Brewing Up Some New Innovation On The Promo Front…

While many times media-types look to larger market teams as innovation leaders, especially in the digital and social space, the reality is that those in smaller markets are sometimes best at innovation. One of those leaders of the pack for Major League Baseball is the Milwaukee Brewers. No matter what happens on the field, the Brew Crew always seems to be finding new ways to engage their  fans year-round, and many of those innovations become best practices for other teams throughout professional sport.
One of those key people with a finger on the pulse of the Brewers digital brand is Director of New Media Caitlin Moyer. Moyer started working for the Brewers as an intern in the Corporate Marketing department in 2003 and has risen through the ranks, now helping lead the outreach in digital and social media and digital advertising. We caught up with Caitlin to hear more about how the Brewers do what they do, and what’s coming up next this winter.
The Brewers have really found ways to engage with fans in the offseason and make it fun; hiding gnomes and doing other unique engagement platforms. How have those non traditional ideas been received?

Non-traditional ideas tend to be received very well by our fans, whether in the offseason or during the season.

Some of our ideas, such as the lawn gnome scavenger hunts and our balloon event, have taken place before sunrise and there’s always a great crowd on hand taking part.

While there is something to be said about valuing tradition in the Midwest, Brewers fans are also always up for something new and exciting. They are the most passionate and loyal fans in all of baseball.
Anything new coming up this winter?
We just finished revealing our “#20in15” 20 All-Fan Giveaways slated for our 2015 promotional schedule. Over the course of a week on our social media platforms, we invited fans to play along and try to “Guess the Giveaway” as we released clues for each of our 20 items. Fans had the opportunity to win tickets to these games as well.

Included in that reveal were two more opportunities for us to engage fans this offseason—1) This year, we’ll have 7 T-Shirt Friday dates where all fans in attendance will receive a free t-shirt, and this year, fans will have the chance to vote on the designs; and 2) We will have one Fan Vote Item, where fans will have a say in the final All-Fan Giveaway item of 2015.

Fan Votes are great ways to listen to feedback and give fans exactly what they want, rather than us simply guessing what they want.
Who are some of the teams or outlets you look to to see what’s new and interesting in the digital space?
In my mind, the San Francisco Giants are the gold standard in the MLB. Aside from the fact that their digital efforts are headed up by the genius that is Bryan Srabian, they are in the fortunate position of being located right in the heart of the tech industry.

Other than that, I consider it an important part of my role to keep up on industry news and trends. I subscribe to many newsletters and check in with certain websites daily to stay updated on the latest trends. Some of my favorites include Mashable, Hashtag Sports, Ad Age and Fast Company. Good ideas can come from anywhere.

Sometimes people question the ROI for digital campaigns what have been some of the best examples you have seen where an idea turned into great business for the club?
Our Countdown to Opening Day campaign has been successful for the last two seasons. There is something special about Opening Day – especially in Milwaukee. Here in Milwaukee, Opening Day is treated like a holiday. Every year, without fail, 45,000+ fans take the day off work and pile into Miller Park to celebrate the return of Brewers Baseball. It is undoubtedly our most popular game of the season. Because of this, for the last number of years we have offered free Opening Day tickets as a major incentive to purchase a 10-Pack.
We attempted to accomplish two very distinct goals with our Countdown to Opening Day social campaign. First, we wanted to build excitement for the upcoming season. It is hard to imagine baseball season in the dead of winter when there is a foot of snow on the ground, so we wanted to find a way to stay relevant to our fans in the offseason and get them excited for the upcoming season. Secondly, we wanted to use this as a platform to promote our 10-Packs message and use the free Opening Day hook to drive 10-Pack sales.
In 2013, we had a very successful Countdown to Opening Day social campaign in which, beginning on January 1, we posted a different photo every day representing the number of days remaining until Opening Day. The campaign was so popular we decided to bring back the Countdown again in 2014, but this time, all of the images were fan-submitted.

