Cleaning Up A Plax Mess…

Even the best of seasons can have their bumps, and the New York Giants proved again this weekend why having everyone on message, pulling the same way, and working together from top to bottom and vice versa will avoid issues with the media, and give the media the right amount of accurate and consistent information possible. Such is the case in the Plaxico Burress saga. The Giants troubled wideout accidentally shot himself with his own gun at a night club in New York on Friday night allegedly, while the team was in Washington prepping for a crucial Sunday game with the Redskins. The response from the Giants was well thought out and effective….well written statement including concern for the player, yet at the same time acknowledging that this could be a potential police matter and that the facts were still coming in, and deferring to authorities. Working in lock step with the NFL, the Giants did not run and hide or make off the cuff comments…the spokespeople from the team, including players like Kevin Boss, spoke clearly and consistently, relayed the same sentiments and avoided lots of the he said she said stuff that people can get mixed into in a media frenzy. Now the Giants did have the “benefit” of having a player they already knew was not playing (Burress was injured), having the team already in closed circles in a Washington hotel and having a reputation of always trwating the media well all playing in their favor. Still, the opportunity for inconsistentcy and feeding the rumors with inflammatory statements always exists, but the way the Giants handled the situation again shows the class and professionalism of .well run well messaged organization.

Some other good reads...the Toronto Star has a good look inside the Raptors NBA lifestyle, putting it against the value of on court success…Mike Penner in the LA Times has an interesting look at a new University of Georgia-themed cemetery, a new form of branding and revenue I guess…and the Miami Herald has a good feature on FIU quarterback Paul McCall, whose success off the field rivals his success on it.?

Football Below the NFL…The Yin And Yang Of True Brand Value…

As we move past Thanksgiving and on to the higher stakes of football in the United States, a number of pieces came to light that show the value, or lack of value, that football can bring to a brand. On the positive side, Jere Longman's New York Times piece on Friday is a shining example of the role that high school and college football can play in a communitythe value of grassroots team sports to connect a community, especially in times of crisis, and especially in small town America where the local athlete is still important, really comes through in another well done piece by one of the Times’ best writers.?On the other side, you have the What Valu. question the cost of smalltime collegiate football can bring to an institution, especially in tough economic times. That arose this week as Iona College dropped its program with nary a blip in the media, citing tough scheduling and lack of financial support from the community as the reasons.The program, buried in the media mix in New York, (where college football outside of Rutgers’ recent success has not registered in the casual fan meter in almost 40 years), failed to bring in th.”extras” in interest (media, extra applications, ancillary sponsorship dollars) tha.programs on that level are expected to, even at a time when many small colleges are lookin.at football as a way to increase male applications from high schools.?Whether Iona handled the announcement correctly…putting out one press release on a slow news week as opposed to stating more about what they are doing for the student-athletes already in the program…is not a major issue since the story appears to have come and gone in one news cycle. What is interesting is the failing of a collegiate sports brand to achieve what was set out, and whether the support of such efforts in tough times is worth it by an institution.Boise State is dealing with. The Broncos, with another outstanding season and growing national attention, have to choose between the larger Poinsettia Bowl in California, which boosts the schools visibility and helps grow the program, or playing in the hometown Humanitarian Bowl, which if they don’t pla.may lose it's loca.sponsor, since that sponsor is all tied to the local Boise State benefit.?The examples of Iona and Boise State show that trying to even get maximum brand exposure, in the small or the large market, still puts universities in a difficult spot in tough economic times. Now would one rather have the issues Boise has, as opposed to Ion.? Absolutely. Still, as Boise goes through up and down years in the collegiate football world. the value of having th.local brand support could outweigh the one time shot at national attention. The issues may be larger scale, but the challenges are still the same. How to get maximum value at home for fans, alumni and media (as all three pieces point out) while balancing the true value of why the sport is being played…added dollar value for all aspects of the institution whil.uniting a community, whether that is the local high school, the smalltown college, the emerging program, or the school in the urban setting. Tough to achieve all, but the challenge remains.

Some other good reads…Media Post has a worthwhile read on how Facebook and MySpace are still struggling to justify value for top decision makers in the brand activation space….while i.OnLine Media Daily there is a good piece on how brands are continuing to grow using the video game portal to reach young people…the LA Times also has a good q and a with Craig's List founder Craig Newmark on the space his idea has dominated, and what's ahead….

