The Influence of Football Players: NFL PLAY 60

Childhood obesity is an unfortunate epidemic that has swept through the United States and has been heightened in the past several years. Unhealthy food and lazy lifestyles are at our disposal and therefore have plagued the country by storm. To address this epidemic, I’ve seen a couple of efforts by various organizations to turn this young plagued generation into a healthy, active group of kids. The coolest effort I’ve seen was started by the NFL in 2007.

Photo Credit: Flickr // United Way of Greater St. Louis

One of my favorite campaigns that addresses the epidemic is the NFL PLAY 60, “a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.” The NFL’s commitment to health and fitness partnered with other organizations, combine to make a stand against the expected health decline of kids.

Photo Credit: Flickr // West Point Public Affairs

The organization’s efforts include grassroots implementations in schools and communities all over the nation. Not only are the efforts aimed at kids to be more active, but for parents to communicate to their children the importance of a healthy lifestyle by setting a good example as to how to lead a healthy and active life. While not every school is visited by the official PLAY 60 program, schools are encourage to initiate their own efforts supporting the movement’s message. PSA’s are also shown on television and if you haven’t seen any of the cool ads I have linked some here and here.

The NFL is promoting a bigger cause, something more than the organization itself. Many kids look up to NFL players as role models and strive to one day fill their shoes. While very few may actually make it to the NFL, athletes can use their popularity to encourage kids to stay healthy. The leverage and influence that big name football players have on these little dreamers is unbelievable and the NFL is making a sincere effort to use the big guys to positively influence the future generations. By expressing the importance and the fun behind being active, NFL athletes can create a much needed wave in healthy lifestyle trends.

Photo Credit: Flickr // United Way of Greater St. Louis

This public relations effort by the NFL is not only smart and needed, but it reflects well on the league as a whole. It’s inevitable that at least a few of these kids will grow up to eventually play in the NFL, so it makes sense that the league puts forth the charitable efforts to the younger generation. The league is relating big time football players to a generation that needs coaching the most. At a grassroots level, the NFL is making a positive impact on our little ones by leading by example. The NFL organization is using it’s powerful influence in a needed and refreshing way.

 

Christmas Day Preview: NBA

Advertisements for the NBA matchups on Christmas Day have commenced. I’m not the most dedicated fan of the NBA teams, but I do watch a good number of the league’s games each year. A lot of times its the commercials that the NBA produces that convinces me to tune in to watch a least a little bit of the advertised game. The sheer athleticism of the massive bodies defying gravity are entertaining in itself and are a good enough reason for anyone to take a gander.

Every year I make an attempt to watch the games while opening presents on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, my grandmother doesn’t understand my interest in the NBA and proceeds to nonchalantly turn off the television and tune into efforts of unifying the family. While commonly seen as just another Christmas morning distraction, the NBA is, in a way, an organization that attempts to bring together its audience.

Photo Credit: google images // LAUNFD

This year, Adidas has teamed up with some of the NBA’s biggest players to create a commercial advertising the Christmas Day games as well as the uniforms that the teams will be sporting. Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, and Joe Johnson are featured as they bounce basketballs to their own rendition of “Carol of The Bells.” The commercial blends the sounds of Christmas, the visuals of the new uniforms, and the experience of great NBA players to make an all-encompassing exposure for viewers.

Not only does the league get fans excited for the 65th annual tradition of playing games on Christmas Day, but the commercial advertises the uniforms that the fans can purchase. The various aspects used in the advertisement to draw in the viewer are simple and recognizable. Even if you don’t know who each of the players are, you can still connect to the commercial as it plays to a recognizable tune. The unique advertisement reaches out to even the people that are not educated about the NBA or its players.  The targeted viewers are connected through both their passion for basketball and the love for the popular holiday. The colors and tunes by themselves suggest that the jerseys and/or a ticket would make for a good Christmas present to an NBA fan.

Photo Credit: google images // theprobasketballtalk.com

Overall, the push is a smart one. The NBA is engaging fans by tapping into different senses. The commercial is unusual in the sense that the athletically inclined players attempt to be musically inclined. The crossover of talents is just one other way for the league to continue to prove, in one interesting way or another, that the NBA is “where amazing happens.”

Party With Gronk

Arguably one of the biggest kids, both literally and figuratively, in the NFL is Rob Gronkowski. The star tight end for the New England Patriots has a youthful personality that can captivate any audience.  Venerable is certainly a word that has remained synonymous with the Patriots franchise over the past several years. Ironically, that would be one of the last words I would use to describe Gronkowski, one of the teams and leagues best players.

