Sportsmarketingguy's Blog

Is it just noise or does it connect and move the needle

Athletes and Twitter

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on May 18, 2009

There are quite a few pro athletes using Twitter as a means of communicating with fans. But in what is believed to be a first, a sponsor requested an athlete, in this case Danica Patrick, join Twitter in a co-branded social marketing play. This is something I expect will happen on Twitter more often. Twitter actively engages a wide, defined audience in a way that may be more effective than trying to “push” consumers to an athlete’s website. It will be interesting to see how Danica balances the corporate spokesperson role with her role as an athlete with a fan base.


Eric Fisher from the Sports Business Journal broke the story:

IRL driver Danica Patrick has launched a Twitter feed at the behest of watch sponsor Tissot, located @DanicaPatrick. She is believed to be the first major athlete to join Twitter in conjunction with a corporate entity, and Tissot will receive extensive exposure on her feed, including visual branding on her Twitter Web page. The effort was constructed in part by Charlotte-based Sports Media Challenge, and advisors said extensive care is being taken to structure the alliance as more of a natural product placement as opposed to an overt banner-type display. Patrick is due to discuss the Twitter effort at media appearances slated for today in N.Y. (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).


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NFLPA Elects DeMaurice Smith As New Executive Director

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on March 15, 2009

Update 3/16/09: Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks provides some great insight into how the NFLPA came to their decision of unanimously electing DeMaurice Smith, an outsider to become the new executive director of the  NFLPA.  A strong vision and detailed strategy on how Smith will approach the CBA discussions with the NFL and the belief that applying congressional pressure that threatens the NFL’s tax exempt status to ensure the league operates in good faith is just one of the strategies that put him over the top.  That strategy makes it clear that Smith is ready to play hardball in the CBA negotiations with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and could be a sign that a lock-out could realistically happen in 2011.  It is going to be a very tough negotiation with the two sides looking like they will want to hold their ground and demonstrate their power as new leadership.

Breaking from Hawaii: The NFLPA has elected Washington DC attorney, DeMaurice Smith as their new executive director.  Smith, an NFL outsider was considered a dark horse candidate behind former NFLPA Presidents Trace Armstrong and Troy Vincent.

Smith created a detailed business plan on how he would run the NFLPA that was more than a 100 pages long and highlighted the key issues facing the NFLPA and shared it with the NFLPA Executive Committee during his interview process, his initiative propelled him into becoming a finalist for executive director and the most powerful union in sports.

While he has no labor or employment background, Liz Mullen and Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal point out that his experience is similiar to NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and the NHL Players Association Paul Kelly. Smith was an assistant U.S. attorney and has political connections to the Obama administration and U.S. attorney general Eric Holder.  Hunter had been a U.S. attorney and Kelly was an assistant U.S. attorney.

The NFLPA’s decision to go with Smith will allow the organization to move forward with a united front and put behind the controversies that came up during the selection process.  Smith’s election and position as an outsider with no sports industry experience symbolizes a major change for an organization that had been run by NFL Hall of Fame player, Gene Upshaw for the last 25 years and indicates that the players were able to break from what was thought to be a comfort-level of having a former player serve as the union boss factor into the decision.  Smith’s election also signifies that the NFLPA was looking for someone to serve as a competent CEO that also understood the importance of understanding the political landscape and ensuring that the NFLPA had a presence.

Smith’s first order of business will be to introduce himself to the players he will represent as the union faces negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL.  Given the timing and the need to move quickly, I would:

  • Put Smith through a media training boot camp
  • Take a proactive effort to introduce him to current NFL and retired players by holding a series of conference calls
  • Conducting select sit-down interviews over the next week with ESPN, SI’s Peter King, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, Sports Business Journal and the NFL Network (all media outlets players are sure to be paying attention to)

More will be written over the next few days that will introduce Smith to the sports business world.

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NFLPA Executive Director Needs To Pave Path For Future

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on March 13, 2009

One of the year’s most significant events in sports business will unfold this weekend when the NFL Player’s Association hosts their own Final Four and elects their next Executive Director.  The outcome will have a major impact on the NFL and relations between the league and its players that could forever alter America’s greatest sport.

