Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fantasy Sports Show…Finally Waking Up

Recently ESPN announced they created a weekly fantasy football show for the upcoming season. Hmmm…you think this is a good idea? I am shocked OLN, ESPN, Fox, ABC, NBC or CBS didn’t think about this beforehand. I understand most of the media outlets have a fantasy sports page on their web sites. I know a show could spend at least an hour a week discussing fantasy sports including baseball, football, basketball, hockey and NASCAR. During the show, they could address in-season and out of season issues.

What am I missing? This type of show should have been created a year ago. I definitely think industries including beer, cars/trucks and fast food would want to advertise to this targeted market via television and Web site involvement. This 18-42 market is extremely important to most retailers.

Fantasy sports are the next area of the sports industry that is really going to take off. Fantasy sports are at the same stage as poker a couple of years ago when the card game really started to generate a buzz.

OLN Continues its Push Towards Versus

According to MediaDailyNews, "OLN has added Naked Communications to its roster to aid the network's rebranding efforts. Naked will work with TAXI New York and will serve as a partner in planning both the marketing and communications for Versus, OLN's future name, as well as creative ideation."

Versus needs to secure higher profile sporting events to attract new audiences. We will see....

Lexus’s Run at the US Open Could Backfire

Lexus is the official vehicle of the 2006 US Open and the presenting sponsor of the “US Open Men's Singles Championship to serve up promos right down the baseline of the tennis event.” As a way to enhance their sponsorship at the event, the “automaker launched the Lexus Insider Alert, a cell phone application that alerts attendees to Lexus activities on-site.”

Now, in theory, having alerts sent to consumers’ phones is an innovative idea. People usually do not receive a lot of advertisements on their phone. Some the message comes across clutter free. It is also an interested, targeted market who had to give up their cell number.

The one problem I have is what is going to happen when the people forget to turn off their phones and an alert comes on while they are watching a match? Can you tell me it won’t happen? What if multiple phones go off after an alert is sent during the match.

Now I know what you are saying – Lexus’ promotional team is smart enough to send alerts at the beginning or at the end of the day. How many be will remember to visit the Lexus’ tent after receiving the alert and there is no guarantee they won’t delete the message immediately.

One other question: Most people who buy Lexus’ are upper middle class or higher. I would say at least 75 percent of them own cells phones, but how many know how to receive text messages? I bet the percent would be surprisingly low. I wonder what are Lexus’ goals for this promotion…

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lack of Analytics and Online Skills

Promo Magazine posted an interesting article last week titled, “Lack of Analytics And Online Skills Concern Marketers: Study.” The article reported, “Marketers need to acquire new skills necessary, especially in the areas of analysis, measurement and search engine optimization, which are becoming more important than traditional marketing competencies, such as branding and product promotion, a recent study found.”

If you work in marketing and you do not understand the basics of search engine marketing, blogging, Myspace, podcasting and RSS, you are behind the marketing eight ball. Marketers need to be able to forecast how consumers are buying products and how they want to be contacted.

Branding and product promotion are important, but as I have stated regularly in this blog, marketers need to find fresh ways to break out of the clutter. The also need to devise strong ROI marketing plans. Companies want to see how marketing is helping the bottom line.

John Squire, VP-product strategy and general manager, marketing services at Coremetrics stated, “A divide is opening up between those organizations that have the resources and expertise to optimize their online marketing and those that haven't, with the former gaining the competitive edge. Marketers that acquire such skills are becoming the new heroes in their organizations.”

Smart Sports Marketing Agenda

The Calgary Sun recently reported, “Cold-fX maker CV Technologies Inc. is expanding its presence in the hockey world after signing a multi-year partnership with the National Hockey League and its players' association.“ According to the story, CV Technologies plans to launch its products into the U.S. this fall.

I am always impressed when companies think outside the box to find innovative ways to promote their brands. In the coming years, more and more companies are going to move to sponsoring events to generate exposure for their brand. People are saturated with ads in print, broadcast and even the Internet. Companies need to find ways to break away from the clutter.

Some thoughts about this deal:

I want to find out how the NHL client-side sponsorship team was able to finalize this deal. Did CV Technologies seek out the NHL or was it the other way around? I doubt the NHL or any league has a lot of interest to own the cold remedy category for their sport. But then again, cold medicine for the sport that is played outside -- as the gentlemen in the Guinness commercials say -- brilliant!

While the NHL is having a challenge increasing its viewer ship on television, the league attendance was almost at an all-time high last year. Diehard NHL fans are almost as passionate as NASCAR fans and I would not be surprised if they try CV Technologies cold remedies since they sponsor the League.

The story added that “Cold-fX will sponsor a monthly NHL player award and have exclusive marketing rights for major events such as the Stanley Cup playoffs, the all-star game, the entry draft and the NHL awards show.”

By marketing at these events, I assume CV will have the opportunities to invite U.S. clients to these big games. This is a great way to help convince companies to purchase their flu remedy. Hopefully, they will host events and bring in former hockey greats that these clients or the company’s sales reps can meet. I know from experience that these types of events can be beneficial in enhancing a sales-type relationship.

Sports sponsorships can really help to raise the profile of a company. We have seen business use sports sponsorships as a springboard to generate exposure for their brand and I think this is a smart move for CV Technologies.

The Future of Little League World Series

Earlier this afternoon, the championship game of the Little League World Series was suppose to be played. I believe the game was postponed due to rain. The Little League World Series has been played for over 60 years, but I concerns with how the event is promoted and marketed.

* Have you been to Little League’s Web site? I am amazed it is not more technologically advanced. While you can click on a link to go to another site to see the scores, why don’t they have a ticker on the page highlighting the most recent scores? Where is a video from some of the games? Where is the bloggers who should interview the players and write interesting feature stories? The site is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

* Have you ever watched a game on ESPN or ABC? There are a lot of questionable activities that take place during the contests. EDITOR’S NOTE: I understand this is a chance of a lifetime for the kid playing, but certain aspects of the tournament need to be revised.

* The announcers cannot promote a pitcher when he throws a curveball or change up. The pitcher should be “thrown out” of the game immediately. I know this may sound extreme, but so many kids injure their arms from throwing curves at an early age. It boggles my mind when the announcers show an instant replay of a great curveball. They should not be promoting this activity. Have you read the stories of kids have Tommy John surgery at age 15 or 16? That is just wrong.

* I saw a trick play a couple of years ago where a second baseman made it seem like a ball flew over his head into the infield. They were trying to trick a kid on second to go to third. The shortstop had caught the ball from the outfielder. The announcers were impressed the kids tried to pull off this trick play and showed the replay a couple of times. Now, in the grand scheme of things, this is a part of baseball. I understand this. The problem is that Little League was specifically created to help boys learn the correct qualities to become men. Learning to cheat was not in the mission statement.

* Next time the Little League World Series takes place, check out the ads on television. There are ads for beer, trucks, etc and then products for children. I understand parents watch the games on television, but come on; there is no reason in the world that beer commercials should be allowed during these telecasts. Any commercial during the telecast should be aim at kids.

* At the end of the game, there are always kids on the losing team who are crying. Television producers need to use their heads and NEVER allow the cameramen to film them. I understand the producers want to bring drama and emotion to the telecast, but do they really need to put a camera in front of a kid who has a broken heart?