E:60 is one of my favorite shows on ESPN. It’s a show that features in-depth analysis on the world of sports and athletes. The investigative reporting show allows for people to see the impact that sports has in society. Jeremy Schapp, one of the reporters for the show, and E:60 recently took the time to learn more about the 23 year-old when doing a segment about the “wonderful world of Gronk.”

If you haven’t seen the segment, let alone any stories from E:60, I suggest you take a gander. Sports fans are able to get an alternate view of an athlete; one that probably would have overlooked from just watching the athlete perform on TV. We can form our own opinions about players from what we can see from their on field performance, but dynamic views of these great athletes are rarely seen, until E:60. The idea of the show is to unleash a different side to sports.

“While “Gronk” has been making defenses look bad for two-plus seasons as the Patriots’ devastating tight end, it’s the complete package of on- and off-field antics that piqued E:60 producer John Minton III’s interest in the 23-year-old,” says ESPN Front Row. Gronkowski does his signature slamming of the ball on the ground after scoring a touchdown, tweeted pictures with a porn star, and party’s with his shirt off; these are just a few of his antics. His life is a party, and everyone’s invited. He’s virtually a frat boy stuck in an ideal body for a football player. At 6 ft 6 in and 265 lbs, he sets the standard for an NFL tight end.

Photo Credit: Google // USAToday

You may automatically think that immaturity on the field might concern the Patriots and their attempt to preserve the organization’s image, but they seem not to be too worried as they recently signed him for a deal worth $54 million that will span over 6 years. His contract is the richest ever among tight ends.

Schapp noted at the end of his segment, “For now, at least, it’s clear that whatever he’s doing, however he’s doing it, Gronkowski should just keep doing it. Adulthood can wait.” As big of a kid as he is, the Gronk gets the job done. In 2011, “Gronkowski’s antics were superseded by his 17 touchdown receptions, the most in the league, the most ever for a tight end,” noted Schapp. Numbers don’t lie. He’s good and that’s all that matters.

Derrick Rose and His Road To Recovery

Derrick Rose, point guard for the Chicago Bulls, continues to build his brand during his time off from basketball. On April 28, 2012, during the first game of playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rose tore the ACL in his left knee. He was told that it would take around 8-12 months to fully recover.Adidas, Rose’s biggest sponsor, is looking on the bright side of his injury. The company is turning his absence from the court to a presence in the lives of others. Adidas has created an advertising campaign based around Rose’s road to recovery called “The Return.” The recent marketing effort by the company is original and inspirational. The humble 2011 MVP of the NBA has received an overwhelming outpouring of support from fans during his recovery.

Flickr // The USO

Rose is a young man that has made a name for himself after working his way through humble beginnings in Chicago. His mother was an alcoholic and drug addict and his father’s presence was limited during his childhood. Today, his mother is clean and sober and continues to be his number one fan. As an emotional man with absurd talent, Rose’s authenticity poured out of him at the unveiling of the Adidas Rose 3 , the point guards newest shoe.

Photo Credit: words // Brandon Richard

“I know it’s emotional, but you just have to understand that you’re inspiring millions of fans with your comeback but the purpose of the return goes both ways because they’re inspiring you,” said Lawrence Norman, Adidas Vice President of Global Basketball and MC for the event. “Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or millions and millions of hits on your videos, inspiration goes both ways.”

“This is one of the reasons why you couldn’t possibly be more authentic,” said Norman. Derrick Rose doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of true fans just because he’s a great basketball player. The masses of fans swarm around him because of the positive, refreshing light that he gives off. In a world filled with insincerity, Rose is able to authentically brand himself as a dedicated young talent that is never satisfied.

Adidas should pat themselves on the back (again) for signing Derrick Rose. I applaud Adidas on their decision to make an investment on the 24 year-old talent. The company clearly has a winner on its hands that is authentic, selfless, and appreciated. The respective efforts of Rose and Adidas put both of their names in an impressive light.

Creating A Bond: ESPN College GameDay

ESPN’s College GameDay is headed for Eugene, Oregon for week 12 of college football to cover the Ducks last home game of the season as they look to secure the Pac-12 North Division Championship. This will be GameDay’s 7th visit to Oregon and 7th time having to deal with  hundreds of condensed rambunctious duck fans.

