Keeping Busy


I know, it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me.  For that I apologize.  Been a busy couple of weeks over here at JK Squared.  Why you ask?  Well, I’m glad you did.

Last week I made another trip out to San Diego to visit a client.  With 8 meetings in 3 days, I knew it would be a hectic schedule, but I was determined to get the most out of it.  They say bad news comes in threes?  Well, that trip definitely defined it.  First, a personal situation caused one of the major meetings we’d scheduled to have to cancel.  Then, flight delays caused two more meetings to be postponed.  And finally one prospect had an HR crisis, turning our one-hour presentation into a one-minute “hello, and lets talk soon”.  On the positive side though, I was able to reschedule a few things, enjoy cocktails in the sun facing out at the Pacific Ocean, and help lay the groundwork for what could be a very interesting opportunity to come.  Not a terrible visit in all, but certainly a crazy one.

This week’s been equally fun.  First, two days of snow (well, one day of snow but two days of being home with the kids) followed by three busy days of new business prospecting.  I was invited to participate in a new RFP here in my home town that looks interesting.  We’re going up against some of the biggest players in the industry for a local county project, but I like our chances.  We’re the “hometown” team, with the right mix of experience – and I’d like to think that will count for something in the review.  It’s given me the chance to renew some old alliances and create some new ones.  Today I’ve got another prospecting meeting trying to help a friend with one of his customers.  Both of these new prospects are sports related – somewhat ironic since I’ve made more opportunities in the category since I left my sports marketing agency than while I was there it seems.  I guess it’s just a matter of responding to what’s coming my way.

A couple of things I’ve learned the past couple of weeks.  Stay focused – just when you think the pipeline is dry, things tend to turn around for the better.  Starting something new means adjusting to a different and unexpected pace – it’ll take a while for me to figure out when it’s okay to be slow and how to take advantage of those opportunities.  But I’m starting to get the handle on it.  Also, expect the unexpected – whether it’s travel delays, personal situations, budget changes – something is always going to mess up your plans.  The more you can roll with it the better you’ll do.  It sounds trite, but the only constant in life is change, so we’d better get used to it.

So, that’s what’s been happening with me.  What’s been happening with you?


Keeping social media “Real”



This story today from Fox News brought to light the not-so-secret practice of sponsors using their athlete’s social media channels to share a message.  It’s a tactic that I’ve used with athlete marketing partners in the past in order to share news about an onsite event promotion or to try and drive website traffic or social media chatter around an online promotion.  It’s great when it works – just about any celebrity is going to generate more positive buzz than just about any brand can get on their own online.  However, it can also feel forced and inauthentic if not handled properly.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when drafting what we refer to as a “Social Media Run-of-Show”:

1.  Encourage Collaboration:  Look at the big picture for all of the potential celebrities, sponsors and partners that may get involved in your social media outreach activity.  At a NASCAR event, for instance, that includes not just the brand, the track and the driver, but also the crew chief, pit crew members, team owners and associate sponsors.  You can generate a lot more traction by keeping everyone informed and getting everyone involved.  And, frankly, a partner re-tweeting a brand message can feel a lot more real than an original post that may be out of context.

2.  Suggest Messaging, Don’t Dictate Language:  While it’s much easier for everyone to follow a script, social media messaging can often come off as just that.  Whenever possible, take the time to explain the strategy behind your campaign to the relevant partners and spokespeople that you’re coordinating with, and let them craft the messaging in their own words.  Especially with athletes, posting a message in the voice of the sponsor feels fake.  Telling the story in their own words feels real.  It’s a balancing act for sure, but one worth considering for the sake of authenticity and a stronger connection to the fan.  Speaking of the fans . . .

3.  Invite Fans to Participate:  A social media promotion is really designed to generate buzz.  And that means two-way communication.  Invite fans to share a message, and reward them for doing so.  As a sponsor, re-circulate their content, surprise them with rewards for posting relevant content, and give them ways to get involved through live events (a Tweet-Up with other fans, Celebrity Meet-and-Greets and social scavenger hunts, just to provide a few examples).  Making them feel part of the promotion can really help extend your social reach.

Remember, the key to successful social media campaigns is to create an aura of authenticity.  Keep that in mind when working with athletes or other celebrities.

What are some of the most authentic athlete/sponsor social media campaigns you’ve seen?



The 1984 Olympics, and the Invention of Sports Sponsorship



Minor hand surgery this week makes it tough to type.  So thanks Grantland for bailing me out with today’s Olympic blog post.  Hard to imagine there was ever a time when corporations didn’t vie to be “the official whatever of insert big event here”.  But only 30 years ago it seemed like a long shot.  Good read for anyone interested in sports, marketing, LA or any combination of the above.

My connection to the LA games?  My cousin, Joel Rubinstein was Peter Ueberroth’s right-hand marketing wizard, and ended up following him to Major League Baseball.  I’ll never forget being a teenager on the field at Oriole games when he was in Baltimore, and my annual shipment of the Red book and Green book well before all the same information was available to anyone with a computer.

(Speaking of Olympics, has Shawn White not heard the story of Samson?  Never cut your hair before a big event.  Never.)

Good Times in the Big Smooth



The New Orleans Pelicans today announced a new partnership where the former New Orleans Arena will henceforth be called the “Smoothie King Center” (or at least for the next 10 years, budgets permitting).  This is a big deal for the team and for the city, and follows last year’s renaming of the iconic Superdome as the Mercedes Benz Superdome.  Not coincidentally, both deals were made in years that the city was hosting big events – last year’s Super Bowl in the dome, this year’s NBA All-Star Game in the arena.