In a search process that has been marred by controversy that seems to have weakened the NFLPA and questions the stability of the organization, the new NFLPA executive director will need to tackle several key issues to restore confidence and set the tone for his leadership.  It’s why I think the new NFLPA executive director will need to have some level of experience within the business of football, which would eliminate the outside candidate DeMaurice Smith.

What’s At Stake:

  • Leading the NFLPA through negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement and avoiding a potential lockout that could undermine the popularity of the sport
  • Restablishing trust with today’s active players and assuring them that the Union understands their needs and remains committed to them, an issue that was questioned by a faction of players
  • Repairing a relationship with retired players that had been on a vicious downward spiral in the last two years of Upshaw’s leadership  and resolving their issues, specifically related to lack of appropriate health insurance and failure to properly market retired players
  • Proactively identifying and capitalizing on opportunities to generate additional revenue for current and retired players through licensing, marketing and interactive.

The Final Four

The four finalists are all men with different backgrounds, experiences, strengths and paths that have led them to the final stage in the selection process.  In following the search and learning about each candidate, it appears they all have strengths that would help them lead and serve as the next executive director of the NFLPA – but which one is the best candidate?

All candidates will be able to make their case to the 32 NFL Player Representatives (one for each team) beginning on Saturday prior to a vote being held on Sunday or Monday.  The executive director will be determined by a simple majority of the 32 player representatives.  Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen and Daniel Kaplan do a great job in this week’s issue highlighting the candidates and process. Here is a quick synopsis:

Troy Vincent, 38 – An NFL player for 15 years that served as Union President for four years.  A successful entrepreneur, that was considered the favorite and viewed as the potential successor to Gene Upshaw until a falling out with Upshaw last March.

Trace Armstrong, 43 – An NFL player for 15 years that served as Union President for eight years. He and Upshaw shared the same agent, Tom Condon, and Armstrong and Condon both work together at CAA Sports.  Considered as the guy who is least likely to make significant changes and maintain the status quo.

David Cornwell, 48 – A former NFL counsel, agent and player lawyer that represented players on a range of issues from drug suspensions to agent disputes.  Cornwell was originally removed from consideration, but was invited back in after securing three recommendations from player representatives to be reconsidered in the process.

DeMaurice Smith, 45 – Has no sports industry experience is a former assistant United States attorney and a partner in a D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, he also worked with new U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder. He is considered a dark-horse candidate with strong political ties.

A Tarnished Process

The election marks the first time in the player union’s history that it will have a contested election and the process to find a new leader since Gene Upshaw’s unexpected passing from pancreatic cancer in August has devolved into a bad Boardroom segment on The Apprentice that has been played out in the media and sullied the reputation of Troy Vincent, a deeply religious man, winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, whose character had never been questioned.  The other candidates all managed to avoid any media scrutiny or questioning related to their experience and business interests.

It begs the question, why?  Why was Troy Vincent singled out?

Was it just because he has long been the frontrunner or is something deeper at play?  The accusations and questions have been relentless, ranging from an alleged attempt to stage a coup and overthrow Upshaw, questionable business dealings that could result in future lawsuits, leaking confidential NFLPA information related to player agents, to allegedly instigating a Congressional inquiry into the selection process. Mike Florio of did a phenemonal job in following the allegations related to the Congressional inquiry to determine that the U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D – VA) leaked the information out of concern that his daughter who has a high paying position as the union’s Director of Human Resources could lose her job if Vincent was elected it also questions, who up until the final stages had been running the day-to-day process for a new leader and how involved were staff members in the process compared to the NFL Executive Committee and player reps.

A number of accounts makes it clear that if Troy Vincent is elected that top union officials at the NFLPA would resign or be forced out and that scenario is less likely if Trace Armstrong is elected.

Last week in an interview with Don Banks of, Terri Upshaw, the widow of Gene Upshaw said she was not endorsing any one candidate, but made it clear she thought that Troy Vincent was not the right candidate to lead the NFLPA and came across as a Trace Armstrong supporter.

