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Volume 26 No. 45

Brand Engagement Summit

SBJ’s Abe Madkour and Terry Lefton, and Intersport’s Charlie Besser and Brian Graybill, this morning had a fun and energetic discussion on the issues facing sports marketers today. They touched on the biggest topics from day one of the conference, and delved into issues such as what’s hot in the sponsorship/engagement space, what’s changing in sports marketing, what content is working for brand marketers and what are the measures and metrics that matter most.

Fedak (l) said having someone like Drake associated with the Raptors is an innovative idea
Photo: DAVID DUROCHIK

What’s resonating with sports fans? That was topic for the first panel discussion at the ’19 Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit. The NBA Playoffs were top of mind for the brands on stage, and an early discussion turned to rapper and Raptors ambassador Drake, who has been in the news for his sideline behavior during games. AT&T VP/Media Buying & Sponsorships Mark Wright, whose company is an NBA sponsor, called Drake’s actions “healthy.” Wright: “To me, it doesn’t matter whether he’s giving the coach a neck massage. It does to some people, but at least people are talking about it and people are engaged. Hopefully, that will bear out in the national TV ratings (for the NBA Finals).” BMO Financial Head of Social & Sponsorships Marketing Justine Fedak, whose bank sponsors a few NBA teams, said having an entertainer at Drake’s level associated with the Raptors is a “very innovative idea for Canada.” Fedak: “Drake being an ambassador brought this different focus on entertainment merging with basketball. It also brought an interesting new dynamic to being interested in the Raptors vs. something like hockey.” Fedak noted that the relationship with Drake has even paid off on the business side for the club, as Drake’s apparel brand, OVO, bought naming rights to the team’s practice facility.

BASKETBALL 24/7/365: NBA Head of Media, Business Development & Global Partnerships Dan Rossomondo touched on plans for activation around the NBA Finals that start tonight. Beyond noting some special in-game moments, he noted that partners are pushing the league to continue to be a yearlong sport. Rossomondo: “The Finals are a seminal moment. But when that’s done we’re turning to the Draft, and that’s going to be a huge moment. And then free agency and the Summer League. We’ve also got the WNBA and USA Basketball.” Rossomondo also discussed the shot Kawhi Leonard hit against the 76ers to send the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals. Rossomondo: “It’s a happy coincidence if something goes viral. … When Kawhi hit that buzzer beater, (shot clock sponsor) Tissot had their moment.”
 
FOCUS LOCALLY
: Adidas Dir of U.S. Football Cam Collins discussed how drilling into smaller, local events is helping his brand resonate. He provided the example of a 7-on-7 youth flag football tourney in Miami last year, and how after the event, Adidas asked kids about their most fond memories around football. Many responded about how they enjoyed ice cream or snowcones after a hot day of practice or games. Collins: “We thought that was very cool and wanted to figure out a way to bring that to market. Fast-forward a year, and we launched a capsule collection of products called the Snow Cone pack where we created six different cleats inspired by different flavors of snowcones. Not only did we bring those products to market, but we brought in a snow cone truck and had some of our NFL players and entertainment assets deliver these cleats and snowcones to the kids in a key market for us back in Miami.”

Markgraf said expanding coverage of women in the media can allow them to be more selective with brands
Photo: DAVID DUROCHIK

The first Twitter live stream of a girls’ high school volleyball game under the brand @3stripeslive drew 4 million global viewers, Pac-12 Networks anchor and host Kate Scott said on Day 1 at the Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit. Adidas, Twitter and Intersport launched the series in April as a way of popularizing and expanding coverage of women and girls’ sports, following on the popular high school football “Friday Night Stripes” live streams in '19. It will include six live streams of high school girls soccer or volleyball. Twitter Head of U.S. Content Partnerships Laura Froehlich said Adidas research found that just 4% of sports coverage is dedicated to women. “That is unacceptable to me,” Froehlich said. “So we said, absolutely, we’re on board, let’s do our part to make sure we raise that number.” ESPN and NBC broadcaster Kate Markgraf, an Adidas brand ambassador, said expanding coverage of women’s sports allows athletes to be less aggressive and more selective in building their own brand. “The onus was always on us to be engaging, captivating and likable,” said Markgraf, a member of the '99 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship Team USA. "So we were turning nothing down, to the detriment of our performance. And nowadays, athletes are controlling their brand, and controlling their access points."

Williams feels today's athletes are more “fluent” when discussing business, technology and media
Photo: DAVID DUROCHIK

Pro athletes are branching out more and more into media and other investments these days, and that intersection has been the focus of Kevin Durant’s new series on ESPN+, dubbed “The Boardroom.” The first season that rolled out this year saw six episodes cover issues like team ownership, sneakers and social media with guests like LeBron James, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer. On Day 1 at the Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit, the show’s host, Jay Williams, joined ESPN Exec VP/Content Connor Schell and Thirty Five Ventures’ Rich Kleiman, who has long served as Durant’s business agent.
 
