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.

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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:

Frisbee Under The Radar

Frisbee: there’s a stigma around the sport suggesting that everyone’s liberal, smokes weed, and plays barefoot. I’m not going to try and bust that stereotype since in the Northwest, it’s pretty typical for a Frisbee player to be described as such. The University of Oregon definitely has its fair share of liberal students and the men’s and women’s ultimate Frisbee teams (Ego and Fugue, respectively) fit the Frisbee player stereotype relatively well. But then again, all of those things serve as interests for students at most universities. When it comes to participating in high-level tournaments, stereotypes and the extracurricular activities associated with them can be thrown out the window. Despite the fact that I was raised in a conservative family, PBRs are not my drink of choice, and haven’t taken part in the weed scene; I somehow made my way onto Fugue and haven’t looked back. The driven atmosphere, competitive edge, physical demand, and sense of camaraderie that Frisbee entails is extraordinary. The thing is, however, is you have no idea what the sport gives back to its players unless you’ve experienced it first hand on a truly competitive stage.

Until last year, I didn’t even know that Oregon had a Frisbee team. Like a lot of folks that have never seen a great game of Frisbee, I figured it was just something hippies do while listening to indie music in the local park on a lazy Sunday. It wasn’t until I saw one of Fugue’s practices that I knew I wanted to give it a whirl. These chicks were serious about the game, competitive, and athletic; which was right up my alley.

The sport wasn’t played at my high school in Virginia and ultimate Frisbee highlights on ESPN were virtually non-existent. It was just until recently that I saw a highlight of Dylan Freechild, one of my buddies that plays for Ego, on Sportscenter top 10 plays.

There are a plethora of ESPN Top Play worthy acts that won’t be shown because of the shadows cast by the big time sports like basketball, football, baseball, and soccer. But in the clip, the sportscaster herself said, when referring to Frisbee, that it’s “just a matter of time before this becomes an Olympic sport.”

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Photo Credit: Alex Shofner

It’ll stay a relatively under-the-radar sport until public relations and marketing can convince big name networks to cover more games. More highlights and hype on ESPN will attract the natural athletes that are interested in varying from their go-to sport.  USA Ultimate, the governing body on almost every level of Frisbee, came out with its strategic plan to grow the sport. The growth potential is certainly there, its just a matter of capitalizing on the opportunity to make Frisbee a sport that fits into the likes of baseball, football, soccer, and basketball.