Lolo Jones And Her Quest To Hurdle Adversity

If you followed the Olympic games this summer in London, you probably watched or at least heard of Lolo Jones and what she has (or has not) done in life.  Her family struggled to make ends meet when she was younger, but she over came adversity and eventually made the U.S. Olympic Track Team. That feat in itself is amazing, but by the standards of any true competitor; it’s not good enough. Not many people can say that they are among the best in the world at what they do, but it’s all or nothing. No one cares who gets fourth place. Unless you medal, you essentially have no basis to prove critics you’re a dominant force. She is one of the most publicized athletes in the Olympic Sports world, yet she has never won a medal at an Olympic or world outdoor championship.

Photo courtesy of Phil Roeder // Flickr

She makes the news not necessarily because she can run a swift 100 m hurdles. She makes the news because she, in a way, convinces people to feel bad for her and then when she makes it to the big stage to show off her 100 m hurdle run, she doesn’t win. The build up is there: she’s got the fans as support and the critics as motivation. When you build such a brand to ultimately under perform on the biggest stage, you’ve blown it.  PR outlets thrive not only on the successful Olympians, but also on the prominent Olympians that bite the dust. Lolo is unfortunately the latter. When this happens, the brand is then tarnished until you either bring home a medal or find the cure to cancer. The takeaway lesson may be to keep quiet until your medal can speak for itself.

I bring this up because Lolo Jones is one of many that resonates with the title of my blog. Lolo is no newcomer to the idea of finishing fourth or swinging multiple times and still not hitting your “goal.” Her PR moves early in her career could and should have been avoided. She attracted and still attracts unnecessary attention.  What I do admire is her dedication to the sport and her drive to fully embrace the idea of starting with nothing and ending having completed the American dream.  As a competitive athlete, I can understand her drive to seek the title of being the best at what you do.  I grew up with two older brothers and they instilled in me the, “if you’re not first you’re last” mentality. While my athletic endeavors will probably fall short of being at an Olympic caliber, I still tend to always play to win in every game that I partake.

Recently, Lolo decided to start training with the U.S. bobsled team in Lake Placid, N.Y. As Lolo ventures into the bobsledding world, she brings with her a questioned reputation that she has the potential of answering with a medal. I’m pulling for the gal. I enjoy seeing people overcome adversity to eventually reach their dreams, especially when that victory is on behalf of the United States. Who knows, maybe this is her calling that is hitting her just a little later in life.  Go get ‘em Lolo!

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Coming Soon: Zero Privacy

Famous people are merely folks that just happen to be good at what they do. Tom Brady can throw a football particularly well. Channing Tatum has nailed the smile that makes hearts throb. The late Steve Jobs figured out the world’s need for software and ran with it.  Heidi Klum knows how to make anything look good on a runway. In a matter of hours Justin Bieber’s concert can sell out of tickets. Sure, these people are pretty good at their respective life calling. I get it. But what I don’t get is why so many people care and invest time into these lives, none of which are their own and whose parallels are quite distant. So much so that we feel the need to stalk celebrities in their every move once they step out of the house. The media takes pictures and hovers microphones to capture the next update for the latest gossip column. Unlike the disturbing number of people out there, I have no interest in knowing what color shoes Kim Kardashian wore out to lunch two hours ago or who Alex Rodriguez slept with last night. Unless I know them personally, then most of the time I’m not interested. The few exceptions include attractive shirtless men at the beach, but that’s a different story.

