The FXFL Is Here…Will It Stay?

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

Oyo Boyo, A Simple Idea Keeps Getting Bigger…

Several years ago when I was with the New York Knicks we were planning a promotion around Allan Houston, and as part of the plan, were going to send out to interested media the LEGO figure that had been made of our-then star, as a way to keep him top of mind when award voting season came along. It was quick, easy to mail and very unique amongst collectables. Did it really look like Allan? Not really but it was official and had his number, so it made sense. We found a way through the NBA to get 50 little Allan’s and off they went. As a collector of the unique, as well as a longtime supporter of LEGO, I had been interested in the possibilities of the product to engage sports kids, and somewhere in our basement, not passed on to my son Andrew, a master builder if there ever was one, are the original NBA-licensed sets as well as some hockey and extreme sports sets as well. They are now all collectors’ items, as the patients, and LEGO’s interest in sports, stagnated after a few years and the patents lapsed.

The problem then was that the Danish company didn’t really “get” the sports market in the States, and the risk of getting the wrong LEGO figures to market, they could not produce every player, far outweighed the rewards. In an era before short form video, 3D printing, and high speed molds, let alone self-generated content, LEGO was probably ahead of its time.

That was then, and to the delight of millions, another US-based company has taken LEGO’s seed, and their lapsed patents, and injected digital media and state of the art engineering into and opportunity. Welcome OYO Toys.

Boston based and now Boston-area manufactured, OYO has taken the old LEGO-licensed idea and brought it into the next decade. They have licenses to manufacture products for MLB, NFL, NHL and MLS, with more coming not just in the US, but internationally as well (how many kids in the States will now buy Messi figures who would not have a few years ago, thanks to soccer’s expansion in the media here?). Their system allows for custom printing and design of almost ANY player they have a license for that people can order, with delivery taking only a few days.

More importantly, OYO has used video, data and technology to bring the figures to life in short form video with self-created “stadia,” which thousands of young people with an interest in sport AND film (along with their dads and older siblings) can have fun with in re0creation scenarios, much like LEGO has done with the Star Wars themes line.  Even better, the figures are compatible with LEGO blocks, so parents don’t have to discard those mounds of blocks sitting around the basement. The kids can build stadia, or other scenarios, and use the OYO sports figurines as well.

The best part about OYO’s potential is that it again seeks to marry what were once divergent worlds for young people. Like robotics, LEGO were once thought to be nerdy and not for “sports” kids. Same with film and full motion video, or even photography. Now OYO can help merge those world’s, and make the arts and building good for “sports” kids, especially on rainy days, and can probably help the kids once thought to be a bit “nerdy” and not engaged in sports find a common ground as well. That merging doesn’t just help at home, it will help in the classroom, as suddenly science and technology, and even engineering, may seem just a bit more cooler to kids who might have been bored with sports. It also doesn’t hurt that media companies like Nickelodeon and Marvel are looking to find ways to pull sports into entertainment, and OYO’s analytics, video, and interchangeable parts can also play right into their plans as well.

Are there some limitations? Sure. Making the figures as life-like as possible is a challenge, and there is probably a limit as to how many figures the company can customize for now. However the upside and potential for OYO in any host of sports, even on the NCAA level, is very bright, and certainly makes their business one to watch. The Boston Globe had a piece the last few days on how the company came about and its new infusion of cash from Mandalay Entertainment, which is certainly worth a read.

Keep building OYO, and we will keep watching. What was a rare fail for LEGO is an opportunity for you.

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.

The Audio Wars Kick Off…

Last year Beats By Dre turned the corner during the NFL Playoffs with a combination of strategic placement and a little bit of luck. Their two big rolls of the dice came with the Seahawks Richard Sherman and the 49ers Colin Kaepernick, both of whom took their games to the next level as the headset of choice skyrocketed through a grassroots campaign that went through the London Olympics a few years before and made sure they touched on every rising star in sports and popular culture. If you were in the limelight, Beats By Dre found their way to you, and that awareness went even more to mainstream when their breakthrough stars really exploded during the playoffs. The next jump came just a few months after the Seahawks Super Bowl, when Apple stepped to the table to buy out the company and bring it into the fold, making the sound systems even more mainstream, albeit still with an urban edge.

