’s is checking his phone, which gives his huge padded shoulders a hunched over and sad look. It makes me feel sad.

I start to question the sense of being here. I am not raising any money for charity and given the lack of fanfare I don’t really feel like I’m competing in a fun run either. Ostensibly I’ve just paid 80 bucks to catch a bus into the city and then run to my mate’s place to get drunk. I could have saved myself not only the cash, but around 10 kilometres of pain, if I’d just run straight to my mate’s place.

Next year, I think I’ll just get drunk.

Speaking of which, there’s a severe lack of intoxicated people cheering from the sidelines this year. I don’t know whether they are still in bed or fewer people are having all nighters in Sydney these days, but the crew of blue men, who usually have beers in hand and are a fucking menace to avoid if you don’t want to get covered in blue paint, are severely lacking in numbers this year. I escape them with ease.

5-8 KILOMETRES

I am starting to get really tired. This is already on the brink of the longest I’ve run since last year’s City2Surf, so it stands to reason my body feels like it’s winding down.

My base instincts start kicking in. I suddenly start feeling very male. An attractive woman overtakes me and her derriere makes me think something incredibly unsavoury. I am disgusted by myself, but I am also glad that equality is taking hold because there is no longer any shame in being beaten by a woman. Once again, I feel slightly ashamed for even thinking there ever was.

Six years in an all-boys high school has obviously left some ingrained chauvinism, but I guess it’s good that I’m aware of it and usually able to overcome it. In this case, however, I let it win. Using her backside as motivation, I determinedly wrestle my position back.

Heartbreak Hill looms like a cruel motherfucker, but in truth I am heartbroken before I even reach it. When I pass the 6km mark I almost weep. Perhaps I would, if I wasn’t already so dehydrated. Am I really this unfit?

The hill itself is surprisingly not too bad. I have run it before and I know how long it is. In some ways I find it the easiest part of the race. It is a short challenge that I can overcome. The race in its entirety is what overwhelms me. It is tedious and boring. I become acutely aware of the mental challenges long distance runners must face.

Why the fuck do people run marathons?

The ubiquitous sponsorship begins to intrigue me. Are people actually going to remember anything they see while physically exhausted? On a subliminal level, I guess they might. I pass a few blokes with Beyond Blue shirts on and it strikes a chord, if only because my fitness level is making me fucking depressed.

At the top of the hill there is woman with a Nike shirt proclaiming ‘There is no finish line!’ I assume this is meant to somehow be encouraging, but it almost breaks me.

8-10 KILOMETRES:

They say that the difference between civilisation and anarchy is three square meals. Evidently, for me, the difference between being a good person and completely indecent is 8 kilometres. I am ashamed to admit that I am objectifying women now and using them as motivation to help me finish this race.

On some primal, incredibly base level, the sight of an attractive female is willing me on and I am embracing it. I will do whatever it takes to get me to the ocean at this point. I pass some Sydney Kings cheerleaders and make a mental note to go to an NBL game this year.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

At the start, the shit pop and techno that blares out of speakers at random intervals annoyed me, but as I get more and more exhausted it really begins to help. The mind-numbing 4/4 bass that appears compulsory for a Top 50 hit these days is exactly what I need right now.

I’m getting dumber with every step and as my body begins to plead for more oxygen, I wonder if this is what auto-erotic asphyxiation feels like. I stop short of masturbating, but I do smile when I see a guy fist pump to as he passes a speaker; a sight that had supremely annoyed me only a few kilometres before, but I now take happily in stride. Fuck yeah! Music!

10-12 KILOMETRES:

Weirdly I am starting to feel better. My body has either gone into a state of shock or I am fitter than I thought. Other people are starting to waver and I am actually making my way through the pack.

Out of nowhere the same woman from before overtakes me again. Where the fuck did she come from? I thought I had shaken her off, Tay-Tay style. I wonder if she is using me as some sort of primal motivation to keep going as well. It seems unlikely, but I’m not willing to rule it out.

I approach a father and his son dressed as Batman and Robin. It would be a touching sight, but the kid is clearly exhausted and in no state to go on. His father keeps beckoning him to keep going, but there is a fine line between encouragement and irresponsible parenting. Eventually he gives in and lets the boy rest. He is clearly torn between being pissed off at his child’s weakness and genuine parental concern. As I pass, I think he is more pissed off.

Not too much further along an old man is lying by the road being attended to with an oxygen mask. It starts to register that people have actually died doing this race. I hope the old man doesn’t die. I don’t need that to haunt me for the rest of the week. I feel a pang of guilt for making the potential death of an elderly man all about me, but then I remember I’m fucking buggered and get over it.

12-14 KILOMETRES:

The stretch home!

I am bounding down the hill into Bondi now! I take vindictive enjoyment out of overtaking a guy wearing Skins and all the latest running gear. I feel like heckling him. “Your fancy clothes won’t help you now, fuckhead!” But I abstain.

I pass my mate’s place where I am to return for a BBQ after the race. He is sitting out the front, already with a beer. The realisation that I still have to run another kilometre or so and then walk back there with sore legs, further highlights the futility of it all. Should I just stop now and grab a beer? What’s to stop me? I’ve pretty much run the race.

But my sudden desire to beat last year’s time drives me on. At the start I didn’t think it was a possibility, but now I reckon I’m a good chance. Especially as I didn’t have to dodge any fatties to begin with. I realise it is an extremely effective strategy to compete against oneself. After all, there is no one I hate more.

I round the bend into Campbell Parade and start arguably the hardest part of the race. The final kilometre where you actually run past the finish line, but have to loop around and run for another few hundred metres before finishing. It all seems so cruel.

I spot my attractive nemesis from earlier and set my sights on beating her. I am tired of looking at her fantastic derriere. It is time she copped a good look at the saggy flesh lumps that constitute my arse.

It is only coming around the final bend that I manage to get in front of her. My internal monologue becomes quite self-abusive.

DON’T LET HER BEAT YOU, YOU FUCKING PUSSY!

I think I beat her, but I honestly can’t be sure.

THE WASH UP:

Three days later, I am still sore and wondering why I did that to myself. Was it worth it? I don’t know. I did manage to beat last year’s time, by 40 seconds, but that seems of little importance now.

At least the old man didn’t die. I would have heard about it on the news.

By Alasdair McClintock