Oct 31

Should Sports Management Give PR a Seat at the Table?

Guest Post by Matt Sloustcher


On Monday, the New York Knicks cut rookie forward Patrick Ewing Jr., the 6'8" second-round pick out of Georgetown and son of the most famous Knick in history. 

According to team president Donnie Walsh, the decision took into account the Knicks’ troubled shooting skills. Other sources point to Jerome James, a fragile $30 million center that didn’t play one minute this pre-season. 

Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Knicks fans are not happy. 

Over the course of his twenty-five minutes of action this pre-season, Ewing Jr. energized Madison Square Garden with a performance that included two dunks and a 3-pointer last Friday. Fans even chanted his name, reminiscing back to the days when his father regularly led the Knicks into the playoffs.

Make no mistake. This emotional outpour is significant given that fans witnessed an abysmal 23-59 season last year, haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2000-2001, and had to endure an embarrassing Isiah Thomas scandal.

All in all, the decision brings an interesting question to light: How big a role should PR play in sports management decisions?

My immediate thought is “not much” given that weighing PR heavily doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of pure competition, but for a struggling organization like the Knicks, why not give something back to the fans? Jerome James’ 2008-2009 prospects are shaky at best, and Ewing Jr. showed promise in the little time he was afforded this pre-season.

Clearly PR and sports have become more closely aligned as team payrolls and revenues skyrocket. David Beckham’s gargantuan $250 million contract with LA Galaxy – more than 50 times the league average – is evidence enough.

Hopefully, for the sake of Knicks fans, team management looks a little more closely at the PR implications of its decisions in the future.

Oct 30

I Cannot Think of a Worse Way to Spend $99.99

Somebody at Steiner Sports is either brain dead or possessed of a wickedly ironic sense of humor. How else to explain the sports memorabilia shop's "special" offer of four New York Mets player photos? Who in their right mind would shell out money for the following "gift" items:

– Oliver Perez "jumping over the foul line". Question: Was this pic snapped immediately after he walked six straight batters, forcing in the go-ahead run in yet another disastrous pitching performance?Oliverperez

– Billy Wagner autographed "fist pump." I wonder if the pump occurred in the locker room after Wagner snapped at the press corps, telling them he'd rate the Mets' relief corps with that of any in baseball? In my humble opinion, the team's relief corps, along with the lack of a true leader a la Gary Carter or Keith Hernandez, spelled doom in '08.

– Aaron Heilman action photo. Puh-leese. The only action Heilman saw was craning his neck to watch the trajectory of the home run some opponent had just smashed. Heilman is easily the least reliable Mets reliever since Armando Benitez.

– Damion Easley turning a double play. OK. I'll buy that one. Easley does a nice job for a 38-year-old journeyman.

Steiner Sports has to be even more desperate than the Mets themselves to be offering a photo package like this. And, to think that anyone in his or her right mind would ever pay the "original" price of $299.99 is as realistic as thinking that general manager Omar Minaya will finally construct a squad that can hold onto a lead in September.

Oct 29

Here’s a Tagline That’s About Two Decades Ahead of its Time

The country of Colombia is spending some $5 million to re-position its brand and attract American tourism dollars. Their tagline? "Colombia es Pasion"  (Colombia is Passion). Colombia

Now, Colombia is many things to many people, but passion isn't exactly the first word that would pop into this blogger's mind.

Colombia's general manager for country image (great job title, btw) says the "Pasion" timing couldn't be better since reality lags behind perception. I'll say it does. Colombia is passion? Colombia is drug cartels. Colombia is decadence, death and despotism. Colombia is the birthplace of the Western Hemisphere's massive drug problem. Good luck attracting newlyweds to an all-inclusive honeymoon in Bogota. "Honey, it all comes down to snorkeling in the Turks & Caicos, a week touring the South of France or fun, sun and guns in Colombia. What would make you happiest? Really? Dodging bullets and touring cocaine manufacturing facilities in Colombia? Ok. You got it."

Just once, I'd love to see countries, companies and celebrities use some semblance of reality in their taglines. For example, how about:

– Sarah Palin: "Unprepared and loving it!"
– General Motors: "Spending $1 billion a month more than we earn"
– Barack Obama: "Saying nothing and meaning every word"
– Alan Greenspan: "Dead wrong, but too old to care"
– McDonald's: "Expanding your waistlines as your wallets constrict"
– The U.S.A.: "You think 476 A.D. was something? Watch this empire flame out"

Got some suggested taglines you'd like to share? Have at it.

Oct 28

Ambulance Chasing or Opportunistic Marketing?

I automatically discard most spam. And, I was about to discard this one when I decided to read on. After all, I'm never been a big fan of advertising agencies and when I see a headline like: "The sky is falling on the advertising business," I have to admit to being a little intrigued.

But, then I read the note. It's from a guy named Joel Cohen, who is assembling what he calls The CEO Stars Video Conference. He says it's an assemblage of 22 (why 22, and not 21, or 23?) passionate, energy driven leaders of advertising agencies. Cohen connects these "leaders" and inspires them to re-think their badly broken business model.

