Mind Sports Continue To Grow…

As the fall sports now get into full swing we see analytics, gaming and pay fantasy becoming more and more a factor in the decisions of American sport. Into that mix later this fall will be another combination of all of those efforts, the latest, most robust installment of the World Mind Sports Championships, which will be held in Beijing .  The bi-annual event grows in stature and acceptance every year, and now comes with a growing list of brands looking to activate in and around the space much like they do in traditional sports.

 Are all these events some sort of rise of “nerds” into competitive events to try and steal the thunder from the die-hard sports fans and jocks for media and social attention? No. What these events signify is actually a melding of entertainment and gaming worlds to hopefully form a partnership of healthy mind, healthy body which can appeal to millions and even attract some amazing brands to a more diverse audience.

Mind Sports have been around for thousands of years, and many, especially chess, have been used by world leaders to teach strategy for ages, that is certainly no secret. Most have always operated in a vacuum and away from the casual public eye. The advent of competitive poker on television, as well as an elite champion like a Bobby Fischer, have helped to gradually raise the image of some Mind Sports over time. However in more recent times, as science comes to understand more about the stimulation of the brain to combat issues such as ADHD and Alzheimer’s Disease, the value of all mind sports has grown. Factor in the ever-growing popularity of gaming, both casual and competitive, and the case for unifying the millions who play mind sports together for a country by country competition and celebration makes great sense, and has endless possibilities. The strength will be in the numbers.

Similar to the mind sports opportunity, robotics is growing in popularity amongst young people. A culture that has grown up with gaming tied to advances in technology gives robotics on a competitive level a wide audience that can connect across any boundary via the digital world, as well as in person to person traditional competitions. The competitions teach the same skills…teamwork, strategy, attention to detail…as traditional sports do and help to also stimulate the mind.

So what does this all mean to traditional sports?

First, the simple connection is to analytics and strategy. Coaches of any level, as well as elite athletes are constantly looking for a competitive edge, and the lessons taught by mind sports or even robotics, can satisfy another dimension for both strategy that applies to athletics and for an alternative way of thinking and expanding the ability to think quickly and effectively while competing. The world of traditional sports is also becoming more and more digitized, whether that is in scouting, analyzing skills, communicating or even watching events. Robotics and mind sports can also help provide a bridge of understanding into a high tech world by applying tools and technical elements to athletes and coaches. Then there is gaming. Perhaps the fastest growing segment of competition globally is competitive and casual gaming, whether you are considered a jock or a techie. Everyone enjoys games from Angry Birds to Madden ’14, and gaming provides another key common ground between mind sports and competitive traditional athletics. There is also the jobs marketplace. More and more we are seeing professional and collegiate athletics look outside traditional circles for leadership, and those with an understanding of the tech, strategic and business world are getting more and more opportunities. The competition in mind sports could help bring another employment dimension for those versed in both convention athletics and the expanded use of competitive mind sports and gaming.

There is also the projection of the complete individual, one that marries healthy mind and healthy body. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative has inspired thousands to get up and get active physically, and balancing that physical aspect with a healthy and active strategic mind fits very well, so a mix of competitive athletics with mind sports is a great balance.

If you are a brand what does all of this mean? Lots. Those brands of all sizes involved in traditional sport are always looking to get more bang and get access to a larger, wider demo. Activities like mind sports and robotics provide that wider audience. Tech brands are always looking to access a more mainstream audience that is becoming more savvy, and traditional sports provide that mix. Does it mean we may see Nike or Under Armour sponsoring robotics or the U.S. chess team somewhere down the line? It is actually a possibility. Does it mean that you may see more athletes paying attention to bridge or more poker players throwing a baseball, or watching rugby? That’s already happening. For 2014 brands like Rado, Renault Nissan and Samsung are already on board to activate around the games and against the thousands who will follow online or watch in person.

Mind Sports continue to grow as an intriguing alternative to the traditional engagement,  one without many of the controversies and issues of traditional sport with lots of the gamification and strategies built in for a global audience of all ages. While it will always be a niche, it is a niche that is growing, as evidenced by media partners and brands in engaging in an organized fashion, which makes the property an intriguing one to watch this fall.

Patterson Award Hits 10 Years Of Goodwill…

It certainly has been a topsy-turvy week for sports; from the Derek Jeter swan song and Rutgers starting their Big 10 life to the off-field mess that continues to plague the NFL, both good and bad have taken over the headlines in various degrees.

