As SBD prepares to turn the page on its 20th year of publishing in 2014, and SBJ moves into its 16th year, we are making a request to readers of both publications. We’re asking you to delve deep into your memory bank and share your stories with us — your first recollections of the publications, specific ways that you would use the products or the information and what role the publications have played in your professional lives. As we plan out our special issue, we’ll be looking back through the years at the people who have made key contributions to the products, the publishing process and the role SBD and SBJ have had in helping inform executives in sports. So a call out to both longtime diehards and new subscribers: If you’re interested in sharing your stories, your thoughts and recollections on these publications, let me know. I’ll be working closely with Managing Editor Ross Nethery (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we would love to have you be a part of our special issue.
|Steve Stoute (right) says Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports is fueling a culture change in the athlete representation business.
Asked what he made of his partner’s plans to begin representing athletes, Stoute was to the point. “Jay has been a lover of sports and has developed a great relationship with the athletes,” he said. “His reputation as a businessman has obviously been well-documented, so I don’t need to get into that. I think that there needs to be a new sheriff. Scott Boras and those guys, the agents of the past, they had a run. They had 10 or 15 years, maybe even longer, unadulterated. David Falk had a long run in basketball and that had to change. Scott Boras had a long run in baseball and that has to change. Those things have to change.”
He sees Roc Nation Sports as fueling part of that culture change. “The athletes change, the athletes’ attitudes change, the needs and their wants change, and the people who are representing them should change along with their needs.”
Stoute firmly believes athletes want to be “bigger than just athletes.”
“They realize the power of an athlete today is much different than the power of an athlete 20 years ago,” he said. “The opportunity with media, multimedia and how people engage with the athlete is much different than before. They find themselves to be more ubiquitous as lifestyle stars and celebrities than they are just typically a jock. They want to be with management and representation that can harness all of the different touch points to help build their profile, build their brand and build their wealth, and Jay-Z uniquely has that to offer them.”
> ON BROADWAY: I recently caught up with Ponturo Management Group’s Tony Ponturo, who, along with his partner Fran Kirmser, is working on bringing the story of the New York Yankees, “Bronx Bombers,” to Broadway next year. Ponturo and Kirmser produced two other sports-related plays on Broadway — “Lombardi” in 2010-11 and “Magic/Bird” in 2012.
With “Bronx Bombers,” Ponturo and Kirmser are actively in script development, “working with actors, so we can hear the words to the script for the first time, as we get the story right,” Ponturo said. A group will go to Colorado in June for theater workshops, and do on-stage performances in New York off Broadway in the fall, before looking to open on Broadway in January/February. With the Super Bowl hitting New York City, Ponturo said, “Once the sports community hits the city, they will have some sports options on Broadway.”
In putting together the script, Ponturo said the idea behind “Bronx Bombers” is “about what makes a great team over a long period of time. There is conflict. There is pulling together. There is performing on the field.” He wrapped it up by adding, “This will span generations of players to tell the story of what goes into making a team.” Ponturo will be working with the Yankees and MLB on promotional plans, and look for promotional material touting the release of “Bronx Bombers” coming later this summer or early fall.
Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at email@example.com.
■ What is the biggest challenge for brand activation in a sports sponsorship today?
The biggest challenge is creative. Home in on brand attributes and identify creative that is based on those attributes and how they have synergy with the sport. Look to identify partnerships (not just retail) that can help expand that activation message.
When Unilever was launching Degree deodorant for men, the company wanted to target men who take risks. Not stupid risks; they just wanted those active men who are not risk-averse. The World Series of Poker team at Harrah’s (where I was director of strategic marketing) heard about this from its broadcast partner and created The Degree All-In Moment, drawing from the high-stress point in poker when a player decides whether to go all-in or not. The Degree marketing team agreed it could play off this and supported it with a $20 million-plus, award-winning campaign.
If you are a sponsor of an event, look to extend your sponsorship through partnerships. Taste of the NFL has a stable of sponsors and takes place only in the Super Bowl market. To take its sponsorship outside the market, one smart food sponsor approached Bon Appetit (3 million circulation), and the magazine agreed to publish a special 2004 section profiling the recipes of the 32 chefs participating in the event so readers could prepare celebrity chef recipes at home. All Taste of the NFL sponsor logos appeared in the section (30 percent value of a page rate), and it was the first time this event received national exposure of this kind.
|Keeping the NHL’s trophies gleaming creates its own endemic category: silver polish.
Look deeper, peel the onion, and know that nobody can leave any money on the table. Look at all endemic categories.
The NHL awards trophies to players each year at a televised awards show. The trophies are historic and diverse and all made of sterling silver. An endemic category for the trophies and the awards is silver polish, so the recommendation would be for a silver polish to be a sponsor of the awards show. The brand would promote at retail by giving fans tickets to the event. A suggested tag line: “If our polish is quality enough for these historic trophies of the NHL, they are quality enough for your silver at home.”
■ Is it better to “own” a property with fewer sponsors or be part of a larger community of sponsors?
You won’t have to worry about being part of the pack if your creative activation is above the pack. For example, all America’s Cup syndicates have their own sponsors, and one syndicate executed a really smart activation for its sponsor, Pucci (apparel), which has a very distinctive and familiar style. Pucci transferred its design, instead of just a logo, on the spinnaker. When the shoot went up during this televised race, all cameras (still and video) were on this beautiful spinnaker; an aerial shot appeared in a later issue of Vanity Fair and Vogue.