Hitting The Minor Homers…

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., the minor league drum beating for great activation in baseball continues, as Ben Hill's Minor League baseball blog singles out the best promotions of the past season, and rewards the Ogden (Utah) Raptors as the team with the best minor league promotions of the year. In a struggling global economy, sports and entertainment brands of all sizes can continue to look to American baseball's minor leagues as a source of inspiration and innovation not just for the offbeat, but for the ability to engage the consumer and produce quality and affordable entertainment on a nightly basis. The baseball minors also do a great job of year round activation and engagement with their fans and business partners, squeezing every opportunity to keep the casual fan interested with the brand even when the games are not going on. In many ways that is the secret of their local success…since most times teams do not have year-round marketable players to build a brand behind they need to sell the experiential. It is a great lesson that those in higher ranks are continuing to adapt to, and Hill's columns give great insight into the sports best practices.

Some other good reads…with LeBron James hysteria hitting New York on Tuesday, the New York Times’ Harvey Araton has a good piece on the real leadership value the young star brings to an organization…Roy Johnson's blog has a good look at why Michael Vick should be reinstated, which will be an interesting branding opportunity for the NFLAd Age has a good look at Michael Phelps’ Subway deal…and probably the best overall analysis of President-elect Obama's thoughts on the BCS were offered up by the Washington Times

The NBA Continues to Brand “Basketball” Worldwide And At Home…

Many times sports get caught up in their own branding opportunities, often at the expense of the greater good of the sport they represent. There have been countless stories of MLB chasing down rights fees for Little League or the Cape Cod League, or Major League Lacrosse and the National Lacrosse Leagu.fighting against themselves for marketing space and fan dollars. While in many cases the ideal is valid, the execution may not be, and the brand becomes more important than the essence of the sport. One league which has seen the growth of the sport as the next evolution in its brand success is the NBA, and the continued recent developments with worldwide and grassroots partnerships show that David Stern's vision, now more global and more towards all things basketball, is a smart way to marry all aspects of the game and aggregate worldwide eyes and content, which will again be best for the game. This week's.Sports Business Journal shows two of the most recent manifestations of that vision. The first is with the NBA's new partnership with the Harlem Globetrotters, one of the sports biggest ambassadors worldwide but until today a brand outside of the NBA scope of assets. The second was the announcement o.?Kevin Weiberg to oversee the NBA's new partnership with the NCAA. Both relationships may not be 100% favorable to dollars and NBA brand today, but they show to the world an investment in the sport amongst its partners that many other sports are not willing to make, usually for the sake of a dollar today. That investment, along with the good will and partnership opportunities to be potentially created, will bear fruit as the investment plays out, and makes the NBA as a brand, and then the sport as a whole, more valuable for the future.

Some other good reads…MLB.com has a good profile of Dodgers assistant GM Kim NgDaily Oklahoman has a good profile of Hornets owner George Shinn…the Washington Post's Tom Boswell has an insightful look at the Redskins season to date…and the Gonzaga Bulletin has a pretty good look back over how ten years of athletic success has impacted the University and what changes are still to come.

Grey Cup, MLS Cup Go Head To Head In November Against…NF.

It is the Sunday before Thanksgiving in the United States. The beginning of rivalry week in college football, with OSU-Michigan and BYU-Utah having already taken place. College hoops is well underway, and the NFL is…well the NFL. NASCAR is putting a ribbon on a season, the NHL is solving problems in local markets so most sports fans, even the casual ones, are looking to watch NFL or move their sports mentality indoors until pitchers and catchers take us back outside in February. So into that mix comes two very marketable, very viable championships…the MLS Cup in LA, featuring a major market (New York) for the first time, and the CFL Grey Cup, with a good east meets west matchup. Unfortunately given the time, both highly marketable and interesting events may get lost in the casual sports shuffle on this busy Sunday afternoon. Wh.?

Now no one can predict the confluence of events that brings teams into a championship, and the Red Bulls have done a good job of setting themselves up to capitalize on the opportunity as best they can. As far as the CFL goes, they landed a live deal with Versus for Sunday and they have seemed to be content with growing the event as pure Canadian, so maybe that works as well. However a number of good pieces today on what both can and need to do to expand brand were offered up. The LA Times has a good look at what MLS can do. while the Calgar.Herald has a look at how the CFL, as a small business can adjust and do well in the toughest of times. The hope is that both brands continue to grow from within, and then forge a place with successful partners to adjust schedules and times that keep them free and clear in the fall of the NFL, with a spot of their own. Who knows, maybe MLS in prime time works at some point.

