When Magnus Carlsen won the World Chess Championship from Viswanthan Anand, the chess world thought that the Norwegian would take chess to new heights of visibility. The truth is that while Carlsen has been on a number of television appearances and had a professional modeling gig, this has not translated into sponsors knocking down the doors of chess entities to sign up. However, Carlsen has made some very nice impressions as an icon for marketing campaigns. Lately, he has been featured in a couple of slick commercial spots.
A commercials effectiveness can boil down to the credibility of the message. Ironically, Maria Sharapova is not currently the best tennis player, so maybe the analogy is off a bit. The current #1-ranked Serena Williams has beaten Sharapova 17 straight times. Nevertheless, Carlsen shines through in the ad with his smooth persona complementing the brashness of Muhammad Ali with a bit of panache. Well done.
The mobile game app was Carlsen as you’ve never seen him. The 40-second Altibox ad was very exciting showing that such a gaming experience can be vivid and even lifelike. What sticks out is Carlsen’s expressions and of course the nice special effects. This ad actually makes chess look like the game it really is… a serene beginning, sudden skirmishes, sporadic lulls in action and then more bursts of turbulence.
Probably the most famous marketing campaign involving Carlsen has been his stint with G-Star Raw. Take a look. Carlsen graced billboards around the world and combined his status as the world’s top chess player with his good looks to give chess some high visibility. However, this campaign would only increase Carlsen’s brand, but not chess. It is still a challenge to pull chess out of the long-outdated image of geekdom, but the G-Star commercials do provide an image of chess players not normally seen.
Unfortunately, far too often other media images go back to old stereotypes. Carlsen is pulling in quite a bit of his riches as a result of leveraging his looks with his status as a chess player, but it is unsure how this translates to attracting sponsorship for chess. In the past two years of his reign, chess is still struggling to develop a modern image for the game.