The January 5th issue of PR Week included an article about how the MLB pitched “key and online media for its network launch.” As many of you know, the MLB Network was launched on New Year’s Day 2009 at 6pm EST and was expected to reach around 50 million U.S. homes.
The article talked to Matt Bourne, the VP of business PR for the MLB, about what they focused their announcement efforts on and mentioned that they had two phases of PR.
“We’re launching during the offseason, [so] we’ve been reiterating that this is the largest launch in cable television history,” Bourne said. “We’re releasing news items every day because [we're] launching at a time when a lot of people are out with the holidays.”
So not only did the MLB release a press release each day in the 10 days leading up to the launch with new tidbits of information in each one, but they also reached out to the online community via a Facebook fan page and pitching announcements and tips prior to a release to bloggers. By doing so, they were able to reach out “to the ‘hardcore’ online baseball community of fans, who are ‘rabid in terms of info.’”
But the MLB did not stop after the successful launch of the network. The next PR phase will coincide with spring training when fans start really gearing up for the baseball season.
“We plan on making on-air talent widely available in the lead-up to the start of [baseball] season to both promote the network and offer their analysis and expertise with a variety of media,” Bourne noted.
It’s encouraging to see the league actively reaching out to the usual suspects (general interest, sports, and media trade publications), but also to the bloggers and the online community of baseball fans. PR agencies are frequently using blogger outreach in their work, but the professional sport leagues seem to finally start realizing the benefit of doing so especially as newspapers start cutting their coverage of the game.
The Florida Panthers recently posted information on the various internship opportunities they will have for this upcoming offseason. Two of them are particularly relevant to the area of sports PR: media relations and communications internships. For more information or to apply, you can check out this website.
Media Relations Intern:
HOURS REQUIRED: 30 hours +/- Game Days
QUALIFICATIONS/SKILLS: Self-starter, career orientated professional. Proficient written, oral and computer skills. Internet research. Ability to work nights, weekends, and holidays when necessary. Communications background is preferred. Sufficient knowledge of the NHL and its Players.
RESPONSIBILITIES: Compile up to date statistics on junior and minor league prospects. Organize, write and distribute game notes and press releases. Setup media press room and press box for all home games. Respond to requests concerning media guide, game programs, player pictures and slides. General office duties.
Last week, I talked about how the Phoenix Suns were effectively using Twitter and even hosted the NBA’s first tweetup. In the most Jan. 19-25 issue of Sports Business Journal, the Coast to Coast feature mentioned how the Cleveland Cavaliers’ social network gets a game-night boost.
The Cleveland Cavaliers dedicated their Jan. 7 game against the Charlotte Bobcats to members of CavFanatic, the online community of friends from the team’s official social network. The next day, CavFanatic.com generated 56,000 page views and 127 new members, compared with the daily average of 39,000 page views and 15 new members. CavFanatic.com was launced in May 2008.
As more and more teams create social networking websites, I expect to see a push for these sites during games both at the arena/stadium and even in reads on-air. PR professionals for a team can create their own page on the networking site and include tidbits of information original to the website. For example, a trivia Q&A section with the option for prizes or a heads up on articles coming down the pipeline after players have participated in interviews for articles. They could even include YouTube videos on the site. The possibilities are endless.
We all know that people tune in by the millions to watch the Super Bowl. For some, it’s purely to watch the arguably two best teams in the league battle it out. For others, they are only really watching for the commercials and just put up with the football. For many, they enjoy the football and look forward to the big game, but they also eagerly await the commercials spread throughout the game.
A great TV advertisement during the Super Bowl can propel a brand or product providing a great return on the company’s investment. Advertising Age’s feature story in their January 26 issue highlighted some examples of dividends received by some advertisers who bought a Super Bowl ad.
- CareerBuilder saw a 68% increase in job applications
- E-Trade had a 32% increase in new, funded accounts opened in the week following the game
- Go Daddy had an estimated $11.7 million worth of publicity from the 2008 sponsor flap
- Hyundai drew 300,000 visitors to their website and these visitors spent an average of 5.5 minutes on the website and generated 25,000 sales leads
While advertising is certainly the focus during the actual game, the ads can pay off big-time when it comes to publicity and press coverage. Between the media and word-of-mouth, traffic for these advertisers’ websites can skyrocket while generating greater brand awareness and coverage than the product or brand would typically receive.
In the latest issue of PR Week, the weekly trade publication addressed how PR professionals can take advantage of the increased media attention around the Super Bowl in its PR Toolbox feature.
