Monthly Archives: August 2011

Friday Morning Workout – August 19, 2011

After a week hiatus, we’re happy to bring back this week’s Friday Morning Workout.  Plenty of things to get your sports mind going on one of the last Summer Friday’s.

Former NFL QB Jim McMahon is part of a group of former players suing the NFL over concussion related injuries

Terrelle Pryor will be allowed to participate in next week’s NFL Supplemental Draft, but will be suspended for five games. Sounds like Roger Goodell wants to be commish of the NFL and the NCAA.

Proof that the only way to spur the economy is more sports. Forbes examines how Boston is growing because of sports.

I’m only linking NASCAR here because of the Michigan ties.  Apparently Pure Michigan is sponsoring a race, and its paying off for them.

The Wilpons will be in court today, trying to get at least part of the $1 billion lawsuit against them dismissed.  After this week’s earlier ruling by the 2nd Circuit, it doesn’t look promising.

The New Meadowlands Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, is going to be known as MetLife Stadium.  MetLife was already a cornerstone sponsor for the stadium, paying about $7M a year. The naming rights deal will cost them somewhere in the neighborhood of $20M a year.

For the doctors and Padres fans out there, a sad story of a star prospect forced into early retirement.

It’s probably not a good idea to invest in sports in Denver.  Apparently they can’t even support the franchises they have.

Fox and the UFC reached a groundbreaking deal to put UFC on network TV.  F/X will have the cable rights.  Boxing better get its act together, because MMA is clearly in the driver’s seat right now.

NBA players looking to go to Europe may have hit a roadblock.  Apparently the insurance is very expensive.

And in case you were under a rock, make sure to read this incredible story about the rampant NCAA rule breaking occuring at the University of Miami since 2002.

Are the London Riots A Threat To The 2012 Summer Olympic Games?

It has been just under a week since the London Riots of 2011 engulfed major parts of the city, leading to nearly 1,200 arrests, intense fear among the city’s residents, and a racial tension between certain London communities thick enough to cut with a knife.  Certain of the city’s officials worry that the riots are a mere indication of what will transpire in the future.  Indeed, New York Times journalist John Burns reported on Wednesday that “police and political leaders worr[y] about a potentially explosive new pattern of interracial violence that could be set off by the past four days of mayhem.”

The violence in London could not have come at a worse time.  Just two weeks ago, the city celebrated its one-year countdown to the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, scheduled to commence on July 27, 2012.  Concurrently, several International Olympic Committee (IOC) members arrived and still remain in the city, as they review London’s progress in completing its athletic facilities and an Olympic friendly environment.  As a result of the recent violence—which reached within four miles of the main Olympic Stadium and other key venues on Monday—the IOC has witnessed the cancellation, postponement and/or interruption of several Olympic test games and matches associated with the start of the English soccer season.  Certainly, this image is far from what London wanted to convey to the IOC during one of its last visits to the city prior to the commencement of the Summer Games.

Thus, the question arises, would the IOC ever reschedule, move, or cancel the 2012 Summer Olympic Games based on the recent violence or the potential for future violence in London?

In the 115-year existence of the Summer Olympic Games, the Games have been cancelled only three times—and each time, the World was in the middle of a massive war (i.e., either WWI or WWII).  It goes without saying that the IOC did not have to consult a rulebook prior to each of the aforementioned cancellations to determine whether the Committee’s decision was appropriate.  However, to determine whether the IOC would ever reschedule, move, or cancel the 2012 Summer Olympic Games as a result of the recent violence or the potential for violence in London, I consulted the Olympic Charter.   The Charter is a set of rules and guidelines that has been adopted by the IOC and ultimately “governs the organization, action and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games.”

Pursuant to Rule 33 of the Charter, the host city agrees to organize an Olympic Summer Games experience that is, among other things, competitive and fair for the athletes, but most importantly safe for all individuals:

The Olympic host city “must submit to the IOC a legally binding instrument by which the said government undertakes and guarantees that the country and its public authorities will comply with and respect the Olympic Charter.”  Further, the National Olympic Committee (NOC)—the committee that develops, promotes and protects the Olympic Movement for the host country—“must guarantee that the Olympic Games will be organized to the satisfaction of and under the conditions required by the IOC.”

