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Who do you Back, Players or Owners? NFLPA Changing Fans Minds with New Online Strategy

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NFLPA Launches NFLLockout Campaign

It’s no secret both the NFL and NBA are heading towards what are sure to be contentious labor negotiations between players and owners this summer. There’s a real chance both leagues could be headed toward lockouts as well. I’ve always thought this to be a fascinating aspect of the fan-player and fan-owner dynamics.

When you break it down to its core, who are players? They’re employees, granted very well compensated employees, but they’re still employees. Who are owners? They’re employers. Finally, who are about 99% of the fans? Employees of some kind. So it stands to reason that fans would identify more with players during these negotiations, right?

Not the case. Fans play the “I’d play for free” card and have a very difficult time relating to millionaire players, but have no problem backing billionaire owners. For some reason the Players Association’s of the NFL, NBA and MLB have had a difficult time getting their message across to everyday fans.

The PR playbook has always been to have the head of the players union play hard ball in a series of media tours. They attack commissioners and owners in each league, roll out the players negotiation talking points and essentially attempt to take the heat while shielding players from the dialogue. But that strategy usually fails with fans. Fans have been unable to buy into that separation between the union as an entity and the individual players.

But, the NFLPA is finally changing that playbook. In what makes perfect sense as this is the first real major sports collective bargaining agreement negotiation in the Social Media Age, the NFLPA is taking the battle online, launching the website NFLLockout.com, a twitter account and Facebook Page.

But there’s more to the strategy, not only have they launched these sites, they’ve branded the campaign “NFL Lockout”. It’s difficult in some cases to even tell if the NFLPA is actually affiliated. NFLLockout.com is basically a blog standing on its own, not a campaign living on the official NFLPA website. Although its crystal clear which side and whose message the campaign is backing.

So, they’ve essentially used the online campaign to change the connection with fans, who fans view as the villain and turned fans into ambassadors of both the campaign and the players. Instead of talking about millions of dollars already millionaire players might lose, a simply unrelatable concept for the average person, the NFLPA is using the “NFL Lockout” campaign to frame owners as a group trying to stop football and take football away from fans.

To bring awareness to the campaign the NFLPA has tagged Tuesday, January 18 as #LETUSPLAY DAY, an online movement where they’ve created the hashtag #LETUSPLAY. The genius behind #LETUSPLAY DAY is several prepared Facebook and Twitter posts where they ask fans to post “…help NFL players and fans #blockthelockout” to Facebook and Twitter. What does this accomplish? It positions fans and players as being on the same side of the debate and puts even more pressure on the owners.

It will be interesting to see if the campaign has legs and ultimately keeps fan opinion with the players for the long-term, especially the closer we get to an actual lockout towards the end of summer. It will take patience for the NFLPA to stick to their guns and not go back to the old playbook, but in the short-term this was a tremendous PR move.

Now we’ll have to see if the NBPA can be as creative and forward thinking, but one thing I can tell you is to not bother searching GoDaddy for the NBALockout.com domain name, it’s already taken.

Written by Brian Gleason

January 17, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Hoops For Heroes – 1 Man, 1 Million Shots, Endless Gratitude

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However long it takes, at the core of all of this is a daily tribute, a daily thank you, a daily affirmation of gratitude that has been earned a million times over by the men and women who have worn the uniform.

Doesn’t sound like something a “regular Joe” would say, right? More like a crafted message from a politician’s speechwriter or some other high ranking government official. But that quote comes from Dave Cummings, a New Hampshire father of three young children, a communications director for a Realtors association and a member of his towns school board.

Now that’s a regular Joe, right?

But, Dave Cummings is no regular Joe. He’s the man behind Hoops For Heroes, a non-profit with the mission of providing financial support for those that have sacrificed for our nation. Dave’s daily tribute? He’s not just shooting, but MAKING anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 free throws everyday, and he’s been doing this since Veterans Day 2009!  Yes, I said 2009. Everyday.

To put that in perspective, Kevin Durant led the NBA in free throws made in 2009-10 and he made 756 the entire season. Dave makes more than that everyday!

As of this writing Dave has made 587,007 free throws.

