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The Marketability of Stephen Curry

If you haven’t watched Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors play, you’re missing out on one of the purest shooters the game has seen. For those avid college basketball fans, we knew him best playing in the 2008 NCAA Division-I Men’s Basketball Tournament.With mixed reviews, the negatives coming from teams they beat, Curry made an impact on our lives long before stepping foot onto an NCAA branded court. Wardell Stephen Curry II received all-state rankings as a senior at Charlotte Christian School, in North Carolina, but received zero offers from any major Division-I college. ZERO. Hard to imagine. He did receive offers from smaller schools including VCU, Winthrop, Davidson, and Virginia Tech. Tech, his father’s alma mater expressed interest, but only as a walk-on. In retrospect, it’s unthinkable. Despite his small frame, despite the fact that his jersey often looked three sizes too big, despite being  the “runt” of the group,  he chose to stick around his hometown and felt becoming a Wildcat was the best fit. Representing Davidson College (@DavidsonWildcat), a small, private liberal arts college located in Davidson, N.C., was once known as a university that had graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars. It has now been put on the map as a pioneer in mid-major universities, leaving an imprint in the future of Division-I college basketball and athletics.

Will Bryan (@wbryan08), a Davidson graduate, is currently the Associate Director of Athletics Communications at the College of Charleston. He and I had a chance to talk about Stephen Curry’s journey and offers some great insight into his career and where it’s headed. Attending Davidson from 2004-2008, and staying in the Charlotte area through 2009 (Curry’s last year), Bryan still remembers the buzz Curry received when he first arrived on campus.

“He was like our hidden gem up until the 2008 NCAA tournament,” Bryan said . “He did things in non-televised games that we went nuts about. Moves and shots that we knew [even then] was beyond ‘Davidson’ ability. Our success up until then had been team defense, outside shooting, and no mistakes. Curry penetrated. Could shoot off the dribble (even though he did less, then), and he had the Duke ‘nail in the coffin’ sense about him. Until that NCAA tournament, we felt like he was our secret. Only losing to Duke by four, UNC by two, UCLA by four and NC State by only one that year. There was this fear that we not only had something special, but it wouldn’t be special enough to have a lasting impact. At least that’s what I thought. ”

Bryan continued, “Whenever the team was on a run and (the) crowd started working into a frenzy, he would blow the roof off (of the 5, 223 seat John M. Belk Arena), with a three. We used to call them ‘Curry timeouts’ When teams spent timeouts on account of him.”

Via DavidsonWildcats.com

Prior to Curry, Head Coach Bob McKillop had won two Southern Conference tournaments in 2002 and 2006, and zero NCAA wins. Starting in 2007, Curry’s freshman year, Four NCAA tournaments (2007, 2008, 2012, 2013), one NIT (2009), and three tournament wins. Mind you, Davidson College had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1969.

The X-Factor

“I always thought of Curry’s play in a wider context. He made games fun…an experience. Before him, there were science labs of picking apart an opponent. Curry turned them into rock shows,” Bryan said. “There were people in my graduating class that got jobs because of that run. Because the résumé was attractive. Because employers distinguished Davidson. Hundreds of us owed a lot to him, including myself. Now, we gather at night together. It’s pretty incredible to watch my Twitter feed during Warriors games.”

Bryan also shared that his college friends still get together online to watch and talk about Curry.

“We love getting the chance to experience what we did in 2008 and still be in awe of him,” Bryan said. “Even now, there are still chills and tingles when national writers and celebrities are just now catching on.”

Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson made the statement, “Those guys are just coming to the hospital, the baby has been born already. We’ve been watching it all year long.” referring to newcomers to the Curry bandwagon. Bryan adds, “We feel like we were there at conception. I can’t tell you how many times I jump up when he shoots in the third quarter. Like how many times do you jump when a guy shoots in an NBA third quarter? But it’s Curry and it’s going in. ”

Why wasn’t there more buzz about him prior to this season, though? Sports fans in general, as many can be, are skeptical and consistently questioned his defense, his durability, his passing. You cannot deny, though, that his story is intriguing with many stereotyping him as an underdog. Too small in high school, too small of a college to be recognized, too small in the NBA, too fragile because of previous injuries.

Why is it that we set expectations of players extremely low? Do we do so on purpose just enough for him to exceed it or should it be higher? Makes you think.  Stephen had the shooter gene early on in his life thanks to his father. (The son of NBA three-point specialist Dell Curry who is currently 13th all-time in NBA for three-pointers made. His all time stats and awards list. “Stephen SHOULD be one of the best point guards of our generation … a 10-time all star. Elite talent and can win a championship with a more veteran team around him that accepts his leadership role.” Bryan says.

