Itezsms Even More Entertainment…SIezsms “Outside The Swimsuit,” LeBron Vogue, The WWE and more…

As the sports industry continues to grow, the pressure for ROI from sponsors becomes stronger, the lines that once blurred sports as entertainment are now totally gone (we think for better but many may say for worse). Take a look back at some examples from the last few days…there was a new attendance record set in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando…by Wrestlemania. the mix of WWE performer/wrestlers, combined with Floyd Mayweather Jr. produced a record of over 74,000 fans in person, broke gate and PPV numbers and got a nice boost on si.com from man about town Arash Markhazi…lets stay with SI, where Media Post's Amy Car.did a nice job detailing SI's virtual photo shoo.promotion with Taco Bell for…swimsuit model Daniela Sarahyba…then on to Fox Sports where Jason Whitlock has a great column about LeBron James…and the alleged controversy of being on the cover of Vogue with Gisele Bundchen insinuating it is insulting because LeBron can b.viewed as King Kong by some…and move to nbcsports.com and a Men's Vogue feature on Jeff Gordon embracing his metrosexual image…and finish in St. Louis, where the St. Louis Business Journal has a great PBR piece…on how event marketing has become more important the event than the event itself.about reaching a larger audience, finding creative ways to build the sports brand and elevate the personalities that effective PR and marketing staffs need to make top priority, and in some cases only priority, as entertainment and sports ru.on the same path in business these days.

Now back to some other good reads...first a great listen...for those who have XM radio…a special channel 120 is spending days with only baseball related music…no repeats…great stuff to listen toTerry Lefton in this week's Sports Business Journal has a great piece on Macy's Father's Day promotions which will use athletes, one of the rare times the retail chain will look to the athlete endorsement marketGordon Edes has a great piece in the Boston Globe on the marketing plans being done by Bobby Valentine in Japan, a must read on how American sports marketing ideas are growing in the Far East…the LA Times Kurt Streeter has a great look at a fans perspective in the LA Coliseum for the Dodgers-Red Sox exo this weekend, while the KC Star's Joe Posnanski has a nice retro look at how manager Trey Hillman went about putting together his team over the course of the last few monthsthe Toledo Blade has a review of the AAA Mudhens menu this year, which includes several new items, including Fried Bologna.

Telling The Story To Those Who Want To Hear It First…WCSN and others…

One of the biggest problems with promoting and branding sports and entertainment properties today is that everyone wants to be “Like Mike” (the old Nike slogan with regard to Michael Jordan). The problem is that many emerging brands and properties try to grab that brass ring before they are ready, or don’t look to aggregate all the “smaller” opportunities to tell their story. best to help those emerging brands find their market are World Championship Sports Network and the Horizon League. WCSN is quickly emerging every day as THE place to go for Olympic sports (especially leading to Beijing) that the casual fan and the ardent follower can’t find in the mainstream every day. The same with the Horizon League, which is one of the few “mid-major” league to effectively speak to its core audience of alumni, families and student athletes (and hopefully sponsors) with a steady flow of hard to get very targeted live and taped video pieces. What do these emerging sources for information fin.? Steady market share for their core audience, which in turn makes them the trend setters which hopefully leads to larger non-core audience which leads to sponsors which leads to outside media coverage and capital. However by aggregating the core fan first, both groups are finding away to grow in the niche, and lead to the mainstream. Fish where the fish are. You have to tell the stories to those willing to listen and view first before you can go and get the others. Both groups do that very well.

And on to some other good reads…with baseball now here, two very good pieces on emerging agents fall into the take a look pile, especially for those looking to enter the field…the Tampa Tribune has a nice piece this week on Tom O’Connell's rise and his unique path (in business section not the sports section). while the Orange County Register has a similar career growth path for agent Mark Rosenthal.. also on the athlete representation/owner front, be sure to check out the LA Times piece this week on Russian billionair. Shabtai von Kalmanovic and his work building a women's hoops powerhouse…great piece also in the Washington Times this week on former NHLers getting involved in ownership in the Canadian Junior Hockey Leaguegreat move by the NBA and the Dallas Mavs on Friday to allow credentialed bloggers back into the lockerroom…it is a great opportunity for the blog world to give example of how those who meet standards set by the team to be legitimate news sources for major teams, another smart move by the league which has really stepped up their pr and branding vision this season.