“You don’t need to overpay for talent at the Super Bowl,” he [David Schwab - MD of First Call, Octagon's celebrity acquisition and activation division] notes. “The difference between A-, B-, and C-list celebrities is minimized this week because of the attention and willingness of the media to have all athletes and celebrities on the air.” Use your brand’s endorsee early in the week before there is brand saturation, or even the Monday after the game when everyone is still listening to the radio, reading results online, or watching TV, Schwab suggests. “Make sure that you have language in your contract ensuring that your promotional time is one of the athlete/celebrity’s first activities during the week,” he adds.
It’s not just enough to make a great ad and place it in the rotation during the Super Bowl. You have to promote it. Many newspapers rate the commercials in the days following the big game. Help connect these reporters to those who created the advertisements to help best convey the intent and purpose of the ad. Pitch the ad concepts to reporters and bloggers before the big game to generate interest. Offer a brief snippet on YouTube to hint at the upcoming ad. Use a variety of social media means to reach consumers whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or the company’s own blog. E*Trade is turning to social media this year to increase interest in their Super Bowl commercial this year. Last year, they had a big hit with the talking baby and hope that the success will continue when the baby brings his friends this year.
If your ad isn’t a big hit among TV viewers, you may have to take action to reduce the negative press. For example, the GM ad where the robot from the assembly line dreamt about committing suicide. It angered viewers and organizations trying to prevent suicide. Go Daddy took what some may deem negative press (Fox not approving its ad for insertment into its ad lineup for the game) and transformed it into $11.7 million worth of publicity. They have seen their market share steadily increase from 16% (before they first aired a commercial in the Super Bowl) to 46% worldwide after the last one.
I’m not recommending every company to follow Go Daddy’s T&A approach. However, companies have seen benefits from advertising in the Super Bowl and with the economy as bad as it is, it’s important that PR pros and advertisers to align in order to make their Super Bowl investment the most positive outcome possible for the company.
I came across this 2002 article from the Colorado Springs Gazette that gave a behind the scenes look of how the USOC public relations staff handled the Tonya Hardig and Nancy Kerrigan situation in 1994. While it may not be a recent article, it still is a great read about sports PR in a crisis and how an incident can drastically affect the image of an athlete.
With more than 800 reporters, live television feeds back to the United States, and a buzz in the press hall like none I had seen since the 1980 media session with our gold medal-winning ice hockey team, Schiller and I opened our program with two prepared statements.
Harvey, a brilliant and charismatic leader who was in the process of leading the USOC to five of its most productive years in history, had taken a lead role in settling this controversy when President LeRoy Walker had been hobbled by knee surgeries and the organization embroiled in quicksand over what to do with Harding. He was equal to the challenge.
We had been instructed by the Executive Committee to make our statements and leave, taking no questions or elaborating on our decision.
Harvey read our statement, and I read Harding’s, written by attorneys. I had written the USOC statement, which stated, “We are appalled still by the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, which was not only an attack on the athlete, but an assault on the basic ideals of the Olympic Movement and sportsmanship. The attack was designed to cripple her, alter the competition, and could have ended her career. We remain deeply concerned about this incident.”
Schiller exited after we read our statements, but I got caught up in the crush of reporters and cameras at the bottom of the stage. I also felt that there were questions to be answered and spin dispensed, and, if I got fired for doing so, who cared? I stood for 90 minutes with my USOC sidekick, Jim Fox, and told our side of things. It was the most intense experience I have ever enjoyed as the USOC chief spokesman.
I have another community affairs internship to pass along. Today’s internship posting is for the LA Dodgers and their community relations efforts. For more information or to apply for the posting, you can check out this website.
COMMUNITY AFFAIRS STUDENT INTERN – NON-PAID (Four to Six positions available for 2009 season) Internship Period from 3/23/09 through the end of the season [October 2009]. Application Deadline – February 20, 2009.
INTERNSHIP DESCRIPTION – Community Affairs Student Interns will participate and learn about all aspects of the Dodgers community affairs outreach as well as the Dodgers Dream Foundation fundraising efforts. Interns will work closely with the entire department learning the departments’ community initiatives, donation programs, and fundraising activities. For more information about the Dodgers community initiatives and the Dodgers Dream Foundation, visit the community section of Dodgers.com.
The advice mentioned below is most certainly not exclusive to sports PR hopefuls. In fact, these websites and searches were designed for the ‘general’ PR student but are definitely practical and helpful for those of us hoping to break into sports PR.
