SBD/November 11, 2011/Events and Attractions

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  • Quicken Loans Carrier Classic May Be "Most Ambitious" Non-Traditional Sport Event Yet

    Cost over $2M in sponsorship money and private funds to outfit carrier's deck

    The North Carolina-Michigan State Quicken Loans Carrier Classic may be the “most ambitious sporting event at a non-traditional venue yet,” according to Jeff Eisenberg of YAHOO SPORTS. It cost “more than $2 million in sponsorship money and private funds to outfit the deck of the USS Carl Vinson with a makeshift basketball arena replete with a regulation-sized court, a giant video screen behind each baseline and stands big enough to hold 7,000 people” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/10). Morale Entertainment Foundation Dir Mike Whalen, whose organization is hosting the event, said that his group is “hoping to break even after sponsorships” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/11). In L.A., Diane Pucin notes Morale Entertainment and ESPN are “splitting the costs of staging the game.” Each school “received about 400 tickets, Quicken Loans, the title sponsor and State Farm, the secondary sponsor, received some and the rest went to men and women in the military.” Each team will “wear specially designed uniforms resembling camouflage gear for the game” (L.A. TIMES, 11/11). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock notes Morale Entertainment is “talking about men's and women's games on carriers next year, including one scheduled for Nov. 9, 2012 between Connecticut and potentially Arizona.” Whalen said that Michigan State has “agreed to participate again in 2013, as has the Connecticut women's team.” Whalen: "We would like it to be an annual deal.” He added, “We're looking to change the narrative, I guess, about what Veterans Day means" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/11).

    SALUTE TO THE TROOPS: The AP’s Julie Watson noted organizers “plan to seize the spotlight to showcase the Navy and its awe-inspiring, multi-billion-dollar aircraft carriers to the more than 3 million viewers expected to watch the Veterans Day game on ESPN.” Navy officials said that they “know a basketball game will not change the budget debate, but it can't hurt efforts to get the American public excited about their branch of service as its chiefs lobby Congress to avoid cuts that could jeopardize its future military strategies” (AP, 11/10). AD AGE’s Kerem Ozkan noted for college basketball and the U.S. Navy, the event “will serve as a one-of-a-kind cross-promotion.” State Farm is “sponsoring a halftime game of H-O-R-S-E with James Worthy, Mario Lopez, Brooklyn Decker, and the winner" of an eBay auction. Morale Entertainment said that “all proceeds will go to charity.” Other sponsors for the game “include Sears, Coke Zero, Miller High Life, Westwood One” and upcoming Relativity Media film "Act of Valor" (ADAGE.com, 11/9).

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  • Catching Up With Morale Entertainment Dir Mike Whalen About The Carrier Classic

    Friday marks the inaugural Quicken Loans Carrier Classic between the Univ. of North Carolina and Michigan State men’s basketball teams on the USS Carl Vinson. Mike Whalen, whose Morale Entertainment Foundation is organizing and executing the game, discussed the dynamics of what he hopes to be an annual event.

    Q: Where did this idea come from?
    Whalen: (Michigan State AD) Mark Hollis, (CBS Sports Producer) Steve Sheer and I got together at the Charter House in Indianapolis for a Navy game and we started thinking about it. We drew it on a table cloth and figured out we could do it; I thought we could do it. And that’s how it started.

    Q: You literally drew it on the table cloth?
    Whalen: Yeah. Seems pretty wacky. I don’t know if you ever saw it, but we did the 11/11 logo. Mark Hollis had a package of saltines with red, white and blue stuff and that’s where the idea for 11/11/11 with the red, white and blue came from.

    Q: If you were Mother Nature for a day, what would be the ideal forecast?
    Whalen: Sixty-eight and sunny prior to the start of the game. Then maintain 68 degrees to the end and low to zero winds. A gentle breeze would be nice.

    Q: What’s the biggest operational challenge of the flat deck?
    Whalen: Getting equipment to it, it has to be lifted. We are about 75 feet above the pier so the bulk of our equipment has to be lifted by crane.

    Q: Are you testing or prototyping the court? How?
    Whalen: We’ve already done that. We put panels on the flight deck and observed the time of the day and weather conditions. We did that about two months ago when we selected our court vendor. 

