Cavs Win In Social With LeBron, But Heat Haven’t Lost…

We went to the folks at MVP Index to take a look at the LeBron effect is early on in social, and to debunk the myth that Heat fans evaporated…here ya go

What impact can one man have on a brand? Ask the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James’ decision to pick his first team over the Miami Heat seems to have had an invigorating effect on a sleepy sports brand in social media.

 The Cavs, with a Twitter amplification rate of 0.86, could definitely use a boost. That boost was provided in earnest when  James took his talents and his 213.27 amplification rate to Cleveland. On the day Sports Illustrated dropped the story of James’ return home, Cleveland’s mentions went from 15  per hour on July 8 to a staggering 3,118 mentions per hour on the day of Decision II. An even larger change is seen in their retweet rate. On July 8, the Cavs were seeing a retweet rate of 14.54 retweets per hour, and on the day of the decision their hourly retweet rate reached 6,202.35 per hour.

The changes weren’t just on Twitter, either. The Cavaliers’ Facebook account also experienced some dramatic changes. 23,259 more people were “talking about” the Cavaliers on July 12 than they were on July 11. That is a 96% increase in people interacting with the Cavaliers’ Facebook account in one day. They also experienced positive changes in their comment rate (307%), Like Rate (77%), and Share Rate (75%) over the same time period.

What about their reach? Before his decision on July 11, the Cavaliers’ Twitter account 336,967 followers. As of July 12, the Cav’s have 370,421, a 9.92% increase in their followers. On Facebook, the Cavs had 1,700245 likes before the decision, and on July 12 they stand at 1,773,792 likes. The Cavaliers gained 73,547 likes in just over one day due to the decision.

How do fans react when their star leaves? We can’t speak for everyone, but it’s widely assumed that the Miami Heat fans are “bandwaggoners.” An account named NBA Legion stated that the Miami Heat had lost 300,000 followers in a tweet that earned 29,585 retweets. That’s a really interesting story, and were it true, we would have seen some real data that backed up the bandwaggoner claim. It’s just not true. The Heat actually have increased their following by a marginal 1,393 people, bringing their Twitter fan base to 2,671,454.

The Cavaliers can gain more than just NBA Titles with the reacquisition of LeBron James, they now have an opportunity to resurrect their brand in social media. The immediate impact LeBron James has on a brand is impressive, but what will really be interesting to watch is Cleveland’s ability to continue growing and engaging with their fans at a steady clip. With LeBron’s added reach and influence, they can capitalize on their revitalized fan base and win sponsorships, move merchandise, and increase ticket sales.

Some Good Reads For 2012

As you stuff the stockings or look for some last Hanukkah gifts, here are some suggested readings I enjoyed this year. It seems like there were less books for some reason, but more than enough good ones to pick up and enjoy, especially ones from great storytellers like Frank Deford and Mark Kriegel. These are also ones I read…if I missed a few its because well…I didn’t read em.

A Drive Into The Gap by Kevin Guilfoyle It is a literally a pocket book filled with a great story—the author follows the life of his father, longtime publicist for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baseball Hall of Fame, from his brushes with greatness to his descent into Alzheimer’s Disease. Along the way he also discovers the true story of where the bat that gave Roberto Clemente his 3,000th and final hit ended up residing. Quick and fun.

Bernie Parent Unmasked by Bernie Parent: In a fall without the NHL there were a slew of books. As a one-time goaltender it was fun to read the stories of one of the games greatest, through his eyes and his voice. A nice look at a time when the Flyers were king and Perent ruled the game

The Best American Sportswriting 2012. No better anthology every year, meticulously concocted from hundreds of entries by Glenn Stoudt, this year edited by Michael Wilbon. An annual must have for any lover of good non-fiction combined with sports.

Coaching Confidential by Gary Myers One of the NFL’s greatest scribes brings fans inside the minds and the locker rooms of some of the NFL’s best, from Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy to Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs, to give fans of sport as well as lovers of leadership a very special treat. The book appeals to as wide an audience as any written in 2012.