According to Rule 33, London is treading in deep water.  With only a year to go before the city hosts the Summer Olympic Games, violence has ensnarled the neighborhoods within miles of the primary athletic venues.  Currently, the host city is not safe, and should the violence persist, London arguably would be in breach of the abovementioned agreement with the IOC.  So, with this potential outcome, can the IOC designate and prepare an alternate city to host the Summer Games?

At first glance, the answer appears to be a clear yes.  Pursuant to Rule 34 of the Charter, “[a]ll sports competition must take place in the host city of the Olympic Games, unless the IOC Executive Board authorizes the organization of certain events in other cities, sites or venues situated in the same country.”  Thus, it initially appears that the IOC can move the Summer Games, or at least certain events or venues, to other cities within the United Kingdom.  Not so fast.  Bylaw, Rule 34 specifies that “[a]ny request to organize any event, discipline or other sports competition in any other city or location than the host city itself must be presented in writing to the IOC at the latest prior to the visit of the Evaluation Commission for candidate cities.”  In other words, The IOC can only grant a request from a host city (e.g., London) to relocate the Summer Games to another city where the request is submitted prior to the Commission approving London as the Olympic Games host.

Hmm…  Interestingly, Rule 34 does not specify whether the IOC can relocate the games without a city’s relocation request.  I’d imagine the same rules apply under such circumstances, but do they?

Rule 36 of the Charter provides that “in the event of non compliance with the Olympic Charter or other regulations or instructions of the IOC, or a breach of the obligations entered into by the NOC, the OCOG [i.e., an organizing committee created by the NOC] or the host city, the IOC is entitled to withdraw, at any time and with immediate effect, the organization of the Olympic Games from the host city, the OCOG and the NOC, without prejudice to compensation for any damage thereby caused to the IOC. In such a case, the NOC, the OCOG, the host city, the country of the host city and all their governmental or other authorities, or any other party, whether at any city, local, state, provincial, other regional or national level, shall have no claim for any form of compensation against the IOC.”

Ah-ha!  Though the IOC has to meet somewhat of a hefty burden, it can withdraw the Olympic Games from the host city at any time based on the city’s failure to comply with the Charter.  Thus, while it appears the IOC cannot relocate or reschedule the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, it maintains the power to cancel them altogether as if WWI or WWII is occurring all over again.  My message to London is simple: reign in your social unrest before the IOC bypasses your city for Rio in 2016!

Friday Morning Workout

A-Rod under investigation by MLB for allegedly participating in high stakes, illegal poker games with Hollywood’s elite.

NFL players officially ratify a new ten-year CBA on Thursday.  Under the agreement, Goodell retains exclusive authority to discipline players under the personal conduct policy, and the NFL becomes the first league to implement HGH testing.

Kansas City Chiefs TE Leonard “Champ” Pope attributes the lockout to him saving a child’s life.

Why on earth do so many athletes want to become musicians?  An answer may not exist to this question.  However, Here’s ESPN’s list of musicians who would make it’s starting five.

Roethlisberger’s civil sexual assault case still on in Reno.

NFL’s most flamboyant personalities.

NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter is betting on a cancelled 2011-12 season, while encouraging his players to work elsewhere.

Rather than waiting for the players to decertify and sue, as the NFLPA did this year, the NBA owners took their own legal initiative.

Track NBA players who intend to play or are considering playing overseas.

The Milwaukee Bucks Brandon Jennings is spending his NBA lockout interning at Under Armour

NASCAR Drivers are using Social Media to promote themselves and their sponsors

Comcast is suing DirecTV over ‘Deceptive’ Claims of Free Televised Games

Former Gridiron Great and Movie “Star” Bubba Smith passed away this week.  Here’s a nice tribute to him from Michael Weinreb

The Harvard Business Review outlines Six Steps to Successful Sponsorships

This guy has over 2,000 pairs of Nike shoes.  And he shows you all of them in just 11 minutes. He also built a museum for them.

Want to be a Sports Agent in California? Make sure you’re in accordance with this new law.

Braylon Edwards has a big week!  First, authorities implicate him in a bar fight in Michigan.  Then he signs a 1-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Former NBA player Darius Miles attempts to sneak a concealed gun through airport security.

Mark Cuban provides his guide to getting rich.

Duke basketball contacts the NCAA for rule interpretation.

A new venture by Brand Affinity Technologies called Fantapper could revolutionize professional athletes’ media presence.