His Journey

His Impact

Davidson set the precedent for other mid-major schools (a term used to distinguish between athletic conferences that are not among the major six conferences including the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big 10, XII, and Pac 12); paving the way for others to follow suit. Schools like Butler, BYU, St. Louis, VCU and George Mason all took their turns in the spotlight. This year was no different with schools like Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State, and Colorado State.

In his final year at Davidson, Curry led the nation in scoring with 28.6 ppg and received first team All-America honors while setting a notable list of scoring records. Even despite the ‘Patsos game‘ and being a target on scouting reports. The Golden State Warriors have to be thrilled about their gamble they made almost four years ago, picking Curry seventh overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. His prospect profile back in ’09.

Aside from his unique story, and the fact that his potential Achilles heel is literally…his ankles, he is an incredibly marketable athlete, even more so now, than ever before. He has become a breakout star in this years NBA Playoffs, and leading the Warriors to reach the second round over the Denver Nuggets, (check out Zach Buckley’s breakdown of his superstar season here. (Update, his NBA regular season record for the most three-point shots made, is now at 272. Penciling him in first place over Ray Allen who has 269 via Basketball-reference.com.

Early on in his career, Curry partnered with Spiracle Media (@spiraclemedia) – Located in Charlotte, Spiracle Media specializing in new media marketing through the use of social media, video production, and website development, promote his image in a positive way. As an early adopter to social media and frequent user, notable campaigns have been his #SC30 Twitter promotions both using Twitter and Facebook and visiting fans, even hosting a Fan Appreciation week. Check out the Storify recap here. (http://storify.com/SpiracleMedia/stephen-curry-fan-appreciation-week).

Spiracle Media co-founder Bill Voth (@billvoth) has proven to be a great advisor and social media coach to Curry guiding him in the right direction towards future marketability. I had a chance to connect with Voth, who shares his thoughts:

Pam: As an athlete, and aside from his raw talent, what makes him marketable?

Voth: Think of any negative athlete stereotypes. Steph’s the opposite in pretty much every way.  I’m not being cheesy, and I’m not just partial to a client, but I’ve worked around and with athletes for 15 years, and Steph is the most down-to-earth star I’ve been around. From when I started covering him as a TV reporter when he was a freshman at Davidson, to his current playoff run with the Warriors, he honestly hasn’t changed. I think that’s the base of his marketability off the court.

People see him as approachable, friendly and humble, which he truly is. That’s sellable. Then add in his extremely close relationship with his family – his dad and mom – who plenty of people have seen cheering for him over the years, his brother – who’s a great player in his own right, and his gorgeous wife and adorable nearly 1-year-old daughter. And of course, he’s pretty decent at his job, too, and he’s only getting better. What brand wouldn’t want someone like that representing them? In my obviously subjective opinion, now that he’s been able to prove to a worldwide audience just how good of a player he is, Steph’s complete package makes him one of the most marketable athletes to come around in a long time.

Pam: Regarding sponsorship, is it important to strike while the iron is hot now?

Voth: For “traditional” sponsorship, his agency, Octagon, handles all that, and I don’t want to speak for them. As far as what we’re doing with him online, we can’t do much activation right now, as tempting as that is. Before the playoffs started, Steph made it clear he wanted to be low key during this time, especially because it’s his first postseason experience. He’s still tweeting and doing a couple other things, but we’re not running any chats, contests, etc. For example, we’ve done his #SC30 contests every month since fall of ’11, until a couple weeks ago. He wanted to postpone April’s, and he told fans he’ll make up for it by doing two #SC30 contests in a future month.

While striking while the iron is hot is tempting and seemingly a no-brainer, I totally get why Steph wants to dial it back a bit. What he does on the court is his most important job, and he’s doing it pretty darn well these days. And we’re certainly working on things for when the Warriors season does end. The current run he’s on has obviously opened some doors that weren’t as open before, and we’re planning for the future, not just for the time immediately after the playoffs, but in the long run as well.

Pam: What are your thoughts on best practices with endorsement deals?

Voth: Again, there’s a bit of a split on what kind of endorsement deals he gets/can get. Octagon handles the “traditional” ones, while we work with him on online opportunities, and of course, those intermingle sometimes. When a player’s star rises like it has with Steph over the past few weeks, it’s obviously exciting for everyone on his team, both on the court and off. But I think the best way to handle it is let him do his thing on the court, take the extra calls and emails coming in, listen, and then gather everything and everyone together to hash it out immediately after the season. Then it becomes a matter of choosing the right opportunities for Steph.

Learn more about Stephen Curry’s social media efforts via ESPN and Mashable. He was also the first pro-athlete to embrace the Vine app…link here.

Voth has several videos of Curry’s other community efforts on his personal blog and here’s a link to other articles Voth has been mentioned in, regarding the latest trends in social media innovation…definitely worth taking a look.

Also check out Octagon Sports to learn more about them and their athletes: http://www.octagonbasketball.com or Octagon.com.

