MLB | Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

Mixing Sports and Broadway…

Below is the latest q and a by Tanner Simkins, this one with sports marketing legend Tony Ponturo (who I have had the honor to personally work with on four projects in recent years).

We sat down with sports marketing legend, Tony Ponturo, to discuss his role as producing partner for Broadway productions like Bronx Bombers, Lombardi and Magic/Bird and how theater and his longtime career in sports marketing play together. He and producing partner Fran Kirmser also recently acquired the rights to the life story of Joe Louis for film and stage, and have numerous other projects in the pipeline, including bringing Lombardi to the screen in the next few years.

Full Court Press: After a heralded sports business career, how was the transition from marketing executive to Broadway producer?

Tony Ponturo: I graduated with an economics degree but quickly realized that wasn’t for me.  I always wanted something that had both a creative and business dynamic.  I gravitated to sports marketing because it quenched both the creative and business side.  Just like how marketing is the business of sports, producing is very much the business of entertainment.  After building credibility with my sports marketing career, the transition into Broadway was natural.

FCP: Any crossover between the two?

TP: It’s really no different than how we did it at [Anheuser-Busch], but this time it’s a show.  The important question to answer is how to use the mark.  For example with Bronx Bombers, using the Yankee logos, official uniforms, etc added necessary value to the production.  Without this authenticity, consumers can easily see through it and lose interest.

FCP: Any development or trends you are closely watching?

TP: I am intrigued by the growth of fantasy sports.  It has created a new dialogue away from following your local sports team.  Now there is interest and passion at many levels for many reasons.  There will be continued efforts to capture this revenue in new and creative ways.

FCP: Any tips or advice for the aspiring sports professional?

TP: Reputation and trust are big things in business that get overlooked. Always keep those in mind while getting experience. Don’t have a high bar; get in anywhere as along as there is a focused path.  Impatience is the biggest barrier; don’t overlook a sense of direction & foundation.  Good people rise to the top wherever they are.

FCP: What is your favorite book?

TP: I enjoy reading historical biographies like of the Kennedy family for example.  I appreciate these real life stories and their practicality.

Sports and marketing executive Tony Ponturo’s name and reputation have been synonymous with quality, innovation and attention to brand detail for over 30 years. First in the advertising world, then in a landmark career at Anheuser-Busch, Tony Ponturo has been responsible for some of the most influential partnerships that have shaped the sports and entertainment landscape as we know it today.

Following a six year stint in the New York advertising business, Ponturo spent 26 years at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, MFCPouri, leading a team that built one of the most iconic sports and event marketing brands in the world. He joined AB in 1991, and until his departure in 2008, served as the President and CEO of Busch Media Group and the Vice President of Global Media, Sports and Entertainment Marketing of Anheuser-Busch Inc. Ponturo managed over $700mm in media, sports and entertainment properties per annum and oversaw broadcast exclusives for the Super Bowl and the FIFA World Cup, as well as multifaceted relationships with the United States and International Olympic Committees. He helped vastly expand Anheuser-Busch’s leadership stake in the sports business, carving official beer sponsorships with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and NASCAR in North America, as well as landmark international deals with Formula One Racing and the English Premier League in soccer. Anheuser-Busch also increased its position in the local and regional areas of sports sponsorship, securing scores of team and event partnerships during this time as well. Brand growth was also not limited to sports, as the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards all became key activation and sponsorship elements of the Anheuser- Busch family. As a member of the Anheuser-Busch Strategy Committee, Ponturo also served on the Board of Directors of both Anheuser-Busch, Inc. and Anheuser-Busch International, Inc, playing an integral role in developing the brand’s successful corporate media and sports structure.

His latest ventures have him balancing his passions in both sports and entertainment. He is a producer of Broadway hits and Tony Award winning shows such as the 2009 revival of “Hair” and the original musical “Memphis,” which opened in the fall of 2009. Along with the creative vision of entrepreneur and Producing Partner Fran Kirmser, together Tony and Fran negotiated the first time ever NFL and NBA marketing partnership deals for Broadway for productions Lombardi and Magic Bird. Both the NFL and the NBA trusted Kirmser Ponturo with their trademarks and provided, in addition to marketing support, an authentication to the creative process.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dr. James Andrews Brand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“Hyper-Local” Gets Another Digital Shot…

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

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

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

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

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

Let the story pitching begin.

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.

