NCAA | Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

High School Media Day Scores In Concept

The overall potential for high school sports properties regionally and nationally remains a hot button for media and marketers, with many bullish on the future as national brands seek hyper local activity, cash strapped school districts look for ways to bring in revenue and media use cost-efficient tools to tell very worthy stories and capture the drama of high school athletics both on a local and national stage. While some have criticized the commercialization and added media attention for national elite high school programs, the fact remains that local media coverage and brand engagement for programs has existed for as long as high school sports have been around. The local hero and legendary coach have always been there; there is more of a means to tell the story to a larger audience now.

A good example of the power and reach of the high school platform took place this past week in Seattle. MaxPreps, along with USA Football and the Seattle Seahawks, hosted the inaugural High School Media Day, inviting some of the area’s elite athletes and coaches to the practice facility of the reigning Super Bowl champs for a day of interaction amongst themselves and assembled media from across the region. It also served as a great opportunity for USA Football to unveil its latest best practice programs for proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting and to introduce to Heads Up Football® tackling fundamentals to both the athletes and to the media in attendance.

The concept served many purposes and will probably be set forth as a best practice for areas where football especially is king, and basketball is a close second . The event gave a wide swath of media a chance to talk to coaches and players they will be covering in an efficient time window, as opposed to the usual practice of tracking down coaches one at a time on the phone for several weeks. It also gave media the opportunity to learn more some additional coaches and student-athletes they might not get a chance to interact with once practice starts and schedules tighten, and exposed all more to the human side of sport rather than just the numbers or the video media may see during a hectic fall season. For MaxPreps, the day was also a great opportunity to gather regional content and place their brand front and center as one of the key sources for creative coverage of high school football.

For the coaches and student-athletes, the day served as an opportunity for them to get a feel for what the limelight can possibly be like going forward, when college or other opportunities come calling for many of the participants. For some it may be the only time they ever see such bright lights as well, and gives them an interesting time getting some deserved recognition.  The Seahawks media team stepped in prior to the sessions to do some prep work with the students and the coaches, face time that can be invaluable going forward when media come calling and there is no seasoned communications professional around to lend an opinion or assist in making sure an interview goes well.

Is there any downside to such an event on a regional level? Some may say doing this in July again increases the window for student-athletes when they should be away from the spotlight, but in reality it actually lessens distractions when camp starts and gives the coaches a chance to get comfortable with the media before the pressure of winning is out on more squarely.  Some may say casting the national shadow of MaxPreps on more local kids is undue pressure, but in reality the exposure with social and digital media is there regardless of this type of event, and the media day streamlines and organizes the process and makes it more well-rounded for all the schools in the area.  The cooperation of the local NFL team also creates even additional goodwill in the region, not to mention some memories for the athletes that will last a lifetime.

In the end, the high school media day really served as proof  concept for MaxPreps and for USA Football, and can probably be a revenue generator in partnership for the local district going forward should a sponsor be found that makes sense. It is an event that can be replicated in key geographic areas, and brings a level of professionalism (in a good way) to the media process surrounding high school athletics. It looks good, it sounds good and it takes pressure off of student-athletes and coaches which would have been applied once practice starts. The day was a help to the media in advancing and telling stories, and was a strong-cost efficient best practice for the coverage of high school sports, a hot platform that is growing by the week.

Cavs Win In Social With LeBron, But Heat Haven’t Lost…

We went to the folks at MVP Index to take a look at the LeBron effect is early on in social, and to debunk the myth that Heat fans evaporated…here ya go

What impact can one man have on a brand? Ask the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James’ decision to pick his first team over the Miami Heat seems to have had an invigorating effect on a sleepy sports brand in social media.

 The Cavs, with a Twitter amplification rate of 0.86, could definitely use a boost. That boost was provided in earnest when  James took his talents and his 213.27 amplification rate to Cleveland. On the day Sports Illustrated dropped the story of James’ return home, Cleveland’s mentions went from 15  per hour on July 8 to a staggering 3,118 mentions per hour on the day of Decision II. An even larger change is seen in their retweet rate. On July 8, the Cavs were seeing a retweet rate of 14.54 retweets per hour, and on the day of the decision their hourly retweet rate reached 6,202.35 per hour.

