Little School, Little Budget, Tries To Make A Bigger Splash…

The biggest college sports business news in the New Jersey this fall thus far has come from Piscataway obviously, where the Scarlet Knights are finding their way through their first year in the Big Ten across the board in sports large and small, with the loudest noise coming with their upset of Michigan two weeks ago. Whether the move to the Big 10 will benefit the conference, which touts New Brunswick as being just outside New York with every chance they get, or to the University (who should get a bigger cut of the financial pie not just for athletics but for academic programs as well, as the story goes) is up for some debate, but from a buzz and brand story the change seems to be off to a good start.

However Rutgers isn’t the only University in New Jersey with a shot at a sports business bounce. Monmouth and its football move to the Big South Conference should continue to increase its early fall presence, and its place in a vibrant community during basketball season should also continue to help its brand grow during the winter for hoops. Seton Hall’s ever-challenging position in The Big East, along with playing almost all of its games at the cavernous Prudential Center away from campus can be both a blessing in good years and a huge challenge in others, while a school like Rider can find ways to engage in the Trenton-area with business and a community that likes to support its own. Same with St. peters in Jersey City, a mid-major in the MAAC that has done well at times in drawing from the community and the ever-changing makeup around the Yanitelli Center

One program which could be on the upswing as a brand is Fairleigh Dickinson University. Spread out across several campuses, the University’s Division I sports are housed in Teaneck, with hoops playing at the Rothman center, just seconds from a slew of businesses and commuters off of Route 4. Under personable men’s basketball coach Greg Herenda, the school made some nice noise early last year by knocking off both Rutgers and Seton Hall in the same week, a rare double, but went on to have just a 10-21 record for the season. With a slew of new players, FDU should continue to improve on the court, and if so could be in a position from a brand standpoint to make some sports business noise as well.

The biggest reason is Herenda as the face of the program. A basketball lifer, the Jersey City native is one of the most respected and well known faces on the college scene, especially in the Northeast. He has used his personality to up the talent pool, but has also hit the business and student recruiting trail, hosting a weekly radio show on the schools well-listened to public radio station, WFDU on Sundays. His show has had a nice list of guests ranging from Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun to Charlotte Bobcats mentor Steve Clifford and Kentucky’s John Calipari, and no doubt the list will grow over the winter. It creates a niche, especially in the digital space, that can give the Knights a bit of an edge. Then there is the Rothman Center and the community itself. Sitting just a few miles from one of the most vibrant business corridors in the Northeast, the facility is an under-marketed sports gem for casual fans or for brands to activate against, and for families to check out hoops. Finding new and innovative ways to get the players, both men’s and women’s teams, more into the community for events and to use Herenda’s charm to get businesses and local programs to come out and support the Knights is a challenge, but also now presents a great opportunity. The sponsorships may not bring in huge dollars at first, but effective in-kind partnerships with any and all mall employees and businesses in the area can certainly raise brand awareness and can lift the profile and the opportunity of all involved. FDU also has a growing sports marketing program with tis students that could also generate even more awareness in Bergen County, perhaps the most populous county in the Northeast, if not the country, without a pro sports team to support and call its own. So why not the Knights?

Of course there remain challenges. FDU is limited on its marketing budget and staff, and Bergen County presents lots of challenges as well as opportunity to cut through the clutter. The school is still much more known as a commuter school so catching student attention to stay for games without a tradition of winning is also a challenge. However from a brand standpoint, the opportunity appears to be rising for FDU to strike. Families in the burbs are looking more and more for hyper-local affordable entertainment; brands are looking to draw more and more from a local consumer base, the digital space has created more opportunity for fan engagement, and it appears FDU has a coach willing to market and grow as well as achieve success on the court. While it’s not the Big 10, it is still a major market sports business opportunity, one which the Knights can try and seize to get their piece of the pie.

Let’s see if they can score with it this winter.

AT and T Scores With #Techgating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Radio Day Worth A Listen…

Ok it’s a theme this week, but a good one…

There was a time not too long ago when many thought that audio as a medium was almost dead. We live in a video world, we need to see things, no one has time to sit by a radio… Then along came podcasting, and itunes and digital audio and Sirius/XM and I Heart Radio and blogtalk radio and suddenly the spoken voice was transformed once again. By many accounts more people listen to broadcasts today than ever before…you can be very choosy about your interests, and if you have the means, can create your own broadcasts online for you, or whomever you want, to hear.

Audio is back.