    Q: Will there be on-ship hospitality for the 7,000 guests? What kind?
    Whalen: Not for all 7,000. There will be concessions and merchandise and limited hospitality for the VIPs of the schools, the Navy and sponsors. The Secretary of the Navy has a tent. It’s going to be for members of Congress, the leadership of the schools, some of the sponsors, some of the broadcast people from ESPN.

    Q: What is the most unusual request you’ve gotten for the event?
    Whalen: Somebody wanted to do a long ball golf ball hitting contest. Now how that ties in with basketball, I don’t have a clue.

    Q: The stands have to be wrapped in fabric to block wind, courts and seats are tied down rather than bolted, what other elements must you account for from a traditional basketball game?
    Whalen: The scoreboard is incorporated into the large video screens. But no, I’m not going to have a helicopter lifting a scoreboard.

    Q: What added measures do you have to cover with President Obama in attendance?
    Whalen: That scenario I can’t go into. The normal protocol for a presidential visit will be observed. Secret Service is in charge of that, and I can’t go into any details. I’m a Republican, I invited the president and I am thrilled that he is coming. He’s the Commander in Chief and I have some of my friends who are Democrats trying to convert me -- probably not going to happen.

    Q: President Obama is known to enjoy a game of hoops, has there been any request for him to be able to play on the court?
    Whalen: I don’t know. I’m hopeful he is going to address the crowd. I think that will occur before the game. He is now coming for the entire game. … He’s the president, as far as I’m concerned he can do what he wants.

    Q: Is there a plan to continue this?
    Whalen: Yes, next year we have memorandums of understanding with UConn and Arizona, although the Pac-12 has come out and said they have the television rights. I told them to go jump in the lake. So we either get it resolved or I’ll replace Arizona. There are a number of schools, we’re chomping at the bit. I would love to have Arizona, but if the Pac-12 wants to be idiots then Arizona will be off the table and most likely we’ll go with Illinois. Also next year we’re anticipating the Ohio State women playing the Notre Dame women. We have 2013 already booked, but I can’t talk about that yet.

    Q: Will this be expanded to other sports?
    Whalen: We’re working on something called Allies, which we go to different countries and do stuff with different sports. For example, in Canada an NHL game with hockey, Britain would be a Premier League soccer game on a military base, Japan then would be a baseball game. Australia would be an Australian Rules Rugby on an Australian air force installation. Germany would be a football game, Italy and France would be cycling, Finland would be a hockey game. Korea would be a jiu jitsu contest. So we’ve got about 15 venues that we are looking to expand to. The concept is Allies. I leave five days after the Carrier Classic to go to England to talk to the Minister of Defense. In each country we would take what is recognized as a national sport or close equivalent and present a game on a military installation. The NFL is not in the cards right now, we’re talking about international affiliations. So 2012 is far more likely to a project in Canada, a project in England and potentially one in New Zealand and Australia.

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  • SMT Conference: Media Heavy-Hitters Discuss Social Media Strategy

    The '11 Sports Media & Technology conference yesterday featured the panel, “How Big Media Uses Social Media.” The participants were SI.com Managing Editor Paul Fichtenbaum, CBSSports.com VP/Programming & Exec Producer Jeff Gerttula, Fox Sports Interactive Exec VP Jeff Husvar, ESPN Senior VP/Editorial & Print Media Rob King and Yahoo Sports Writer Adrian Wojnarowski.

    King discusses ESPN's guidelines for breaking news
    and how it relates to reporters' use of Twitter

    Representatives of some of the media industry’s biggest brands met onstage to discuss social media strategies during the '11 Sports Media & Technology conference. King on breaking news: “We do have editorial guidelines that ask that we don’t just go to that single social media platform to break news. There’s a huge opportunity to reach our audience if we pass information first through the news desk -- both digital and television news desk -- to work together so we can get stuff out across the bottom line. Our reporters are asked to call in with info they have. Once somebody says, 'We’ve got it,' they are free to get into the fray.” Gerttula: “It’s about becoming that credible source for consumers. So it’s not just breaking news. What happens is that consumers know who those (expert) sources are so they flock to them.” Wojnarowski, who began tweeting with Yahoo prior to the '08 NBA Draft, said he went social as a way to compete against ESPN: “There’s a level of guerilla warfare in reporting. We wake up and say, ‘How can we impact (ESPN’s) TV show and take a wrecking ball to it?’ That’s our goal every day. You don’t necessarily beat them with conventional warfare, but you’ve got to be the guys hiding in the trees. So we used Twitter to start breaking draft picks and as trades were happening. That created a following and that’s how we competed against them."

