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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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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, ESPN.com, 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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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 – http://joefavorito.com/ 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 (www.ctpboston.com).  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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