Johnny Football vs. The NFL, the NCAA, and the World

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Few college football players in NCAA history have been as polarizing as Johnny Manziel, the star quarterback for Texas A&M University.  He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder, and loves to talk trash, taunt, and do everything else he can to aggravate opponents. But it’s his play that is giving his opponents headaches. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is widely regarded as the nation’s top conference, with powerhouses like Alabama and LSU routinely in the top 10 year after year. He broke the SEC record for total yards in a season with over 5,100, as a freshman.  His immense popularity brings to mind a former SEC quarterback, Tim Tebow. But Manziel, aka Johnny Football, is much different than the devout Christian that Tebow was. Last season, Manziel became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the nation’s most outstanding college football player. What followed was a tumultuous offseason that is surely to concern NFL teams when Johnny declares for the draft.  Wherever he ends up, he’ll be the face of the franchise, and that might not be such a good thing.

The following is a timeline detailing Manziel’s antics following last season’s bowl game:

January 2013:

  • Following his Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma, he visited the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma for some gambling.  While there, he and his teammates flashed wads of cash and he later tweeted, “Nothing illegal about being 18+ in a casino and winning money…KEEP HATING!”  What was illegal was him drinking bottles of champagne the same night (he had just turned 20).  And yes, that is Dom Perignon in his hand.
  • Later in the month, he sat courtside at a Rockets-Clippers game in L.A. By comparison, I was starting the second semester of my junior year.
  • He also made this video, which is actually pretty awesome.

February: 

  • Johnny was at the Super Bowl in New Orleans (field level, of course).  He also partied at Mardi Gras, posing for pictures with Ole Miss football players, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.

March:

  • Spring practice began, and Johnny shoved a graduate assistant after throwing a pick during a scrimmage.
  • The next couple months were uneventful, Johnny threw out first pitches at Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres’ games, but nothing negative.

June: 

  • Manziel tweets “(Expletive) like tonight is a reason why I can’t wait to leave College Station…whenever it may be.” He followed that up by tweeting, “Don’t ever forget that I love A&M with all my heart, but please, please walk a day in my shoes.”  The tweets were soon deleted and he blamed them on a parking ticket he had received.

July: 

  • Left the famed Manning Passing Academy after missing early-morning meetings. Manziel apologized at SEC Media Days, saying: “I simply overslept. There’s nothing more to talk, and the rumors about the other things weren’t really true.”  The rumors he’s referring to?  That he was out the previous night drinking.  Here’s an article with some interesting quotes from Alabama quarterback  AJ McCarron, Johnny’s roommate at the camp.
  • Pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from a 2012 bar fight in College Station. Manziel admitted to failure to identify. Other charges against him, including disorderly conduct, were dismissed.
  • Was photographed attending parties at University of Texas fraternities, UT is A&M’s biggest in-state rival and until the recent conference realignment, they played one another every year in the Big 12 conference.  He was also videotaped leaving a frat party at UT with a soaking wet pink polo (presumably from beer being dumped on him) and was heckled as he did so.
  • An ESPN story with Manziel’s parents revealed that Manziel underwent alcohol counseling and therapy for anger issues.

August: 

  • The day before Texas A&M’s first practice, ESPN’s Outside The Lines reported that Manziel agreed to sign memorabilia in exchange for a “five-figure flat fee” during a visit to the site of the BCS National Championship.  He would miss the first half of the first game of the season.  Making money off your own name is prohibited by the NCAA (although they make billions off the athletes, but that’s another story).

Now let’s look at a couple other players who the NCAA has reprimanded in the past for violations that are arguably much less severe:

Dez Bryant was suspended 10 games for having a meal with former NFL player Deion Sanders and lying about it. 10 GAMES!  Now look at Manziel’s track record over about 8 or 9 months and recognize that he only missed one half of a game.

Georgia’s AJ Green was suspended 4 games for selling a jersey of his for $1,000 to an agent.

Let me be clear, since this probably seems slanted, I love everything about the guy.  He’s flashy and extremely cocky, but he backs it up on the field.  Plus, he gets to do all sorts of awesome stuff off the field, who wouldn’t want to live up your college years like he’s doing?  This year, he seems more focused than ever, due in part to his horrendous defense that forces him to outscore the opposition.  That makes Texas A&M must-see television each Saturday

The NFL is a business, and businesses don’t like character issues.  Johnny seems to have quite a few to straighten out before he gets there. It will be interesting to see how his draft stock rises or falls leading up to the draft, and if teams will shy away from him because of these past instances (see Tyrann Mathieu & Adam “Pac-Man” Jones).  Marketing the “Johnny Football” brand will not be much of an issue for whatever franchise he joins, he’s clearly fine with the spotlight.  The talent seems to be there too, but does he have the leadership qualities and maturity that are so vital to NFL success?  We’ll find out soon enough, but in the meantime, I’m just waiting to see what Johnny Football does next.