This fall as the NFL season kicks off, the gold standard for many years in consumer listening made their own push to get some street cred and establish their top of mind position with consumers. Bose, signed on as an official NFL partner, not only draping every coaches headset with their logo during every game, but going out to sign some marquee names to endorsements as well to combat Beats infiltration into the market. Richard Sherman’s edgy spots now have to battle Russell Wilson wearing noise cancelling devices, and Kapernick’s tune out of fans is balanced by promotions with Clay Matthews of the Packers. Factor in the use of the NFL shield and other official marks, as well as that constant sideline presence, and Bose seems to have found a way to combat the grassroots efforts with a big spend.

Now this is not to say that beats is going away. Johnny Manziel on his own sported beats Headphones this past Sunday, and countless other milennials and the players they follow in Madden and on their fantasy teams are part of the Beats legion of followers, preferring day-glo and unique styles to Bose’s conservative and always effective style.  Critics will line up on both sides for high end audio pluses and minuses, and consumers will to, depending on taste and frankly, the need to buy or not buy large headphones and other products when ear buds and other simpler lower end items exist. However for the audio and listening marketplace, the need for not just quality sound, but cool and hip aspirational wear will never go away. Will either achieve a crossover spot? Will baby Boomers flock to beats or young folks to the high fidelity of Bose? That remains to be seen, but both, in their own calculating fashion, have looked to athletes and specifically football this fall to drive the ship.

Can Bose score in hip and cool? Can “Beats” keep the beat going in the space? Remains to be seen, but it’s clear that a category battle is now fully underway. Who will win? Some say the limited market can support both and even some other sin the space since headphones of that nature are not and everyday purchase. However the issue is more in incremental marketplace exposure, a place where Beats By Dre clearly had been winning a battle for some time. Now it appears Bose is making more noise, riding a constant flow of exposure and the NFL as a partner. Maybe in the end the consumer wins, but for now the battle is getting louder with two mega-players looking to ride a soundwave of success.

Football And Finance…

With the NFL season here, Tanner Simkins spent some time talking the finance side of football with two industry leaders, Brian Friedman Chief Financial Officer, New York Jets and Adam Raiken Vice President Finance, MetLife Stadium.

Full Cout Press: For those looking to get into sport finance – What experiences fundamentally drove your careers?

Brian Friedman: For the most part it is typical finance and accounting experience. I have a broad range of experience mostly in the consumer product area but also in the services industry. I had always had a goal of getting into sports so when the opportunity presented itself I was very interested and it worked out.

Adam Raiken: My background is a little funky. I started college as chemical engineering major; I always wanted to go in business after and figured a technical background would be interesting and helpful. But I hated engineering so I figured why not just study business, so I specialized in accounting. I always loved sports and then landed a job with PWC, and [naturally] I found myself auditing the NBA, NFL, and baseball. When you are working on audits in sports teams the natural progression is to then work for a team. Who knows more about their company than auditors do? You are looking from at their financial statements top down, therefore it is typical for a finance department to call their auditors when looking for new hires. The Yankees called one day, I was recommended for the job – then I was working for the Yankees. Now, six years later, I am here at MetLife.

FCP: What has been the biggest challenge thus far as in your role? How have you overcome it?

BF: The biggest challenge for me was learning a new industry. I feel like I am still learning every day. Ultimately though all businesses operate in a similar manner. You generate revenue, you collect cash and you pay people and your bills. At the end of the day the first part better be larger than the last. As long as you stay focused on that, it is easy to overcome the challenges of a new industry.

AR: I think my biggest challenge here is working with two different organizations run this one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, in fact I welcome the challenge. But the two teams have occasionally had different philosophies on things and bringing them together to one entity, to one stadium, is tough. The only way to overcome something like that is constant communication between both teams and all those involved.