* What bothers me about Little League World Series is the pressure the kids face when they return and the kids who follow them. Some pressure is healthy for everyone, but not at this age. The kids who return and play baseball in the future are going to have a bull’s eye on their back, while the new all-star team is saddled with the expectation that they must make it to Williamsport.

How to fix it? IF ABC/ESPN wants to cover kids baseball games, why not promote a World Series for 14-16 year olds. They play on a bigger field and are a little more mature than Little Leaguers. Just one man’s opinion….

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Future of Sports Marketing

If you have a chance read the following article from the Washington Post titled, “For Red Bull, It's Here, There and Everywhere.” Around the world, except in the United States, numerous companies own sports teams or venue to generate exposure for their business. Think about any sport – basketball, soccer, F1 racing or even Japanese baseball. I believe this is a smart marketing approach since the company has more control over all the messages that are being produced by the team. The company can have a PR and marketing person work directly for the team. The company also has more opportunities for cross-promotional marketing plans.

Interesting tidbit from this article:

“Red Bull's approach lies in the ownership of teams and events rather than just the sponsorship of them; this gives the company not just exposure but also control. Founder Dietrich Mateschitz estimates spending $300 million, or about a third of his company's annual marketing expenditures, on sports sponsorships.

The most well known, and the costliest, are the two Formula One teams. In March, Mateschitz -- who is based in Austria -- bought the New York MetroStars of Major League Soccer and renamed them the New York Red Bulls.

In 2007, Mateschitz will expand that sports budget by starting a two-car NASCAR team not surprisingly named Team Red Bull. There also are the smaller events: Alpine skiing, BASE jumping, sailing, BMX freestyle dirt and skateboard vert.”

Hopefully other companies in the United States will sit down and really analyze Red Bull’s sports marketing agenda. The will see that companies can generate a stronger ROI since they have more control over the whole package.

Sponsoring the Monster Seats

According to FOX 25 news this morning, it sounded like the Red Sox are seeking sponsors for the monster seat area. This is an AMAZING marketing opportunity for any local or national company. I believe this sponsorship opportunity has more ROI than John Hancock’s signage above the scoreboard. If I worked at John Hancock, I would try to find a way to get out of the scoreboard sponsorship package and move to sponsoring the monster seats.

I am almost giddy (I expect comments from using this phrase) thinking about the opportunities for a company who sponsors those seats:

* Amazing exposure: how many balls hit the green monster or are homeruns? A company will receive a fair amount of local and national coverage from 81 games a year.

* Fan exposure: 35,000 fans will have an opportunity to view the signage during every contest. It would cost millions for that amount of eyeball exposure.

* If the company’s PR team has a clue, they will be able to promote the story about the company sponsoring the seats to local and national print and television media. It is an interesting story that some reporters might cover.

* It is a strange world and some people want to be associated with companies who sponsor the Sox. The business may be able to easily generate new business due to this partnership.

* Customer and business relationship opportunities: how much extra business will the company generate if they ask a client during a meeting if they want to go to the Sox game that night and sit in the monster seats? The company can create an amazing “experience” for its staff as a reward or for potential clients.

I expect it will cost high six figures to sponsor the seats on a yearly basis. I am interested to see who takes on this impressive marketing vehicle.

What is Shaughnessy Thinking?

I have a call into one of my sources to find out what the deal was with Shaughnessy’s column in today’s Globe titled, “Some advice: Don't look now.” I almost fell out of my chair after I read the piece. This is the same reporter who ripped the team a week ago and now asks fans to be patient. He has NEVER written a positive Sox puff piece like this. Excerpts include:

“Some might look at all of the above and have negative thoughts. Not me. I have seen the light. I am buying the plan. This isn't about this year. Never was. The Sox are planning on being great in 2007 and even better in 2008.”

“Cynics might wonder about the rest of this year. Nattering nabobs might take issue with the top prices in baseball when it's all about the future. Cheapos might ask the Sox to scale back prices since we're no longer worried about '06. Not me. I have seen Baseball Future and its name is Boston Red Sox.”

I believe Lucchino or Steinberg called in a favor. The Sox had lost six straight and Theo was getting killed in the media and on WEEI. Hmm…I wonder who may have started the rolling thunder campaign against Theo with a column last week?

We all know Shaughnessy was a reporter in Baltimore when Lucchino and Steinberg were with the Orioles. The NYT, owners of the Globe, have a 17 percent stake in the team. Positive coverage is beneficial, but this article raises questions that something is going on behind the scenes.

Monday, August 21, 2006

VOD: Gold Star to Time Warner

While Time Warner is preparing for a pretty ugly public relations/marketing battle against the NFL and its passionate fans in select major media markets, the cable company started a sports-related video on demand program with the Dodgers.

This is a brilliant idea and something that other sports teams need to embrace. I am really interested to see if this program gains traction in LA.

According to a story in Multichannel News:

"As part of its overall sponsorship deal with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the cable operator has acquired archival footage from the team for the platform. The operator and the team will also shoot new footage, such as game highlights, so the site is updated frequently. The cable company hopes to post content the same day it is created."

"The site will also contain coverage of Dodgers charity events and press conferences, and will continue to operate even in the off-season, said Jamie McCourt, vice chairman and president of the team."

"The operator has had ‘introductory’ talks with other Los Angeles teams, including the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, about similar programming."

This is an amazing marketing opportunity for both Time Warner and the Dodgers. The Dodgers will receive a plethora of exposure from the VOD footage and the footage is free to customer. This is an easy way to create interest and hopefully drive more consumers to the games. Time Warner, on the other hand, is using this sponsorship to draw more customers.

This is a perfect example of the “out of the box” marketing that ALL sports teams need to embrace.

This VOD idea is something that Fenway Sports Group needs to work with Comcast, RSN and Time Warner to create packages in New England as well as around the nation. A lot of Red Sox fans in other parts of the country would be willing to pay to watch VOD of Sox footage, press conferences and other events. While I am not absolutely sure, I believe the Sox could keep all the revenue from this project as long as it doesn’t violate the national broadcasting contract.

FSG could also include NESN broadcasts in the VOD which would raise the demand and interest of the station and the team.

I am really excited to see this type of partnership because now sports teams are breaking away from the old time marketing and PR strategies.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Shaughnessy's Stirring Up the Hornet's Nest

As a sports columnist for the Boston Globe, one of Shaughnessy’s roles is to stir up controversy. This is a perfect time to get Red Sox Nation in a rampage after three humiliating losses to the Yankees.

Shaughnessy wrote a column today titled, "Getting that sinking feeling," and as usually, he is only highlighting one side of the story. Thankfully, I don’t think Lucchino or Steinberg offered any inside info of the Sox downfall.

Shaughnessy noted:

"The SS Red Sox is sinking fast in the American League. The sun no longer shines on the handsome head of young Theo (wonder if he's signed his much-celebrated contract yet). The computer-geek management style has been thoroughly exposed in the last two days and there's a perfect storm brewing upstairs on Yawkey Way.

The way things are going, Young Theo might don that gorilla suit again, but this time he might need it to hide from an angry Nation of paying customers who want to know why nothing was done at the trade deadline and how you try to win a pennant with no lefty in the bullpen and a collection of dead arms and dead presidents (Mr. Van Buren, I presume) posing as major league pitchers."