So into that mix in the Garden State this past week on the good side was the official 10 year announcement of the winners of the Steve Patterson Award by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Patterson Award was established in 2005 by the RWJF in honor of the late Steve Patterson, the former UCLA basketball star, NBA player and Arizona State basketball coach. Patterson’s belief in the practice of using the power of sports philanthropy to make a difference in various communities inspired the creation of this award.

This year’s winners were the Tiger Woods Foundation, Jays Care Foundation and Harlem RBI and were honored at a September 18 ceremony at RWJF in Princeton, N.J. With the two baseball-related winners in Jays Care Foundation and Harlem RBI, no other sport has received more Patterson Awards than baseball.

Some facts on the three winners:

The Jays Care Foundation is the charitable arm of Canada’s only MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Established in 1992, the foundation has grown exponentially from a regional focus in Toronto to investing in children and communities from coast-to-coast. Their mission is to create equal opportunities for kids in need across Canada by removing barriers to sport and education. Foundation programs such as Field of Dreams and Grand Slam Grant provide funds to children and their communities to learn and play in a safe environment as well lead happy and healthy lives. Other foundation programs include Rookie League, Home Run Scholars and Jays Care Community Clubhouse.

Harlem RBI: Harlem RBI’s goal is to provide inner-city youth with opportunities to play, learn and grow. They use the influence of teams to impact and inspire children to recognize their potential and realize their dreams. Harlem RBI has grown to aid more than 1,500 boys and girls annually since its founding in 1991. The program provides youth with year-round sports, educational and enrichment activities. Youth are first exposed to Harlem RBI through its summer baseball program. Program components include Rookie League, REAL Kids, TeamBuilders, TeamWorks, Legends and Social Work. When they graduate from the program, Harlem RBI youth are expected to be resilient young adults and embody DreamList attributes, which include being physically healthy, high school graduates, college graduates, work-ready, teammates and more. Since 2005, 97 percent of Harlem RBI seniors have graduated high school and 94 percent have matriculated at college.

The Tiger Woods Foundation : Founded by Tiger Woods and his father, Earl, the Tiger Woods Foundation has affected millions of students by providing advanced educational opportunities with a focus on STEM education. Of the foundation’s numerous initiatives, one of its flagship programs, the Tiger Woods Learning Center, provides scholars in grades 5-12 with college-access programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math. Interactive classes allow these students to identify the importance of attending college and exploring potential careers. Through the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, students receive a $5,000 scholarship, which is renewable for up to four years, as well as a dedicated mentor. Specialized internships are available to students in the program, which help prepare them for life after college. Since 2005, the foundation has distributed more than $80 million and an astounding 100 percent of Earl Woods scholars have graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

While other years have shown maybe a little more diversity in winners, pairing groups like Tony Hawk and the San Francisco 49ers, the results do not diminish with baseball leading the way for the 10th year of the awards. All have the same focus; use sport as a tool to better society, no matter what the price tag. That message is amplified even more by the dollars that RWJF puts behind the program annually, a key part of giving back not just to sport but to the positive messages it sends across the state in calls home. After all that is probably the best way philanthropy can be used tied to sport, an overlay of international, national and local partnerships, marrying legacy programs to those that youth can relate to today. All those efforts were summed up on a nice September day in the heart of Big Pharma country, with the results resonating far beyond Princeton. Beautiful program, beautiful effort, beautiful rewards, and a beautiful legacy for all involved to show how winning in sport goes way beyond the playing field. Role models like these are the ones we need.

Bobbleheads For Broadway…

It’s no secret that the most successful promotion in sport, the one with literally the most shelf life, is the bobblehead. So it was great to learn that the bobblehead promo has migrated to theater, and no less to the alleged home of the bobblehead, the Bay Area.

This late winter and spring  the San Francisco engagement of NEWSIES, February 17 – March 15, 2015 will offer up bobbleheads at each of the 32 NEWSIES performances.  It is a promo that has been long in coming but has been challenging to pull off due to licensing, timing and distribution on Broadway, but doing the bobbles as a test away from New York makes great sense.  Disney Theatrical Productions is the first to come on board with the road show of NEWSIE’s which recently ended its long and successful run on New York.

Ironically it is the city of innovation, San Francisco to take the plunge and see what the ROI will be, and it makes great sense. San Fran was the first city to introduce sports fans to the Bobblehead Giveaway concept back in 1999, when the San Francisco Giants Baseball Club handed out 35,000 Willie Mays dolls to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Candlestick Park.  Fifteen years later, bobbleheads (and now Garden Gnomes) are more popular than ever and Bay Area theater fans will be the first to receive a Broadway bobblehead of their own.

