Strike A Pose: “Johnny Football” Delivers On Instagram

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

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

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

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

Creating A Better (Luxury) Experience…

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been the response thus far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare Coalition Uses Athletes To Deliver Its Message…

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

Lessons From A Lifer At ESPN…

When we were lucky enough to be asked to update our text “Sports Publicity” in 2013, we called on several of those in the media industry who have been around the evolving world of communications for a while, and asked them what they have seen in terms of changes and how they have been able to adapt to the changing world and remain successful.
The sampling of sports communications execs ranged from those at media companies like NBC and Sports Illustrated to agencies like Taylor and leagues like the NBA. However one of the stories that struck is the most was the narrative told by ESPN, and its longtime communications head Chris LaPlaca. LaPlaca, one of a handful of original employees at “The Worldwide Leader,” has always looked to find ways to learn, and encourages his staff to do the same. By doing so, ESPN has taken a unique and aggressive approach to communications, teaching everyone on the staff to be “360 degree communicators;” using every medium possible to make sure that the story behind the ESPN story is being told. The staff learns how to use video, audio and every form of digital device to capture the unique goings-on behind the scenes, and make it into a communications experience in addition to what major story is being covered.
We were able to more clearly document the practice in 2013 with a blog post  so today we caught up with LaPlaca to ask him more about his thoughts on the industry today, where it’s going, and what he is most proud of with all the time he has logged in Bristol (his bio follows the story).

 

 

What is the biggest challenge you see in the communications business today, and how is it best overcome?

Information flow these days begins at warp speed and accelerates from there, often bringing a lack of context and at worst, complete misinformation along for the ride. All you can do is be savvy about which issues are worth the time spent and then use all the tools you have at your disposal to insert your point of view.

Who is the person you learned the most from in your career and why?

I learned work ethic and integrity from my dad, how to communicate in writing from a variety of professors at St. Bonaventure University, how to be a member of a team from my high school football and basketball coaches, how to hustle from Joe Goldstein, and the intricacies of corporate communications from Tom McElroy, Hank Rieger and especially Rosa Gatti, who took a shot on me right out of college and then again, nine months later, when we both joined ESPN within its first year. I am still learning today from tons of people who have no idea I am stealing from them.

What are you most proud of from a work perspective?

I’m proud to be among a dwindling group of ESPN folks working here who joined the company in its first year…clearly, I was just a kid then! None of us spend much time looking back when the present is so fun and challenging and the future is bright…but when we do, we quietly express pride and gratitude for having started from scratch and contributed to what we’ve built, brick by brick, over 35 years. The reason we’re still here isn’t because we signed a lifetime contract: it’s because we learned how to adapt, evolve, get in front and work like challengers to stay there.

Who do you learn the most from today?

The way this industry is evolving, I learn something new every day. And it can come from anywhere if you are open to it.

What has been your biggest disappointment?

I don’t spend much time on “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” It’s over, I can’t change it and I’ve already deposited whatever I’ve processed from any disappointments. I much prefer to channel whatever emotional energy I have into the present and future. If pressed, I would likely say Game 6 of the ’86 World Series…..but the Red Sox have won three Series since so I’ve let that go.

Who were a few of the people you enjoyed working with the most and why?

It’s really difficult to condense 35 jam-packed, fun years to answer that question. I love my current team, for example, some of whom were kids when I got to Bristol and some of whom weren’t even born. That’s simultaneously scary and wonderful. If pressed, I would say those of us who were here in the very early days will always have a special bond. When we run into one another – those still here or those who have retired – there’s an unspoken but palpable and very special connection.

What is your biggest concern with the business of media and entertainment?

Speed’s impact on veracity and context from a journalistic perspective. From a business perspective, I’m confident about ESPN’s future in a rapidly changing environment. We used to be the toy department…..now, live sports is arguably the most powerful entertainment genre in this country.

What’s the most positive change you have seen recently in business?

I have three: Mobility in consuming content. The ability to personalize. Sports as a preeminent genre. There has never been a better time to be a sports fan.

What’s the thing that makes you stay focused and positive in your life?

I’ve been blessed with a “glass half-full” outlook no matter my circumstance. Sometimes I have to spend a lot of energy to get to half-full, but it’s always worth it. That said, my wife and I have two little girls at home, ages 6.5 and 8, and to be able to see the world through their eyes at this stage of my life is a wonderful gift. They make me laugh every day.
Chris LaPlaca was named ESPN, Inc.’s senior vice president, corporate communications in June 2008. He is responsible for the Company’s worldwide internal, public and media relations strategies, including oversight of consumer, corporate and employee communications for ESPN’s 50 business units. He also oversees the company’s day-to-day working relationship with The Walt Disney Company’s corporate communications and investor relations groups.