FCP: Favorite part of your job?

BF: Easy. It is Sundays, specifically, Sundays when we play at home. I really enjoy being a part of something that tens of thousands of people feel so passionate about.

AR: I got a lot of favorite parts. I love my job, I really do. I love the interactions with people, everyone from those with us full-time, to game-day staff, and to part time employees. I love the game day and seeing what the fan is interested in. If I had to pick one favorite part, it would be the fan experience. There’s so much going on at a stadium like ours. I love that.

 FCP: Financially, how hard is it operating in a two-team stadium?

BF: It sometimes requires a bit more discussion but overall the benefits far outweigh any additional complexities.

AR: Honestly, it is no different than running a one-team stadium except there’s more people with more input. As long as you are doing everything you can for your fans and for the building, I would argue it’s not much different than running a single team stadium. Look at it this way, we still have to take the garbage out, we still have to turn the lights on, we still have to repair the building, etc. The difference comes down to capital budgeting projects where the Jets feel one way and the Giants may feel another

FCP: For many reasons there has been a lot of talks on either side…will the Super Bowl at MetLife be a success?

BF: Yes, it will be great.

AR: Were not going to let it fail. As the first open air cold weather stadium. If we have so many eyes on us and willing to help us because our success will open the doors for many other cities to have a subsequent Super Bowl. It’s going to work. What’s the worst that going to happen, it will snows and then we will move it next year?

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

BF: The sports landscape is changing. A continual improvement to the home experience continues to challenge all of us to produce more creative fan experiences beyond the game. Fans expect more than just admission to a game they expect to be entertained and have a great game to watch. I am also following the growth and expansion of the secondary market. Teams are no longer the only ones selling access; there is significant competition to sell that access.

AR: Buying and selling stock in athletes. It’s a neat trend, both good and bad; it has the potential to seriously change a lot of things.

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

BF: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

AR: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

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

BF: Make sure you enjoy the job not just that it is in sports. It is important to enjoy what you are doing not just enjoy working for a sports entity.

AR: A lot of people think working hard is the most important thing and you do have to work hard. But in my opinion, it’s more important to work smart. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Not knowing doesn’t make you look bad.

Brian Friedman is the Chief Financial Officer of the New York Jets. He is responsible for all strategic and financial planning for the Jets, daily accounting operations for the team, and all internal and external reporting to the NFL and various other agencies.

Adam Raiken is Vice President Finance, MetLife Stadium.  Amidst many responsibilities, Raiken supervises financial operations for stadium and serves as an integral member of the senior management team

 

Twitter Me This, NFL

While only one aspect of the full digital picture, Twitter continues to be one of the best tools to look at engagement. So as the NFL season starts, Old Forge Media, took a look at their formula on how NFL teams stack up in the twitter verse. Their Old Forge Quality & Competence Rating (OFQCR) System  Management looked at issues like second-degree follower circles, follower-quality, follower-churn, tweet performance and many other other variables which are integral to observing Twitter performance.

Their belief is that because they  are not looking at the right metrics, most companies, athletes, celebrities and teams are only beginning to scratch the surface of their potential on Twitter. Here’s a look at NFL top to bottom on their Twitter-only engagement. You can find out more @OldForgeMedia 