Other NBA athletes who also share a strong social media presence…Tony Allen (@aa000G9), Kevin Love (@kevinlove), Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) Amar’e Stoudemire (@Amareisreal) and now, even the injured, Kobe Bryant (@KobeBryant).

Curry’s efforts on and off the court over the past several years, despite injury, have filtered down back to his old stomping grounds. Davidson announced today that they will be joining the Atlantic-10 (@atlantic10) conference in 2014. There was an opportunity to join the CAA previously, but the Wildcats had decided to stay in the Southern Conference instead. Davidson athletic director Jim Murphy is thrilled about this opportunity for more exposure.

A-10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said during the official press conference,

“It is my pleasure to welcome Davidson’s administration, their student-athletes, staff, alumni and fans to the Atlantic-10 Conference. They will maintain our presence in the Charlotte market, one of the top 25 media markets in the country, and reinforce our commitment to national prominence in men’s basketball.”

Think Curry had something to do with that exposure in some way? Absolutely.

Stephen Curry’s efforts are starting to get recognized more an more, landing his first SI regional cover, with a feature by Chris Ballard (@SI_ChrisBallard) announced this week.

Cover image Via InsideSportsIllustrated.com

Cover image Via InsideSportsIllustrated.com

Players are starting to take notice, too, Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe) from Mercury News writes.

It was also announced this week in a Forbes article by Alex Konrad (@alexkonrad), that because of the buzz that Stephen Curry has received lately, his social media partner, SportsStream, released a new platform this week called SportsBase, an updated scores, information and reactions, a fully loaded sports content filter. More about the platform here. I could definitely see a product like this take off, especially for athletes looking for self-branding opportunities.

Where will we see this 25-year-old in the next few years? Hopefully continuing to break league records, inspiring more social media innovation and, as someone who doesn’t seem to be afraid of getting physical … the sky is the limit.

Notable Links of Interest:

Official website: http://stephencurry30.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StephenCurryOfficial

Official Twitter: @StephenCurry30

His history and full statistical background: http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/curryst01.html

Thank you again to Bill Voth, Will Bryan, Jeff Wolfson for your contributions!

Entertainment and Sports Equals Art

I will start today’s thoughts off with a line from one of my all-time favorite television shows from the 90s, NBC’s hit, Saved By The Bell… What is art? Are we art? Is art, art? Lisa Turtle does raise an excellent point, despite not being herself, trying to impress the over-pompous and very studious Brian to make sure he takes her to the school dance. [Sidebar: I’m a big fan of the series and enjoy watching them. You can, too – they are available to watch on Netflix]. She does raise a good point, and interestingly enough, each industry we happen to be a part of is a form of expression and art, in a way. The sports and entertainment industry, to me, is just that…art. An unique form of expression that you can share with the world. It is one of the few industries that allows you the ability to create different types of art, even if you are not an artist yourself.

The collaboration between a production staff to create entertainment products stimulates the mind and body. This is what also makes it extremely competitive. Some people call it “High risk, low reward.” I call it “high risk, high value”. Yes, the theories are true, starting out in either sports or entertainment, you will find it is a lot more challenging than you think. The grunt work becomes tireless, you often hit walls you cannot break through, and even if you aren’t looking to be the next Meryl Streep, you are still hoping the next big break will happen when you least expect it.

Success in this industry, like any other industry, is dependent on the quality you bring to the table. I am not talking about tweeting your favorite celebrity, hoping you will hear a response. It is possible to earn your way up the ladder to reach your ultimate goals.

via NBC’s Smash

Who doesn’t want to find something they love to do and be able to share that with others? For some, it’s electrical engineering, orthopedic surgery, or pastry chefs who makes exquisite desserts. Each job involves some sort of art feature, so what sets apart sports and entertainment from the rest of the industries?

The ability of trial and error. It is a unique brand all of its own, very distinct in a category that targets peoples emotions. The quote “Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try” comes to mind…Thanks, George & Ira Gershwin.

Lets go back for a moment. Despite the fact that 90% of what you see on the surface of any production is created and nurtured by hundreds or thousands of people you never and probably won’t hear of, it is critical that you learn to appreciate them.

ESPN production truck

Growing up and performing in musical theater, the “techies” were the most integral part of the show. They gave us a sound, a voice, costumes, lighting, make up, and thanks to the directors, producers, and stage managers, a script and blocking to follow.

2012 NBA Finals

This isn’t an industry of necessity where people NEED to watch Adam Sandler’s latest movie, or watch Emily from The Bachelorette take 43 minutes to give four different guys boutonniere roses, or the NEED to watch LeBron and Durant battle it out for World NBA Domination. But, how do sports and entertainment often cross over you ask? Think about it. What is CBS Sports? What is ESPN? Who is NBC? Who is Warner Brothers? Film, media, broadcasting, fashion, music, radio, television, and theater. It also includes levels of marketing, research, writing, editing, public relations, advertising, photography, promotions and monitoring levels of success (lawyers, financial analysts, agents, even social media strategists). Maybe you’re in the entertainment business and don’t even realize it! The list doesn’t stop there, though, it just keeps evolving and changing.