What bothers me about this column is that Shaughnessy is throwing Theo under the bus, when in reality; he knows what is going on behind the scenes. He understands Theo is trying to prepare for the future and is not worried about the Boston media. Shaughnessy wants to believe he has GM-type control with the Sox.

Let us all remember a couple of things about the 2006 Boston Red Sox:

* Other than trading for Bobby Abreu, what other top player was available at the trading deadline? Greg Maddux only wanted to go to the West Coast, Clemens couldn’t be traded and Kip Wells, who was traded, is now on the injured list.
If the Sox had traded for Abreu, it would have cost them 20 million dollars due to next year’s luxury tax. I don’t know if he is worth that amount of money

* Theo may had made some trades if Varitek and Nixon had gotten injured earlier. While both of these players need to improve offensively, they are both important clubhouse leaders and play strong defense. At this time, you can see how important Varitek is to the young pitching staff.

* When Theo came back, he made it clear that the team needed to prepare for the long-term and not year-by-year. Once I heard this, I knew the Sox wouldn’t make it to the playoffs in 2006. Think about it? Fenway Park was sold out in spring training. If the team wins 90 games, which is still possible, it will be deemed a great season. Red Sox Nation will still pay the highest ticket prices to come to Fenway.

* These young pitchers need an opportunity to grow and that can’t happen if the team is contending for the playoffs every year.

Once Varitek and Nixon come back, the Sox could make a push for the Wild Card. If they don’t, it’s all right since they won the World Series in 2004. Senior management deserves some slack.

Marketing Gone Mad

Below is another installment of “Marketing Gone Mad.” According to an Advertising Age article titled, “Ads to Be Printed on Grocery Store Conveyor Belts,” supermarkets are starting to allow companies with the opportunity to put ads on conveyer belts. The story noted:

"‘Conveyor belts have never been on anybody's radar screen for marketing,’ said Frank Cox, president-CEO of EnVision Marketing Group, a Little Rock, Ark., firm with a patented system to print digital, photo-quality ads directly on conveyor belts. ‘But a store with eight to 10 checkout lanes, well, you're talking about 100 square feet of wasted ad real estate.’”

I am absolutely dumbfounded with this idea. Putting ads on conveyor belts at stores definitely puts marketing at the saturation point for customers.

When going to the supermarket, a lot of mothers will bring their children along with them. If your company markets to either women or children, advertising on a conveyor belt will offer amazing branding opportunities. I understand this can be a huge benefit for certain companies.

Here is the problem. In the supermarket, customers are inundated with ads from a plethora of different products. By the time they reach the conveyor belt, most people are tired of looking at marketing material. They are not interested in reading any more ads. I would be concerned about the ROI if a company spends thousands of dollar marketing in this program.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Great Guerrilla Marketing Campaign

Canon is preparing an impressive guerrilla marketing campaign around the 2006 U.S. Open. What is guerrilla marketing?

"Guerrilla marketing, otherwise known as buzz marketing, is an approach to advertising that relies on innovative methods of getting a message across to the market. Often highly targeted, guerrilla marketing works its way through large networks of people via word of mouth and electronic communications. It relies heavily on sparking the imagination of the market through intelligent and stimulating messages. It is also a much less expensive approach compared to traditional television advertising campaigns." --

It is important to note that guerrilla marketing can be hit or miss. When the
marketing campaign works, a company can receive an amazing amount of coverage, but when something goes wrong -- watch out. I remember a couple of years ago when either Microsoft or IBM released some new software. They produced a guerrilla marketing campaign where the company had artists draw the company's logo in chalk on city sidewalks around the nation, including Boston. It was an interesting, out of the box idea. The one problem was the company didn't secure permits for the drawing so they defaced public property, received fines and a decent amount of negative coverage.

According to a Promo Magazine article, Canon faces a unique challenge "in its sponsorship of the U.S. Open this year: Its competitor, Olympus, swept up the camera category rights to the event. As a result, Canon was forced to be creative and develop a program to promote its cameras without being on the grounds of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Tennis Center."

If a company does not have the category rights at an event, it is really tough to break through the clutter from all the other sponsors. At the Boston Marathon every year, Nike, New Balance, Adidas and Reebok are always creating new and innovative guerrilla marketing campaigns for all the runners.

So what is Canon planning this year:

* "More than 20 doubles of the photogenic tennis ace will canvass Manhattan from Aug. 28 to Sept. 4 to promote Canon’s new line of PowerShot digital cameras that will launch the same week. The more than six-feet tall and blonde look-alikes will help passer-bys keep cool by handing out 80,000 branded fans. They will also distribute 100,000 branded subway maps with information on routes to the Open and Canon products. The 'Marias', as they’ve been dubbed, will pose for pictures with consumers and challenge tennis fans to see if they can beat Sharapova’s fastest serve at various Canon PowerShot Zones throughout the city."

* "To kick off its sponsorship, on the tournament’s opening day on Aug. 28, Canon will set up a tennis court on the flight deck of the Intrepid, an aircraft carrier museum, where it will feature the look-alikes, tennis stars John McEnroe and the Jensen brothers, and an interactive zone where consumers can test their serves and view Canon products. Local radio station Z100 will give away Canon PowerShot cameras
on site and on air through various contests."

* "To support the campaign, Canon ads featuring Sharapova break during the Open on CBS and USA Network. Canon will also sponsor the USA Today’s special section on Aug. 25. A four-page special insert will appear in the New Yorker, New York Magazine, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times. Meanwhile two mobile billboards placed on an expressway near the tournament are designed to catch fans’ attention as they travel to and from the Tennis Center."

Canon is spending a significant amount of time and money around this campaign. It is understandable since tennis has always been the sport Canon has used to promote its products. I am extremely interested to see what the ROI is from this marketing campaign. If it is a success, the PR department needs to create a case study on the results, because I believe it could win awards for its innovative ideas.

Smart Move by Dish Network

The marketing folks at Dish Network "get it." From yesterday's MediaDailyNews article:

"AS TIME WARNER CABLE AND the NFL Network continue their spat over whether the cable operator must carry the football outlet, Dish Network is seizing the opportunity to score new customers. Dish is launching an ad blitz featuring New York Giants running back Tiki Barber to persuade football-hungry customers to dump cable and sign up with the satellite operator."

You can read the full article at the following link:

This ad campaign is a smart move from a branding and marketing standpoint. I will be really shocked if Dish does not see a decent bump in new customers. NFL fans are extremely passionate and they want to be able to watch the games on weekend. A lot of fans will spend decent money to ensure they can watch the games in the comfort of there own home.

A company can never go wrong if it can include its product around a national issue and show how the product is beneficial to consumers. This will lead to new customers and hopefully, an increase in free media exposure.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Where Has Theo Been?

The Boston sports media seems to believe that the end of the world is near since the Sox have been losing recently and their pitching has been lacking. The Sox did trade for Eric Hinske today and he should be a valuable addition to the team.

What is interesting about all the drama is that Theo is nowhere to be found. When was the last time he held a press conference to discuss Red Sox related issues – the day after the trade deadline.

With the philosophy changes in senior management, they understand the Red Sox are not going to be in the playoffs every year. It is smarter to strengthen the farm system for the future than gamble it away to make the playoffs every year. The media and the fans are screaming to bring in more pitching and more players, but the Sox will be satisfied to win 90 games.