For 89 days, fans were encouraged to submit their photos showing how they were counting down to Opening Day. At the end of each day, our team would review all of the submissions and decide which photo would be posted across Brewers social media channels the next morning. Of course, we tried to tie in some sort of clever caption relating to the picture in every post. Every fan that had their image selected was entered into a drawing to win a pair of 10-Packs. Also, each post included a link to our 10-Packs landing page along with the hashtag #SeeUMarch31 and some variation of the message, “Opening Day is in XX days. Go for free with a 10-Pack.” And the end of the campaign, we included all 89 countdown graphics into one full-page Season Kickoff ad that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the day before to Opening Day.
Not only did this campaign help drive 10-Pack sales and create brand awareness during the offseason, it spawned increased excitement for OpeningDay and engaged our fan base.
We have also held several special one-day , online-only sales. The offers were promoted solely online and codes were disseminated via our various social media platforms. Through these types of offers, with little to no paid advertising, we’ve been successful in selling over 20,000 tickets on a single date.
The club has a number of players who like to engage in the digital space. Does the team help with such engagements and who are some of the players who have done a good job?
Looking back at 2011, I can name two players on our roster who were on Twitter. One was pitcher John Axford. We were fortunate in that he was a natural (and still is) at engaging with fans, and at the time, we were able to work with him to develop a special ticket offer that was quite successful.

Now we are seeing more and more players joining sites like Twitter and Instagram each year. As these athletes “grow up” with the technology and have an innate understanding of how to use it, they are more comfortable with the platforms and more open to working with us on specific initiatives and ideas.

On our current roster we have probably 15 players that are on social media in some way, shape or form, and they vary in levels of frequency and engagement. However, Carlos Gomez literally is the Brewers Most Valuable Tweeter because he does a great job of interacting with fans on both Twitter and Instagram.

In addition, this past season, one of my greatest successes was “helping” one of our veterans, Kyle Lohse, get on Twitter. Turns out he is a natural.

Obviously there has been some change in the marketplace with the Bucks new owners. Do you work with the other teams in the marketplace to share best practices and see how you can work together?
Absolutely. Especially in a market our size. We may not all get together and meet regularly, but I know all of my counterparts at the different sports organizations from collegiate to NBA and NFL.

For example, we hosted a “Social Media in Sports Night” at Miller Park in 2012 that brought together most of the teams and we have no problem reaching out to each other if an idea presents itself.
Which brands do you think do a great, innovative job of fan activation in general? Are there people outside of baseball that you follow and try to adapt ideas from?
I wouldn’t say there is one company, brand or person that is my go-to resource.

Starbucks is an amazing passion brand that carries that over well to digital, Oreo set a standard for “real-time marketing,” I really admire the stuff that Callaway Golf has done with drones. The #ShareACoke campaign was really creative, McDonald’s is taking an interesting approach to transparency….

Like I said, good ideas can come from anywhere. I definitely keep an eye on what’s happening outside of baseball and outside of sports, but there’s a bigger part of us that likes to be innovative and leaders on our own.

So much emphasis is on winning, how do the Brewers keep fans engaged when success on the field is not always there?
After the World Series, there are always 29 teams with disappointed fans. Whether a team doesn’t make the Postseason or comes within a game of winning the World Series,, our task remains the same: keep fans engaged in the offseason.

One of our primary goals in the offseason is building hope and excitement for the coming season. We focus on what we are doing to improve the team (trades, acquisitions, etc.) We remind them of the star talent already on the roster and of past triumphs. We focus on key series/matchups for the next season, we get fans excited with fun, new promotions, and we are out there in the community reconnecting with fans—whether it is a Thanksgiving Food Drive or our Fan Fest.

When Opening Day rolls around, you’re not selling tickets—you’re selling hope. Hope that this year will be your team’s year to win it all. That’s really all you can do, is give your fans a reason to hope and believe. Baseball is such a romantic sport when you think about it.