The changes weren’t just on Twitter, either. The Cavaliers’ Facebook account also experienced some dramatic changes. 23,259 more people were “talking about” the Cavaliers on July 12 than they were on July 11. That is a 96% increase in people interacting with the Cavaliers’ Facebook account in one day. They also experienced positive changes in their comment rate (307%), Like Rate (77%), and Share Rate (75%) over the same time period.

What about their reach? Before his decision on July 11, the Cavaliers’ Twitter account 336,967 followers. As of July 12, the Cav’s have 370,421, a 9.92% increase in their followers. On Facebook, the Cavs had 1,700245 likes before the decision, and on July 12 they stand at 1,773,792 likes. The Cavaliers gained 73,547 likes in just over one day due to the decision.

How do fans react when their star leaves? We can’t speak for everyone, but it’s widely assumed that the Miami Heat fans are “bandwaggoners.” An account named NBA Legion stated that the Miami Heat had lost 300,000 followers in a tweet that earned 29,585 retweets. That’s a really interesting story, and were it true, we would have seen some real data that backed up the bandwaggoner claim. It’s just not true. The Heat actually have increased their following by a marginal 1,393 people, bringing their Twitter fan base to 2,671,454.

The Cavaliers can gain more than just NBA Titles with the reacquisition of LeBron James, they now have an opportunity to resurrect their brand in social media. The immediate impact LeBron James has on a brand is impressive, but what will really be interesting to watch is Cleveland’s ability to continue growing and engaging with their fans at a steady clip. With LeBron’s added reach and influence, they can capitalize on their revitalized fan base and win sponsorships, move merchandise, and increase ticket sales.

Maui Jim Scores In Social

The eyeglass market is not an easy one to cut through in sports. Oakley, Ray Ban and others spend millions marketing, signing athletes and then creating custom product to engage fans and gain market share. However there are brands that can disrupt and find ways to cut through the clutter with some unique platforms.

Maui Jim is one. Named after the pet parrot belonging to one of the founders, with a bird  for the company’s mascot, the American-based manufacturer is certainly not a small spender or newcomer in the space, but they have found a way using lifestyle through select sports ties to engage and grow brand, especially in the past few years. Known for their UV-Ray blocking polarized lenses with an oceanic, sporty theme, the company has not looked to celebrity to spread their word in sport, they have gone to the power of the social engagement at large events away from professional sports.

Maui Jim sponsors the Rock-n-Roll Marathon series and then takes a deep dive not into sponsoring elite runners, but with the fans engaged along the route. They interact online with people at the race, set up a big screen TV with Tagboard and post photos live at the event using the hashtag #mauijim and then create video content to showcase the event and the runners. The result is that the Tagboard becomes am hourly destination not just for people on site, but for thousands following online from remote locations who can engage with those in and around the race. There are passionate runners, but also friends and family who follow along and build loyalty to the site for its information and its photos, an ultimately for the brand. Occasional promotions are factored in, but more importantly, Maui Jim becomes synonymous with the fun and the healthy lifestyle surrounding the massive road races and their party-like atmosphere.

 A similar trial was put forth this year at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. College baseball is often overlooked as a property with value, but the College World Series is a crown jewel, a destination every year for thousands not just from the participating schools but from around the country looking for a warm weather celebration of the collegiate game. During the College World Series, Louisville Slugger Bats partnered with Maui Jim to put a Louisville Slugger bat at their booth and had fans try and find the bat via a scavenger hunt. The result was a win for both brands; it linked a longtime NCAA partner to a social consumer brand, and also gave Maui Jim a boost in awareness from fans who know the bat name but might not have known the lower key sunglass brand. The tags on the photowall doubled, and it unleashed the potential for a brand that knows the viral space to work with a bigger brand that is not competitive in the space to increase its bandwidth. While many large apparel brands do have lifestyle lines that include sunglasses, a beverage line could be ripe for a future partnership, much like Louisville Slugger was at the CWS.