Snapchat Was Offered 3 BILLION Dollars From Facebook, and Said No

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I remember when Draw Something first became popular a few years ago and everyone was going back and forth exchanging drawings with their friends.  After 7 weeks in existence, it sold for $180 million.  Draw Something is all but obsolete now.  The new craze is the app known as Snapchat.  You take a picture of yourself or something around you and send it to the friends of your choosing who have it too.  The image disappears after a set number of seconds, 10 being the max.  The concept seems simple enough, so why did Facebook offer 3 billion dollars for it?  And how could Snapchat turn them down?

Evan Spiegel, the 23-year-old founder of Snapchat, turned down Facebook’s offer because he believes his company may be worth even more.  Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, which most investors thought was crazy at the time.  Hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear that Instagram should have held out longer for more money.  Snapchat is growing even faster now than Instagram was back in the day.  Facebook initially offered $1 billion for Snapchat and was rejected, only to later make an all-cash offer of $3 billion.  

Snapchat still isn’t making any money from advertisers at the moment and it just seems odd that a company making zero dollars turns down three billion of them.  With constant technological innovation, Snapchat could easily become the next Draw Something if another, “cooler” app comes along.  

What do you think: Should Snapchat have taken the money while they had the chance or keep growing and negotiate for an even higher amount in the future?

How Jay-Z Changed the Future of the Brooklyn Nets

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“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”

It’s been said that athletes want to be rappers and rapper want to be athletes.  Artists such as Nelly and Usher achieved success in the music industry and have invested in shares of professional sports teams.  However, no one has done it as well as hip-hop mogul and entrepreneur Shawn Carter, better known as Jay Z. 

Last season, the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) moved to Brooklyn.  After decades of poor attendance, the team needed a fresh start and wanted to completely revamp their brand image.  Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov purchased the team in 2010 and set plans in motion to move from Newark, New Jersey to Brooklyn.  Prokhorov, 47, predicted that the team, which had lost nearly $300 million in the previous four years, would win a title and be worth $1 billion by 2015.  The first step was to that goal was to build a new arena.  The next step was getting Jay Z on board.

Jay Z grew up just blocks away from the site of the new $1.02 billion arena, the Barclays Center, so it made sense for a local celebrity to have a say in the rebranding of the team. Despite owning just one-fifteenth of one percent of the team, his impact is noticeable on all levels. He helped design the logo and chose the black and white color scheme. He counseled executives on what kind of music to play during games.  The arena contains a 40/40 Club, an iteration of his sports-bar-style nightclub. There will be a Rocawear store, selling his clothing line, on the arena’s exterior. Even the advertising agency used by the Nets, Translation, is half-owned by Jay. 11 “Vault” luxury suites were designed to his liking, costing those fans about $550,000 per year. Of course, his is free of charge.  He even went as far as advising security on how to screen fans for weapons without being too pushy.  

In September of 2012, Jay Z helped open the new arena with a week straight of concerts, selling out each one of them. Meanwhile, part-owners like the aforementioned Usher and Nelly have had no direct impact on their teams, other than the occasional court-side appearance. Other teams would be wise to look for other celebrities and artists to generate hype, like what the Toronto Raptors are doing with Drake

Mr. Carter has capitalized further on his Nets investment by extending the Jay Z brand into endorsement deals normally reserved for elite athletes. He starred in a Budweiser TV commercial that was broadcast during the Olympic Games, in which he fittingly wore a Nets hat and jersey.  

Earlier this year, Jay Z sold his small stake in the team to pursue his own sports agency, RocNation.  That agency already has a growing stable of athletes including Robinson Cano, Skylar Diggins, Kevin Durant, Geno Smith, and Victor Cruz.  

Forbes had the Nets valued at $357 million before the Brooklyn move, they are now reportedly worth around $750 million and that number is expected to increase.  Jay Z might be out as an owner, but his presence will be felt in Brooklyn and the entire NBA for years to come.