LaPlaca, a 34-year veteran of ESPN, had been senior vice president, communications (2006-08), overseeing public and media relations. Prior to that he was senior vice president, consumer communications (2003-06), overseeing consumer media and public relations efforts for domestic services ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN and ESPN2 HD, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Radio, Mobile ESPN, and several other brand extensions. He is based in ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters.
Prior to joining ESPN, LaPlaca worked for one year (1979 80) as assistant sports information director at Brown University.
LaPlaca received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University in 1979, and remains active in support of the University’s Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
ESPN’s Communications team has earned many accolades over the years, including PR Week’s “Team of the Year” for large corporations in 2005, and CableFAX Magazine’s “Team of the Year” for 2012.
LaPlaca was honored by his alma mater in 1995 with the Jandoli School’s Alumnus of the Year Award, given to a graduate who exemplifies the highest professional standards and for service to the journalism program at St. Bonaventure. In April 2003, LaPlaca became the seventh alum in the program’s 54-year history to be inducted onto the J/MC school’s “wall of fame,” which includes five Pulitzer Prize winners.
LaPlaca is active within the industry and the community. He is a member of the NCTA’s Public Affairs Committee, and co-chaired the Association for Cable Communicators’ annual conference in 2013. In 2010, he was a keynote speaker at the PR News annual Media Relations Forum, and presented at the Conference for Corporate Communication at Notre Dame in 2013.

“Up For Whatever” Scores Locally…

Last year during Super Bowl,  Bud Light’s “Up for Whatever” campaign scored huge marks for buzz, digital engagement and creativity, and the campaign continued to gain steam and eyeballs, and hopefully sales and brand awareness, throughout the year.

 
New elements have been introduced throughout the year to give the campaign more steam and re-engage consumers who liked the first go-round, and were interested in seeing what could be next for the characters of “Up For Whatever.”

 
However with such a buzz-worthy high end national platform, the question existed, could this become hyper-local as well? Could local distributors take the platform and drill it down with their own creative engagement in their local markets. Well if you are in Texas, the answer is yes.

 
In and around the state, one of the most ultra-competitive beer markets in the country, distributors sought out an idea to take the buzz ad viral awareness of “Up For Whatever” tie it to an efficient and noteworthy micro-campaign of their own; one that would engage their local consumers and keep the beat going through local events. The result was a highly effective digital campaign, manufactured and executed by our friends at Huddle Productions, that brought all sorts of “Up For Whatever” messaging, branding and fun to the people of the Lone Star State.

 
The group highlighted eight high traffic events tied to sports and music; from the Bud Light Hotel at the Final Four to World Cup events to a Dallas Mavericks game to an MLB game with the Texas Rangers and others, and captured fans enjoying all elements of a Bud Light experience and sharing their thoughts and experiences on “Up For Whatever.” The crews encouraged fans to share videos and photos, drop in celebrity references and surprise appearances, and bring the noise, as well as the fun, of the national “Up for Whatever” campaign back to the local market. They tied it back with all elements of social and digital including the campaigns own microsite for fans to engage and share more content.

 
The result was impressive, especially for a controlled cost experience. Over 20 million social impressions, thousands of shared photos and videos and hours of good will and brand engagement for Bud Light and their local distributors that set them apart from their competitors and tied in very nicely to the mage-sized national campaign.

 
While there are scores of examples of brands activating locally around a national campaign, the low cost, high impact benefit that Bud Light got locally for their brand, and the awareness that was generated for a national campaign with a hyper-local effort, was impressive, and certainly worth a few cold ones for the media crew who pulled the effort together and for the execs who saw a unique way to engage locally and exploit a national viral trend.

 
Well done, well executed and a great best practice for the brand.

