“Back On Topps” Gives A Traditional Brand A New Spin…

Complacency in any successful brand i.commonplace, while innovating to make a brand more successful is always the challenge.Topps Card Company found itself not keeping up with the digital world, the brand suffered and change was afoot. In stepped a new ownership group led by former Disney Head Michael Eisner and the result has been more interest in the card company and now more innovation. The company, in addition to reinvigorating its traditional trading card brand has looked to create some fun in the digital world, launching “Back on Topps,” an Eisner created relatity show about a pair of brothers and the unsual goings-on at the world's most recognizable trading card brand. The idea of using the digital space wit.the traditional brand got Topps some great media coverage, including the New York Post and the New York Daily News this past weekend. and can open the brand up to a younger crowd more interested in online than in card collecting.

Some other good reads…The complete Forbes Sports Business series is now available at Forbes.com…Media Post had a good piece today on how Jenny Craig has diversified and will now use the Clippers Baron Davis in their campaign, showing his offseason training schedule that included Jenny Craig products…and the Financial Times has a good profile o.Birmingham City Managing Director Karren Brady.

ESPN Sends Collegiate Bands Battling With Indiana Jones…

Credit Brian Gainor at the Partnership Activation bloguncovering a great month-long promotion that ESPN is doing with seven top college marching bands and the multiplatform release of the DVD of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull in October.unique performance of the Indiana Jones theme song, with the winning band getting $25,000. The promotion is taking place online and on campus at all the schools, ranging from the Univ. of Florida to USC, with fans getting to vote for the best performance. It's the latest example of movies becoming more and more savvy using sports to reach their core demo, this time for a DVD release of a movie whose previous films were obvious favorites of those growing upo and now in college. Although the Crystal Skull may not have skewed to the college crowd, using the band platform to promote on campus is a smart one, and one which will generate more unique interest in that demo for an audience that is much more used to the download than the DVD buy these days.Nice foray into the market with a great spin.

Some other good reads…NASCAR.com has a really good look behind the scenes at the sponsor and team evaluation process heading into the offseasonBill Dwyre in the LA Times has a great look back at the racing career of Paul NewmanGeorge Solomon's Sunday Washington Post column has a good look at how the Washington Capitals brand is picking up right where it left off at the end of last seasonthe Edmonton Sun has a good look at the Oilers long shot Kyle Brodziak and his trip to the NHLthe Calgary Sun has a good followup piece on the Flames rising star Mikael Backlund…?

‘Zo Uses A Platform For Political Change…while a columnist lays out a platform for startup sports biz success or failure…

With the baseball playoffs getting ready, the NHL about to get started, college sports and the NFL in full swing, the Ryder Cup just finished, MLS going down the stretch, the WNBA going to its finals, NASCAR finishing its chas.and the NBA ready for camp, there is probably no busier sports month than October. Athletes from almost every sport will have some kind of forum with the media this month, and the sucesses and the failures will be very well documented in our 24/7 world. So with the financial crisis and the election a little over a month away, we still see athletes who have a chance to use their platform to speak about social change reluctant to do so. However those who are socially conscious may get the support of their brands and their fans to speak their mind in a well informed and positive forum. Granted, political interest among elite athletes may b.lower on the interest scale than even it i.amongst their peers, but one would think this election would garner more interest from elite athletes. Maybe we will see that in the next month, and it will be interesting to see how athletes can become influencers in a very tight election. We have seen some, like the Trail Blazers Greg Oden step up to coice support for Senator Obama, while we have also seen Senator McCain do the photo op. with many NASCAR drivers. Where it goes this month remains to be seen. However, one athlete who has never had a wont for a lack of an opinion did step up this week, and used his platform, promoting a new book and telling positive life stories, to chime in with college students to voice his support for Senator Obama. Alonzo Mourning. The former Heat star and Georgetown alum used part of his book tour on Florida campuses this week to endorse Senator Obama, and he used a well thought out and dignified public speaking platform to do.It garnered his book tour extra publicity and could make a difference in a key state with the average sports fan and college student who may have been on the fence. Now should every athlete take a stanc.? No.?No one should ever be asked to step out of their comfort zone. But many atheletes have a real social conscienc.and have views that can be well thought out and influential, and with the right guidence can influence social change.Nice move by Mourning to speak his mind in a thoughtful way and try and influence the young to get out and make a statement, regardless of which candidate they support..

Some other good reads…for those looking into the startup sports business, we would encourage you to read Sam Caplan's.column on CBSsports.com on how to succeed or fail in the sport of MMA…very well thought out and some good framework for any startup sportthe LA Times business section has another good read on how Disney uses its interns to get feedback about their parks and makes changes accordingly…great way for a mega brand to stay fresh, and something that applies to any sports or entertainment property…the Maneater has an interesting look at the problems with camping out for Missouri football tixAP has a good piece on Dodgers Assistant GM Kim Ng being considered for the Mariners GM job.

