For the uninitiated, Wes Brown is Manchester United´s much maligned defender; even for Man United aficionados, he is hardly likely to set the pulse racing. The mere mention of his name on the team sheet is more likely to strike fear amongst his own team than the opposition; Wes Brown has scored more goals against Manchester United (5) than for them (3) – a net deficit you may say. There is even a Facebook dedicated to Wes Brown’s unusual prowess, entitled “Wes Brown is the most boring and rubbish footballer EVER”.

Probably not a good idea to associate with him you may think. Well, to date, most companies appear to agree . . . .Brown currently enjoys only one personal endorsement contract, with the sports footwear manufacturer Concave. A deal which he shares with John O’Shea strangely enough; or “O Shit” as one Facebook group would prefer to call him. A far cry from the $7 million worth of endorsements enjoyed by team mates Wayne Rooney (Nike, Nokia, Ford, Asda, and (until recently) Coca-Cola), or the $6 million man and ex-England captain Rio Ferdinand (complete with his 688,000 Twitter followers and 430,000 Facebook fans).

Well, here’s a thought . . . . given Manchester United’s training, playing and travelling schedule Wes Brown probably spends more time with Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs etc. than with his own wife. Wes joined Manchester United in 1999 and has played for them all his life; I think it is fair to say that he and his teammates know each other inside out, the good, the bad and the ugly.

But here’s the point. Take a look at who global icon Rio Ferdinand sits next to in the dressing room. Yes, it´s our hero, the “most boring and rubbish footballer EVER” Wesley Michael “Wes” Brown!

Twice a week + training and travel, Wes Brown sits and chews the fat with one of the most influential people in the UK, and (judging by the recent media coverage surrounding his loss of the England captaincy), Europe and even the World.

And here is the other thing . . . . Wes Brown is not very good at football, he does not command celebrity endorsement fees, but he is more accessible and approachable than those more famous (i.e. “better”) players who do.

As a means to reach those key influencers – who themselves will be inaccessible and beyond the means of most organizations, who will be difficult to work with and – ultimately – will steal the limelight for themselves – Wes Brown could be a great option.

Endorsers are unlikely to be queuing up to sign up a “one club” Manchester United player who has scored more goals against them than for them, and this means that Brown’s endorsement would be more exclusive (as opposed to simply another brand name on a retainer) and, potentially, more powerful.

Particularly given his proximity to Rio Ferdinand at least twice a week. Most importantly – with all due respect – he is no Rio Ferdinand and unlikely to steal the limelight for himself either. In fact, he’d probably be flattered to be approached in the first place!

Beyond the world of football, these are the types of relationships and influences that organizations should consider when recruiting endorsers to start ideas and amplify their messages. The most popular blogger or most visible online community may not be the most effective place to start; there may be an even smarter way to reach them in a way that generates real benefit for both the organization and the influencer being approached.

Back to the football analogy . . . do players still share hotel rooms? If so, taking the Wes Brown dressing room logic to its natural conclusion, who shares with Wayne Rooney, that would be powerful information to have . . .



"Ze ball ref? Non, I haven't zeen se ball."

…or rather, sidewikiing him.

Clearly Thierry Henry’s “main de Dieu” incident on Wednesday night has caused something of a furore. Irish football fans are naturally up in arms and feel that the match should be replayed (ummm, not going to happen). Football fans around the world are massively disappointed in Henry. Well, except for Gooners, obviously (entertaining piece, that).

I noticed yesterday that Henry’s Wikipedia page has been “protected from editing due to vandalism”. And if you’ve seen the defaced page, you’ll know that it was a particularly sweary vandal.

Thing is, if you build a big wall around your house to stop vandals, they’ll still turn up with a can of spray paint and cover it in graffiti. And so it is online.

As we’ve pointed out before, the virtual can of spray paint is Google’s Sidewiki. And Sidewiki still works on Wikipedia, however many pages it might lock down. I know this, because I stuck a Sidewiki on Henry’s page. Nothing too strong, certainly not defamatory or particularly insulting, just saying how disappointing it was to see a respected professional like Henry cheat. It’s the only Sidewiki on the page at the moment, so I can only assume the tool hasn’t yet reached Ireland…

It’s a good example of the potential power of Sidewiki though. However much an organisation might control the content on its website, any old punter with a view can turn up and post their thoughts and opinions for any other Sidewiki-enabled surfer to see. It strikes me that for something like Wikipedia, it could be a nightmare.

On a related note, earlier this week AstraZeneca was highlighted as the first big pharma company to start tackling the Sidewiki issue. You can imagine that pharma companies are slightly concerned about the potential for people to turn up and comment about their drugs…

AZ has taken the right of any webmaster to create the primary Sidewiki entry on its website and have it anchored so it stays as the first entry all the time (‘normal’ Sidewiki entries move up and down depending on the votes from other users, so the most credible bubble to the top). AZ has then done what lots of consultants are recommending, which is make that first entry so long that it fills the first page and therefore buries comments from Joe Public on subsequent pages.

Rather like covering your own wall in graffiti first, so the vandals don’t have a chance to.