The selection process has become so contentious that according to SBJ’s Mullen and Kaplan, Vincent is requesting that the vote for executive director be taken as an open roll call because he does not trust some of the NFLPA staff. On Friday, the NFLPA Executive Committee is expected to meet and decide whether or not they will hold an open roll call vote to determine the next executive director.

While it is not the ideal way to conduct a vote, given the circumstances surrounding the final stages of the search process, it seems to make the most sense to ensure the overall integrity and transparency of the vote leaving no question that the new NFLPA executive director emerges with full support of all members.

I don’t know who the best candidate will be to lead the NFLPA. Armstrong, Vincent and Cornwell all have solid NFL experience that would be assets and would help them as executive director’s and set the path for a new way at the NFLPA.  Smith is an outsider that has no sports business experience, but has similar experience having served as an assistant U.S. attorney similar to the NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and NHL Players Association Executive Director Paul Kelly.

I do know that whatever happens this weekend in Maui, the NFLPA needs to end the finger-pointing, stop negatively questioning the finalists credentials and avoid leaks to the media coming out of the election on how the process unfolded if they want to maintain any sense of credibility with the NFL, owners and sponsors.


On Thursday night, the Associated Press seemed to clear Troy Vincent of all of the most serious allegations against him.  The AP also reported that all of Vincent’s companies were in good standing and reviewed an email from Upshaw to Vincent that outlines some sort of succession plan with Vincent as his successor.

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Super Bowl XLIII Ad Winners – Not Who You Think

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on February 3, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII is over and the Steelers pulled it out much to my dismay – the unluckiest people with Santonio Holmes as MVP has got to be Disney World – they were :35 seconds away from either getting Kurt Warner or Larry Fitzgerald. The Steelers final drive cemented Holmes as the unlikely MVP and Disney had to be hoping to see Ben Roethlisberger as the MVP in a Steelers win.

Now let’s get down to the real winner’s – $3M for a :30 second ad is a hefty price, so Super Bowl advertisers that ran ads that were part of a much larger integrated effort to reach a mass audience/consumers are big winners.  The USA Today Ad Meter has spoken and a consumer-generated spot for Doritos entitled “Crystal Ball” has done what ad agencies across the country have been trying to do for the last 10 years – displace Anheuser-Busch from the top position. Of the top 10 ads in the USA Today Ad Meter only one, the Doritos “Crystal Ball” spot is one of my winners.

Doritos: Crystal Ball: I was watching the game with a number of people and all the guys in the room laughed when the spot aired.  In my blog entry on Jan. 26, I called for an un-tapped modern-day Don Draper to come out of the wood work and pull off the unthinkable – little did anyone know that the unlikely winners would be two unemployed brothers, Joe and Dave Herbert from Batesville, Ind.  These brothers aren’t novices, they took their first run at the Frito-Lay contest in 2007, Indianapolis Star reporter Erika Smith has their story and rise to quietly defeat Madison Ave with a spot that cost $2,000 to produce (safe bet that was just the entry tape).

So should ad agencies be concerned that a couple of consumers defeated hard working creative directors?  Not at all – this is the pinnacle of consumer-generated content and what ad agencies and marketers have been trying to convey to clients for the last three years.  With the rise of social media brands need to invite consumers to interact with their brands in more meaningful ways, even if it means giving up some control. Frito-Lay/Doritos is already seeing the ROI on the $1M bonus for the winning ad and the $3M cost to run the ad, in incremental media exposure of the promotion that generated 1,900 entries and the unthinkable of topping the USA Today Ad Meter.