Soccer In New York; The Strategic Battle Builds

In most cases around New York “the battle” for supremacy amongst pro sports rivals is often more fizzle than sizzle. The Nets have never been at peak performance as the same time as the Knicks; few years have the Jets and Giants in the playoffs at the same time; save for 2000, the Mets and Yankees rarely top the standings at the same point. It is only in hockey, where the devils and Rangers have recently produced some memorable matchups where a “subway series” seems to pit two rivals at top time against each other. So early next spring we will have a new battle, this one on the soccer pitch; as the incumbent Red Bulls will meet expansion New York City Soccer Club for the first time. Could this be the rivalry that fuels some fire in and around Gotham?

Right now NYCFC is adding veteran pieces while the Red Bulls make a playoff run, so where the two will stack up in their first meetings at Red Bull Arena or Yankee Stadium remains to be seen. However in the hype and strategy area, NYCFC has certainly taken their pre-play time to find ways to eat into the psyche of the New York casual sports fan, with strategic blitzes, brand building and announcements that have given them more headlines than any team in the market before they take the field for the first time.

NYCFC has used the deep pockets of  Manchester City and the New York Yankees, as well as their two iconic brand names, to bolster support. They have built a strong social campaign and a smart supporter club project to keep fans engaged, have used their time expanding grassroots support with every soccer club that will hear them speak and be part of their launch. They sent clear messages about culture by sending their soccer heads, Claudio Reyna and Jason Kreis, to learn the system they will use by embedding themselves in Man City football. They have secured local TV and even radio deals well in advance of their start, and they take every second they can to engage fans on all things football in the digital space. They sell tickets without games, sponsorship without a goal being scored. They are all about inclusion in something special. While most teams would use the power of Manhattan to introduce stars, NYCFC has taken to the streets, creating kids clinics in Brooklyn around the announcement of English star Frank Lampard, and Thursday will bring another solid name, David Villa, to a clinic with kids in the Bronx. Can Staten Island and Queens be far behind with the next announcements? The message is very clear; NYCFC aims to look across the city and east to build its following, areas that the Red Bulls have had limited success in engaging in throughout their history. New Jersey? Who knows.

The real star for NYCFC now is the idea of bring in on the ground floor of something special. Without results, the possibilities for now are endless. Now is the strategy glossing over issues for the long term? Somewhat. There is still no long term announced stadium plan and no entrenched practice facility. Brands for the most part are in the announce stage but there is no doubt that NYCFC has put down roots that are growing and ones that have engaged the casual fan for now. Whether that changes once the product hits the field is also another matter; it is a startup, and while the stories of the team, led by a star in Lampard who has said all the right things about investing in American soccer and wanting to be in New York (while other stars in soccer have come to new York in recent years and shunned the media attention and spotlight).

For their part, the Red Bulls right now are the mature brand taking on the challenger. They have looked to capitalize on the World Cup hype by putting quality on the field, involving some of their World Cu veterans in key promotions. They have invested in more grassroots programs in and around New Jersey and have held supporters meetings into the Manhattan and Brooklyn, albeit without some of the splash and dash that NYCFC’s hype has been lately. Right now they have a team and a brand that is supported in the market; while NYCFC has lots of potential.

Will the two clubs blossom into the rivalry that MLS has seen in places like Seattle and Portland? Tough to say at this point. New York is a fickle market where the brightest shine through, and the jury is still out on the fact that the City, albeit a soccer city, is really an MLS city. Kids in the area are still more apt to don a Manchester United or Real Madrid jersey as they will an MLS shirt, and with elite established clubs like Bayern Munich, AS Roma, Liverpool and Chelsea making marketing inroads on Madison Avenue, the attackers of MLS may be challenged for discretionary dollars. However both NYCFC and the Red Bulls will have something that all the TV dollars and marketing of the world’s elite clubs will not have; consistent match and athlete presence in the market. While we think that TV and digital can fill a void, the fact remains that the live experience is still king, and if the local clubs put on quality performances, they will help fill the seats as well as the hype meters.

Will the mega-busk of their owners and the strategic planning of the management team propel NYCFC to prominence overall in New York sport and ahead of the Red Bulls in the eyes of soccer cognoscenti? We shall see. For now, on the hype and buzz meter, it’s a very good race, without a goal being scored.

Yankees, Prudential Create A Great Senior Moment

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

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

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

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

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

Best Practices, Team PR: Josh Rawitch

As we have mentioned before we would like to highlight some of the best of the best in communications and marketing more regularly with a short q and a. We start it off with Arizona Diamondbacks SVP, Josh Rawitch.

