Warriors Tweedia Day Scores Again…

Now it’s not like teams haven’t figured out the need for use of social media or the power it now has in engaging fans. Still, harnessing that power into some centralized events is sometime a challenge. Then again you have the Golden State Warriors, who continue to refine the aggregated space and recently staged one of the best engagement platforms any team does; Tweedia Day.
Now in its fifth season, Tweedia Day follows the Warriors usual media day open house, the team when every player lines up to get done the wide variety of tasks from community relations, marketing and general media that can be housed and used throughout the year. Want to hear players doing promos in Chinese for the NBA? Media day is for you. It is very insular and usually pretty predictable, with now NBA TV dropping in for some live sessions for fans. But fan interaction? Nah, it’s all business.
For Tweedia Day, the Warriors give fans, through several platforms but especially though twitter, the ability to connect with players in real time. Factor in some live contests and some special added value areas for season subs, and Tweedia Day has become a must opt in for fans in the Bay Area and around the world. It is a nice aggregation of every member of the Warriors staff in a pretty simple but very effective format that most teams do as one-off’s but rarely as one full session. It takes time sure, but it leaves a lasting impression on all those who can join in. And of course, it is sponsorable.
Of course it’s not the only element of digital engagement that the Warriors do to build marketshare. From blogger media day to innovative video work, Silicon Valley’s team always seems to be fast and first in innovative engagement. Once again, a nice score for Golden State.

A Hall Of An Opportunity In Springfield

If you are fan of inductions, then late July and August is your time. Two weeks ago the Baseball Hall of Fame had one of their biggest weekends ever with massive attendance and media exposure. Last weekend the Pro Football Hall of Fame served as the unofficial kickoff of the NFL season with their Hall of Fame weekend, and in just a few weeks the College Football Hall of Fame will open its doors in Atlanta for the first time. While all these Halls celebrate great largely American sports heroes, this weekend the one Hall in North America that is truly global will do its induction, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The 2014 class is no less notable than those going in baseball or football the past few weeks; it  includes David Stern, and former players Alonzo Mourning,  Sarunas Marciulonis and Mitch Richmond, along with NCAA championship-winning coaches Nolan Richardson and Gary Williams and the pioneering women’s  team from Immaculata University. A great mix of stars from almost every corner of the U.S. and around the world. The Hall is located in Springfield, hard by one of the busiest corridors in the U.S. and not that far from Boston or New York. Yet for its location and its global designation, the Hoop Hall seems to get lost in the mix at this time of year; making it a great opportunity for brands and partners looking to maybe find a little diamond in the rough for promotion in a long, hot and busy summer.

Maybe it’s because the Hall is not tied to an actual time of year when hoops is top of mind; like baseball or football are. Maybe it’s because it is August and even those who are passionate about seeing such inductions may be suffering from a nostalgic hangover, for whatever the reason, it seems like there is missed opportunity abounding in Springfield. Basketball is the second-most popular game in the world; the All-Star cast going in is certainly worthy of large media coverage, and those returning to the Hall each years for its ceremony rival the returnees in any sport. The NBA and the national wires will do their part to get the stories told, but in terms of buzz and glitz and glamor basketball on the rarest of rare occasions misses the boat this weekend.

Can there be more that could be done? Sure. While none of the Halls are officially aligned with their respective pro leagues, their support is always welcomed and appreciated, so bringing more social media presence and technology to the induction in Springfield through the NBA and even FIBA partners would help. Maybe there should be more of an in-market presence for the inductees to take the Hall experience more on the road; Team USA just finished up its practice sessions with more to come, could Springfield have been a place where they came around the induction weekend? Does the ceremony have to be at a time of year when hoops is so far off in the distance? All of those questions have probably been addressed and answered by the powers that be, but the Basketball Hall of Fame weekend should be a must attend for media, brands interested in the game and fans, much like baseball and football induction weekends are.  The building is a grand tribute to a great game, as are its inductees. Finding the best way to shine a brighter light on the weekend is the challenge, one which companies should be looking at probably closer than they have in the past as a great entrée into basketball.