Denny’s: Thugs: So how on earth could I ever pick the Denny’s spot as one of my winner’s?  I actually like the ad and thought it was funny as the “Soprano’s” like thugs are trying to figure out whether or not they need to knock off a rat only to be constantly interrupted by a waitress drawing clown faces on their pancakes with whip cream.  The kicker is when the ad closes offering a Free Grand Slam Breakfast (eggs, pancakes and meat) for everyone in America on Tuesday.  The message in a tough economy: We want to help you. The pay-off: major online buzz for a restaurant searching for consumers share of mind.  Did it work: Their website was inundated causing their server to crash as consumers went to the site to find the closest location.  According to GoogleTrends, five of the top 40 searches on Tuesday morning were Denny’s related and number 9 was “Denny’s locations.”  Denny’s was also top of mind on Twitter as “Denny’s” was number 1 and “Grand Slam” was number 7 on Twitter’s trending topics for Tuesday, not to mention the countless “Tweets” for “free breakfast” and “Denny’s server failures” according to the LA Times. A Google New Search finds more than 640 articles on the Denny’s free breakfast. Director of Fandemonium: The spot plays right in to the excitement of the NFL on its biggest stage and with a record 98.7 million viewers according to Nielsen, it was the most watched Super Bowl in history.  It is the perfect platform to launch the activation of their NFL sponsorship (see my blog from Jan. 29), while highlighting Monster as a jobs resource.  The Director of Fanedomonium gives one lucky football fan a signing bonus of $100,000 and a lifetime experience as long as you enter by Feb. 15, 2009.

Those three brands stand to gain a lot of consumer awareness and traffic to their retail.

Posted in Advertising, Brand Marketing, Public Relations, Sports Marketing, Super Bowl | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Super Bowl Scene

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on January 29, 2009

Day 3 at the Super Bowl is underway and the rest of the week will be crunch time with 2 media tours and the Donruss Pop Warner Classic on Saturday featuring former NFL Players Vinny Testaverde, Steve DeBerg and Dave Moore. This year we have a huge presence with the NFL Host City Team, Tampa Bay Buccaneers stepping up to support the effort.  It will be very cool.

Now on to Super Bowl…

Super Bowl Atmosphere: I spent the last two days in the NFL Media Center and bumped into some former colleagues and producer friends.  Overall it feels different and I don’t know whether we can attribute that to the economy, state of the media as less stations seem to be down here or if it is just an overall lack of excitement for this year’s game?  There definitely are some big sports radio stations from around the country missing.  If WFAN is here, I can’t seem to find them.  There is no Boston sports radio, which is a surprise to me and makes me wonder – does ESPN Boston have an advantage over WEEI because it airs a majority of ESPN national shows including Mike & Mike, and The Herd with Colin Cowherd, as well as others that are broadcasting from Tampa? I know where I would be tuning in.

There are less athletes and non-football personalities that have made their way through the Media Center.

NFL Experience: Tuesday night I hit the NFL Experience to scope out the scene and hang with the Donruss guys.  As the “Official Trading Card Sponsor of the NFL Experience,” they have put together a great space.  They just released an amazing new set that is part of their National Treasures line called 2008 Playoff National Treasures Football that sells for a cool $500 a pack.  It’s HOT.

What’s Up Next: A media tour with 1987 Heisman Trophy Winner and Oakland Raiders Legend Tim Brown today to discuss a program to battle childhood obesity and keeping kids active by participating in sports like Pop Warner. Interviews include Sirius Sports Radio,, Yahoo Sports! and NFL Network.

NFLPA Party – Always fun, but should be interesting given it is the first since the passing of Gene Upshaw and considering a successor should be announced in the next three months – a story that I think will be one of the biggest sports business stories in 2009.  On the eve of the party, the NFLPA lost a major appeal that means they will have to pay retired NFLers $28.1 M in royalties and licensing agreements including the most visible one with EA Sports, Bloomberg News has the background on that. The NFLPA also holds it State of the Union press conference today and William Rhoden of the NY Times does a good job looking into the mindset of the players as they search for a new leader after two decades.

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Super Bowl Advertising Update

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on January 29, 2009

Super Bowl Advertising:  Some interesting news on this front. After it was reported earlier this week that NBC had 10 spots remaining in their ad inventory, NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol came out Tuesday and said that only 2 ad spots remained and that all of the ads sold for at least $2.4M with a “large number of them” being sold for $3M earlier this fall before the financial crisis.