But, why do these agency leaders need Joel? And, how would one know if the 22 leaders he's recruited are, in fact, visionary thinkers? If they had, in fact, reinvented the advertising model, why would they share it with 21 competitors? Perhaps even more to the point, why would they pay money to share their ideas? Something doesn't compute.

Then again, desperate times call for desperate measures. So, maybe Joel and his merry men (and/or women) will figure out a next generation revenue model. On the other hand, as P.T. Barnum reportedly said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

I'm at a loss as to whether this is ambulance chasing or opportunistic marketing. Maybe one of the 22 passionate, energy driven leaders of the CEO Stars Video Conference could shed some light on the subject for me.

Oct 27

I’d Give “W.” an F

Don't waste your time or money on Oliver Stone's new film, "W." As Ed Moed would say, "…it blows!"

Having enjoyed, if not put much credence in Stone's previous presidential films, "JFK" and "Nixon," I was psyched to see "W."George_w_movie_poster

But, from start to finish, W, like the man himself, disappoints. The acting is mediocre, the casting questionable (Colin Powell's character looks more like an aging member of The Jackson Five) and the plot is painfully slow, uneven and rambling. 

Aside from suggesting a dysfunctional relationship between W. and H.W. (or, 43 and 41, if you prefer), there's no new light shed on the subject. And, the movie itself ends in 2004, with no mention being made of Hurricane Katrina, the current economic meltdown or our country's horrific global image, all of which, along with Iraq, should assure W's being remembered as our worst president.

Instead, we see a quasi-sympathetic, almost always bumbling, W. who first finds Laura and then the Lord, recreates himself and shocks the world (and his family) by becoming president. 

The now-famous malaprops "Fool me once…" and 'I honestly can't think of one single mistake I've made…" are taken out of historical context and placed in the wrong settings (presidential news conferences instead of debates with Sen. John Kerry). Clearly, like the focal point of his movie, Oliver Stone is not up to the task in W.

So, do yourself a favor. If you're trying to make a choice whether to stay home next weekend or invest in seeing W., do what "Geo" should have done back in 2000: stay home on the ranch.
Oct 24

An Excessive Wardrobe Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Guest blog by Laura MillsShopping_spree

Evidenced by my guest RepMan post discussing Project Runway, it’s safe to say that I’m a fan of fashion.  So, during my morning scan of yesterday’s headlines, an article in the New York Times caught my eye : “$150,000 Wardrobe for Palin May Alter Tailor-Made Image.”

$150K Wardrobe.  Wait, WHAT?!

I have no doubt that Mrs. Palin needed some new clothes for the campaign, but that is such an amazing amount of money, it’s practically an economic stimulus for Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.  That’s equivalent to about 125 Jimmy Choo handbags, 190 pairs of Manolo Blahniks, or 234 Brooks Brothers suits.

The political implications aside, does it really require $150,000 to dress in a way that communicates success?  Not in my experience.

Each month, I volunteer as a personal shopper with Dress for Success, where I assist women who are trying to make strides towards financial independence by re-entering the work force.  I work with the women to pick out interview attire that fits appropriately and, most importantly, makes them feel good about themselves.  The majority of the clothes are donations, and while I occasionally stumble upon a Calvin Klein suit or Prada pumps in the shop, most of the time the ladies walk away with outfits originally from off-the-rack retailers like the Gap or Dress Barn. 

These women look good, no matter where their suit came from, because they are put together and dressed for their body type in an outfit that makes them feel empowered.  Whether you are dressing the part for a television appearance or a job interview at JCPenny, that confidence is the asset that has the strongest correlation with personal success. It is your most important accessory, and you can’t buy it.  Not even for $150,000.

Oct 22

Clients Better Brace Themselves for a Deluge of Direct Mail

Marketing Consultant Robb High makes a living from advising agencies of all kinds how to win new business. With the recent economic cataclysm in mind, Robb has focused his latest missive on agency mailings (assuming, I guess, that many agencies will suddenly start sending blast e-mails and conducting mass mailings to drum up business).

Robb says less than one in four agencies bother to market themselves in this way. That comes as no surprise. Most agencies disdain self promotion for one of two reasons:

1) They mistakenly believe their sole purpose in life is to represent clients and to do otherwise would be somehow less than wholesome. My reaction to this? One’s agency should always be one’s most important client. Agencies are like baseball managers. We’re hired to be fired. It may be a month, a year or a decade, but we’ll be fired at some point. I’ve always believed that focusing on what’s best for one’s agency and one’s brand is the single smartest business strategy in any type of economy.

2) They don’t allocate the proper resources to agency marketing. This is another big mistake. I must admit that I’m constantly fighting a rearguard action within Peppercom, trying to make sure my agency publicity team isn’t cherry picked away for either a new account or a client crisis. It’s an ongoing battle, but agency CEOs must treat their own account as a critically important one. We assign hours, develop an annual program, assign budgets and demand accountability. And, I do my best to make sure it’s enacted.

