After writing about golf pro Phil Mickelson being a "shill" for ENBREL (see "Amgen Blows Its Marketing Budget on Phil Mickelson Campaign"), I got into a conversation with a Twitter friend who shall remain anonymous. This person suggested that it is possible that golf and golf pro sponsorships consume more than 15% of a pharma company's DTC marketing budget. "15% for Golf is huge!", I said. "Not necessarily," said my friend. "The dollars also include other expenses besides endorsement such as internal PR costs."
I'm not sure what this person meant by "internal PR" costs. Some money obviously was spent getting the "Phil Mickelson takes ENBREL and feels NO pain" stories published in the "free" press.
I made my final point: "I think the bigger issue is the focus on golf endorsements rather than on patient support. It's just too elitist!"
This got me thinking about "elitist marketing." What did I mean by that?
First of all, let me admit that I think golf is an elitist sport although I am aware than many working class people play the game. Golf is a game that has many elitist tendencies such as expensive golf resorts, memberships, etc. that are geared to executives and not to the "duffer" riff raff. Phil Mickelson is a "hero" of the elite golf world.
A pharma marketing executive can easily achieve fame amongst his peers -- as well as achieve one degree of separation from TRUE fame -- by obtaining a celebrity endorsement. I mentioned this before in a post about another celebrity endorsement deal: "Are You Serious?™ A Good Example of Why Pharma Brand Managers 'Love Its' TV". In that case, actor/comedian Jon Lovitz was hired by J&J's Centocor to raise awareness for -- SURPRISE -- psoriasis! The product manager got his dose of elitist fame not only by schmoozing with Lovitz behind the scenes, but by actually playing a bit part in the TV commercials!
I'm sure the AMGEN and PFIZER ENBREL product managers have also schmoozed with Mickelson and may have even played nine holes with him at the Doral Golf and Spa Resort!
One wonders if advertising budgets are to serve the people credible information or to serve the ambitions of product managers? And when elite sporting celebrities are involved, does the advertising serve an elitist audience rather than the general population?
OK, now for the hate mail from all you golfers out there!
P.S. I've been told that Pharma Marketing Blog is blocked by AMGEN, who does not want its employees reading this blog. How elitist is that?
UPDATE (8 Jan 2011): The ROI Question
@MarianCutler, a "Jersey girl" and pharmaceutical/healthcare PR professional, tweeted this response to the above: "Couldn't disagree more @pharmaguy; question to ask is the ROI on the sponsorship."
So, I did ask a question: "How do you measure ROI of celebrity golf sponsorships?"
Every pharma marketer talks about marketing ROI (return on investment), but practically none "walks the talk" and executes a credible ROI analysis.
One of the major problems in measuring the ROI of a specific campaign like this one is that it's impossible to isolate other variables.
Another Twitter pal of mind said this golf campaign may be aimed at doctors who are notorious duffers. Well, I'm sure there is a whole array of other ENBREL marketing campaigns aimed at doctors going on at the same time. How do ENBREL marketers know if the Mickelson sponsorship is effective and what the ROI is?
I suppose they can see if there's an uptick in ENBREL scripts written that corresponds with the "launch" of ENBREL Phil. I guess it's possible that docs will prescribe the drug just because Phil is using it -- and what a pitiful reason to do so! What's more likely to happen is that pharma sales reps will be getting more access to docs because they have some golf-enhanced promotional literature and deals that docs will be interested in seeing. They will then open the door to reps.
OK, maybe there's a positive ROI considering that a single new script for ENBREL is worth thousands and thousands of dollars! How many NEW scripts will it take to pay off the $ millions(?) that Phil is getting from PFIZER and AMGEN? You do the math.