Minor League Baseball | Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

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.

Keeping It Simple: Why “The Ice Bucket Challenge” Works..

It’s cheap, it’s simple, and it’s simple to understand. Those are some of the most forgotten goals for brand and marketing and PR campaigns in a world where we are all about multi-layer, multi-level complex engagement. That’s really why the Ice Bucket Challenge has worked, and helped really advance the cause and the funding for  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a motor neuron disease that causes nerve cells to break down and die. There is no treatment or cure for what many know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and it robs thousands every year of basic life skills, and then of life itself (including our old friend Dick Kelley, the longtime Boston College Sports Information Director who passed away earlier this year after a long and gallant fight with ALS).

In a recent piece in Inc. Magazine, Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour provided some simple tips for success. Some are probably to general and simplistic to really always be effective, bit one aligns itself well with the Ice Bucket Challenge success story. Do one thing and do it well.

The Challenge is a great example of a simple idea, forged out of chance, that has gone bigger than ever hoped. While millions have seen the Gatorade baths that coaches have gotten for years on winning sidelines, few had ever thought to take the concept and pass it along through a grassroots effort that made everyone who was involved a little colder, but winners regardless. And while the challenge has existed for several years with other charities, it was through golf of all places that this challenge was launched and got its legs for ALS.

According to several reports, on July 15, golfer Chris Kennedy did the ice-bucket challenge and challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia of Pelham, N.Y., whose husband, Anthony, has had ALS for 11 years. A day later she did the challenge while her 6-year-old daughter filmed her in front of their house. From there through a Facebook connection 29-year-old former Boston College baseball player Paul Frates connected to the challenge, and his friends and supporters ramped it up. It has expanded well beyond sport, but with sport as the rallying point, hundreds of athletes have taken or passed it along on all levels, and once the Kennedy Family did the challenge, Henrik Lundqvist challenged John McEnroe who challenged Novak Djokovic, and it got to LeBron James who challenged President Obama, the race was on.

The beauty is in its simplicity. There is no “portions of” donation made, all monies goes to ALS from the consumer. There is no having to buy or wear a color to support. There is no third party vendor. There is no real obligation or pressure to be involved; it takes seconds to do and it is an experience that is communal and knows no boundaries other than your own circle of friends. If you don’t want to do the challenge, or haven’t even been challenged, just make a donation to be part of the group. And by the way, donate to wherever you like, it is not limited just to ALS research. You do it, you get it, you move on in seconds.

Most importantly the millions raised, compounded by the awareness, will someday save a life, and will today give hope to millions where there may only be despair. That is the real success story; not in a “me too” viral video, but in the long-term battle for a dreaded and deadly disease.

Now can this simple program spiral to the point where it becomes white noise? Sure. Will someone go to far and create an issue for someone who does not want to do the challenge? maybe. Will there be some scammer collecting money by throwing water on people? Hopefully not. Will there be copycats trying to promise millions of dollars and vies? For sure, and hopefully at least one is successful. However before that happens maybe a corporation can join the individuals…hello Gatorade or a similar action drink? To make a massive donation or do a massive one-time 100 pct. funded maybe even without logos, to put the drive over the top before the weather gets too cool.

In the meantime, the Ice Bucket Challenge lives on by keeping it simple and by doing one thing well; a clear message in a time of complexity is a winner both in and out of sports.

Bleacher Report had a good summary of all the challenges connected to pro sports as well.

The Dr. James Andrews Brand…

Here is the latest q and a conducted by Tanner Simkins; this one with Dr. James R. Andrews the world’s leading physician and orthopaedic surgeon for sport-related injuries. He talks about building his business and brand in sports medicine…

Many regard Dr. James R. Andrews as world’s leading physician and orthopaedic surgeon for sport-related injuries. His treatment and evaluation of superstar athletes has positioned Andrews as the foremost sports medicine authority in the eyes of leagues and teams everywhere. We sat down with Dr. James Andrews for discussion on his experiences, injury prevention and treatment, modern medicinal advancements, and more. [A detailed biography of Dr. James Andrews is provided following the Q&A]

Full Court Press: You are widely described as the father of sports medicine – Early on, did you ever dream this would be you?