Dream Team. By Jack McCallum. Veteran Sports Illustrated writer McCallum takes us back to the original dream team and remembers what they did, how they did it, and why we loved it. Best hoops book of the year.

Over Time. By Frank Deford. Frank Deford has reported on sports for 50 years, and in this memoir of a life on the beat, he tells the tales of the players and the characters that he came to enjoy over a lifetime.

Pinstripe Empire by Marty Appel Few people have chronicled the Yankees on and off the field or been involved with the organization and its players from many sides more than longtime Yankees historian Marty Appel. His latest work takes us in places we never knew about and is a great read for fans of any sport, especially those who love the team in The Bronx.

The Good Son by Mark Kriegel. One of America’s greatest sports storytellers, Kriegel has brought us Joe Namath and now re-tells the story of one of boxing’s greatest living legends, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini

Wherever I Wind Up by Wayne Coffey and RA Dickey No one could have predicted the magical rum of RA Dickey this year, but even without a Cy Young and a 20 win season, Wayne Coffey’s work in telling the story of one of baseball’s great people, on and off the field, made the book a winner

Yankee Miracles by Ray Negron  Ray Negron is a born storyteller who has spent his life in and around Yankee Stadium. From when he was first grabbed by George Steinbrenner for spray painting the walls outside the Stadium to his role today as a trusted advisor, “Yankee Miracles” is a fun read for fans of baseball from a guy who has been there.


There you have a list, not that I love doing lists. All worthwhile…enjoy.



Five Little Items That Are Big In Their Own Way…

As we hit the middle of January, a look at some good ideas, little things, smart moves that have popped up and are noteworthy. Individually they may not seem to be huge deals but in a business that is very large in stature but small in community, it’s the little touches that go a long way.

Giants Take An Ad To Show Their Twitter: The New York Giants put together one of their most satisfying performances in a long time in beating the Atlanta Falcons last weekend, and had nothing but positive things to say about all the fans support they have gotten through their run to the playoffs. Much of that has come out through social media, but what to do with a fan base that may be a little older and not as tech savvy? Go the traditional route, with a little spin. On Friday the Giants took out full page ads in local newspapers, aggregating their players twitter messages. Nice way to mix the traditional media spend with the new medium, and expose those who may not know a tweet online from a tweet by a bird, to what the team is doing in the social space.

Coast Guard Reaches Out To Lead: Tim Fitzpatrick is the new athletics director at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and he is all about leadership and community. The problem is that the Academy, like all service academies, draws from all over the country and may not always have the local presence that other universities have. It’s not like there are dozens of young people from New London, or even the State, day tripping to the campus for classes every day. The Academy is also a Division III athletic institution, with good traditions but not the athletic legacy of Army, Navy of Air Force. So how does one spread the message? Fitzpatrick created the first-ever speakers bureau, intended to make head coaches, athletic administrators and other members of the Bears’ sports staff available to speak at schools, community events and other gatherings upon request throughout the New London region. Although not tremendously novel, the bureau will help fill a gap and bridge the connection between the Academy and the local connection and maybe forge long range ties that bind for both business and support, as well as expose the amazing stories of those involved with the school to young people who may know nothing of what goes on behind the gates and on the ships.

Finding The Jewish Kate Smith: Fordham University has had more than its share of challenging athletic seasons in men’s basketball and football in the last 20 years. The once proud traditions have hit the skids, but things may be on the upswing at least in hoops. Coach Tom Pecora’s squad posted wins at venerable Rose Hill Gym over Georgia tech and nationally ranked Harvard, and grabbed a groundswell of great press. One of the better stories was not about the players or the coaches, it was about a Cantor who found the Jesuit University and volunteered to sing the National Anthem. Cantor Daniel Pincus from Congregation Shaarei Shalom belted out his song, and Fordham responded with three straight wins, making him the school’s Jewish good luck charm. The streak ended with a narrow loss to Xavier, but Cantor Pincus added some color and some divine inspiration to a well covered story in New York.

