Mishandling Of Trust

10 May 2013

Large brands sell not only a product or service, but an image. Some of these companies compete in industries that, by nature, garner a following that isn't just committed, but downright passionate. Major sports teams are at the head of this type of industry that gains inherent trust with those who follow their product, and that trust can be easily taken advantage of.

There is a reason why these teams take in millions of dollars in sponsorship for the name of their stadium or to be an "official sponsor".

When fans that are committed to these teams for life are told that Budweiser is the team's beer of choice, or Ford is the official truck, the view of these sponsors are affected by the commitment to their teams.

The types of advertising like this can be ignored to some degree because it has been around for long enough, but what about new types of media like the web?

Recently, a company called brandthunder has been creating "official" browser themes that includes the teams schedules, news, etc. There are already themes being advertised on official Twitter accounts by teams like the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Tyler Hayes noticed these tweets and took a deeper look at the themes they were advertising. It turns out the the search used as the default in the theme is "Websearch+", a service that makes money off of redirecting search users to sponsored links. A simple Google search reveals the horrible track record.

Not only is there no positive feedback for Websearch+, but almost every mention of it is a plea for help in getting rid of it. Surprisingly, users seem want to be directed to what they search for rather than unsolicited advertisements.

Exploring some of the links, you will find threads of users on the official brandthunder support forums having trouble getting rid of the service, even when given instruction by employees.

In response to the many complaints and bad responses, the Founder of brandthunder added this comment to the support thread.

Playing a victim after alienating users is most definitely not the way to build a sustainable venture. Blaming them for complaining about malicious software (when the download link specifies there is none), is a cop out and shows how out of touch technology companies can be with their users.

This brings us back to the point of this post. The trust that consumers had for these teams like the Padres and Blackhawks are the reason for the success of these themes, and that that trust is being obviously broken here. This reflects badly on the sports franchises, on brandthunder, and on a broader scale the entire web development community.