The Red Sox should have some decent financial flexibility next year. Players who will be off the payroll include Wells, Loretta, Foulke (I believe), Tavarez, Seanz, Gonzalez and Nixon.

I read recently that Theo wants to emulate how Belichick gives out information to the media – as little as possible. I don’t think that will fly with the beat reporters, but it could make things extremely interesting in the years to come.

Where Has Theo Been?

The Boston sports media seems to believe that the end of the world is near since the Sox have been losing recently and their pitching has been lacking. The Sox did trade for Eric Hinske today and he should be a valuable addition to the team.

What is interesting about all the drama is that Theo is nowhere to be found. When was the last time he held a press conference to discuss Red Sox related issues – the day after the trade deadline.

With the philosophy changes in senior management, they understand the Red Sox are not going to be in the playoffs every year. It is smarter to strengthen the farm system for the future than gamble it away to make the playoffs every year. The media and the fans are screaming to bring in more pitching and more players, but the Sox will be satisfied to win 90 games.

The Red Sox should have some decent financial flexibility next year. Players who will be off the payroll include Wells, Loretta, Foulke (I believe), Tavarez, Seanz, Gonzalez and Nixon.

I read recently that Theo wants to emulate how Belichick gives out information to the media – as little as possible. I don’t think that will fly with the beat reporters, but it could make things extremely interesting in the years to come.

Red Sox Sponsorships

File this under "What are they thinking":

The Boston Globe reported today that Macy's is now the official department store of the Boston Red Sox. Huh? And the Sox need an official department store why? Now, I understand the Sox don't make a lot of money due to revenue sharing and the amount of money they dole out to their players. The Sox need to look for inventive ways to make money -- FSG, concerts during the summer, events in the EMC Club, ice skating and an ice hockey match this winter, but Lucchino and Sam Kennedy need to draw the line somewhere. By having the official department store, I believe you are diluting the product, which is the Red Sox.

The article titled, "Macy's to throw Fenway fete as it goes national" noted the following:

* "Macy's is planning to light up Fenway Park with fireworks Sept. 8 as part of a series of celebrations across the country to kick off the national launch of the department store brand."

* "On Macy's Night at Fenway, fans will have the chance to win a $100 shopping certificate at Macy's every inning and hear a performance from The Standells, whose 'Dirty Water' is played after every Red Sox home victory."

Will this sponsorship really offer the strongest ROI for Federated Department Stores (FDS)? Let us review:

* FDS is making a huge push this fall to renovate the Macy’s stores. By creating a rolling thunder media campaign through their relationship with the Sox, they can generate some interest from the public moving into the fall.

* Hopefully, FDS plans to use the sponsorship to bring clients to games, host events at the park and maybe have a player do a signing at a Macy’s opening. They had some interesting ideas around Macy’s Night so I would be shocked if they don’t have other plans in the works.

Below are two questions:

* I hope FDS senior management does not believe their stores will see more business since the company is now a sponsor of the Sox. How many people are really going to change their buying habits since FDS is now partnering with the team?

* Has FDS spoken with the Fenway Neighborhood Committee? Are they giving residents in the area free gift cards to shop at Macy’s? If the Sox start shooting fireworks late into the night and residents can’t sleep, someone is going to be blamed. With all the positive PR they hope to receive from this event, it would be a downer if they lost potential customers due to the fireworks. I know this might be a stretch, but this issue needs to be addressed and buttoned up.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Review: Feeding the Monster

Last night I finished the Boston Red Sox book titled, “Feeding the Monster” by Seth Mnookin. This book is hands-down, the best Sox book I have ever read.

Once the Sox won the World Series, I started reading Red Sox-related books like there was no tomorrow. I think I read between 5-10 books after the World Series. I read somewhere that 30-35 books were published after the Sox won the championship.

Positives of “Feeding the Monster”

· This book offered an amazing amount of insider knowledge. I had already heard about a lot of the stories that were featured in the book from sources, but it will be extremely eye opening to other readers.

· The book helped to clear the air on one story I had incorrect. An anonymous teammate of Schilling’s slammed the pitcher last year. He said, “When he comes into the game people cheer him like he’s the Pope.’ The book added “the player was complaining that Schilling wasn’t confronted with the jeers while the rest of the team faced when they struggled. ‘You think they’d let Pedro get away with this? Why does he get a pass?’”

I always thought Keith Foulke was behind this quote. According to the book and Howard Bryant, Kevin Millar made those statements. It’s a little understandably considering how bad he played last year and how the fans treated him.

Negatives of “Feeding the Monster”

· In the footnotes, the reporter takes time explaining some of the basic aspects of baseball, stats, etc. Is it really needed? I don’t know.
· There is definitely a lot of information that is factual and can’t be changed so if you have read other Sox books recently, it may be a lot of the same info.

The bottom line is I would strongly recommend reading or buying it as a gift for any Sox fan.


When discussing the best Sox books, let us look at the top three:

· “Feeding the Monster,” Seth Mnookin
· “Now I Can Die in Peace,” Bill Simmons
Note: Some people will argue that they won’t read this book since they have read all his columns before. I disagree. Simmons’ adds some hilarious footnotes to his columns and it is always enjoyable to reread columns you haven’t seen in a couple of years.
· “A Tale of Two Cities,” Tony Massarotti and John Harper
Note: Massarotti and Harper offered their thoughts on the 2004 season from the Red Sox and Yankees’ clubhouses since both are beat reporters. This book offered some amazing “inside baseball” nuggets and I definitely recommend reading this book.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Additional Posts Until Wednesday

I will not have access to a computer for the next two days. I will post new blogs starting Wednesday.

Future of Fantasy Sports

As sports gambling enthusiasts wait for the outcome of the BetonSports trial, I wonder why no one has created the premier fantasy sports Web site.

Editor's Note: I have done some research on this topic, but I am definitely not an expert.

We know ESPN, Yahoo, CBS and MSN have fantasy pages, but is one site been named the leader? Can you really name the best fantasy sports magazine or television show to watch. I know ESPN produces fantasy shows, but you would think they should have shows on a weekly basis.

In online research about the demographics of fantasy sports users, I determined the following:

“Fantasy sports industry generates $1.5 billion in revenue per year, and has 15 million total consumers. The industry has been growing at a rate of between seven and 10 percent per year for the last three years.” – iMedia Connection

“The typical active fantasy sports player is a married, educated suburban male homeowner in his late 30s. Hitwise demographic data show that 55 percent of visitors to fantasy sports sites have household incomes greater than $60,000 per year, and according to a survey, they spend $493 per year on fantasy sports.” -- iMedia Connection

While gambling sites make 10 times the amount of money as fantasy sites, in the long run, it seems like a smarter idea to create the premier fantasy league Web site. The government is really trying to crack down on online gambling.

There is such an unlimited potential to make money in the industry. Hire writers to follow their sport in a blog format during the season and weekly columns during the off-season. Create leagues for people to use during the season. Other than ESPN and Yahoo, what other sites do people use consitently for their fantasy leagues?

It seems like you could keep the costs low, maybe $30 dollars a year and thousands of people would join the site. As I have discussed in previous blogs, the site could post weekly podcasts that discuss players, interviews with fantasy experts or Q&As from fantasy league players.