In his note, High also talks about not doing a mailing just for the sake of mailing. He’s absolutely right. Clients and prospects couldn’t care less about new business wins or new hires. Instead, they respond to thought leadership in the form of primary research conducted by the agency, opinion pieces on topical subjects or a particularly relevant case study (I tend to shy away from the latter since they tend to be too self-serving).

So, with the sky falling and the mass media pushing one economic horror story after another, clients and prospects should steel themselves for an onslaught of virtual and snail mail from scared agency types. Most of it belongs in the circular file, but keep your eyes open. Every now and then, you’ll receive a real gem that can provide a new or different perspective on an existing program. And, that’s what separates the wheat from the chaff in an effective mailing campaign.

Oct 21

ConsultantSpeak is Oftentimes Doublespeak, or Worse

I often walk away from meetings with consultants shaking my head. “What did they just say?” I’ll ask myself. Other times, I’ll suddenly come to a dead stop on the stroll back to my office and realize that nothing of any import at all was discussed. That’s because many consultants, especially strategy consultants, speak a foreign language. It’s a highly complex language that rivals Japanese or Mandarin and comes replete with buzz words like synergy and symbiotic. ConsultantSpeak sounds cool, sleek and sophisticated. But, it’s almost always lacking in substance.

You know what’s even worse, though? When ConsultantSpeak words or phrases aren’t even used correctly. Take the phrase “quantum leap,” for example. Consultants adore it. They cherish it. And, they’ll almost always use it to tout a new product or “solution set” (more buzz words, by the way). “We perceive the new FD-3000 as taking a quantum leap over the competition,” they’ll beam. Well, guess what? According to basic science terms, a quantum leap is anything but. In fact, it rarely means a large change and can, in fact, be synonymous with little or no change whatsoever:

“In real physical systems a quantum leap is not necessarily a large change, and can in fact be very insignificant. A good example of this can be taken from the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom, where the observed energy shifts associated with shifts of different quantum states (quantum leaps) span a wide range from large to small (when compared to the energy required to completely free an electron). In the popular sense, the term is usually applied to mean a large or significant change, which is thus not strictly correct.”

So, the next time you’re wallowing in a conference room surrounded by consultants spouting words and phrases like epoch-making, change agent and shifting sands, listen up for the “Q” word and correct the speaker. It’ll rock their systematic synthesizing of the socialized status quo. More importantly, it’ll make you feel good.

Thanks to Darryl Salerno for the idea.

Oct 20

Talk About a Real Withholding Tax

I thought I’d heard just about everything until my daughter, Catharine “Goose” Cody, informed me recently that one of her very attractive friends was angry. “Why?” I asked, “Because her boyfriend is withholding,” she answered matter-of-factly. “Withholding what?” I asked naively. “Sex,” she responded.

I was flabbergasted. A red-blooded man withholding sexual favors from a woman? “Are you serious?” I continued. “Oh, yes,” she replied. “It happens quite often.”

And, according to an article in Cosmopolitan, it does, indeed, happen quite often. According to Cosmo, a young man will withhold sex for one of five reasons:Cosmo

– He’s stressed out (gimme a break. Name a better stress buster)
– He’s pissed off at you (ok, I buy that one)
– He’s freaked out about commitment (maybe)
– He’s worried about his sack skills (again, gimme a break)
– He wants to break up (so, just break up already. Why make both of you miserable?)

I’m not sure if withholding says more about the image of the withholder or the withholdee. You see, I grew up in a generation where guys would never, ever consider withholding in bed. In fact, the very thought is mind-boggling to me. Still, after global warming, an unprecedented economic downturn, eight horrendous years of W and now learning that Joe the plumber isn’t licensed, I’m willing to believe just about anything. I’d like to write more but I think I’m getting a headache.

Thanks to Catharine Cody for the idea.

Oct 17

Live from New York? You Betcha!

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin seems to believe in the admonition, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Sources report that the oft-ridiculed GOP VP candidate will appear as a guest on an upcoming episode of Saturday Night Live.Stinafeysarahpalinlarge

I love the idea. It reinforces Palin’s rough-and-tumble image and her willingness to enter the lion’s den (if she can deal with Philadelphia Flyers fans, how much worse can the SNL cast be?).

At the same time, though, she’s a dope. And, if she’s not careful, Palin could easily make a gaffe that would just reinforce her daffiness.

We’ll just have to see what transpires. But, it’s really amazing to see the impact popular culture now has on the political process. To the best of my knowledge, Richard Nixon started the “candidate on a comedy show” trend in 1968 when he appeared on “Laugh-in.” Since then, we’ve seen Clinton blowing on his sax (don’t go there), Arnold announcing his candidacy on Leno and now Sarah on SNL.

Will it affect the polls? Doubtful. Do I admire Sarah for doing it? You betcha!

Thanks to Carl Foster for the idea.