So what does this show?  Smart nontraditional, cost effective thinking by Maui Jim does work to grow their brand awareness in a tight space. It doesn’t spend millions, but it can at least get ROI on millions of impressions that can resonate well away from their sponsored events. Their promotions are fun, interactive, have shelf life and can be shared, and that sharing, along with a database that is built when fans engage, can be just as valuable to their strategy as an elite athlete could. It is not a throw stuff against the “social” wall and see what works strategy; it is well thought out and reflects what the brand would like to achieve through engagement; awareness first, sales and loyalty second.

Somewhere down the line could there be a bigger Maui Jim push into sports? Maybe, but mainstream masses are not their market. They are quality, niche and lifestyle, and their programs, approach and execution reflect that, smart targeted spends to draw the buzz and the eyeballs, albeit ones behind some slick shades.

Big Ten, New Schools Win The Day, Look To The Future

The day came and went with fireworks and fanfare, music and lots of Scarlet and Terp Pride. Rutgers and the Big 10. Maryland and the Big 10. For the casual fan it had a bit of a wow factor, for the ardent supporter it had a bigger wow factor. For those selling the brand to the business and media world, it was a day of cautious optimism. Of you are counting dollars in the halls of the athletic department; it was a day of cautious optimism.

If you are the Big 10, you are officially, at least in name, slotted in the Capitol District and at least near Madison Avenue to do business every day.  If you are in the halls of academia, you hope that the promises and the flood of long term positive cash flows, as well as the chance to maybe partner with elite institutions on programs well beyond a playing field, makes your job more interesting and perhaps your research better funded. And somewhere in new Jersey as the World Cup is going on, if you are former Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti, now watching over another transitional franchise, this one coming into Major League Soccer in New York City Football Club, you are probably smiling at a job well done steering the Scarlet Knights into a Power Five conference against some steep odds.

So when the bands went away, the mascots went home and the smoke from the fireworks blew away, who won?  The jury for both schools is still out and will be for some time, but from a strategic position the real winner right now is the Big 10 itself. While it is easy to “say” you are part of the New  York business marketplace or the fabric of DC, as entities like NASCAR or even the Pac 12 have said for years with media events, sponsor activations or TV buys, having a physical presence where brand and media buyers can actually experience the look and feel of what you are selling 24/7 is required. You can talk and then fly someone to an event; NASCAR at Pocono for example, or taking brands on a junket to a football weekend in Tuscaloosa, but to be able to say on a Tuesday, hey come and see Michigan play Rutgers, or Ohio State is visiting College Park tomorrow bring your family, is a big difference. That experience is amplified even more because New York, and Washington to a large extent, are really professional sports towns by nature.  Yes there are thousands of fans and alumni from colleges who live and congregate for games on their own, but for the large part the media, especially in New York, and most of the population, live and die with those in the pros.  The massive offerings of the Big 10 as a whole and its member schools individually, now get tot take advantage of a regular physical presence in two major markets they have never had before, and that means a great deal when battling with brands for discretionary dollars. It’s not like the Big 10 is hurting in any way for dollars and exposure on a national level, but having those two schools as an entertainment and activation hub in those markets makes the business of college sports just that much easier.

So what does it mean for Rutgers especially? Maryland has never been a stranger to big time athletics with its presence in the ACC. But Rutgers has ebbed and flowed for years into the national conversation through its relationships in the American Athletic, the Big East and before that the Atlantic 10. Pernetti when he was at the Scarlet Knights helm, fought and won a steep stealth battle to get the school into the Big Ten, arguing the upgrade in the long run would change every piece of the University for the better. He succeeded, and despite his controversial departure from the school, has left a mark that current AD Julie Hermann and her staff will have to evolve with going forward, with cautious optimism. The argument is that win or lose, Rutgers will now be able to grab part of that Big Ten national spotlight for themselves, and will be able to cash in literally on the bigger crowds of say, Michigan State coming to Piscataway for football or hoops than  a Cincinnati or a Seton Hall would ever bring. The naysayers bring up the fact that the Big ten schools are better built and supported than what Rutgers has experienced, and the competitive climb for all sports will be very steep and may never be realized.  Those on the positive side say the ancillary sales aspects of having larger profile schools involved can bring bigger sponsor dollars even for individual events, while those on the negative side say that Rutgers is not New York, that the professional sports will still get the larger flow of cash.  The argument for looks at the massive revenue share that the schools will get from playing in a college football championship pool, the argument against says it’s nice to think that all will be equal but in reality the culture of big time athletics is ingrained and managed at schools like Ohio State and Indiana, and it is not part of the culture at a school lie Rutgers. Some academics see the switch as another huge dupe of the public, with dollars spent better going towards world class programs in chemistry or mathematics or communications, all of which have suffered in a challenged environment, while those for say that the association with Big 10 schools can further grant money and in the long run will raise the tide across the University.