Some other good reads...despite really being buried behind OSU-Michigan coverage in Columbus, Dispatch columnist Mike Arace has a great column today on the stories behind the Crew and what it took to reach the championship today…Canadian Press also has a good piece on the move of the Grey Cup to cable and what it means…on the NFL side today, the LA Times’ Bill Plascke has a good piece on the loss of identity for former Rams players who played in LA…and the Bergen Record's John Brennan has a good followup piece on the stories on those who particpated in the New Jersey Nets’ promotion to help the unemployed find jobs.

Remembering A Legend In The Business…Mike Cohen

Twenty years ago this past September the sports business world, just growing at the time, prematurely lost a legend, someone who set the tone and helped create the sports communication industry as it exists today.

His name was Mike Cohen and his nickname was.ink. becuas.throughout his career that is what Mik. got for his clients. Whether he was a Jewish publicist for a catholic university (Manhattan College) or if he was pioneering the part of the publicity industry that dealt with announcers, directors and TV shows (when he was head of publicity for NBC Sports) there was no one better than Mike.

Cohe.s life was based on the relationships he had in the media, and how he was able to take those relationships and make.name client. bigger or rising clients important.from people like Bob Costas, Spencer Ross, Marty Glickman and Marv Albert to directors like Michael Weisman) and come up with unique human elements about their style that he could take and work his relationships with the media to make them into stories themselves. He also had a flair for the underdog as well, working with jockeys and trainers at places like Yonkers Raceway as well as baseball scouts, finding media opportunities for them as well. Mike was the quintessential relationship builder, and his legacy lives on today in the form of some of the great sports publicists in this country who worked for and under him. His company, Mike Cohe. Communications, became part of industry leade.Taylor Communications following his untimely passing in 1988.

This Saturday night in The Bronx, New York, Fordham University will play cross-borough rival Manhattan College in what has always been known as “The Battle of The Bronx.”Since Mike's passing, one of the few things that has sustained his legacy is the “Mike Cohen MVP Award,” which is presented to the best player when the game is played at Fordham. There will be a smattering of friends and family attending the game Saturday who will again remember Mike and his legacy and hopefully will continue to find ways to pass his great work and example on to a growing number o.publicists and marketers who sometimes get the big picture but forget the little things…and in this competitive environment, the little things…the Mike Cohen things…are even more important.

On to some good reads…for better or worse…I was able to post three topics as a guest blogger for Darren Rovell on cnbc the last few days…the link is provided heresi.com's Andy Staples has a good look at the economics of big time college football…Marc Isenberg's Money Players blog has some good arguments on the Mark Cuban insider trading allegations…and the Washington Post's Mike Wise has a pretty funny piece as he interviewed the new Madame Tussaud version of Gilbert Arenas

Small Fish in a Big Sea…Maximizing The Niche Event Coverage…

Finding a great story is not that difficult. If you know how to listen and ask the right questions, everyone has a story that is newsworthy. Finding the story and then finding the ways to effectively tell it is not always the easiest task.A great example of all the pieces falling into place…a great story, a unique athlete branding opportunity, knowing and pitching the right media and then delivering compelling content…occurred last week in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Miami, with a woman named Jennifer Figge, who is beginning a swim of the Atlantic Ocean.her team was able to land compelling video, posted on YouTube, as well as Associated Press stills and a print piece, which gave the story tremendous legs (no pun intended) on hundreds of sites worldwide. Even by today's standards where websites are king, the landing of an AP feature remains the elusive grail, and by landing that coverage and the video to match, the story was able to resonate globally with both the traditional and the YouTube generation. Great placement of a niche story, and great potential for followup as the crossing continues.

Some other good reads…the MMA phenominon, even with the failure of most non-UFC organizations, continues in the grassroots, as evidenced by today's New York Times feature on high school participation…interesting spin by Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez about their matchup with Ohio State this week, wondering where the priorities of the U of M faithful lie…cstv.com has a good feature on Providence head coach Keno Davis…and the LA Times has a good feature on Olympic decathlon champ Bryan Clay.

