SBJ/Nov. 11-17, 2013/Franchises

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  • Hip-hop sensibility fuels new L.A. Kings line

    Mister Cartoon, a canvas and tattoo artist, has designed for Nike and Vans, but never for a pro or college sports team.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    For Los Angeles street artist Mister Cartoon, designing a merchandise line for the Los Angeles Kings is the fulfillment of a dream he had in the early days of hip-hop music more than two decades ago.

    “Those days, the gear of the Kings was everywhere,” said the 44-year-old canvas and tattoo artist who has designed for Nike and Vans and whose work is popular with children and young adults in the Los Angeles area. “When I first got the call from the Kings asking if I’d work with them, I was high-fiving all of my friends and thinking this was going to be the dopest project I’ve ever done.”

    That was three years ago. “These things take a lot longer than I’d have liked,” said the artist, frustrated like others by the 2012-13 NHL lockout. But now, the time has come: The Kings last week began selling a line of apparel that ultimately will include caps, T-shirts and hoodies with Cartoon’s reimagining of the team’s logo. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is expected to wear a Cartoon-designed goalie helmet later in the season.

    For the Kings, working with Cartoon — whose birth name is Mark Machado — is an intersection of brand extension, pop culture and civic dedication. Cartoon designed the logo for the hip-hop group Cypress Hill, created images for the video game “Grand Theft Auto,” and has tattooed Kobe Bryant, Beyoncé, Eminem, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake and “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter, among other celebrities.

    “Cartoon’s status in this area, with his presence in the youth culture and his art, is viewed by a lot of people as iconic,” said Jonathan Lowe, vice president of marketing for AEG Sports, which owns and operates the Kings. “We saw working with him as a chance to craft a merchandise line, reimagine the Kings brand and create a tie-in with the community.”

    A Mister Cartoon-designed goalie helmet is expected to debut later.
    Photos: ESTEVAN ORIOL
    The Kings are donating all of their proceeds and Cartoon is donating a significant portion of his proceeds from the merchandise to Para Los Niños, a nonprofit organization that has been providing education and family support services to more than 7,500 children in troubled neighborhoods of Los Angeles for the last 33 years. Prices for the Mister Cartoon Collection range from $29.99 to $39.99 for caps and T-shirts to $94.99 for hoodies — in line with the NHL’s Center Ice collection of Kings apparel.

    “These kids are from skid row; make no mistake about it,” Cartoon said. “This area has one of the biggest homeless populations in the U.S. The Kings and I both thought that Para Los Niños was the perfect place to benefit from my line.”

    Said Avery Bell, director of corporate relations for Para Los Niños, “The funds are needed, but for our kids to have that sports connection to the Kings and an artistic bridge to Mister Cartoon — that’s just as important to us.”

    The merchandise is being sold at the Team LA Store at Staples Center as well as online via both the Kings’ official website and TeamLAStore.com. Although the Kings are donating all of their proceeds to charity, the club stands to benefit from the exposure the new line will provide.

    “Many of my followers who haven’t checked out the Kings and the NHL are going to now,” Cartoon said.

    The Kings’ Lowe said the club hopes to work with other artists on merchandise lines in the future.

    Cartoon, who unveiled a Kings mural at the charter school of Para Los Niños and spoke to the students about creativity at an appearance last month, has never worked with a professional or college sports team before his partnership with the Kings.

    “The Kings were a natural for me because I work in black and white and black and gray,” he said, noting that he took about a month to come up his version of the Kings’ marks. “We’re merging the cultures of sports and hip-hop.”

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  • Twitter TV Ratings to track Suns traffic

    The Phoenix Suns have become the first major pro sports team to sign a deal with SocialGuide’s Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings service that tracks Twitter activity during games.

    Financial terms of the one-year deal were not disclosed. The agreement was finalized late last month, ahead of the start of the Suns’ season.

    With the deal, the Suns receive access to SocialGuide’s platform, which allows Suns officials to track and analyze real-time tweets during their games. The day after the game, Phoenix gets results from the Twitter TV Ratings product, which lets the team see the total activity and reach of the TV-related conversation on Twitter during the game.

    The deal is part of the Suns’ efforts to more closely monitor and identify the reach of Twitter activity during the team’s games. It’s also the latest step for a team that has been one of the more progressive in sports in using social media. The Suns were one of the first pro franchises to hire social media specialists and were one of the first to create their own website built around social media.

    But until now, the Suns monitored Twitter activity during games through Twitter’s TweetDeck app, which aggregates tweets using only team-name hashtags. Through SocialGuide’s platform, the Suns can track tweets that include all team-related hashtags but also players’ names and other key words related to the game, creating a far more extensive collection of data.

    “This is the true reach, which we’ve never been able to get before,” said Jeramie McPeek, vice president of digital operations for the Suns. “We have known for years that we have an active fan base tweeting about our team, but this gives us the opportunity to really determine how large that audience is and the impact it makes.”

    McPeek said the Suns get a detailed report after each game from SocialGuide, from which current staff analyzes the information.

    The team began monitoring its Twitter activity at the start of the season. Through their first four games, the Suns had 11.3 million Twitter impressions related to their games, an average of 2.85 million per game.

    The data also showed that during the first four Suns games, more Suns players were mentioned in tweets than their opponents. During the team’s Oct. 30 opening game against Portland, for example, seven of the top 10 players mentioned in tweets were Suns players.

    In addition, team executives said that the data showed that Phoenix’s Nov. 3 game against Oklahoma City was the 13th most tweeted about sports program of the day, which included 11 NFL games, six NBA games, three NHL games and the New York City Marathon.

    “As the game goes on, it helps identify the key topics that are being discussed; it helps us report what the audience was much in the same way as TV ratings,” McPeek said.

    The team will look to use the data to attract sponsors and advertisers.

    “From a sponsorship standpoint, advertisers are looking at impressions, and this is a big data play, and that’s the name of the game today,” said Suns President Jason Rowley.

    Other potential uses of the data include touting promotions and ticket offers when the game is attracting the most Twitter activity.

    “It helps us tell that story to leverage key moments in games and to see if there is a way to push out a ticket offer or a key sponsorship message,” McPeek said. “It is still new, and we are trying to figure out how to best use it.”

    The University of Michigan has a deal with SocialGuide (SportsBusiness Journal, Sept. 16-22), but both the Suns and SocialGuide representatives said Phoenix is the first team from the four major U.S. leagues to subscribe to the Twitter TV Ratings service.

    Nielsen rolled out the service with the start of this year’s fall television season. SocialGuide has deals with all major TV networks.

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