I bring up this subject because our generation is the last to really know what privacy was as we continue to lead our lives in this constantly evolving world. This revolution is changing the way we act, speak, and play. I’d like to think that I’m just as private as the next person, but our levels of privacy change every time we dabble in the social media world. There’s a part of me that doesn’t mind the revealing sides of social media. In fact, I’m fairly confident that my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even this blog, are good representations of my interests and can give a general idea of who I am. In a nutshell; I’m an Old-Fashioned Virginian that constantly surrounds herself with sports (particularly college football), converses with fun and interesting people, eats a more than average amount of Chipotle, loves her family and friends, and enjoys traveling the world. If prospective employers were to look at my various social media profiles, there’s not a doubt in my mind that they would find anything that would come back to haunt me. Or, at least I think so. If my Grandmother were to scroll through my twitter feed I don’t think she’d see anything that would kick her off the rocking chair. Mom wouldn’t choke on her sweet tea when looking at my Instagram photos. Dad wouldn’t uncross his arms to adjust his glasses while double-taking the pictures that I’m tagged in on Facebook. I’m realizing how exposed our world really is, as all the secret hiding spots are no longer a secret. I’m planning for the zero privacy era as I act accordingly in refraining from dancing on the tables in the paparazzi’s favorite bars. For if I ever were to become a public figure it would turn me from honorable to infamous.

I’ve found that in most cases, it is in one’s own words, actions, and associations that will determine if their secrets remain as secrets. The public lifestyle and the media exposure that goes along with it tends to dig at facts that the celebrity tries to keep covered.  If the public figure itself doesn’t say it under their will, then I’m not interested. It is there that I draw the line. If they are provoked to say or do something that they wouldn’t naturally claim, I don’t want to hear it.

There is this fascinating need of many people to know about and meet these celebrities, and I find it is driven in part by social media. It’s a vicious cycle; consumers want to hear it, gossip magazines provide it, social media outlets provide opinions about it. What these “juicy” stories do is make people more susceptible to being star-struck. In a sense, if 20 middle school girls were to meet Justin Bieber, half of them would faint on the spot because the most perfect, “god-like” figure has floated from the heavens to give them a hug. But why? Sure, he’s a good-looking fella with a cool style that sings cute songs, but who’s to say the guy sitting next to you in chemistry class couldn’t do the same thing two years from now? I’ve never met the guy, but aside from his various talents, I’m pretty sure he’s fairly normal like the rest of us. He too sleeps in a bed at night and puts his pants on the same way you and I do every morning. Once Usher exposed Justin Bieber to the high life, it was if instantly everyone wanted to know how many pets he had, his middle name, and his favorite flavor of ice cream. Facts that were once unimportant quickly became worldwide news.

Photo courtesty of ElHormiguero // Flickr

In all, I sometimes feel bad for these celebrities. It seems media can push them to their downfall when pursuing the information that the public wants/needs to hear. Social media outlets are a place for rumors to float around and overly obsessed fans can nag celebrities 24 hours a day. Even closest “friends” turn out to not have that celebrity’s best interest in mind because they too fell into the star struck gaze. My mom always reminds me that it is during your hardest struggles and your proudest moments that you will truly find out who your friends are. Celebrities can sometimes seem to unfortunately fail to choose their friends wisely.

What this pursuit of intimate details in personal lives has created is lack of self-assurance. People now more than ever look to celebrities for both inspiration and confirmation for their actions, even if they are detrimental. To suffice the wants and needs of our society, media is forced (and therefore can reason their action) to shine light on celebrities in a way that has never been done before. Celebrities no longer have rugs to sweep secrets under. Our society demands more than just the famous person’s respective talent; we demand full exposure and will drill them until we get it. This revolution and obsession for constant gossip simply promotes imitations rather than individuality. This movement as well as media itself is giving the term “media” a bad rap.  One of my favorite quotes is by H. Jackson Brown and is fitting to this post. He said, “let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others.” Looking to celebrities for inspiration is one thing, but drilling them to an uncomfortable extent is another. If we focus on our own lives rather than obsessing on others than maybe we can all gain a little more confidence in what it is that we as individuals bring collectively to the world.

Empowerment through sports

Few experiences can ignite the seemingly indescribable emotions that sports-lovers discover within themselves when competing, even on the most basic levels.  From first-timers to professional athletes, there is something about sports that keep people coming back. I’m not the only one that appreciates the expression of athletic ability, emotional rollercoaster, feel-good soreness, release of energy, and confidence increase that is gained from playing sports. Athletic apparel companies are in the perfect position to empower people (even the folks that aren’t athletically inclined) through sports. Many companies use this position to leverage its reputation, customer base, trust, brand awareness, and overall tone of their objectives. Companies create this emotional connection with their customers through integrated marketing techniques and phenomenal public relations efforts.