Thanks to all those who attended and staged the SEME Conference at George Washington University the past few days…it was an honor to be on a panel Friday and get a chance to both catch up with many old friends and finally meet some of those both in the business, and smart students looking to grow a career. SIMI is one of those must attend conferences on a yearly basis for anyone looking to get involved or learn more about the industry.

Dishin Digital…CAA Makes The Big Play With Weplay…Gillette Reaches For The New Stars…

The marriage of social networking and sport as celebrity may have reached a new level with CAA's announcement yesterday of WePlay, a social networking site designed to reach out to millions of active kids and their parents, as well as pulling in hours of childhood photos and video and current “look backs” from some of the biggest stars in sports today who have taken an equity position in the venture. Those athletes, ranging from Tony Parker to LeBron James to Derek Jeter, will have a chance to create pieces and dictate content which can directly reach a huge portion of young people interested in sports and communicating online. Unlike other ventures in the past where athletes became endorsers of sites which sold goods and promoted images, the site appears to have it all…unique original and archival footage, the ability to communicate with a peer group in real time, and the ability to merchandise sponsorship and partnerships to a large, active audience. Great concept which could be groundbreaking in the marriage of the professional and grassroots side.

Also on the digital side, Gillette launched the YouTube site for their Tiger Woods partnership to find the next phenom , another attempt to marry the grassroots with the professional endorser. The star power of Woods is a great move since he transcends every barrier and could produce some very unique downloads and traffic. On to some other good reads, one of the great sports events in the U.S. is the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, which begins this week. The Miami Herald's Linda Robertson took a look at the sport, and gives her reasons for tennis’ recent resurgence, which is great news for marketers as the summer approaches…on the March Madness side, Jason King's Yahoo piece on the followup of Western Kentucky hero Ty Rogers is a great example of taking the time to delve into the human side of March Madness, and worth a read…and on the downside, the lack of speaking with one voice and undercommunicating from top down is evident in today's Birmingham News, where several former AAFL coaches and staffers spoke out about the problems of the suspended league…not a good sign for the fledgling lead, but maybe a cry for leadership that a savvy marketer could step into…lastly, Darren Rovell's Minor League logo contest ended with a bang, including one team accusing another of chemical enhancement…pretty creative stuff again from some of sports most savvy marketers, the minor league teams.

Marlins and Manatees Make Their Move…While Rick Rolling Makes Itezsms Own Mark

PR Move of the Day:Trying to make “Chicken Salad” when teams have a lack of on-court or on-field or on-ice performance can be a daunting, but very creative task in the sports field.the Dallas Mavsthe New Jersey Nets with their influencer parties and “green nights” and an olde.dance team of their own, the Islanders with their blog box for fans.the White Sox wit.the first all-you-can eat section, the Clippers broadcasting games in Chinese first…look to take the chance not only to make a PR splash, but to find new areas of sponsorship, ROI for existing partners and enhancement for fan experience.the Marlins head into the season with not just a male dance team, but a HUGE male dance team, the Manatees.Outlets ranging from AP and NPR have come to the area to cover the tryouts and those who have made the cut, which is being well positioned by the teams front office for what it is…lighthearted fan enhancemen.designed to bring in media exposure and help as a curiousity to get more fans in seats. Is the downside damaging to the brand or the sport (as some said Billy Crystal's Yankees contract was.? No. It is a smart calculated move to try and get the team marketshare and show that it is entertainment. Good job not just in the creation, but in the pitch, by the Marlins front office.

On to another pop culture phenominon, as reported in Monday's New York Times media section by Evelyn Nussenbaum. The concept of Rick Rolling, is gaining steam as an ambush in various high volume places, ranging from political rallies and church services t.the sports arena. The phenominon is simple. In the middle of a public gathering…a speech, a rally, a game…an impromptu dance routine complete with song breaks out. In this case it was ’80's hit “Never Gonna Give You Up,” complete with Rick Astley impersonator, that occurred during a University of Eastern Washington women's basketball game. The entire event, which always seems to be part of the game itself, is recorded for YouTube an.garners incredible exposure, both for spontonaety and for the way the crowd is engaged in the ambush.we look for Rick Rolling nights to develop across the summer for the minor league crowd.Check out the YouTube video, with its close to 400,000 views.