The goal? 1,000,000 made free throws

The ultimate goal? To donate $1,000,000 to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

To date, Dave has raised $43,681 for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. To make this happen Dave wakes up before work and stays up late after work. He mostly shoots in his driveway, but when the weather in New Hampshire is too much (he’s set the “inside bar” at 5 degrees, yes you read that right) he goes to a local school, but he shoots every day. He’s literally a man on a mission.

I generally use this blog to comment on popular sports stories and how they could have been handled better in terms of PR, or highlight ones handled really well, but this time I want to use this blog to get more PR for a story. Dave has done well spreading his mission, he’s been in USA Today and recently shot one of his free throws during a timeout of a Celtics game at the TD Garden in Boston.

But he needs more help. Correct that, he deserves more help. So I ask you to make a donation, share this post, follow his blog, follow his daily free throw updates on Twitter, “like” his Facebook Page, check out his YouTube Channel and help spread his amazing mission to more people and hopefully raise more money for our fallen soldiers.

My goal? I want to help get Hoops For Heroes more attention. Maybe get the NBA involved, it would be a great match. NBA All-Star Weekend is coming up next month, Dave could shoot a free throw during a timeout of the game on National TV, or better yet how about the NBA Finals?

Either way, this story needs more attention, Dave deserves a big thank you himself and most importantly the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and our many service men and women and their families need more funds.

Written by Brian Gleason

January 10, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Winners and Losers of the Super Bowl Sunday Ad Blitz

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I’m sure everyone and their brother will be recapping Super Bowl commercials, so I’ll join the fray. But, since I spent most of the weekend shoveling 30 inches of snow and need to get some rest, I’m just going to post a few categories with some real quick thoughts. Here’s my losers, winners, best and worst social conscience spots, the battle of the job search sites, worst celebrity endorsement and the biggest loser!

I’ll be honest, with my 2 year-old running around, I didn’t see them all, so feel free to throw your two cents in. I would love to hear your winners and losers in the comments.

Losers:

3 – Cars.com: I’ve just never been a fan of the Cars.com series of spots that depicts a genius that has accomplished amazing feats, yet we’re supposed to relate to them because they struggle to buy a car, just like us common folk. I know that’s the point of the spot, but it just misses in my book. I don’t think people relate.

2- Dodge Charger: Sexist? Possibly. Just a complete miss? Definitely. I know may of the wives out there are no longer fans of Dodge. The car every guy is dreaming of is a Dodge Charger? Really? I know they’re supposed to think their cars are cool, but the spot just missed in my opinion.

1 – Dr. Pepper Cherry: Was there something I didn’t get? KISS, little people and the launch of Dr. Pepper Cherry? This spot was a colossal fail and a complete mess.

Winners:

3 – Taco Bell: This was one of the worst spots, by far. So, how did it end up on my winners list? First, this was a pretty down year for Super Bowl spots. Second, has anyone in your office not mentioned it? That’s what I thought, it was just so memorable because it was so bad. I’m almost thinking about going to Taco Bell, almost!

2 – Snickers: Who doesn’t love Betty White? One of the first commercials out of the gate, and Snickers had us thinking this years group might surprise. Disappointingly though, this was one of the highlights. But, nothing beats Betty White talking trash during a sand-lot football game! This spot also generated plenty of Twitter buzz after its airing.

1 – Google: Google was a big winner Super Bowl Sunday. This spot nearly shut Twitter down for a several minutes, and unlike the Cars.com spot, Google’s was totally relateable to the average person. Simple, yet a huge win for Google!

Social Conscience Spots

Loser – Audi: Being “green” is great, saving the planet is great. But, this spot just came off as preachy with the potential to turn people off.

Winner – Focus on the Family and Tim Tebow: Some may hate this, but for all the controversy this spot caused, Tim Tebow handled this very well. Abortion is a very sensitive topic, but unlike Audi, this spot was very subtle and didn’t try to slam their cause down viewers throats. The spot was simply used to drive viewers to the Focus on the Family web site to learn more of Tebow’s story. Agree or disagree with him, Tebow handled this spot and controversy in a very classy way.

The battle of the job search web sites

Loser – Monster.com: A beaver playing violin? Enough said!

Winner – Careerbuilder.com: Casual Friday taken to a whole new level. I know we had a few too many old people in underwear during this years Super Bowl, but I found this spot hilarious, especially for anyone that works in an office.