Quick Hits: On Super Bowl advertising and a couple of ads I addressed in my last blog.  I highlighted the Coca-Cola Mean Joe Greene ad as one of the Super Bowl classics.  Coca-Cola is airing an ad that will feature current Pittsburgh Steelers S Troy Polamalu that “will be different.”  Will this be a classic? shared some insight into their Super Bowl ad plans on Fox Business saying that one of their ads would be humorous and the other would appoint a fan to the new position of “Director of Fandemonium” and would include a $100,000 signing bonus.  At first glance, this move seems to be a curious PR stunt that doesn’t make a lot of sense given the economic uncertainties.  But a closer look and I recall that in November, Monster announced a multi-year marketing deal with the NFL to become the league’s “Official Career Services Sponsor.”  It was also reported at the time that Monster would work with the NFL to create a year-long promotion that would kick-off at Super Bowl XLIII.  To me this ad is part of supporting Monster’s activation strategy for the partnership and makes a ton of sense.  I always preach sponsorship is useless if you are just putting your name on a billboard and you have to activate to resonate.  I give Monster credit – what better way to launch the year-long initiative then to let people know they could be the first “NFL Director of Fandemonium” during one of the most watched events of the year?  Although I would have wanted to have a message point on this to use when Fox Business questioned whether this was frivolous.

Bud Bowl I was another ad I mentioned in my previous blog entry on Super Bowl Advertising. Turns out, there were two finale’s that never aired (the first can be seen below)!  An equally better ending Grant Pace mentions when he lays it down in a  Q&A on Deadspin.  It would have been instant classic without a doubt – can anyone say Heidi Bowl?

Posted in Advertising, Sports Marketing, Super Bowl | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Super Bowl Ads Worth The $$$ To Reach Consumers

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on January 26, 2009

Each year millions gather around big screen TVs to watch the Super Bowl, never caring or knowing who is playing in the game. Friends go silent when there is a timeout, in anticipation of Super Bowl ads. Past history has produced some memorable spots – Coke’s Mean Joe Green ad
Reebok’s Office Linebacker: Terry Tate and of course the Original Bud Bowl with Bob Costas announcing – Budweiser went on to defeat Bud Light 27-24 and launched a whole series of spots that became a part of Super Bowl lore. A special shout out to my boss Grant Pace who wrote the first Bud Bowl ads, the only thing better was the finale that never aired (maybe I’ll post that later this week).

Even in a down economy and with :30 second spots going for a reported $3M according to Aaron Smith at, the game represents the best chance for brands and their agencies to shine and reach a mass audience when they won’t be fast-forwarding their DVRs. According to the Neilsen Company 97.5 million watched last year’s game.

Brian Steinberg of Advertising Age does a good job highlighting the newcomers and what’s at stake for this year’s Super Bowl advertisers in Saturday’s Boston Globe .

It’s safe to say we won’t see a lot of brands just blowing their money for a good laugh or spots designed to win the USA Today Ad Meter the following day. Smart brands will take the opportunity to reinforce what they stand for and how they can help consumers in these challenging times.

The return of will be an interesting play and I’ll be curious to see the tone they take given the number of U.S. workers looking for jobs. E-Trade is a curious play given the financial crisis and stock market volatility – I give them credit for stepping up and am interested in seeing how they plan to execute their supported “internet initiatives” which are supposed to include executions on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Equally curious is’s participation with a :60 second spot.

I don’t know if we will see any ads that will make Super Bowl history, but the ads I will be looking out for include GE’s ad featuring the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, Pepsi’s 3-D ad for SOBE Lifewater, and the winning Doritos user-generated commercial that was part of its “Crash The Super Bowl Contest’ that garnered more than 2,000 contestants – the best part of that contest is if the winner gets the #1 rated position in USA Today’s Ad Meter the following day they’ll win a $1 million bonus prize. Who knows maybe there is a Don Draper out there waiting to be found.

Mad Men's Don Draper

Mad Men's Don Draper

Honestly, as a PR/marketing guy you have to love brands that are willing to build platforms to interact with consumers & support their investment in a Super Bowl ad rather than just blowing money to be a part of the Big Game. Stay tuned as we are bound to see some of the spots coming out this week.