#1 – @49ers QCScore = 23.1

#2 – @steelers QCScore = 21.7

#3 – @Patriots QCScore = 20.9

#4 – @Broncos QCScore = 19.9

#5 – @Seahawks QCScore = 17.9

#6 – @HoustonTexans QCScore = 15.6

#7 – @Browns QCScore = 15.3

#8 – @Giants QCScore = 12.9

#9 – @Colts QCScore = 12.8

#10 – @packers QCScore = 11.8

#11 – @Saints QCScore = 11.1

#12 – @RAIDERS QCScore = 10.8

#13 – @Vikings QCScore = 10.5

#14 – @AZCardinals QCScore = 10.5

#15 – @ChicagoBears QCScore = 10.2

#16 – @Ravens QCScore = 9.8

#17 – @Redskins QCScore = 9.6

#18 – @Jaguars QCScore = 9.4

#19 – @PanthersQCScore = 9.2

#20 – @MiamiDolphins QCScore = 8.9

#21 – @Eagles QCScore = 8.6

#22 – @Atlanta_Falcons QCScore = 8.6

#23 – @Chargers QCScore = 8.2

#24 – @KCChiefs QCScore = 7.4

#25 – @dallascowboys QCScore = 7.2

#26 – @Bengals QCScore = 6.8

#27 – @Lions QCScore = 6.7

#28 – @buffalobills QCScore = 6.7

#29 – @TennesseeTitans QCScore = 6.5

#30 – @TBBuccaneers QCScore = 6.0

#31 – @STLouisRams QCScore = 5.1

#32 – @nyjets QCScore = 3.4

@NFL has a QCScore of 33.7

To date the highest QCScore calculated is 80.1

“Football Passport” A Great Digital Addition As The Season Kicks Off…

Last spring our colleague Peter Casey launched an ambitious online tool where baseball fans could create a mosaic of all the great places they had seen games, and marry those events to a narrative that matched any fans passion for baseball. It followed a similar launch last winter for basketball fans. It was called “Hardball  Passport,” a first of its kind way to catalogue and track all the stadia where games have been played. No need for ticket stubs saved, “Hardball Passport” helped you bring back the memories in a virtual world just like “Basketball Passport” had done for hoops fans not just on the NBA level but on the college level as well.

This past week, as the NFL and college seasons began, Casey and his partners unveiled their latest tracking tool, one which might even be a bigger hit that its first two. It is “Football Passport,”  an easy-to-use web tool that lets football fans track every football game they’ve attended over the years.

“Football Passport” allows fans to find and log almost every game they’ve attended with simple search functionality. Leveraging a comprehensive games database that goes back several decades, the tool serves as a repository for game-going memories. Fans can share stories and ticket stubs, and upload photos to complement their game histories. As fans log their games, “Football  Passport” dishes out personalized stats – number of games attended, stadiums seen, best performances witnessed, and each team’s record for games fans personally attended – to compare year over year or even against other fans. “Football Passport” allows future-oriented fans to easily create and track their stadium bucket lists, plan road trips and compete in head-to-head stadium challenges. Fans that complete a stadium challenge or achieve game-specific accomplishments earn unique digital stamps for their Passport. Combined with active leaderboards for “Most Games Logged,” it  creates a friendly culture of competition among avid game goers.

Will it gain more traction than “Basketball Passport”  or “Hardball Passport” have done in season one? Hopefully. Football has less games which makes it easier to catalogue, and college football is all about passion and tribal following. Fantasy football is also massive now, so that can also play into more interest for football than hoops or baseball, both of which are being refined for the next go-round.

From a business perspective, all have a nice upside. Brands can integrate perks into the platform for fans who engage regularly, and the model remains scalable to any sport, with probably soccer coming next. At some point as the platform expands you will also be able to share across sports, and with soccer, hopefully grow internationally. The biggest need however, especially to engage with millennials, is to have mobile capability and instant social media sharing. That still remains as a gap in the process, but one that is closing quickly. The download is easy, the work to be engaged is minimal, and the idea of being able to share memories and experiences is key for engagement. While not yet perfect, Casey’s “passports” are growing in popularity and make a nice addition as football kicks off. A great continue to watch idea for the digital sports space, “Football Passport” is worth the download.

Smart Like A Fox…

With the NFL season on the horizon, Tanner Simkins caught up with recent NFLPA President and current Harvard MBA President Domonique Foxworth to talk about the league and where he is today in Cambridge…

Domonique Foxworth, former NFL cornerback and NFLPA President, is now an MBA candidate at Harvard Business School. Recently, we caught up with Foxworth for a discussion on his NFLPA Presidency, his MBA progress at HBS, and more. (A detailed biography for Foxworth is provided after the Q&A). You can connect with Foxworth on Twitter.