In The Social Space, The Heat Remain Hot…

Before any trade movement happened, the entirety of the NBA waited with baited breath on one event: the decision of LeBron James. Everyone in the sports world knew that once LeBron picked his destination, that the shakeout would be swift and violent. Now that the smoke has cleared, what did it all mean in terms of NBA Teams’ social media presence? Our colleagues at MVP Index took a look, and while the Cavs gained, the demise of the Heat seems greatly exaggerated thus far. Are the Heat in retreat?

In short: no. Miami still reigns supreme in the MVP Index’s rankings of NBA teams. They maintained their seat atop the social media mountain by staying the course and by having built such a solid global following that has stayed loyal, which is great, but probably not surprising news, for brands and partners in South Florida. Since LeBron vacated his throne in Miami, the Heat’s Facebook likes and Twitter followers have increased by over 413K and 28K respectively. If you’re wondering what those numbers look like compared to the rest of the league; the Heat gained the most Facebook likes in the entire NBA followed by Chicago, Cleveland, LA Lakers and San Antonio. Twitter, however, is an entirely different story. The Cleveland Cavaliers hold the title for the most Twitter followers gained since Decision II with over 75K. The next four teams in that category are the Lakers, Bulls, Heat and Knicks.

MVP INDEX TOP 10 NBA TEAMS

Miami Heat

Los Angeles Lakers

Boston Celtics

Chicago Bulls

San Antonio Spurs

Oklahoma City Thunder

Golden State Warriors

New York Knicks

Portland Trail Blazers

Los Angeles Clippers

 

TRENDING UP

Sacramento Kings + 5

Cleveland Cavaliers +4

Portland Trail Blazers +3

Memphis Grizzlies +3

Los Angeles Lakers +2

Chicago Bulls +2

Denver Nuggets +2

Minnesota Timberwolves +2

Golden State Warriors +1

Dallas Mavericks +1

Socially, Cleveland has made some serious strides. In addition to those over 75K new Twitter followers, the Cavs also gained over 240K Facebook likes. Additionally, they gained the most followers of any NBA team on Instagram at over 91K. They also more than doubled their monthly Facebook shares with an increase of over 13K. Overall, the Cavs moved up 4 spots on the MVP index to the 12th slot. In just over 3 weeks after the decision, that’s some significant movement. It will be interesting to watch the rest of the league to see how social strategies change and how fans react to see who will end up with the top spot as deals like the one for Kevin Love play out, and more importantly, how teams perform once training camp gets started in October.

One thing that is pretty clear though; social followings, unless there is something catastrophically negative occurring; remain tough to rock once built, and are still challenging to grow unless the social space is combined with real time results in games. That combination remains king; for LeBron and everyone else.

The Business of LeBron; From A Foundation Point of View

The latest in Tanner Simkins interviews is with Michelle Campbell, Executive Director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, which has thrived whether the NBA star has been in Miami or Cleveland…

Michele Campbell is Executive Director of The LeBron James Family Foundation.  The organization helps at-risk youths progress from third grade to successful high school graduation. With LeBron’s vision in tact, Campbell has infused long-term commitment into the operation of The Foundation’s programs to combat low graduation rates in Akron, Ohio.  Concurrently, Campbell serves a Chief Operating Officer for LRMR Management Company, also run by LeBron.  We sat down with Campbell for a discussion on The LeBron James Family Foundation, the positive impact she’s had in the community, and more. (A detailed biography of Michele Campbell is provided after the Q&A)

Full Court Press: For those who may be unfamiliar tell us a little about yourself and The LeBron James Family Foundation [LJFF].

Michele Campbell: I am Executive Director of the Foundation. My day-to-day role, well I get to exercise LeBron’s vision for him. He is pretty busy with his day job. [laughs] He has a vision and I get to put it into action.

FCP: Tell us about Wheels For Education? What about I Promise?

MC: Prior to Wheels for Education, LeBron held an event called the Bikathon in Akron. Here we had churches, schools, and other groups get together for a community bike ride.  We had carnival like activities; we gave away bikes and helmets, and more. But after the event, we never heard from the kids or families again.  We never heard how they were or what they were doing. LeBron then decided to no longer be involved with what we now call one-and-done, or these single types of events.  Instead, we wanted to do something that really made a difference, particularly a long-term difference.