Grizzlies Prove Minor Ideas Can Land Major Successes

Last week we linked to Ben Hill's milb.com blog looking at the best minor league promotions, and it was great to see the AAA Fresno Grizzlies landing the top spot for their mascot promotion pitting their mascot Parker against the Phillie Phanatic. Th.promotion wasn’t the only one that Fresno came up with throughout the season and into the offseason to engage fans and create brand awareness.“I Hate The Offseason,” involving Parker and members of the front office staff finding some very funny ways to get keep fans interested into the fall and winter.Major opportunity to show how any brand, no matter how “minor,” can stay relevant and engaged year-round.

Some other good reads…Darren Rovell also chimed in with his best minor league mascot promos of the year…good numbers as to the vastness of events attempted this year worth notingNewsday's Neil Best has a good look at how the Mets’ Jerry Manuel handles himself with the pressthe Wall Street Journal takes a good look at the financial viability of sprint football on the collegiate level…and AP has a look at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas visiting the Georgia football team.

Canadiens Centennial Celebration Stretch Plays Well On All Levels…

With the opening of the NHL season almost here, it is great to see Canada's other hallmark franchise, the Montreal Canadiens, taking great strides and planning in stretching out their centennial celebration. The plans, which were reveale.this week, wil.give the fans both in Montreal and across the region a chance to participate in various activities over the course of two seasons, ranging from interactive exhibits and meet and greets to special nights that will honor various eras of the team's.storied history. There will also be non-hockey related events tied to lifestyle and culture and grassroots events. Many times these programs are rushed and dictated by sponsor needs, but the Canadien. have grasped the fact tha.teams are a public trust first and a commodity second and by playing the events out over the full life of the anniversary good will will be built, memories created, equity aquired and as always, sponsor and business partners will gain. Great planning, great example of how to do things right.

Some other good reads…wsj.com has a great piece on how CVS uses an annual golf outing for charity as a means to have big vendors meet and greet company executivesinteresting look into the charity golf business and the real reason why outings remain a key part of business developmentThe Guardian has a very good look at the top Premier League teams and how they have guarded against financial problems with possible recession coming…as the pennant races reach the final weekend, si.com's Joe Posnanski waxes philosophic on some of the great collapses from his teams, and what could be in store for some others this weekend…and the Denver Post has a look at the states of Ohio and Missouri going o for the NFL season thus far….

Fun and Games…LeBron Plays Touch Football, The Jonas Brothers Rent Dodgers Stadium

Some great examples of the sports/entertainment crossover popped up again this week, albeit in different ways. First there were the pop sensation Jonas Brothers departing from their teeny bop audience to celebrate a 16th anniversary…by renting out Dodgers Stadium for two hours. Then this week came a report from the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Branson Wright on LeBron James return to Akron to revisit his high school and take the field with some friends for a game of touch football. Although the events are on opposite sides of the largesse scale, they both show the ability for the biggest athlete or the greatest entertainer to still find the simple act of a pickup game to serv.as a common bonding ground for friends. Now will the Jonas Brothers use the Dodgers Stadium fun as a parlay into extra bucks for rights to some video pla.? Maybe.Yes. Regardless of any motives.the pieces both provided solid slice of life and gave fans of both entertainment and sport a welcome inside look into a more human side.

Some other good reads…The New York Times had a solid business piece today on realtor Stuart Katzoff and his work in Reno to build a Triple AAA team there next season and make the ballpark the centerpiece of a growing downtown areaDarren Rovell has an interesting take on why the University of Idaho shoul.use their cheerleader outfits as a play fo.better business…and Forbes.com has a very important read on how Wall Street's woes will effect the business of sport……

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time…Leafs Freebies Help In Grassroots But Hurt In Media Perception

The Toronto Maple Leafs remain one of the crown jewels in North American sports.So the Leafs brand tried a very unique and ricky give-back to its fans on a very large scale. In exchange for online registration the team gave away all of its tickets to fans who normally could not attend a game, effectively filling the arena with grassroots fans for no cost against the rival Buffalo Sabres. The problem as with anything free is that redemption value is perceived as low because of the lack of hard dollar spent against the ticket by the consumer. Now with most freebie ticket giveaways, the team will give out more than capacity with the anticipation of no-shows. Open practices in the NBA for example, will always over comp to get a building filled. So when only 14,000 showed last night, the initial media outpouring which leads to public perception is disappointment. So a good deed, the ability to have fans see the team for free got a very mixed message. Now did the Leafs make money on concessions and merchandise and possibly pull in fans who will come back to buy and watch games on T.? Absolutely. Did they capture 18,000 plus email addresses for futur.us.? Yes. Were those facts communicated clearly to the media by team executive.? Probably not. Therefore the ability to properly message and take the sting out of the 14,000 was immediately lost, and much of the good was spent in spinning today. Interesting idea with great intentions but a mixed message can be a killer.