    QUICK HITS:

    On revenue opportunities in social media, Fichtenbaum: “There’s not a marketing opportunity and there’s not a sales opportunity that doesn’t have some sort of social component attached to it. It’s in every conversation.” King said ESPN has used partner media platforms to drive content and revenue. In one program it asked users to submit video highlights of themselves via YouTube: “We asked them to participate and paid it off on 'SportsCenter', so that on a Friday (on-air talent) Merril Hoge hosted a segment that would show our audience getting their 15 minutes of fame. And what comes along there is a sponsorship.”

    On the game-changing nature of Twitter, Wojnarowski: “The biggest thing I think it did was brand stories in terms of who had it first. What Twitter has done is created a scoreboard so that people can’t take credit for a story you broke like they would in the past.”

    On balancing promoting reporters versus news, Husvar: “Our writers are jumping out of their skin to post on Twitter. They really want to establish themselves on Twitter, which is why they have guidelines and why we try to put some structure on the way it’s used.”

    Several panelists name Wojnarowski as
    a must-follow on Twitter
    Wojnarowski also discussed social media communication and feedback: “On Twitter you see the insecurities of people,” he said after joking about how some media members re-tweet “thanks” to a complimentary tweet in order to publicize positive feedback. Wojnarowski also recommended keeping social messaging centered on coverage. “I try to keep it focused on the league I cover. I don’t think people care during the (NBA) lockout what I’m eating or where I’m sitting.”

    On who is a must-follow on Twitter, Gerttula: “In the NBA, Adrian (Wojnarowski) is certainly a must-follow. NFL, Adam Schefter. I tend to follow the people who are a source where you’re going to hear things first.” Fichtenbaum: “I following Adrian (Wojnarowski) for NBA, I follow John Clayton because I’m winning my fantasy league.” King: “There’s probably 800 people that I follow. I think the person I get the most out of is (CEO) Pete Cashmore from Mashable. I’m learning about these developing trends left and right.” Husvar: “I have an overflow of sports information, so the people that I follow kind of fall outside the sports world and really are more in the business and straight news world (such as CBS News, Wall Street Journal, etc).” Wojnarowski: “There’s a guy named Russ Bengtson who used to be editor at Slam magazine and works in the sneaker industry. He’s the funniest guy in our realm on Twitter.”

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  • SMT Conference: Sports Rights Fees Continue To Rise At The Local Level

    The '11 Sports Media & Technology conference yesterday featured the panel, “All Sports Are Local.” The participants were The mtn. VP & GM Kim Carver, Fox Sports Net Exec VP Jeff Krolik, SportsNet N.Y. President Steve Raab and Time Warner Cable Sports President David Rone.

    Panel discusses the rising cost of
    sports rights on a local level

    An insatiable appetite for sports and a bad economy may be combining to help drive the continuing increase in the cost of sports rights on a local level, according to the panel. Carver: “The economy has certainly played a role. The family unit can’t afford now to go see a play, a musical. They’re not even going to the movie theaters as much. They’re staying at home and watching sports on their big-screen TV. So the role that sports is playing in the home I think is critically important. The family still gets together to watch an NFL game or an MLB game or a college football game or whatever is important to the family. Our understanding of that has helped drive some of these rights up.” Krolik, on why local rights are increasing as much as they are: “We have a great product. Local sports is one of those things that you know is going to consistently deliver ratings year in and year out. It’s the consistency piece of it that has been undervalued over the years.” Rone on why TWC is now getting into the local landscape: “Our goal is to deliver premium sports content to our customers in the best way possible. Sometimes the way to do that is in partnership with our friends at Fox Sports, ESPN, Turner, Comcast, etc. Other times it makes sense to buy those rights directly and utilize the relationship directly with that content owner by ourselves. That really was the idea behind our deal with the Lakers in founding this transformative partnership we have with them now. Sports rights are where they are today because that’s what the marketplace is dictating about how people are utilizing them and how people are selling them. We’re disciplined about it. We’re aggressive. We’re bold in the marketplace.”

    QUICK HIT:

    On Fox Sports almost being a middle man with teams now looking to launch their own RSNs or going directly to distributors, Krolik: “We think we bring value. We are an aggregator of rights. If you take a market with an MLB team, an NBA team and an NHL team…Will that NHL team be able to launch their own network? I think that’s a challenge. We think we’re a fair broker of rights.”

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