Photo Credit: richseow // Flickr

The last time College GameDay visited Eugene was last season in October when the No. 9 Ducks took down No. 18 Arizona State by a score of 41-27. It was Chris Fowler and company’s first time airing from the actual University of Oregon campus as opposed to its previous setup next to Autzen Stadium. Airing the show on campus allows for the school to show off the the handsome Lillis Business Complex, the poster child for the environmentally- friendly University of Oregon. Lillis has a massive sticker of the “Oregon O” on the main windows facing memorial quad, perfectly aligning with the GameDay set.

Photo Credit: richseow // Flickr

The full name of the setup is actually called ESPN College GameDay Built by The Home Depot. Wait, does “Built by The Home Depot” actually mean that home improvement retailer comes out to every GameDay set? No, but they did just succeed in getting a few folks to think about how Home Depot might have the necessary supplies to start the home improvement project they’ve been thinking about. There might be a few of Home Depot employees that tag along with ESPN to each of the college campuses, but it’s mostly ESPN employees that do a lot of the dirty work.  I’m not sure about how other schools do it, but I know that the rest of the dirty work of setting up and breaking down is done by a select few of student volunteers.

I was one of the student volunteers that was able to snag the gig last year. I, along with about 8 other students, managed to roll out of bed at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning to help with the final touches of the GameDay set. We had done a lot of our work the previous afternoon, but since filming began at 6 a.m. on Saturday, the early arrival was necessary. I loved every second of it, to say the least. We did everything from making signs for fans that had been camping out for the past 4 hours to using zip ties to secure Home Depot signs on to every metal fence barricade. Even if Home Depot employees didn’t actually do any of the heavy lifting, the company surely supplied a lot of material with its name plastered on it. Even the oversized bright orange t shirt that swallowed by body sported the Home Depot logo.

What I’m getting at is how ESPN is able to lay a foundation for the continued growth of various brands, such as Home Depot. College GameDay, specifically, focuses on engagement because viewership is what ESPN can pride itself on. People tune in to hear and to be heard. The close-up viewing of a nationally broadcasted show is public relations at its finest. Even volunteers that have to behave themselves at a time where you’re encouraged to do the exact opposite also create an emotional connection with the brands. The broadcasters are creating an emotional bond with fans that are standing 10 feet away. The influence these broadcasters have on today’s sporting culture is unmatched, and its because of their stellar PR efforts through the GameDay experience.

Emotional connections are created between fans and sports reporters everyday, but are taken to a new level when ESPN’s College GameDay visits a fans favorite school. The insights from broadcasters that (basically) study college football for a living are communicated via their airtime on ESPN GameDay and fans are interested in what they have to say. When Kirk Herbstreit, for example, shares insight about the football team at “XYZ” University, it thus increases the visibility of the program. This increased visibility is not only great for players, but the entire academic institution. The GameDay setup on campus featuring Oregon’s “O” on Lillis is virtually equivalent to the Samsung logo on the jerseys of Chelsea F.C.– you notice it every once in awhile, but you’re more likely paying attention to the event itself.  The same goes for Home Depot. When the viewer turns off the TV, the repetition of seeing the “O” and hearing the words “Home Depot” will stick with the viewer. It’s simple marketing and a public relations tactic that gets people talking about and noticing the respective organizations. The hype and excitement that the nationally broadcasted program brings with it serves as fuel to the fire for passionate fans. These organizations are then instantly involved in the swirling passion and emotional connections created from the efforts of all stakeholders involved.

College GameDay is one of ESPN’s best PR tactics, and its a beautiful thing.

Photo Credit: Edward_Sanchez_Photography // Flickr

As part of ESPN’s promotion for College GameDay, the energetic country-rock track of Big & Rich performs “Comin’ To Your City” to help kick off the college football season. It’s one of my favorite things about College GameDay. I’ll leave you with the video of it here.

Here are some other awesome/funny Oregon football/ GameDay-related videos:

Emotions of Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day and since there are few things more beautiful than the game of football and the men in uniform that serve our Nation, I figured that taking the time to thank both the creator of football as well as our Nations Armed Forces was necessary. The men and women that serve in our military put their lives on the line everyday to ensure America remains the land of the free. Football is nothing compared to what they do week in and week out. In my opinion, every day is Veterans Day. Veterans Day itself specifically highlights the glory and sacrifices that has made this country what it is today. I feel blessed for the freedoms that I exercise on a daily basis and I feel sorry for those who have lost their lives while serving to protect. Veterans Day remains one of my favorite days of the year.