Saints Nice Move: Sometimes even in the most stressful of situations, a little move goes a long way. As pointed out by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King this week, the New Orleans saints PR team, led by Greg Bensel had a full house for media for their playoff game with the Detroit Lions last weekend. However that did not stop the saints from a very touching gesture, not filling a prime press box seat at Saturday night’s game in honor of the late Detroit beat man Tom Kowalski, who died unexpectedly in August. They left a note in his place: “The New Orleans Saints honor the memory of Tom Kowalski.” Did it mean a little less space for others? Maybe. Did it show that sports goes above the game? Sure did.

The Timeless Game of Baseball: Courtesy of our friend Ben Hill, here is another of those little things that make sports great: On March 31, Shelby Harris of Rock Island, IL will turn 111 years old. Five days later, he’ll throw out the first pitch at the Quad Cities River Bandits home opener. Harris is the oldest man in America, and the River Bandits have extended the invite to have a man who has seen his share of baseball get another well deserved turn in the spotlight.

Again, none of these are mind blowing, game changing Tebow-inspired programs or ideas. What they are, are smart, fun interesting little things that show foresight, interest and remind us how important those little things we can do are to those who watch and follow and play.

The Political Game…

Four years ago this month, Sports Illustrated ran a back of the book story by Scott Price, who had the chance to play then-candidate Barack Obama in a game of basketball. The story showed casual sports fans, who many times are also politics averse, a side of the candidate that they did not know about. That story of course was the first of many where sports and now-President Obama crossed paths on his way to the White House. While it probably pales in comparison to all the other initiatives the Obama camp used for engaging casual voters (social media being one of the biggest), the ability for the candidate at the time to show that he could relate to the casual sports fan was very important. Did it sway the election the following November? Maybe not with huge numbers, but it is hard to think that a President who could make a jump shot (and who had a brother in law in Craig Robinson who is and was a coach) did not at least influence some people to cast a ballot. The other candidates made the odd NASCAR appearance, Senator McCain went on a few hunting trips, but none embraced a sports fan like President Obama did.

So now as we are getting deep into primary season, it is interesting to note that none of the Republican candidates have yet to try and embrace those casual sports fans as the Obama camp did four years ago. Governor Romney obviously has a strong athletic background given his role in the Salt Lake Olympics, but none of the others seem to be wandering near an ice rink, or a gym, or even a wrestling mat in Iowa. Maybe it is because the younger more athletic demo is still more in the Obama camp, and that the Presidency, with programs like “Let’s Move,” has done a stringer job of keeping those casual voters in their camp. Maybe Republicans feel that the younger, more athletic demo is not yet worth courting as they try to re-engage an older Republican set and those who are more apt to vote or at least swing their vote. Maybe none of the candidates have an interest in athletics, or that given the issues at hand, attending an event would be seen as wasting important time campaigning in other areas. Maybe none are interested in LSU or Alabama, or the Packers or Giants, or maybe even Tim Tebow just yet. Maybe Daytona will be a coming out party for those still in the race.

However one thing is for sure. The Presidential candidate who was able to court those casual fans in the past few elections did get a nice little boost, and maybe more of a second look when controversy reared its head at least the first time. President Bush was a former Rangers owner, and was able to find home plate more than a few times with a first pitch. President Clinton whooped it up with Arkansas at the Final Four and loved being around athletes. President Obama rarely passes a basketball court without taking a look at the rim. It made sports a talking point when there was not one to engage people, and made them all seem just a little more human, and a little less lofty. Let’s see if any current candidates follow suit, maybe as pitchers and catchers approach.