There was a lot of research on what LeBron could do. We held meetings with the city and other groups.  But after one meeting with Akron Public School System, [where LeBron went], we learned that high school dropout rate was 24%. This was definitely not where we wanted it to be.  To LeBron education is very important so we decided to take this problem and turn it into a program. This program had to have a long-term commitment for the children, to help them graduate, to see them through graduation, and help them through the ups and downs [of adolescence]. Between 2nd and 3rd grades, children are identified by Akron Public Schools as potentially at risk, and then they are invited to our program.  The only requirement is for the students to attend a two-week camp prior to the school year. LeBron established this as well. They must attend 8 out of the 10 camp days.  Here we teach [intervention tactics, technological skills, and more] so they feel equal or closer to their peers that may have a little more opportunity.

Once they complete camp, they are with Wheels for Education program. [Unlike a one-and-done] We closely follow the students’ progress and have a family reunion every year.  Its cool for the students to be a Wheels For Education Kid in elementary school but not for the 7th and 8th graders. As interests change at this age, we move them into the I Promise network.  Our initiatives here are designed for these older students.

The first question you asked about me, I answered very short, but when you get me talking about the program, I can talk all day.  I really love the work we are doing.

FCP: What is your most positive memory with The LeBron James Family Foundation?

MC: I also serve as COO for the business side of the house [LRMR] I do a lot of budgets, insurance, and legal work. So I see both sides.  The work I do with The Foundation is very rewarding. The letters I get, the calls I receive; they are all wonderful memories.  We invite parents and children to our advisory board meetings.  In a recent meeting we had a mother tell us that prior to our program her daughter couldn’t read and she didn’t want to go to school.  The mother was crying and said that now the daughter gets straight O’s [grade for ‘outstanding]. The help that she got from the program– and there are a million other stories. That’s the best part of my work with The LeBron Family Foundation.

FCP: What is one challenge you had to overcome in your current role?  What have you learned from that?

MC: LeBron is popular and well-known world wide, naturally people hear about the program.  I am contacted all the time by people asking to bring the program to Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, etc. The program works because of the authenticity and connection LeBron and our Foundation shares with the community of Akron.  What I tell them is if you have someone in your community who is an influencer like LeBron is in Akron; then we can help tailor fit a program around that.  But, our exact model can’t be picked up and used in any city; we work very hard to be authentic to the community. We aren’t trying to spread this foundation to 20 different locations. I always try and explain that.

Also, it is challenging for a growing program to attract sponsors. Many potential sponsors aren’t interested in Akron, Ohio. It’s a challenge when we have the high goals that we do to only lean on LeBron and fundraising to fuel everything.  We simply need more funds to activate our goals [scholarships, etc]

What I learned is that if you stay genuine and authentic to LeBron, his vision, and what we have done; then people truly connect. LeBron has made a promise to these kids.  He wears his I Promise band everyday. People ask what its for, they make their own promise, and the mFCPion is spread from there. These are sold for 1$ and these funds do help dramatically.

FCP: Following the class until graduation, the open updates from LeBron to the kids, or any of the other unique approaches LJFF has taken — How did these ideas originate?

MC: LeBron’s ultimate goal was to promote education.  This was important. Especially after identifying very low graduation rates.  He wanted to fix that.  We have three different advisory boards of experts [education, youths, other]. We rely on them to say what specific efforts will help.  LeBron created the vision and the drive.  His personality is highly evident as well.

FCP: Is there a negative development or trend with youths that you find most alarming?  Do you have a potential solution?

MC: For us, it is key to understand individual circumstances.  One of the things I’ve honed in on is the perspective of a parent. For the single parent, with two jobs and three kids, it is a challenge to be at everything at once. Parents and caregivers like this take the brunt of it.  [With our events] I always think about time of day and small things like that with the parent in mind to help alleviate the struggle.

FCP: Shifting gears a bit, what is your favorite book?

MC: Little Women. When I was young I wouldn’t really read in my free time, and if I did I wouldn’t have chose this one.  Having said that, it was the first book that I can remember thoroughly. I enjoyed reading and talking about it with my mom. The special memories attached to this always stuck out.

Right now, I am reading The Story of Greater Akron. It is really thrilling if you’re not from Akron, Ohio. It helps me learn more about the city and its intricacies.  I look forward to using this to help influence our program.

FCP: Lastly, do you have advice or tips for young people? This could be in general or in the philanthropy space

MC: Make good decisions and get help.  It’s all about working hard without giving into outside pressures. In a nutshell, that’s my best advice.

