PR in Sports

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Archive for the ‘HS Basketball’ Category

Can Social Media Change the “One and Done” Rule?

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harrison-barnes

Harrison Barnes announced his college choice via Skype

Professional athletes have entered the realm of social media in full force. The smart ones are joining sites like Twitter, creating Facebook Pages and enhancing their own websites in an effort to build their personal brand and market themselves. But, pro athletes aren’t the only athletes working on their personal brand using this exploding form of personalized communication.

The top high school athletes in the country are popping up all over Twitter, Facebook and more. Kyrie Irving, the 9th ranked basketball player in the class of 2010 according Rivals.com, played out much of his recruitment on Twitter, and he’s not the only one. It’s also common place for the top high school basketball and football players to announce their college of choice on ESPNU.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when the #1 ranked basketball player in the country used an innovative online tool to announce his college of choice Friday evening. Harrison Barnes wanted to do something nobody had done before.

In the middle of his press conference on ESPNU, Barnes said he would be attending the school “of the coach I’m about to Skype”, then dramatically stood up from the podium and walked over to a laptop to  use the video messaging service Skype, to video conference North Carolina Coach Roy Williams.

The result of this new movement? The “Social Media Athlete”.

The “Social Media Athlete” is communicating with fans on a personal, sometimes one-on-one level. Social media isn’t solely responsible for more polished 18 year-old athletes. This movement began years ago, but direct communication tools like Twitter, Facebook and Skype have young athletes not only crafting their message, but developing entire recruitment campaigns, thus beginning to build their personal brand as early as high school.

Seriously, watch the video of the Barnes news conference. Before he “Skyped” Coach Williams, Barnes individually thanked the media outlets that covered his recruitment in a carefully crafted speech.  That’s right, he thanked the media individually. PR folks and media can attest, that’s virtually unheard of. Barnes seemed closer to what we’ll expect out of LeBron James when he announces his destination next summer, than a high school kid announcing a college. Not that LeBron will thank the media!

This focus on personal branding by athletes at much earlier ages makes sense though. The top high school players and their handlers see the potential and realize they’ll be in the NBA after just one year of college. But, what will the effect be?

Can the “Social Media Athlete” be a catalyst for eliminating the NBA rule that mandates players be one year out of high school before they can enter the draft?

It’s a possibility. Let’s be real, that rule isn’t about academics or physical development, it’s about marketing. Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant were fine, but when 5-6 high school players a year began going straight to the NBA, fans didn’t know who they were, so they weren’t marketable. Now, with the “Social Media Athlete” these players are becoming household names at earlier ages.

The question though, is this focus on personal branding at such a young age a good thing? Probably not. But, I’m sure one person out there is loving it. I’m looking at you David Stern!

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Written by Brian Gleason

November 16, 2009 at 12:03 am

HS BBall Teams Should Be Honored

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Updated 2/21 @ 8:42pm: Madison Milwaukee’s coach submitted a letter to the editor in Dekalb’s local paper, and ABC’s “World News With Charlie Gibson” named the Dekalb team “Person of the Week”. Also check SportsCenter Sunday for more on this story.

I read this story from the Associated Press on Rivals.com, and my first thought was that in a week where we had A-Rod’s press conference, Charles Barkley’s return to TNT after a DUI, and those were just in the sports world, that this amazing story of sportsmanship should be getting even more play.

If you haven’t heard about this story I really recommend reading the Associated Press story on the Rivals link above. I don’t want to just simply retell the story, and the link has some great details. The short version is that last Saturday Dekalb, Ill., High School traveled to Milwaukee to take on Milwaukee Madison. Seems like a regular high school basketball game, right?

It turned into one of the most heartwarming sports stories in a while, and something that most pros could learn from. Hours before the game Milwaukee Madison guard Johntel Franklin lost his mother to cervical cancer. The senior guard was not expected to play or even attend the game, and therefore wasn’t added to the roster. But, to the surprise of everyone in the gym, Franklin showed up in the second quarter and wanted to play.

Johntel McNeal

Johntel McNeal

The issue arose when officials notified both teams that it would be a technical foul, and two free throws for Dekalb, if Franklin entered the game. Dekalb wanted to decline the technical, but that wasn’t an option, so they huddled up and their coach, Dave Rohlman, asked for a volunteer to shoot the free throws.

Dekalb’s captain stepped up and volunteered. This is where the story really begins to tug at the heartstrings. According to the Associated Press, Coach Rohlman said to his captain, Darius McNeal, “You realize you’re going to miss them, don’t you?” McNeal went to the foul line and rolled the ball twice to the baseline, ensuring each attempt was official. The Madison team, realizing what had just happened, began applauding towards the Dekalb bench with the entire gym following suit.

Again, there are far more details in the Associated Press story, but I’d also like to take a PR look at this. Besides the amazing acts of theses young athletes, my other reaction was that I hope the Milwaukee Bucks get involved. The Bucks have had a tough season, but they can do the right thing here and make this a bright spot by honoring these kids. I have to think that the Bucks have or will contact both schools to invite  them in to catch a game, pregame warm ups and snag a few autographs.

Of course the Bucks would get some positive press out of this, but believe it or not, the marketing and PR people that come up with these idea really are trying to do a good thing, and this would certainly qualify. I’ll keep my eye on this and and definitely post a follow up if the Bucks do anything.

One more thing, can we also lock Johntel Franklin, Darius McNeal and the Dekalb coach down for an ESPY? I’d love to see these kids honored in front of the best athletes in the world.

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Written by Brian Gleason

February 21, 2009 at 4:02 am

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