No Predictions, Just Some Thoughts For 2012

First of all for all those who read or follow the blog, bought my book, or even signup for the newsletter every week, thank you. I have probably gotten more positive feedback and comments in 2011 than ever before, and it is greatly appreciated. The goal is pretty simple…as my grandfather told me, you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice more than you speak and always keep learning.

While many look back on the best of 2011 and throw together wish lists for 2012 on who to follow and what to read, I’d like to list out a few things that I hope will continue to percolate, and in the end make our business more fun, more innovative, more interesting and will hopefully generate more jobs for those still looking and for those entering the marketplace.

As always you thoughts and ideas are welcomed. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter on Sundays (we are over 26,000 members now) and haven’t, just email me at or join our LinkedIn Group “Sports Marketing and PR Pros.” It’s simple, I hope it’s interesting and informative, and I hope you can contribute.

Some Thoughts and Hopes For 2012:

More Manager and Coordinator Jobs In Social and Digital Media: I had heard a figure in December that there were less than a dozen professional teams of the five major team sports in North America that have a fulltime person managing, creating and finding ways to improve and engage in the digital and social media space. Some of those teams have added spots recently, like the Nets and the Sixers. Hopefully it is a trend that teams invest in more in 2012 as the return may not be yet in hard dollars, but it will be in engagement and responsibility.

More Interest In Athletes and Teams Doing Good: Sport became a punching bag again for problems in 2011, from college and high school abuse issues through the professional scandals around the world. The stories are great copy and get tremendous buzz, but there is also a great deal of good going on with athletes, brands and leagues, especially going into London 2012. Every person can be an advocate for positive change and a sharer of great stories, here’s to telling more positive tales than negative ones. Here’s also to brand doing more to combine their marketing dollars in sport with philanthropy. Good will sends products and builds brands as well.

Global Growth And Understanding In Sport Business: We are all just a text message away from each other, yet the world of sport business still operates in silos. It is coming closer as brands look for more ways to engage across societies and technology, but sport is still very much a business of different cultures. The way we access and follow teams, engage with brands or play games is vastly different, and those who find the way to take the time to understand locally and act globally are the ones who will have a leg up, especially in an Olympic year.

Handles and Hashtags: Mississippi State dropped a hashtag in their end zone, the Celtics an @ sign on their parquet floor and there surely will be more to come, just like a url is standard at every event. The symbols lead to information, and can lead to some great promotional opportunities for the brands with mass carriage. We don’t need twitter symbols replacing names on jerseys or wasteful information sites popping up without an ROI. However for those brands who have a powerful and well planned message to tell, feel free to share the best way to get that info. Maybe twitter handles for athletes should be listed in press releases next to hometowns and high schools. It would be a great way for immediate engagement. However it is not for everyone. Like public speaking and endorsements, social media is a choice not a requirement. It is useful but should not be white noise.

Colleges Empower Communications People More And Give Them The Tools To Succeed: My friends at CoSIDA have done an amazing job of waking up the sports communicators at colleges to show the business world that they bring great value to a University. However many schools still see the SID position as an add on not an essential voice with real dollar value. The college crisis situations that arose this year pointed that out directly. Many schools do not invest in adequate training or planning for their officials in advance of a crisis, and when a crisis arises they throw thousands at firms with experience in “crisis” overall but not with the nuances of the community. Sometimes it is great, sometimes it creates more problems. Colleges and Universities need to invest in the people who tell their stories through the media…social, digital, traditional, word of mouth…and make sure they are adequately trained professionals who can help keep the strong University brand even stronger.

Fun Promotions: The sports marketing and publicity business should be all about fun and innovative engagement. It would be great to see more innovative Heisman trophy campaigns, more unique promotions for team awards, better sharing of ideas and even more creative campaigns to get casual fans engaged. Maybe a mailing here and there to media will not get a direct ROI or influence a vote, but it will be taken notice of and create some additional buzz.