Last, if I created a fantasy sports site, I would negotiate to become the official sponsor of different sports leagues. I don’t think you can put a price on the amount of media and television exposure the site would receive from being an innovator in the industry.

ABC Sports Brand Gone

Did you read the news on Friday that "A major branding campaign, 'ESPN on ABC,' will extend ESPN, the large cable sports network, as the umbrella TV sports programming brand on the ABC Television Network. Now when viewers tune in on ABC, all sports programming will have the exact on-air graphics look of ESPN."

Click on the following link to view the article:

That means ESPN will now be on four television stations, one national radio station, a sports magazine and an internet site. Does anyone else think ESPN is hitting the saturation point? Maybe ABC is doing this from a cost perspective. From a viewers’ perspective, I think it is definitely more valuable to have different networks that are creating innovative ways to watch sports events. With this new change, ESPN is in the beginning stages of creating a sports monopoly.

Don't get me wrong, I like ESPN and its products, but this news concerns me.

Sponsoring at the Beijing Olympics

Last week, the USOC announced that "36 sponsors and 33 licensees have teamed up to support the U.S. Olympic Committee's (USOC) Olympic and Paralympic athletes heading for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China."

What is the difference between a sponsor and licensees? "The sponsors will inject cash, products and services to support the U.S. Olympic Team, while licensees will have commercial rights to use the USA five-ring logo on their product and services."

Now I understand it costs millions of dollars to be a TOP sponsor of the Olympics Games, but companies should strongly consider being a 2008 Olympics sponsor.

Think about it. I believe there are over a billion people in China. This will be the first time that some U.S. based companies will have the opportunity to really advertise in China.

Some U.S. companies spend their marketing budget on one commercial during the Super Bowl. I would recommend to any company that they spend their marketing dollars in 2007 ramping up for the Olympics and a large percentage of their marketing budget at the Games in 2008.

Beyond the opportunity to advertise in China, companies will also have the opportunity to buy tickets to entertain guests. I expect scalped tickets to be through the roof. The only way to really secure decent tickets will be through the IOC sponsor program.

After attending the Winter Games in Torino, I saw first-hand how clients value their "Olympic experience." It is definitely expensive to entertain guests, but it is an experience they will never forget.

If a U.S. company wants to pursue sports sponsorship opportunities, below are reasons why they should be an Olympic sponsor:

* The sponsorship enhances a company’s image to help position their products and/or their sales force as leaders in the community.

* Customers associate certain positive attributes with the Olympic rings, and through research I have read, these attributes create a positive brand halo effect. In the eyes of consumers, this extends and enhances a company’s brand. The Olympic brand appeals to a wide cross section of consumers and has particular cache to people who are hard to reach from a marketing perspective.

* Consumers’ associate attributes such as success, dedicated to excellence, industry leader, progressive, blue chip and highly reputable with the rings and those companies who co-brand with them.

* The power of the Olympic rings, combined with strong brand awareness, provides companies with a distinct advantage over their competitors and is an effective tool to meet business objectives and goals. It demonstrates not only their leadership in the industry, but also their dedication to the standard of excellence exemplified by the Olympic Games.

* From a brand perspective, the Olympic rings give a company visibility, credibility, differentiation, and a unique position in whatever market they are in.

* As a function of brand management, a company’s logo will attract more attention due to the rings, and in competitive terms, no other company in their category can attach its brand to these rings. This ensures exclusivity, credibility and uniqueness in the category.

It seems like a no-brainer to me why a company should sponsor during the 2008 Olympic Games.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sports Marketing and Podcasting

With all the hardcore sports fans around the world, you would think that sports teams or organizations that create athletic gear would be podcasting. As I have said numerous times in the past, companies need to find new and interesting ways to break through the advertising clutter. It doesn’t seem like it would be too expensive to create them. You need software that you can download online and a camera to attach to your computer.

What is Podcasting? According to Wikipedia: “Podcasting is the method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio programs or music videos, over the Internet using either the RSS or Atom syndication formats, for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. The term podcast, like 'radio', can mean both the content and the method of delivery…Usually a podcast features one type of 'show', with new episodes released either sporadically or at planned intervals such as daily or weekly. In addition, there are podcast networks that feature multiple shows on the same feed.”

I read an interesting article last month from Promo Magazine titled, “What Podcasting Can Do,” that got me thinking about how sports team should use this technology to create awareness and drive more interest and traffic to their teams.
Below is an example of a successful use of podcasting from the story: “Robert Claypool, product director for Johnson & Johnson's Acuvue vision care unit, said that when his company went looking for a way to strengthen its brand appeal and cultural connection to teens last fall, initiating a podcast series was ‘a clear winner.’ The company worked with an agency to create five weekly podcasts with Heather and Janelle, two Long Island high school girls who hosted the podcasts and talked about teen social items, including interviewing cute guys and fielding poll questions on the previous week's content. Claypool said J&J laid out some guidelines for the content of the podcasts but was careful to keep a low-key presence in the editorial content, often confined to a ‘shout out’ to Acuvue from the hosts for providing the airtime.”

How should teams or sports-related companies use podcasting to their advantage?

* Have a couple of funny hardcore fans do a weekly show about the team. Maybe they interview players; maybe they interview fans at the stadium or sports bar talking about the team. They could even offer an analysis of the games. The team can offered guidelines, but should allow some criticism if the team is performing poorly.

Note: While podcasting falls under the PR/Marketing realm, teams need to understand that fans will see right through if these podcasts are fluff pieces.

* What if a Reebok, New Balance or EMS had people podcast about their athletic adventures? You could get some extreme athletes or people who love the mountains and camping discuss stories or issues affecting their sport. They might talk about products from the company one week, they might not. It would still drive traffic to the company’s site in the long run.

The bottom line is this – from an outside perspective it seems that sports organizations do not want to use new technology and are scared to “think outside of the box.” If I were a small-market team in any sport, I would demand that my sales and marketing team used some of these technologies to generate interest and exposure and drive additional traffic to the stadiums.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

PGA's New FedEX Cup..

Kudos to the PGA Tour for convincing FedEx to be the title sponsor of the upcoming FedExCup. The PGA is trying to create a points systems after NASCAR had unbelievable success with its playoff system. Let us review the new PGA Tour plans.

“Under the FedExCup, the golf season will be divided into three parts: FedExCup Regular Season, PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup and the Fall Series.”

“The regular season will consist of events from the beginning of January to the middle of August. These events will decide the seeding for the PGA Tour Playoffs. The Playoffs will consist of four events between late-August and mid-September. These four events will determine the winner of the FedExCup. Between late-September and early-November, a Fall Series of tournaments will be conducted to finalize the following year’s eligibility for players who do not finish in the top 30.”

After reading that, am I the only one that sees a huge red flag around this championship points system?

* During the first year, all the major golfers are going to compete to say they are the first FedExCup champion, but after that, who knows. Top players including Woods, Mickelson, Singh, and Els don’t need the 10 million dollar prize. They have more than enough money. What they care about is winning one of the four majors. Those are the most important events every year. That’s it. By the end of the year, they want to relax to prepare for the upcoming season.