Lastly, a few other reads to take a look at…Folio.com has a look at the first ever Glow-In-The-Dark Ad on Magazine cover (Vice Magazine), something which could maybe work in the sports collectable one-off market for a comemorative….the Hamilton Spectator has a good piece on the Buffalo Bills and Hamilton Tiger Cats efforts to work together to grow the game of football.while the Miami Herald's Greg Cote has a column on how the globalization of sports is hurting the American sports scene.? Tough to argue the point if we look at sports as more global and les.regional.

Athletes and the Power Of Celebrity Can Make A Difference…

The success in athletics is usuall.measured in fractions of a second…therefore the “little things” that the professional athlete does in his or her prep to close that gap can make champions into challengers and vice versa. Not a surprise of course for anyone who loves the drama of sport. However sometimes in the loss of that prep and the power of celebrity are those “little things” that can make the difference off the field, especially in the life of a child.today's Arizona Republic that shows over time how a meeting with Cards QB Matt Leinart and a young boy named Brandon Emmons altered both of their lives for the better (Emmons passed away this past weekend).?These chances meetings, and the opportunity that athletes have to effect lives for the greater good, happen every day, and sometimes we as publicists and marketers have and should use the media to tell these stories, not for self-promotion, but to humanize these stars and give inspiration to others around.Seahawks T.J. Duckett, who has started a foundation that not only rasies money for cancer, but finds ways to teach survivors how to deal and then overcome the obstacles in their way. Once again, not about the money, but about the power of celebrity and doing the “little things” to change the course of lives around us. We fully realize those are two very small examples, but they highlight two athletes efforts, with many more examples to come.

Another great charity “branding” effort was pointed out by Bill Dwyre in today's LA Times with the running of a horse named “Autism Awareness” yesterday.Atlanta Journal Constitution has a piece today on the NFLPA's program to give athletes the opportunity to sharpen their business skills in the offseasonOn the March Madness promotion side, Promo Magazine has a cool online activation put forth by Papa John's Pizza, where fans are invited to post their best NCAA fan photos. Winners get discount coupons and a host pf prizes.

Lastly, found another blog worth taking a look at, not just for good sports branding perspective but also to get the lowdown on what is effective and unique in the entertainment branding world. The site is First Call, and it has already touched on a variet of topics from baseball in Japan to Bobby Flay's role at the Kentucky Derby.

Putting More Faith In Sports Marketing, Branding and PR…Faith Nights

A few weeks ago, New York Times baseball columnist Murray Chass wrote a piece about faith, specifically Christian fait., becoming more involved in the business side of baseball, and the potential issues it can cause as church and state intermix. However for teams looking t.reac.positively to their fan base, as well as create new branding opportunites and fill distressed inventory, the idea of Faith-based nights is a good one. many of the ticket selling events include post-game activites which fans do not have to stay around for.Third Coast Sports, and teams should really look to include non-Christian religions in the same way soon. It would make a lot of sense and would follow along the way the many major and minor league teams use Ethnic nights as a way to be more inclusive with their fan base. If it shows community involvement.assists the team with ticket selling and revenue potential and is not exclusiv.or offensive to those of another faith, then the Faith Nights practice should be included in the plan.We talked about his ability to fundraise, his ability to speak publicly, motivate a congregation, operate on a budget, work with young people and implore people to take their passion and act in a public forum. All of those are key abilities to be successful on the business side of sports and entertainment which he did not think applied. Although he chose to stay with his church work, those abilities easily translated to sports business, and his ability to network with faith-based groups could have also give.him an in.?On a broader scale, it is still welcoming that such open discussion and opportunity does exist in American sports marketing. With th.number of issues in Beijing continuing t.rise (nice piece by Kurt Streeter in the LA Times on the concerns.the issue of a Faith Night would never come up in Chinese sports.

Fro.faith in religion to faith in the church of basketball…Darren Rovell has a great look at the marketing winners and losers for week one of March Madness,.while the Cincy Enquirer has a great piece on the obstacles Xavier women's player Jerri Taylor has overcome to be a success, while the New YorkTimes has one of a host of good pieces on Davidson's run to the Sweet 16.?Away from hoops, Gordon Edes has a nice piece on the Little League experience i.Japan in Sunday's Boston Globe, while The Oregonian has a good piece on the Mariners push to expand their sales and marketing plans into the Portland area.