You can go to http://search.twitter.com and type in a phrase, @user, or #hashtag. Once the results appear, you can then subscribe to that RSS feed so any new tweets will be picked up in your Google Reader for example. I recommend subscribing to the “Sports PR” phrase and the #printern and #pradvice hashtags. #printern is for tweets with internship postings and advice on landing an internship. #pradvice is just as it sounds, advice for both current PR practitioners and those hoping to get a job in the field of PR.
PR Book Club
A member of the Central Michigan University PRSSA founded a PR book club called Learn It, Live It, Love It this month. The goal of the book club (open to any PR student, teacher, or professional) is simply to provide a place for people to discuss a book selected by the club and apply the concepts from these books to real world situations. These books are designed to increase our knowledge “on public relations, professional development, social media, business, career, writing, advertising, marketing and more.” This is a great way to not only get PR students reading a book even with classes and internships, but it also provides an avenue to share ideas and discuss important concepts with fellow PR students as well as professors and practitioners.
Get a Mentor
Allie Osmar, a PR practitioner for Edelman, runs a fantastic blog called Creative Career and recently started a mentorship program called the Mentorship Connection to partner up PR students with professionals. Whether you get a mentor through this program or initiate a mentor relationship on your own, a mentor is extremely helpful. They can give you advice on how to handle current work situations as an intern, suggest coursework if they graduated from your school, advise you on internships or jobs, and just be someone you can bounce ideas off of.
The Arizona Diamondbacks recently posted numerous internship openings for the upcoming season including the community affairs and communications internships. You can check out all the internship openings as well as apply at this website.
Community Affairs Intern
• Review and track all autograph donation requests
• Manage HD Video Message Board requests
• Assist with and attend all community related projects and events
• Assist with home game auctions
• Other tasks and projects as assigned
Before this season, I didn’t have a favorite Western Conference NBA team. My hometown Detroit Pistons are in the Eastern Conference and I just didn’t have any team I really rooted for in the west. Now I do and it truly has to do with their social media presence and the amazing things they are doing off the court, but it also doesn’t hurt that the Suns are having a good season.
I have been using Twitter since August and the number of Phoenix Suns employees on Twitter has steadily increased since I joined. I follow each one. Not only does it give useful insight into job duties of various positions within a professional sports team, but it gives you a sense for the culture of the organization. I have been thoroughly impressed with the twitterers representing the team.
Here is a list of the Suns twitterers (please let me know if I missed anyone): PhoenixSuns (official team Twitter account), SunsPRGirl (Public Relations Manager), SunsPRDiva (VP of Basketball Communications), PhxSunsGorilla (Mascot), PhxSunsCreative, SunsBizDiva (Sr. VP of Marketing Partnerships), SunsBlogger (Blogger/Web Analyst), PhoenixSunsGirl (Digital Media and Research Director), The_Real_Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal), SunsWebmaster (VP of Interactive Services), SunsWebGeek (Web Designer), and Chinkle (IT).
So if that isn’t cool enough, the Suns hosted their own Tweetup (meetup of twitterers & the first to be hosted by a NBA team) on January 16th. Shaq and GM Steve Kerr even stopped by to say hi to the 125 participants. You can check out a few photos from the event here, here, and here.
Why do I admire all that the Suns organization so much? They aren’t just using technology and social media to use it. Instead, they are pushing their brand in ways that engage their fans and allow the fans to get to know the team better. Fans can go online to the Suns website and read a blog post written by a player or they can go on Twitter and see what one of the employees is up to. You get the sense that while the organization obviously wants to win, they have fun working towards that goal and truly love what they do. If a girl from Detroit is now rooting for the Suns in the Western Conference, how much will this improve fan relations among those individuals actually living in Arizona?
We have another community relations-related spring internship for you. This one with the Frisco RoughRiders, which is a baseball team located in Frisco, Texas. By interning with a smaller team, you may not get the prestige you would interning for one of the professional teams in the four major leagues. However, it should give you a ton of hands-on experience and probably more responsibility when it comes to community relations and running the team foundation.
For more information and to apply, please visit their website.
Key Tasks and Responsibilities:
- Represent the club at various civic and community events
- Monitor team donations and process donation requests.
- Schedule and conduct ballpark tours
- Manage Deuce’s Birthday Club, and all associated mailings
- Assist in creating, developing and implementing Community Development programs
- Assist in community appearances as the mascot’s escort
- Manage inventory of promotional and autographed items
- Department game-day duties, including Silent Auctions and Jersey Auctions
- Assist with all Foundation events and programs as needed
- Additional duties as needed