During the season, it can be a little tougher to keep fans engaged in a tough season. We went through a really tough time in 2013, and we made a concerted effort to reach out to our fans with several different “Fans First” initiatives. That didn’t come from social/digital. That message came from the top and was executed across the board. It takes an owner and team leaders committed to their fan base and a standard of excellence to pull you through those tough times.
How important is the mobile space for the club? Any new initiatives that you are following or the Brewers will be adapting in the winter or spring?
Mobile is a huge initiative for Major League Baseball in general ,and as a League, we’ve been a leader in this space. We work closely with the folks at MLBAM on the MLB At Bat and At the Ballpark Apps. This past year, we added iBeacons to Miller Park -fans receive special offers just from “checking in” at Miller Park-and we look to expand our use of them in 2015. There is a lot of potential there.

MLB Scores With Charitable World Series Execution…

For all the talk about baseball needing to catch up with the times, the traditions of how the game is played remain hallowed ground, and one of those traditional points of execution is the sacrifice; literally giving your chance at glory up to move a runner along. Sometimes as we focus on the glory of the big hit or the big strikeout, those little nuances get lost.
During the World Series, sacrifice is not only something that is part of the game on their field. As Commissioner Bud Selig puts a ribbon on his time as commissioner, he has helped lead the charge to do something few sports entities would ever do in the scramble to get out every last dollar; he had baseball, on each of the first four game of the World Series; sacrifice airtime that could be sold, to highlight four key causes. Now this is not to say that every sport doesn’t do its part with community programs; the NFL’s work with breast cancer awareness is seen front and center every October, and the NBA just completed a huge cross-league community service project. However for MLB to give up signage and large tracts of airtime for a cause in each of the first four games of the World Series was certainly different and worthy of a best practice shout out.
It reinforces the message, from the top, that sport, in this case baseball, has a mantra that should be much more about community and positive messaging than about commercialism, at least for a short time.
The four causes that drew the massive outreach on FOX and in stadium were: veterans and military families, ALS awareness, Cancer prevention and research and Youth outreach initiatives. The causes certainly are not unusual to sport at all, and all four are routinely highlighted and supported throughout the season locally and nationally in MLB. However the sport went above and beyond in driving attention and celebration to each of these four carefully-selected initiatives with events away from the field and then throughout the night during Games one to four. Players, young people, coaches, celebrities and broadcasters all took part in the constant celebration and call to action. Signage behind home plate and in broadcast, which is usually part of high impact sponsorships, were dedicated to the initiatives, each of which used the night as a culmination of all the activity that took place during the season.
Now baseball has a great deal of advantages in pulling off such events over other sports. The natural breaks in the game, the lack of a clock, and the ample time announcers can discuss the initiatives all play in baseball’s favor to carefully execute a wide-ranging plan throughout the course of a game. Trying to pull off such a multi-faceted activation in other sports which have constant action, like soccer or hoops or hockey, or another one with a clock and a full focus just on the field, like football, would be very difficult to do.
However even with that advantage, baseball took the time to carefully identify, then plan out and execute these community and charitable plans game by game, which scored tons of goodwill and positive reinforcement around the action itself. Are there drawbacks? Sure. The cynical will say the first four games are traditionally the lowest rated, and the lack of being able to predict any series going beyond four limits such a multi-level execution to just the first four games, but in the end, the planning and the placement is a wonderful execution for baseball, and puts a very positive cap on all that these four causes have done for the year.
Say what you want about late times and lower ratings, but from an execution standpoint it’s hard to argue that the charity initiatives hit a homer with MLB on a massive scale.

Oyo Boyo, A Simple Idea Keeps Getting Bigger…

Several years ago when I was with the New York Knicks we were planning a promotion around Allan Houston, and as part of the plan, were going to send out to interested media the LEGO figure that had been made of our-then star, as a way to keep him top of mind when award voting season came along. It was quick, easy to mail and very unique amongst collectables. Did it really look like Allan? Not really but it was official and had his number, so it made sense. We found a way through the NBA to get 50 little Allan’s and off they went. As a collector of the unique, as well as a longtime supporter of LEGO, I had been interested in the possibilities of the product to engage sports kids, and somewhere in our basement, not passed on to my son Andrew, a master builder if there ever was one, are the original NBA-licensed sets as well as some hockey and extreme sports sets as well. They are now all collectors’ items, as the patients, and LEGO’s interest in sports, stagnated after a few years and the patents lapsed.