For me, I cannot really imagine myself in any other industry. Growing up around sports my entire life and having a strong appreciation for theater and film made me who I am today.

It was an outlet for me to learn how to express myself and has afforded me the chance to take my emotions and channel it into producing viable results.It is all about the product value chain. What efforts are we making to get to the next level of accomplishment?

Regardless of what is happening in the economy these days, from a macro-economic stand point, people are more likely to spend money on things that make them happy, despite its higher cost levels. What is important is why we love what we do.

serious NCAA domination

My friend Jenna says it best, “it’s the human element of sports and entertainment that is the reason why we love it so much. It is the connection with other fans, players and people who enjoy the same things we do that connect us as human beings.”

How, during a season, whether its 10 episodes or a 31-game regular season,

(Note – College basketball: 27 regular season games and up to 4 games if in an in-season tournament – Source: NCAA 2010-2011 Division I Manual, Section 17.3.5 Number of Contests) you can experience the full range of human emotions.It is the drive that makes us get up every day and do whatever it is that we do and sometimes, prove others completely wrong.

Don Draper had a pretty great speech during one of the last episodes of Mad Men this past season. Dramatic and insightful, he mentions there is always a need for change, business is business, but ultimately, you will need to accept the fact that satisfaction is temporary, and you need those in the industry to bring you to that optimum level of achievement:

Don: “I want to talk about your business. Looking at what you’re doing you’re in desperate need of change. This is about your business. I’m sure they [current agency] are very happy with you, but you don’t owe them anything. All they have to do is keep running the same work. You’re on the back burner over there; subsidizing all the creative work they’ve been doing..paying for new business lunches, and as soon as you walk away from that place, it will fold up like a tent.

Company A: We’re at 50% market share in almost everything we make.

Don: Because you have a big line of diverse, and charismatic products and you keep make more. Zip tape, styrofoam, Rovana… and why do you keep doing that? Because even though success is a reality, its effects are temporary. You get hungry even though you’ve just eaten… (I blame the Food Network and Pinterest)

They reply: “We’re happy with our agency..”

Don: “Are you…You’re happy with 50%? You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful, for now. But what is happiness? Its a moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50% of anything I want 100%. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it, you want all of it, and I won’t stop until I get all of it. Thank you for your time.

This floored me, talk about a good pitch. He couldn’t be more right. Yes, we do what we love to do, but it also means sacrifice…Long hours, often little reward (at first). But it will happen and sometimes you need to just roll with the punches to get what you want. You can either embrace it, not settle for the bare minimum, or, using the tools that are often right in front of you, get yourself to that 100%. Surround yourself with others that share the same mindset as you do, appreciate your hard work, and understand and accept the sacrifices you have made to get to your 100%. I had to go back and listen to it several times to let it sink in.

There is a reason people are hired and challenged daily to accomplish tasks and goals. People are hired in this industry because our emotions change so often that those in our craft try hard everyday to satisfy those changes. Whether it is in journalism, social media, marketing, promotions or public relations or another field, always be asking questions. Find your niche. Find your 100%.

Sports Biz Reading List

So after tonight’s Sports Business Chat (Twitter, #sbchat hashtag, Sunday nights at 9:30pm ET), It gave me a great idea. Even with our busy schedules with school and work, we choose to read what we are interested in.  We read topics about different topics we enjoy to expand our minds and continue learning new things. I decided to start compiling a list of great books worth reading starting with aforementioned books already discussed as must-reads this coming year. This list is comprised of mostly sports business books and similarly related texts. It can include anything from business-directed focuses, strictly sports, social media content, etc. Feel free to send me a message of your favorites, if they aren’t on the list and if they are on Twitter, please include their handle for a follow! I’ll make sure to update it as often as I can! Enjoy!

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Winning the Customer by: Lou Imbriano (@LouImbriano)

Scorecasting by: Tobias Moskowitz/Jon Wetheim

The Power of Who by: Bob Beaudine (@YouGotWho)

Beyond the Scoreboard: An Insider’s Guide to Business of Sport by: Rick Horrow/Karla Swatek

License to Deal by: Jerry Crasnick

Never Eat Alone by: Keith Ferrazzi

Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games by: A. Bartlett Giamatti

The Tipping Point by: Malcolm Gladwell

Veeck as in Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck by: Bill Veeck

A Career in Sports: Advice from Sports Business Leaders by Michelle Wells

Poke the Box by: Seth Godin

Purple Cow & Linchpin by: Seth Godin

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by: Steven R. Covey

Planet of the UmpsA Baseball Life from Behind the Plate by: Ken Kaiser/David Fisher

The Thank You Economy by: Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) 