* Did FedEx receive a guarantee that at least 85% of golfers in the top 30 will compete in the playoffs? If top players do not attend, a lot of the media and general fans are not going to care. This will dilute FedEx’s branding mission. On the flip side, how can the PGA demand that certain players compete? What are the penalties in the do not participate in the playoffs. Let us see what happens the first time Woods decides to bow out of the playoffs. FedEx is going to love that idea…

* My other concern is this Fall Series. Only diehard fans are going to attend these events if no one in the top 30 plans to play. Why would you want to sponsor one of these events? There would be limited to no media coverage. They only reason to sponsor one of these events is from a hospitality standpoint.

NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup has been a huge success for the sport. I hope golf’s new playoff system will help to enhance the sport in the future.

Bruins PR and Harry Sinden Moving On

This morning Harry Sinden announced he was stepping down as the president of the Boston Bruins. The Globe article noted, "The team said it would not hire a new president, but instead align all hockey operations under new general manager Peter Chiarelli." between the lines and it says the Bruins are grooming Charlie Jacobs for the position. Then again, maybe it’s just me.

Hopefully the Bruins PR and their outside agency will take advantage of this news to generate interest in the team. Bruins fans are psyched about the new player additions and the changes to the front office. The Bruins need to get Sinden to talk to the major media players about his career with the Bruins, why he left at this time and what the future holds for the team. Note – he has not left the team officially, but will be a special assistant. Other than the Red Sox falling out of playoff contention and Pats preseason, there is not a lot going on with the local sports scene.

As the Bruins ramp up interest in this year's squad, I really hope they revise their marketing strategy. There is no need to spend all the money on traditional advertising. The hardcore fans are always going to come to the games. The Bruins need to work to recruit the average sports fans. How should they do this?

* Set up a blog where players and management can discuss items, upcoming events and discount tickets to future games. We all know the PR department will write it, but it’s a start.

* Get the new players out within the community ASAP. They need to create experiences for fans so they will want to support the Bruins in the future. Have them walk down Newbury St or go to Faneuil Hall.

* Last, they should consider creating a FanFest event during the preseason at the Garden. Invite the fans and all the local media to generate interest and to purchase tickets to the upcoming season.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Olympics Bad Idea Jeans

Over the last year I had the opportunity to work with TOROC (the Torino Olympics Organizing Committee) and thankfully every thing went smoothly in regards to marketing, PR and sponsorship issues. Some of my peers have been working with BOCOG, the Beijing Olympics Committee, and have been dealing with a variety of different challenges. If this blurb in the Wall Street Journal is correct, things could get dicey for sponsors of the 208 Beijing Olympics.

"Marketers' efforts to grab a piece of China's 2008 Olympic Games have begun in earnest--and they're beginning to set new standards. For example, tradition calls for category exclusivity for most sponsors. There is usually only one credit-card sponsor, one wristwatch marketer, etc., allowed to put its brand on the Games. Not this time. The 2008 Games already boast three official beers: Tsingtao, Yanjing and Budweiser. "One beer cannot cover all China," says Liu Jun, deputy director of marketing of the Beijing Organizing Committee, or Bocog. China's huge number of beer drinkers and the fragmented market justified the triple play. Plus, each beer company has established a different target audience."

As a former Manulife employee (Manulife is a sponsor of the 2008 Olympics) I can guarantee they would not be a happy camper if another insurance company were allowed to be an official sponsor of the Olympics. Companies pay at a minimum, 30 to 40 million for category exclusivity to be a sponsor of the Olympics. If you are the sports marketing exec, your company purchased category exclusivity, are you going to allow another competitor to be at the Games? I don't think so.

I bet visitors at the Beijing Games are going to see guerilla marketing like it has never been presented before. Sponsors, who are cut throat to gain market share in China are going to walk over each other.

BOCO MUST nip this in the bud immediately and ensure category exclusivity is still in place...

Pats Marketing Receives Today's Gold Star

Did you read the article in today's Boston Globe titled, "," that reported the New England Patriots "are rolling out hot dogs, bratwurst, and sausages named after the team, complete with the Patriots' logo on the package"?

One cannot tell me the Pats haven't been watching how the Sox are developing new revenue streams and wanted to get in on the action. The Pats don’t have any more tickets they can sell so they needed to think “outside the box.”

The meat will be available at Gillette Stadium in the next week and then it will hit grocery stores in September. The story added, "The Patriots don't plan to stop at meat; they envision an array of football foodstuffs. Not only are team executives mulling Patriots hamburgers and chicken wings, they also want Patriots barbecue sauce, ketchup, and mustard."

Consumers want to be associated with winning teams and I will not be surprised if these products start selling off the shelves. At the beginning there will definitely be a "curiosity factor" to try the new products. Local supermarkets will also want to have these products on their shelves and may not charge the same stocking fee they do with other items.

Hopefully the Pats are smart and they will start selling these products during tailgating before and after the game. You can bet people would spend a little extra money if they didn't have to bring extra food to the game.

What does the future hold for the Pats and new revenue streams? If they are smart, they will consider creating an FSG type organization. The Kraft family overseas sponsorships for Gillette, the Pats, the New England Revolution and most likely, the new soccer stadium when it is built. They should work an agreement with TrinityOne marketing and Lou Imbriano, the former Pats employee to oversee this new company.

I bet the Pats could convince local colleges to let them handle their sports-related advertising in the future. What I mean is they would help to sell advertising in college game programs, radio/TV programs and on the field. What local college wouldn't want to be associated with the Pats?

Another question: Can fans do tours at Gillette stadium? Wouldn’t football fans be interested the same way Sox fans are? Just seems like the right thing to do.

This rollout of food is a smart move by the Pats.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Could MLS Finally Be on the Rise

There is an interesting article in MediaWeek today titled, "ESPN Reups Soccer Deal to Keep Viewers." The article noted "ESPN reupped its TV rights deal through 2014 with Soccer United Marketing—which holds the commercial and TV rights for Major League Soccer—last week and is hoping the new commitment will keep viewer interest in soccer high until next summer’s Women’s World Cup and the next men’s Cup in 2010. Under the new deal, ESPN2 will televise 26 regular season MLS matches, most of them in prime time on Thursday nights. Under the current deal, which expires after this season, most of the MLS games aired on Saturday afternoons."

ESPN and MLS may have finally started to understand US consumers and what it is going to take to gain traction and market share in the U.S. Let us analyze the following:

* Viewers now know what television stations will televise which matches. In the past, viewers had to search and guess when a match might be played. Viewers are not going to spend a lot of time searching for the soccer matches.

* Televising the matches on Thursday night is a brilliant move. In regards to sports being played on Thursday nights, MLS will only be competing with MLB for viewers. I am not a big fan of televising all the matches on Saturday since people are always out during the weekend.

* MLS is working with each of its teams to create their own stadiums and to not play in football stadiums. The intimacy of these new stadiums and the closeness to the fields will help to bring additional fans in the future.

* ESPN needs to continue to force feed soccer to US sports fans. The MediaWeek article added, "Doug Quinn, president of SUM, credited ESPN’s $20 million in promotional dollars for the World Cup as being key in raising awareness among the more casual soccer fans."

ESPN needs to put soccer highlights at the beginning of the show, make sure any soccer wrap up shows are before or after SportsCenter and continue to make the sport "top of mind" to all its different media outlets.