Gettin The Right Flavor of NASCAR: TMS

As the economy takes its effect on NASCAR, one thing that hasn’t suffered is the diversity and depth of innovative promotion and the PR support that goes with it.Texas Motor Speedway, which brought in celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray, Tim Lov.and Mario Batali, linked in drivers.fans and other partners to create an “Asphalt Chef” competitio.to the early November race. The resul.again lifted NASCAR to another level with the casual sports and entertainment fan…tieing the highly popular celebrity chefs and their ardent followers to the sport, which brings in new eyeballs at a time when the ardent fan is feeling the dollar crunch. It als.exposes the drivers involved, Bobby Labonte, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya, to an audience away from the core, who will hopefully not just watch but activate with the other products each driver endorses, once again growing ROI for partners, the drivers and the sport at a critical time. Great effort, wider exposure, no downside at a time when “food tv” and the celebrity chefs associated with it are growing faster in popularity than almost any other TV genre.

Some other good reads…the Washington Post has a good read on Cal Ripken's trip to NicaraguaCMO Magazine has a look at Soccer United Marketing's forcast for a bright future with MLSsi.com's Joe Posnanski makes a pitch for Davidson's Stephan Curry as SI “Sportsman of the Year“…and Soccer America has a good wrapup to Real Salt Lake's season, which ended Saturday night with the loss to the Red Bulls.

Taking The Mountain To Mohammad: Ravens Host Business Summitt In New York…

Most pro sports teams will take advantage of the road trip to host fans and business partners from their region with the team as a reward for customer or brand loyalty, and to give those involved with the team the much-wanted “insiders” perspective.Baltimore Ravens made a very smart play to go the experience one betterthey hosted a Friday media summitt for New York media buyers and potential partners as part of their advance trip for their game with the Giants. The move is even bette.for a smaller market team like Baltimore, especially with the Redskins media machine right in their backyard. It gave them a well-produced presence in the biggest media market to tell their story and give those who may not know enough about the brand the chance to learn from those on the inside about the team partnership opportunties and personalities that make up the Ravens.Very aggressive, well thought out and tactical branding plan by the team, taking great advantage of their one shot in New York during the fall.

Some other good reads...Dan Shaughnessy has a good piece in today's Boston Globe on Holy Cross’ long-overdue honoring of some of the greatest players in hoops history, including Bob CousyCNBC's Tom Rotunno has a good piece on Callaway Golf's continued brand expansion, this time adding Justin Timberlake as a spokesperson…even with the loss to Brock Lesnar Saturday in Las Vegas, wsj.com's profile on Randy Couture is still worth reading and is a good look inside the current state of MMA…the issue of how former players sometimes ease up o.criticism of their teammates took a unique spin in the Washington Post, where Barry Svrlug.looks at the legion of ex-Skins who take more than their share of shots at the current group

Winning Matters: Ask the Red Bulls

With a large, diverse cultural base and one of the most fervent grassroots soccer communities anywhere, Major League Soccer had hoped since it's start that the New York franchise would be one of the cornerstones for driving the growth of professional soccer in the United States.North American Soccer League had working in a positive direction was its New York franchise, the Cosmos. However the then-Metro Stars now Red Bulls have always struggled both on and off the field to attach with fans, get media attention or build stars. Even with a far superior outreach this year, the initial coverage has been a very steady increase,great time for the club and for MLS, as now all the pitching and good will the team has built with the media over the course of the season is ready to pop. It also comes at a time where the Red Bulls are finishing a stadium of their own, Red Bull Arena, and it gives them a great chance to tell the league story of affordability in a time where discretionary dollar is lacking. Some of the examples of the key storytelling where in Saturday's New York Times, where Harvey Araton went through the value plan for the Red Bulls, USA Today, and in the Bergen Record, where Stefan Bondy had a solid profile on the young fans who have been following the club around for years, usually in anominity. Now does any of this happen without the improbable playoff ru.? No. However it is a very good example of building contacts, having the right story lines in place and being able to strike when the moment arises. Being prepared for the sunny day in tough times, is just as important as rainy day prep, and the Red Bulls have scored big time this week in taking advantage.

Some other good reads…also on the MLS side, Ad Age has a good piece on VW's new soccer mom campaign…the Wall Street Journal has a good look at how Snapple is rebranding itself in tough times…and Wayne Friedman in Media Post has a good look at how advertisers and brands will or won’t spend this year around the BCS Championship game…and MLB.com has a good summary piece on baseball's efforts to get back into the Olympics.