Dr. James Andrews: To be modest and with some humility that is an overstatement. The fathers of sports medicine we started with Herodicus back in the 5th century. For me to claim [that title] would be of boisterous. There have been a lot of people that were instrumental in developing sports medicine in the 50s 60s and 70s before the field really became known. These guys like Donald Donahue, for example, who took care of University of Oklahoma athletic teams; he was proclaimed a father of sports medicine. I trained with Jack Hughston who was also named a father of sports medicine. If people feel they have to say something like that about me: I would feel more comfortable being labeled as one of the fathers of modern sports medicine as we know it today. But, no I never dreamed about it. If you try to plan your life around establishing your reputation you are probably not going to be successful. In medicine you have to take care of patients on a day to day routine and at all levels. If you work hard enough you will be naturally rewarded with a good reputation. It’s not something you can think about as your goal or plan. Obviously we all have goals to be the best that we can be but I never dreamed or planned it – I just let it happen.

 FCP: What fundamental experiences drove your career to this point?

JA: This is a pretty simple answer. The keys to success, in general, and in sports medicine are availability and communication. If you can make yourself readily available to take care of patients, to do interviews like I’m doing today, if you can communicate on a down-to-earth level with patients then that’s really the two things that drive success.

FCP: You advise both college and professional sports teams. How did you develop this consultant side of your business?

JA: I started off taking care of high school athletes at all levels. I also worked at small colleges who didn’t have doctors to help take care of them. Places like Division II Division III, and other small colleges in rural Alabama that really had no medical care. I made myself available to them. As things grew, the kids I took care in high school like Bo Jackson, for example, all of the sudden were playing college ball where I continued to take care of them. The ones that were elite were playing pro sports like baseball, football, basketball or whatever and they came back to me because they knew me and valued my work. Particularly as you get in the pro ranks, players and teams that I work with pass their positive opinions of my work on to the next potential patient. It is sort of an athlete referral basis that started way back when I worked in high schools. We sort of grew up together. Key signature clients came to me when they saw my quality of work, and it grew from there.

FCP: All of this, plus you operate the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. What is the favorite part of your job?

JA: It is seeing athletes that you operated, treated or had some influence on continue with their playing careers and to be successful at them. For example, last night while watching SNF it was very pleasing to see players I previously operated on playing at a high level. Another example, this past week the Redskins were playing the Chargers, I had multiple players in the game and from both teams that I operated on. Seeing them all play at a high level was great, this was a real joy to see them compete and successful on and off the field.

 FCP: In your recent book, Any Given Monday, you lay out advice to for injury prevention in young athletes. What motivated your interest in this area?

JA: Around the year 2000 all of the sudden I noticed my exam rooms were filled up with young athletes in junior high or high school with adult type injuries. I began to wonder, Why is this young kid who hasn’t even reached half of his athletic potential in here with a rotator cuff tear, Tommy John elbow injury, or an ACL tear, for example? With the American sports medicine institute in Alabama we started tracking the injuries trying to figure out why the escalation of injuries was taking place. We learned that from the year 2000 on there was a nearly 7-time increase in youth sports injuries. These shocking findings are what first really got me into it. To be candid with you, we as sports medicine physicians and as orthopedics too, for the past 40-50 years time have largely focused on surgical techniques and advancements. There has not been much done or researched conducted on the injury prevention side. In the latter years of my career, it is a perfect time to lead the charge in this area of prevention and research of injuries particularly in youth sports. I simply had to do something about it. Since then, The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine [AOSSM] and the Andrews Research & Education Institute have been devoted to this field of research and that’s where the idea for the book came from. The point is to raise awareness on the escalation of youth injuries to athletes, coaches, parents, grandparents, and all those involved.

FCP: With new research, there’s a movement away from youth football and other impact sports. Is there any particular sport youth athletes should avoid? On the flip side is there a sport that stands out for healthy athletic progress?