California district judge upholds a class action suit against EA Sports, which alleges EA unlawfully used college athletes’ likenesses without their consent.  Should the athletes prevail, EA could owe plaintiffs up to 25 percent of its annual revenue.

Common Themes of the Best Athlete Endorsed Brand Campaigns

Celebrity and athlete endorsements are without question some of the most useful marketing tools that a brand can use.  The way fans idolize their favorite athletes allows brands to capture those positive feelings by using those athletes to endorse their products.  With many products that use athlete endorsers, the suggestion that the average person can jump higher or run faster by using a particular product makes the endorsement all the more powerful.

While there are literally hundreds if not thousands of brands that have partnered with athletes over the years, there are several products and campaigns that have stuck with us through the years.  These particular brands managed to use their athlete endorsers to not only help sell products at that moment in time, but to
also create a lasting image that garnered positive feelings for that brand long after that commercial or campaign had been shelved.

Today, we’re going to take a look at a handful of those campaigns, and what common themes they utilized to make their ad campaigns iconic, much like their spokesmen.


This commercial debuted during the 1980 Super Bowl, and ever since then, it has ended up near the top of every list of the best Super Bowl commercials ever.  Besides using an iconic pitchman like Mean Joe Green, the real key here is the juxtaposition of the tough football player and the young generous boy.  The message here is pretty strong – the implication is that drinking a Coke can improve anyone’s mood – as Mean Joe becomes a nice guy after drinking the Coke.  While the jingle itself isn’t that catchy, the end catchphrase of “Have a Coke and a Smile” works because it’s easy to remember, and fits into everyday conversations.  But what really sells this commercial is the young boy’s reaction when Mean Joe goes from hard-ass football player to a giving soul.  His face lights up, and we get the secondary catchphrase, “Thanks Mean Joe!”  That’s the lasting image from this commercial – and over 30 years later it still gets replayed every February when everyone is talking about Super Bowl commercials.  For that, this campaign ranks among the best ever.


At the end of the millennium, no question existed as to who was the best golfer in the world–Tiger Woods. He was in the process of obliterating the course record at the Masters and was already anointed as the one who would pass Jack Nicklaus, even though he had only won a few majors at that point.  Nike had launched its entire golf product line by partnering with Woods, and instantly gained credibility in the market. And while that probably would have happened regardless of their ad campaign, one commercial served as the catalyst for Nike Golf, and Tiger Woods.

Unlike the other campaigns on this list, there was no catchy jingle, no catchphrase, nor any additional celebrities.  Instead, it consisted of Tiger Woods bouncing a ball on his golf club without it hitting the ground, using the club to toss the ball into the air, and then taking a half golf swing and crushing the ball into the distance.  The message was what we already knew; that there were things Tiger Woods could do on a golf course that nobody else was capable of.  The key was that you had to see it to believe it, so people made a point to see it.

The other advantage this campaign had over others was that it happened in the internet era.  While YouTube wasn’t in place, this ad and campaign still spread like wildfire.  And it’s still a popular view today, with almost 1.8 million hits on YouTube.  It’s so popular that the bloopers from that commercial shoot have over 1.1 million views.  It’s easily the most popular golf ad ever and certainly ranks in the Top 5 of most powerful sports endorsement campaigns ever too.


While some of the other campaigns Michael Jordan has been involved with may have been more memorable, he’s still best known as the original, and really the only, spokesman for Nike’s Air Jordan Brand.  Starting in the mid-80’s, Jordan was synonymous with basketball, dunking, and Nike. While there were many great commercials involving Jordan, the signature campaign included Jordan and a loud, scrawny character named Mars Blackmon, played by rising director and actor Spike Lee.

While Jordan dribbled, shot and dunked, Mars asked Jordan what made him the best basketball player in the world.  Jordan never gave a definitive answer, while Mars continually asked what became a rhetorical non-question: “It’s gotta be the shoes?!” And even if nobody really believed that Nike’s shoes made Jordan as good as he was, kids playing basketball across America eagerly pointed to their shoes after a made shot or dunk and repeated the phrase.

In the end, the name Mars Blackmon may have been more popular than the phrase itself, as the new Nike ads with Spike became highly anticipated events themselves.   But the combination of Jordan, the phrase and Mars Blackmon is something that every male teen and pre-teen of that era remembers.


