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?


How much is NFL in London driven by Sponsorship?



The NFL recently announced that they would be playing three games next year in London, an increase from two this year, and from a single game in the past.  This has spurred continued discussion about the possibility of an NFL franchise in London some day soon.  Leading the charge in this effort, according to, are sponsors, eager to gain entry to new markets in Europe by capitalizing on the global popularity of the NFL.

This comes as no surprise.  Sponsorship is certainly a powerful force in sports and continues to grow year-over-year in sheer dollars being invested by corporations worldwide.  As many have pointed out, the logistical issues of an NFL franchise oversees can certainly be overcome in this age of charter planes, bye weeks and creative scheduling.  One questions whether the fans in London are ready to support their own team, versus the opportunity to see stars from around the league (yes, even 0-3 Minnesota v. 0-3 Pittsburgh included “Big Ben” Roethlisberger and Adrian Peterson on display).  But, if there is sponsorship and television revenue to be had, it is certainly something worth attempting.  Fan support can’t be worse than in some smaller NFL markets (no names here, but you know who you are).

Have a good weekend everyone, and enjoy your NFL games at “home” this week.  The league heads back to London in two weeks, where fans will have a chance to see the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.  And probably win.

Jonathan Ogden – St. Albans School’s Hometown Hall of Famer



I spend my morning today at St. Albans School in Washington, DC for a ceremony honoring Pro Football Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, who attended St. Albans from 7th grade on.  It’s part of a partnership with one of the Hall’s sponsors, where a HOFers high school or college is presented with a commemorative plaque to celebrate the communities in which they grew up.  Jonathan is one of five former NFL players from St. Albans, and easily the most successful of them all on the field.Image

The ceremony was held in the school gym where Jonathan was joined by the current student body (dressed in purple #75 T-shirts), as well as friends, associates and former teammates.  JO got a good laugh from the crowd when he was asked his favorite part of being a student at St. Albans (“lunch” was the answer, before getting serious about the educators and the opportunities presented at the school).  He also admitted to growing up a Redskin fan and admiring the Hogs – letting the kids know it’s okay to be a Skins fan in DC as well.


The plaque was presented to Jonathan, where he posed with a few dignitaries who attended the event.  But one special moment came when JO posed with the student currently wearing #75 for the school.  No pressure, right?  It turns out that he will be the last student ever to wear #75, as the school announced that it was going to be retiring the number after this season (the first jersey ever retired by the school).


So, sorry @jhendge – unfortunately you missed your chance.

Great honor for Jonathan today, and great job by the Hall of getting into a larger community.


NFL Season = Opportunities for Marketers


NFL Season = Opportunities for Marketers

There is no single sport in the US today that can match the impact of professional football. All across the country, fans are celebrating the return of the NFL whether their team is a Super Bowl contender, pretender or the Oakland Raiders. (With apologies to some very good friends, who happen to be big fans.)

For marketers, this presents opportunity. We have many clients who turn to the NFL to help activate their brands. It’s not enough just to put a sign in the end zone and call it a day – in order to make impact, brands must be active in how they promote themselves within the context of the game itself.

Here are a few links to some interesting national NFL activations this year:

Bud Light’s “Superstitions” campaign, complete with customized can artwork and branded tailgates in each NFL city.

Courtyard by Marriott, who greeted guests during NFL Kickoff Weekend with a “kickoff package” of snacks at check-in, game-day specials, and scratch-off ticket promotions.

Visa is making NFL dreams come true using social media. Fans share their dreams using a special twitter hashtag, and the Visa will monitor the tweets and make a few of them come true.

What are some of your favorite NFL activations so far this season? Which brands really stand out?

It’s Football Season, Which Means Gold to Advertisers


It's Football Season, Which Means Gold to Advertisers

So, it’s 7:30 pm on Sunday – how much football will you have watched this weekend? How many hours did you spend checking out your fantasy team, and updating your roster before the weekend even started? How about college football – I’ll bet you saw some of that on Friday or Saturday. And once the season gets started, Tuesdays and Thursdays also. In fact, between September and January, it’s hard to go more than a day without catching at least a part of a pro, college or even high school games.

And it’s not just great for the fans. It’s also great for advertisers too. Click the photo to read a story from the New York Times that points out what makes football advertising gold. It’s not just the power of live sports, but the passion fans feel for their team. (Which remind me, today’s photo is in honor of my younger brother, the proud UGA alumn who pointed out last week’s lost to Clemson didn’t matter so long as his DAWGS took care of business in the SEC. Which they did – congrats, Bird.) That passion translates to a deep affinity for their favorite teams, and the brands that support them.

Just ask Under Armour, who has poured millions into licensing deals with NCAA teams (including my own Northwestern Wildcats, who have never looked better). Or Nike, who paid a bundle to take over the NFL contract last year. Or any number of corporate sponsors who you’ll see at the next stadium you visit, email update you receive, or team website you visit. Over the past several years, I’ve witnessed firsthand for my clients how aligning with sports really does help achieve business goals. Whether it’s building awareness to a younger audience (of paramount importance to one of my clients) or winning new brand ambassadors by surprising and delighting them or using sports to build a marketing database to sell new products and services, aligning your brand with the right franchise, athlete or event can make the difference between success and failure.

On a more personal level, my favorite new wrinkle is the number of options for watching football on my iPad. From NFL Mobile’s live NFL RedZone Channel(thank you Verizon!) to the Big 10 Network’s BTN2GO to Watch ESPN, I caught about half of my football this weekend from around the house and on the porch. Now I never have to go without football. I tell you, Mrs. JK has never been happier.