I believe U.S. sports fans are going to be interested soccer moving forward with the Women's World Cup since there is a chance the U.S. could win the tournament. U.S. soccer must continue to put players from the men's team in front of the public and remind everyone that a lot of the players compete in MLS. We all know it is tough to convince fans to watch soccer every four years.

These next five to 10 years are really a make or break time for the League.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Toyota and the PCB Tour...

I was reading one of my numerous daily e-mail newsletters when I saw the following news blurb:

"TOYOTA MOTOR SALES USA: has become a 2006 sponsor for the Professional Championship Bullriders Tour. The tour, which kicked off in February, is held in small- to medium-sized markets throughout the Upper Midwest. Toyota's sponsorship will focus on generating awareness for its Tundra pickup brand. Financial terms of the sponsorship were not disclosed."

What is always interesting in a partnership of this nature is why would the Bull Riders tour take any money at all? If I did marketing for the Tour, I would have negotiated a deal where any Toyota Tundra television or print commercials nationwide had to include a bullriding theme.

It would seem this is an ideal partnership for both companies and their products since (pickup trucks and bullriding) complement one another.

Let us move on to the bigger issue at hand. Why hasn't bullriding sustained its popularity in the niche market sector? Two years ago, I remember bullriding started to get some major press in the national media outlets. Most times, getting this type of coverage is unheard of. Then, unfortunately, the sport lost it media momentum and became quiet once again.

Interesting facts about the Professional BullRiders Tour:

* According to an article I read, “The league test-marketed events in cities like Worcester Mass., and Tampa, places not known for having a bull-riding tradition. Yet the events sold out. The league is very fan-friendly and guarantees audiences that they will see only the best bull riders in the world by mandating that the circuit's top 45 athletes appear at every event. If a participant fails to show, he is off the tour.”

What other sport can offer that it athlete’s will appear every time. The Tour should be promoting the hell out of this stat.

* A Fox News story noted, “In 1998, PBR events had 33,912,988 television viewers. In 2004, that number grew to a whopping 104,277,264. Its growth from 2002 to 2004 alone was 51.93 percent, qualifying bull riding as the fastest-growing sport in America.”

* “And a PBR-commissioned study found that women were making heroes not of the cowboys but the bulls, some of which, like the notorious and now retired Little Yellow Jacket, have carved out fame of their own, even if it's on the backsides of the sport's less nimble cowboys.” -- Fox News

* “In 1995, the total sponsorship and advertising for the PBR was about $360,000... This year [2006], it’s projected to exceed $22 million, and includes heavy hitters such as Anheuser-Busch, Ford and the city of Las Vegas.” Fox News

What should bull riding do to generate national interest:

* When a sponsor wants to partner with the sport, negotiate deals so that the sport is included in any of the partner's commercials.

* This may seem far-fetched, but when was the last time that you saw a bull riding movie or a bullriding scene in a movie or television? The sport needs to work with Hollywood producers to generate ways to include the sport in television shows. If needed, PAY movies or television shows to include the sport. This is an easy way to gain exposure to a national audience.

* Is the sport on YourTube and Myspace? You cannot tell me that girls wouldn't be interested in seeing pictures of the bull riders. Teenage boys might want to follow the stats of the bull riders as well. You can have some intern post weekly pictures from the events on each of the riders’ sites. The interns can also get “pit notes” from the riders after an event and post them on the blog section of Myspace. In regards to YourTube, if the sport posted an amazing bull ride that got forwarded around, that could only help the sport.

Note: These two ideas would cost almost nothing to do and could generate decent coverage. What publication wouldn't cover a sport that was spending a lot of time raising awareness for its sport through Myspace? The sport would be looked at as being a risk taker, forward thinker and having the ability to think “outside the box.”

* Every year I heard ads that the professional bullriding tour was coming to Worcester. The tour needs to create a Fanfest event in Boston the day before to generate interest in the event. Even if it sells out every year in Worcester, it can hurt to drive up the demand of tickets at the event. I understand the tour may be coming from another event beforehand, but it is essential to generate interest beforehand. If you had an event in Boston, I would be shocked if the local television and newspaper media didn't attend. They are always looking for new and interesting stories. If I were the Bullrider PR person, I would set up a contest on one of those bullriding machines to see who could last the longest. You could get some amazing coverage from that type of event.

* The Tour should also create clinics beforehand for kids -- even something as simple as explaining about the sport and its challenges. If you get kids interested, they will want to attend and they will bring their parents. Also, if you create a “memorable experience” for the kids, a lot of times, they will become a fan for life.

The Future Faces of the Red Sox...

When it comes to the Red Sox, it is always interesting to see whom the public relations department decides is "the face of the franchise." When I use the term "face of the franchise", I am talking about two aspects -- one, who is most willing to talk to the media and two, which players will be marketed most to the public.

When the new owners took over in 2003, Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino and Dr. Charles Steinberg took the lead for management and Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar, were the faces for the team.

In 2004, things began to change as Theo was pushed to the front and Larry and Charles moved behind the scenes. From a player's standpoint, Schilling was positioned as the face of the team, along with Pedro and Millar who would speak with any reporter any time.

If you analyze the 2004 season, you learned a lot about how senior management believed it was essential that the players presented a positive image to the public. Senior management wanted certain players to be in the public eye, to be willing to schmooze with sponsors and to be considered leaders in the clubhouse.

There are numerous reasons why Nomar was traded and we could spend all day dissecting why he is gone. One of the reasons he was traded and not resigned at his asking price is due to fact that he was not in the public eye and would not go out of his way to help the team's important sponsors at events and with commercials. Pedro as we all know, was the same way and did not come back. The team has tried to trade Manny regularly, but due to his contract, they are no takers.

I understand there may be people reading this and thinking I don't understand what is going on. Players are there to play baseball and win games. That's it. Unfortunately, the business of sports has changed so much, that players must understand that they will have to schmooze with sponsors, attend an event or be in a commercial for a Red Sox partner (Side Note: From an imaging standpoint, I don't see the negatives in spending a day to be in a commercial).

Let us fast forward to 2006. Schilling was the face of the franchise for the last two years -- be it with the Dunkin Donuts, Chevy, speaking on WEEI or his ALS Charity, he has been everywhere. Since he will be retiring in two years, the wheels are in motion to change the image of the team.

From a senior management level, it has been interesting to see that Henry has been more vocal in the media, while Larry and Charles have been extremely quiet this year. Personally, I think they are trying to let the wounds heal from Theo leaving.

From a player's standpoint, it has been interesting to see how things are evolving. All the fans love Papelbon and people are buying his shirt like it is going out of style. But when it comes to speaking with the media, he is kept in the background. No cover stories with SI or ESPN Magazine and no Sunday Night Conversations on ESPN. I believe the Red Sox are smart to keep Papelbon, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarman away from the media. How easy would it be to make Delcarman the face of the team? He grew up in Hyde Park.

Two players who stand out though are Josh Beckett and David Ortiz. In the last week, I have seen Beckett cover articles in ESPN Magazine and the Improper Bostonian. Ortiz, on the other hand, was on ESPN's Sunday Conversation this morning and has been promoting a new health drink. The Sox can't go wrong if they are putting all their energy behind these two players.