Strangers In Strange Lands…Sox in Japan, Lower Seeds Move On, And No Olympic Shots From Tiananmen Square

This morning there are lots of unique slices of life that again show how sports captures the moment, lifts the spirit and creates such contrasts with everyday life. Let's start in the Far East, where the Red Sox and A's have headed to open the MLB season. This morning (Saturday) on Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan has a great story on the cultural differences and similarities the Sox experienced during the first exhibition game earlier. What makes the story significant is not just the facts themselves…it is the fact that it again shows with the 24/7 world we are living in that pieces like this, filed in real time, gives us access to events where we would have had to wait a day to read about or experience online before the new media boom. It's great to have the instant update, and even those in Philly who may have gotten the early editions of today's Inquirer may have missed Bob Ford's great column on Villanova's late night win, but they can get it on philly.com. Speaking of instant, some instant heros came out of yesterday's upset-laded Friday…some of the good reading includes Joe Henderson's column in the Tampa Tribune on Upset City, Mark McGuire's Albany Times Union column on Siena's big win, and Ben Bolch's feature in the LA Times on UNLV walk-on Rene Rougeau, all great pieces about capturing the moments of the first round. Another first round business story worth reading is Darren Rovell's Friday blog on the average cost per player of Duke's win…will be interesting to see how universities are able to merchandise the upset-laden Friday as things move on.

Lastly, two other non hoops or baseball pieces of note…first Alex Marvez has a solid column on Foxsports.com on the lack of outdoor professional spring football for the first time since 1994 (a sign that football interest and demand is plateaued or is there a missed opportunit.) and a must read Olympic story for the weekend is the AP piece on the Chinese government barring shots from Tiananmen Square during the Beijing Olympics, yet more issues for the political sports mix that will be coming with this summer's event. Have a happy, healthy and safe Easter Weekend.

NHL steps up pitch and access…Yoone. I didn’t…and more good hoops reads…

PR Move of the Day. We always talk about access being key, and today we wanted to single out the NHL for taking Media Post behind the scenes for their “Cup Changes Everything” shoot and giving reporters access to not only experience the shoot, but meet the players and go through the process of what it takes to identify and build stars. With Stanley Cup playoffs not that far away and the NHL trying to find ways to build brand equity and fan awareness outside of their core, this type of access for both the business media and the consumer press (by both the NHL and their partners) is essential. The Gatorade-brande. Sidney Crosby spots running on CBS during March Madness is also a tremendous step up (and outside) of the core fan base, and are another example of how the NHL is making the push to use this playoff run as a springboard to future business success. Well done.

With March Madness now firmly entrenched for the next three weeks, the predictions and bracket sheets for who will end up in San Antonio will intensify as we know. That intensity is not lost on the loyal legions of fans looking to get, or sell tickets as their schools move up or out of the tournament, and the secondary ticket marketplace grows with that movement. For those looking to follow the “ticketing” drama online, and to see potentially how experiential marketing can grow in the future, meet yoonew.com. Yoonew (the story is detailed on Forbes.com this week. is the futures trading market meeting the passion of the sports without the middleman of a broker. Fans can purchase “futures” on any team in the tournament (or any pro sports team as well) or purchase futures on a matchup that they want to see down the line, and if their purchase comes to fruition (say predicting UCLA in the Final or a Patriots-Giants rematch in the Super Bowl next year) the fan gets the ticket in the section of the arena where they placed their bid.the link highlighted here.While there are many secondary ticket sites out there now, this one appears to have the most experiential branding upside thus far, and may capture some of the better creative all-around experiential opportunities going forward becuase of the bidding platform they offer to the fan.

On to additional hoops links…si.com did a great job with all access behind the scenes following Portland State's first trip to the Big Dance. Luke Winn's tourney blog is one of the best in getting inside the teams and what it is like from an insider's perspective to be part of March MadnessSenator Barack Obama once again grabbed the sports spotlight by doing an analysis of his brackets, which once again endears him (especially to Tar Heels fans) to the young voter…another great move in his quest to garner interest away from the primaries… and one great NBA read is Mark Kriegel's piece this week on the Rockets Rafer Alston, who the columnist has followed since high school…there are few insiders who are also gifted writers like Kriegel and his stuff is always a must read.