Will Ferrell and Dodge- Don’t Act Like You’re Not Impressed

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To market his new movie, Anchorman 2 (see the newest trailer here), WIll Ferrell has teamed up with Dodge to promote the new 2014 Durango.  Ferrell pitched the SUV while dressed as his character from the film, anchorman Ron Burgundy. They are ridiculous as you might expect from the charismatic news anchor, and a few of the commercials generated over a million views on YouTube.  Early reports from Brand Index indicate that the campaign has been a resounding success thus far. It’s achieved Dodge’s best perception numbers with potential car buyers this year, and noticeably boosted its purchase consideration levels. Here’s a graph to better visualize what all that means.

Dodge has been making clear attempts to integrate recent ad campaigns with social media in order to appeal to a younger generation of consumers, particularly those 18-34 years old.  Fictional versions of both the Dodge Charger and Challenger were also featured on the hit video game GTA V.

In addition to the marketing success for Dodge, this is a win-win for Ferrell. Dodge is paying him to sponsor their vehicles while he also gets an opportunity to showcase his upcoming movie.  At the end of every commercial, a reminder to “see the movie in theaters December 20th” flashes onto the screen.  The advertisements effectively target two distinct markets at once, almost serving as two completely different commercials.  On one hand, you have the people who are genuinely interested in the new car, and on the other, you have fans of Ferrell or Anchorman who could care less about the car.

Promoting a movie with the help of a brand, like what Doritos is doing for the new Avengers movie, is becoming popular with executives because they recognize the potential audience size is much greater than a “standard” commercial.  The possibility of going viral and spreading via word-of-mouth is heightened as well.  In the near future, it wouldn’t surprise me to see many more actors teaming up with brands and creating these dual-threat commercials that appease both parties. In the meantime, you stay classy.

Justin Timberlake: Actor, Musician…Marketing Genius?

Justin Timberlake has been in the public spotlight for almost his entire life, beginning as a child star and now as a multi-talented entertainer.  But his recent marketing campaign to promote his comeback album, the 20/20 Experience, was unlike any other project he’s taken on. To promote the two-part album, (Half the songs were released in March, and the other half this October) Timberlake orchestrated a long, calculated marketing scheme. Most artists leave it up to their respective agencies or labels to push their albums for them, but it was Timberlake himself who took control of the marketing.

When Justin became a part-owner of MySpace, he was quick to promote the upcoming album with a splash ad that took up the entire login page. His first single from the 20/20 Experience, “Suit and Tie” immediately jumped to #3 on the charts.  He also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live for a week straight, aka “Timberweek”.  There, he reunited with longtime buddy Jimmy Kimmel and performed comedy skits, danced, played instruments, and Justin also played songs from the new album.  In addition to that and other late night TV appearances, Timberlake was featured in advertisements for Bud Light Platinum and Target.  He hosted Saturday Night Live for the 5th time as well, joining elite comedic company such as Tom Hanks and Steve Martin. As if this wasn’t enough, his memorable performance at the VMA’s cranked up the hype even more.

His efforts clearly paid off, and the first part of the 20/20 Experience opened with 968,000 records sold in the first week.  28 weeks later, the second part of the album sold 350,000 records. Both of these releases were easily good enough to open at #1 on the album sales charts. Going all the way back to the Billboard 200 charts from May of 1991, Timberlake is just the 20th musician to score two No. 1s in a 12-month span of time.  Nearly half (47%) of his record sales were digital.  According to Keith Caufield of the Hollywood Reporter, the 20/20 Experience is “only the 19th album to sell more than 900,000 copies in its first week of release since SoundScan began keeping accurate count of record sales 22 years ago”.  What other artist can spend 7 years away from music and come back to such gaudy sales figures?

Based on Justin’s overwhelming success, you could expect to see other artists imitate his personal branding strategies in the future.  Capitalizing on primetime TV spots with large audiences fueled his album’s campaign and was far more effective than simple, traditional advertising.  In today’s day and age where artists are finding it increasingly difficult to sell records, Justin Timberlake is making it look easy.

Oh yeah, he also brought N’SYNC back.  Is there anything he can’t do?

Oregon Joins the Pink Movement

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Chances are, if you’ve flipped on an NFL game this month, you have probably seen a surprising amount of pink on your screen.  Players have been donning pink equipment, such as their cleats and gloves, to support breast cancer awareness. This past weekend, the University of Oregon joined the cause, unveiling a pink helmet for their game against Washington State. Their mission was to support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, which has raised $2.6 million for scientific research since 2009.  After the win, Oregon auctioned 25 helmets to raise more money.
Nike sponsors both the NFL and Oregon, thanks to Nike chairman and Oregon alumni Phil Knight, so it’s no wonder he decided to get involved.  Marketing like this is genius because not only does it support a great cause, it is certainly going to be talked about, which further bolsters Nike’s brand image.

