For years many people in and outside the beltway have speculated that Michael Bloomberg, 77, founder of Bloomberg LP and former three-term Mayor of New York City would make a run for the US presidency.
Full disclosure, I’ve been in the 'Bloomberg for President' camp ever since he was NYC Mayor and I still am. But this piece is not really about my political point of view, (well.. maybe a bit.) In fact, it’s about Bloomberg’s decision to drop about $10m on a 60-second ad during the Super Bowl.
The problem is few people across most of America – especially in the fly-over states – really know who Michael Bloomberg is unless they’ve worked in financial services, live or work in the New York City area, or actively participate in gun reform or combatting climate change. Until now.
By game time Bloomberg’s team will have spent nearly $200m in paid media since he joined the race for the Democratic nomination in late November, last year. For perspective, you can make two movies for the same amount of money. And some analysts are predicting Bloomberg will spend upwards of $400 million by the Super Tuesday primaries in early March, in which he needs the support of 16 critical states, having entered the race so late, to begin with.
Bloomberg’s media blitz is astonishing in size, scope and sheer velocity. His messaging is largely and squarely centered against Trump – in a way, saying to fellow Dems that he too is frustrated and fed up – but his campaign content thus far hasn’t been unique, humourful or particularly creative. He’s hoping to use this blitz to leapfrog from polling at around 5% and join the cast of characters currently leading the Democratic field so far: Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren and Biden.
There’s a lot of chatter about Bloomberg buying his way into the election and questions about his overall electability and winnability against the likes of Trump. As far as I can see, he’s the only candidate focused on Trump while the others slug it out for the nomination. Without Bloomberg’s media blitz you have nobody directly challenging Trump.
Bloomberg will win big even if he doesn’t win at all because you could actually view Bloomberg’s spend as one giant public service campaign aimed at denouncing and challenging the rhetoric, policies and behavior of a hate-filled, corrupt, morally-deprived, feckless liar to pave the way for either a Democrat or a Republican challenger to dethrone America’s Supreme Leader.
Assuming Bloomberg can overcome the awareness gap, his biggest challenges will be around relatability and likability. He has a personality, sure, but he’s not a character. He knows how to build and manage high-performing teams and complex organizations but he’s not a marketer either (Hillary suffered the same issue.) But Bloomberg does speak boldly and if his fiery Trump take-down speech from the 2016 Democratic Convention is any evidence of his potency then I can’t wait to see Mike and Donald go toe-to-toe on a debate mainstage.
Do you remember Gatorade’s 'Be Like Mike' campaign with basketball legend Michael Jordan from way back in 1991? Everyone knows that drinking Gatorade won’t give you super-athletic abilities like Jordan, but the commercial helped to make Gatorade more relatable and resonant by borrowing equity from Jordan’s celebrity.
Bloomberg’s campaign for the Primary isn’t just about the pursuit of credibility and relatability. He doesn’t want you to 'be like Mike,' he wants you 'like Mike' when he tells his story to about 100 million Americans watching the big game on 2 February. That’s roughly a third of all Americans he’s reaching – not to mention the ensuing press coverage.
He has a lot of assets to draw from, too. He grew up poor and built a company that made him into a billionaire 56 times over and an entrepreneurial legend of legends. He’s the ultimate philanthropist too -- donating billions of dollars to various charities, causes and organizations. Oh, and he successfully led and governed the largest city in the US out of a deficit caused by his predecessor, Trump’s deranged attorney Rudy Giuliani. I could go on.
I like Mike and hope the 100 million others watching do too.
Aaron Kwittken is founder and CEO of brand and PR agency KWT Global and creator/host of the popular Brand on Purpose podcast