From a fan standpoint, while “Smoothie King Center” may not be as compelling as “Madison Square Garden”, I’m sure the Pellies fans will come up with a number of great nicknames for the building.  Personally, I’m pushing the “Big Smooth”, but could also see the “Mixing Bowl”.  I’m sure you all can come up with your own ideas.  But the brand name itself doesn’t immediately make me feel that this is the home of an NBA-Championship Caliber team.

Of course, it’s still probably better than the KFC Yum! Center, the home of the Louisville Cardinals.  One of the more interesting things about that building is that Papa Johns has a sponsorship with the school, meaning that the pizza stands go two ways.  Signage can be flipped for Cardinal games to sell Papa Johns, but Pizza Hut (a Yum! brand) for everything else.  How’s that for baking your pizza and eating it too?

What’s your favorite (and least-favorite) sponsored stadium name?


Twitter and the Super Bowl


I often talk with clients and prospects about ways to grow their social media following. And one of the first questions I ask them is “How are you leveraging your other marketing channels to do so?”

I find that most organizations haven’t really thought about it that way. Maybe they include twitter or Facebook icons on their ads. Or, include a clever hashtag. But, any promotion using social media tends to live in an isolated social universe. Let’s promote a Facebook sweepstakes on Facebook! Well, sure you can do that. And Facebook makes it easy to target ads to parties who may be interested. But, why not think more broadly?

Which is why I found Esurance’s use of their Super Bowl ad so interesting. They decided to promote a twitter sweepstakes to the broadest audience possible – the Super Bowl. In a spot that ran just after the game ended (probably saving them some significant money while still reaching a huge audience), they promoted a chance to win $1.5 million just for posting a hashtag.

Now, whether this exposure is a good business decision for Esurance I can’t say, as I’m not privy to their inside strategy. However, it’s certainly a creative way to enhance their social media exposure using television to do so.

Selling Youth Sports



I’m headed out west today to Columbia, MO (yes, coming all the way from Columbia, MD – it’s like a tale of two cities, but totally different).  We’re going out to present a proposal to help the city assess their opportunities in the area of youth sports.  Youth sports tourism continues to grow in the US, and the importance of youth sports within communities has become more and more important. 

When I was a kid, it seemed we primarily played sports just to get us out of the house in some kind of organized manner, and our parents would show up to cheer us on when they could.  It’s a whole different world out there now – parents encourage their kids to focus on sports as a way to get a college scholarship and often put them into year-round training programs to excel.  They drive for hours and fly all over the country to participate in advanced training and tournaments – any way to get ahead.  I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it’s just different. 

On a municipal level, the opportunities for youth sports are significant as well.  Locally, it’s a great way to enhance a community.  Here in Columbia, MD, we have a great local soccer complex with grass and artificial turf fields that are used year-round.  Any weekend day is like a carnival with kids coming in and out throughout the day, not to mention tournament weekends when they have to bus you over from the park across the street.  It’s one of the factors that helps Money Magazine consistently judge the town one of the best places to live.  And, from a tourism perspective, these venues can generate serious revenue.  A team of 12 or 13 kids, with their families of course, coming into town for a weekend means hotel rooms, restaurants, tourism, etc.  It’s important to be able to compete facility-wise, as that tends to drive the decision-making process for the event organizers.  Of course, facilities cost money to build and maintain, so making sure your town is well positioned to get your piece of the pie is tremendously important.

We recently completed a study on youth sports for the City of Fort Wayne, IN.  It’s a very different type of marketing than we conduct for a corporate client, and frankly, it feels good.  Helping a city make these types of decisions and create value for residents is a different outcome than trying to sell products, memberships or services.  It feels like I’m able to use my skill set to help a municipality improve by providing opportunities for their citizens.  That’s why I’m so excited about the opportunity to do it again for another city. And hope we get more chances in the future as well – each situation and jurisdiction presents unique challenges, but the focus always seems to be on creating a stronger community.

So, Columbia, MO – here I come.  Bring on the BBQ.

Staying Classy in San Diego



Sorry – I couldn’t resist.

Had the wonderful opportunity to escape from the snow and cold of Baltimore for a few days to visit a new agency partner out in sunny and warm San Diego.  I love trips like this – lots of business going on, but also a chance to explore a town and see new things.  Given the time difference, I also found myself awake at 4 in the morning, meaning extra chances to do things like grab breakfast and walk around town.

Here are three basic things I try to do everytime I travel for work:

1.  Eat something local.  In San Diego, it’s the Fish Tacos.  Great Fish Tacos, people told me.  So I tried some for myself.  My favorites were here, but I also tried them here and here as well.  Always try and find something that the city is known for, that you can’t get anyplace else.

2.  See something local.  I’ll admit, I was working too hard and dropped the ball a bit on this trip.  Still, I managed to have a drink at the renovated and historic U.S. Grant hotel and wander around the Gaslamp Quarter each morning (imagine the French Quarter, but a little less congested).  Next time, I’ll make some time to see the sights.

3.  Spend as little time in my hotel as possible.  Have a few minutes to kill?  Go take a walk.  In fact, I’m writing this post in a local breakfast place.  I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the hotel I’m in, but visiting a new city means getting out and seeing the city, right?  And you can only see so much from your hotel room window.

It’s been a nice visit, but it’s always good to head home (well, when it’s not 3 degrees and snowing, I suppose).  My next trip takes me to Columbia, MO (where I’ve never been), and I’m looking forward to finding something memorable out there – suggestions are welcome.