The cost of producing bobbles has dropped significantly in recent years, and the limited run with the bobble built into the ticket price, can bring some great value for a kid-oriented play. If it works, copycats beware. Can the Aladdin bobble be far behind?

Great work and perseverance by SHN the preeminent theatrical entertainment company in the Bay Area, and their CMO, Scott Kane, for seeing the value and finding the partner for a crossover promo worth tracking.

What works for one entertainment genre should work for another.

Making Tailgating History…

One of the more documented stories going onto the college football season was the dilemma many colleges were having in engaging their students throughout the mega-experience of Saturday Game days. Millennials don’t take well to five hour long rituals for the most part, they would rather games, and all around it, be fast and easy. Still for its issues, the college game day experience remains a tradition that now alumni of a certain age are engaging their kids with; a little less drinking, a little more throwing the ball around and mixing with friends who also may have kids. A good way to spend a Saturday. Looking to build on that tradition, and engage those families, are a whole host of brands who may seem unconventional to the experience but nonetheless want to hit families who may be less die hard and more casual supporters of alma mater.

One of those new partnerships is with the HISTORY, not exactly your dyed in the wool college football Saturday brand partner. HISTORY this week announced a partnership with IMG to bring the All-American Tailgate Tour to six university campuses. The cross-country tour is big on big, so don’t expect them this year at Colgate or Oberlin. The Tour will stop at Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan and Texas, bringing the “Ultimate Smoker and Grill,” an 80-foot long grill serving up special HISTORY BBQ delicacies. Fans will also get the chance to screen HISTORY TV content from hit series such as Top Gear, American Pickers® and Swamp People and take home HISTORY merchandise. They will also look to partner with brands who engage across their shows and who may also desire that affinity with families on the college map, doing on-campus sampling events with KEURIG and other partners who are a natural fit. Less Jack Daniels, more Jack Daniels barbeque sauce. Less Girls Gone Wild, and more of Moms Feeding The Kids.

The cross promotion makes good sense to build brand loyalty for programs that young families may want to follow when they leave the parking lot, and it ties those programs not just to the families, but even to alma mater as well. It is a great way to engage in and around the game day experience and have a little leave-behind afterwards as well. What else could be added in down the road? Celebrity drop-ins, live activation programs around the shows for families who had engaged during the tailgates, and of course lots and lots of video and good clean fun. It makes great sense for HISTORY, and helps build another tradition around college football for those with disposable income and some time to slide along on a Saturday, especially when some millenials may be heading back to the dorm at halftime.

Nice brand extension for the channel, and a smart use of new resources for the schools.

Galaxy Go Authentic…

The L.A. Galaxy have long been kings of Southern California soccer, at least in the branding and marketing world for MLS. From David Beckham to Landon Donovan, the Galaxy, with all due respect to the mega-franchises like the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers, are probably the casual sports fan team of choice when people think MLS.

So as the team heads towards the playoffs again, solidly in second place, and with Donovan’s retirement on the horizon, they are taking steps to further entrench themselves not just as an elite soccer club but as an elite LA-based sports and entertainment brand as the late fall and winter comes along. Hence this past week the club assembled a very unique kit, labeled “Handcrafted in Los Angeles,” that went out to select business and community leaders and national media. It was much less about promoting the Galaxy on its own, although there was the very cool Galaxy lunch box thrown in; it was much more about promoting brand soccer and the club’s place as a solid and authentic LA business than everything else. There were lots of mentions of supporting local soccer and all things about LA, and much less about just the players on the field.

Why do this now? Several reasons come to mind. First, with the demise of Chivas USA, the Galaxy have a very unique opportunity to expand their presence as the soccer club of choice to all fans in Southern California. Positioning the club as THE soccer destination now gives little choice going forward as to who a fan may support. Second, the club has made great strides with their academy program and with their developmental team in a highly competitive marketplace, so branding the Galaxy as all things soccer, not just MLS, can help draw in supporters who may be on the fringe and may consider going elsewhere to drop their kids in a program. Third, it is an investment in future business at a time when the Galaxy season is winding down. Instead of waiting til the offseason to go after businesses and garner new interest, the club is taking an aggressive and very proactive stance now to capture excitement and attention as the playoffs come and before discretionary dollars may get spent elsewhere. LA is a large market with lots of distractions. So getting out in front for 2015 is very smart, and no better time to do it than now.