All of the above is up for debate at this point. The one certainty is that change in college athletics seems to be constant, and if the current environment does not work for the five big conferences now, that more change may be in the offing, especially for those leagues that DO NOT now have solid boots on the ground in markets like New York and Washington and may need to change yet again. For Rutgers, from an athletic brand standpoint, the association with the Big 10 was an immediate buzz generator, and that buzz will continue into the fall. Success on the field will certainly raise the level of exposure and with it the dollars that can flow in.  Will either matter to a casual fan in the New York area? Maybe. But how far Rutgers can insert itself into a sports culture that is purely professional is still up for debate. Maryland has a better chance in the Washington area, but for the Scarlet Knights to be in the conversation consistently will take a great, great deal of time and effort and success. What is more important for bath is the internal sell. The convincing of alumni, passionate local supporters, brands and administrators and students that this move is consistent, positive and for the better for all. That won’t happen for everyone with a few football games. It will take a constant reinforcement with hard numbers and data and interest, and that sell is much more important than the one to those listening to ESPN radio in DC or WFAN in New York.

In the end who won with the conference shifts this week? Certainly the Big Ten did, as their schools and their sales and marketing forces now have a place to call home in addition to a satellite office near Madison Avenue.  If you believe change is good then Rutgers and Maryland also are winners right now, with the potential for bigger wins on the bottom line down the road. Nine of that is guaranteed for the long term and there will be some painful days and decisions coming as that transition occurs, but if you were betting on longer term health, it seems like being with the have’s if you are in those athletic administrations, projects better than being on the outside trying to climb in.

July 2014 certainly brought optimism and buzz across two campuses, especially the one in New Jersey. Maintaining that buzz and pulling in the dollars will be the tough task at hand, and certainly one to watch as the leaves turn not just this fall, but for years to come as college sports continues its evolutionary dance into the sports business stratosphere.

Pony Up; SMU Joins The Beer Wagon

It is no secret that colleges of all sizes, especially those mid majors not in the top five power football conferences, have to continue to scramble for revenue to be self-sustaining. To do that, they have to continue to look for partners big and small who can effectively integrate into media opportunities and get the ROI that is needed to justify an effective spend with limited discretionary resources. For years one of those big spend platforms in professional sports has been alcohol, specifically beer, a category that for a long time has been minimalized by the NCAA and many of its member institutions unless the message was all about anti-drinking campaigns. Sales in campus at events? Relatively nonexistent since the national drinking age went to 21. College sports and beer didn’t mix.

However that appears to be changing, as schools carefully go through the minefield and test the waters to see f beer sales and college sports can safely exist. The latest school to make the leap into the suds business was Southern Methodist University, which announced this week it  will sell beer at football games this fall, following strong sales and no negative feedback from sales at their men’s hoops games at Moody Coliseum this past year. SMU now becomes  one of several dozen universities that have looked to alcohol sales to boost crowds and make money. Kansas State and West Virginia have been on board, while the University of Texas began a pilot program in February for beer and wine sales at sporting events.

There is solid money to be made by beer sales for colleges that need the marketing and the concession help.  The sales are controlled, carefully monitored and will probably be shut down at any hint of trouble.  Even in micro amounts, the dollars that can be brought in can boost revenue for schools that are running at a deficit or have tapped out of ROI on existing sponsors. Will beer sales lead to relaxed beer advertising as college sports becomes more and more of a big business and the landscape adjusts to less of a feel of a quaint event? Maybe, but the colleges and universities can augment their pouring beer partner with added awareness programs to share with the underage student body.  The ironic thing is that beer sales at certain events off campus or in suites at most arenas have rarely if ever been off limits. On campus where students are present there was a growing prohibition, but certainly not at events where elite boosters or faculty have been involved.