Some of the biggest sports apparel companies have made it to the big stage for a combination of reasons. Besides having quality products, a lot of times you’ll find that those companies are also great at making their customer feel like a million bucks. One of the greatest efforts I’ve seen by a company to empower its customers is Nike. Weiden + Kennedy is Nike’s Ad agency and they are extremely innovative when teaming up with Nike on its efforts.

Let’s start with Nike’s recognized trademark of “JUST DO IT.” Without even researching it, anybody could come up with his or her own general interpretation to still understand the idea that Nike intends to get across. It reminds people to set aside excuses, take the task by the horns, and get the job done. Shirts, bags, billboards, etc. all serve as reminders to get moving and to keep going. The slogan doesn’t target a specific audience nor does it tell the reader what goal to tackle. It’s a versatile, simple, catchy, and awesome slogan.

Nike has made several ads to empower women. The Nike Free Ad features a chick singing while running a horribly long distance to see her significant other. In an effort to remind people of the strides women’s sports have made of the past years, Nike also made a “voices” ad featuring athletes that defied the odds to make their sports dreams come true.

If you look through Nike’s Twitter (there are several accounts that can be followed), you’ll be able to see the inspiring and motivational messages it sends back to customers that have initiated the relationship. On their instagram account, there are numerous pictures that make you want to get outside and run. I’ll leave it to you to check them out to avoid being the spoiler.

These are just a couple of examples of the way Nike is able to tap into various markets with their public relations efforts to ulitamely empower people to go for their dreams. This empowerment movement is on a roll and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. Thank you, Nike, for your valiant efforts in making this world a healthier place.

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What IF they’re innocent?

On Oct. 17, 2012, Nike terminated its contract with Lance Armstrong, which was the same day that Armstrong stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong foundation. It was long-awaited news and it wasn’t a shocker. When Nike, who was Armstrong’s biggest sponsor, dropped him, it was like someone removed the Jenga block that was holding the whole game together. I appreciate the time Nike took to drop him. The company actually made a commercial back in the day about doping and stood by him during the allegations. They didn’t terminate his contract at the first, second, or third sign of guilt. Nike wanted to believe that Armstrong’s word was honest, and I commend it for that.

Photo by: Paul Coster/ flickr

I’m typically not the kind of person that jumps on the bandwagon right away. I enjoy the playing the role of devil’s advocate, especially when the person being accused hasn’t publically admitted to the suggested “crime.” There’s a side to me that wants to believe that the person didn’t actually kill, steal, cheat, lie, kidnap, etc. It’s so incredibly easy to believe the most articulate person who is able to frame the crime just right to make the innocent person(s) look guilty.  Maybe I’ve read too many articles and watched too many shows about people proving their innocence after spending their whole life looked upon as a criminal. The justice system is quite flawed and its at the dispense of people’s lives being ruined.

For example, there was a man who sang the National Anthem at a Tampa Bay Rays game in July who was proven innocent for a crime he didn’t commit after spending 27 years in prison.

Brian Banks, a former high school football star, was found innocent after spending 5 years in prison for allegedly raping a girl in High School. He had just committed to play at the University of Southern California at the time and had his hopes set on playing in the NFL.

We could also think about just what IF Jerry Sandusky is innocent. He’s a public figure that can so easily be thrown under the bus, especially with the crimes at stake. The crimes proposed can ruin lives forever and are, in my opinion, upon some of the most horrific things a human being could ever do. But what would happen if he could somehow overturn lies and present truthful evidence that he’s innocent?