Is there a cost or risk to becoming more hometown as soccer gets more global from a US perspective? Not really. The items in the kit were very subtle in messaging but still include sponsors like Herbalife and American Apparel so the cost was probably minimal, and the upside in engagement is very high. While some may say the Galaxy own the soccer market from an MLS perspective, there is always room to grow, and growing as a brand and evolving into a larger partner with new brands is key regardless of the success on the pitch or not. Nice move by the franchise, spending a little money in an old school way to grow with the times as the season winds down.

As The NFL Reels From Dark Days, Five Who Do It Right…

It has been a tough few weeks for the NFL, with the devastating video in the saga of former Rutgers standout Ray Rice leading the way. We felt it appropriate to take a look at five local current or former players doing it right, something which doesn’t always get top billing but which is noteworthy nonetheless: Here is a looka t some solid brand and community work by those who call the area home.

Steve Weatherford, Giants: In 2013, Weatherford was named Health and Fitness Ambassador of the Boys and Girls Club in New Jersey, serving as a role model, mentor, and fitness and nutrition coach to more than 80,000 kids throughout NJ. He was named “head coach” for Wellness in the Schools, leading the charge and acting as spokesperson for that organization’s recess fitness program for more than 77,000 students throughout the NY metro area. In 2013, Steve was recognized for his outstanding community service by the NY Giants organization with the coveted Wellington Mara Award.

The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation: Created in 1996 in honor of Jay McGillis. Jay was a special young man who developed leukemia while a member of Coach Coughlin’s team at Boston College. In the eight months between Jay’s diagnosis and the day he lost his battle with cancer, the Coughlin family saw first-hand the physical, emotional and financial strains the illness caused the McGillis family. After going through the tragic events with Jay’s family, Coach Coughlin vowed that if he ever had the chance, he would create a way to help families with children battling cancer. Coach Coughlin kept his vow and started a foundation to BE THERE in Jay’s honor. Since then the TC Jay Fund has evolved in size and scope, helping thousands of families in Northeast Florida and the New York/ New Jersey Metropolitan Area who are fighting childhood cancer.

David Nelson, Jets: The wide out for Gang Green has spent countless hours in the offseason raising money and planning visits to help the children of Haiti. After seeing the devastation of the earthquake, Nelson has made it his offseason life to help the children of the Island nation, even renting a home there with his brother Patrick, who lives there full time and takes care of five children. The two are helping to build a school for 250 children, and they are also partnering with former Jets kicker Jay Feely in constructing a $2.1-million sports complex on the Island.

The Marty Lyons Foundation: The popular former Jet now announcer started his foundation in 1982 to fulfill the special wishes of children chronologically aged three (3) and seventeen (17) years old, who have been diagnosed as having a terminal or life threatening illness by providing and arranging special wish requests. The Foundation has 10 Chapters granting wishes in 13 states – Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The Second Wish Program is to grant wishes to children who have received a first wish 24 months prior and have exhausted all medical options and are essentially at end-of-life stage or receiving palliative care. With over 6,500 wishes granted in over 30 years, The Marty Lyons Foundation is dedicated in making more dreams come true.

George Martin and The Journey For 9/11: The NY Giants legend and his work to raise awareness for those in and around Ground Zero is no less poignant today, as his book was released recently as well. From Sept. 16, 2007, to June 21, 2008, retired Super Bowl champion put his life on hold to walk from the George Washington Bridge in NYC to the Pacific Ocean in San Diego. His Journey brought him through 13 states and Washington, DC, 3,003 miles and 5 million steps, to raise money for and awareness of the plight of thousands of seriously ill Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers. In his view, they were underserved by the U.S. government, insurance companies, and healthcare plans… so the NFL legend walked.

Martin, former president of both the NFL Players Association and the NFL Alumni Association, is likely the first pro athlete to conduct a solo charity walk across the U.S. and probably the first African-American to do so. He finished his Journey 41 lbs. lighter — but with millions of dollars raised! The book is filled with magical moments: stunning vistas; moving visits to schools, firehouses, hospitals, memorials and historic sites; babies kissed and elderly hugged; the tears of ailing first responders; the food, culture and music of America. With captivating words and dramatic pictures, readers will experience America from coast-to-coast, through the eyes of this mountain of a man.