Some may wonder what will be next once beer is in the door. Will wine be ok? What about hard liquor, once off limits for professional sports but now more than OK with almost all professional events. Gaming? Colleges have started to seriously look at lottery revenue, and there are scores of games played in and around casinos every year, which is OK for the NCAA, so why not a bigger opportunity with the controlled environment of the lottery. The colleges need the money, and there is a long track record of success and savvy marketing, not excess.

This is not to say that out of control underage drinking is not a problem in some places. It is also not to say that selling some beer will be the quick fix for all financial woes the colleges are going through with athletics. SMU equated larger crowds to the fact that beer was sold at hoops games last year. In fact, if they sold Bud and Larry brown hadn’t produced a winner and an exciting season in the American Athletic Conference, how many extra people would have come out just because there was a place to get a drink? Not many.

For those schools with mega-crowds, the added sales can be pretty extraordinary even in a controlled environment. For adults attending any event, it provides an option that is mature and defensible. It is not bacchanalia, it is smart business. Let’s see how many follow suit and open the taps, for the beer and for the revenue.

Chalking Up A Viral Experience

We wrote about this simple idea last fall, and it appears to be catching on; as we live in a heads down texting and tweeting world, the use of sidewalks for quick viral campaigns, especially in high traffic areas where milennials gather, appears to be growing. Latest case in point was around New York’s Central Park this week, where every few feet around Columbus Circle were colorful calls to action for people to run and stay healthy with a hashtag attached. Whether they were placed there by ardent runners or members of the New York Roadrunners Club was not clear, but was clear was that people were stopping and noticing, especially those tying sneakers and heading into the park to run.

The messages were in chalk, they were gone within a few hours and they certainly weren’t messy or obtrusive or overly commercial. What they were, were a good test for a quick viral campaign to see if people would not only take a look but would join in the conversation. Could the same be done in other viral spots like people waiting in traffic or at bus stops> How about quick and easy in train stations or on long bathroom lines? Fact is while businesses own walls and air space only municipalities right now own sidewalks, and as we keep our heads down and not up, there is great potential for some work to be done.

Here is again what we saw last fall in College Park, Md.

A few weeks ago we were visiting the University of Maryland, College Park and we noticed something unusual…a pretty clean slate of real estate that is readily available but never used. It is not the space above urinals or under the top half of bunk beds…it is literally the ground we walk on.

We live, for better or worse, in a tweet and mobile friendly world that constantly has us looking down as we go along. Message boards meant to post announcements in public places can easily go unnoticed. But a creative use of the ground we are looking at more often than not, especially for the text-happy younger generation? Now there’s engagement space. The campus had zones where clubs could post flyers on the ground vs. n a wall, all taped down with invites in the hopes that those wandering by and engaged on their phones would stop and notice. They were brightly colored, creatively designed and caught your attention, even if one was not looking down.

Now these were just fliers, made of paper, which would disintegrate in a rain storm or been run ragged by foot traffic after a period of time. However what if promotions, signs, calls to action were done more efficiently, in plastic or Velcro that could last through weather. Or what if they were creatively painted on, ala railroad crossing signs. Such things have been tried with chalk from time to time, but they were never the focus of a campaign. What is a team or league, leased the ground space for in-arena engagement like they do wall signage. Could it be done in a way not to slow traffic? Could it be done as a hologram even, meant to engage the down looking generation? What is it was an instant win contest designed just for those tweeting, with a message that rotated?

 

Yes foot traffic would dull the ad over a period of time, but at the end of the day it is where we look these days, and could catch more attention than things that we blow by at eye level or above. The real estate is there, the heads are down, so not it’s time for the entrepreneurial to grab the space and go. Head’s up marketers, a new engagement spot is evolving, albeit with heads down.

Brand Hoopla: Five Star Basketball

As part of our ongoing series with Columbia University ad the Full Court Press blog; grad student Tanner Simkins spent some time with various marketers and newsmakers in and around sports business. With school ending and the camp season getting started, Tanner talked with Leigh Klein, steward of the legendary Five Star brand.