It’s refreshing to see a college football story that isn’t cast in a negative light, like the violations at Miami (and just about everywhere else) and realize that a lot of good still takes place in and around the sport. There’s more serious issues than where Johnny Football is partying tonight, and actions like this put life into perspective.
We’ve seen college teams like Virginia Tech and others wear camouflage uniforms to support our troops, but the pink craze has yet to spread to collegiate teams.  Oregon is known for their flashy uniforms and cutting-edge innovation, and they might have just created another trend.  Pink is for the boys too.

The Sad State of the Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks are screwed. Ok, maybe not completely.  Coming off an 8th place finish in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and a first round playoff loss at the hands of the Miami Heat, the Bucks are stuck in mediocrity.  It is pretty clear that they have no chance to win an NBA championship, yet their offseason moves indicate that they do not seem to mind.  After compiling a good, but not great team, the Bucks will again look to squeak into the playoffs, only to be eliminated in the first round.  All of this is amidst talks of relocating the team to Seattle.  Seattle lost their team, the SuperSonics, before the 08-09 season and have been in hot pursuit of both the Bucks and Sacramento Kings.  The Kings recently made a deal with the city to make a new arena, essentially saving the franchise. The BMO Harris Bradley Center is recognized as the poorest arena in basketball, and quite possibly all of American sports.  Its lease will expire after the 2017 season, and Bucks owner, Wisconsin senator Herb Kohl, has promised that the team will stay in Milwaukee.

If the Bucks are serious about staying in Milwaukee, they need to win more to get more support from their fans.  It seems that the only way that will happen is if a marquee star comes through free agency or the draft.  Free agency is out of the question, since no star player would willingly choose to play in Milwaukee. However, the drafting of 6′ 9″ 18-year old Greek baller Giannis Antetokounmpo could be just what the Bucks needed. Most Bucks fans are accepting of the fact that there won’t be a playoff run this season, but there is hope thanks to the kid affectionately known as the “Greek Freak”.  In his limited preseason action, he’s shown flashes of talent that helped make him the #14 pick in last years draft.  It’s even been enough to have basketball heads talking. Remember Seattle? They had a teenage prodigy for a season prior to their move, his name was Kevin Durant, and he’s now become a consensus top 3 player.  The team that left town for Oklahoma City is now one of the best in basketball.

Bad teams can still draw fans and have tremendous loyalty. The Chicago Cubs, for instance, have been brutal in recent years and yet they still have sellouts for a majority of their home games.  Wrigley Field has become a famous monument that people go to see for the history and the culture, not just to see the baseball team win. The Bucks would be smart to build around the Greek Freak and build enough buzz around the town to ramp up the talks of a new arena.

A location I would look at is along Lake Michigan. Some of the best venues in sports are situated on waterfronts, AT& T Park in San Francisco, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and American Airlines Arena in Miami to name a few.  The Bucks could make going to games more of an experience with a state of the art facility. Milwaukee is far from a baseball city, but the Brewers sell nearly 3 million tickets (82 home games, 36,585 in attendance per game) year after year.  Last year, the Bucks sold about 16,000 tickets per game. By comparison, the top team in attendance was the Chicago Bulls, with 20,010 spectators a game.  There’s not as big of a gap as one might expect.  We as Bucks fans need to support our team and the city of Milwaukee, or risk losing them forever.

Editors Note: ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose broke down the Bucks in their annual season preview, I thought this was a pretty cool piece. Bill ranked the Bucks as the 15th best team out of 30, the definition of mediocrity.

Brewers Give Back

After superstar outfielder Ryan Braun was suspended for the final 66 games of the season for performance enhancing drugs, the Milwaukee Brewers opted to do something rarely seen in professional sports today. They gave back to the fans. Strange, right? For all the Brewers home games in the month of August, every fan was given a $10 voucher for use on concessions and apparell. Braun’s suspension will cost him $3.2 million dollars and this promotion is estimated to give $3.6 million in vouchers to the fans.
The Brewers have surprisingly gotten people into the Miller Park stands while struggling in recent seasons. This is despite playing in one of the league’s smallest TV markets, as they have drawn over 2.75 million fans in each of the past six seasons.  The marketing team for the Brewers has been able to keep fans support with gestures such as these, and that has been enough to keep Milwaukee’s fans happy.  Other sports teams should take note of situations like this one and show their appreciation for a loyal fan base, even when times are tough.
One such team is the one the Brewers share the city with, the Bucks.  Stay tuned and tomorrow we’ll dive into their dicey situation with the city.

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