Brandwashed by: Martin Lindstrom

Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by: Lee Cockerell

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by: Dan Ariely

Marketing Outrageously by: Jon Spoelstra

The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First by: Jonah Keri

Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage by: Daniel C. Esty/Andrew S. Winston

Intercollegiate Athletics and the American University by: James J. Duderstat

The Business of Happiness by: Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis)

How to Win at the Sport of Business by: Mark Cuban (@mcuban)



Language Connects Us

I have finally recovered! Good news, though, I got an A in my Marketing Management and Innovations class and summer is here! What an experience the 111th U.S. Open was. Strip away the greatness of Rory McIlroy and the U.S. Open overall, you have: long hours, random storms and driving more rental cars in one week than I ever have in my life. Being in the company of the ESPN Elite, the USGA, NBC and the greats of professional golf all around the world was pretty incredible. I was lucky enough, as a member of the media, to be able to have both my phone and my camera and got to take several pictures with the few minutes of downtime I had. Just a couple:

inside the press conference room

SportsCenter set

Andy being...Andy

me behind the desk

Building relationships during a tournament like that are so important. First of all, you need to make them fairly quickly … and by quickly I mean within the first half hour of the meet, especially if you’re going to be with working with someone closely on a project for the next several days. Expanding your networking foundation further helps you along within the sports industry (or any industry, really). It was great to find out that some of the people I met had mutual friends that I knew well. Sometimes I feel like the world is too small, then again, as much as I feel like I network, and talk to, it is not all that surprising.

People constantly ask, “Why do you talk to random people or say hello to random strangers while walking down the street?” Same answer I always give: Why not? I often find a cheery disposition is always pleasant to be around, regardless of how you actually feel. It is too often that I interact with those who are standoffish or come off as depressed and cynical and not optimistic about walking one foot in front of the other. I like to surround myself around good, hard working, strong people who are similar to my personality. When I would be working at the Verizon Center during basketball season, I would always see the staff and ushers on a regular basis and ALWAYS say hello and cordial. Think of the fans and people THEY have to deal with.  I have been this way ever since I can remember and with the advances of social media I can talk to people all over the world on just about any topic I want. Pretty cool, huh? The advancement in networking through social media and learning through technology has been mind-blowing. “Socialenomics” as the term is coined, (founded by Eric Qualman: @equalman) was founded “with the intent of providing short social stories, statistics, studies and surprises” (Check out the book, a pretty good read: http://amzn.to/kaObSW ).

Today’s standard vocabulary jargon over the past few years as been changed significantly. Phrases and words like: Tweet Me, Follow Me, StumbleUpon Me, Digg Me, Like Me, Text Me, Poke, Unlike, Tag Me and Don’t Defriend Me,  have become common terms within the social media language and expected to understand universally throughout the world. It started to show an increase when instant messaging and texting became more popular. Practicing to speak in 140 characters or less has become common. I have gone so far as to leave to go grab a drink from my friend’s kitchen and said, (face to face in person, by the way) I’ll “brb.” I had to stop myself and let it all soak in. It’s taken over the world, a true pandemic. It is hard to explain how much in just a few short words or statistics, but this video I found (via Qualman is absolutely fantastic and some of it may surprise you)

Bottom line is: Social Media is here and has its hand in everything; specifically in my industry of Sports and Entertainment. Learn the language and become a part of the conversation!

I leave you with a pretty cool idea that I hope will catch on in the near future. Recently done at a Manchester City game, (The Pittsburgh Steelers have also done this) was a new fan experience using Google Streetview and social media outlets that I hope catches on. The 360 degree camera followed the stadium during the pitch pre-game. This not only gets fans to drive traffic to a website but encourages fun “finding yourself”.

For those that don’t want to be found… to each their own, but for those like myself that do, don’t be afraid to say, “hello” in any language.

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Status Update: The Power of Social Media

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m addicted to the Internets. My morning routine begins with social media – starting with, in order: Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Phone. This past weekend was no exception. Though I had a lot of schoolwork to finish, I maintained my schedule with social media check-ins more than a few times. It got a tad out of hand waking up early Friday morning to watch the events of the Royal Wedding. Yes, I watched. Mostly because I love a good love story and second, how often in the news do we have something positive to report on? I would have to say maybe once every other break I took from writing a marketing paper on a case study of the development of Cymbalta, to stay up to date on what’s going on in the world around me.

This weekend also marked the beginning of the Washington Capitals second round run with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that after playing us in the regular season shut us out twice. Let’s also take note that their goalie, Dwayne Roloson, leads the NHL in save percentage (.949) in the postseason, but we have Michael Neuvirth whose GAA is 1.38. Like anyone excited for any postseason play, we read previews and posts and comments. For me, it was mostly through Twitter, hearing from beat writers, analysts and fans about how we can beat the No. 5 seeded Lightning.

via @clydeorama http://www.flickr.com/photos/clydeorama/3818958525/

Finishing up the tweaks of my paper, conference postings and other schoolwork, Game 2 on Sunday was just a few hours away. Hoping we would finally snap out of our Power Play rut, we made our way down to Verizon where you could definitely feel the energy in the building. I found myself checking tweets even while I was AT the game on Sunday, which doesn’t happen that often. I’m so immersed in games that I tend to shut out the World and focus on what’s on the ice (or court, or field). As much of a heartbreaking loss as it was, my Twitter timeline and newsfeed on Facebook started blowing up with comments of things like “we’re not worried” and “We need to find a way to score on the PP!!” Still, I was hoping we’d hold off and get the W, but just couldn’t execute. I still hope for the best, though – its all we can do as fans.  Even though we’re down 0-3 in the series, hopefully we can get a W in Tampa Bay to build our confidence and take back the series we were favored to win. You better believe I’ll be tracking the news via Twitter.

With that said, the impact of how social media set the tone for the series is unbelievable. But it isn’t just with sports. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was Saturday night and in an awesome evening out in Dupont for my friend Laura’s birthday, we all headed home tweeting the likes of Seth Myers, Jimmy Fallon, Andy Samberg and Mindy Kaling, all of whom were in attendance for the dinner at the Hilton downtown. We were perhaps even more jealous of our other friend Kate, who was working the event. Tweets flew back and forth and one thing I do love about Twitter is it’s more than just instant connection, because hey, people DO respond back. Yes, even celebrities.

After Sunday’s game, and headed back to Arlington, Va., on the metro, my timeline had tweets that began to overshadow Game 2’s news … something about Obama holding a press conference within the hour about an undisclosed topic regarding national security. There was nothing that mentioned the dinner from the previous evening. The rumors started flying, yet no one really knew what was going on. It was very odd for it to be on a Sunday night and so late, was it a coincidence that it had to interrupt Celebrity Apprentice?

We come to find out that it was held to announce that Osama bin Laden, the notorious claimed mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, had been shot and killed by US troops and that the U.S. had custody of the body. As we all know, any news, rumored or factual, spread so fast, I’m surprised it didn’t break the Internet. Within just a few minutes of getting back to Arlington and confirmed mentions from White House officials did the streets flood around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Students from George Washington and Georgetown, local residents and the even some of the remaining media from the Caps game showed up in utter satisfaction and celebration of the news.

There’s no way that outside of a telecast could anything travel as fast as it had. It was pretty amazing. Read this, if you haven’t yet. There was even a guy live tweeting in Abbottabad while the raid was going down (@ReallyVirtual). There were celebrations all over the country, too, including major universities, and World Trade Center site. Standing together as a nation, even for a few hours, is a great sight to see – but, does this change anything? Not sure.

As recent as this development is, there are far too many unknowns. What I DO know, however, is the significant impact that social media has over everyone, whether you actually use these outlets or not. It has provoked some stunning trends. The Pew Research Center’s 2011 Annual Report on American Journalism reports that:

     * In 2010 every news platform saw audience stall or decline … except the Web.

     * For the first time ever, more people got their news from the Web than newspapers … the gap for TV is closing, too.

   * Newspaper newsrooms are 30 percent smaller than in 2000.

    * Nearly half of all Americans now get some form of local news on a mobile device. In other countries where mobile penetration is deeper, the number is probably greater.

(via @ smexaminer)

from http://www.wpmods.com

Given the passion of the fans and dedication of the blogger, writer, or award-winning journalist, there’s no sign of social media slowing down anytime soon. This goes for politics, local/national news and of course sports, and that includes athletes.

The best way is to embrace the power of social media is use it to YOUR advantage. Follow the people and be followed by those who share similar interests and viewpoints. While there are a lot of ignorant people out there, keep your values and what YOU believe in, in check. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and in the world of social media and free speech; make those decisions wisely. As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”

Product Placement, Care For An Apple?

There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding the release of the ever popular, ever sleeker Macbook Pro laptop computers, as well as the release of the iPad 2 coming up March 2. And we can’t forget earlier in the month when the Apple iPhone4 finally became available for Verizon Wireless cell phone users. Apple, Inc. a world-wide company that designs electronics, software and computers have a lot of pressure riding on them this week. AppleTV is actually pretty awesome – But who ever thought the iPad would catch on like it has?  Maybe because it has the brand behind it – I still don’t particularly care for the name and although I’ve played around with some before, I still prefer my computer and Android phone over the cool little tablet gadget thing that you can read the Huffington Post on… riding the metro home from work.

