NCAA | Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

Making Tailgating History…

One of the more documented stories going onto the college football season was the dilemma many colleges were having in engaging their students throughout the mega-experience of Saturday Game days. Millennials don’t take well to five hour long rituals for the most part, they would rather games, and all around it, be fast and easy. Still for its issues, the college game day experience remains a tradition that now alumni of a certain age are engaging their kids with; a little less drinking, a little more throwing the ball around and mixing with friends who also may have kids. A good way to spend a Saturday. Looking to build on that tradition, and engage those families, are a whole host of brands who may seem unconventional to the experience but nonetheless want to hit families who may be less die hard and more casual supporters of alma mater.

One of those new partnerships is with the HISTORY, not exactly your dyed in the wool college football Saturday brand partner. HISTORY this week announced a partnership with IMG to bring the All-American Tailgate Tour to six university campuses. The cross-country tour is big on big, so don’t expect them this year at Colgate or Oberlin. The Tour will stop at Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan and Texas, bringing the “Ultimate Smoker and Grill,” an 80-foot long grill serving up special HISTORY BBQ delicacies. Fans will also get the chance to screen HISTORY TV content from hit series such as Top Gear, American Pickers® and Swamp People and take home HISTORY merchandise. They will also look to partner with brands who engage across their shows and who may also desire that affinity with families on the college map, doing on-campus sampling events with KEURIG and other partners who are a natural fit. Less Jack Daniels, more Jack Daniels barbeque sauce. Less Girls Gone Wild, and more of Moms Feeding The Kids.

The cross promotion makes good sense to build brand loyalty for programs that young families may want to follow when they leave the parking lot, and it ties those programs not just to the families, but even to alma mater as well. It is a great way to engage in and around the game day experience and have a little leave-behind afterwards as well. What else could be added in down the road? Celebrity drop-ins, live activation programs around the shows for families who had engaged during the tailgates, and of course lots and lots of video and good clean fun. It makes great sense for HISTORY, and helps build another tradition around college football for those with disposable income and some time to slide along on a Saturday, especially when some millenials may be heading back to the dorm at halftime.

Nice brand extension for the channel, and a smart use of new resources for the schools.

Nothing Hokie About Latest Va. Tech Sponsorship…

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

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

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

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

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

College Kicks Off; Shows True Colors In Cool Promo…

Following William Morris Endeavor’s acquisition of IMG, there’s been talk of collaboration — using WME talent in IMG marketing. A great example of that collaboration came to light this week as college football kicks off.

With 12,000 US retailers supporting the event and promotion in full force, WME client BRAD PAISLEY has signed on as the face of the College Colors Day social media push. You will be seeing pictures and videos of Brad in his West Virginia gear as well as posts for other IMG schools this week. Paisley is also cutting 18 video snippets for schools — giving them a shout out for college colors day.

On his new album, Moonshine in the Trunk (People magazine’s #1 pick this week), in the song “Country Nation,” Brad gives a shout-out to 16 school mascots represented by IMG college licensing. Of course, as a passionate college football fan, Brad leads with his beloved Mountaineers.

College Colors Day has become one of the largest annual retail marketing platforms for college football, creating not only fan excitement for the kickoff of a new college football season, but also additional distribution and exposure for school gear in over 12,000 retail locations nationwide.   Retail highlights include a special college section at Walmart called “Saturday’s Best” running in 500 stores all thru September.; 962 doors at JC Penny, 492 doors at Kohl’s, 457 doors at Sam’s, 204 doors at Meijer, 162 doors at Target, 204 doors at Academy (all stores).

It’s a smart example of convergence and showing how properties can work together to amplify a platform.

Tailgating Gets More Customized…

It’s almost tailgate time on hundreds of colleges across the country, and a relatively new brand is ready to jump into the fray with a pretty unique contest.