Some other good reads…the New York Times Richard Sandomir had a very balanced look at the Yankee Stadium finale, a good example of how bigger picture thought can make big events even biggerthe Octagon First call blog has a good piece on Kelloggs enlisting John McEnroe for a humorous.all-bran challenge promotionthe Sports Business Journal's Tripp Mickle has a solid piece on Kraft Canada's grassroots efforts in hockey to grow their brand and how it has paid off with consumer loyalty

Making A Little Idea Big…Action Sports America Finds Itezsms Niche…

Often times, even at the highest level of sports and entertainment marketing, it is the behind the scenes vendor who often comes up with the piece that gets the brand or the team or the athlete the critical exposure point that vaults the entity more into the mainstream. Whether it is the giant inflatable that draws traffic or the world's largest golf ball, the bigger the vision the better, and with that largesse comes the ability to effectively draw and then communicate the message. Today, CNBC's Darren Rovell has a great blog piece on one of the guys over the years responsible fo.a good many of those “big” ideas, Action Sports America's Doug Verb. Verb, who has been involved in many of the great little projects in sports in America in the last 30 years, from the launch of Major Indoor Soccer League to Hoop It Up, has refined the craft of the giant jersey as a launch for big brands, and has now become th.”go to” guy for the NBA when teams unveil their new uniforms. Minnesota, Oklahoma City and this week Orlando will use the giant jerse.property to get the new product well place.exposure in market, and in the process will create literally big brand and sponsor exposure as well as a huge collectabl.and auction item for the team. It seems like a niche, but in delivering the big picture event.Action Sports America creates literally the vehicle to make the brand larger than life.

Some other good reads…the New York Post has a good review of Liz Robbins’ upcoming book on the New York City Marathon “A Race Like No Other”, which really goes behind the scenes of the world's largest single day sporting event…the LA Daily News Tom Hoffrath has the video to ESPN's great piece over the weekend on the late Lyman Bostock, who was killed during the season as he was playing for the Angels and battling for the batting title…the Fort Worth Tribune has an interesting look at the Mavs handling Josh Howard's issue with the National Anthemthe Ottawa Citizen has a good look at the potential partnership between the CFL and MLS in the city….

Turning Up The Preseason Heat In South Florida…

The month of September is usually the tim.for the winter sports pro teams to really start the hard push to get their brands top of mind again. Especially given the added competition and the lack of disposable income, those teams on the downside in tough selling markets have to continually be more creative, more aggresive and show more value than ever before. Case in point is the Miami Heat.Sarah Talalay's sports business blog this week point three big plays the Heat made this past week, addressing the casual fan, the young fan and the corporate client, each designed to get buzz and remind folks that even with a slow season last year, the Heat brand can deliver value on many levels.?The first piece highlighted the tryouts for the Heat senior dance team, the second talked about Dwayne Wade's involvement with Pepperidge Farm's goldfish brand to promote healthy lifestyles with kids, and the third detailed the Heat's program where team members and performers create the Heat experience right in the workplace. All were innovative, timely and creative and as stand alones were great campaigns. Combined they showed the concerted effort of the team to address issues head on and give fans a reason to support and patronize the team with their hard earned dollar.

Some other good reads...Newsday has a nice blog piece about former Islander PR honcho Chris Botta coming back to the team as a member of the media and blogging for their siteBotta was a trailblazer in using the blog world to get media attention the last few years, and his blog on the team is both one of the most popular and one of the best readsthe Wall Street Journal has a great piece on the college side, outling the efforts of NC State booster Bobby Purcell and his efforts to drum up financial support for the Wolfpackanother well placed NBA piece was in Winston Salem, where the Fox station took a good look at Chris Paul's support for his alma mater…and with Yankee Stadium's farewell this weekend, both the Times George Vecsey (with his profile of legendary PA announcer Bob Sheppard) and SI's Tom Verducci have great retrospectives through the eyes of those who followed as opposed to those who played.

Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Brings Fans Into Virtual Battles With The Top Stars…

The engagement of the fan with the athlete, whether it is onsite, online or in another area, is always the key component in activation and building in long term support for the brand, the team o.the athlete.So on to tennis…strong grassroots, marketable stars but many non-American and a schedule that plays on a world stage that many times does not matc.fan viewing patterns no matter where on the globe they live.The Sony Ericsson WTA Tou.has found a very simple, very unique way to have fans address some of these issues with an online application, where fans take clips of their favorite players, and conduct a mock tennis battle against them using clips of themselves playing tennis. Challenge Your Hero is a fresh idea, a great new digital application, it lets th.fans identify with the player style of their choice and for the top clipmaster, will have the ability to meet their foe face to face at the season-ending championships in Qatar. It also gives the individual one-on-one sport a digital and visual edge over team sports that few have ever looked at, as this type of challenge probably can’t be equalled by a team sport or any other individual sport. Well played and well served by the WTA.?

Some other good reads…Dan Steinberg in the Washington Post has a funny read today on the Caps Alex Ovechkin's new sponsorship deal with the Hair CutteryBloomberg News has a very good read on how the financial crisis could wreak havoc with sponsorship in the Premier League…and The Chicago Tribune has a piece on the song Eddie Vetter has written for the Cubs…