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November 01, 2009

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming

John Fleming

The industry has always prided itself on using word-of-mouth as the primary method for promotion and that the enormous amount of money traditionally spent by retailers on advertising was invested in the salesforce instead. Until recently, this philosophy was adopted by almost all companies. Over the past few years, though, more and more direct sellers have advertised their products and opportunities—if not nationally, certainly locally. Many companies now believe advertising—instead of being adversarial—supports their independent salesforce in its efforts to build successful businesses, sell and service customers, and recruit and develop others.

Sponsorships—sports sponsorships, in particular—are another paradigm buster for our industry. On the surface, sports sponsorships are simply another form of advertising, but when we take a closer look, we find that these partnerships provide direct sellers with a number of benefits: Sponsorships can help build brands, increase awareness, sell products and create goodwill among the public and the salesforce. Contributing writer Barbara Seale did a great job exploring sports marketing and spoke to several companies about the benefits of such partnerships. Because of her article, I, too, became fascinated with this trend.

As I spoke to a few marketing friends, I identified some attributes of sports marketing. Total sponsorship dollars worldwide have grown from approximately $2 billion in the early 1980s to an estimated $25 billion—possibly $30 billion—today, with sports sponsorships constituting about 70 percent of total sponsorship dollars. Sponsorships are image-enhancing and they build public awareness and brand visibility. Unlike advertising, which is often perceived to be self-serving, sports sponsorships are an indirect promotional tool, beneficial to society, or at least some segment of it. With television such a key supporting factor in most sporting events, it’s clear why some companies are choosing sponsorships over advertising. The Herbalife and MonaVie Indy cars certainly did well in the Indianapolis 500, coming in fourth and 12th places, respectively, but how exciting it must have been for Herbalife and MonaVie distributors to watch the television coverage and know that millions all over the world were seeing their brands!

You’re also in for a surprise: The Longaberger Company has aligned with the NFL! Baskets and football—what an exciting mix! It’s just another example of the limitless creativity that abounds within the industry! Check out the cover story—Barbara has much more to share!

Many of our readers share compliments with us, and so many of you say you read Direct Selling News cover to cover. While we always appreciate those comments, I want to ask all to make sure you do not miss the “Top Desk” column in this issue (see page 66). Orville Thompson, Founder and CEO of Scentsy, demonstrates the spirit of humility and the value of contribution. Orville and his wife, Heidi, are examples of servant leaders by serving not only those who have chosen to align with their company, but also the community that the company depends upon. It’s a touching and moving article!

I cannot believe that there is only one more issue of Direct Selling News before we bring 2009 to a close. We started this year sharing stories about economic challenges that took a toll on many nations and many of our companies. And as we progressed through the year, we were able to focus on best practices, and those examples reinforced for all that the current challenges would also pass. We now close the year hearing much optimism from you, the leaders of the industry, and those who supply you with the products and services that you need. It has been most gratifying to realize that the spirit of entrepreneurship in this industry is as strong as it is within any industry in the world.

Regardless of the magnitude of the challenge, hope still inspires! And when people from all walks of life can be inspired with hope, they will also find the will to persevere! As we approach the Thanksgiving season, lots of families will thank you—the company leaders—who continue to make opportunity and hope possible, even in the most challenging of times! It is indeed a pleasure for all of us to report on and write about all that you do! Happy  Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the issue! 

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief