Sep 6, 2013

Braun over Brains

another school year in session, it's only appropriate that we start the year with some textbook PR. Spin the PR machine. Ryan Braun has done something that will go down in history, one way or another.

If you don't know the story (See: Bio-genesis scandal) Braun was suspended 65 games after accepting admission to PED use. He was accused of this before and rubbed the names of the sample collector and MLB commissioner in the dirt (Laurenzi Jr; Bud Selig). His admission cost him both a Nike and Muscle Milk sponsorship.

In order to make amends with Milwaukee Brewers fans, the team that has his rights until 2020, he did something that should be commended:
He called every Brewer season ticket holder - personally - to apologize.
Braun wasn't looking for pity. According to various sources, he legitimately apologized to fans and wanted to clarify that he made a mistake. Most of the callers were sympathetic but as the best player on the BrewCrew, he ruined their season half way through the year so some will remain upset for the time being.

So what, you ask? His reputation was drastically damaged and this stunt will exponentially help. He looks like a good guy now. That he cares about his fans. He's admitting and addressing his mistakes personally, through a phone call - not Twitter. He's connecting with fans on a personal level. A cheater is hard to forgive but at least he's over turning his public perception and doing it on his own terms.

Class dismissed.
Had to include this shot...what a jerk.

Mar 21, 2013

Brian Urlacher: A Case Study on Athletes & Media Training

Yesterday, Brian Urlacher rejected an ultimatum of an offer from the Chicago Bears. After spending his entire, 13-year career with the Bears, along with winning NFL Rookie of the Year, 8 Pro Bowl appearances and acting captain, Urlacher is now a free agent.
Why? The Bears simply did not offer him anywhere close to his expected contract.

Whether or not he deserves the money, what's interesting is Urlacher's quiet response to the press release the Bears sent out about not signing him. An obviously personal issue, Urlacher has clearly held back his feelings [with this great and practiced response on 'M&M in the Morning']: 
From a PR view; B.U. dealt with this maturely and responsibly. Boring in entertainment standards but this all begs a bigger question:
What happened to big personalities in sports?
No emotion, no curse-words, no overreactions, no Mohammad Ali-moments.
My hunch says that teams of PR pros have 'dumbed' them down over the years. As much as I like to see athletes speak perfectly, it's nice to see their true emotions. Sports are emotional, after all. Let the wild rumpus start!
All this training is turning athletes into robots.

Mar 14, 2013

Hooter's Ball Girl Picks Up Fair Ball - Gives it to Fan

It's much funnier when a Hooter's Ball Girl catches a live, fair ball and gives it to a kid in the stands.
The saddest part is that the Phillies are actually paying her.
So the question becomes: Where is the PR value in this? She's definitely attractive but she's not the main event. Fans don't go to the games hoping Hooter's will bring out their finest talent (I hope not, anyways); they're watching for the players talent. What's the ROI? What's the point? She had her 15 seconds of embarrassment (fame, whatever) but the Phillies still lost.

At least it's only Spring Training.

Mar 9, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks rule the NHL

Undeniably, the Chicago Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL. With one regulation loss this year as of last night, the team of Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, etc are an unstoppable force. Even more, they have almost clinched a playoff spot at this point (read: this early!) in the season. To make it into the Western Conference playoffs last year, 95 points were needed. Two years ago: 97 points. Three years ago: 95... in 82 games.

This year in 48 games, it's anticipated that teams will need 56 points to make it into the playoffs (at the 8th seed position).

As of March 9, the Blackhawks have 45 points in 25 games (over half the season) and obviously sit in first place. This means that they will only need to win 6 games, anytime in the remainder of the season (which is 20 games) to clinch a playoff birth.
To top it all off, in 2009-2010, Chicago were crowned Stanley Cup Champions

Enough about the on-ice PR gold mine. The team has also had some great PR success off the ice:
  • Blackhawks Charities: Have raised over $9-million to support programs and institutions throughout Illinois that work towards creating a better tomorrow for the youth of today. A recent example is the bid for a Marian Hossa 1,000th Game Jersey.
  • Hossa's Heroes:

The team's only blemish in the last few years was bad tempered Patrick Kane. 2009, the summer before they won the Cup, Kane was charged for assaulting a Buffalo cabbie after the driver was unable to return Kane and his brother change of $0.20. Yep, 20 cents. Both men were charged with felony robbery and misdemeanour counts of theft of services and criminal mischief. Although this was a hot topic at the time, their PR team handled this beautifully and Kane's on-ice performance and eventual Stanley Cup winning goal erased the nightmare.
Chicago Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup - you heard it here first.

Oct 25, 2012

NHL Lockout 2012-13 - Yay or Nay?

Well, it's not looking good. Today is the last day for the NHLPA and the Owners to come to a speedy resolution without cutting into the traditional 82 game season. The ticker has literally run out on

As I wrote in June (YEAH THAT'S RIGHT! IN YOUR FACE!), there will be a temporary lockout this year. They are a product of unfortunate trends. Although in this circumstance it is mostly about money, it is still true about ratings. Money has to come from somewhere! If you haven't read an earlier post I wrote on lockouts and why they happen, read here now (otherwise you won't 'get' the
rest of my post).

Look, everything is supposed to be for the fans, that's just fact. And the fans are getting robbed; we want hockey, especially here in Canada! I have never heard so many people say: "I want hockey so badly I would...[insert ridiculous proposal]". I've read national stories about a man who pleaded for the lockout to end so that he could watch the games with his dying father. That's heartbreaking and incredibly BAD public relations for the NHL. I don't think I need to explain why.

Gary Bettman is a stubborn man, yes, but he's protecting the league as a whole. I understand that and appreciate that he wants to make everyone happy. If the owners aren't happy and accept a deal where they're not favoured, they will feel cheated. Same goes for the players.

There goes the revenue for NHL13. Or will people buy simply because they can't watch it (maybe have the computers play against each other!)? What about the Winter Classic at the biggest stadium that hockey has ever been played in?

This lockout does so much damage to the sport. Not having children grow up with the ability to watch their favourite athletes, will destroy our entire nation and sense of patriotism. Canada already struggles to find itself an identity, hockey makes us stand out. Remember all of the Gold medals, Summit Series and International Hockey Championships that Canada has won? I hope so because this lockout might mean those are the last times we win. It's our national sport, don't force kids to watch Junior A or B hockey. We need to see the finest talent prosper and young talent grow.

What frustrates me even more is that they aren't even willing to meet. Both sides are so stubborn presently that they are throwing away their future (at least for this year). If there is a season, the league will spend a lot time putting out PR fires via fighting and illegal hits and everything else that gives the game a bad rep. These issues STILL haven't been raised, amended or corrected. Good luck NHL PR dep't and see you next year.

Currently growing a lockout beard.

Sep 18, 2012

The Sad State of the UFC today

Although I have been openly saying Dana White has done a good job over the years, my opinion is beginning to change. Before you call me a flip-flopper, let me explain:

A poster or logo for UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II.The entire UFC has changed in the last year. There are way too many events. The true beginning of the UFC was in April '05: the first fight after the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. It was dubbed UFC 52: Couture VS. Liddell 2. This was a simple marketing approach. Those who knew the sport, understood the quality of these fighters and what was at stake. Those who didn't, watched these guys coach their athletes and talk shit to each other for at least 5 episodes. No one remembers who won the first fight - but they knew the two had a history. And the drama was built. It was a great fight, yadda yadda yadda, and the sport built momentum to become what it was...until last year.

Taking into consideration that the number of fights have increased, the UFC has been in decline  (2012: 11,100 attendance approx - 20 events to date, 31 scheduled, not including one events cancellation; 2011: 12,900 attendance approx - 27 events). This includes going to new, large markets this year such as Calgary, Sweden and Japan.

To date, the UFC has now had 214 events. As mentioned above, in 2005 - they were at UFC 52. In 2012 alone, there has already been 20 events. Since it's not even the 10th month, that's more than 2 a month (or one every two weeks!)
Thanks to Wikipedia, I drew up a quick graph of these:
Events are happening more frequently, which means the UFC has to scramble to create fight cards that will draw fans. Now that the uniqueness of the sport has worn off, the UFC needs to build hype by setting up exciting fights with worthy contenders. Unfortunately, the UFC has been headlining average fighters who will face off against each other multiple times in the same year (Ex: Henderson Vs. Edgar I & II).
A poster or logo for UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort.

Without a strong headliner, fights are hard to promote. What the UFC has switched (and why I have been disappointed) is that they have been having good fighters (Anderson Silva & Jon Bones Jones) headline against fighters who are certainly not worthy (Ex: Silva Vs. Franklin II; Jones Vs. Belfort; Silva Vs. Bonnar - Yep, the Stephan Bonnar from TUF 1, 2005).
A poster or logo for UFC 153: Silva vs. Bonnar.Yes, injuries play a large role in choosing the fights. But this wouldn't be a big deal for fighters if they didn't fight 3 or 4 times a year (Henderson). Injuries can ruin a card.
My suggestion to the PR team and Dana, take a break for a while. The UFC is not what it used to be. It's time to build up the hype again. There is some exciting fighters at the top of their game but they're not getting the fights they should. Rather than scheduling a fight in stone, set up fights that are worth watching and not entirely one sided. Get your fans excited and stop pumping out empty, nameless events.

UFC 1000: The same two guys. Coming early 2013.

Aug 24, 2012

Lance Armstrong: "Haters gonna hate"

Lance Armstrong is amazing with or without the titles. Armstrong, aka The Boss, aka Juan Pelota, aka Big Tex, aka The Texan, aka Mellow Johnny, has done more than you in his lifetime. Why do I say that? Here's a quick checklist:
  • Survive testicular cancer, after it metastasized to his brain and lungs - check (By the way, his cancer treatments included brain and testicular surgery and extensive chemotherapy. His prognosis was originally poor)
  • Win the Tour de France seven consecutive times AFTER beating cancer - check
  • Raised tens of millions of dollars for charity - check (Did this via the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Livestrong [the yellow bracelet you wore] which provides support for people living with cancer)
  • Named the ABC Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year, 1999;  Sports Illustrated magazine Sportsman of the Year, 2002; Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for the years 2002–2005.; ESPN's ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006; the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality Award in 2003 - check
And now, after years of being harassed by anti-doping teams world-wide, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it will ban the cyclist for life and recommend he be stripped of his Tour de France titles. What a brutal way to let a guy retire in peace, USADA.

 In a statement addressing these allegations, Lance said 'enough is enough' - that he is sick of being bothered by doping claims and PED rumours, which began in 1999. Check out his comments here.

I think this is a great PR move by Lance to explain his reasoning for letting the USADA do whatever they want, show his position and post this on his webpage / tweet it out to people who care about him.
You take away his records, but you can't take away the millions he has raised to help cancer patients/survivors.

Sorry Lance, Haters gonna hate.