 Michele Campbell  – Chief Operating Officer, LRMR Management Company and Executive Director, LeBron James Family Foundation

Michele Campbell has spent many years pursuing her passion in the education sector. The Akron native attained her education from Ohio institutions including a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Ashland University, a Master’s degree from Kent State University’s Higher Education Administration, and a Doctorate from the University of Akron as a Doctor of Education. Following her own educational achievements, Campbell went to work at the University of Akron to help others pursue theirs. Beginning in 1993, Campbell served on several posts at the University including Coordinator of Greek Affairs, Associate Director of the Student Union, Interim Director of the Student Union, and finishing her service as the Assistant Dean for Student Life.

In 2006, Campbell set her educational sights on a new vision as the Chief Operating Officer of LRMR Management Company and the Executive Director of the LeBron James Family Foundation. Through the Foundation, which aims to positive affect the lives of children and young adults through education and co-curricular educational initiatives, Campbell brings LeBron’s vision to create positive and lasting change in his hometown of Akron to life through real, executable initiatives. Under Campbell’s direction, in 2011 the LeBron James Family Foundation began working on the high school dropout crisis facing the Akron community and launched its “Wheels for Education” program in partnership with the Akron Public Schools. This groundbreaking initiative targets third graders and provides them with the programs, support and mentors they need for success in school, following them all the way through graduation. Now in year three of the program, Campbell’s guidance has helped grow this thoughtful, research-based, and powerful program to more than 700 students, and will continue to expand as it takes on a new class of third graders each year. Capitalizing on the positive influence of LeBron and executing with the help of Akron community and educational leaders, the Foundation has successfully engaged and encouraged students to create positive change in their lives. With Campbell at the helm, the Foundation has taken this initiative nationwide to reach others passionate about personal and social responsibility through the I PROMISE network.

Campbell’s work with the LeBron James Family Foundation has allowed her to take her passion for education and extend it to children and families who need it most. Under LeBron’s direction, Campbell has successfully transformed the Foundation from a charity to a lifelong commitment whose impacts will be felt for generations to come.

 

Want A Piece of The Cavs? Invest In the Bench…

With all the LeBron James news and the talk of skyrocketing ticket prices, ample TV appearances, out of control franchise valuations and all else round the Cavaliers, it will be interesting to see who the smart, calm head identify as key engagement opportunities around the LeBron return. Will brands try and tie up Kyrie Irving even more? How about Anderson Varejao, there flamboyant, international star soon to be a free agent?  Do you roll with the ever-improving Tristan Thompson, or a rookie like Andrew Wiggins, with lots of upside? They all will surely get their fair share.

However a guy who could be an even better bet for brand stability is someone who won’t even put on a uniform. New head coach David Blatt.  The skeptical may say Blatt is being thrown into a pressure cooker which could quickly spit him out, with wasted time and wasted money for brands.  Very, very doubtful. Blatt, for the right brands, would be the safest investment this side of LeBron. Why? Teams now are investing more and more in the long term culture of an organization more than the quick fix. Blatt comes to the Cavs before LeBron as a global commodity; a successful basketball lifer who has a reputation for getting the respect of his players around the world, and one who gives that respect back. He is multi-lingual, multi-national and has turned very turbulent situations around in places like Russia and Israel, all the while keeping strong ties and respect with the hierarchy of NBA coaching circles. While Erik Spoelstra was somewhat of an unknown quantity outside of coaching circles when he took over the Miami Heat and gained LeBron, Blatt is a known international commodity who could become a coaching star regardless of the performance of his returning superstar now.

So what type of brands invest in a coach new to the NBA? Some will depend on his level of comfort doing things outside of his given duties. The goal is to win with the Cavs and focus there, but that doesn’t mean opportunities can’t arise. The low hanging fruit are apparel companies who can dress Blatt as he becomes a TV fixture during games. There are international brands on the business side like law firms and even law and tax firms that now spend dollars against having a key spokesperson with little public effort; it would be much more behind the scenes entertaining and talking hoops. Educational businesses could benefit from a well-traveled American who speaks several languages, and that is just the start. Yes, the choices have to be wise and incremental, with a look to the future as the team evolves.

The future should include a carefully picked coach as well as his superstar players,  and if you are a brand looking to find a spot in the hubbub, grabbing its affordable rising star on the bench, might be a safer bet than grabbing one on the floor.

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.

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.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Next, Clippers?

The speed and price of the Los Angeles Clippers potential sale this week pointed two key facts; there are more billionaires in the world than there are sports franchises for sale, and the most important part of any transaction is not a valuation or a sticker, tis what someone in the market will pay for the asset. Steve Ballmer’s speed to beat others to become an NBA owner this time around proved that point.

Earlier in the week a lot of the talk had been about the potential brand damage the entire Sterling mess had brought to the franchise. However even before the sale there was little evidence that the madness had actually brought more value to the Clippers brand off the court than ever before, should the right owner be found and a sale go through. Sponsors who threatened to walk came back in the door, upper management was stabilized with the help of the NBA, and the support of the players and the coaching staff following Adam silver’s moves had given all a sense that justice in some form was being meted out, and the business of the LA Clippers was as sound, if not sounder, than ever before.  Now the a $2 billion price tag where exactly is the Clippers brand going forward, especially given the flux of their co-tenants the Los Angeles Lakers, and the ever-fluid state of the NBA from a personnel standpoint.

On the court the franchise obviously has some of the most marketable stars in North American sport in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They have paid handsomely for a coach in Doc Rivers and have added the pieces they saw as needed to move the club to one level for now, but it is a level still short of an NBA title. They sell tickets in a building where they are a tenant, they bring in brands which are solid but not overly cutting edge, they draw a bit of a national audience but still not a massive one, and their presence outside the US in the scope of the NBA is still behind that of brands like the Knicks, the Lakers, the Bulls, the Heat and even teams like the Rockets, the Nets and the Mavericks. They are not currently, but will soon, be in a position to set up a better structured and more lucrative TV deal, but that is still a bit off in the distance.

The big question from a brand standpoint right now can be addressed in the time and effort Ballmer as an owner will put in to changing a culture even further. Many have said the organization outside of ownership was progressing into being more aggressive and cutting edge, but will more changes be coming as the former Microsoft head now evaluates staff and brings in new and different faces to continue to accelerate the face of the Clippers?

There has even been some talk of the new life the team has received, coupled with the new name recognition amongst casual fans because if the issues with ownership and the marketable stars they have may even push the longstanding but in flux Lakers brand as the most marketable in Southern California. That really, really remains to be seen. Fans are loyal and tribal and won’t jump ship that fast, and the market certainly is big enough for both clubs to survive and thrive. One looks to new York, where the Nets have certainly grown as a brand in Brooklyn, but the Knicks from a business perspective have not suffered in any substantial way yet, and have generated even more offseason buzz than Brooklyn with all the talk of what Phil Jackson may be doing for the long term. Now none of that talk has translated into anything substantial in terms of wins and losses for the Knicks, who missed the playoffs and are still coachless, but it has continued to keep them well in a basketball conversation throughout the spring, and the revamped Madison square Garden remains a prime destination for hoops fans from around the world, despite the rise of the Barclays Center and tis main tenant a river away.

The interesting question around LA may be more of what the Lakers can do to right their ship than what the Clippers are doing to ramp up theirs. LA has a solid business and marketing mind in Jeannie Buss, but who ultimately makes the business calls may not be in her capable hands right now, although it would be a solid move forward for the team. The brand is certainly not suffering in terms of sales or recognition yet, and it takes several bad years, not one, for loyalty to wane. The vastness of the market can certainly support both teams having filled buildings and viable brands, and a little extended completion on the business side is certainly not a bad thing.

In the end the real intriguing part of the Clippers sale if and when it goes through to be final, will be to see how innovative, fresh and forward-thinking the team will be. What will brands put a value on when they are looking to gain entry into the NBA, and what will the team do to continue to now accelerate the buzz not just in the marketplace but nationally. The new owner has said he will stay in LA, but does that mean the Staple Center? Does Anaheim come back into the mix as it has before? And what happens with TV rights and other manageable assets? All will be interesting to watch as yet another successful business man enters the field of pro sports looking to make his mark and rearrange the furniture in a house that was recently shaken to its core, but one with a very solid foundation.

The games off the field in LA will be just as interesting as the ones on the court.       

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.