One other player to keep your eye on is Kevin Youlkis. He is one of the top fan favorites at Fenway and around the league, but how many profiles have you seen on him? The Sox may be holding him back for one more year to develop or it could be he is the next version of Nomar, Manny or Pedro in their willingness to represent the team in Boston. I have read on a couple of blogs that he is not the nicest person so we will see how this plays out in the future.

After some rough times, the Sox PR department may be back on track...

Friday, August 04, 2006

The New Nike + iPod Sports Kit

Have you heard about the new Nike + iPod sports kit? According to an article I read today titled, "Will the New Nike+iPod Sport Kit Hit the Ground Running, or Hit the Wall?," it reported, "The Nike+iPod Sport Kit allows runners and walkers to listen to songs and to record, store and share information (such as speed, distance covered and calories burned) with others about their exercise sessions. The system also "talks" to runners in real time, providing information as they jog along. The $29 kit consists of two gadgets -- receiver that plugs into an iPod Nano and a sensor that sits inside the inner sole of specially made Nike shoes and transmits data to the receiver wirelessly. Buyers also get software to download the running data to a special website where the information can be stored and tracked over time and shared with other runners."

As I read this article, I started to think about ESPN and its "amazing" mobile sports phone. I was concerned that this new sports kit idea might fail miserably, but then I got to thinking:

There is such a wide and diverse audience who run and listen to music while exercising. The target audience is two to three times as large as the audience for ESPN's mobile phone.

* Like the story stated, "Members of Wharton's marketing department say it's a winning combination that will bolster each company's image and open the door to other co-branding opportunities." Nike and Apple are two companies that consider themselves cutting-edge, forward thinking and companies that understand their customers.

* Last, Nike does not believe in traditional advertising (this is an extremely smart company): "One Nike marketing official has said that Nike will not spend money on traditional advertising to create interest in the sport kit and will, in fact, rely on buzz marketing and word-of-mouth referrals."

If Nike and Apple start to gain some traction and sales with this new sports kit, I would not be surprised if Nike created a social networking site like the one for its soccer fans.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

NBA Marketing Recieves a Gold Star

The NBA marketing department, by far, has developed the most productive marketing plan, year in and year out, from an ROI perspective. What about Nike and it's "out of the box" ideas, you ask? Some years Nike's branding arm is rolling on all cylinders, but not every year. The NBA has taken marketing to a new level since the early 90s.

According to an article I read today, the NBA "is taking its hoop action and marketing partners Champion, Nike, FootLocker, EA Sport, Spalding and Sprite to eight cities in four European countries in its first-ever NBA Basket Jam, a basketball festival that features interactive basketball games and entertainment activities. The two-day events, which tipped off in Lyon, France on July 22, run through Sept. 17 and will visit eight cities in Spain, Italy and Germany."

This idea is brilliant and here's why:

* As I said in a previous post, companies need to think of ways to create "an experience" when marketing to fans. The NBA could sponsor some basketball clinics in Europe or put ads in the local TV and print media, but the fans of these European cities will never forget the NBA Basket Jam. U.S. fans are spoiled since they have an opportunity to attend up to four Fanfests a year (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB). In less than two years, I would be shocked if the NFL, NHL and MLB didn't host their own European Fanfest as well.

* I would expect at least half of the people who attend these events would be children. These NBA Basket Jams are a perfect way to create NBA fans for life. If the NBA gives them a little tchotke, they will remember it for years. The next time an NBA games is on television, they might spend a little more time watching after attending the NBA Basket Jam.

* Including the sponsors is a win-win situation for both parties. The NBA continues to strengthen its strategic alliances with these partners who now feel special (this is extremely important) and the League can now lower the overall budget of the event by having sponsors cover some of the costs. During the event, the sponsors will also have the opportunity to reach new audiences in a somewhat intimate setting.

Long-term -- sponsors will want to stay with companies or events that think "outside the box" and can offer them new and exciting ways to meet their target audience.

* Last -- we all know MLB and the NFL play preseason and/or regular season games in the Far East. Those are great ways to generate exposure for the leagues, but I wonder what type of Fanfest experience do they offer to people in the cities where the games are played...

Young Adults Like New Technology

This is one of the most mind-boggling studies I have read in awhile. Who pays for this type of study that is just so obvious? Can we put together a study about the color of the Sun and the sky?

According to a new Forrester Research report, "Generation Y young adults aged 18-26 are plugging into technology at a faster rate than any other generation, but they are doing so instead of spending time in front of a TV."

The article, from Multichannel News added "The Cambridge, Mass.-based analyst firm’s annual technology-adoption study surveyed 66,707 households in the United States and Canada. It found that young adults spend 12.2 hours online, 28% longer than Generation X’s 27- to 40-year-olds and twice as long as baby boomers aged 51-61.

Young adults also are more likely to tap into newer online-communications services such as instant messaging, blogs and community Web sites such as"

I feel like I am beating a dead horse here, but any sports organization who wants to connect with Generate Y, needs to go online. If I worked with sports organizations, I would strongly recommend they hire a couple of college interns to help them create blogs, Myspace pages and Podcasts. Creating print and TV ads are not going to reach Generation Y.

As marketing continues to rapidly evolve, companies need to change their marketing plans. They need to become sponsors at events - either sports or others. Companies, including sports teams, need to create "experiences" for their fans. This could be the opportunity for customers to participate in a golf pro-am or to have minor league players conduct free clinics for kids in the area.

Marketers need to take their branding and advertising ideas online while also developing exciting events for their customers.

European Club Soccer -- Coming to America...

Below is an interesting little news brief that I read today:

EUROPEAN SOCCER CLUBS: FC Barcelona, Juventus FC, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain have appointed Warner Bros. Consumer Products as the clubs' Master Licensee for the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America. The deal grants Warner Bros. the rights to license, manufacture, distribute, promote and sell club-branded merchandise throughout the Americas. The licensing program will include leisure apparel and accessories, toys and games, housewares and domestics, stationery, gifts and collectible items. Financial terms were not disclosed. These items will be available in select retail stores beginning in December.

This is a smart strategic alliance, but why did this agreement not take place LAST December? Overall, I think this is a great deal for European soccer to continue to generate exposure and interest in the United States. From playing exhibition games in the U.S. over the last couple of years, the teams know that there is a lot of fan interest. I am excited to see how Warner Bros. markets the teams and their products.

Some red flags in regards to this alliance:

*As I stated before, this deal should have been made last December well before the World Cup was staged. I believe soccer fans would have purchased clothing to wear while watching the World Cup games. Now, true soccer fans would wear clothing to support their countries, but I definitely believe Warner Bros. could have made some money around the Games.

* Why are they waiting until December 2006 to get the products on the shelves? O.k., maybe to have them available for the holiday season, but even so, shouldn't products be really in the fall? Second, the World Cup will already be six months old by the time Warner Bros. starts pushing the European club teams to consumers. Are consumers still going to be that interested?

* I understand that Warner Bros. "licensing program will include leisure apparel and accessories, toys and games, housewares and domestics, stationery, gifts and collectible items." They did this to ensure no one else in the United States could create any European club soccer products. What I really hope Warner Bros. does not do is dilute the brand. There is no need to create housewares, stationary or gifts for at least a couple of years. Warner Bros. needs to ensure the club teams generate some decent traction with U.S. consumers over the next few years before creating random European club-branded products.