For over 20 years, Leigh Alan Klein has echoed in the world’s next wave of basketball talent. As CEO and Co-Owner of Five-Star Basketball, he has bridged elite young prospects and tier-one coaching. Five-Star has a long list of iconic player alumni including Moses Malone, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and more. The Five-Star pedigree claims even more basketball legends serving as coaches like Hubie Brown, Rick Pitino,  Bob Knight, John Calipari, and the list goes on. Recently, we sat down with Coach Klein for a discussion on general development news and his work with Five-Star. (A detailed biography for Leigh Klein is provided after the Q&A.)

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Full Court Press: Five-Star attracts the best basketball talent at its camps. How have you been able to remain the premiere camp in the country for so long?

Leigh Klein: The success of the camp continues to be rooted in the teaching of the game. We consider Five-Star the last bastion of teaching and it’s more important now than ever before with the sport evolving to a continual season (high school to club).

FCP: You are able to bring together basketball’s greatest coaches, scouts, mentors, and motivators to help with the camps – what’s the dynamic like working with so many great basketball minds?

LK: The link is the insatiable desire that each of these incredible people bring to contribute to the game in some way shape or form. They will not and do not quit without adding something that makes basketball better. They recognize that the Game is bigger than any individual and feel compelled to contribute to it and give back to the current and future generations.

FCP: How would you describe your leadership style?

LK: My objectives in leading are to provoke thought/build the IQ of the individual. The macro is the big picture and the micro are the choices along the way.

FCP: I imagine you have heard some great speeches over the years from visiting coaches – what stands out as the greatest/most moving speech?

LK: The most powerful story I ever heard at camp was from Coach George Raveling. It’s a true story about him as a young assistant coach and of a kid that he constantly crossed paths with along his way to work. The individual begged for his time and attention and George constantly shunned and pushed it off to the next day and then the next day. The kid one day decided to take his own life. Without question it moved me and stuck with me as a constant reminder that the only thing that really matters – is people. You can never be too busy to help a person.

FCP: What does it mean to you to have such a long list of alumni?

LK: We are so fortunate at Five-Star to play a role in the development of so many great players that we encountered as high school kids whether it was Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving and on and on, to see how these kids worked to reach their goals is incredible. For me, I’m just the caretaker of the legacy started by my father, Will Klein and his long-time partner, Howard Garfinkel as well as all the incredible contributors who left their impact on basketball and Five-Star Camp. Guys like Hubie Brown, Chuck Daly, Mike Fratello, Bob Knight, Rick Pitino, John Calipari and on and on, made the coaches and players they encountered better. Five-Star was the vehicle but the credit really show go to the incredible people who came through and made basketball better!

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

LK: I just read Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson and it’s as good a book as I ever read. I believe it will help me be a better person, better father as well as give me great strategies to implement with our team at Five-Star.

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

LK: Versatility is the most important skill, for players and for aspiring sports professionals. Continue to add to your skill set. Look how the NBA has evolved, in the past five years,  we have seen the rise of video coordinators into coaching. We have seen the emergence of analytics both into coaching and in team management. Lastly, you see, those who were once sports agents now play prominent roles as team presidents and general managers. Versatility!

You have to grind. There are no shortcuts to success. If you can’t embrace the grind, then the industry is not for you. Lastly, learn how to sell. Selling is critical in every aspect. Selling yourself, selling your ideas….if you can sell, there will always be a job for you.

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For the past two decades, Leigh Klein, Five Star Basketball CEO and Co-Owner, has been responsible for the development of the world’s leading basketball instructional brand, Five-Star Basketball Camp. Coach Klein has directed Five-Star’s Instructional Video/DVD Series and has edited five books. He co-founded the Five-Star Foundation where he remains the Vice-President.