Looking Back 9/11/01…

Once in a while we stray from topic…below is a recollection and some thoughts of the fall of 2001, when I was at the USTA and then the Knicks…never forget

Many people have said that the events of Sept. 11, 2001 are to those less than 55 today what Pearl Harbor was to “The Greatest Generation.” Yet for all those similarities, the differences between those two days are as wide as the expanse between lower Manhattan and Honolulu. Terrorism on home soil was a threat, not a reality, and for those in the sports and entertainment world, the days leading up had produced some historic events of their own.

The US Open was just wrapping up a momentous and record setting two weeks in Flushing Meadows. Pete Sampras had outdistanced his longtime rival Andre Agassi in one of the classic nighttime matches on the Arthur Ashe Stadium hardcourts, ousting the fellow legend in the quarterfinals. Then came Saturday night, and the first-ever matchup between the Williams sisters in a Grand Slam Final.

The pre-event buzz parties rivaled any Hollywood gathering. Paul McCartney stopped by, remarking that he had played a small gig in the area once before (referring to the Beatles historic performance at nearby Shea Stadium in 1964), and the festivities were capped when the entire Jackson clan, sans Michael, made a mad dash for the last few minutes of the party before heading in to catch the magical matchup under the lights and in prime time. Venus bested Serena 6-2, 6-4 that night on CBS, and the next day young brash Australian Lleyton Hewitt defeated an aging but still ultra competitive Sampras to win the men’s title. The two weeks of thrilling tennis were complete, with record setting crowds, a star studded audience, perfect weather, and lots of hope on the horizon. The date was September 9, and as the communications staffs of the ATP, WTA and USTA met that night to divvy up the traditional photos with champions the following day, all seemed in order.

One of the traditions following a Grand Slam win in New York was to take the champion to an iconic spot in New York City for their photo with the trophy on the Monday after the final. It would usually start a whirlwind day of media for the champions, with appropriate entourages and media types following the men’s champion to one location and the women’s champion to another. From Central Park to the Empire State Building, it seemed like there were few shots in the city where a champion had not been seen with his or her trophy. Venus was going to be an easy one. A majority of her media was going to be done in and around midtown to best maximize her schedule and the throng of American media following her around, so the day would begin and end at the Chase World Headquarters on Park Avenue. Hewitt, a bit of a daredevil and with a smaller contingent, wanted something different. So the decision was made to take the Aussie to a new location, and bring along a select number of photographers and Australian media to capture the day. That night we left the tennis center thinking we had created the best possible global shot, which would take place at around 8:30 the next morning.

The location was to be Windows on the World.

As we all found out in the coming days, fate interceded on that trip to the top of the World Trade Center the morning of September 10. Hewitt spent a good part of the night celebrating, overslept, and the photo shoot was eventually moved later in the morning to the Brooklyn Bridge, with the City and the World Trade Center in the backdrop. The restaurant staff who were to have helped make the shot possible were called, and probably many who were relishing the chance to get a glimpse of the newly minted champion never got the chance that day. For those on the tennis side, a brush with many whose fate would change forever less than 24 hours later was avoided, unbeknownst to all of us.

The rest of the day went off without a hitch. Hewitt did all his media as did Williams, and the focus in the tennis world turned back to the usual. Travel home for many, and planning for the upcoming Davis Cup match between India and the U.S. in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Much of that travel was slated for the next day in the morning, since the lateness of the hour had kept the international media busy.

We all know what happened early the next day. Many USTA staff were actually in the office in White Plains when the first plane struck. Bruce Levy, one of our staffers and a Queens resident, was cleaning up the offices in Flushing Meadows and went to the roof of the Tennis Center, which had one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline anywhere. He saw one of the first images of the smoldering tower minutes after the first plane hit. When the second plane struck I was in the office of our head of web development Ezra Kucharz. Ezra was an Army vet, and his first reaction was not one of accident. He said one world to me. “Terrorists.” We worried for hours about all the media, athletes and staff who were heading home that morning to parts around the globe. The closest call we later learned involved one reporter from the L.A. Times, who was scheduled to be on one of the planes and switched her flight, thus saving her life. Two secretaries in our group were former AON employees, and frantically tried to call and locate former colleagues who were still working in the now smoldering towers. My most desperate moment came at around 9:15, when I telephoned the home of one of my best friends, my high school classmate and college roommate Joe Curreri, who worked for AON as well. I dialed the number fully expecting to talk to his wife Maria and feared the worst, to thankfully learn that Joe had gone in late that day and was on a bus when the planes struck. Like so many others, a simple twist of fate had spared his life as well.

