October, 2008 | Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

The Classic PR Stunt: Will Farrell and The Trojans…

So often the 24/7 sports world we live in leaves little to the imagination, and many times those looking to spin and create new ideas get caught up in the news cycle and the creativity gets lost. Hence the lack of effective Heisman campaigns or awards promotions for athletes in most sports. However sometimes the worlds of sport and entertainment collide for a great stunt, such as the one pulled off with USC football coach Pete Carroll and comedian Will Farrell this week.Yahoo Sports has a great look inside the stunt, which had many of the Trojans on the field at the time totally fooled, and took someone with a sense of timing, and a coach as open-minded as Carroll, to pull off. It was a great example o.a brand usin.a key motivator in its universe (Farrell being a Trojan fan) to come up with an event that attracted great media attention, tied the brand to a larger audience outside of sports and gav.those casua.fans a look inside a football dynasty that they normally wouldn’t get. Great points for USC, great example to set for other programs.

Some other good reads…The Eye on Sports Media blog has a really good look into the CBS Sports site branding issues and how they can be solved…pretty insightful…on the extreme side, USA Today has a look at Slamball's return to TV, while the New York Times has a piece on Ken Harvey and his idea for space age “Floatball”…and Brandweek.com has a pretty important read on the amount of consumers who now use social media

Gillette, KFC Continue To Use Gaming And Star Power To Brand With Young Consumers

Two brands that continue to find ways to activate with a young audience by combining gaming with star power are Gillette and KFC.where XBox Live players compete on a series of games online against each other to determine who is the Gillette Grand Champion of Gaming” in each of the games.Tiger Woods for example…in an online head to head competition. It is a great way to tie in Gillette celebrity endorsers with the avid gamer, two worlds which don’t normally intersect.?A similar play, although in the entertainment space, is being offered up by KFC as they look to grab that young male demo. Their involvement involves a cash payoff with the game of Guitar Hero, looking for gamers who can match skills wit.professional guitarists and earning a cash payoff.Both brands need the consumer space of gamers to grow, and by speaking to a direct activation that is both online and real, with the heros or stars of the genre or sport, is a great way to mesh both worlds and score big branding points.

Some other good reads…Brandweek has a piece on adidas’ digital play with the NBA season kicking off, creating viral videos for some of their starsPhilly.com has a piece on the Flyers valuation by Forbes.com and how the brand still reports negative income…the Tennessean has a good piece on packers QB Aaron Rodgersand USA Today has a piece on the nine American athletes labele.political “troublemakers” at the Beijing Games...

VW Continues To Look For “Capitol” Gains…

As many car brands look to reduce spending and streamline work in sports marketing, one of the more efficient brands in tough times, Volkswagen, continues to make a bigger strategic play in its headquarter maket of Washington, DC.becoming the jersey sponsor and primary activation partner for the DC United.the Verizon Center and the Washington Wizards this week. Although the clean jersey is still the rule in the NBA, the entry of VW into a Wizards partnership, while KIA does a massive activation in other markets with the NBA, is a smart one and signals that the tests that VW did with the United went well and can lead to bigger, more inclusive branding in the Capitol District, a city where green initiatives and international brands carry great weight, given the multi-cultural aspects of th.city. VW's recent education initiatives also could tie nicely into sports marketing programs as well, so it will be interesting to see how/when VW increases their incremental involvement, especially in the Nation's Capitol.

Some other good reads…Ad Age has a good look inside what the remaking of the Pepsi logo costs and how it works…the Financial Times has a good historical look at how politicians have handled and managed their sports opportunities in years past…along the same lines, the Sports Business Journal this week has a look at the politics and sports issues, and breaks down the two candidates and where they stand on some sports-related issues…and with the NYC Marathon this weekend, Darren Rovell has a look at the marathon fantasy game an.how fans can get engaged with the race in the digital space.

The New York City Marathonezsms Sprint To The Big Time…

It i. the largest single day sporting event in the world, the ING New York City Marathon.college sports and the always-present NFL season. runner Pam Rickard in the Roanoke (Va.) Times, a feature on cook Joe Bestianich in the New York Times, and multiple lead-up branding and activation opportunities fo.partners in warm up races in the weeks before the race. The celebrity side, with runners like Howard Stern's other half Beth OstroskyFor a one day event, the timing, planning and branding is like no other, and shows why the property is of such great value to all those connected with it..

