2016 posted by Josh Reed
Each month, Sports Sesh explores the intersection of sports and PR in current events, while highlighting the good, bad and ugly. This month: Football
The Good: University of Colorado Depth Chart
The University of Colorado football program has spent the greater part of the last decade in the college football cellar. This year has brought optimism to Boulder, Colo. after a 2-0 start but, despite elevated expectations, the Buffaloes fell to the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines at ‘The Big House’, 45-28, on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Even with the loss, the Buffaloes are the real winners after dominating PR attacks and trolling battles during game week. Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is notorious for not releasing his team’s depth chart, so Colorado Head Coach Mike MacIntyre played the mind game and refused to provide his opponent with theirs. CU’s Sports Information Director David Plati had other plans. Plati deployed PR brilliance by developing a fictional depth chart riddled with movie and television character references and entertaining fake names. Once it was shared on Twitter, the media blitz began. A quick Google search will show the breadth of the coverage, but it’s fair to say that nearly every major publication in the country was talking about it. Well played, CU!
The Bad: Tim Tebow and the New York Mets
Tim Tebow, the former University of Florida and NFL quarterback, is dominating the sporting news headlines, but not for anything related to football. In early August, it was reported that Tebow was working out in Scottsdale, Ariz., in preparation for a pro baseball tryout. Huh? One thing Tebow and his camp have always excelled at is publicity and the foray into baseball is a prime example of that success. On Aug. 30, the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time BCS national champion worked out for Major League Baseball scouts and there was an estimated 50-member media contingent on hand. Grades of Tebow’s performance varied, which isn’t surprising considering he hasn’t played since high school. The fact that the New York Mets eventually signed Tebow to a minor league deal accompanied with a $100,000 signing bonus is what’s most upsetting.
Sept. 19 marks the first day of Tebow’s baseball career, as he reports to the Mets’ instructional league team in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Also widely-reported is the sale of Tebow’s trademark number 15 jersey thanks to some contractual loopholes. Of course, the signing and jersey promotion level back up to the business side of professional sports, but there are thousands of players around the world who have better baseball skills than Tebow. This PR move by the Mets is a slap in the face to current minor league players and those who will never get the same opportunity Tebow is afforded. The integrity of the game is being jeopardized in the Mets’ quest to capture headlines, and to sell both tickets and jerseys. While they are owning today’s sports headlines, it’s not for the right reasons.
The Ugly: Football Fan Brawls
Sports have a tendency to bring out the best in people, but also the worst. Football is an aggressive sport, but that doesn’t mean it should be in the stands. After all, spectators have absolutely no impact on the final result of the game, so the fact that fans at recent college and NFL games have been brawling inside stadiums and at tailgate plots is unsettling. This isn’t a new issue, but it’s a consistent PR problem. Fans are the foundation of university programs and professional football organizations. Passion for teams is generational, but there may come a point where parents stop bringing their kids to stadiums due in large part to the violence. Yes, people will lose their cool, and have been since the beginning of time, but as the YouTube videos mount, the proactive team responses trail behind.
Josh Reed is a senior account executive in Allison+Partners’ Phoenix office who has worked with numerous sports-focused clients during his time with the agency.
2016 posted by Cathy Planchard
The most significant trend we see today fueling growth in integrated marketing is the accelerated content development cycle. Gone are the days of 12-month creative planning and advertising initiatives. The ever-increasing number of channels provides us with more opportunities to reach audiences with integrated content. As a result, CMOs and CCOs working with traditional digital and creative shops are in a difficult position. Structured to conceive and execute programs over longer periods (e.g., think Super Bowl ads and annual brand campaigns), many creative agencies struggle to execute short-cycle, integrated campaigns.
In this new environment, the ability to develop opportunistic content, delivered over weeks or months, is what counts. We launched All Told to do just that. All Told combines our research, content, creative, digital and measurement expertise into one offering to deliver integrated storytelling for clients across the globe. Our centralized approach enables Allison+Partners to deliver in a way that other creative agencies can’t because we work on shorter cycles that feed content through social, experiential, owned channels, earned and paid media. For example, the #OutsideSchoolWalls campaign for Connections Academy to raise awareness of K-12 virtual school options went from concept to launch in three weeks. A fully integrated content hub was designed to move audiences from awareness to interest and from engagement to active prospect. Content was distributed across paid, shared, owned and earned channels that included Facebook and YouTube ads, shared social on Twitter and Instagram, videos and testimonials on the Connections Academy website and blog, in addition to earned media coverage in regional outlets.
Central to our success is our process. Rather than build programs around a single creative element, we put the story at the center of our work, tailor the messages for different audiences, and then identify integrated opportunities across all channels. As another way to get the message out, we also think strategically about how to amplify what influencers are doing on their social channels, and find ways to integrate product placement or activations, among other approaches.
To create an environment where integrated ideation is the norm, we’ve brought in talent with experience across the marketing spectrum. Our team includes advertisers, publishers, in-house brand marketers, designers, digital strategists, research and analytics experts, whose perspectives create a holistic approach to brand storytelling and content campaign development. We’ve also added several new video production specialists, animators, illustrators and producers in the U.S. and Asia, which enables us to meet accelerated development timelines and incorporate local market input and aesthetics into every campaign we develop.