JA: The first thing that has to be done is to make the parents aware of the potential injuries involved. We’re not trying to keep kids out of sports. Sports are a very important physical and social aspect of any child’s life. We are trying to promote ports in a healthy manner. Football, still leads the way relative to injuries in sports. I certainly don’t want to see football outlawed – we need better coaching, equipment, preseason physical exams, and we need to monitor fatigue. Fatigue is the biggest factor in injuries in any sport. Rules related to safety are also a priority. Coaching and referees at all levels are vital. Same with having a certified athletic trainer; these efforts are the difference between minor problems and major problems. We need them to identify head-to-head contact and prevent it. We can make football a safer sport. There is no sport that is perfectly safe. But, the benefits of sport far outweigh the negatives. I sure would hate to see the public get behind the demise of American football, I think that would be disastrous – we can still keep football out there.

FCP: What is your take on platelet-rich-plasma therapy, stem cells, biologics, and other alternative treatments? What is the distinction between these therapies and PED’s?

JA: The difference is that PED’s have a deleterious effect that goes along with their benefit. PED’s will always be banned or illegal for these negative effects. Contrarily, the biologics are there to enhance the healing process. These techniques can biologically treat existing injuries faster and better than ever before. Other than the a handful of elite professionals, the recovery time is very substantial for these major FCPues. So any increase in recovery is very significant. Overall, the two major advancements in sports medicine in my time was the noninvasive arthroscope [introduced in the 70s] and now this coming wave of biologics, stem cell therapy, gene therapy, tFCPue engineering, and the like. Robotic surgery is also coming. All of this isn’t here yet but it will be in the near future. We will never be able to use performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals because of their deleterious effects. These new therapies aren’t designed to provide an enhancement of performance at all. That’s not what it’s designed to be and they won’t be in that category.

FCP: Are there any other developments in sports medicine or sports training that you are closely following?

JA: Everyone talks about advancements in surgical techniques but the most unappreciated advancements come in the rehabilitation process with physical therapists. There have been many developments in pre-habilitation, which is done to prepare for any surgical treatment. Many times this is more important than the surgery and often is the real reason why athletes can get back to their sport, period. Things like rapid rehab and pre-rehab are great examples. This area of sports medicine does not get enough credit or attention.

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

JA: I do not usually read novels, but my favorite book is The Bible. I love the history related to the teaching of the bible. A personal hobby of mine is learning about history, you can learn a lot of history from reading The Bible.

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

JA: FOCUS. I think there are a lot of keys to success, but for someone young they need to set their goals early and high, apply themselves and work hard. To me, its good to have a general background but you need to set your mind early on what to do. Many have the aptitude to succeed but mFCP the opportunity because of a lack of focus. A straight course to your goals is best.

 Dr. James Andrews is internationally known and recognized for his scientific and clinical research contributions in knee, shoulder and elbow injuries, as well as his skill as an orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. Andrews is a founding partner and medical director for the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida. In addition, he is a founding member of the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI).Dr. Andrews has been the mentor for more than 250 orthopaedic/sports medicine fellows and more than 45 primary care sports medicine fellows. Involved in education and research in sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery, he has made major presentations on every continent, and has authored numerous scientific articles and books. Dr. Andrews graduated from Louisiana State University in 1963, where he was Southeastern Conference indoor and outdoor pole vault champion. He completed LSU School of Medicine in 1967, and completed his orthopaedic residency at Tulane Medical School in 1972. He had surgical fellowships in sports medicine at the University of Virginia Medical School in 1972 with Dr. Frank McCue, III, and at the University of Lyon, Lyon, France in 1972 with the late professor Albert Trillat, M.D., who was known as the Father of European Knee Surgery. Dr. Andrews is a member of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine, and served as Secretary of that Board from May 2004 to May 2005. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Arthroscopy Association of North America and the International Knee Society. He is Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical School, the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the University of Kentucky Medical Center, and the University of South Carolina Medical School. He has been awarded a Doctor of Laws Degree from Livingston University, Doctor of Science Degree from Troy State University and a Doctor of Science Degree from Louisiana State University.

