PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Posts Tagged ‘NBA

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.

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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

Is Social Media Boxing Out Access for Traditional Sports Media?

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I stumbled upon an old Bill Simmons (@SportsGuy33) column in which he discusses the dwindling access that reporters have to today’s athlete. His general premise is that social media is boxing out tradition sports media. Simmons hearkens back to a time when David Halberstam had one-on-one access for his book The Breaks of the Game, and reporters often hungout with the very athletes they covered. He calls it the “Scotch ‘n Sirloin Era”, with the current era being “The Twitter Era”.

But, Simmons may not be the best authority on this topic. In my time in the Boston Celtics PR Department, I never saw Simmons in the locker room or at a shoot-around during media access, and never had a player interview request from him cross my desk, or that of my co-workers. But, his column still raises an interesting topic.

How has the role of the PR person and sports media access in general been affected by social media, if at all? Is social media basically boxing out the traditional sports media?

To gain a little more informed insight, I spoke with someone who’s been in the trenches on this issue from the start, long-time NBA PR man Terry Lyons (@TerryLyons). Lyons worked in the NBA from his days as a PR intern in 1981, up until 2007, when he moved on to start Terry Lyons Sports Marketing LLC. During his time, Lyons worked every NBA Finals, All-Star Weekend, NBA Draft and international event, including serving as the PR person for the Original Dream Team in 1992. He knows and understands this issue as well as anyone!

One word dominated our discussion, “relationships.” Media access has changed, but according to Lyons, it’s better. Like in the “old days”, reporters just have to be willing to build relationships. “People have to develop relationships,” Lyons said. “PR people can assist in that process, but the individual personalities get it done. The media that take time to get to know the players are still the ones that the players end up trusting more, and they’ll get the access.”

Yes, in the NBA specifically, media seating continues to move further from the court, and the hordes of media surrounding players has increased tremendously. But, has the access actually “dwindled faster than A-Rod’s pectorals”, as Simmons put it?

“Access is tremendous,” said Lyons. “NBA players are available more than ever. Shoot-around is a great time, it’s a little easier on the road when there’s less numbers, but if a reporter can develop a close enough relationship with a player, there’s no reason they can’t get the player to walk back to the hotel and grab a cup of coffee with them. It isn’t hard if they spend the time, then they’ll get all the access they need.”

Simmons mentions how athletes use of social media pretty much cuts out the middle man, specifically reporters. But, according to Lyons, “Athletes direct access to fans is not new, it’s just changed. New used to be doing live interviews on radio, then it was TV, then color TV, then satellite and cable TV, now the Internet. Media are now more threatened and more defensive of their ‘turf’… they missed the boat, as they say, because they aren’t a dying breed. The Boston Globe reporters are now Boston.com reporters.  Period.”

To answer the question, the access athletes and fans have to each other has evolved, and the way these mediums affect traditional sports media has changed, but the access is still there. Like Lyons suggests, access is still based on tried and true relationship building. Something social media can’t “box out”, it can only enhance, assuming traditional media embraces the changes.

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Is Gilbert Arenas Paying too Much of a Price?

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David Stern is showing fans, media and players they will be safe in NBA arenas

I owe Mike Schaffer, who runs #SportsPRChat on Twitter, a big thanks. I began participating in the chats last week, and not only are the they a great forum to connect with other sports and PR professionals, but they’re also a great source of blog ideas! With that said, another great topic was brought up last week, whether or not the NBA, fans and media are making too big a deal of the Washington Wizards Gilbert Arenas bringing a gun into the locker room.

For those living under a rock, Arenas pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge for bringing an unregistered gun into the Washington Wizards locker room. Since the initial charge, Arenas has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA, been dropped by Adidas and most likely will lose the remaining $80 million he’s still owed by the Wizards.

So, between a potential short jail stint, losing $147,208 every time the Wizards step on the court and getting killed in the media and court of public opinion, is Arenas paying too much of a price, especially considering the gun wasn’t loaded and it seemed to be more of a joke than anything else?

I say absolutely not! As someone that spent over four years working in an NBA locker room almost daily, I can attest that the phrase “the locker room is a sacred place” is accurate. What some don’t always realize is that in professional sports it’s not just the players and coaches on the inside. There’s media, team PR, marketing and community relations staff, equipment staff and trainers as well as ball boys who often times are high school kids or younger.

The Arenas situation has me wondering, maybe I’ve been in a locker room that had guns inside. It’s definitely a possibility, and I can tell you I would have been very uncomfortable had I known at the time. The ball boy thing makes this especially bad in my opinion though.

During the course of a game night it’s not uncommon for a player to have a ball boy go into his personal locker. Usually it’s something like getting money for a post-game food run. But regardless of the reason, it could have been a young ball boy that found the gun Arenas’ locker! Loaded or not, the possibility of bad outcomes are endless, and Arenas definitely broke a sacred trust.

From my personal and PR perspective, the NBA, media and sponsors are handling this situation just fine. That’s not to say Arenas doesn’t deserve a second chance, but David Stern bringing down the hammer shows media, team personnel and Arenas’ peers they will be safe in the locker room. It shows fans and sponsors the NBA is taking this issue extremely seriously.

So kudos to Stern, the Wizards and media who are holding Arenas accountable. Here’s to also hoping Arenas has learned a lesson and is able to resurrect his career.

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 17, 2010 at 11:52 pm

NBA Needs to Address Officiating Issue

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LeBron James is averaging just 1.72 fouls per game this season

LeBron James is averaging just 1.72 fouls per game this season

I came across a very interesting article on the Chicago Bulls website by well known basketball columnist Sam Smith. Smith uses some very telling stats to investigate the star treatment that LeBron James receives from officials. It’s a must read and Smith brings to light some statistics that will make the NBA’s league office cringe. Smith writes:

“James is averaging 1.72 fouls per game in an average of 37.9 minutes per game. James hasn’t even been in foul trouble one game this season. He never has had more than four fouls called on him in a game, and since March 1 is being called for fewer than 1.3 fouls per game.

In 12 of the 20 games since then, James has been called for one or zero fouls in a game. James had a stretch of five straight games to conclude March averaging 36.8 minutes per game without being called for one foul. Not one in five games! In the last nine games, James has been called for three personal fouls. It’s really amazing given the involvement James has in the action of the game.”

Smith’s statistics are staggering, 5 games without a single foul called? That’s incredible for a player as aggressive as James. Now, I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists that thinks David Stern is sitting in a room ordering referees to make sure the Cavs and Lakers end up in the finals. That does not happen. But, the NBA has been accused of referees providing star treatment for years, and coming off the heals of the Tim Donaghy scandal, they need to address the issue.

Stern has often denied conspiracy theories involving referees, and most likely he’s being honest, but this is now a perception/PR issue. Whether there is a conspiracy theory or not, whether players like James, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant get star treatment or not, the fact is that fans believe something isn’t right. Many in the media believe this as well.

Instead of consistent denials, Stern and the NBA need to address the issue head on, especially with the playoffs quickly approaching where scrutiny of officials will only increase. The league is very protective of the access they grant media to their officials, but it’s time to pull the curtain back. It’s time for transparency. Many thought this would happen following the Donaghy fiasco, but it hasn’t.

To my knowledge the NBA doesn’t employ a PR person specifically dedicated to the referees, but it’s definitely time for that. This position could work exclusively with referees and allow a certain level of monitored access following controversial, or all games or that matter. It isn’t a myth that NBA refs watch each and every game to critique themselves. Stern is not blowing smoke when he says the NBA critiques their refs diligently. So, why hide the critique?

I understand there has to be some protection, but it’s time to let media and fans see what goes on behind the scenes. Let media and fans see how assignments are handed out for playoff games. Bring TV cameras into the referees room following games to see them reviewing questionable calls. Let media and fans see how the league office grades the officials. Although, I’d recommend using a network that doesn’t pay the league billions of dollars for broadcasting rights.

The bottom line is that those LeBron James foul stats are incredible and undeniable, and the league has a severe credibility issue on this topic that they need to address. I love pretty much all sports, but I’m definitely an NBA guy and have been a huge fan nearly my entire life, so I really want to see the league address this issue and put it to bed for good. For the sake of the league, the officials and the fans.

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Written by Brian Gleason

April 8, 2009 at 10:08 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

Halftime Tweet from Bucks Charlie V

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The Twittering Charlie Villanueva

The Twittering Charlie Villanueva

On Sunday afternoon the sports world may have changed forever, and in Milwaukee, WI, of all places. In their quest to secure the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference the Milwaukee Bucks pulled off a huge win over the defending champion Boston Celtics. What’s so life altering about that you ask?

The changing moment actually came at halftime. It happened in the Bucks lockeroom with the game tied 41-41. Just after Bucks Coach Scott Skiles addressed the team, forward Charlie Villanueva commented, “In da locker room, snuck to post with my twitt. We’re playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up.” What made this different is that Villanueva didn’t say this to a teammate or to a ball boy coming around to pick up some towels. Charlie V (@CV31) made the comment at halftime on Twitter!

For those that don’t know, Twitter is an online service that allows users to send out 140 character messages called Tweets. These Tweets can range from what you’re doing at the moment, to sharing interesting news, and connecting with professionals in your field. Some of the fastest growing users of Twitter are athletes, sports teams, celebrities and politicians. A few popular athletes on Twitter are the Suns Shaquille O’Neal (@The_Real_Shaq), Jason Richardson (@jrich23) and Steve Nash (@The_Real_Nash), the Jets Kerry Rhodes (@kerryrhodes) and golfer Natalie Gulbis (@nataliegulbis).

Villanueva raised the stakes Sunday afternoon. Up until this point athletes have mainly used Twitter to connect with fans and become more personal. One of Shaq’s favorites is to Tweet his location and the next fan that approaches him will get a prize. But, I believe this was the first time that an athlete has Tweeted during an actual game.

As a PR and marketing person I love that Villanueva is not only using Twitter, but that he’s actually buying in. I don’t see a problem with his halftime Tweets, although I suggest, and maybe he has done this, that he notify his coach and the teams PR people. That way nobody is caught off-guard, especially with an ever-growing list of reporters on Twitter. Last week alone Twitter was mentioned on PTI and Around The Horn, so you never know when a social media comment can cause a controversy, as the Philadelphia Eagles learned last week.

It will be very interesting to see where this leads us though. Will Coach Skiles have a reaction? My guess is he isn’t aware of Twitter, so it will be especially interesting to see how he feels about a player taking time during halftime to send messages. It will also be interesting to see how the league feels about Twitter, they were very slow in reacting to how blogs have changed the media.

But, the real question is, how will Charlie V’s Tweet change the way celebrities interact with fans? We’ve already seen senators and congressman Tweeting during President Obama’s address a couple weeks ago. Are we going to see bands Tweeting during concerts? Will we see SNL cast-members Tweeting in between skits? The options for celebrities to connect to fans, and to be creative while they do it, are growing daily.

You do have to hand it to Charlie V though, not only is he trendsetter, be he responded to his coaches halftime plea by scoring 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks pulled away. He also backed his Tweet up by posting two more times Sunday night. Once to comment on the win and how he said they’d turn it around at halftime, and once when he got home to let everyone know he was settling down to catch a movie. The key to Twitter, and social media in general, is not only to comment but to engage, and Charlie V is scoring points on that front.

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Written by Brian Gleason

March 16, 2009 at 3:04 am

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