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Volume 25 No. 84
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SBJ All-Access: All The Best From Brand Engagement Summit

Big brands, big properties and big plans highlighted Day 1 at the eighth annual Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit in Chicago. Attendees heard messages from some of the top brands in the business, such as Heineken, Adidas, BMO Financial, AT&T, Verizon, Mastercard, Quicken Loans, Mondelez, Biofreeze, A-B InBev and Toyota. Big-time properties like the NBA, Falcons and Browns and media entities like ESPN and Twitter also delivered key insights for attendees on Day 1, which closed out with Baron Davis giving everyone a look into how an athlete pivots from All-Star basketball player to multifaceted content producer.


SETTING THE PACE

Heineken's Cahill brought a ton of positive energy to start this year's conference
  • Heineken USA CMO Jonnie Cahill delivered a strong, upbeat keynote address to start the day. After being introduced by Intersport President Brian Graybill, Cahill gave a great presentation about reaching consumers -- complete with well-timed jokes about his own Irish heritage and 5’4” stature. Beyond having the audience in stitches, Cahill had great insight: “As brand owners, we have been losing our way, if we’re honest. We have to change how we do things. Too many people lament the loss of the good old days, but we are in an amazing moment in this business. We can target people like never before and we can measure everything.”


MOVE THE BALL FORWARD

  • One of the panels on Day 1 that delivered some stronger opinions involved a discussion on women breaking barriers in sports. On the stage were Twitter’s Laura Froelich, ESPN/NBC soccer analyst Kate Markgraf and Pac-12 Networks/NBCSN anchor Kate Scott. The three women had a good back-and-forth on the history and habits of watching women’s sports. The trio had great energy and made strong cases advocating for the changing of the consumption habits of women’s sports.
  • One number that stood out: 4%. That’s the percentage of sports coverage dedicated to women, according to Adidas research. Froelich called that number “unacceptable.” Markgraf added that expanding coverage of women’s sports allows athletes to be less aggressive and more selective in building their own brand.


GAME THEORY

  • Mastercard’s Emily Neenan and Riot Games’ Naz Aletaha spoke about the long process the two sides had to go through to strike a deal -- like two years from the first meeting to get pen to paper on a pact. The duo walked the crowd through the process and what took so long. It was a new space for Mastercard, and the brand took its time to make sure it was partnering up with the right group in the emerging esports space.
  • Aletaha: “The whole objective is to tap into the passions of their consumers and elevate their experiences and that's actually what we strive to do day in and day out for our fans. So, the alignment was there and the rest is history now. ... Getting a global deal done at two big companies comes with its nuance and you're getting a lot of buy-in and a lot of alignment across many different teams and different folks.” Neenan: “I was asked to present this to our board, which is unheard of. We're not presenting (UEFA) Champions League or Australian Open or some of these other global properties that are wonderful partners. But this was something that we knew was quite literally, pun intended here, a game changer.”


HIGHLIGHT REEL

  • Some of the other key sessions from Day 1:

    • Verizon’s Andrew McKechnie and McCann’s Dan Donovan walking people through the process on how a Super Bowl spot around first responders got done.
    • Execs from BMO, the NBA and AT&T talking about Drake’s impact on the NBA Playoffs right now.
    • A look at how Kevin Durant is changing the game and showing his own vulnerabilities on “The Boardroom” on ESPN+.
    • A crowdsourcing session where attendees shared ideas and networked, with session questions discussed later in the day along with key takeaways.
    • The Browns and A-B InBev looking back at the success of the Bud Light Fridge.
    • Biofreeze explaining how it reaches the hard-to-reach young, active demo
    • MVPindex, Toyota and the Falcons chatting about upping their game around social media content