Cathy Planchard is President, All Told + General Manager, Phoenix
2016 posted by Jonathan Heit
At Allison+Partners, we actually like math. It’s not something you’d expect to hear from a bunch of word geeks, creatives and media ninjas, but it’s true. Quantifying and measuring our successes and failures is what we do, and what sets us apart from the antiquated “PR Agency” of old. There’s nothing created here that isn’t evaluated for success, calibrated for influence, weighed for potential or measured for impact.
The drive to measure, to constantly set benchmarks for ourselves and test our assumptions, stems from our roots. Allison+Partners was born from frustration with organizations that would throw spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks or believed “All PR is good PR.” Our drive to measure stems from our instinct to own up to failures and amplify successes – through carefully measured formulas. No pasta here. We use measurement as a North Star, telling us the truth about our clients, teams and individual work and we’re not afraid to be held accountable. Never before has PR and marketing been as measurable as it is today. What was once a “black box” of mystery is now a source of pride (or fear) for those in our world.
Whether we’re working with a global electronics company or an automotive manufacturer, we think as much with our right brains as we do with our left. We go beyond the bounds of traditional PR, tracking physical and digital assets with accountant-like precision and taking a quantified approach to every initiative. We’re a predictive analytics company masquerading as a communications agency. Like I said, we like math.
We’re not the first agency out there to have a dedicated research and insights team, but we are among the few who don’t even begin to think about a campaign, pitch, ad buy or video script, without first having measured, researched, compared and contrasted the industry, the product, the content or the platform.
Visit any office in Allison+Partners’ global network and you’ll meet people who are comfortable being asked to show their work and stand by the quantification of results – whether good, or less-than-good. We put people on every piece of business who take a measured look at the success of a program and are not afraid to say “You know, this idea I had, it’s not working, let’s try another one.”
But it’s much more than that. We’re working with a team of mathematicians and data scientists to help us create our own equations to help clients uncover the truths of today’s industries and redefine our industry for a new era. We’ve tested our assumption that influence has been misappropriated and ill-defined to develop a new proprietary scoring system – The Influence Impact Score – to measure the potential impact influencers can have on consumer decision making. The score can be used as both a diagnostic tool for evaluating existing programs and a means to benchmark the effectiveness of future influencer relations programs.
As we look at the next fifteen years, we are furthering our investments in technology and team to make discipline endemic to everything we do. Whether it be enhancing our project management, research capacity, creative work or client relations – these investments will help us serve our clients and our industry for the next 15 years.
Jonathan Heit is a co-founder and the president, Americas at Allison+Partners.
2016 posted by Scott Allison and Andy Hardie-Brown
Fifteen years ago this month, in the wake of the dot-com debacle, we launched an agency with offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. While our initial footprint was small, our vision was global and intent was to do things differently. Rather than create a hierarchy and hire people to fill it, we adopted an entrepreneurial and flexible approach to growth. We knew that the most inspired work happens when talented people are encouraged to collaborate without being hindered by excessive processes and office politics. Also, as we had spent our careers in the agency world, we knew the risks inherent in taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to expansion. We decided early on to put people and culture first, and trusted that everything else would flow from there.
Growing a global business is a complex and dynamic process. Nurturing a global community can be even more challenging. While we’ve made some mistakes along the way, prioritizing our culture and establishing one global P&L have been among our better decisions, and why we think that Allison+Partners attracts stellar talent and great clients the world over.
Our approach to growing globally finds an analogy in the hotel industry. Big hotel brands have a tendency to create the same product in every market. So, no matter where you are, your room feels identical to the last city you visited. This cookie-cutter approach might allow a brand to enter a market faster, but any short-term benefits may inculcate undesirable longer-term outcomes. In contrast, boutique hotels can embrace local customs and flavors to create experiences that authentically reflect each location. We firmly believe in the boutique approach to growth. Rather than impose US-centric business values by transplanting an American leadership team into a new market, we seek out top talent locally and work together to integrate team members into the larger Allison+Partners community. The addition of each new office adds valuable texture to the whole as we incorporate and infuse different cultures.
Working as one cohesive worldwide community requires that we take the time to reflect internally on our unique perspectives and develop a global voice that resonates in every market. It also means creating opportunities to share our expertise. Our one global P&L has created a borderless business environment where teams can work together regardless of where they live. This makes for a richer creative experience and allows us to be more responsive to client needs around the world. As we believe in the value of face-to-face real time interaction, Andy moved to Singapore and Scott works in Europe for months at a time. Regular in-person leadership and “Open Door” meetings, Allison University events and our Global Exchange Pilot Program are other ways we stay connected and nurture our global community across multiple time zones and geographies.
Today, Allison+Partners has 25 offices across three continents, and the infrastructure to take on global assignments from brands like iRobot, .ORG, PepsiCo, ThoughtWorks and UL. We have come a long way together and accomplished much these past fifteen years. To everyone who has been a part of this amazing journey we offer our sincere thanks and gratitude. We couldn’t have done it without you. Let’s continue to do things differently.
Scott Allison and Andy Hardie-Brown are the CEO and COO of Allison+Partners
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