I’ll be heading down to the Super Bowl on Tuesday for an event we created, the Donruss Pop Warner Classic that will include several former Tampa Bay Buccaneers players and will be sure to shed some light on the scene and all the other things happening in Tampa.

Posted in Advertising, Brand Marketing, Sneakers, Sports Marketing, Super Bowl | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When “G” Doesn’t Hit The G-Spot

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on January 23, 2009

So if you have watched any of the college bowl games or NFL playoff’s over the last few weeks, you have certainly seen the new Gatorade ad and its new branding for one of the most iconic brands in sport. This campaign broke a few weeks ago, but what better time to discuss a brand that couldn’t be more aligned with the Super Bowl than leading into Super Bowl Week?
“What’s G? It’s the emblem of a warrior…” as some of the most recognizable faces in sports in black and white cross the screen: Serena Williams, Bill Russell, Dwayne Wade, Derek Jeter and the GOAT – Muhammad Ali with voice over by Lil’ Wayne and produced by Spike Lee. It is an AWESOME spot and Spike Lee continues to amaze – that is until it gets to the end when the letter G resembling something you might have seen on Sesame Street appears on the screen.

Initial reaction by the public and people that have been around the block in the advertising biz and that have launched major brands has been “What is it?” Then we and they find out what it is and you can hear the gasps.

The ad and the letter “G” is causing quite a stir in the sports and brand world. Because it’s Gatorade’s new brand id

The New Gatorade

The New Gatorade


For this sports marketing guy it’s blasphemous. I remember watching the 86′ Giants dumping the Orange Gatorade bucket over the head of a younger and unsuspecting Bill Parcells in Super Bowl XXI starting a tradition in sport that has become a part of winning a big game – the ultimate tribute when your brand transcends everything and becomes a part of the game.

The new branding has upset the widow of Gatorade’s inventor Dr. Robert Cade who at 79 years of age can still recognize when a rebrand is a bad idea. But Gatorade Co. said it is “redesigning everything from the sidelines to the shelf to appeal to a broader range of athletes and active people,” while using “bold new packaging.”


Even worse, Gatorade says the old packaging will ultimately be phased out…If “bold new packaging” means shocking the heart and soul of what your brand is – potentially putting it on life support, then they have it down.

Whether the new redesign helps Gatorade battle Vitamin Water and other low calorie sports drink alternatives to win back market share is the unanswered question. But it’s going to need more than a redesign to do that – sugar content anyone? Why not position G2 which was brilliantly launched as a low calorie alternative at last year’s Super Bowl as the competitor to Vitamin Water and SOBE Lifewater?

To me, we’ve seen this before – around the time sports fans were introduced to the Gatorade dump and the big orange bucket following the 86′ Super Bowl – it was Coca-Cola playing with its formula and creating “New Coke” – we all know how that turned out…

Posted in Advertising, Brand Marketing, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Hello world!

Posted by sportsmarketingguy on January 22, 2009

And so it begins… I have been thinking about doing this for awhile now, but kept putting it off.  Call it my commitment to stick to a New Year’s Resolution or call it whatever satisfies you.  Thing is we are HERE.  There are a lot of good bloggers out there – is one I like because he just gets it. Which leads me to what I do.

I have been in the sports marketing and communications industry for 13 years working at agencies – currently I am the VP of Consumer and Sports Marketing for Conover Tuttle Pace (  I currently or have worked for brands that I like to say have a “vested interest in sports” including adidas, DC Shoes, Gillette, MasterCard, Swatch and AT&T Wireless and for organizations including Boston Red Sox, World Wrestling Entertainment, Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Pop Warner, NASCAR, Arena Football League and the Atlantic 10 Conference. 

Sometimes it’s generating stories and other times it’s about developing and implementing a marketing platform that help’s to reinforce a client’s brand or creating a strategic partnership.

Through the years I’ve come across sports marketing related issues/stories that have been intriguing to me.  Sometimes it is related to work and other times it’s not.  Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder what were they thinking?  Sometimes it’s brilliant or cool.  I thought I’d share them and talk about them HERE.

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