Colleague and fellow Fordham alum Jon Pappas offered up some thoughts from this past Tuesday’s Sports PR Summit held at The Players Tribune. The sold out event had a host of panels and some great storytelling and lessons learned…
While there were many thought-provoking and invaluable perspectives shared by panelists at this week’s 2016 Sports PR Summit, one thing is certain – Fans thirst for new content, interesting stories and facts about our favorite athletes, teams and sports leagues.
Here’s just a snapshot of what we learned this year:
To golf or not to golf in the 2016 Olympics. Thanks to the perseverance of Ty Votaw (EVP & CMO PGA Tour & VP International Golf Federation) and his dedicated team, golf has been reinstated at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the first time since the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri. October 9, 2009 was the day Ty remembers vividly. “After 18 months of planning and negotiations, all that work, that was the day we were added to the Olympic Games. There was so much uncertainty and a lot of criticism from people asking questions, like: Is golf an elitist sport? Is it not elitist? Does it appeal to young people? Will people watch around the world? Then after that first trip to Rio, you start asking questions on important issues like whether the Zika virus will impact whether golfers want to come and play. We’re also building a brand new golf course in Rio. I’m thinking to myself that it would be a real shame if after the Olympics, the course isn’t used. These are all questions we are asking each other. But we have an opportunity to build a golf legacy, and you have to maintain a certain level of positivity during negative times. For example, when these golfers/Olympians walk with their country at the Opening Games, they’ll be feeling like a Raphael Nadal, LeBron James or a Steph Curry. As PR professionals, we have to continue to build on that positive momentum.” Amen.
There are more important things in life than sports. Joey Cheek is a 2006 Olympic Gold Medalist speed skater and social activist. But he might perhaps be most remembered (and for good reason) for donating the money he won from the U.S. Olympic Committee to help refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. According to Joey, donating the money makes a greater impact on the world than his victories in speedskating. “I was famous for about a week after I won Bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games (in the 1,000 meters speed skating race). So at my second Olympics in Turin, I knew what to expect. I was at the press conference (after winning gold and silver), and didn’t want to talk about the Olympics anymore. So I talked about the Darfur crisis and thought there was no better world stage to call attention to the crisis there than this press conference. If you’re able to leverage a brief moment in the spotlight, it can make a real impact. For me, it was about fighting for the rights of your personal ideals.” #trueclass
From the athlete’s perspective. Celtics PG Isaiah Thomas, arguably the spark that led the C’s to an unforeseen 2016 playoff run and now rightfully respected as one of the best point guards in the NBA, is a regular family man like many of us. Basketball is a passion, yes. But in the end, it’s just a job. Family takes priority, no matter how many negative articles are written about your performance on the court. “I wish the media wouldn’t put a label on us after we make mistakes. It’s like they judge 20 minutes of someone’s performance on the court, and don’t even think about what athletes are like off the court. Many of us are going home to spend time with the family. I remember one time we were playing at home, and a teammate missed a free throw. I heard a fan yell out: “How can you miss that free throw?!” I turned around and said “What if I came to your office, your workplace, and yelled out how could you miss that opportunity?” The fan got it, and then said “my bad.” I just wish the media and fans didn’t judge us as much as they do.” Then, when asked the hypothetical question if his 95-year-old grandma who he had never met before was to ask him who he was today, Isaiah responded: “I grew up in Tacoma, Washington. I’m a father and a college grad. I try to be the best father I can be while at the same time try to be the best small basketball player I can be. Then I’d ask her questions about her life.” Selfless and talented = MVP.
Connecting with NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon. If you’re trying to connect with Jeff Gordon on Twitter, he has this piece of advice: The best question I get on Twitter is Jeff, what question do I need to ask you for you to respond to me? Jeff’s response – “How about a question? If it’s witty, unique and engaging, I’ll respond.” Also classic fun fact: “For a long time, I was always the young kid at Nascar. So I grew a mustache to look older, and well…it didn’t work.” You be the judge