The rest of the day was spent pretty much like everyone else in the area, glued to TV’s and radios and praying for those who were there. Late in the morning Executive Director Rick Ferman suggested everyone head home, especially those with a distance to travel. Sport would take the first of many days off that week. However before leaving that morning I checked my email (this was still the days before blackberrys, let alone social media). In my inbox was an email from a colleague from the Spanish Tennis Federation who had left New York on Saturday, after the last Spaniard had been eliminated from the field. His message was simple and surprising, and was one I will never forget.

Dear Joe and our friends at the USTA,

We have seen the tragic events of this morning and pray for you all. Please never forget we are with you on this saddest of days, and never think that you are alone. Tell the people of New York, those who have been so helpful to all of us in these past few beautiful weeks of tennis and friendship, that you are all in our thoughts. We all stand with you today and forever and look forward to seeing you soon.

In the years since I have lost the original email, but saved the message on a pad I keep with me in my office. As fate would have it, we were able to return the message of hope not too long after, since so many of the Spanish Federation were affected by the Madrid Train bombings.

The days that followed again showed the true resolve of New Yorkers, with the stories of Ground Zero and the acts of heroism and selflessness growing each day. Like so many, I was lucky, not having lost anyone close. However for 36 straight days at least one name of a family friend, a high school or college classmate, a companion through work, surfaced in the pages of the Daily News, another senseless victim of the tragic day.

Less than a month later, the U.S.T.A rescheduled that Davis Cup tie against India, making the matchup the first international sporting event held on American soil since the attacks. The U.S. won 4-1, with new captain Patrick McEnroe helping guide then-young Americans James Blake and Andy Roddick to a pair of singles wins each, setting the stage for the U.S. to eventually recapture the Cup a few years later. Also that month I left the U.S.T.A. for what became a six year run heading communications for the New York Knicks. On opening night, the Knicks hosted a returning from retirement Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards before a raucous crowd. In the pregame celebration, well above the Garden floor in Suite 200, I happened across actor Matthew Modine. The last time I saw Matthew was at the buzz party prior to the women’s final on September 9. When I reminded him of our last meeting, he turned and looked at me, and the smile left his face. The words he spoke summed up the feelings of so many when he thought back on the events of the past few months. “Boy that night (Sept. 9) we were innocents having a good time,” he said. “Then the whole world changed and life will never be that simple again.”

In the years since I often think back about all that happened that fall, especially about the near misses people encountered. What happened to those we would have met at Windows on the World on September 10? Could someone have switched shifts to be there that morning to see the new U.S. Open champion, and thus avoiding being at work the next morning? How many thousands of lives were altered by a simple twist of fate like the one our reporter friend encountered? Most of those near misses, much like those who we brush by on a crowded street, we will never know. It was just not our time.

Eleven years have now passed, and the Open has again reached e a momentous conclusion. It still remains one of the great sporting and entertainment events the world over, although the economy has made the buzz parties and some of the bells and whistles become a thing of the past. Those days leading up to 9/11 for sport in New York were full of great excitement and promise, from the Yankees heading to the World Series to the resurgent Mets and the soon to be beginning NFL seasons. However the Open of 2001 was king in New York for those two weeks, maybe more so than before or since.

It is those memories which I  toast , while not forgetting the those who suffered so senselessly in the days and years that have followed. It is that mix of grandeur and sadness which reminds us why we do love sport. Sport, you see, has the ability to lift us to new heights of emotion, and provides us a respite from the every day, even the darkest of days. That mix was never more relevant than in the fall of 2001, a time for both good and bad, I will never forget.

- See more at: http://joefavorito.com/2012/09/10/one-more-time-an-open-remembrance-of-911/#sthash.mIuteKN9.dpuf

The Audio Wars Kick Off…

Last year Beats By Dre turned the corner during the NFL Playoffs with a combination of strategic placement and a little bit of luck. Their two big rolls of the dice came with the Seahawks Richard Sherman and the 49ers Colin Kaepernick, both of whom took their games to the next level as the headset of choice skyrocketed through a grassroots campaign that went through the London Olympics a few years before and made sure they touched on every rising star in sports and popular culture. If you were in the limelight, Beats By Dre found their way to you, and that awareness went even more to mainstream when their breakthrough stars really exploded during the playoffs. The next jump came just a few months after the Seahawks Super Bowl, when Apple stepped to the table to buy out the company and bring it into the fold, making the sound systems even more mainstream, albeit still with an urban edge.