Brady And Facebook Winning Together

In the instant ROI world we live in today, it seems that Twitter is the instant news communication tool for many. It is simple, quick and easy to use, no hassle, and little detail. However for all its quick and easy effectiveness, Twitter also has its shortcomings. If you are following somebody and miss their post, the message goes into thin air, and going to find that message can be difficult. Millions of followers are nice, but if only 50 are engaged at a certain time, the message can be lost, and repetitive posts can become white noise. Yes there are great strategies for effective twitter use, and very strategic ways to use twitter, but sometimes for the casual follower there is a risk of here now, gone in seconds.
Which brings us to Facebook and its massive audience and engagement platform. While not usually the place of choice for immediate and short messages, Facebook is still a massive, and sometimes underutilized tool for the casual engagement, especially in sports. It has stickiness with newsfeeds that can be picked up and read at any time; they don’t disappear in the instant of a twitter feed, and there is the opportunity for longer thought and of course, attachments far and wide that sometimes can get lost in twitters short character assignment. There is also the fact that Facebook, while not always the choice of millennials in a Snapchat world today, is growing with a slightly older audience who has a newfound zeal for the digital space, and can be just as influential an have more disposable income to use, than a younger somewhat more tech savvy generation. Factor in the growing platform of Instagram and the acquisition of WhatsApp, and Facebook can be just as, if not more effective still for engagement than twitter is.
Case in point from the past month in sports is New England Patriots star Tom Brady. As pointed out in a recent piece on For The Win, Brady has undergone a bit of a brand re-invention in the past few months. He rarely engaged in the social space, and while fans knew of him, that lack of extra engagement didn’t give millions a chance to really know him. Now that was probably a choice that was made consciously, to stay out of the limelight with his high profile family and stick to the quiet comfort of the Patriots domain; let people know little, and let the success on the field rule the day. However as time and careers go by, there is a chance for a post-NFL career that Brady may be seeing, and he has used Facebook to let people see a different side of him with photos, comments and some video coming out in a steady stream.
It has humanized him a bit, enhanced his brand, and given fans a look inside his thoughts and life, albeit a very controlled and strategic look, that was not there before. The result? A successful on the field Brady coupled with a more engaged off the field Brady makes for an interesting and growing follow, something that down the lines maybe brands and broadcasters will find even more appealing than ever before. Now for sure Tom Brady will never be hurting for off the field opportunities; he is a superstar almost beyond parallel in American sport. Money and fame will never be an issue. However legacy could be, and as we have seen with athletes like Derek Jeter, crafting that legacy as the career starts to wind down is important and by telling your story through a platform like Facebook, where images can stick and be visited by millions at their leisure, you are building a very intriguing mix for future opportunities that may not have come by if one wasn’t engaged. It’s not crisis management or spin really, it’s smart, successful brand building and storytelling, and the most successful individuals on the planet are at the end, great storytellers. That is what Brady is starting to do; tell his story better than before, and it looks like there is a lot to tell.
Now the intermixing of all forms of social media for many, especially for brands, is still key. Each has to have its own focus and cross-generation of information. However to reach a certain global group of engaged and interested followers with a little more than a short burst, one should never forget the Facebook strategy, and in sports, a future Hall of Fame quarterback may have unveiled a great playbook for success on that platform this fall.

The FXFL Is Here…Will It Stay?

The allure of minor league sports is very powerful. Doing the right thing, having a great experience with young people as they work their way up the ladder on and off the field, an affordable family experience, a year-round chance for brands both locally and nationally to engage all are great opportunities that happen in a host of professional sports in the United States, from hockey and soccer to hoops and baseball. It is a multi-million dollar cottage industry that has launched thousands of careers.
So into the mix the past few weeks comes the FXFL, the latest in a series of developmental leagues around American football. The premise is that the football talent pool is deep, there is a need to develop that talent, there are other jibs like coaching that need opportunities, and there are rules to be experimented in and brands that are looking to engage that can’t afford the prices of the NFL or are locked out of categories, and there is a whole lot of potential content to be had out there. There are also stadia looking for events, and presumably, there are investors looking to throw money into the dream of sports ownership at some level.
The premise works in other minor league sports, football is arguably the largest and most engaged sport in America, so there has to be a market for it. Right?
So welcome in the four team FXFL, which in two weeks proved what many thought; the talent on the field and in the coaching area is there for more room. They have found a TV home, so there is an interest in content, and they have facilities who want to host games. So that works. They also have set spending limits on talent and have played with rules to help grow the game, so all that makes sense.
The question is; is it a business that can return revenue at some point? That is very hard to say. Staging events, especially football, is a very, very expensive proposition, and gaining market share where money is coming in to justify cost, and investor ROI at some point, is also really really tricky once the buzz of initial exposure wears off and a grind of a season starts. It has been tried before in football, and has never worked, even with the NFL-owned properties a decade ago that tried to develop talent in a smaller setting. Arena football? Some limited success in a different model. The CFL? Much more successful in a culture and a style, and with a TV partner and national brands that have worked for decades. The FXFL in the fall? Tough to say.
Is it fun and engaging? Yes. Is there content to potentially go and do reality or digital programming which could generate interest? Sure. Is there potential as a viable business? Maybe. Will brands look at it, assuming there is a consistent broadcast package and effective and consistent local marketing and sales, to say we want to out our dollars here and activate against and with you? Maybe, but that has to be proven. Will investors step up and buy and operate teams in local markets with substantial capital for years at a time? Hard to say.
The biggest challenge with the FXFL and other parallels like minor league affiliated baseball, the DLeague and even minor league hockey and in some instances soccer now, is that the parent club, major league sports, spends a lot of the cash and in many instances absorbs the L in a P and L. Even in Independent baseball, the possibility exists for those teams, which run greater risk but have good talent, to sell contracts to MLB or MiLB or even Japan for a profit. The FXFL has none of that as a safety net to be innovative or creative and not always look at the bottom line. The NFL, as it has since the failure of the WLAF, watches with no risk and simply picks up the talent with no cost or effort. They are quietly supportive with n involvement, which is a great situation to be in.
Would it be great if the FXFL bucks the trend of minor league football, finds investors and cities willing to support with a media company diving in for a partnership akin to what the NHL and NBC had at one point? Sure. Would it be great for brands to come on board with fixed partnerships that involve cash to raise the bottom line? Yes. Success of the FXFL is a success for everyone involved in sport.
Will it work? It is great the investor group got the league up and running to prove concept. That already is ahead of scores of others who have just talked and spent and never saw the light of day. If it is long term and viable, we will see hopefully next fall and the one after that. Ideas and sports are great, but in the end bottom line is what matters in sports business. Time, and dollars, will tell.