Let me ask you, faithful readers, have you ever been so mad at your computer you want to throw it up against the wall? Come on, we’ve all been there – and at some point in our lives, whether you’re an “Apple” or a “PC”, have witnessed the sad mac/blue screen of death. Does it make you give up and switch to the other side? If you compare the amount of times that has happened whether it was user error or manufacturing error, I bet it turns out to be about a 50-50 split.  My first home computer was an Apple IIGS, and have stuck with Macintosh computers ever since. I just don’t like PC’s as much as I do the Mac. My friend Trevor (@MrTrevC) prefers Windows-based computers. He has never wanted a Mac, nor does he even own an iPod. “Last on my list,” he says. But hey, preference is everything in the consumer world, and brand loyalties don’t fall far from the tree (pun intended for an apple?, sure, why not).

So what makes Apple so great? Some can argue the operating systems, some argue the quality of the applications, the layout, and more. Different strokes for different folks. But aside from personal opinion, How does Apple do SO well outside of picking sides? Its simple: product placement. For grad school, my assignment this week is to write a research paper on the marketing behind Apple, Inc. I have to wonder if my professor knew that there was a lot of press about the new products coming out this week when she made the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. I thought a post about Apple products tied it in nicely.

Adding to the mix, the Oscars are this weekend. There are some hefty contenders this year, and still so many movies I have yet to see. What do the Oscars have to do with Apple? Aside from wearing a dress out of apple slices or something with the famous logo on it, more than you think. Product placement in movies and television subliminally mind trick you into a desire to purchase products. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Although experts are calling it a downfall compared to the past several years, Apple products take the cake in product placement in the top 33 movies that hit the number one spot this past year. The press about this, is getting people talking, just a few days before the 83rd annual Academy Awards are set to air. Brandchannel found a total of 591 different brands and products which factor out to a 17.9 average of products per film. For Apple, products showed up in 10 of the top movies. They aren’t the only ones on the bandwagon this year, though. Nike, Chevrolet, and Ford products shared a total of 8 films each. To find out more about the winners in product placement this year, check out Brandchannel’s recent post.

This has been going on for years, and whether we actually look closely enough at the movies we’ve seen over and over again or not, you’ll remember it, too. This was the first movie clip that came to mind:

I look forward to movies like Scream 4 coming out this summer with the latest technologies to work with. Does it share the same appeal? We have started to notice Mac computers and people using iPhone’s in television and movies more and more, but lets think if these story lines will actually work in the next couple years. With Scream 4,  why would you answer an “unknown” caller from your cell phone, wait, how did the killer get your phone number in the first place? Wait, knowing half the people died from answering the phone in the first place, why would you even bother using it? Why didn’t the psycho killer just tag you in a post on Facebook or broadcast personal videos on Justin.tv? I wonder if it will have the same effect the fourth time around. We can only wait and see, and that’s why movies are one of the greatest forms of entertainment.

All in all, I love the effort that is made with the marketing and promotional aspect of sports and entertainment. Even the satire of marketing with recent products…remember this?

Also, check this video out, on the longer side, but a great little history compilation of product placement in movies:

Tell me you aren’t hungry right now, or thinking about getting a new car, or a new pair of sneakers, or hey, even a new laptop? Even though you might not actually purchase these products, you’ve at least thought about it and toyed with the idea of looking into buying something after reading this. The marketing department has done its job, and as a consumer, its your job to do yours. Maybe the next time you watch a movie, you’ll be able to recognize those products you love or hate or be introduced to something you never knew about… A thought to leave you with: What brands are you loyal to?

Images in the Media

One of the first lessons learned in marketing and advertising classes is the definition of a “brand image” = The perception of your product or brand by the consumer. In the media, this idea is sometimes scrutinized to result in breaking points and disasters. Can someone be an actual brand, though? Oprah? Donald Trump? Possibly. One could argue that they have built a personal image of themselves that allowed the public to continue to add value to anything they sell and endorse. One could also argue that they paid little attention to the branding of themselves. Instead, they are praised for making wise business decisions that allowed them the freedom of expression and profit to do what they wanted. This caught on to others that wanted to do the same. Nowadays, with social media existing in our everyday routines, things have changed. Everyone is a photographer. Everyone is the paparazzi. Everyone is under the microscope. Could you handle that?

Remember when we had to call people up on land line phones and most likely wait a day or two for a response? I freaked out when I saw a pay phone at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, waiting in line for the ATM at the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic this past January. I’m not saying that I don’t love the thought of “instant” connections with people, even random strangers from time to time, but being in the spotlight also gives cause for concern if you aren’t someone who can handle it properly. Online media has spread like wildfire. Facebook has recently partnered with thousands of respectable companies to promote their updates and newest advertisements at a faster, less expensive pace. Take for example, the celebrity end:

Socialites like The Kardashian sister’s, who are more or less exploited in every fashion, are making upwards of millions of dollars in revenue from their reality television show, a clothing line, and several major products the girls personally endorse. (image via iGossip)

I’m not knocking the fact that they aren’t beautiful, but I don’t think I can take any of them seriously.