This fall as the NFL season kicks off, the gold standard for many years in consumer listening made their own push to get some street cred and establish their top of mind position with consumers. Bose, signed on as an official NFL partner, not only draping every coaches headset with their logo during every game, but going out to sign some marquee names to endorsements as well to combat Beats infiltration into the market. Richard Sherman’s edgy spots now have to battle Russell Wilson wearing noise cancelling devices, and Kapernick’s tune out of fans is balanced by promotions with Clay Matthews of the Packers. Factor in the use of the NFL shield and other official marks, as well as that constant sideline presence, and Bose seems to have found a way to combat the grassroots efforts with a big spend.

Now this is not to say that beats is going away. Johnny Manziel on his own sported beats Headphones this past Sunday, and countless other milennials and the players they follow in Madden and on their fantasy teams are part of the Beats legion of followers, preferring day-glo and unique styles to Bose’s conservative and always effective style.  Critics will line up on both sides for high end audio pluses and minuses, and consumers will to, depending on taste and frankly, the need to buy or not buy large headphones and other products when ear buds and other simpler lower end items exist. However for the audio and listening marketplace, the need for not just quality sound, but cool and hip aspirational wear will never go away. Will either achieve a crossover spot? Will baby Boomers flock to beats or young folks to the high fidelity of Bose? That remains to be seen, but both, in their own calculating fashion, have looked to athletes and specifically football this fall to drive the ship.

Can Bose score in hip and cool? Can “Beats” keep the beat going in the space? Remains to be seen, but it’s clear that a category battle is now fully underway. Who will win? Some say the limited market can support both and even some other sin the space since headphones of that nature are not and everyday purchase. However the issue is more in incremental marketplace exposure, a place where Beats By Dre clearly had been winning a battle for some time. Now it appears Bose is making more noise, riding a constant flow of exposure and the NFL as a partner. Maybe in the end the consumer wins, but for now the battle is getting louder with two mega-players looking to ride a soundwave of success.

Football And Finance…

With the NFL season here, Tanner Simkins spent some time talking the finance side of football with two industry leaders, Brian Friedman Chief Financial Officer, New York Jets and Adam Raiken Vice President Finance, MetLife Stadium.

Full Cout Press: For those looking to get into sport finance – What experiences fundamentally drove your careers?

Brian Friedman: For the most part it is typical finance and accounting experience. I have a broad range of experience mostly in the consumer product area but also in the services industry. I had always had a goal of getting into sports so when the opportunity presented itself I was very interested and it worked out.

Adam Raiken: My background is a little funky. I started college as chemical engineering major; I always wanted to go in business after and figured a technical background would be interesting and helpful. But I hated engineering so I figured why not just study business, so I specialized in accounting. I always loved sports and then landed a job with PWC, and [naturally] I found myself auditing the NBA, NFL, and baseball. When you are working on audits in sports teams the natural progression is to then work for a team. Who knows more about their company than auditors do? You are looking from at their financial statements top down, therefore it is typical for a finance department to call their auditors when looking for new hires. The Yankees called one day, I was recommended for the job – then I was working for the Yankees. Now, six years later, I am here at MetLife.

FCP: What has been the biggest challenge thus far as in your role? How have you overcome it?

BF: The biggest challenge for me was learning a new industry. I feel like I am still learning every day. Ultimately though all businesses operate in a similar manner. You generate revenue, you collect cash and you pay people and your bills. At the end of the day the first part better be larger than the last. As long as you stay focused on that, it is easy to overcome the challenges of a new industry.

AR: I think my biggest challenge here is working with two different organizations run this one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, in fact I welcome the challenge. But the two teams have occasionally had different philosophies on things and bringing them together to one entity, to one stadium, is tough. The only way to overcome something like that is constant communication between both teams and all those involved.

FCP: Favorite part of your job?

BF: Easy. It is Sundays, specifically, Sundays when we play at home. I really enjoy being a part of something that tens of thousands of people feel so passionate about.

AR: I got a lot of favorite parts. I love my job, I really do. I love the interactions with people, everyone from those with us full-time, to game-day staff, and to part time employees. I love the game day and seeing what the fan is interested in. If I had to pick one favorite part, it would be the fan experience. There’s so much going on at a stadium like ours. I love that.

 FCP: Financially, how hard is it operating in a two-team stadium?

BF: It sometimes requires a bit more discussion but overall the benefits far outweigh any additional complexities.

