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Volume 24 No. 114

People and Pop Culture

State Farm’s sports marketing portfolio includes a variety of initiatives for professional leagues and star athletes, but Manager of National Sponsorships TODD FISCHER seems particularly proud of the cause marketing program his company created last year in conjunction with MLB. The "Go To Bat" campaign begins at the State Farm Home Run Derby and culminates 10 weeks later with a trip to the World Series for the winners. Participants log on to and “go to bat” for one of 50 predetermined charities, with a winner selected during each week of the campaign. The winner heads to a World Series game in October and the charity receives an $18,000 donation from State Farm in the winner’s name. Fischer is fresh off a trip to Arlington, where he met with this year’s winners for Game Three of the World Series, and managed to carve out some time to cheer on his Cardinals.

Word Association

Angry Birds: Waste of time.
Expanded MLB Playoffs: The more the merrier.
NBA Lockout: An absolute shame.
College realignment: Chaos.
Theo Epstein: An inspiration for other young execs like myself.

Q: How much has social media changed the way you do business?
Fischer: I would say social media complements the way we do business. Social for us has become another touch point to connect with consumers, and exponentially speed up the process of what we call the "evolution of engagement." Social has allowed us to tap into existing consumer passion points and allow our brands to create online experiences rather than to always be in person to interact. 

For instance, the "Go To Bat" program created 16 million organic Facebook impressions from people sharing the program. It's allowed the programs to extend their lives beyond what a brand’s marketing budget will allow it to take on. If you create things that are meaningful for consumers then you’ll know it by the way they share it and extend it.

Q: What are the benefits of working with MLB that led you to increase State Farm’s exposure through baseball?
Fischer: Like every business opportunity, it really starts with what the core objective is. For us, MLB fans were a great target because they value our core values -- personalized service and a community commitment. MLB itself, along with our team partners, really gives us a great platform to connect with current and potential customers in a way that becomes more relevant to them because we’re putting in a baseball context.

"Go To Bat" winners on the field in
Arlington before Game Three
Q: Tell me about the "Go To Bat" campaign. How did this particular promotion come about?
Fischer: The "Go To Bat" campaign came out of the idea that our 18,000 State Farm agents "go to bat" for their customers and communities every day, and this is just a fun way for us to bring that to life and extend it in a baseball context. This is the second year the program has run as a part of our MLB partnership. It's a 10-week program that launches at the State Farm Home Run Derby and then runs the entire second half of the season with the overall promotional aspect being that a weekly winner is chosen and the charity they went to bat for wins $18,000 in their name on behalf of State Farm. The consumer wins a trip to the World Series. We just hosted all those winners in Texas, at Games Three and Four this week.

Q: How did you pick the charities involved in the campaign?
Fischer: It’s a combination of State Farm and MLB charities, as well as fan suggestions. We had a comment box on the program last year and got over 1,200 suggestions from fans. We took those into account and wanted to make sure we hit as many of the key cause categories as possible.

Q: Were you pleased overall with the results of the promotion? Any plans for a third iteration next year?
Fischer: We are. We’re currently assessing the program from this year, obviously with just having culminated it at the World Series, but it’s such a great fit for our brand because it really illuminates who we are as a company. It’s really allowed us to connect with communities and causes and people on a very personal basis. 

Q: When devising "Go To Bat," what’s the one thing you wanted the consumer to remember about State Farm?
Fischer: We wanted consumers to walk away with the sense that they could take action; that we actually encourage them to take action both from getting involved with this program as well as just being advocates of community involvement in their own daily lives. I got to spend some time with the winners in Texas this week and the amazing thing is how personal some of the stories are in terms of why they went to bat.

Q: In 20 words or less, State Farm’s sports marketing philosophy is…
Fischer: Creating integrated strategic business solutions that differentiate State Farm by using key passion points.

Q: Finish this sentence: The one mistake brands make when executing a cause marketing effort is…
Fischer: Being disingenuous.

DONNA GOLDSMITH has quietly been named GM/Operations at the N.Y. 2014 Super Bowl Host Committee. Goldsmith was previously COO at WWE, where she worked from '00-11, also serving as Senior VP and Exec VP/Consumer Products. At the NBA, where she worked from '90-'01, Goldsmith was VP/Licensing (Terry Lefton, THE DAILY)....MLS Real Salt Lake have signed team President BILL MANNING to a new four-year deal that begins immediately. Terms of Manning's contract, which runs through June 30, 2015, were not disclosed. He was hired by the club in March '08 (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/26)....NBCUniversal is "shaking up its ad-sales ranks again, tapping top Turner Entertainment executive LINDA YACCARINO to head cable advertising." Sources said that Yaccarino, who announced Monday that she "would leave at the end of the year to pursue 'new professional opportunities,' will replace" NBCU President of Cable Entertainment & Digital Ad Sales DAVE CASSARO (, 10/25)....IMG named AIMEE LEONE VP/IMG Clients in both the Broadcasting and Speakers Divisions in N.Y. Leone most recently served as Dir of Operations & Special Assistant to the Chair of NBC Sports & Olympics (IMG ).