■ Are there underserved audiences or other alliances I can consider in my sports sponsorship?
The mandate to expand your brand by attracting consumers when they’re young and have them grow with you is still true. But take note: Any league or league licensee that manufactures products that only encourage kids to “buy” stuff is too transparent to savvy moms. It could lead to a backlash. There is much more to be developed in sponsorships, licensing, programming/content, promotion, etc., that are unique and represent opportunities.
During taping of the last season for the popular HBO series “Sex in the City,” a member of the PGA Tour marketing department was challenged to increase awareness and attendance for the tour’s only New York-area tournament. It was pitched to “Sex in the City” producers to write an episode about the girls picking up guys at the Westchester tour event. Due to timing and financial issues, the concept was not executed, but it represented an opportunity to communicate to millions of viewers that golf is “cool,” especially among female fans.
■ How do I instruct my agency to develop creative for my brand against a league/team sponsorship?
Direct the agency to create a campaign that evokes emotion: comical, sentimental, genuine, or otherwise. The best example I have experienced was a year when the Bulls were in the playoffs and Michael Jordan was as popular a player as ever. A huge billboard went up in Chicago with a picture of Jordan in uniform dunking and copy that read “Trade Jordan.” Chicago sports fans went nuts. This billboard shut down phone lines at the team. The promotion was on TV talk/news programs, on radio, and in print, and you can imagine the sports bars. A few days later, a new billboard went up. Same image of Jordan, same copy, but this time, the logo of trading card company Upper Deck appeared on the billboard as well.
If multiple agencies are involved, create a competition among them with identical parameters and time limitations to control expenses. Provide examples of past successes. Challenge them to submit activation ideas that evoke emotion.
It’s amazing the competitiveness among agencies and the motivation among younger workers that emerges when pursuing the Big Idea that wins the trophy for “Best Creative.”
Sarah S. Galvin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a creative activation specialist for brands, sports and media.
Up to that moment, my impression of NASCAR included Confederate flags and mostly all-white Southern fans. While that impression hasn’t changed much through the years, every interaction I have had with France and with NASCAR during that time has affirmed my initial assessment of France’s comments. I have co-chaired a 10-person NASCAR Diversity Council with Magic Johnson, observed all the NASCAR programs aimed at promoting diversity, and engaged with NASCAR through the National Consortium for Academics and Sports, which I founded in 1985, and the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida, which I chair.
I am convinced that my gut was right after that first meeting with France and that he meant what he said.
During my career, I have had a positive reputation with the media, but the media has always challenged me when I have said that NASCAR was making major efforts on diversity, as it did not fit the public image of NASCAR. My response to those challenges, then and now, is to detail the efforts NASCAR has made.
|Hiring Jadotte (left) and developing drivers like Larson show France and NASCAR’s commitment to diversity.
The demographics of America have changed and will continue to change even more. I asked the leaders how such future changes will affect NASCAR’s fan base. How is NASCAR preparing for that? How is NASCAR’s leadership preparing NASCAR employees to help with that change?
With other sports, when fans and the media have thought about diversity, the players have always been the original focus. Over decades, MLB, the NFL, the NBA, and later MLS and the WNBA have become sports with highly integrated player bases. Between 40 percent and 80 percent of the players in those leagues are players of color.
NASCAR’s diversity initiatives are helping it join the race, but it started from so far behind with its programs for diverse driver development and efforts beyond its highly touted Drive for Diversity program. The topic was particularly timely after all the attention that was paid to Danica Patrick at the Daytona 500. Fewer people noticed that Kyle Larson, who is Japanese-American, made his national series debut this season in the Nationwide Series, where he is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. He also races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he finished first at Rockingham and became the first graduate of the Drive for Diversity program to win in one of NASCAR’s top three series.
The question, of course, is how will Larson and others advance to the next level of competition?
Beyond the players, MLB, NFL, NBA, WNBA and MLS have been pushed since the 1980s by the lack of diversity in league offices and at teams. There has been dramatic change, especially in the league offices. They are all doing quite well on racial hiring practices and doing better, though not great, with gender hiring. NASCAR has made progress in its headquarters hires with two people of color and eight women among the 26 people on the board and as officers of the organization, but there is still a great deal of room for more opportunities.
Our inclusion efforts must not only change the numbers but also change the culture. Diversity management training has played a significant role in changing the culture by spending eight-hour days with small groups of NASCAR employees openly discussing the challenging issues of diversity and inclusion. No sport has done more than NASCAR regarding such training. The hiring in 2005 of Marcus Jadotte, who is now NASCAR’s vice president of public affairs and multicultural development, was the key. Jadotte and France have helped position the leadership to be part of their diversity efforts by having special, intense training with the leadership on a regular basis, and that should speed NASCAR’s efforts in the years ahead. It will take significant resources at a time when resources are less available. In hard economic times, diversity programs are usually the first to go. At NASCAR, continuing with diversity efforts is a prominent signal that NASCAR is committed for the long haul.
NASCAR also has taken a leadership role with Beyond Sport United, the world’s largest effort to bring about positive social change through sport. France is the only commissioner who has personally attended the four major meetings in New York and London, and his presence spoke volumes.
I often talk and write about the power of sport to do amazing things in our world. If women and people of color excel in the world of sport, then the power they have to bring about positive social change is amplified enormously.
The future is promising, as were Brian France’s words 16 years ago.
Richard E. Lapchick (email@example.com) is the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, which annually publishes racial and gender report cards on MLB, the NBA and WNBA, NFL, college sports, and the APSE.