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?


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.

25 Nike Ads That Shaped The Brand


25 Nike Ads That Shaped The Brand

I promised, and now I deliver.  25 of the greatest Nike ads of all-time.

My favorite:  Charles Barkley’s “I am not a role model.”  For a brand that has always been about its association with great athletes, this was a bold stand to take.  Listen to the text of this ad:  “I am not a role model.  Parents should be role models.  Just because I can dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I can raise your kids.”  It’s simple, brutal and honest.  Very much like Charles himself.  Now, we call this kind of an ad “authentic”.  Back then, it was just being real.

What’s your favorite?