At present, Dr. Andrews serves as Co–Medical Director for Intercollegiate Sports at Auburn University. He is Senior Orthopaedic Consultant for Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Alabama. He is the orthopaedic consultant for the athletic teams of Troy University, University of West Alabama, Tuskegee University and Grambling University.

 

 

“Hyper-Local” Gets Another Digital Shot…

It certainly wasn’t the greatest week for Gannett, with their news of the virtual shuttering of their long form national sports platform “Sports on Earth” and the spinning off of their newspapers. However for the local sports fan, a new offering on the digital Gannett platforms could provide a nice option for additional coverage of college, high school and special event sports throughout the state, an area which news 12 and Verizon Fios have covered to various levels of success on broadcast TV, bit one which has seen a loss of hyper local coverage with the loss of an entity like MSG Varsity.

The new offering is called “Jersey Sports Rant,” and it will be hosted by longtime area voice Joey Wahler, who consumers in New York may recognize from places like MSG Network and News 12, and have heard on WFAN and WCBS radio for years.  The digital offering  debuts Monday. Aug. 18, streaming live video Monday through Thursday from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. Wahler will host the show from the new Asbury Park Press newsroom in Neptune, bringing in personalities with Jersey ties via digital connection, and in some cases in person. The audience will be asked to interact with the show through social media platforms and by a live chat box on the screen. Consumers can access the show live or through a daily archive on Gannett’s five New Jersey newspaper websites: app.com (Asbury Park Press), mycentraljersey.com (Home News Tribune/Courier News), courierpostonline.com, dailyrecord.com and dailyjournal.com, giving some great added value to those news site’s subscribers, and helping to give the Gannett papers statewide a more unified presence in the local sports conversation.

The goal of “Jersey Sports Rant” is to provide a state-specific platform to discuss the sports news of the day; from Rutgers and the Big 10 to minor league baseball to the casino industry to high school sports, with a mix of coverage and discussion about the professional game as well. In addition to being a nice addition to the news sites, it can provide much-desired video that can drive traffic, and in theory, brands and dollars back to fund the project. This works in many smaller markets, can it work in a large market like New Jersey?

While not venturing outside the studio at first, the show will look to spread its wings with event content and news of the day as well; making it much more than a stagnant “talking head” with calls just coming in. Video and guests can drive conversation and engagement, something which sometimes gets lost in New Jersey sports as the talk is controlled by the professional sports across the rivers in Philadelphia and New York.

Will “Sports Rant” find an audience to make it viable and desirable to advertisers? That will take time to build, but studies do show that the consumer today loves hyper-local engagement and unique content. In this crowded environment it may be a challenge, but it is one that Gannett looks like it is willing to take on as it tries to find new ways to engage its subscribers and grow its base.

Let the story pitching begin.

Yankees, Prudential Create A Great Senior Moment

We have talked from time to time about the lack of activation in sport for one of the most vibrant and engaged audiences out there; seniors and baby boomers. It is a segment of the population that has vast consumer experience, knows how to activate in groups, has defined spending habits and in many cases a large amount of disposable time and purchases more high ticket items, like cars, more than any other segment of the population. They influence spending habits, young people, voting patterns and public policy. Yet for all the time sports looks to engage the young and the first adopter, the larger group (albeit sometimes with less disposable income) still goes largely ignored.

However in the last few weeks one innovative brand in a major market has created an opportunity to engage that audience directly, in the sport which has one of the oldest demographic group in professional sport in North America. WFAN-AM (660), the Yankees Radio Network and their brand partner Prudential are offering an opportunity to bring an older audience a chance to create  ”chapter two” in their careers with  their “Play by Play Challenge” contest.

One lucky winner will call a recorded inning at the WFAN studios with Yankees broadcaster John Sterling. The winner will also receive a tour of the Yankee Radio Network broadcast booth, a meet and greet with Sterling and co-announcer Suzyn Waldman and a tour of CBS New York Studios.