More Personal Contact: In the past year I have found at least a half dozen MEDIA outlets and personalities who refuse to give out a phone number when asked. Too busy, just send an email and we will get back to you. Sports is still a people business and it’s a personal business. Don’t hide behind mass emails and notes. If someone reaches out to you, reach back out, we can all get along and we all can learn from one another. Take a writer to lunch, buy a league publicist a cup of coffee, use a pen now and then and pick up the phone. A little kindness goes a long way.

Quality As Much As Quantity: The phrase “size matters” has never been evoked more than in the social media space. Properties, athletes, brands rush to get thousands or millions of followers in a medium where the interest was supposed to be direct conversation, not spam. Ask many brands or athletes who follow them, or who they follow, and often you get empty stares or silence back. The most effective online properties are the ones that take the time to see who is following them, when they are following and why and most importantly how they are reacting to what they are saying. It is great to speak to millions or thousands and to have that platform to use smartly. It is even better to make sure that you are speaking to the right few, rather than the disinterested many.

No more gurus, evangelists, experts, messiahs, or icons: If you have to tell someone you are any of these, you are probably not. As for the digital world, the smartest people are the ones who listen and learn and grow and adapt. Those people, no matter what their age, usually spend little time looking for the spotlight or telling people how great they are. If it’s true the spotlight will find them.

“Getting” Gaming: For some reason there still is a wall between the largest and most engaged audience of young online first adopters…the gamers…and traditional sport. It’s almost like the two groups don’t have a common ground, or one refuses to understand the other. Gaming online and traditional sport have a huge common ground…both are competitive, skilled, innovative and social and the interactive space of sport and social in a digital format (online and in mobile) will help grow the gaming interest and the traditional sport following. Hopefully the two worlds will continue to mesh without fear.

Embrace The Bloggers: Some say blogging is past its prime, I think it is evolving. Like every other “medium” in sport and entertainment before it, there is a weeding out process. Bloggers in other areas…parenting, politics, etc are growing and thriving…good sports bloggers, ones with innovative opinions, deep dives on content and a passion for their subject…can be just as effective. Hopefully teams, leagues and especially the NCAA, see the opportunity and continue to embrace bloggers of all ages who do good work. Now will the rogue problem pop up? Yes. But hopefully it is a one off issue that is not reflective of the overall state of the blogosphere, but the chance to have a dialogue with bloggers and use them as allies in promoting brands, teams, athletes and properties is still wide open, and usually nets positive results.

College and High School Media Growth: The sports business is growing still and it is getting younger as well. The use of digital and social media has created endless opportunities for young people who understand the culture and can help those established in the space to grow. Using that space positively, and finding new outlets and ambassadors to tell ones story, is very important in an environment where traditional media is budget and time challenged. High Schools, colleges and universities are looking more and more to using sport, from fantasy sports to explain a math curriculum to marketing and business programs, as a way to communicate and educate. That curriculum is showing young people a new career path that didn’t exist before and in turn they are becoming more passionate and engaged about the business of sport than ever before. Out of that core has come more media platforms, online, text, podcasts etc. that are assets for growth.

Writing: The shrinking of traditional media outlets has cost us many of the best writers of a generation, many of whom are trying to adapt to a different world order. Even with that change, the ability to express in the printed word has never been greater. New sites like Grantland, The PostGame and The Classical, along with hyper local sites created by media companies like ESPN (as well as the coming Sports In America Series by SI and HBO) have given long form a new place, and with it some great stories are being told in the digital space. Hopefully the writing of sentences, not tweets, is what young people will aspire to and evolve into as professionals. There is no substitute for good storytelling, and those stories are best told by good writers with good writing skills. There are many, many teachers of the craft now available, and hopefully sites look to continue to embrace those veterans t show the next generation not just what to write, but how to tell that story.

Again, just my opinion, and Lord knows I am guilty of many things as well, but hopefully we are all moving forward in this business, with the best yet to come. As Jimmy Buffet says, “We need more fruitcakes, less bakers.”

Have a great New Year and stay in touch.