One of the most respected team communications executives in professional sports, Josh Rawitch is entering his 20th season in Major League Baseball and third as Sr. Vice President of Communications with the D-backs. In this role, he is responsible for the internal and external communication efforts of the organization, including baseball and business public relations, media relations, publications, social media, photography and fan feedback.

During his tenure with the D-backs, the team has garnered increased attention locally, nationally and internationally, as it has been featured in outlets such as Yahoo!, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Bloomberg and the New York Times as well as dozens of outlets during goodwill tours of Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Rawitch joined the D-backs following 15 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was most recently the Vice President of Communications. At various points with the Dodgers, he oversaw the broadcasting and community relations departments. An early advocate of social media, the Dodgers became the first in Major League Baseball to create a program in which independent bloggers received media credentials and access to cover the team. Rawitch joined the Dodgers in 1995 in the Advertising and Special Events Department and spent parts of five seasons in the team’s marketing department before moving over to Public Relations in 2000. He left the organization for two seasons and helped to integrate MLB.com, the league’s official website, from an independently operated site to a profitable venture that now receives hundreds of millions of visits per season. During his time with MLB Advanced Media, Rawitch served as a daily beat reporter, covering the Dodgers (2001) and Giants (2002). He was the lone American journalist to cover the Caribbean Series, All-Star Game, League Division Series, LCS and World Series in 2002.

The Los Angeles native attended Indiana University, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Marketing and Management with a minor in Business. He currently teaches Strategic Sports Communications at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and was previously an adjunct professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication for two years.

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

The biggest challenge I think we face is the oversaturation of messaging, which makes it hard for any message to carry the weight needed to truly stick or have an impact. The speed of the news cycle is incredibly fast and therefore, more and more mistakes are made because there just isn’t the time to fully report it – an issue with which many of my journalist friends admit they often struggle. The best way to overcome the first issue, I think, is getting creative in the way we share the message so that it has a stickiness that wasn’t required 10 years ago. As for the latter issue, I’m not sure how to fix other than being honest with those who share the news and accepting that mistakes are going to be made given the nature of the news cycle. Just being human and recognizing that we work with other humans is probably a big step toward overcoming any issue.

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

Due to the high turnover during my years at the Dodgers (and MLB.com), fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), I’ve had almost 20 different bosses in 20 years in baseball, which is almost unfathomable. I’ve also worked under five different ownership groups, 10 managers and 8 General Managers, which has allowed me to learn the good and the bad from so many different people, it would be impossible to pick just one. That doesn’t even count some of my mentors in other departments and at other teams that I’ve leaned on for guidance. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I try to learn at least one thing from every person I come across – even if it’s something really minor.

What are you most proud of from a work perspective?

I’d like to believe that those I work for will say that I’m loyal and calm, even under difficult circumstances. I also believe that we were able to recognize early on the value of directly interacting with our fans/audience and utilizing newer platforms to do so (blogs, social media, etc.). But I think the thing I’m most proud of is the work the 30 MLB teams have done to raise more than $250,000 for Stand Up to Cancer in the last two years after seeing several of our colleagues affected by the disease.

Who do you learn the most from today?

Our President & CEO, Derrick Hall, has been a great mentor to me from my earliest days as an intern and just by watching him on a daily basis, I see what it takes to be a dynamic leader. He’s created a corporate culture that is extremely unique and I truly love working at the D-backs every day.

What has been your biggest disappointment?

I don’t really have any professional regrets, but I’ll continue to be disappointed until the day we win a World Series. Even though I may not have anything to do with how we play on the field, I watch it every year and truly want to know what it’s like to have that feeling that your franchise came out on top.

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

Most people I could name would not mean anything to those reading this, as they’re front office colleagues over the years that work hard and don’t really get much recognition. But of those high-profile people, I’d say that growing up listening to Vin Scully for my entire childhood (and now adulthood) and then working with him on a daily basis for so many years was a huge highlight because of his humility. The same goes for Joe Torre, whose baseball camp I attended as a kid and who understands people better than just about anyone I’ve met. Steve Sax was my favorite player growing up, so having him as a coach for a year with the D-backs and getting to know him was pretty cool. Luis Gonzalez is the best athlete I’ve ever worked with (and had him at both at the Dodgers and D-backs) but there are dozens of players who have come along, too, who treat everyone the same way regardless of their status and I’ve enjoyed each of those people quite a bit.

Who do you read or listen to regularly?

