Three Promos That Scored On Campus…

As the fall academic calendar comes to a close, a look at three recent promos on the college side that were well done, courtesy of our friends at IMG College.
Deck the Halls in Maize and Blue: Michigan:
It hasn’t been the best of seasons in Ann Arbor, but the Michigan athletes had some fun with their holiday video campaign. The Wolverines put their own spin on the digital holiday card this year — student-athletes across all sports came together to create Michigan inspired holiday magic. Almost 200,000 people that have viewed this video on Facebook with the best part being the lighthearted outtakes.


Carlton Cam Debuts In Tampa:

“The Carlton” has quickly become an internet sensation for the best dance moves ever. The University of South Florida took the dance one step further to engage fans at men’s hoops games recently debuting The Carlton Cam. While it won’t quickly replace Kiss Cam, the Bulls pulled in some solid bringing an in-stadium activation and engaged with fans on all their social sites, while sharing the video of the scoreboard feed on Facebook, and cut GIFs of the highlights to post natively on Twitter.


Oregon Continues To Salute Its Hero:


Earlier this week we talked about the amazing digital play Oregon created to engage and inspire fans as Marcus Mariota won the Heisman trophy. The Ducks continued the celebration and got fans involved this week, with their launch of to celebrate Heisman Trophy winner.


Nice way to end the football season, and start the holiday season!

A Galaxy Of PR Success…

From Landon Donovan’s farewell tour to the news that a rival club was leaving and another one was coming in to their completed “First To Five,” culminating with an extra time win over the New England Revolution in MLS Cup, it was a thrilling and sometimes exhausting ride for the Los Angeles Galaxy this past year. One who was there through all the creative twists and spins was their head of communications Brendan Hannan. A young veteran in the communications field, Hannan made the move out west after running communications for the Chicago Fire, a rarity amongst PR professionals in leading efforts with a team in two of the three largest media markets in the country. (We haven’t found anyone who has done so in New York as well, so if Hannan ever makes it to Gotham it could be a first for team sports PR).


We caught up with him in South America, where he was on an Herbalife tour not too long after winning the title,  to talk soccer, promotion and  the up’s and down’s of business in LA.

You have now spent time running communications in two of the three biggest markets for a team. What was the biggest difference between Chicago and LA?

Both Los Angeles and Chicago are very similar in a lot of respects. They are both major markets with no shortage of sports and entertainment options. The objective for communications and digital with the Chicago Fire and the LA Galaxy was to cut through the clutter and create a greater brand relevance within the local marketplace. Los Angeles is a slightly bigger market and the multitude of quality sports options combined with the appeal of the beach and the entertainment aspect of the city is the biggest difference.

How was it managing the Landon Donovan farewell tour? What were the best and toughest moments?

Managing Landon Donovan’s retirement has been one of the most fulfilling and humbling experiences of my young career. The entire process was a great collaboration between Donovan, his agent Richard Motzkin and the Galaxy. It was great to be able to work collectively with a number of local, national and international media members, large media outlets and with U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer to help share and admire Donovan’s impact on the sport of soccer in North American and his contributions to the growth of MLS.

The biggest challenge was ushering in Donovan’s final days while being cognizant of his time, his teammates and the fact that he was still competing for a championship. In the end, we found a healthy balance that allowed for him to be properly honored while staying true to the task at hand of winning a record sixth MLS Cup.

The best moments were many. Seeing the outpouring of support through the #ThanksLD hashtag was vital to the digital component of the campaign. His interaction with five different Make-A-Wish children over the course of his final five regular season games showed his character and compassion. However, the most memorable moments came in between interviews when you could see the genuine level of mutual respect between Donovan and the media members who had covered him for so many years.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to oversee the final days of the United States’ greatest soccer player.


You have always come up with unique partner promotions with the media. What has been your favorite or most effective thus far?

I have had a lot of really enjoyable experiences with unique activations. It’s hard to pick which one I’ve enjoyed working on most. I’ll narrow it down to two…

In 2013, while with the Chicago Fire, we created personalized bobble heads for over 250 local and national media members. We had done two unique direct to mail campaigns as part of the Fire’s partnership with Quaker. The first launched the jersey in a co-branded Quaker Oats canister with personalized jersey included. The second was an Austin Berry Rookie of the Year LIFE cereal box. To complete the set of three, we sent local and national media members a Fire/Quaker bobblehead in their own likeness. It had been a project three years in the making, so we were pleased that each media member had a positive response to receiving something so personal. It garnered a lot of publicity for the Fire and Quaker’s partnership and out of the box approach.

This year, the Galaxy collaborated with soccer magazine dudes, Howler to create a 20-page Galaxy specific magazine – The Angeleno’s Guide to the Galaxy – as our season ticket renewal collateral. The piece was sent to all of the Galaxy’s season ticket holder base and over 300 media members. The magazine features an article by George Vecsey, an in-depth look at the history of soccer in Los Angeles, a Landon Donovan paper doll and first-class illustrations. The Angeleno’s Guide to the Galaxy presented our brand in an innovative manner. It garnered media attention, created a social buzz and helped the club renew over 85% of its Season Ticket Members.

Soccer is obviously global as a sport, especially in a market like LA. How much time do you spend with multicultural media outreach?

We spend a lot of time with multicultural media outreach. The Spanish-language audience is a big one for the Galaxy and for the sport of soccer in Los Angeles. We have an established strategy and plan, in conjunction with our marketing group, to continue to build our brand and our players within the Spanish-language community. This is a day-to-day focus for us. As part of our communications team, Vicky Mercado leads the charge on our outreach and day-to-day interaction with key multicultural constituents.

The Galaxy have been able to really own the market because of the issues with Chivas USA. how do you think that will change with the new expansion team coming in?

We are excited for there to be competition in the Los Angeles market with another professional soccer team, however, we don’t see that changing our approach a whole lot. The Galaxy has been the elite club in Major League Soccer since the League’s inception in 1996. The club was the first to sign a Designated Player, the first to start a ULS PRO second team and the first to win five MLS Cups. The Galaxy’s goal is to lead by example and drive innovation throughout the entire league. A tradition of winning, an ardent fan base and one of the best professional soccer facilities in North America can’t be replicated. The Galaxy are LA’s team and we will continue to work to maintain that.

Where do you look for ideas?

Jeez, this answer is probably going to make me sound like some kid who got a creative writing degree at the University of Colorado – Boulder… I find a lot of inspiration in writing, art and music. My approach has always been to try and think differently about traditional sports communications and sports marketing.

That said, none of these ideas would be possible without buy-in from those above. It starts at the top. Galaxy President Chris Klein believes in the strategy we presented and is open to us coming up with different ideas to promote the LA Galaxy.

Most of the ideas we have come out of collaboration. Chris Thomas, our digital lead, Brad Saiki, our graphic designer, and Casey Leppanen, our Senior Director of Marketing are great people to bounce ideas off of. We all have different backgrounds and it makes for a productive and creative work environment.

What campaign have you been most proud of and why?

I’ve been really proud of all of the creative campaigns we’ve done over the years. I think I am most proud of the Quaker Fuels the Fire campaign that was put together in 2012. It was my first real opportunity to run a creative campaign from start to finish. We put together a plan that spread across numerous traditional and digital platforms, including co-branded Quaker Oats canister, a viral video and personalized jerseys for over 150 media members. The launch of the jersey partnership accrued over 597 placements and more than 580 million impressions.

It established that a different approach could be utilized and be an effective communications and digital strategy.

How important is it for communications and marketing to work closely? Whats the best example of a success story you have seen?

Collaboration between communications/digital and marketing is key to success within a successful organization. There has to be in intrinsic link between the two to properly communicate your brand to the world.

I think U.S. Soccer does a really nice job with this. Around the World Cup they were able to coordinate cool marketing concepts – watch parties in Grant Park, celebrity ambassadors (Will Ferrell, Lupe Fiasco, Hulk Hogan) and pre-match rallies – and drive content and communications placements around the build-up and through the 2014 World Cup.

With the Galaxy now having five titles, what will you be planning for the offseason from a communications standpoint?

We are excited. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the Galaxy and of MLS. We have a number of cool things planned. This is a great time to be working in soccer in North America. As a group, we hope to build on the success of this season and continue to drive innovation within the soccer space next year.

The Value of Visual Inspiration: Jeremy Lin, Marcus Mariota and Army-Navy

This past week’s Cynopsis sports media conference reminded us again how powerful storytelling; especially paired to compelling images can be. The ability to effectively communicate a message and build awareness through multiple forms of media; written, visual, spoken is what sets endorsers, brands, teams, leagues apart in the cluttered world of content. Those who are best at it invoke the passion of the end user and can inspire millions to engage, whether it is for a cause, an event, or a brand campaign.
The other key part of storytelling is authenticity. Many elite personalities and brands can build huge following but fall short on delivering results because their message is seen as contrived or non-authentic. Endorsing for the sake of endorsing may look nice and build a solid groups of likes on a platform, but if the endorsement flow does not seem natural, or becomes a wide-ranging disconnect from the person doing the outreach, the value is lost.
Three examples of authentic storytelling through video are worth noting. One of which has proven his brand value through effective use of video, the other two surfaced over the weekend as great endorsers to look at going forward.
The first is now Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. The University of Oregon, just minutes after he won the coveted trophy on Saturday, put forth an emotional video on the Hawaiian’s career, not just on the field but in the community, and how he has lived a life of inspiration. While many have read and watched Mariotta, the video invokes emotion and will inspire brands, and hopefully casual fans, to engage with the rising star no matter where he ends up in the NFL. While last year’s winner Johnny Manziel, has been about the flash and the dollar, Mariotta’s brand, as conveyed in the video, appears to be aspiring hire; hoping to inspire and lead as well as win, and that’s a great message for companies and casual fans who are looking for more than great selfies from athletes or celebrities.
The second video was the intro from Saturday’s Army-Navy game. While we have talked often about the undervalued resource that men and women who serve are for brands, the leaders who come out of the Academies are on another level. The video work but together shows commitment, inspiration, desire, passion and leadership that go well beyond a game, all qualities companies and fans should be looking for. Former Black Knight Mike Vitti’s story of walking the country for his fallen comrades is certainly the most emotional part of the tribute, but is certainly not the only part of the story. It is worth one’s time to take a look and embrace the power of the visual narrative.
Lastly is Jeremy Lin. Again our friends at MVP Index broke down the best in engagement by athletes in the social space, with YouTube being one of the key benchmarks. As you will see from the data below, the Los Angeles Lakers guard may be a few years removed from “Linansity,” but he is still an All-Star in the video world. Why? He picks his spots, tells stories away from the court and can use his personality to reach a global audience. He has quality over quantity, and takes the time to make sure every aspect of his engagement is real and effective for the audience he is trying to reach. While he may be away from the buzz every day, Jeremy Lin remains on the watch list of millions, and makes him worth a look for brands the world over.
From MVP Index…
Among active athletes, three YouTube channels stand out as the top contenders for the highest rated channel. Cristiano Ronaldo’s YouTube channel contains 44 total videos with over 40 million views. Blake Griffin posts videos at a ridiculous clip, boasting over 800 videos on his channel.
But the winner of this category is Jeremy Lin of the LA Lakers. While Lin may have only posted 18 videos to his YouTube channel, his channel boasts the most subscribers of any active athlete, outpacing Ronaldo by over 110 thousand subscribers and dwarfing Griffin by over 217 thousand. Lin’s average views/video is almost 2 million. That’s over 900 thousand more average views than Ronaldo and 1.957 million more per video than Blake Griffin.

The impressive thing about Lin’s YouTube channel is its personality. While the bulk of videos in the other channels mentioned are highlights and interviews, Lin’s channel showcases the his other side that fans wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Lin’s intelligence, heart and sense of humor shine through in every video he posts. Authenticity is key in building a strong social presence, and Jeremy Lin understands that in spades.


So as you go about your business and think of who the winners can be in sport and entertainment engagement; remember the athletes of the Academies, don’t forget about Jeremy Lin, and start making the list of Marcus Mariota; you will be seeing a lot of all of them hopefully in the near, and distant future.

Strike A Pose: “Johnny Football” Delivers On Instagram

It’s a good weekend to be “Johnny Football” or the brands that have engaged with him. He gets to play for one for the Cleveland Browns this week, and the folks at MVP Index did some work to show that of all the NFL athletes they track, no one is more engaging on Instagram. Now that’s engaging…and winning.

In terms of total followers, it doesn’t get much better than Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick and Johnny Manziel on Instagram. Manziel and Kaepernick lead the pack in the NFL with over 1.3 million each, and Davis isn’t far behind with over 1.2 million. Davis is prolific when it comes to posting photographs, with over 1,300 pictures on the platform to date. Kaepernick isn’t afraid to talk to the media through his Instagram and loves promoting his sponsors and event appearances through the platform.

But the honor of the number one NFL Instagram account goes to none other than Johnny Football. Manziel’s last 30 Instagram posts average over 81 thousand likes per post, which is over 1 thousand, more than the capacity of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Every time he posts. He holds 8 of the top ten and 31 of the top 100 posts in the NFL on Instagram for 2014.

Johnny Football understands how Instagram works. He constantly gives fans insight into his life, cheers on his alma mater and shows himself becoming a part of the Cleveland community. Johnny’s authenticity is what drives followers to engage. Nothing about his Instagram presence seems corporate, and since he’s been doing this since his college days, he’s an expert at showing fans what they want to see.

Creating A Better (Luxury) Experience…

Content and access are the buzz words for engagement now more than ever before. Those words get even more amplified when you factor in high net worth companies and individuals looking for that once in a lifetime experience, whether it is in sports or entertainment. The ROI has to be unique, and it can’t be something that can easily be replicated by others in the space.
One company that is priding itself on the unique is LXL Experiences. Its CEO Mark Riccio, has decades of experience in customer service and has worked with scores of elite brands from his time with the New York Jets, and LXL has looked to him to cultivate and create an elite subscription event service like no other, whether it is spending a night in a suite with some friends…and Mariano Rivera…or hanging with the cats of Law and Order and learning the inner workings of one of America’s most popular shows. The experiences are not for everyone, and the barrier to entry is high, but the model, according to Riccio is taking hold and setting the company apart.


We caught up with him to talk about LXL and the lessons learned with Gang Green over the decades. (His bio follows)

There are many who think the athlete meet and greet is done to death for corporate America, why is this a better mousetrap?

The first thing I would say is we are not the athlete ‘meet and greet’. While spending time with an athlete can certainly be part of an experience, it is only one component – compelling content, premium food and beverage, luxury gifts, and other interesting members are also all part of every experience. And further to that – -sports is only about half of what we do. Part of our value proposition to members is we create intimate and exclusive opportunities to interact with athletes, as well as celebrities across a range of interests – food, music, fashion, and television.

Is there a model you all have set up outside of sport that this follows? ?

There is no specific outside of sport model we follow. With that said, many have drawn a parallel to shared private aviation, or shared luxury vacation models. The key difference between those and LXL is our membership is all-inclusive. Members pay monthly and everything is included, there are no additional costs – which gives the member cost certainty, value certainty, and simplicity.

Coming from a career in the NFL, what are the lessons learned you brought to this business?

LOTS! First and foremost people do business with people, not necessarily a company, product or service – therefore developing relationships is a vital business function. Second, people will pay a premium price, if they receive a premium value. LXL is a combination of these two leanings. Sports teams win or lose – you can’t control that – but you can control the guest experience – and if done right — you create a memory and the guest will never forget how you made them feel. LXL has put a firm stake in the ground around this learning.

What has been the response thus far?

“Ahh, I get it!” That’s how I sum up the response. It’s a new model so I have to walk prospects through it – and once I do, “Ahh, I get it!” is the reaction. So in short, the response has been outstanding. Over and over, executives have been telling me they are looking for a seamless, all-inclusive solution for (client) entertainment that gives them variety and enables them to focus on their business. We take the pain out of business hospitality and that has great value to executives and companies. We do all the work — provide memorable experiences and all of details that go into that — and our members just chose with whom they want to share these occasions.

Anything has surprised you thus far in the reaction of clients?

Yes, two big surprises. First, people do not push back on price – – which I’m admittedly accustomed to. People in NY will tell you exactly what they think, so this lack of push back is a clear indication the price – value comparison matches. Second, people’s surprise when they realize the LXL model in its entirety doesn’t exist elsewhere.

Is this a model that is purely American for sport or can it be replicated globally?

Building and nurturing relationships is not geographically contained, and we believe the LXL membership model is as effective in NYC as it will be in LA, Europe, and Asia.

How have you been able to tie the luxury experience with sport to entertainment? ?

Sports is only about half of what we do. We continue to move closer to other lifestyle experiences: culinary excursions; music of all types; inside fashion; television and movie celebrity interactions. We will always offer sports experiences – it’s in my blood and it has value, but it is clear that businesses have clients with interests far beyond sports. The culinary, fashion, music experiences combined with a healthy staple of football, baseball and tennis experiences is part of our unique value to LXL members.

Is it similar to the customer experience you tried to help create with the Jets?

Yes – without a doubt. People are paying a premium for certain hospitality and sponsorship assets at the Jets. We would remind ourselves regularly getting the deal done was only a quarter of the work. Making that partnership come to life was the harder, more sustainable piece of the business, and I was fortunate to work with some very talented colleagues that did a great job with that.

What teams do the best at taking care of their high-end customers?

The interesting part here is that teams are getting more and more pressure here. Providing more value – aka “taking care of the high-end customer” is now a competitive necessity as opposed to competitive advantage. I’m undeniably partial so I’m going to recognize the Jets. I think MSG has done a good job in reacting to the changes in the marketplace and working to provide more value. Likewise, my experience has been teams in smaller markets have to work harder to maintain that high end customer because there are less of them.

Where would you like to have the business at the end of 2015, and what’s the benchmark for success at that point? ?

We have started signing Founding Members and are only taking 40 in total for the first year. This number will allow us to be nimble, work directly with our members to set the path for growth and deliver the optimal member experience in NY, as well as other markets.

As President and CEO, Mr. Riccio leads the LXL team and brings to it a depth of experience and a deep understanding of the professional sports arena and team business. As Senior Vice President with the New York Jets, he was responsible for all aspects of team and stadium business affairs and overall strategic planning. He directed corporate sales, new business development, corporate partnerships and the merchandise division. Mr. Riccio was also responsible for the New York Jets’ special events, game-day operations and multimedia product. He knows what it takes to create a superior luxury experience within a major entertainment venue or stadium. Mr. Riccio is also an adjunct associate professor at Hofstra University, teaching graduate and undergraduate classes in the Frank G. Zarb School of Business and has served as director of marketing and development for intercollegiate athletics at Hofstra University. Mr. Riccio holds a BA in communications and an MBA in marketing from Hofstra University, and a JD from St. John’s School of Law. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association.

DeVry Tries To Score With Baseball…


The age of online higher education of all levels continues to grow each year, and in a world that is increasingly more technologically savvy, the ability to study and earn a degree without ever setting foot in a classroom is becoming more and more commonplace.
Whether that is healthy, and whether the loss of actual human interaction and discussion is valuable is a big debate, but for the time challenged and the budget challenged, the for-profit online world of education can be seen on almost every bus shelter, infomercial and recruiting site out there. Some lager outfits, like the University of Phoenix, have sought to distance themselves from the competition, and others have sought to find marketing niches to set them apart in the conversation.
One of which is DeVry University, which last year found a unique niche by partnering with the United States Olympic Committee to provide online education and enhancement programs online to athletes with little time for formal and traditional education during their training and competing years. The partnership started with six Olympic athletes and has grown to about 200 enrolled today, including American gold medalist bobsledder Steven Holcomb, who was featured in DeVry ads during the games.
This year, DeVry will try another wide ranging partnership with a little more grassroots appeal, a partnership with Minor League Baseball that will give them exposure at all 160 minor league franchises ranging from rookie leagues to AAA and will include online promotions, signage and other events to drum up awareness to the millions who flock to games over the course of the summer.
However in addition to the wide-ranging consumer sponsorship, DeVry will institute a higher education program to assist minor leaguers interested in pursuing a degree, as well as providing 20 full-ride scholarships to minor league players, staff, alumni and other team and league employees, as well as reduced tuition for interested players and their spouses. Like the USOC partnership, the athletes become the advocates, and the success stories out of the partnership can be merchandised as equity for DeVry while providing a very unique service for those in MiLB who are in many cases just out of high school and thrust into the rigors of MLB without a fallback when their careers end. Even for those MiLB player who spend some time on the NCAA level, the ability to complete a degree, or help a spouse who has sacrificed for them, get their education is also appealing.
The DeVry partnership also falls in a pretty unique niche for minor league baseball, a category that is probably not over-sold locally throughout the minor league system, giving the program a real chance at success in markets big and small. The program will also make for a nice test case for other potential sponsorships, from the D-League to minor league hockey, using young athletes and those toiling at the lower levels as ambassadors not just for DeVry, but for online education as well.
Will it succeed? The USOC program seems to be taking hold, and while the experience at the minor league baseball level is sometimes more geared towards young people and giveaways, the ability to tell positive stories by engaging young athletes looking for a fallback when the time on the diamond becomes short is a good one, especially as you aggregate the stories across all levels of baseball and in a host of markets.



For MiLB it’s a smart partnership, and for DeVry it seems like an educated guess at success, with an RI that can drive brand, enrollment and good will. A hot could be in the making.

Healthcare Coalition Uses Athletes To Deliver Its Message…

Trying to get a very busy and cash-challenged American public to focus on changing the bureaucratic healthcare system is certainly not easy, especially during the holiday season. However the hidden out of pocket costs when a person has to go out of their network even for simple procedures can be devastating to families and individuals who have no idea of the charges that they are incurring.
It is an issue that many state legislatures are trying to come to grips with. One state with out of control costs is New Jersey and several health care stakeholders have announced a new coalition to advocate for legislation giving consumers more information to navigate the health care marketplace. The members of new coalition, NJ Healthcare Users for Reform and Transparency, or NJHURT, include representatives of health insurers, labor, consumers and public policy group.
The coalition said it has four goals:
Increase transparency. Require hospitals and physicians to provide, for a significant number of the most commonly performed procedures, information about the fees they charge and make that information available in a user-friendly, online format.
Reduce surprises. Hospitals should require physicians practicing at their facility to participate in the same insurance networks they do.
Create a fair, simple arbitration process to resolve billing disputes. Each side submits a “best and final” offer; the arbitrator selects one within 30 days, and the loser pays the costs of the arbitration.
Establish a reasonable fee schedule. This would cover out-of-network ER services based on actual costs.
How do they aim to enlist the public to become aware and support the cause? One way that is a little unusual is by using athletes. NJHURT has teamed up with several athletes on both ends of the state, The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, to come up with fun and efficient viral campaigns to show the problem as it exists and bring it to light in the minds of the public, many of whom may be more focused on the gridiron than on their bills every Sunday. The coalition also got a little lucky when one of their spokespeople. New York Giants lineman Geoff Schwartz, actually ended up on the injured list for Big Blue as the campaign kicked off. Now while Schwartz health costs will be covered under the NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, he can clearly see the problem with the public in looking at the bills for Emergency Room and Doctors visits that are out of network. The video they created is fun and informative and has a stickiness that can get some play, much more than a simple call to action promotion with a talking head (although there will be plenty of those type of promotions as well).
The coalition also targeted players for inclusion rather than brands or teams for now, which keeps their cost down and can still get them a bang that they need.
As big Pharma continues to spend large dollars on sport in general for promotion, this campaign to keep costs down us a smart one for grassroots activation, and is certainly one that can be replicated in regions throughout the country where costs of healthcare are skyrocketing and athletes are an excellent entry point for a call to action.
Nice score NJ Hurt, keep fighting the good fight.

Danbury Creates A Whale Of A Social Media Platform…

The Federal Hockey League may not be far off from the fictional league of the same name from “Slapshot” at least in terms of being the first, and sometimes last shot, for players looking to make a go of it on the ice. But at least one team in the league, the Danbury Whalers (with similar logo to the old Hartford Whalers I may add), always tries to be innovative. Their latest experiment to engage fans in the social space has taken hold, and could provide a really cool template for engagement in a sport like baseball, with bigger gaps of downtime and more players, at least on the Independent level.
For several weeks the Whalers have been doing Twitter Take Overs. While a twitter Takeover is certainly not unique for a brand, it is different when the Takeover is being done by a player…during a game. With Whalers Director of Media Relations, Tommy Pecoraro serving as host, players who are playing in the game, as well as coaches, are answering questions and posting their thoughts, from the penalty box, between periods, after a goal, in the lockerroom all in real time. It is a daring and certainly innovative way to get unfiltered access, and while leagues like the NFL have allowed live tweeting during the Pro Bowl from players, getting instant reaction during a regular season game where dollars and points are on the line takes social media to a new level. It also sets up some unique sponsor activations for in-arena and in real time through social media, where a platform with limited characters like Twitter can sometimes be challenging to monetize in short stints.
It is also interesting to see that the takeover hasn’t really caught a great deal of backlash from selected players; they get it, they trust Pecoraro to approach at the right times, and the engagement is gaining steam and attention for a team that has done a nice job of building a core following in a spot near the Connecticut and New York border. It is also a great way to increase the fan base and get more engagement far away from Danbury, which can lead to some additional merch sales and other bottom line benefits.


While it is doubtful that live takeovers will make it to the Major leagues or even affiliated minor league baseball teams, the Whalers experiment should be noted for Independent league teams, all-star events, even spring training. What would be better than getting a twitter takeover from Matt Harvey in the dugout from Port St. Lucie next spring to generate some Mets buzz right after he comes off the field? It may be a stretch, but the Whalers attempt is worth some points, and will probably be augmented, refined, sold and copied down the line. Innovation lives on in Connecticut, with a solid experiment that is not minor league in any way.

Sports Biz Thoughts On Giving Back Tuesday From A Leader In The Field

On this Giving Back Tuesday we thought it appropriate to talk to someone about sports and philanthropy, so we reached out to our colleague Harrie Bakst. Harrie has really helped shape the world of sports, entertainment and philanthropy through his work at Weinstein Carnegie with business partner Sara Weinstein. They work with athletes, celebrities, brands and causes to maximize exposure and dollars, and have found very creative ways to drive cause marketing messages across a host of platforms. (his bio follows)


Are you surprised at how quickly the field of sports business and philanthropy has grown?
I am but in a good way. I think the integration of business and philanthropy has happened much quicker than I thought compared to when I started this business. I am pleasantly surprised and hope it continues to grow as it has been.

What are the ways you assess potential clients?
Each of our different departments has different checklists. For example, in our talent department, we ask ourselves a lot of questions regarding assessment; do they have good management in place? Why are they doing this or starting this? Are they doing this for the right reasons? Can we deliver with respect to what their goals are? Where is the money going? To run program? To support programs in place? We really need to evaluate clients properly because this industry is small and at the end of the day, all you have is your reputation.



Who are some athletes and entertainers that you don’t work with who do it right and why?
We just asked ourselves this question last week. Bradley Cooper, LeBron James, and Adam Driver were some of the names that came up. I think it’s a mix of the stories behind the philanthropy that they want to do, why they want to do it and their marketability as well as what we can do to raise money on their behalf.

You and your partner Sara Weinstein have made a pointed effort to mix athlete and entertainment, how has it worked and why?



Sports are entertainment, plain and simple and the two industries are very similar. I think Sara and I have done a really good job integrating the two. For example, we got Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization as an official charity partner of the TCS NYC Marathon and raised over $550,000 over two years with Pamela Anderson and Teri Hatcher running in support as well as brand partnerships with Asics, Jet Blue and St. Regis. The really cool part of this initiative is that they are creating a Haitian running club to train the next generation of Haitian athletes and the money raised from this program will go to fund that and create jobs in Haiti for deserving people. Who would of that that Sean Penn and the marathon would have mixed, but it works. The sports media wants to reach out to new areas, and new fans and this was a perfect example of that. When we managed Pamela’s campaign in 2013, it opened up the sports media’s eyes to new media that they have never received before and it was only because of Pamela. This created new opportunities for the marathon and made it a win win.

Which brands do you think do the best work in the space?
Nike does a great job over the years with Livestrong, The (RED) campaign, and The Nike Foundation. I really love what Todd Jacobson at NBA Cares does. They really get it and are so smart from the league perspective. We also have an exciting announcement at the beginning of the year with a major apparel company and our client Cycle For Survival which raises over $20M in 2014 to support rare cancer research and is the fastest growing athletic fundraising event in the country. That brand partnership will be a great one to keep your eye on.

What’s the worst assumption athletes or entertainers make when trying to work with brands in the space?
Brands will stay far, far away from you if you don’t have your philanthropy in check. It’s not that simple.

Is there a property or a team that surprises you with the impact they can make?
The PGA raises so much money for charity and I don’t feel like they get enough attention. Same with the TCS New York City Marathon. Over $22M was raised in 2014 alone across 300 charitable partners. It’s one of the best events and charitable fundraisers in sports. That’s real impact.

How do you define success in a space that maybe be a little more fluid when looking at ROI?



We try to evaluate our success just like the regular sports marketing world does. First of all, we want to show impact. We helped raise $X and that helped Y children or Z research. Real impactful metrics that are clear. And, then we want to show the traditional marketing, sponsorship, and media value that a brand or athlete/celebrity gets with respect to supporting something. So, in other words, we want to demonstrate a double ROI – impact and partnership benefits.

What do you tell brands looking to get into the space when they say they want to identify an athlete spokesperson?



Be authentic. Have it make sense. Activate well. Be clear about your business goals that you want to achieve through this and it’s ok to achieve business goals through philanthropy. Have it all be integrated into one seamless program.


Is there a sport or a property you think is poised to really make an impact in 2015?


Great question. I think with the growth of US soccer, MLS and Jan Greenberg over there are doing great things. We were just speaking with the St. Louis Marathon, and they can make some serious impact in 2015 with respect to what is happening in Ferguson, and how the power of sport can help bring people together. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that comes out and hope that we can be part of it. I also think Crowdrise, Ed Norton and Robert Wolfe over there, are just pushing and pushing the limits with respect to crowd funding and are just so innovative.
About Harrie Bakst
Harrie has worked with clients such as Grassroot Soccer, (Official Charity of FIFA), Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Entertainment Industry Foundation, the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, The Cole Hamels Foundation, The James Blake Foundation, Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia’s PitCCH In Foundation, Adrian Peterson’s All Day Foundation, Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization, Tiki Barber, Meb Keflezighi, Paul Pierce, Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. New York Knicks event, Jerry Seinfeld 2008 with Stand Up For A Cure, among others. Additionally, Bakst has brokered sponsorship agreements with some of the top organizations and properties in the world including Coca Cola Co., AT&T, Heineken, Foot Locker, Nike, Garmin, CBS, PUMA, Chipotle Mexican Grill, GM, New York Road Runners, Major League Soccer, Reebok, The James Beard Foundation, and Memorial Sloan Kettering-Cancer Center, among others. He has also been featured in The Wall Street Journal,, FOX News, The New York Times, The New York Post, and the Sports Business Journal.

Harrie’s remarkable story is highlighted in A Race Like No Other (Harper Collins) by The New York Times sportswriter Liz Robbins, where he overcame cancer, started WCPG, and ran the New York City Marathon a mere 5 months after his 33rd and ?nal treatment. He also serves on a number of boards and committees including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, and UJA Federation of New York’s Sports For Youth Executive Board.

Harrie was born in New York City (from the only borough worthy of a “The” in front of it), and is a graduate with Magna Cum Laude honors from New York University, where he was presented the Allie Sherman Business Leadership Award & the President’s Service Award. Harrie was also named by Partnership Activation as one of forty-eight Rising Stars in the sports and entertainment industries in addition to being listed as a top executive under 30-years old by In 2011, Harrie was named by the Ivy Sports Symposium and SportsPro Magazine as a “10 NEXT” recipient that recognizes sports industry leaders from around the world who will shape the business in the next decade. He continues to compete in marathons and triathlons raising money and awareness for cancer research.

Big Fish, Small Sea: Pillow Promo Scores In South Dakota

How do you find a way to generate buzz in a small market? Break a record, any record. That’s what Super 8®, the world’s largest economy hotel chain, did in grand fashion last week, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on a usually slow news day. The chain used their 40th anniversary, and got the help of N SYNC pop star Joey Fatone to break the Guinness World Record for the largest pillow fight in of all places, South Dakota.
The brand went to South Dakota State University’s Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, the state where Super 8 originated, and pulled in 4,201 students, alumni, parents and fans to take part in a fun-filled pillow fight challenge the South Dakota Corn Showdown Series, the annual football meeting between South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota. The record breaking attempt occurred between the first and second quarter of the game and lasted for 60 seconds, per official Guinness rules. The effort broke the previous record of 4,200 participants, which was set earlier this year.
What made the move even smarter for the chain was a charitable giveaway, with all the participants ponying up their pillows to Feeding South Dakota. All of that was in addition to the usual giveaways for participants and the hoopla around a record breaker.
While some may say the attempt could have scored more buzz in a major market, going back to their roots, and playing off of the biggest event in a small market, gave the story a nice buildup and a better hook than just a random event. They pulled in some additional social media buzz by connecting with Fatone to kick the event off, and used an easy to understand and share event, a well branded pillow fight, to cut through the clutter. Throw in a philanthropic tie and the event scored some solid and cost-effective points for a national chain with a limited budget.