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Defense // Flickr

Emotions are a funny thing, as they can sway someone love or hate an organization. People can tend to associate Holidays, natural disasters, taglines, teams, public figures, colors, etc. with various emotions depending on an array of factors. For example, I liked the Denver Broncos when I was a kid because I thought they were cool for having the same colors as the University of Virginia Football Team. Christmas is exciting for obvious reasons. I associate snow storms with school being  cancelled. Veterans Day is special to me because I absolutely love our nation. While I don’t necessarily support war, I will always support our troops. My father served in Vietnam as part of the special forces, my Grandfather was in the Marines, one of my sisters and her husband both continue to serve in the Army after graduating from West Point, and my other brother in law is a JAG in the Marines. It’s fairly obvious that life is a compilation of emotional things and events. Sports in themselves are very emotional, so when you combine them with major causes or events, the emotional factor skyrockets.

ESPN is a medium that provokes emotions out of people that few other sports networks can. Thousands of eyes watch the every move of the NFL, NBA, MLB, or anything on ESPN- not in a creepy way, but in an informational-seeking way. So when the organizations twitter handles, facebook pages, or websites make a move that may provoke emotions, it probably won’t go unnoticed. What this leaves is an opportunity for sports organizations to tap into people’s emotional rollercoaster and draw them into a forming an emotional tie between a fan with the respective team or athlete.

Thanks to behind the scenes work of public relations professionals who get the ball rolling on forming the emotional ties, spectators then tend to shed tears, get chills down their spine, or applaud in response to those efforts. When the various Holidays are celebrated during the year, I find it kind of interesting to see how the various sports organizations respond to or celebrate the event.

Veterans Day is a great example of an opportunity for sports organizations, such as the NFL, to enhance the emotional gameday experience while thanking those who serve in our military. The NFL can use their name and reputation to get messages across to fans and other stakeholders. Two of the biggest messages I’ve noticed are spreading breast cancer awareness and highlighting the appreciation to our military. Social media is one of the tools that public relations professionals use to communicate messages during emotional times, whether good or bad.  It allows for our generation to simply look on twitter or facebook to form opinions on such events. This “power” and influence, however, can work negatively against an organizations efforts if not handled correctly.

“Companies need to approach their social media efforts carefully—at all times, though especially during a disaster when emotions are running high,” says Michael Sebastian in his article written in response to Hurricane Sandy. From what I can tell, the NFL handled Sandy pretty well, as no obscure posts pertaining to the event on twitter sparked conversation. In regards to Veterans Day, the NFL is continuing its tasteful social media efforts while doing its annual Salute To Service campaign. This emotional event hits home to many, as a lot of folks know a loved one that is currently serving or has served in the past. Putting on this campaign in a tasteful manner is extremely important in maintaining the NFL’s brand, and from what I can tell, it’s doing a good job of it thus far.

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army // Flickr

Step Up To The Plate: Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

Photo Credit: NotoriousJEN // Flickr

In response to Hurricane Sandy, several big name organizations have stepped up to help boost relief efforts. Organizations include Radio Shack, Bank of America, Chevrolet, Kellogg’s, and The New York Yankees. If we total the donations soley from the list of the 10 brands that are leading the way in Sandy relief efforts, we come to about $5 million. I find this to be absolutely awesome. These efforts are great examples of how companies step to the plate in times of need. With these moves, organizations not only boost positive associations with the respective brand but will most likely improve its bottom line.
Finding out that the Yankees donated $500,000 to relief efforts through the Red Cross made me want to look into other sports teams and organizations that are also helping the areas that got hurt the most. It’s certainly not anywhere a near complete list, but here’s what I found:- The Seahawks and Sounders of CenturyLink field collected donations at the respective games this weekend.
– An NHL charity game will be played on Nov. 10 to benefit Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University as well as Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. The game will be played in Franklin, Tenn. and will be between a mixture of people associated with the Predators and Blues.
– Mavericks owner Mark Cuban pledged to donate $1 million to relief efforts.
– The NFL, NBA, and MLB as well as their respective players’ unions, each gave $1 million to the various relief efforts
Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat pledged about $210,000, the amount of money that is equivalent to his game check for the matchup against the Knicks on Friday.

Photo Credit: StudioGabe // Gabriel Li // Flickr

Most of these organizations and folks have a comfortable amount of money, and what better way to use it then to help your country clean up hurricane destruction around the tri- state area on the east coast. New York City hosts a plethora of teams and organizations throughout the year, so it comes at no surprise that there is little hesitation in donating to the area. Hurricane Sandy may have left the east coast a mess, but I find it quite refreshing to see people with the available funds to help clean it up.