Schwan’s is a one of the national brands IMG College has brought to multiple school properties, with some assistance from Learfield Sports in lining up key schools.  They are now kicking off a pretty cool online platform at  TailgateAtYourPlace.com  The contest highlights Schwan’s Consumer Brands’ Red Baron®, Freschetta® and Tony’s® pizzas….and has some compelling features for fans.  The new Web site is billed as a one-stop shop for all things tailgating this fall football season, including entertainment tips for hosting game-day tailgate festivities, unique college football content and trivia, recipes, contests and games with more than $150,000 in prizes. Additionally, Red Baron®, Freschetta® and Tony’s® pizza brands will have special promotional packaging tied to the sponsorship program, set to run from Aug. 1, 2014 through Jan. 10, 2015. 

The greatest part of the contest doesn’t stop with winning; the brand will customize the online tailgate to the loyalty of the winner. A Commodore in Knoxville wants no part of orange; that’s ok.  A Buckeye going to Ann Arbor? All your stuff is OSU styled, no Maize and Blue anywhere near. The attention to detail shows that the company is willing to go the extra mile to deliver not just any experience, but THE experience, to the winning consumer.

The universities included in Schwan’s Consumer Brands football sponsorship are Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio State.

TailgateAtYourPlace.com will offer pizza lovers timely tips as the football season kicks off, as well as content to get them in a college football spirit.  Fans encouraged via a full social platform to visit daily for chances to win prizes; more than $150,000 in daily and monthly grand prizes will be awarded. Prizes include five monthly sweepstakes of $10,000 cash, a home-entertainment makeover and a kitchen makeover.  Consumers earn sweepstakes entries by playing the Instant Win Game and earning bonus sweepstakes entries by visiting areas on the site.

Not a bad way to build loyalty and expose millions of casual fans to the brands’ newest investment; the ever-growing big business in and around college football.

Oregon Gives Their Fans The Sweet Smell Of…Buns

If you are a fan, no matter what, your team is going to stink at some point. It’s part of the ups and downs of the game; you win some, you lose some. However if you are a fan of the University of Oregon Ducks this year, every time you pick up a hard ticket for a football game, you will be reminded of a smell of a different kind.

In an era where hard tickets are becoming a thing of the past, and collecting stubs has become a quaint hobby rather than a rite of passage for sports fans, the Ducks took a fun and sponsored turn with their football tickets this fall.   Oregon IMG Sports Marketing GM Brian Movalson’s and his cohort on the ticketing side, Jason Harris, came up with an idea to add a little scratch and sniff to their hard tickets as a way of providing some extra buzz and value to the Ducks fan experience.

Now it’s not like the folks in Eugene have been quietly sitting back with regard to enhancements in and around the athletic teams. From 30 foot long Heisman banners in New York to funky uniforms to court design to palatial facilities, Oregon has become a hub for driving ROI and innovation just like their friends and benefactors down the road at Nike have been for years. But scratch and sniff tickets? Why not.

The team at UO looked at everything that could make sense within the realm, literally, of good taste.  “We looked at the scents and they had everything from blueberry, strawberry, chocolate, cheeseburgers, and a fresh bread scent,” Movalson says.  Their choice? “Knowing Carls Jr. had a current marketing campaign focused on ‘fresh baked buns’, he called in AE Nicole Aliotti and asked, “What do you think about this for Carls Jr?”

The IMG team then went to the burger chain, and a deal was hatched, or scratched. This fall’s tickets smell like fresh baked buns. The school has over 20,000 season ticket accounts, which gives Carls Jr  shot at making an impression over 140,000 should a season sub take a scratch. Not a bad reminder for the brand, and something which can easily be turned into a promo in and around home games for those looking for some tailgating or pre and postgame snacks.

Some may say the idea is a waste in a time when people want virtual tickets more and more, but Oregon and IMG College found a way to fill a need for hard ticket costs while providing a very unique ROI to a brand in a competitive marketplace, something which can probably be replicated with different scents and partners down the line and across the country. If scratch and sniff works, can a little sample tasting be that far away.

Nice score for the lemon and emerald and their sports biz partners.

High School Media Day Scores In Concept

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Maui Jim Scores In Social

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.