Some Worth A Read From 2011

This is not a countdown, it’s only my opinion. It is also a list of books that I myself read (I read over 40 by the way and skimmed about 40 more) and enjoyed that I had no professional or personal interest in (thereby Tom Penders’ Dead Coach Walking isn’t here but could be if you are a hoops fan). I also admit there are four books that I did not yet read and they include George Vecsey’s book on Stan Musial, the new bio of Howard Cosell, John Feinstein’s latest work and believe it or not Those Guys Have All The Fun, about ESPN.

I also am very proud to say how much I have enjoyed the long form writing that continues to grow, from Grantland to The Classical and all forms in between on and ESPN Magazine, Sports Illustrated and, The Sporting News, Yahoo and the countless blogs, as well as on all the standby news sites and newspapers. Yes we have twitter, but we still need writing as well. So if you are looking for a holiday gift, here are a few to take a gander at.

In 2012 I’m sure we will have our fill of scandal books and bios, and hopefully some great Olympic stories. It seems like we missed a share of hockey, boxing and soccer books this year, and I am at a loss for books outside the States, so I apologize and would welcome suggestions. Here are 10 I enjoyed though…

AN ACCIDENTAL SPORTSWRITER by Robert Lipsyte One of the best retrospectives of how sports and society have meshed and clashed, through the eyes and notes of one of the New York Times’ best, as well as one of journalism’s most respected voices in the last half century.

BRANCH RICKEY by Jimmy Breslin…not the most detailed work by the legendary writer, but another book which takes the casual fan back to a different time and explain through the eyes of Breslin how the man who changed the course of history by breaking the color barrier in baseball became such a man. A great retrospective of a bygone era in sport and American culture.

LOMBARDI AND LANDRY by Ernie Palladino…Another of those solid backstory editions, telling football fans more than they ever knew about how two Hall of Fame coaches started together their NFL careers on the staff of the New York Giants, and the life lessons learned there that made them so successful later on.

PARCELLS by Carlo DeVito…Like Lombardi and Landry, author Carlo DeVito brings football fans back through the career of another Hall of Fame coach, and shows how the time he spent as a nomadic NFL and college assistant, and even as a head coach at Air Force, helped sculpt a career that rebuilt NFL franchises in Miami and New England, Dallas and New York (twice).

SCORECASTING by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moscowitz… An interesting, cerebral read of what if’s and how the numbers and those who play, ref and coach, really affect the outcome of the games we love…or how they don’t. The book makes you think twice, which is always fun in sport.

SWEETNESS by Jeff Pearlman…I always enjoy Jeff’s books because they don’t sugar coat topics and always tell you more about the character than you thought you knew. Much of the negativity around the great Walter Payton and this book came from people who read only excerpts. It is well done and tells us more about a man than we ever knew before.

THE CAPTAIN: THE JOURNEY OF DEREK JETER by Ian O’Connor… It takes a special writer to tell us things about a personality that we think we know, or who may not be that interesting when he leaves the field. Ian O’Connor does that, with Derek Jeter like he has with all his other work. If you are a fan of sport, not just of baseball or the Yankees, you learn about a man and a future Hall of Famer, and you look at him a little differently now.

THE EXTRA 2%: HOW WALL STREET STRATEGIES TOOK A MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM FROM WORST TO FIRST by Jonah Keri… We all know “Moneyball,” even more now than ever. Keri brings us up to speed with how the Tampa Rays were built, and the book came at a time as analytics in sport were again coming full circle. Well written, researched and worth a read.

THE SECRET HISTORY OF BALLS by Josh Chetwynd…ever wonder how the balls in the games we play became the balls in the games we play? Chetwynd answers those questions and then some by examining the history of balls big and small, furry and oblong, throughout the course of time. Fun read.

