There is little need to reiterate quite how much of a big deal the
World Cup was; nor how much of a big deal it was always going to be. One
does need to stress, however, how extraordinary it is that the whole
thing was seized upon by certain companies reporting their financial
results recently. Kunick, the slot machine operator, blamed the World
Cup for the poor performance of the games machines it operates in the
pub trade, and was quoted as saying: ’A lot of pubs brought in big
screens for the tournament ... people were watching TV rather than
playing our machines.
It had an amazing effect.’
And Rank joined in, reporting on the performance of its Odeon cinema
chain with a remark along the lines of people preferring football to
films during the four week tournament.
Now I am not the best informed person on football, but I am well aware
that the World Cup comes around once every four years. Without fail. I
also know and accept that England tends to qualify only once every eight
years, but even if this made memories a little hazy, surely Euro 96
provided a pretty big clue as to what lay on the horizon come 1998?
So blaming the World Cup simply won’t do. What these companies said is
probably true, but it won’t do because one of the most fundamental needs
when announcing financial results is to instil confidence-whatever the
outcome or trading conditions at the time.
Perhaps the main difficulty is that building confidence, as with
building reputations, is a long term process. And who is going to think
about tomorrow when there are backs to be minded right here and now?
It might be useful to ponder on just how effectively one should seek to
make one’s excuses, be they good, bad or indifferent. In a recent
attempt to explain why the bottom has fallen out of the jeans market,
Levi-Strauss talked of the ’Clarkson Effect’, that is, jeans have become
the uniform of older, less fashion-conscious people such as Jeremy
Clarkson. So powerfully did this point come across that it extended into
widespread news and features coverage-all thanks to a clever
Where does it leave Levi-Strauss? Saddled with a role-model whose look
is probably not that appealing even to the originator; and almost
certainly not selling any more jeans.