Public Relations can play a huge role when people are determining which side to take in a case, especially when the person accused is a well-known figure. If one newspaper or public figure takes a stand on one side, it’s easy for that reader or fan to also sway in that direction. I’m not saying that Armstrong wasn’t involved in a huge doping scandal or didn’t cheat in his quest to win titles. Most PR outlets are saying he’s guilty. I just would like to hear a “mea culpa” speech from the man before proceeding to jump from being wagon-less onto the anti-Lance bandwagon. With some exceptions, the same goes for anyone else that is pleading innocence.

Top 5 Reasons to Follow Chad Ochocinco on Twitter

Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the kind of player Chad Ochocinco is on the field, at least try following him on twitter for a bit and hear what he has to say when he’s off the field. If you think about it, NFL athletes are constantly under the microscope, are (typically) athletic, and receive pretty cool paychecks. With this of combination of attributes, athletes are basically obligated to live interesting lives. Twitter ends up being the outlet in which we are able to get the scope into the more personal life of that man under the helmet and pads. Chad Ochocinco is entertaining to follow on twitter for many reasons. Here are several of them:

1)    If you’re nice you might win something

2)    If you frequent Ochocinco’s account at the right time you might win something

3)    He expresses how much he truly loves his followers

4)    His filter is basically non-existent

5)    He’s funny (in a smart aleck kind of way)

After watching a hilarious and quotable video of Ochocinco (pardon the offensive language), my interest in the man grew ten fold. But it wasn’t until I saw one of his “gifts” unfold right before my eyes that I really started noticing what kind of dude he was on twitter. It was January 13, 2012 when I looking at my most recent twitter feed and saw Ochocinco respond to a fan named Victor Gonzalez. After a couple of tweets back and fourth, Ochocinco invited Victor up to the next Patriots game to meet, feed, and buy things for this fan he had never met.  I wasn’t sure if Ochocinco was going to follow through with the offer of flying Victor up to the Patriots game, but he did. And I was extremely envious.

What impresses me most about Ochocinco is his simple public relations practice. Twitter is quick, free, and concise and he uses that to his advantage to give back to his fans. His “gifts” to fans can range anywhere from a retweet to his 3.7 million followers to a free dinner. Apparently he even gave away his custom made Lamborghini.

What this amounts to for an athlete is a fan base that appreciates his generosity despite his performance on the field or the team he plays for that year. Whether he knows it or not, Ochocinco is a public relations practitioner. He’s great at showing love to his followers and building relationships that will more than likely last longer than his football career. I’m not the only one who feels this way either, as The Bleacher Report named him to its list of 15 Best NFL Athletes to Follow on Twitter.

Try following Ochocinco on twitter. If you happen to snag a cool prize, tweet me about it. Good luck!

photo by clayjseal on Flickr

Sporting The Color Pink

It’s more than just a fashion statement. Professional athletes wearing the color pink are standing up for something bigger than themselves, their teammates, and their respective sport. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in October and many athletes are showing their support by wearing the movement’s signature color. You don’t have to look far to find it. Halftime shows, jerseys, cleats, socks, wristbands, and game balls are just some of the “pink-themed” things that are on full display in different leagues for the month of October.

Many athletes playing various sports on different levels are standing up for the movement. I found that the most noticeable supporters could be found in the professional Football and Soccer leagues. The color pink on football and soccer fields have never been so prominent.

Brian Bower highlights the various ways the NFL is honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month in his article. Now more than ever are leagues tangibly showing their support. Profits aside, it’s spreading awareness, sparking interest, and getting people to take action.

A few MLS players designed their own soccer shoes that sported the pink Adidas logo and shoelaces.  The Atlanta Beat of the Women’s Professional Soccer Association is shown on this blog post wearing the all-pink ensemble.

photo credit: Famous_Amos on flickr

The reasoning behind the theme of wearing pink is to get people talking about and acting upon breast cancer research. According to Cancer.gov the total number of deaths from breast cancer for men and women in the United States are estimated to reach nearly 40,000 in 2012. While many of us are unlikely to find the cure to cancer ourselves, we can support those who are doing their best to do so. The mission is to get people to be proactive about attacking breast cancer. Don’t leave it up to the athletes: spread the inspiration, spread the awareness.