The contest makes great sense for Prudential, a financial services firm which understands the spending power of seniors, and also understands the time and interests of the demo. While finding a new “young” voice has been done tine and again, rarely has a franchise gone looking for a distinctive older voice; one which  may not be a staple in broadcasting for decades to come, but one which may be distinctive fun and appreciative of the effort. Sometimes we forget the legacy of seniors and the stories they can tell, especially with the memory of a lifetime of sports experience. While there is no doubt that young people would cherish the opportunity to jump in with the voice of the Yankees, there could be even more appeal, and a better ROI for the investing brand, by looking to older.

Smart move by the Yankees and their media partner, and for their brand for finding a unique way to cut through the clutter.

Owning The 4th…

As one goes through the sports calendar it is always interesting to note what the opportunities are that can still be “owned” or created by brands or teams. While the biggest days to still grab are those around the MLB All-Star Game next week, it is noteworthy that no one really has grabbed the opportunity to activate around July 4. Maybe because the day is such one of leisure and activity may be spread too thin, but the day is still one of the quietest news days of the year. at a time when activity is very high. From Indy Car at Pocono to NASCAR to the Wimbledon Finals to baseball, there are key goings-on in sport, and this year the spirit of World Cup abounds as well. Then of course there is Competitive Eating, the one “sport” that seems to captivate the day with its own “World Series,” the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Is there an opportunity for July 4 to become a Youth or Casual Sports Day, or maybe even a day when “Sandlot Sports” or pickup games abound.  Maybe it is a call for activity along the lines of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign…a day where people should be active and promote their independent activities. Maybe it is the day where a summer-long initiative is launched. There are no shortage of local and national events to activate around on the Nation’s Birthday. It is a feel good day where a feel good brand or activity could rise up and take some of that slow news away. Competitive eating does a good job of grabbing the spotlight, so maybe a healthier activity could too. It’s all about the opportunity.

Have a great 4th!

Majoring In The Minors: Rose Promo Hits A Homer

It was a well-placed, well timed stunt that only an Independent League franchise could pull off. There was Pete Rose back in baseball for a day at least. The Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish “hired” Rose last week to be their manager for a day, ceding power for a few innings from former MLB’ers Willie Upshaw and Butch Hobson, to draw some attention, talk baseball and tout some of his partnerships.

The result? The Bluefish doubled their regular attendance and drew national publicity, even if Rose kept his dress pants on as he patrolled the first base coaching box for a few innings.  He signed and posed for a fee, and gave the Indy franchise relevance outside of Fairfield County, Connecticut for a night. Now the “guest manager” idea isn’t that new on the Indy level. What is new is an Indy team taking a chance to have Rose come in and don the uniform with his ban from baseball still intact (Indy teams do operate outside of the MLB/MiLB system, but not wanting to ruffle the feathers of the commissioner’s office is still on the minds or owners on a host of touchy issues). In fat one of the great draws for Indy teams, outside of the inexpensive night of family fun and a level of play that is usually a bit higher than lower level affiliated clubs, are the former MLB’ers that usually patrol the sidelines, looking for an opportunity to break in as a manager or coach. Rose, if he was in good stead with MLB, might even be a prime attraction on a regular basis for an entrepreneurial Indy team.

Now the decision to have Rose come in in such a “formal” role was probably not made in a vacuum.  GM Ken Shepard weighed the pluses and minuses, rolled the dice and hit a homer for the organization, giving great added value to sponsors watching their discretionary spend and ROI and helping push fans to turn out on a Monday night when school is still in its final session to see a baseball legend on the field, one who rarely makes it to a ballpark these days.

For Rose, the night served as a great pulpit for him to talk about baseball, Bud Selig and his other promotions, including a new campaign for a sports website called Sportsbeep . It was a chance to again test the waters, with a large media contingent and see if the Hall of Fame pool might be open again.

Will it lead to other guest manager appearance for “Charlie Hustle?” Not sure if he will fit it in, but for a trial balloon for the Bluefish to bring in some fans who maybe will come back on another night, for sponsors to get an added bump, and for brand exposure in a crowded marketplace, the Rose Manager For The Day hit a homer.