The problem then was that the Danish company didn’t really “get” the sports market in the States, and the risk of getting the wrong LEGO figures to market, they could not produce every player, far outweighed the rewards. In an era before short form video, 3D printing, and high speed molds, let alone self-generated content, LEGO was probably ahead of its time.

That was then, and to the delight of millions, another US-based company has taken LEGO’s seed, and their lapsed patents, and injected digital media and state of the art engineering into and opportunity. Welcome OYO Toys.

Boston based and now Boston-area manufactured, OYO has taken the old LEGO-licensed idea and brought it into the next decade. They have licenses to manufacture products for MLB, NFL, NHL and MLS, with more coming not just in the US, but internationally as well (how many kids in the States will now buy Messi figures who would not have a few years ago, thanks to soccer’s expansion in the media here?). Their system allows for custom printing and design of almost ANY player they have a license for that people can order, with delivery taking only a few days.

More importantly, OYO has used video, data and technology to bring the figures to life in short form video with self-created “stadia,” which thousands of young people with an interest in sport AND film (along with their dads and older siblings) can have fun with in re0creation scenarios, much like LEGO has done with the Star Wars themes line.  Even better, the figures are compatible with LEGO blocks, so parents don’t have to discard those mounds of blocks sitting around the basement. The kids can build stadia, or other scenarios, and use the OYO sports figurines as well.

The best part about OYO’s potential is that it again seeks to marry what were once divergent worlds for young people. Like robotics, LEGO were once thought to be nerdy and not for “sports” kids. Same with film and full motion video, or even photography. Now OYO can help merge those world’s, and make the arts and building good for “sports” kids, especially on rainy days, and can probably help the kids once thought to be a bit “nerdy” and not engaged in sports find a common ground as well. That merging doesn’t just help at home, it will help in the classroom, as suddenly science and technology, and even engineering, may seem just a bit more cooler to kids who might have been bored with sports. It also doesn’t hurt that media companies like Nickelodeon and Marvel are looking to find ways to pull sports into entertainment, and OYO’s analytics, video, and interchangeable parts can also play right into their plans as well.

Are there some limitations? Sure. Making the figures as life-like as possible is a challenge, and there is probably a limit as to how many figures the company can customize for now. However the upside and potential for OYO in any host of sports, even on the NCAA level, is very bright, and certainly makes their business one to watch. The Boston Globe had a piece the last few days on how the company came about and its new infusion of cash from Mandalay Entertainment, which is certainly worth a read.

Keep building OYO, and we will keep watching. What was a rare fail for LEGO is an opportunity for you.

New York’s Longest Running Sports Talkshow Hits 40…

Monday night in New York there will be a celebration of 40 consecutive years of sportstalk radio on one station; a 50,000 watt college station poised in, below and at one point atop Keating Hall on the campus of Fordham University, a place as a student, alumnus and staff member for several years I know very well. The station is WFUV, and the show being celebrated is “One on One,” which continues to be New York’s longest running sports talkshow, heard now both online and on-air. While it might not seem like much to have a show on-air today in a time when anyone can do a podcast or be a part of blogtalk radio, the fact that the show, and the hundreds if not thousands of careers that have been launched and listeners that were developed, is something to behold. More importantly there has been a level of professionalism and consistency that “One on One” has had since it launched that the students today, and all of the alumni and its longtime programming head Bob Ahrens take great pride in.

The greatest part of “One on One” over the years has not been the content, but the people; students, callers and alumni who have engaged in discussion and debate with guests big and small the old fashioned way, through the spoken voice, a form of communication that sometimes gets overlooked in the type at breakneck speed we deal with today. The show and the station have also been about accountability. Sure there have been an occasional rant but for the most part the discussions on topics big and small are intelligent, fun and worthwhile, with more than a share of guests filtered in. The show is on public radio, so there are grants but not commercial breaks, and its original times, Saturday and Sunday nights starting at 11 is a distant memory, but that doesn’t mean that the Gehrig-like weekly streak over 40 years has ever ceased, or that the memories of those who have been behind that mic are any less robust.

