Can Rashford Score For Google?

Can Rashford Score For Google?


It’s difficult to think of a more prominent young Black British figure than Marcus Rashford. The Manchester United player got to the Euro 2020 final with England, has been constantly in the news for his political interventions over free school meals and other causes, and maintains a very active social media presence. He’s also in high demand as a commercial partner, which makes Google’s securing him for their latest ad something of a coup, even for a tech giant. We tested the ad among a general audience, but also among a custom Black British sample for our Feeling Seen project with ITV.

“The More We Learn, The Closer We Get” positions Google as a guide to the complexities of our modern, interconnected lives. The search engine brings down barriers and brings people together by increasing understanding – “It’s OK to have questions”, as Rashford says. Whether it’s a man trying to work out how to help a workmate having mental health issues, an Asian man invited to a ceilidh, or a Black family intrigued by Diwali, Google has the answers.

It’s a sympathetic positioning for the brand and one which resonates in a fast-changing world, even if I’m not entirely sure a quick Google would help anyone suddenly dance the ceilidh. It’s also a positioning that stresses, gently but unequivocally, that the way to deal with things you don’t understand is to embrace them, not hope they’ll go away. That message isn’t lost on our respondents, as we’ll see.

The style of the ad, meanwhile, owes a lot to Nike’s notorious 2018 spot with Colin Kaepernick – a montage of footage with a sombre monologue which then reveals the speaker talking to camera. It’s a way of doing a montage-style ad that gives it structure, but it also puts a lot of emphasis on the identity of the narrator and can make the ad as much about them as about the brand. Nike were aiming for exactly that with Kaepernick, stoking the flames of controversy around the athlete’s on-field protests. How well does the tactic work with Rashford?

Marcus Rashford is not as much of a divisive figure but as a leading player for one of the UK’s top teams he runs into other kinds of trouble – the brand he’s most associated with is Manchester United, not Google, and some of the negative emotion is down to that (“No! Leeds Leeds Leeds” as one angry viewer put it). There’s also a sense from a minority of viewers that the ad is preaching, which pushes it down to a modest 2.5-Star score among the general audience. It’s still a strong ad, since it gets an exceptional short-term Spike score and Brand Fluency rating, but it’s not a complete success.

Among the Black British audience, though, it’s a different story. As is typical for ads in the Feeling Seen project, there’s a big jump in emotional response when an ad starring someone from a diverse group is shown to members of that group. For Black viewers the Rashford ad scores over 4-Stars while maintaining a strong short-term Spike score.

What’s interesting too is that the message of the ad resonates much more among this group. For the general audience the key associations that come through from the ad are prosaic – “GOOGLE” and “Search engine”. For the Black audience the top associations are “Diversity” and “Inclusive”. Rashford is speaking their language and on their wavelength.

As we’ve said before about Google ads, they’re in an unusual position as a brand. Their market share in search – the product which is ostensibly being promoted here – is over 90%, and they have no serious competitors in that sector. So this ad is more about pure brand-building, and reassuring viewers that Google relates to them and is on their side. For a general audience, it doesn’t do that as well as some of the brand’s other ads. But for Black British viewers, the message comes over loud and clear.

Tune into our Feeling Seen: Black History Month webinar with ITV for more details on the Feeling Seen report and how marketers can effectively reach and resonate with Black audiences.

Feeling Seen Through Black History

Join our webinar on October 14th, 12PM (BST).