Celebrity Endorsement

Worst – Skechers Shape-ups/Joe Montana: All this money for a Super Bowl spot and Sketchers uses a voice-over Joe Montana? And for this product? Sketchers spot could have been in the “losers” group, but it was so bad, I felt it needed its own section.

Biggest Loser

Social Media: Not so much social media, but the lack of forward thinking from brands in this social media age. I fully expected to see a handful of brands using their spots to drive conversation on Twitter in a creative way, drive traffic to their Facebook Page or even a forward thinking integrated social media campaign. The only sign of Twitter I saw was in the Vizio spot promoting their new Via technology featuring internet apps.

Well, that’s my real quick look at the Super Bowl spots after the game. I’m sure I missed some things, so again, tell me where I’m wrong, right or what your thoughts are in the comments. Would love to hear them!

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5 Social Media Tips for Professional Athletes

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Social media exploded into the mainstream in 2009, nearly everyone now has a Twitter account and Facebook profile, and this trend was seen in no greater place than the world of sports. The presence of professional athletes in social media has almost been unmatched in the entertainment/celebrity world, but this hasn’t come without a price and some lessons learned the hard way.

Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas had fans on Twitter begging him to stop tweeting about his bringing an unloaded gun into the Wizards locker room. Former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson (@ToonIcon) was cut by the team partly due to criticizing his coach via Twitter. And, just last week, Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (@DzzJackson22) was caught talking trash to the Dallas Cowboys using Twitter. Arenas has since taken down his Twitter page and both Johnson and Jackson have made theirs private, but those are just a few of the many examples of the social media mishaps from athletes over the last year.

Some have called for athletes to stay away from Twitter and Facebook, but that’s crazy. Those same members of the media asking athletes to stay away from Twitter wouldn’t call for athletes to stop dealing with traditional media merely because they said the wrong thing during an interview or press conference, right? Social media isn’t the issue, the issue is being smarter in how social media is used.

With that said, below are five social media tips for professional athletes:

1) Behind the Scenes – In my experience in public relations and marketing with athletes and celebrities, I’ve found that the most popular features are the behind the scenes features. Fans love photos from the locker room or updates from road trips, features that traditional media don’t always have access too. For the most part, fans would rather get their hard news from beat writers or ESPN. Athletes should be posting colorful insights to their everyday lives. Thoughts on a movie, photos of boarding the team plane, but not sharing intimate team and personal details.

Example: Celtics forward Shelden Williams (@SheldenWilliams) and his wife Sparks forward Candice Parker (@Candace_Parker) posted photos of pumpkins they were carving over Halloween and asked fans to vote on whose was better. They received plenty of response from fans, while giving insight into their lives without airing the dirty laundry.

2) Fan Engagement – Athletes and celebrities can get away with not following or directly engaging with fans in social media, but why? What’s the fun in just sending out messages, but not interacting with anyone? Athletes have plenty of demands on their time, but will gain so much more by finding time to follow-back and directly communicate with fans. Find a few hours a week on the team plane, in the hotel or when at home relaxing, the payoff will be endless both professionally and personally.

Example: Check out Shaquille O’Neal’s Twitter page (@The_Real_Shaq) and you’ll see more @replies than anything else. He’s listening to his fans and replying to them on a regular basis, this is how you maximize your social media interaction. In the past he’s also given fans a location of where he is and then handed out free tickets to the first ones to find him in public. Brilliant, although with an assist to Digital Royalty!

3) Where’s the Beef? – I’m not sure where it is, but I know it shouldn’t be in your social media plan. Do not air your beef with coaches, teammates, opponents, fans or anyone else. Do not respond to slights from members of the media, post bulletin board material or address legal issues.  We’ve seen the results from Arenas, Johnson, Jackson and many many more.

Example: Too many to count!

4) Develop a Comprehensive Plan – An athletes social media plan should be far more than a Twitter account and Facebook Page. Professional athletes should all have a main website where they host most of their content, including news, events and community outreach. Links to the main website should be included in all social media activity and links to follow, friend and subscribe should be throughout the main site as well. Fans need to be able to find all their online actives throughout each interaction.

Example: Jets defensive back Kerry Rhodes has a phenomenal social media plan. Rhodes website serves as the main hub. The site includes links to all of his social media activity and hosts his most important news, including, off the field activities, plenty of video and information on his charitable foundation. A quick look at Rhodes Twitter page (@kerryrhodes) also shows that he’s driving followers back to his site (social media hub) while also including links to his Facebook Page and ustream.tv channel.