So yes the sports airwaves of WFUV have produced Michael Kay and Jack Curry and John Giannone and  Chris Carrino and Mike Breen and Bob Papa and Paul Dottino, who paint the scenery for sports fans on TV and radio in NY. But the school and the station have also given rise to a host of professionals young and old, who used the opportunity as a way to get started in the media capital of the world, and have passed that legacy on to those now on air. From MLB Marketing head Tim Brosnan, to over a dozen voices on Sirius/XM (like Ed Randall and Andrew Bogush), to the man who keeps the Mets on the air every night, producer Chris Majkowski, to the guy who helped build the X Games at ESPN, Rick Allesandri, to the voice of the Washington Nationals Charlie Slowes and Good Morning America’s Tony Reali, as well as others like Elias Sports Bureau head Steve Hirdt, and Malcolm Moran, currently the Director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University, and so many others in public relations, sports marketing, sales, production and broadcasting, WFUV Sports and “One on One,” was where it all began.

Why Fordham? It has a 50,000 watt radio station sitting in the New York area, a great journalism tradition that includes Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Daley, Basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster John Andariese, and the legendary Vin Scully, and the ability to create entry level spots for hardworking young people through its alumni base, a group that cares and engages with others coming through the program. WFUV is also unique in that it is the ONLY voice for Fordham sports; there is no commercial entity to push the public station broadcast to the back burner. While that is probably not good from a marketing standpoint for the school, it is invaluable in the level of professionalism that the students bring to the job, and that is reflected in the careers of so many. Saying that Fordham is really dominant in the business of sports is no slight to the Newhouse School at Syracuse or the Medill School at the Northwestern. What it is is a positive point toward a small Jesuit school which has a niche and has cultivated it over time. While a sports talkshow may not seem like a big deal today, 40 years of sports talk without a break is quite a deal in a world where five minutes is sometimes too long.

Hail Men (and women) of Fordham hail for such a great job for those who work and follow sports. WFUV and “One on One,” is a great symbol of the collective success of so many for so long, and here’s to making sure it gets its due.

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.

Nothing Hokie About Latest Va. Tech Sponsorship…

Into the whole debate of paying college athletes or where the money goes from brands to the University came a pretty unique sponsorship pulled together by Virginia Tech as a way to use athletics to fund other programs; or at least those who teach other programs well outside of athletics.

Union First Market Bank has a coveted spot in the brand category for the Hokies, they are bank of choice for the athletic department, and with that get all the usual signage, radio sponsorship and broadcast spots that can help grow the bank’s visibility in a very crowded marketplace and they try to get a leg up with students looking to build out a financial portfolio in and around Blacksburg. The affinity with the school can be invaluable. However the institution, through the creative folks at IMG College, came up with a way to amplify the program way beyond athletics, and create good will and good opportunity all across the University, by taking some of the money to fund academic projects and research.

Junior faculty fellowships support the research and teaching of untenured assistant or associate professors who show remarkable potential. They encourage innovation in teaching and research and help the university retain its most promising junior faculty members. A percentage of the revenue produced by Union’s endowment (funds are invested for growth) will be deployed to fulfill the gift mission. Funds will be used by the Union Junior Faculty Fellow to advance research and education within the Pamplin College centered on entrepreneurship and small business development. Funds may also be used to support programming to include the business plan competition. The Junior Faculty Fellow may also participate in guest-lecture opportunities and conduct symposia. 

So while there will be lots of brand affinity for the bank by the thousands in person and on TV that will see the Union First Market logo and all that goes with the traditional spend, the spillover effect created by assisting in a non-traditional area will give an added boost, and hopefully grow a University platform not based on wins and losses.

Nice well thought-out spin for Va Tech as their partner banks on brand success that is both traditional and a little out of the ordinary.