AR: Honestly, it is no different than running a one-team stadium except there’s more people with more input. As long as you are doing everything you can for your fans and for the building, I would argue it’s not much different than running a single team stadium. Look at it this way, we still have to take the garbage out, we still have to turn the lights on, we still have to repair the building, etc. The difference comes down to capital budgeting projects where the Jets feel one way and the Giants may feel another

FCP: For many reasons there has been a lot of talks on either side…will the Super Bowl at MetLife be a success?

BF: Yes, it will be great.

AR: Were not going to let it fail. As the first open air cold weather stadium. If we have so many eyes on us and willing to help us because our success will open the doors for many other cities to have a subsequent Super Bowl. It’s going to work. What’s the worst that going to happen, it will snows and then we will move it next year?

FCP: What are some industry trends or developments that you are closely following?

BF: The sports landscape is changing. A continual improvement to the home experience continues to challenge all of us to produce more creative fan experiences beyond the game. Fans expect more than just admission to a game they expect to be entertained and have a great game to watch. I am also following the growth and expansion of the secondary market. Teams are no longer the only ones selling access; there is significant competition to sell that access.

AR: Buying and selling stock in athletes. It’s a neat trend, both good and bad; it has the potential to seriously change a lot of things.

FCP: What’s your favorite book, sports related or otherwise?

BF: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

AR: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

FCP: Any tips for aspiring sports professionals who may be reading this?

BF: Make sure you enjoy the job not just that it is in sports. It is important to enjoy what you are doing not just enjoy working for a sports entity.

AR: A lot of people think working hard is the most important thing and you do have to work hard. But in my opinion, it’s more important to work smart. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Not knowing doesn’t make you look bad.

Brian Friedman is the Chief Financial Officer of the New York Jets. He is responsible for all strategic and financial planning for the Jets, daily accounting operations for the team, and all internal and external reporting to the NFL and various other agencies.

Adam Raiken is Vice President Finance, MetLife Stadium.  Amidst many responsibilities, Raiken supervises financial operations for stadium and serves as an integral member of the senior management team

 

Twitter Me This, NFL

While only one aspect of the full digital picture, Twitter continues to be one of the best tools to look at engagement. So as the NFL season starts, Old Forge Media, took a look at their formula on how NFL teams stack up in the twitter verse. Their Old Forge Quality & Competence Rating (OFQCR) System  Management looked at issues like second-degree follower circles, follower-quality, follower-churn, tweet performance and many other other variables which are integral to observing Twitter performance.

Their belief is that because they  are not looking at the right metrics, most companies, athletes, celebrities and teams are only beginning to scratch the surface of their potential on Twitter. Here’s a look at NFL top to bottom on their Twitter-only engagement. You can find out more @OldForgeMedia 

#1 – @49ers QCScore = 23.1

#2 – @steelers QCScore = 21.7

#3 – @Patriots QCScore = 20.9

#4 – @Broncos QCScore = 19.9

#5 – @Seahawks QCScore = 17.9

#6 – @HoustonTexans QCScore = 15.6

#7 – @Browns QCScore = 15.3

#8 – @Giants QCScore = 12.9

#9 – @Colts QCScore = 12.8

#10 – @packers QCScore = 11.8

#11 – @Saints QCScore = 11.1

#12 – @RAIDERS QCScore = 10.8

#13 – @Vikings QCScore = 10.5

#14 – @AZCardinals QCScore = 10.5

#15 – @ChicagoBears QCScore = 10.2

#16 – @Ravens QCScore = 9.8

#17 – @Redskins QCScore = 9.6

#18 – @Jaguars QCScore = 9.4

#19 – @PanthersQCScore = 9.2

#20 – @MiamiDolphins QCScore = 8.9

#21 – @Eagles QCScore = 8.6

#22 – @Atlanta_Falcons QCScore = 8.6

#23 – @Chargers QCScore = 8.2

#24 – @KCChiefs QCScore = 7.4

#25 – @dallascowboys QCScore = 7.2

#26 – @Bengals QCScore = 6.8

#27 – @Lions QCScore = 6.7

#28 – @buffalobills QCScore = 6.7

#29 – @TennesseeTitans QCScore = 6.5

#30 – @TBBuccaneers QCScore = 6.0

#31 – @STLouisRams QCScore = 5.1

#32 – @nyjets QCScore = 3.4

@NFL has a QCScore of 33.7

To date the highest QCScore calculated is 80.1