BARON DAVIS WRAPS THINGS UP

Baron Davis talked about how he has transitioned from player to content producer
  • Baron Davis was the final Q&A to end Day 1, and he provided some levity to close out yesterday's discussions. Davis retired in 2015 but had long been working on what would come during his post-NBA days. That started early in his career, when he interned in the summers for his agents at the time -- Arn Tellem and Bob Myers -- in order to learn more about the business. Davis would later take on cameo roles in Hollywood and hang around the sets to get better acquainted with the production side of the business. Flash forward to 2019 and he now has his own production company. He also got a healthy chunk of change by being an early investor in Vitaminwater.
  • Davis’ tales of playing for some of the NBA’s less-than-stellar ownership groups drew laughs from the audience. He said of playing for the Hornets (under George Shinn), Warriors (Chris Cohan), Clippers (Donald Sterling) and Knicks (James Dolan), “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.’”


SOUNDING BOARD

  • Some of the top lines from Day 1:

    • Heineken’s Cahill on the approach he has with his team, “The golden rule with the partners we work with is very, very simple -- crap in, crap out. And if the brief isn't right, send it back, because I promise you one thing happens -- your clients admire you more.”
    • Mastercard’s Neenan on a deal with Riot Games, “They are clearly industry leaders. They've been around forever. They know what they're doing. When we talked to others, it was evident that they also had been very thoughtful in how they were going to bring brands on board. And I said I would not say this word, but I'm going to use it once, in an 'authentic' manner.”
    • Markgraf on athletes controlling their brands now, “They're controlling their access points, whereas before, we had to create all the content. Now they can just be the content, and they don't have to be anything but themselves. There's a liberty there, but it also improves performance, which is a cyclical effect.”
    • Davis on which former players he used as role models, “Jamal Mashburn, guys like that. I'm really into the athletes that are actually building things and doing it themselves and actually building their teams themselves. Mashburn, he was one of my better players, so I learned a lot from him. Also Junior Bridgeman. He's just the ultimate success story."

     

    LAKE EFFECT

    • About 75 VIP guests of Intersport took in Chicago’s first fireworks show of the year last night aboard the Anita Dee Yacht. Guests left the hotel around 6:45pm CT and boarded the private yacht at DuSable Harbor. They were then treated to a tour along Lake Michigan and a river architectural tour while enjoying drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres, that included short rib, mozzarella and basil sandwiches, fish tacos, crab cakes and a dessert bar. Many of the Chicago residents, including Intersport Founder Charlie Besser and his colleagues, served as tour guides pointing out the city’s historic sites to the out-of-towners. The weather held up, and there was a beautiful sunset, capped off by a 20-minute fireworks show overlooking Lake Michigan.
      Around 75 guests got a river tour last night that included various Chicago landmarks


    TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

    • Following the end of Day 1, around 150 conference attendees hopped on trolley buses for a night at the Blackhawks’ practice facility. The 125,000-square-foot venue that opened in late 2017 has two regulation-sized NHL rinks and is heavily used by the community (a pickup game was taking place during the reception). Attendees got facility tours at Fifth Third Arena, including a look at the locker room that is a replica of the one at United Center. Even the Blackhawks’ logo in the center of the practice locker room gets treated with the same reverence. Team employees noted that when the lights go out, the one above the logo stays lit so the logo can remain visible and nobody walks across it. The logo light even has its own backup generator.
    • With Stanley Cup Final Game 2 on in the background, attendees dined in the weight room with a menu consisting of chicken and jack cheese quesadillas, mini cheeseburgers, caprese flatbread, spinach and mushroom quesadillas, beef wellington, mini cheesesteaks, chili-garlic shrimp satay and vegetarian spring rolls.


    DRIVING THE DAY

    • Here are the top sessions for today that will wrap up this year’s summit:

      • A look at the new NHL documentary on Willie O’Ree -- including a talk with the Hall of Famer.
      • Puma and Cloud9 discussing their esports deal.
      • How Sleep Number is making NFL inroads with teams like the Vikings.
      • An examination of how real estate development around sports venues can help with fan and brand engagement, featuring the Cubs’ Crane Kenney and Hickory Street Capital’s Eric Nordness.