EXECS: ESPN named Amobee VP/Monetization & Marketing MICHAEL BAYLE Senior VP & GM of ESPN Mobile (ESPN).....Comcast-Spectacor named ROBERT JOHNSON VP/Marketing for the company's Philly Live complex. Johnson previously served as Marketing Dir for the Flyers, who are owned by Comcast-Spectacor (Comcast-Spectacor)....Nike named KEVIN KOMOS Direct to Consumer Global Merchandising Dir, effective Jan. 2 (THE DAILY)....The A's named Rays Dir of Baseball Operations DAN FEINSTEIN Dir of Pro Scouting & Baseball Development. The team also promoted Dir of Pro Scouting CHRIS PITTARO to Special Assistant to the GM (A's)....Bensussen Deutsch & Associates named REBECCA GERBER Dir of New Business Development (BDA).

Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to   

Grand Canyon Univ. yesterday announced the "formation of the Colangelo School of Sports Business," and former Suns Chair JERRY COLANGELO "plans to be involved." Colangelo will "do some lecturing, help line up guest speakers from around the sports world, and each year, an outstanding second-year student will be mentored by him" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/26). GCU CEO BRIAN MUELLER said that attaching Colangelo’s name to the program is "part of an aggressive growth strategy aiming to double the number of its sports business students in six years" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/24 issue).

SPORTS & POLITICS: PRESIDENT OBAMA appeared on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” last night and addressed the NBA lockout. NBC’s Jay Leno noted Obama was a “huge basketball fan” and asked, “Who’s wrong?” Obama said the lockout “was heartbreaking” and added, “If you look at the NFL, they were able to settle theirs and I think they understood players, we’re making millions of dollars, owners some of us are worth billions of dollars. We should be able to figure out how to split a $9 billion pot so that our fans, who are allowing us to make all this money, can actually have a good season. I think the owners and the basketball players need to think the same way.” Obama said he’s “concerned” the whole season could be lost and “they need to remind themselves that the reason they are so successful is because a whole bunch of folks out there love basketball. Basketball has actually done well, but these kinds of lockout a lot of times takes a long time to recover from.” Obama went politically correct when Leno asked him for his World Series pick, with Obama saying, “My White Sox are not in there so I just want to see a good game. I do not take sides unless it’s my side” (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 10/25).

ROOM SERVICE: BUFFALO BUSINESS FIRST's David Bertola profiles Sabres Dir of Creative Services FRANK CRAVOTTA, who is described as the "man behind the Buffalo Sabres new, 30,000 square foot locker room design at First Niagara Center." Cravotta used "input from ownership, coaches and players" like G RYAN MILLER and RW JASON POMINVILLE to create a floor plan. New York-based Cannon Design was the architect for the project, and Cravotta credits Sabres VP/Arena Operations STAN MAKOWSKI JR. "for overseeing the budget and being the project manager for all things outside the design element" (, 10/25).

COURT REPORT: Georgia Primary Bank filed a lawsuit Oct. 18 against Basketball HOFer JULIUS ERVING and his corporation, The Erving Group Inc. of Atlanta claiming that he "owes more than $200,000 on a loan" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/26). Meanwhile, SCP Auctions has listed 100 items from Erving’s personal collection, “including his 1983 76ers world championship ring.” Other items on the auction block “include his ABA championship rings from 1974 and 1976 with the New York Nets” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/26).

Evernham (c) presents $1M check to Ronald
McDonald House in Charlotte
NAMES: JACK NICKLAUS said of the global economy's impact on golf, “China, for example, is shut down right now golf-wise. We were over there about a month ago with a course two weeks from being finished that was shut down." But he added of the U.S., "I haven't been to a country in the last year where the outlook is as bad economically as it is here for us” (PALM BEACH POST, 10/26)....Federal prosecutors in Rockford, Ill., yesterday announced that six sports memorabilia dealers “have been charged with selling hundreds of bogus game-used jerseys to trading card companies and other buyers.” The charges “stem from a four-year investigation into fraud in the sports memorabilia industry that has been conducted by the Chicago FBI and other federal agencies” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/26)….Former NASCAR team Owner RAY EVERNHAM yesterday presented a $1M check for the new Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte (THE DAILY)....Golfer ANNIKA SORENSTAM has been selected as the '12 recipient of the USGA's Bob Jones Award. The award recognizes distinguished sportsmanship in golf (THE SPORTS NETWORK, 10/25)….Cowboys QB TONY ROMO announced his wife, CANDICE CRAWFORD, is pregnant (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/26).

IN MEMORY: Former Capital Cities/ABC exec DANIEL BURKE passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Burke, the father of NBCUniversal President & CEO STEVE BURKE, served as President & CEO of Capital Cities/ABC from '90-94. Upon his retirement from the company, he founded the Double-A Eastern League Portland Sea Dogs (THE DAILY).