 

 

#PassTheLove Starts To Score With Consumers…

Last fall Mondelez International and Soccer United Marketing announced a wide ranging partnership across some of the biggest brands in the consumer space, which, the goal (no pun intended), was to bring soccer touch points to almost anyone cruising an aisle in a food store.  The Mondelez brands, which include Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies, Ritz and Wheat Thins crackers, Trident and Stride gums, and Sour Patch Kids and Cadbury candies, aligned with the U.S, men’s and women’s soccer teams and some of its biggest personalities (Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders, Omar Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Alex Morgan, an Olympic gold medalist who plays for the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League) as well as with MLS clubs and Club Deportivo Guadalajara, and sponsor of all Chivas occasional matches the team plays in the United States. It made  the brands the official snacks of the women’s and men’s United States national soccer teams.

Because of the timing, the rare cross-gender professional athlete partnership,  the outreach on Multi-cultural, and the wide digital components, as well as the traditional spends, the program could be a game changer for soccer.

With World Cup now here, the program is ready to get started much more formally.

A ceremony at NASDAQ  a few weeks ago  was just the latest way the Official Snacks of U.S. Soccer (iconic brands like OREO, Ritz, Trident, Honey Maid and Sour Patch Kids) have rallied attention around soccer. This summer, they kick off a campaign called #PassTheLove, which inspires fans everywhere to share the spirit of soccer as the U.S. prepared for Brazil. It’s the largest multi-brand program for the company to date.

The Coast to coast retail presence now includes 40 million specially marked packs and 17,000 displays. A nationwide, socially powered promotion appearing on more than 40 million custom designed packs inviting consumers to share why they love soccer using #PassTheLove in exchange for the chance to win a “Game of Your Life” soccer experience that captures the excitement of a major competition, or other instant win giveaways.

There is a new mobile game, Free Kick Fury, which is an instant messaging-based online soccer experience which gives users the chance to test their soccer skills with penalty kicks while connecting with an online community. Perhaps the biggest win can come in the multicultural space, where Mondelez will speak directly to a core Hispanic audience who may love soccer bit not follow MLS or the Women’s National team yet. The program will better introduce those stars, as well as the elite players with Hispanic ties, to a casual audience as well, all at retail and in Spanish.

The battle for brand awareness for soccer in the United States has been a long one, with little wins building along the way. Sometimes it’s not massive and flashy but it has been effective, and the World Cup now provides a huge stage for the sport, and hopefully for American soccer. However what’s most important, win or lose, is that soccer continue to leverage its position in the marketplace well after the games in Brazil are done. This partnership with Mondelez, now with tangible results, may be one of the biggest, and brightest touch points for “Brand Soccer” with all levels of consumers going forward. It scores on multiple layers, and will build momentum and awareness for what should be another great bump in the States for “The Beautiful Game.”

Lessons Learned: Joyce Aschenbrenner

We are taking the time a day here and there to look at some of the lessons learned we featured in the book. Over the weekend I saw it was Joyce Aschenbrenner ‘s birthday, so we decided to highlight her story…see below.

 One of the trailblazers for women in the industry, Joyce Aschenbrenner made her first mark in the collegiate ranks at the University of Pittsburgh, having a hand in the publicity and promotion of future NFL stars Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett in a time when very few women were fulltime in the industry, especially on a major college level. A graduate of the University of West Virginia and a Pittsburgh native, Joyce moved on to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas from 1982 through 1990. It was while she was with the Runnin Rebels that college basketball became an even bigger showpiece than in the past, and her work fine-tuning the pregame excitement at Rebels basketball for Jerry Tarkanian’s squad, including light shows, red-carpet entrances and indoor fireworks became an industry trend.  She took college basketball and helped make it into showtime in the showiest city in the world.

Aschenbrenner then moved on to the University of Colorado, where she was the associate athletics director for external affairs and senior women’s administrator. During that time, she also worked as a liaison to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Following her time in Boulder, she served a three-year term on the Defense Advisory Commission for Women in the Services for the Department of Defense. She then left collegiate athletics and moved on to The V Foundation for Cancer Research in November 2001 as the director of marketing and communications and now works on various consulting projects. She is also a cancer survivor, and role model to the many women now entering the industry at record rates.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM  JOYCE ASCHENBRENNER:  The skills that are learned as publicists can translate to many different fields, including the not-for-profit area.  There are many ways to help grow the area where charities and sports intermix these days, and make that area into a very worthwhile part of sports publicity as well.

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.