So it is with great surprise that we found that October 3 was College Radio Day around the world. College and high school stations, on air, on line from no less than 25 nations and all 50 states took part in the program, which was designed to draw attention to the value of college radio as a training ground not just for DJ’s, but for engineers, writers, bloggers, vloggers and broadcasters. Today, enterprising students, especially in politics, news and sports, can find a niche that was impossible to break into in years past. Want to host a sports radio show and get guests? be professional in your approach and just ask whomever runs the station where you are in school.  Some call letters and some informed opinions and you can build your own portfolio, and some great references. The cost of production has dropped astronomically, so the ability to record and broadcast, even live sporting events from high school games in a town to collegiate events, is more of an opportunity now than ever before. More importantly for the enterprising young man or woman, the ability to market oneself and be heard by the mainstream is easier than ever before. Educational outlets which once reached a few blocks can now be heard online around the world, and the ability to customize files and pass them along to those who may have missed a key broadcast can give anyone the ability to have an amazing career through the spoken voice.

Now is it all about the money on the college level? No. Do you have to learn about good writing skills, string notetaking and the ability to ask smart questions from professionals in the industry? Yes.  Should shock jock and smart ass opinions be your forte? Hope not. However for those looking for an entree into the media field, the world of audio is alive and kicking.

For more on College Radio Day take a look at the site and tune in.

New York’s Longest Running Sports Talkshow Hits 40…

Monday night in New York there will be a celebration of 40 consecutive years of sportstalk radio on one station; a 50,000 watt college station poised in, below and at one point atop Keating Hall on the campus of Fordham University, a place as a student, alumnus and staff member for several years I know very well. The station is WFUV, and the show being celebrated is “One on One,” which continues to be New York’s longest running sports talkshow, heard now both online and on-air. While it might not seem like much to have a show on-air today in a time when anyone can do a podcast or be a part of blogtalk radio, the fact that the show, and the hundreds if not thousands of careers that have been launched and listeners that were developed, is something to behold. More importantly there has been a level of professionalism and consistency that “One on One” has had since it launched that the students today, and all of the alumni and its longtime programming head Bob Ahrens take great pride in.

The greatest part of “One on One” over the years has not been the content, but the people; students, callers and alumni who have engaged in discussion and debate with guests big and small the old fashioned way, through the spoken voice, a form of communication that sometimes gets overlooked in the type at breakneck speed we deal with today. The show and the station have also been about accountability. Sure there have been an occasional rant but for the most part the discussions on topics big and small are intelligent, fun and worthwhile, with more than a share of guests filtered in. The show is on public radio, so there are grants but not commercial breaks, and its original times, Saturday and Sunday nights starting at 11 is a distant memory, but that doesn’t mean that the Gehrig-like weekly streak over 40 years has ever ceased, or that the memories of those who have been behind that mic are any less robust.

So yes the sports airwaves of WFUV have produced Michael Kay and Jack Curry and John Giannone and  Chris Carrino and Mike Breen and Bob Papa and Paul Dottino, who paint the scenery for sports fans on TV and radio in NY. But the school and the station have also given rise to a host of professionals young and old, who used the opportunity as a way to get started in the media capital of the world, and have passed that legacy on to those now on air. From MLB Marketing head Tim Brosnan, to over a dozen voices on Sirius/XM (like Ed Randall and Andrew Bogush), to the man who keeps the Mets on the air every night, producer Chris Majkowski, to the guy who helped build the X Games at ESPN, Rick Allesandri, to the voice of the Washington Nationals Charlie Slowes and Good Morning America’s Tony Reali, as well as others like Elias Sports Bureau head Steve Hirdt, and Malcolm Moran, currently the Director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University, and so many others in public relations, sports marketing, sales, production and broadcasting, WFUV Sports and “One on One,” was where it all began.

Why Fordham? It has a 50,000 watt radio station sitting in the New York area, a great journalism tradition that includes Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Daley, Basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster John Andariese, and the legendary Vin Scully, and the ability to create entry level spots for hardworking young people through its alumni base, a group that cares and engages with others coming through the program. WFUV is also unique in that it is the ONLY voice for Fordham sports; there is no commercial entity to push the public station broadcast to the back burner. While that is probably not good from a marketing standpoint for the school, it is invaluable in the level of professionalism that the students bring to the job, and that is reflected in the careers of so many. Saying that Fordham is really dominant in the business of sports is no slight to the Newhouse School at Syracuse or the Medill School at the Northwestern. What it is is a positive point toward a small Jesuit school which has a niche and has cultivated it over time. While a sports talkshow may not seem like a big deal today, 40 years of sports talk without a break is quite a deal in a world where five minutes is sometimes too long.

Hail Men (and women) of Fordham hail for such a great job for those who work and follow sports. WFUV and “One on One,” is a great symbol of the collective success of so many for so long, and here’s to making sure it gets its due.

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.