Baseballezsms Big Picture…The Yanks Got It Again And The Red Sox Almost Didn’t

PR Move of the Day:New York Yankees “got it,” breaking from their regular routine to create one of the great feel good stories of the spring…making the trip to Blacksburg, Va. to play Virginia Tech in an exhibition game, which may have longer lasting meaning than many regular season games.from the Hokie-colored Yankees hats to the exchange with fans and players to the great media coverage that told the tale not just of the visit, but of the athletes reactions (Newsday) to fan reactions (Roanoke News) to a great overall story by Tyler Kepner in the New York Times.?Most importantly there was not one second where any player or coach looked or acted like this was a chore for them, despite the break in routine…the pictures, actions and words were all genuine, and coming from the biggest brand in the game, with some of the game's highest profile players, it sent a very clear and positive message (Great job with this and all the Yankees did well this spring goes to Yanks PR guy Jason Zillo).

Now juxtapose that with the potential PR disaster MLB almost had with the Red Sox Wednesday. The idea that a series of great international significance and good will for the sport could have been potentially canceled because of a few thousands dollars for essential personel for the players…which was promised well in advance…shows that baseball a.great a game as it is…still sometimes shoots itself in the foot. The issue was not what could have been canceled. The issue was having the story break at the eleventh hour over a situation that probably should have been played out and solved internally long ago.

On the political front, MLB also gave Senator Barack Obama.still the candidate to embrace sports as a vehicle, another little bump by banning the sale of MLB-style Obama teeshirts and jerseys by a campaign supporter. MLB was doing what was within their rights, protecting their licensees. However the public face this gave the creator of the tees was invaluable to HIS branding, and it also gave the Obama campaign another little boost, some additional “street cred.and makes those tees a very hot item.He also has some good comments on NASCAR and his NCAA bracket in today's Charlotte Observer..Kudos by the way to Senator John McCain for supporting his home state Phoenix Suns at a national TV game against the Spurs a few weeks ago. Hopefully the Senator, a very big sportsman, will also look to sports as a way to garner support over the coming months.

On the March Madness side, great piece in today's New York Post on Pitt's run to the Big East title using a core of New York players (with New York not having a team in any postseason tournament this year), while Peter Yoon has a nice piece on Cal State-Fullerton in today's LA Times, and the Houston Chronicle's Terrence Harris has a very poignant piece on Texas A and M's Donald Sloan, who will play for the Aggies after burying his mom earlier this week.

Lastly, a very special thanks to our friend Ben Hill at MILB.com. Ben took the time to detail the story this week of Santy Gallone, a 37 year old construction worked killed in the crane disaster in New York last weekend. I knew Santy as a standout player and person who starred at Fordham University and helped lead the Rams to two NCAA Berths in the early ’90's. The story really captured Santy, and wa.appreciated by the community. Please remember Santy, his infant daughter and his wife in your prayers, and take the time to read the piece..?

Blackhawks send clear message…while owners outside of the playoffs look to deliver messages for the future…

PR Move of the Day. The Chicago Blackhawks brought John McDonough from Wrigley Field to work his magic and revive one of the NHL's Original Six…some clear messages this week, especially in Tuesday's Chicago Sun Times, show that McDonough and the organization are looking for ways outside of the traditional to identify and reinvigorate new fans through technology. McDonough, who also put the Blackhawks firmly in the mix for an outdoor game a few weeks ago, has always been one of those top execs who “get” what the fans want and need, and his tonic is paying off with clear messaging to the Chicago hockey audience, and the rabid sports fan of the Windy City as well.?

Some other articles along the reinvigoration front…a few teams that have hit hard times went front and center with their owners the last few days, sending very clear messages to their fans that they understand the issue.and that better days are aheadDan LeBatard in the Miami Herald did a q and a with the Suns Mickey Arison, the Sacramento Bee's Dorsey Griffith spent time both in print and video with the King.Gavin Maloof, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution did a lengthy sitdown with Atlanta Spirit ownerit a coincidence that these three are taking the time to address the fans with the largest outlet in their market at this time of yea.? Probably not, as the NBA marketing machine is moving more in unison with its teams this time of year than ever before. But the message is clear. We as owners are here for you, we feel your pain and we support you. Great stance, with probably more to come, for renewal time.NASCAR in a few weeks, but this week's Broadcasting and Cable has a cover story on how the sport is bouncing back already, with a strong early start to the season.nice length feature in the New York Times o.UCLA by John Branch is worth a read, while the Baltimore Sun has a good piece on the value of exposure to local schools like UMBC and Mt. St. Mary's.