Full Court Press: You helped shape the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, what was the biggest lesson you learned from that process?

Domonique Foxworth: I found myself in a room full of billionaires. Before the negotiations started, I had this impression that everyone in the room was out-of-this-world smart. After the first couple meetings, I realized that I am just as smart and just as capable as they are. This experience motivated me to attend business school.

FCP: What inspired you to run for NFLPA President?

DF: It wasn’t a snap decision. It was a process. It was important for me to take a larger role in the [governing] body that I belong to, and to me there was no better way than being President.

FCP: Now you’re getting your MBA. How has the transition into Harvard Business School been going?

DF: It’s been tough but I am no stranger to working very hard. It is definitely a different culture than one I was in before. But I am happy to be a part of it and I feel like I fit in well.

FCP: What’s more difficult playing an NFL season or a HBS semester?

DF: The NFL, hands down. No one is trying to hurt me when I am studying. Competing against a book or competing in the class for comments is much different than competing against super humans who are physically going after me on a weekly or daily basis. At Harvard they are super humans too, with their intelligence. But, everybody can win [in the classroom] and that’s the biggest difference. When there are confrontations here, [at HBS] we can all win – and that’s not how it works in sports.

FCP: What are your post-graduation plans?

DF: I am very interested in entrepreneurship and venture capitalism especially related to something in the sports arena.

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

DF: The sports industry is no different than any other. Technology can provide quality improvements. That’s what I am excited about. I’m already working with entrepreneurs and young companies to apply tech to improve the quality of life for athletes.

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

DF: Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. Classic! [Foxworth has a toddler and baby at home.]

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

DF: The major tip I give to anyone who wants to get in sports is: know that your day-to-day job will have very little to do with the actual sport. If you want to get in to sports business because you love the game of football or basketball, you are going to be very disappointed because you’re so far removed from the game. (Unless you are a coach.) Evaluate why you want to be in sports. If you are crazy sports fan, you may be disappointed with the [minimal] access you receive.

Domonique Foxworth, a former NFL cornerback, is a respected leader and in March 2012 was elected by his peers to serve as the NFL Players Association President.

First elected to the NFLPA as a player representative in 2007, he became one of the youngest vice presidents ever to be voted onto the executive committee. Foxworth played a pivotal role in the NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations in 2011 which resulted in: a longer off-season, allowing players time for recovery and academic pursuits; the elimination of two-a-day practices as a health and safety measure—several youth leagues followed suit; a minimum threshold for spending under the salary cap; and the creation of a “Legacy Fund” pension resource for former NFL players, among other things. During his tenure, the union has also instituted several new committees, composed of staff and players, to encourage greater involvement among members; established a unique 10-year $100 million partnership with Harvard Medical School to research new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent injuries and illness affecting football players; and created a lifecycle initiative for members which includes a series of resources and programs to help players excel during and after their NFL career. His current term as NFLPA President runs through 2014.

Foxworth was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2005, and played in the NFL over seven years for the Broncos, the Atlanta Falcons and his hometown Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos nominated Foxworth for the 2007 Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award for his work in the community which included: serving as spokesperson for “College and Colorado,” a nonprofit devoted to increasing enrollment and improving academic success of low income students; raising money to build a teen center in the name of slain teammate; and penning a weekly column for the Denver Post—the collection was later published as a book with proceeds befitting a Denver nonprofit.

He completed high school in 3.5 years, enrolled early at the University of Maryland, and began training with the school’s football team. Foxworth graduated from Maryland with an B.A. in American Studies in 2004 and was awarded as Maryland Student Athlete of the Year. He will matriculate at Harvard Business School in fall 2013.

A student of the civil right movement, Foxworth collects artifacts and historical treasures from African American history in his spare time.

 

Mixing Sports and Broadway…

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

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

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

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

FCP: Any crossover between the two?

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

FCP: Any development or trends you are closely watching?

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

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

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

FCP: What is your favorite book?

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

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

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

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

 

The Dr. James Andrews Brand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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