Admittedly, I’m addicted to my Twitter feed and probably read 10 articles a day from there on any number of topics. I try to read SportsBusiness Journal thoroughly each month and the Daily as often as possible. There are lots of sportswriters I like and respect and mostly I read biographies of accomplished people when it comes to books. I’ve got Sirius/XM in the car, so I listen mostly to news channels, the MLB channel and tons of music of every kind.

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

The fact that controversy and negativity is what generates clicks and drives the news cycle is definitely concerning, as I think there are far too many great stories out there that never get told because they’re seemingly not as attractive to a mass audience, but I’m guessing people in my shoes have been saying that for 25 years. I’d also say that the 24/7 nature of the industry makes it a challenge to achieve a semblance of work-life balance, but I think those of us in the industry knew what we were getting into and both accept and appreciate the lifestyle that goes along with it.

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

The access to information in real time is extremely exciting while the ability to watch/listen/read whatever you want, whenever you want, is obviously changing everything about the way we consume media and information.

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

My family is the most important thing and always keeps me grounded and happy, regardless of what may be happening professionally. Recognizing how fortunate I am to work in baseball and for this organization definitely keeps me focused, as I’m very aware that I get paid to do what tens of millions of people pay to do. I’ve always strived to be the best at whatever it was I was doing and I’ve known that if I slack off, there will be someone right there to take away this dream job and career.

Best Practices: Amplifying The Message

The latest in Tanner Simkins q and a’s is with industry veteran Michael Neuman.

Michael Neuman is the Managing Partner of Scout Sports and Entertainment.  We recently caught up with the Amplify Sports and Entertainment for a discussion on career advice and developing trends.  Neuman’s brief bio is provided after the Q&A

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Full Court Press: For those who may be unfamiliar, tell us about yourself and your work?

Michael Neuman: I launched Scout Sports and Entertainment in 2010 as the in-house sports and entertainment consultancy at Horizon Media.  Horizon is the largest independently owned media agency in the world.  Our role is to provide strategic counsel to our clients who invest heavily in sports and entertainment content to develop deep, emotional bonds with their target audiences.  We sit at the intersection of sports media and sports marketing, a powerful and pivotal point where brand and consumers come together with frequent momentum

FCP: Why sports?

MN: The passion is unrivaled, people WANT to see and feel it live.  It’s the ultimate “must see” TV and live event programming.

FCP: Describe your leadership style?

MN:  Empowering, inclusive, incorporating, passionate, caring and invested

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

MN: Brand curated content and the use of social media to flame the fires of good work.  AB’s Up for Whatever campaign around the Super Bowl was simply brilliant

 FCP: Who is someone you learned the most from? What did they teach you?

MN:  Doug Verb my first boss, hired me out of college.  Treat all people with upmost respect and understand what motivates them.  John Floegel when I worked on the McDonald’s business for teaching me the art of politics and Jonah Kaufman (McDonald’s owner operator) for teaching me the importance of metrics and speaking the language of your audience

 FCP: What is your biggest regret?

MN: I wouldn’t change my life at all, I’m doing exactly what I set out to do and have worked with some of the industry’s greatest people.

 FCP: If you go back, what would you tell you?

MN:  In athletics, the mental edge is the differentiator between good and great.  In business, start earlier.  Once you zero in a career, start building experience and a network base.  The industry is super competitive and amassing relevant experiences earlier will be the differentiator

 FCP: What was the last book you read?

MN: I’m reading “Leaders Eat Last” now

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

MN:  If you truly want to work in the business of sports, you must be 130% committed to do whatever it takes to catch your first break.  The hardest part is getting the shot, it’s no different than the career minor leaguer getting called up in September.  Most fans don’t know this player probably spent the last 10 years in the minors.  There must be an irreversible commitment to succeed and on your own team, you need everyone on board including family, friends and your entire network.  Persistence and determination are omnipotent

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Neuman is the Managing Partner of Scout Sports and Entertainment, a Division of Horizon Media, Inc. Prior to joining Horizon, he was cofounder and president of Amplify Sports and Entertainment, LLC, a marketing consulting agency created to help brands harness the power of strategic sponsorship and maximize the impact of athlete and celebrity driven campaigns. Prior to launching Amplify, Neuman was Senior Vice President, Group Account Director with STRATEGIC (formerly Strategic Sports Group), where he provided strategic consulting services for sports and entertainment partnerships. Neuman previously held senior positions with Paragon Marketing Group (HALO Sports), Arnold Communications, and Global Television Sports, Inc.

Owning The 4th…

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

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

Have a great 4th!