GETTING SOPHISTICATED: Williams talked about how athletes today are more “fluent” when discussing business, technology or media opportunities. He gave the recent example of R.J. Hampton, who on Tuesday went on ESPN to declare he will play overseas vs. going to college. Williams noted that Hampton asked him whether he should form an S Corporation or an LLC for his brand, and that’s not something he would have thought of even as a pro athlete -- let alone as an 18-year-old. Williams: “Those are the conversations that we have with certain athletes on the show to showcase their knowledge and also to pass that information forward to the next young kid.” Speaking to the high level of conversation on the show, Kleiman said, “In terms of the content, it’s exactly what we envisioned. I think the idea behind us giving the program such a traditional name was to show that the boardroom is where these athletes are actually having these conversations.”
 
WHY KD? Schell said what made Durant “unique” as a target for this type of programming was his relationship with Kleiman and the way they see the world. Kleiman added that Durant was “one of the few that could do this because it was important for us to not present that we felt like we were the arbiters of this world, or that we knew anything that somebody else may not know" Kleiman. It was "more about who was willing to be honest and vulnerable and talk and learn.” Kleiman, naturally, got a question from the audience about whether Durant could grow his global brand more by going to N.Y. in free agency. He sarcastically responded, “What athletes in New York have global brands?”

Gadd (r) said the Falcons' social media philosophy is to create a more passionate and informed fan base
Photo: DAVID DUROCHIK

Increasing the value of social media was one of topics on a Day 1 of the Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit, and execs from the Falcons, Toyota and MVPindex all discussed what methods they see as being effective. Falcons Senior Dir of Digital Strategy Dan Gadd said his club’s philosophy is to create a “more passionate, excited and informed fan base,” and social media is a “really strong part of that.” Gadd: “We talk a lot about being not platform or technology experts, but being people experts and understanding the emotional, informational triggers that are going to cause people to think about us differently and get them to share our content with others and help spread the word.” 

CHANGING MISSION: Toyota North America Group Manager for Olympic/Paralympic Marketing, Vehicle Marketing & Communications Dedra DeLilli said her brand is looking to social media to help “transition Toyota on this very long term and lofty journey” to move from a car company to a mobility company. DeLilli: “One of the critical components of having a sound strategy in social is being very clear on exactly what you're trying to accomplish. There's no cookie cutter social campaign. It's so important up front to crystallize exactly what you're trying to achieve with each individual initiative.”

USING DATA THE RIGHT WAY: MVPindex CMO Kyle Nelson said research is "right up front" when it comes to attributes that are common among organizations that use social media effectively. Nelson: "Everybody collects data, but it's looking at the data the right way. Asking questions. Not hey, ‘how many posts should we send out?’ Or ‘how many impressions did we get?’ Or ‘how many times did our logo show up?’ But actually asking what content is resonating? Who is the audience that's engaging with the content?” Gadd added, “People under the age of particularly 30 -- digital content is the filter through which they see the world.”

SLIC, short for Sports and Lifestyle in Culture, is one of several enterprises Davis has launched since retiring
Photo: DAVID DUROCHIK

Former NBAer Baron Davis said his content production network, SLIC, is raising outside capital, preparing to sign a streaming distribution deal and working to build a 3-on-3 basketball league that would include separately owned clubs. “It’s really taking 3-on-3 basketball and esports and putting that into an experiential event,” Davis said. Davis spoke a little bit about business while on stage at the ’19 Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit, but mostly will be remembered for his clever and self-aware memories of his playing days. SLIC, short for Sports and Lifestyle in Culture, is one of several enterprises Davis has launched since his playing career. His final advice to the room: Distribute the ball to everyone who can help the team; don’t just look to the superstar. “Storytelling is at an all-time high,” he said. “We should keep our eyes open and really be looking for the people to give opportunities to. We can’t just fall for the fool’s gold.”

Quick Hits:

*On playing for the Donald Sterling-owned Clippers: “You have an owner or somebody who just didn’t like you. He didn’t like people taking care of people, whether you’re black, white, female, it was just the most disgusting thing he could say to you, that’s how he viewed you. And when you have an organization like that, it starts from the top down."

*On playing for George Shinn, James Dolan and Sterling: "I probably played for the worst NBA owners in sports team history. Every time I went somewhere, they’d say, ‘Hey, you know you play for the worst owner?’ and then I’d get traded, and they’d say, ‘Hey, you got traded to the worst owner.’”

*On firing his agent: “Hey man, I’m about to sign a max deal, and 4 percent of $90M is a lot of money, and you don’t deserve it. I’m going to start a business with that.”