5) Get Trained – Last, but maybe most important, get trained! Most professional leagues require traditional media training at the beginning of each season. If social media training isn’t a part of that session, then athletes should ask their team PR people, agent or hire a consultant themselves, but similar to traditional media training, social media training is imperative.  When an athlete makes a mistep with traditional media they can usually find a way out or spin it, when screwing up with social media it’s much more difficult to shift blame and spin because it’s their own words or videos front and center.

Hopefully those tips help, their by no means the only tips and can really be applied to anyone delving into social media, but athletes are definitely in dire need of some social media assistance. Here’s to hoping even more athletes start participating in the conversation, but the right way!

Have any more social media tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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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

MLB Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer

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Once again Major League Baseball is stepping up to the plate in the fight against breast cancer. For the fifth straight year they’ve partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Louisville Slugger in a phenomenal campaign called, “Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer.”

The pink bats and ribbons have been a mainstay in Major League Baseball, as they’ve used the Mother’s Day weekend to their advantage to raise awareness and money in the fight against breast cancer. This year is no different, as they’re once again holding their honorary bat girl contest. In the contest, men and women 18 years of age and older can submit their story to the team of their choice and win the chance to be an honorary bat girl or bat boy for a Mother’s Day game.

What makes this campaign successful is that it not only brings the issue to the public’s’ conscience for the weekend, but it engages. Major League Baseball isn’t just asking for donations. By having actual survivors submit their story, they’re helping to put faces to this dreadful disease, something that can entice much more participation and awareness. Having an online vote also ensures awareness for the entire month leading up to the Mother’s Day festivities.

So kudos to Major League Baseball and each of it’s teams for a job well done!

On a personal note, one of my closest friends had his mothers story submitted by his sister to be a bat girl at Yankee Stadium. His sister submitted the story in hopes that it would be a suprise for their mother on Mother’s Day. So please vote for “FightinPattiC” a three-time cancer survivor, or any of the amazing stories that have been submitted to the contest. Whether you vote or not, I definitely recommend checking out the site and reading some of these unbelievable stories.

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Written by Brian Gleason

April 27, 2009 at 8:41 pm

NBA Leading The Twitter Trend

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I’ve been posting a lot lately about Twitter and social media in general, but Twitter really has been dominating the sports news in recent weeks. This past weekend was more of the same as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined by the NBA for a tweet, and Celtics forward Paul Pierce entered the Twitter fray (@paulpierce34). Pierce used one of his first few tweets to hand out tickets to Sunday’s Celtics game to the first five people to meet him at the players entrance to the arena and use the code word “truth.”

We’ve also discussed the infamous Charlie Villanueva halftime Tweet and other popular athletes on Twitter, mostly from the NBA. SportsPRBlog has an interesting post that includes a google document with a searchable list of nearly every athlete, league, conference and sports media outlet on Twitter.

One thing strikes me after looking at the Twitter google document and digesting all of the news previously mentioned. Why are NBA players and teams dominating Twitter compared to other sports and athletes, and what makes Twitter more attractive to the NBA?

There are numerous reasons, and one could be that Twitter really started becoming main stream a few months ago. Right around the time the NBA was heating up and the NFL was winding down. But, it’s more than just timing. The NBA places much more focus on marketing individual players, as opposed to the NFL, MLB and other sports, where marketing is more team based. Due to the NBA’s marketing strategy, the individual players also place more emphasis on their personal branding.

The NBA is about personalities, and that lends itself to social media, and specifically Twitter. Just last week we saw Shaq and LeBron having an intro competition. That’s right, they battled over which player had the most creative intro skit during pregame annoucement of the starting lineups, somthing you’d never see in football or baseball.

Also, NBA fans and media sit right on the court. NBA players can often be found interacting with courtside fans and media during games. It’s the only major sport with that type of access. It allows a greater comfort level for NBA players with the type of interaction that social media sites like Twitter promote.

Baseball’s opening Day is just a few days away, so I’ll be watching to see if there’s an increase in MLB players on Twitter in the coming weeks. But, I’d like to hear why you think NBA players and teams have a larger presence on Twitter?

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Written by Brian Gleason

March 30, 2009 at 11:24 pm

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