Father’s Day Promo: The Simpler Are Sometimes The Best

A couple of years ago on a  Sunday morning  I was going to get bagels I heard New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on “Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball” show on WFAN in New York talking about how the simplest of actions with his father, playing catch after work, were some of his brightest memories. Often times in big time sports and promotions it is the simple ideas that get lost as not glitzy or glammery enough, but with the right platform, can be the most effecting. Dolan’s thoughts thatmorning spurred one of those ideas.

 Several years ago I was approached by a colleague, Lance Laifer, to see if there was a way to create awareness for an anti-Malaria campaign he had organized, and do it through sport. The idea was simple, take a nerf basketball hoop and pass it around with a ball through Madison Square Garden, letting each person in the arena dunk the ball, and with each dunk a dollar would be donated to charity. At some point it was going to become a logistical nightmare, setting the world’s largest dunk record, but the event worked. It got exposure for the charity, and as the ball and hoop were passed around the lower seats, several NBA officials and even some players took notice. One was Dikembe Mutombo, who used the idea and the platform to continue to grow his own initiative to eradicate malaria in his native Congo by purchasing bedding nets. The link between the basketball net and the mosquito net was simple, and eventually led Laifer’s group to an association with the NBA, national exposure and fundraising, and a leadership position which has helped eradicate the problem of mosquito-born malaria in Congo and other parts of Africa. All from a simple, cost efficient plan to dunk a nerf basketball. But timing, part passion, part simplicity helped a small idea contribute in a big way.

Laifer has gone on to now solving pneumonia issues for kids in a big way, and is also helping scores of big name folks negotiate twitter through his company, all through looking at big issues and creating simple solutions one step at a time.

So now back to playing catch. Every year the Northern League St. Paul Saints hold the “World’s Largest Game of Catch” to kick off their promotional season. A simple act connects fans of all ages in a communal and promotable activity that links young and old, boy and girl, dad and son, mom and daughter. Timeless, simple, easy. So with all the charities, initiatives and campaigns out there, why hasn’t anyone latched on to a “Simple Game of Catch” as an easy promotion at the Major League level? Lots of teams do runs around the bases, sleepovers and giveaways, but a linked, simple game of catch can be an amazing communal experience either as a fund raiser or as a stand-alone promotion. problems with liability if Johnny gets hit in the head? Use a soft ball. Problems in moving it along? Like Laifer’s idea make it a nerf promotion that goes around the stands and finishes on the field. If the simple act of dunking a nerf hoop literally helped to change lives, then a simple game of catch could as well. Just an idea.

 And with that…Happy Father’s Day To All…

Yankees’ Hope Week Reaches A Milestone, And Keeps Growing…

This coming week will mark a five year milestone for the New York Yankees and their tent pole in-season awareness program, Hope Week. While all teams have a responsibility to give back to their fans year-round and the Yankees themselves have expansive foundations run by Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Joe Girardi and many others, the New York Yankees have created quite the niche with Hope Week, and have found ways to expand it every year.  What sets Hope Week apart for the Yankees is the expansive connections each and every member of the organization makes with so many different organizations during the busiest part of the season. The plan, which ranges from visits to having various groups and organizations come to Yankee Stadium, takes every part of the organization and exposes the brand to a wide variety of stories that will have a cumulative ripple effect way beyond the initial meetings. It is Community Relations and outreach to the max, and as a result garnered exposure not just locally but nationally, with a full-length feature on the Today Show on Friday.

Does this mean the Yankees cram all their good will into one week? No. What Hope Week does is serve as a great example of what the value of sport and celebrity can do for so many charities and causes, and draws attention to all in one concerted effort. There is lots of follow-up, and lots of special events, the team and the players do prior and will continue to do after. However by focusing so many efforts in one week, it serves as a great reminder to all what the team can stand for in the community. Each year the event has grown, getting national attention even by The White House now,  and year five is serving as a great look back as well as a look into new ways to engage and build serving as a “Must Do” not just for baseball teams but for every elite team that wins a world title. Brazil should do a hope week for soccer in World Cup…the Clippers in LA. It should also not end with the pro teams. The most elite of college programs should do the same, and the USOC could handle as well. No the Yanks are not alone in bringing hope. What they have done first is really use the wide-ranging week, in midseason, to expand the brand and once again convey their leadership, this time off the field. Well done.