AT and T Scores With #Techgating

The amount of ways any collegiate partner, let alone an NCAA partner, can effectively engage with a young and vibrant audience grows every day. The most important element remains targeting the audience you are trying to reach so that you are not wasting time, and more importantly sponsorship dollars. Case in point is NCAA partner AT and T and their wide ranging partnership activation platform this fall.

AT&T, and NCAA Corporate Champion, have launched  #techgating. The define it as: “Where tech meets the tailgate to create a better game day.” At select college football games this season, AT&T will have an AT&T Fan Zone Tour Truck or its Amplified #Techgating Tour Truck on campus to promote #techgating. Fans can engage in a number of activities from a fight song mash-up station to a social-enabled photo booth. The key is original branded content using the students, alumni and interested fans as the focal point of the project. The more original user-generated content, the more compelling the content will be. It’s not cookie cutter and it helps each school carve its own brand identity. The program will look to capture images and content of all kinds from a wide swath of schools from Oregon to New Jersey, and will continue to post the content in real time on its own branded site, as well as micro-sites for the games they are coming in for.  There is no limit to devices used to upload, which helps AT and T expand its message of portability and accessibility with mobile technology.

Of course there’s a payoff for original content for registered users with various prizes leading to tickets and access for the 2015 College Football Championship Game.  The season-long activation is a smart way to tie local to national while keeping AT and T top of mind with consumers for their investment, all leading back to Dallas and the night when the first playoff champion is crowned.  A smart way to convey core messages while pulling together the most important part of a contest tied to digital; unique, user-generated content. Nice score for the NCAA, for the fans, and certainly for a key brand partner for college football’s biggest conferences.

Great Cross-Promo For An Iconic Gift: The Hess Toy Truck Hits 50…

This weekend I received a call to action postcard about the 50th anniversary of a collectable icon; The Hess Toy Truck. In a time of quick and easy, fast and fun and on to the next thing, the Hess Toy Truck has endured for generations. It has stayed true to its brand; solid, well designed always with a surprise or two, and always with batteries included. Kids, especially boys, of almost every generation love the trucks, and as they get older even keep it on the holiday list as a collectable even in places where Hess gas stations at least may be a thing of the past.

Now Hess is no small mom and pop organization. Founded originally in 1919, the company has been in the oil and gas business since that time and today operates largely in the Northeast, with refineries throughout the world. Its ties to sport, especially in football, stem from the 1960’s when President Leon Hess bought and operated the New York jets, which his family controlled for decades. The Hess Company green and white ties directly to the Jets colors still worn today.  

Over the years Hess has been involved in various forms of sports sponsorship outside of the Jets (where they still put in a good amount of time and effort), ranging from the NY/NJ Super Bowl to the Boston Red Sox, the Tampa Rays, the Pinstripe Bowl, Special Olympics, the Yankees, Arthur Ashe Kids Day, and even projects like the fields at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sponsorships have always bled over to their retail stations who hosted and housed promotions around the teams they sponsored, usually in the traditional forms of giveaways. No huge TV campaigns or social promotions; very basic and effective calls to action that helped draw in consumers and raise some awareness of the Hess brand in a crowded marketplace.

However nothing draws interest like the Hess trucks. Still sold at gas stations as well as online, the trucks and their accessories probably have more brand awareness with consumers than the gas stations themselves, or the teams the brand has sponsored over the years, and making it to 50 with a strong annual consumer promotion these days is certainly the stuff of legend, at least a consistent legend anyway.

So as the Hess toy truck hits 50 this winter, are there sports brands that can tie in to amplify the program and get some additional brand affinity. While not a major tie, is there a little NASCAR driver promo that can create awareness, maybe even as a giveaway? Can some of the Hess partners; the Jets, the Yankees etc., find a way to tie to the truck with some of their own living legends for a promo?

For sure the Hess toy trucks, especially with such a grand anniversary, will move this year with consumers. The question is will some of the sports brands long affiliated with Hess find some creative ways to share the spotlight? We shall see. Anniversaries for such a hallmark promotion don’t come along every day.

Bobbleheads For Broadway…

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

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

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

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

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

What works for one entertainment genre should work for another.