Some other good reads…si.com's Arash Markhazi has a solid piece with 98 year old Hall of Famer John WoodenWSJ.com has a good piece on the redemption Mitch “Wild Thing.Williams has found in Phillywith the NBA season beginning, the New York Post has a look at where the Knicks payouts may be going for the brand…the Toronto Star has a good profile of the Raptors Anthony Parker

Racingezsms Biggest Day Tries To Breed A Brand

It is the largest purse in sports, but most casual sports fans when asked about horse racing know only the Triple Crown, and then only in a year when horses like Big Brown take the sportlight in the spring. So into that issue steps the Breeder's Cup, which for 25 years has had the opportunity to try and distinguish itself in a crowded fall sports calendar and without a home. The matchup between Big Brown and Curlin would have brought more eyeballs and attention, but Big Brown's injury a few weeks ago ended that drama, and Curlin's upset los.Saturday put even more of a damper on the drama. yet by finding new partners and ways to extend the brand outside of the two day event, the Breeder's Cup did make considerable strides in growing its presence this year and looking to the future. By building out more promotable events, strategically looking for “dark” periods to make announcements about drug testing, future venues, and the depth of field, and educating the public on the value and spectacle of the event over a period of month's not weeks, the marketers have been able to extend the interest window internationally, regradless of the on track performances. Now do you need buzz with the bets horses runnin.? Of course that helps. But in planning and mapping and finding news, The Breeder's Cup this year made some great strides, and has really positioned itself better for its next 25 years as a brand.

Some other good reads...The Florida Sun Sentinel has a good piece on the Florida Panthers “test drive” program to bring in new fans…si.com's Steve Ascburner has a good piece on the value of being an NBA journeyman…and the New York Times has a good look back at some of the leftover memories of the Phils 1980 championship that still linger in Citizen's Bank Park..

Becks Back To Europe…Good Or Bad For Soccer In The US

As David Beckham's management team ponders a temporary or permant shift back to Europe…this time for AC Milan…the LA Times has a piece on the value that he has brought to the Galaxy and whether or not its time for the legendary star to go back overseas. The piece raises lots of questions about what Beckham actually brought to the sport in this country and did the lack of success hinder progress for the franchise or MLS. There is no doubt that Beckham made a splash for soccer for the short term in this country that got MLS water cooler talk they would never have gotten last year otherwise.The problem is in this 24/7 worl.people look for the quick fix, and the staff at MLS and Soccer United Marketing have spent years slowly building and nuturing a brand to avoid the quick splash and flameout that has followed so many spectacles in sports and entertainment (read the MMA piece below). Was the Beckham situation…an aging star with lots of masters to serve…the best for ML.? No. It would be much better to get…aka pay for…a young star to grow, and those things are slowly happening. But to deny that Beckham's presence moved MLS up the latter, broiught in much needed funds and media exposure would be silly, and hopefully there were thouands of kids exposed to him and the MLS brand that may not have gone to a match before who now have a better affinity to the pro game…almost as much as they have to playing soccer in local towns nationwide.

Some other good reads…Stan Hochman has a good set of reviews of the films for the US Sports Film Festival, which starts today in Phillythe Vancouver Sun has an interesting piece on how the slumping Canadian dollar is impacting American CFL playersBreeder's Cup this weekend, Kentucky.com has a good profile and q and a with CEO Greg Avioli.

Niche Sports In A Down Economy…Another MMA Brand Goes Down

As we are seeing with the biggest of sports like Formula One and the Premier League, the economy is having an effect on business.The latest example is in the MMA world, where Elite XC went from large numbers in its CBS debut and even solid numbers in its October show to being out of business this week, effectively leaving the long-standin.UFC as the remaining dominant player in what was thought to be a growing sport less than two years ago.high barrier to entry because of large event and TV and production costs and th.hold back of sponsors who can effectivelyt aggregate large numbers of activation against a niche event. Now some, like the Dew Tour, have built around NBC assistance and promotion over time, but those on the “time buy” game, where networks are pushing back on promotional assistance, find even more of a struggle. With fight sports like MMA, the push back comes in a double blow with limited audienc.?and sponsors hesitant to go in because of its perceived violent nature.UFC over time has built an “experience” for its fans, ala the WWE, which is a limited but winning formula and will probably be the long player in MMA again soon.Unfortunately in this 24/7 world, time is a very precious commodity for those tryiong to build a big business on a grand and very costly scale.?

