June 29, 2010

Longtime passion leads to Olympic-sized opportunity

I love almost everything about the Olympics. I like the idea -- that every four years the world comes together as one to compete -- and the ideal behind it.

I like the five-ring circus, the spectacle of the unusual -- be it badminton, curling, or water polo -- as well as the bright lights that bathe swimming, speed skating and track & field.

There’s something enchanting, and entrancing, about the theater of the Olympic stage, that once-in-a-lifetime chance for so many athletes who train four years for an event for that might last all of 10 seconds.

I got my first up-close view of the Games when I was executive sports editor of the newspaper in Colorado Springs, home of the U.S. Olympic Committee and training center. I was fortunate enough to lead our paper’s coverage of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, which provided a lifetime of memories and friendships.

It was in Colorado where I met the group of people who are behind 776 Original Marketing, led by Jim Scherr, an Olympian and former chief executive of the USOC, and a handful of his USOC brain trust. 776 Original Marketing is a full-service sports marketing company, but many of its clients -- past, present and future -- have ties to the Olympic community.

Which is why I’m so excited to work with 776 to provide digital strategy for their clients (read the press release about our affiliation on my new website, www.geoffgrantconsulting.com).

June 24, 2010

Social media campaigns help hand Nike the World Cup crown

The World Cup won’t end for another 17 days. But we don’t need to wait that long to know the winner of the brand wars. It’s Nike, hands down.

Rival adidas is one of the official sponsors of the World Cup, but with Nike dominating TV, online and print media, adidas may as well be brand X.

When award-winning Wieden + Kennedy partners with Oscar-nominated director Alejandro G. Inarritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros and Babel leap to mind), it’s no surprise that the campaign they create would be memorable.

And Nike’s “Write The Future” commercial delivers on that promise. It’s a stirring three-minute paean to the sport and its stars, including Didier Drogba, Fabio Cannavaro, Franck Ribery, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo (not to mention cameos by Roger Federer, Kobe Bryant and Homer Simpson).

But what truly elevates Nike’s brand is the use of social media surrounding the campaign. It has done a great job of engaging users in creative ways by incorporating Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, among other platforms.

June 22, 2010

Mobile digital television: Coming to a (small) screen near you

Mobile digital television as we’ll come to know it -- live broadcasts, designed for the smaller screen, and most important, free -- is step-by-step getting closer to becoming a reality.

There are a plethora of questions surrounding mobile digital TV. The biggest is simply whether it will succeed, the success of a free ad-based service depending entirely on widespread adoption -- the network TV model gone mobile. Another question is whether it will reshuffle the landscape of existing services, crippling subscription-based models (like Flo TV and Hulu, if it goes down that path, as rumored). 

Mobile digital TV is being promoted by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), a group of more than 900 local broadcast TV stations. It aims to create a mobile digital TV standard to allow and provide live and on-demand video broadcasts.

The technology would allow wireless devices to pick up over-the-air local TV broadcasts, even when users are on moving trains, cars and buses. Mobile digital TV already exists in test markets such as Chicago and Washington -- and is already popular in Japan and South Korea -- and may soon be coming to a city near you.

June 19, 2010

ESPN's deal with Xbox continues trend of new distribution methods

This week’s announcement that ESPN had partnered with Microsoft to bring live and on-demand sporting events to Microsoft’s Xbox continued the trend of alternative distribution methods for live sports video.

The distribution of sports content has gone from TV to online streaming on PCs and laptops to wireless devices like smartphones and tablets. Now it is aimed for gaming consoles and other set-top boxes, in one way bringing the cycle full circle back to watching on a TV.

Xbox will reportedly carry more than 3,500 live and on-demand sporting events, bypassing traditional cable providers in the process. The live events will come courtesy of ESPN3.com and will include MLB, NBA, tennis, golf, soccer, college football and college basketball. Noticeable by their absence are the NFL and NHL.

MLB.com announced a similar deal with Sony in April to bring MLB.tv to  PlayStation 3 game consoles and the baseball package is already available on set-top devices from Roku and Boxee.

June 14, 2010

Will U.S. fans shell out cash for World Cup mobile TV?

As the first round of the World Cup progresses, it's providing an interesting petri dish on how U.S. fans consume the game.

Aside from the mainstay of watching the tournament on ESPN (and ABC), there are three main planks of the network’s strategy that bear watching.

First and foremost is whether U.S. fans will pay to watch on their cell phones. ESPN is breaking ground by offering live match coverage on mobile.

But are fans here willing to pay the price? Are they that devoted to the game, or the fortunes of the U.S. squad?

June 10, 2010

GoUSABid lays foundation for U.S. Soccer and World Cup

While the eyes of the world will turn to South Africa this week for the start of the World Cup, the USA Bid Committee has been working hard to ensure the eyes of the world will be on the U.S. come 2018 or 2022.

For a study on a website and an initiative done well, simply take a look at GoUSAbid.com, created by the USA Bid Committee. It is a separate entity from the U.S. Soccer Federation but it is working on behalf of the USSF.

The goal of the committee is to get FIFA to award the World Cup to the U.S. in either 2018 or 2022 (FIFA will award both in one round of bidding, an unusually efficient approach). The goal of the site is get people actively involved, grow their fan base, increase their database of names and capitalize on the surge in interest that comes with a World Cup.

GoUSAbid.com is a well-designed, well-planned, well-executed effort. It has already prompted more than 450,000 people to sign a petition to bring the tournament back to the U.S. (which hosted the tournament in 1994), a decision FIFA will make in December.

June 8, 2010

Chicago Tribune's gaffe on Pronger compounded in digital time

In this digital age of instant everything -- with live news and video at our fingertips -- newspapers still have the luxury of time, time to get things right.

That isn’t always the case, though, and the Chicago Tribune’s special pullout poster Tuesday is living proof of that.

With the Stanley Cup finals being played between Chicago and Philadelphia, the Tribune printed a poster of Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger. In a dress. With a headline that says Pronger “looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane.” Seriously.

The poster is demeaning to women. There is no gray area here. This wasn’t a case of poorly chosen words tumbling from the mouth of a corporate executive -- like BP’s CEO and his now infamous “I'd like my life back” quote -- or a bad headline that lived briefly on the Internet.