The Strategy Interview: Doug Kissick, manager marketing communications, Owens-Corning Canada

Doug Kissick has been with Owens-Corning Canada (previously Fiberglas Canada) since 1985, the last 18 months in his present position. Kissick is responsible for the marketing needs of the company's Fiberglas Pink home insulation and Fiberglas Shingles, as well as handling...

Doug Kissick has been with Owens-Corning Canada (previously Fiberglas Canada) since 1985, the last 18 months in his present position. Kissick is responsible for the marketing needs of the company’s Fiberglas Pink home insulation and Fiberglas Shingles, as well as handling Owens-Corning’s sponsorship of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team. Owens-Corning has signed a multi-year headgear contract with gold medal winner Jean-Luc Brassard.

Why is Owens-Corning making freestyle skiing sponsorship a global initiative?

A. We’re formerly Fiberglas Canada. Over the past few years, our company name has changed to Owens-Corning. Which is a name most people aren’t very familiar with.

Part of the strategy around the world, which is why we changed our name, is you’ve got to become single and very focussed, and, so, one name, one logo will be used around the world.

Owens-Corning is involved in France, Germany, Belgium, and in the u.k. through a recent acquisition.

All companies are being renamed Owens-Corning. That was another reason many hadn’t heard of us, some of our joint ventures around the world had other names.

The company thought [freestyle ski sponsorship] was a great way to break through barriers in Europe and around the world to market our corporate name, telling people who we are through that sponsorship.

Q. How is this new global involvement in freestyle skiing going to work?

A. There’s sponsorship of European World Cup events, so there will be signage. We’re trying to negotiate with key athletes in key countries to sign them up for headgear sponsorships.

In Canada, we’ve signed a deal to sponsor the [Canadian Freestyle Ski] Team for another four years, through the 1998 Olympics.

The worldwide effort is a little different. It does not include a team sponsorship. It is individual athletes, and it’s an event sponsorship effort.

I don’t think the worldwide program will ever emulate exactly what we’ve done here. The agenda is a little different. They’re going to try to use the sport to help leverage themselves in Europe and in the u.s., and take it step by step.

It’s taken us seven years to get noticed. Hopefully, we’ve learned from what we’ve done, and it will take Owens-Corning worldwide a lot less than that.

Q. How will the global marketing efforts be handled?

A. Our advertising agency, Scott Thornley & Company [of Toronto,] has been our creative force behind the things we’ve done for freestyle.

The plan is, because Thornley seems to have captured the spirit of the sport, the firm will also be the creative force behind the stuff we produce for worldwide support.

We are creating a worldwide version of our lexicon, a dictionary of freestyle language, which previously was very Canadian.

We’re also producing collateral material hats, T-shirts and ads explaining the company’s involvement in freestyle.

Q. Why did Owens-Corning Canada decide to get involved in sponsorship of the team in 1986?

A. We’re a building company, so it’s a good positioning – a building company building a sport. It was something we could really own because it was a very inexpensive thing to get into in 1986.

They had some sponsors before us that were in and out of it in the early ’80s. Since we got involved, we’ve been the only major sponsor they’ve had.

It’s a way for a company to extend its advertising and cut through the clutter.

You get to avoid all the zapping of commercials that goes on. When you get involved in programming, you’ve got banners on the hill or logos on hats – people can’t zap that.

When you’ve got an athlete on the podium, it’s a great way to get into newspapers. Normally, newspapers don’t write about your company unless there’s something wrong.

This is a different way, and an ‘inexpensive’ way to get your name across.

Q. How does Owens-Corning use its sponsorship of the freestyle team in its marketing efforts?

A. Our prime focus with product advertising is with the corporate image. You have to put things into priorities. We are in the insulation business, not the sponsorship business. It’s just one of the things we do. It’s very visible.

Our advertising moves in and around when freestyle skiing is on television.

We’ve produced promotional vehicles for our customers, who are building supply dealers in Canada, around freestyle creative.

Last year, we produced a 16-month freestyle calendar, featuring some of the people in the sport, information of what the sport is, and why we sponsor it.

We get involved with the television broadcasts of the World Cup, and get billboard sponsorship on cbc, which will cover a number of the World Cup events, and, this year, the world championship as well.

Q. Is there research that shows that Owens-Corning is indeed recognized as the sponsor of the freestyle team?

A. We have looked at trying to start to measure that because it’s getting more important. As the sport gets bigger, you need to justify more often the things that you do.

The name change has given us the opportunity to start from scratch and just see how many people identify our name with the ski team.

We’ve seen research done by the World Cup sponsor Grundig out of Germany on the impression they’ve made.

They measure actual media time – the time your logo is actually visible against what the cost would be for that time in traditional media advertising to figure out how inexpensive sponsorship is.

The ratio they come up with is something like 35- or 40-to-one. You get 35 to 40 times the benefit if the sport gets covered in the media.

They take that number and half it to 20-to-one because nobody will believe it. If it’s even more than one-to-one, you’re getting a bigger bang for your buck.

That has been good evidence for us, even though the research wasn’t conducted by us.

Certainly, I’ve been told there isn’t a soul in Quebec who doesn’t know we’re the freestyle sponsor after the performance of the French-Canadian athletes at Lillehammer.