WHEN THE GARDEN WAS EDEN: CLYDE, THE CAPTAIN, DOLLAR BILL AND THE GLORY DAYS OF THE NEW YORK KNICKS by Harvey Araton…When you think a subject has been done to death is when a writer really has his challenges. Araton took that subject, the long-revered and idolized New York Knicks of the early 1970’s, and brought us inside their lives today and how they got to where they were, like never before. Hoops fans will again look at these Hall of Famers in a different light.

My apologies if I left folks out…it’s just a short list, but I think it’s a good one. Thanks to all, and on we go…

Beyond Sport Unites, Makes An Impact

On Tuesday at Yankee Stadium several hundred professionals, many in community relations from teams from around the world, gathered for the Beyond Sport United “Sports Teams For Social Change” conference. While cynical may say that the event was a chance to have professional sport gather to network and then go back about their business of making money, in truth, the assemblage was so much more.

What the event really was, was an affirmation to those “in the game” of the volume and depth of potential sport has to positively impact the lives of others around the world. The gathering of MLS Commissioner Don Garber, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for a pre-lunch roundtable hosted by CNBC’s Darren Rovell gave each of the league leaders a chance not just to pat themselves and their leagues on the back, but to really address the breath of what each league can do in areas ranging from global warming to combating malaria around the world. The panelists and stories throughout the day looked at sport as a driver of change not just in the United States, but in leagues and organizations across each continent, and perhaps for the first time gave those who run vast community programs from the mega-leagues of Europe to actually engage in peer to peer discussions with those who do similar work across North America. The discussions were frank and not rose colored, and the obvious need for more work to be done to better coordinate all the efforts that are done locally was evident throughout all the sessions.

It was not a day of pollyanna promises and boasts, it was a day to look constructively at best practices and hopefully learn how to improve on what is done on community outreach locally, regionally and nationally. The call to continue pushing ahead was clear, and the importance of both fundraising and allocating adequate dollars in a challenged economy from cash-strapped organizations was also evident. Another key point touched on time and again was the need for better and clearer communication on the good works sport does in a community…the need to tie the business side of sport with the philanthropic, and to find creative ways to best tell the positive stories of athletes, leagues, brands and teams with a unified push.

Now of course when the smoke clears and the passions wain that teams still have their own agenda on how to promote sport for good in a community. Each market, each athlete, each cause has its own challenges and opportunities, and the call for more assistance is never ending. What emerged from the event from such a wide range of senior leadership is the value that cause marketing has for brands, teams and leagues, and the commonality of purpose all the efforts have…the ability to use sport to change the lives of those around the world.

It is not an easy task, and is probably not at the top of the list of most organizations today who are looking to find positive business solutions and combat the image that sport at the professional level is all about the dollars. However what became clear by the sheer numbers of attendees on Tuesday is that the ability to impact social change and the passion to do so does not exist in a vacuum. It was a great opportunity to share thoughts and take back ideas that may not have been considered before, as well as reinforcing the mission of positive impact for sport across the board. An amazing assemblage of talent, thought and leadership, and a great set of examples as to what sport can do to impact and deliver good.

Why BWB Matters…

Saturday around 250 bloggers, media types, interested parties and sports enthusiasts gathered at the world headquarters of Bloomberg in New York for Blogs With Balls 4. The event was a day long (as well as a preparty the night before and an afterparty last night) Petri dish for where media is, and isn’t today. Along with scores of sports bloggers and those who work in the digital side of the industry, established media and broadcasters from Kevin Blackistone and Jamelle Hill to Richard Deitsch and Darren Rovell took part in the day long panel discussions on topics ranging from brand building to the importance of blogging to advances in the digital sports world and roles for women in the sports media world.

While there was the requisite complaining about “mainstream acceptance” and sometimes a misunderstanding of what the media business still is all about…big brands and big dollars still rule…the event continues to evolve into a “must attend” by those who are involved in sport and want to get a feel for the ever-changing landscape of the business. One of the most positive aspects of such an event is that in a world where physical connection has been replaced by a virtual connection (one speaker continued to reference “virtual” friends throughout her discussion, vs. people she actually has met or talked to on the phone), the ability to actually meet and speak to a peer or a media member in a casual environment enhanced a bind that had grown online. For all the craziness of the world we live in, ties can still be formed by a face to face conversation, many of which were facilitated by Bwb4. It is that ability to tie reality to virtual that makes BwB so valuable.