By 1992, there was no bigger star in sports than Michael Jordan.  He was far and away the best player in all of basketball.  He had already won his 1st NBA Championship, was well on his way to his 2nd and he was about to lead the Dream Team to a Gold Medal in the 1992 Olympics.  Anything he endorsed on or off the basketball court was going to turn to gold too.  But Gatorade managed to take the icon to another level with its Be Like Mike ad campaign.  The visuals of the commercial itself aren’t anything spectacular – just Jordan doing what Jordan does.  But the message couldn’t have been any clearer – if you drink Gatorade, you will BE LIKE MIKE.

The catchphrase itself was enough to create a national word of mouth campaign, but what made this campaign one of the best ever was the jingle written by Bernie Pitzel and composed by Ira Antelis and Steve Shafer.  As a 13 year old, I memorized the lyrics, which I still know today. I even bought a CD with the song on it. If iTunes had been around back then, it easily would have moved a million units.  The jingle was that popular then, and for those individuals who came of age in the early 90’s, it’s still synonymous with Gatorade.

Sometimes I dream

That he is me

You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be

I dream I move, I dream I groove

Like Mike

If I could Be Like Mike

Again I try

Just need to fly

For just one day if I could

Be that way

I dream I move

I dream I groove

Like Mike

If I could Be Like Mike

*For the full story on how the Be Like Mike campaign came into existence, check out Darren Rovell’s First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon.


Much like the Be Like Mike campaign, Nike’s Bo Knows campaign originated in the early 90’s. It centered around the greatest athlete of his time, Bo Jackson – the superhuman running back and baseball player for the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Royals.  While there were several different commercials associated with the Bo Knows campaign, the most memorable one was probably the Bo Diddley version, which in fact featured Blues legend Bo Diddley.

The concept was creative yet relatively simple – Bo Jackson is a great football player and baseball player, but what else does he “know”? Utilizing athletes and legends from every other major sport, including the likes of Wayne Gretzky and John McEnroe, Nike used celebrities and the catchphrase “Bo Knows” to create a memorable ad campaign.  Certainly the presence of other athletes gave
the campaign credibility, but the often repeated phrase of “Bo Knows” is what
sets this ad apart.  The icing on the cake was Bo Diddley telling Bo Jackson, “Bo, you don’t know Diddley!”—a phrase that made its way into the American lexicon for several years.  It even served as the title of Bo’s autobiography
“Bo Knows Bo”.

Subsequent versions of this campaign featured a similar theme of Bo Jackson, the super athlete, competing in every sport, and even a cameo from Sonny Bono poking fun at the Bo Knows campaign.

In the end, Bo’s injuries and shortened career took him out of the spotlight sooner than expected. But if you mention his name to anyone of the age range 25-40, they will ineveitably make some mention of Bo Knows.

So as a brand looks to partner with an athlete for a national campaign, what kind of lessons can they learn from the Cokes, Gatorades and Nikes of the world?

The first lesson is to secure A+ talent.  With the possible exception of Mean Joe Green, the other athletes used were the absolute best at what they did at the time.  If you’re trying to convince people to use your product, you have to be able to convince them that the best athletes in the world use your products.  And if you have the budget to bring in other celebs or athletes, do it.  They don’t have to be the principal endorser, but they’ll help provide that extra oomph.

The second lesson is to find a catchphrase that resonates outside of the commercial.  Be Like Mike and Bo Knows caught on not because of the 30 second spot, but because of the two and three word phrases that kids and adults repeated over and over again.  Use the athlete’s name, keep it short, and make it repeatable.

The third lesson is to think bigger than the 30 second spot.  3 of the 5 campaigns on this list weren’t one-off advertisements, but rather a series of ads based around the same theme.  Mars Blackmon was a running theme for Nike Air that spanned several years.  Bo Knows included several ads that all focused on the Bo Knows themes, but were different variations in their own right. Be Like Mike not only served as a jingle for the Gatorade commercial, but it became its own revenue stream when the company began selling the single.

Finally, be original.  For instance, (i) the reason the Be Like Mike ad succeeded was because nobody saw it coming from Gatorade; (ii) an acclaimed director/actor playing a central role in a basketball shoe commercial had never been done before Nike did it; (iii) Tiger Woods bouncing a golf ball on his golf club was an unconventional way to show his skill; (iv) Mean Joe Green was one of the first athletes used in a Super Bowl commercial like that; and (v) Bo Knows was one of the first commercials to use several other athletes and celebrities to sell a product primarily marketed by another athlete.