USTA Makes A Splash With A Unique Challenge Of Its Own…

There is no doubt the simple act of the Ice Bucket Challenge surpassed the imagination and expectations of those golfers who originally launched the idea on July  15 to benefit ALS  (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  From kids to heads of state to celebrities to athletes, the challenge is still going strong with groups large and small. While some have said enough is enough and others have questioned the need for funds just to ALS for such a wide promo, the fact remains that the simplicity of the message made it a phenomenon unlike anything else the philanthropic world has seen since pink became the call to action for breast cancer.

The challenge certainly wasn’t lost in the tennis world, and now with the US Open in full swing the list of participants in grassroots challenge to the most elite players continues to grow. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki are some of the pro stars who have shared videos, and even the USTA Florida Section got in on the action  challenging former Florida junior phenoms and now-retired pros Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick.

So is there a what’s next or a one up or another challenge with the bucket that might be noteworthy on a mass scale? Surely some organization will go for the world’s largest group or the world’s largest bucket at some point soon to try and cut through the clutter. However one of the most creative challenges has not come from a group or an individual, it came from, well, a bucket sort of. The day of the US Open draw last week, the USTA staff decided to make the trophy itself the challenge, dousing the Tiffany Silver Cup with ice and cold water of its own. The challenge was issued to? Other trophies, ranging from the Stanley Cup to the NASCAR Sprint Cup, The World Series Trophy and, of course, the smallest with the largest following, The World Cup.

While so far none of those organizations have taken the challenge to their respective hardware, it was a nice and fun attention grabber to change it up a little and give some buzz to a challenge that is, well, becoming a bit of a challenge to gain notoriety.  Hopefully some of the other sports and their large budgets take note and douse their trophies soon, it is all for a worthy cause and could get the Ice Bucket Challenge another jump start as the summer winds down, and the Open heats up.

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.

 

 

A Great American Journey Reaches Its End…

It is a tradition at almost every sporting event across the country, the pre-game singing of The Star Spangled Banner. It has been done via guitar, and choir, with simplicity and comic relief, and in some cases bungled beyond recognition. It is not an easy song to do, but it never ceases to bring a crowd of a few hundred or thousands to their feet to pause and reflect if only for a few seconds.  The National Anthem at sports events is as American as it gets.

The song has inspired many an athlete to feats of greatness once kickoff or first pitch comes, however there is another person making her way across the country to a date with history that Francis Scott Key’s melody has inspired as well. Her name is Janine Stange, and she has come to be known as “The National Anthem Girl,” in ballparks across the country. A Long island native, Strange will make history by completing her mission to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” in all 50 states in time for the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key penning the lyrics for the hallowed song on September 14, 2014., She ‘officially’ began her journey to all 50 states on July 3, 2012 at a Rays-Yankees game, and since then, audiences big and small have witnessed her journey, from Madison Square Garden and The Great American Ballpark, to NASCAR and PBR, NHL and Drag Racing.

To date  she has hit her notes in 43 states with the Tennessee Titans being her 50th state, prior to  a preseason game in Nashville on August 28 at 7:00pm CST.  Janine has also been invited to perform for MLB’s Detroit Tigers (Aug. 16), aboard the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor (Aug. 22), and she will open the festivities of the 200th Anniversary for the Star Spangled Spectacular at Baltimore’s Ft. McHenry (Sept. 14).

At each stop on her largely self-funded journey (although she now has a not-for-profit to defray costs and raise awareness), Janine sets up a table after she performs and provides blank “thank you” cards for attendees to write messages to our deployed military and veterans. Each card goes into an Operation Gratitude military care package that is shared with trips around the world.

Ironically brands have not been part of Stange’s epic journey. One would think that an All-American brand like Chevy or even Cracker Jack with its new initiative, would find a way to tie to her trek to 50, and maybe beyond. To this point, she has forgone corporate assistance and is doing it for the challenge and the glory of paying tribute to Old Glory in a special way.  At a time when brands are looking for simple RPI and buzz, Stange’s trip seems like a novel one; one that is worthy of all the recognition she has gotten and a best practice on how simple ideas can turn into a road trip of epic, and historic proportions as she rounds the final turn toward Baltimore harbor next month. A nice sports philanthropy story to get August off to a bang.