Some other good reads…The Boston Globe has a good look behind the scenes at ESPN's Monday Night Football crew…the New York Times has a good look at Phils President Dave Montgomery…the New York Post has an interesting read with Jets kicker Jay Feeley, a former financial advisor…and the Montreal Gazette has a good profile of Canadiens owner George Gilette

The Price of Branding In College Athletics…

With the downturn in the economy comes the anticipated downturn in philanthropic giving, but along with that downturn will come more pressure from administrator.at the collegiate level to show an ROI just as any sponsor or business partner on the professional side would see with an investment. the New York Times took a very detailed look at the situation at Rutgers, where recent success has led to a very quick and much needed boom in infrastructire development.Billionaire T. Boone Pickens investment in Oklahoma State athletics earlier this year was met with skepticism and support, but that was private funding in a public university and certainly was his choice.Iowa State's acceptance of a $5 million dollar gift from supporter Dick Jacobson earlier this year (which would go towards a stadium upgrade) was similar…private money raised and cultivated through athletics, eventhough both were public universities with big budgets. So will Universities of all levels now turn to consulting groups to have them identify who they reall.are in their market, and build out that market strategy as would any other major bran.? Will Universities now cash strapped in athletics step backward and re-evaluate the cost-benefit of major athletic.? It remains to be seen.?The guess is that only the major universities will go the consulting route while the mid-majors struggle to find ways to do things with young and releatively underpaid staffs, which ironically is probably the opposite of what most business schools at the same universities would tell brands. If colleges can find ways to make the athletic experience just that, “experiential” to the average fan at the mid-major level, then the door to consulting groups and entrepreneurs will open wider. However that door in this economy, will be very tough to push for the near future, especially when it is contingent not as much on education as it is on winning.

Some other good reads…George Solomon in the Washington Post has a good piece on Ernie Davis and how/why the Heisman winner never ended up in DC…good historically accurate take on “The Express”…the New York Daily News has a great piece by Wayne Coffey on Drew University soccer star Shamila Kohestani and her road to New Jersey to escape the Taliban…in the LA Times, Jerry Crowe has a great piece on Tony Verna, the man creditied with creating instant replay over 45 years ago…and the Palm Beach Post has a piece on owner Wayne Huizenga's strategy to continue to move pieces of the Dolphins at the right time

Playing On The Global Stage

Businessweek this week put out their Top 100 Power Brokers In Sports, and in that was a Top 25 worldwide (meaning outside the U.S.). The list is a great one for anyone to have on hand as sports becomes more global, and continues to show the domination of motor sports (notably F1 despite its financial issues) and soccer as the world players. In an Olympic year, the key Olympic players also move up the list, and the presence of Yao Ming (the only basketball element) and Lalit Modi show the continued diversity into the Far East and the power the Indian and Chinese markets will have going forward. One interesting aspect is that there are only four names probably…David Beckham, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer and Yao…that the casual sports fan in the United States may know. The smart marketer or ardent fan will at least know almost all, but as brands expand (no names from the Middle East made the list, something that will change in the future) both globally and into this country (as non-American brands look to capture the sports marketplace here) this list and its offshoots will become increasingly more valuable, and the crossover from this list to the largely American 100 will become much bigger. The entire list as well as the features can be seen here.

Some other good reads...Helene Elliott has a great read on Alex Ovechkin and his value to the NHLwhile Senator Barack Obama went digital this week, Senator John McCain continued his fight for boxing regulation, with wsj.com having a good look at the reasonsIowa football coach Kirk Ferentz sent a great message this week, suspending his son from the football team for underage drinking…and si.com has a good look back at the 20 years of hoops in Orlando, Charlotte/New Orleans, Miami and Minnesota and all the twists and turns the four franchises have had since the expansion was announced.

Rotohog.com finds ways to help winners fulfill the American Dream

Usually we think of rotisserie play as a small cash payoff for the winners but lots of fun for all involved…that is the appeal of fantasy gaming, to put you in the drivers seat with as many options as possible, and make you the person in charge of your own sports team, competing against friends and in the case of online gaming, thousands of others. Rotohog.com is an emerging player in the space, and even gave a husband/wif combination of winners in thei.fantasy baseball game this summer a chance to use that success to purchase a good chunk of the American Dream…namely a new home.Darren Rovell had a good piece today on the winners and how they combined their earnings, even in this down economy, to move from apartment to brand new house..Good example of how even in this economy, fantasy sports can bring a solid distraction with the hope of better opportunities for those who play well. Nice piece, well played out function.

Some other good reads…the LA Times has a good piece on Oregon State coach Craig Robinson stmping for his brother-in-law Barack Obama, and what that could or couldn’t mean for the oft-maligned Beavers on the recruiting trailthe WSj.com's Nando DiFino has another good fantasy piece on the lessons teachers are using with fantasy football to teach mathAP has a piece on the Dolphins enlisting Chad Pennington with their push for tickets salesthe Indy Star has an interesting piece on when or why to open the roof on the Colts’ new home Lucas Oil Stadium