Sixers To Camden, Sorta, It Almost Happened Before…

This almost sorta happened once before, in 1993. The Philadelphia 76ers and their owner Harold Katz were embroiled in a dispute with their arena partners, the Philadelphia Flyers and their owner Ed Snider. The battle was over the new home of the teams, as the CoreStates Spectrum was quickly running out of its once very useful life. A state of the art facility was needed, the question was, would it be one or two? For years, the Sixers had played second fiddle to the Flyers in their shared home, with the offices staying in the bowels of Veterans Stadium. Priority dates, media and fan events always went to the Flyers. Now the Sixers wanted equal time.

When deadlines came and past, Katz had had enough. His brand, he felt, was damaged as being second fiddle, so the two teams would go their own ways.  A partnership was formed to bring the Sixers probably about six miles, across the Delaware River into their own facility right by the new amphitheater and close to a to be built minor league ballpark as part of a massive revitalization of the Camden waterfront. Governor Jim Florio, up for re-election, was a big backer of the plan, and off the owner would go, breaking ties with the Flyers and the city for a new state-of-the-art basketball specific facility just north of the Walt Whitman Bridge. The logic was that thousands of sports fans commuted from new Jersey every day, an those who were on the Pennsylvania side knew their way past Camden to get to the Jersey Shore, so the Sixers would not be leaving, and in many ways they would be a little closer to an affluent New Jersey fan base. The owner would have what he wanted and what he felt was needed for a brand; a home they could control of their very own.

It never happened.

Katz picked the wrong face in Trenton to support, as Christie Todd Whitman bounced Florio, denounced the plan as a tax payer burden, the team when back to the negotiating table and hatched a better deal than they had with the Flyers, and shortly after that Katz surprisingly sold the team to a group that included Comcast and Snider and the current massive South Philly sports complex that now exists had the anchor tenants it has today, albeit with the Sixers now back under different ownership and headed on the business side by Scott O’Neil. The minor league stadium, Campbell’s Field, was built and has housed the Atlantic League Riversharks for over a decade with some level of success and the New Jersey Aquarium was added as well, but the NBA in downtrodden Camden? No way.

So this week the Sixers to Camden talk perked up again, albeit on a different level. With the team having their D-league team in Delaware, a spot to anchor and build from in South Jersey could be a good fit.  It would not be a new arena, but a practice facility which would be a potential great new draw for recruiting players as well as doing entertaining for legions of fans on non-game days in New Jersey

After years practicing at St. Joe’s Fieldhouse, the team began to practice in rented space at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in West Philadelphia in 1999. The possible move comes after plans to construct a training center at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, fell through in April, and left the team looking for alternative sites that made sense.

From a brand standpoint, the move could be a good one; a controlled multi-use facility that expands the marketing reach of the team just a bit farther into New Jersey, a state without an NBA franchise since the Nets bolted across two other rivers to Brooklyn. It helps also forge some additional cross-promotional ties potentially between the Sixers and the Devils, New Jersey’s NHL franchise (although the Flyers do train in New Jersey as well, in Voorhees), which is also owned by Josh Harris and overseen by O’Neil. The days of having a gym with a few weights to placate your athletes are long gone. Training facilities are now multi-use, multi-media hubs and home away from homes with little expense spared to keep athletes happy, trained and treated well.

Is all this just posturing and more importantly who fits the bill for the new facility, which would join Campbell’s Field between the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges? It would seem to be very much a privately-funded project with a break on land that is unused and some great tax breaks, but it would probably not be a mega-moneymaker for the cash strapped and crime ridden city. It would be an emotional boost, and hopefully help seed some small jobs for residents and get young people involved more in basketball and education-related programs in the city, which could have a nice long-tail effect for some of the kids and the families in the community.

In the end it is always hard to figure out the real economic effect new stadia, let alone practice facilities, can have on a community. However by engaging Camden, the Sixers are showing smart marketing and good community responsibility as they work hard to re-build and re-brand a franchise that has been on the downswing and is now looking to fight its way back up, just like that city across the river.