However one of the downsides that BwB continues to expose is the continued disconnect between leagues, teams and even brands and the blogging and digital world. Despite an extensive outreach, only Major League Soccer chose to send a representative to the event. No other league, team or college in the busiest marketplace in the world for sports found the time to either respond or send a representative to sample the fare at what was a very eclectic consortium of people passionately involved in sports, some of whom came from as far away as Japan to attend. Now yes it is a busy time…in New York the Mets and Yanks were both home, the Giants and Jets away, hockey is starting and some colleges have football…but the ability to not have any representatives attend and at least observe was very loud and somewhat disappointing. What did those in attendance hear? Thoughts looking both back and forward on the NFLPA from George Atallah, great insight from industry vets but still considered rising stars like Bonami Jones, Jonah Keri and Josh Elliott, some news from Deadspin’s AJ Daulierio on a staffing addition and lost of other tidbits that can be weighed against the growing marketplace of digital sports.

Was it a room full of heavy hitters? Not necessarily.
But it was a day full of people that are passionate about an industry that is still billion dollar in scope, in a setting that any veteran or young person could have learned. from. The event has grown in stature and scope every year and should continue to over time, and really is a must-attend for even the most established industry vet to get a little better feel for the landscape. Those who didn’t missed the ball.

Who Really Benefits From World Cup? Brand Soccer.

They are on every talk show…one player adorns the rarefied air of the cover of Sports Illustrated. They are the new darlings of sport, despite their loss on Sunday. They are the women of American soccer, and their media tour this week has again helped to lift the profile of a sport…soccer…as much as if not more than women’s sports. So how does all this help in the long term for brand soccer?

While the natural assumption is that these heroes coming home could bolster the much beleaguered path that Women’s Professional Soccer is on (teams have reported increased ticket sales, at least for the first few homecoming games for the league), the bigger picture is how this success can be weaved into the overall interest in soccer…not men’s soccer, not women’s soccer, not youth soccer…overall. Next up for the sport in the United States is the very high profile All-Star game at Red Bull Arena…MLS vs. Manchester United…and the league will be pulling out all the stops to showcase the game, it’s brand and its stars across the river in New York to fans, advertisers and media partners. Having some of the recently successful women on hand would also be a nice help. Women’s World Cup will surely be mentioned in the same breath as MLS next week in and around the marketing and the soccer community.

The other big bridge World Cup success builds is to next summer and the London Olympics. Much as officials will say that there will be a huge bump in interest in WPS, the fact remains that professional women’s soccer, both here and even more so abroad, still does not register. Go up to the casual fan next week and they will know Hope Solo or Abby Wambach maybe, but ask if they know what Sky Blue FC is, even in New Jersey where the team is based, and you will probably get a blank stare. Publicity and media attention is great, but without continued reinforcement with marketing dollars and TV, the pro interest will wan as it has in the past. The real value is toward the next group of bright lights at the Olympics. USA Soccer and key brands now have added bounce to profile the women of soccer going into London, something they might not have had before this past weekend. While women’s soccer may not have been key for NBC before, it could be now, and those who played in World Cup and shined, and will play in the Olympics a year from now, will get more stage time. That helps the athletes and it helps the sport on all levels, as every ounce of exposure continues to be critical for the game’s growth in the States.

So as we look back at the real value of this past weekend, with its record tweets and posts and TV numbers and drama, we should look for the real winner, which is brand soccer. A sport which has enjoyed steady growth over the last ten years got another bump, this time from the women’s side, and that bump helps the game more than the individual, which is what team sports is supposed to be about.