Newsflash:  99% of reality TV is scripted.  Aside from the unrealistic aspect of it all, people do watch, and it is entertaining (sometimes) to see what the fashionistas will wear next. But, will she get fat? Will she lose more weight? What athlete is she dating next? Will she wear something I won’t like? Do I REALLY care? Reality television is far from actual reality, though “Jerseyday” and status updates that read, GTL (Gym, tanning, laundry) on Thursday evenings seems to be the highlight of some of my friends’ day. As well as the #1 topic of watercooler conversation (love to the ladies of 2607).

Choosing to be in the spotlight, though, could easily put a damper on how people view and respect someone, including over-analyzing the choices that they make.  When I first signed up for twitter, not a lot of my good friends were on it. It hadn’t quite turned into a craze yet, even though Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) was hopelessly promoting it. I was following him, and yes, @KimKardashian. I settled for many E! News celebrities, aka ones that are annoyingly in the spotlight, yet we just can’t seem to get enough of. Innocence seems to disappear.

Celebs say they are on twitter  and other social media sites so they are able to retaliate with the truth and address any rumors quickly to the masses. This I actually agree with. I think the media can twist words or skew video into making someone not who they really are. If I was in their position, I’d want the chance to be able to defend myself. As a celebrity or athlete, especially one who is very recognizable, image branding should be a main priority in that they must be able to market themselves appropriately.

However, the general consumer public doesn’t quite get this concept yet. I wonder though, under a microscope, do we actually consider these people role models? It all goes back to images and branding. Although we feel more connected, and thus in support of those we interact with on a regular basis, celebrities and athletes have to work extra hard in promoting themselves the right way, more than just a business or company does for a particular product or service.

I hate to use this as a transition, but lets take a look at Justin Bieber. He is someone who is not even close to being able to vote in America yet, but selling out Madison Square Garden, worlds most famous arena, in less than 30 seconds. Awesome? Sure, it’s pretty amazing for this 16-year-old to accomplish such a feat. But recently, he has taken precedent over much more important topics, like what is happening in Egypt and political and health issues prevalent in the US. Headlines read: MVP at All Star Game, LA has Bieber Fever. (He did have a pretty sweet crossover move and assist during the celebrity all star game)

But come on, right next to news articles about Hosni Mubarak and Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi? What? No. No one can tell me that this kid, who released his life [uh, at 16?] story in 3-D movie form a couple weeks ago is on the same level as world issues. At least Justin is a positive example of channeling the good from media scrutiny. What about those that are unable to handle the pressure? Magazines like US Weekly and the National Inquirer are just waiting for something juicy to tell the world about. I admit I visit Perez Hilton and TMZ.com on occasion, I even watch Joan Rivers tear apart celebrity fashion choices on E! News Fashion Police after award ceremonies, just waiting for someone to make a mistake.

Luckily, 90% of celebrities and athletes aren’t in the public eye, for a reason. If you actually hung out with these people, do you really think you’d enjoy yourself? Who knows. All we know is what we see on the outside and what we’re told. The key is, to keep an overall image of one’s self as positive as possible. The saying, “any press is good press” just doesn’t seem to fly like it did during the pre-Internet era.

Being in the spotlight is not all glitz and glamour as it might seem.  In the sports world, we can talk about Tiger Woods and his downward spiral for hours…or even the tragic death of Steve McNair. What about Albert Haynesworth? Millions and millions of dollars floating around and it seems that nothing positive can come of his situation. The most recent causality, Jarret Jack, backup point guard for the Hornets, was arrested late last night for a DUI (To read more, check out AJC’s article).

So I’ll ask, what can be done to prevent these role models from doing harm to themselves and damage to their own images? What can be said to the younger generation who want to live out their dreams of becoming professional athletes or A-List celebrities? Don’t mess up? Keep your mouth shut? Make sure you know the difference between right and wrong? Maybe. Any story line can have multiple angles and sides and dependent on the situation. Anyone, famous or not, needs to be aware of the bigger picture, that life is far worthy of living if you work hard for the right reasons and goals.

Fortunately, there are some good eggs out there, promoting positive and meaningful attitudes toward what life has to offer. Take Trevor Bayne, a 20-year old rookie who won the Daytona 500 this past weekend. A Cinderella-like story of a kid from Knoxville, Tennessee who is just breaking into the business. One whose official site still reads “Coming Soon.”

As a 20 year old, what would be your first purchase if you were awarded $1,463,813 from the purse on your birthday? Who do these people have to advise them on the right thing to do, financially and beyond?

I know, I know…each person is entitled to their own opinions and can make their own decisions, but surrounding yourself with those that are upwardly moral can keep someone not only motivated to have a strong work ethic, but maintain a constant ride towards a positive direction for success. At the end of the day, we know what we should or shouldn’t be doing and it’s ultimately up to us to make those decisions. A great saying is “If you’re an eagle, don’t fly with pigeons.” You be the judge. How’s it going so far?