All-Star Weekend Voting Goes Social

The NBA took the Slam Dunk competition to the twitterverse this past weekend. Fans could cast their votes by tweeting with the hashtag “#SpriteSlam” followed by the letter assigned to each player. This voting style is very similar to casting votes via text, but it also brings fans into the conversation. We could all get instant feedback from fans around the country to see which dunk was the nation’s favorite.

The NBA is making a great effort to improve their presence online in the social universe. They post videos, tweets and photos to NBA.com, and they also have a mobile app to take all the entertainment on the go.

The All-Star Weekend is known for thrilling individual performances and big name players bringing the fans to their feet. This year was a little different. The dunk contest this year lacked the big name players of previous years. I watched the dunk contest and was still unsure who had won after it was over.

The league needs to also listen to the negative reactions on social media about All-Star weekend. Many people called out the big name players for taking the weekend off and not taking part in the dunk contest. I can remember seeing Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Clyde Drexler and Kobe Bryant in past dunk contests. This year? Chase Budinger (Houston), Jeremy Evans (Utah), Paul George (Indiana) and Derrick Williams (Minnesota). Who? I only recognize Budinger and Williams because they played college ball for Arizona. These guys are no-names in the early stages of their careers. Where are Lebron, Dwight Howard, Dewayne Wade and Derrick Rose? They are in the stands watching as if they were fans.

One middle school student even called out Lebron. The NBA and the players need to listen to the fans and make something happen next year. If they don’t, they should cancel All-Star weekend because it is no more than a glorified weekend off from work for the big name players.

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Linsanity in a New York Minute

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn

The sports story of the year to this point has been Jeremy Lin. The undervalued Harvard graduate is making waves in the NBA, and no one saw it coming. He was signed, and subsequently cut, by two franchises before he landed with the New York Knicks. Even with the Knicks he was undervalued early as he was sent down to the Development League. Since being called back up to the NBA, he has been the underdog story everyone can root for. He scored 38 points against Kobe and the Lakers. He led his team to 6 straight wins and is averaging 24.6 points per game. His jersey’s the item every NBA fan wants right now, and Knicks ticket sales on StubHub grew from 17% of the NBA market to 52% (via @StubHubJo).

Jeremy Lin has created a brand known by all NBA fans. “Linsanity” or “Lincredible” are often thrown around on social media whenever Jeremy Lin is playing. What has he done so right? Other players have streaks like the one his is on now, although those players usually aren’t starting in the NBA for the first time in their careers. His brand has grown because it was an unexpected result. Lin is of Chinese and Taiwanese decent, wasn’t recruited by major Universities for basketball, attended Harvard, and went undrafted. No one could see what was coming based on his background.

Dwayne Flinchum wrote about building brand through performancerecently. Flinchum says, “Lin has defied the odds and focused on achieving excellence in the face of tremendous adversity.” Lin’s brand hasn’t been built solely on performance. He has played out of his mind, but his brand is deeper than performance. He represents something that hasn’t been done and wasn’t expected to be done. This is a valuable lesson anyone charged with establishing a brand. There are formulas for success which can be followed and repeated a hundred times, but to stick out with a large audience, there needs to be an unexpected element brought to the table. In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel, but overcome what is expected.

Ruined Reputations by Hurried Actions

Photo by Getty Images

The story of Joe Paterno is a modern American tragedy. He was a man respected and admired by thousands. Players who entered his system left the program as better men for knowing Paterno. Everything changed in early November when accusations of sexual assault were made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

William A. Levinson recently wrote about the Penn State Public Relations Catastrophe, and it’s worth a read for anyone who condemns Joe Paterno, or thinks of him as anything less than a valuable role model for his players. Levinson concludes that the Penn State Board of Trustees made the fatal backward step by turning the Jerry Sandusky scandal into the Penn State scandal. They fired a legendary coach of 61 years, and forced the resignation of President Spanier.

What could the Board of Trustees have done differently? There was public outrage at the accusations, and no one could have expected JoePa to take the field against Nebraska in the following week. A suspension of Paterno would have been most fitting. After all, he was fired simply due to accusations. Nothing had been proven or settled in court, but his reputation was dragged through the mud. As for President Spanier, they could have stayed with their known leader through the crisis. Wholesale change brought excessive attention and, as Levinson said, turned the Jerry Sandusky scandal into the Penn State Scandal.

Joe Paterno passed away on Januarry 22 of this year. He was a living legend until two months before his passing when he was stripped of everything. The Board of Trustees acted in the interest of the University, but they tarnished the University’s reputation as well. They needed to act. This serves as a lesson in PR for all practitioners in crisis communication. When action is needed, it needs to be the right action. One wrong move can ruin your institutions reputation and create an unnecessary secondary scandal.

Football recruits in risky business on Twitter

Photo by KidsLoveAnimals via Flickr

Joey Kaufman recently addressed “recruiting” on social media. National Signing Day has become a holiday for football fans everywhere. ESPN covers the announcements of high school seniors in the same way they did for LeBron two years ago.

There are a million ways for teams to commit NCAA violations during the recruiting process, but this one is nearly out of their control. Any fan can go to a recruit’s Twitter or Facebook and post whatever they want to. Some people could argue for free speech, but the NCAA could bring the hammer down on any University proven to have a “booster” talking to recruits through social media.

It will be nearly impossible for the NCAA to regulate social media as a recruiting tool for boosters. Of course, everyone would notice if Phil Knight was tweeting recruits, but few boosters are on his level, outside of T. Boone Pickens. Most boosters are not well known except for within their own University community.

For anyone who has followed college football recruiting in the past 3 or 4 years, you have inevitably ended up on a recruits Facebook or Twitter page to read their posts. I was glued to Twitter my phone when Arik Armstead (@arikarmstead) announced he was going to be a Duck. Naturally, comments flowed in to congratulate him, or condemn him, on his decision. As a reader of these comments, I caught myself often asking myself, “Why do we care where a 17 year old kid goes to college?”

Social media has been great for college football fans, and it has been even better for recruits. These kids have become temporary celebrities and are allowed to interact with their new fans. The NCAA does need to monitor social media sites for possible infractions, but they will never catch the small fry. Let players connect and hear from the fans. Their decision will not be influenced from a tweet which simply says, “Come to Oregon”. But let’s leave the fan “recruiting” at that.

Most Memorable Super Bowl Ads

Super Bowl week is here. For football fans, that means a Sunday of sitting, eating, and watching football with friends. For the inevitable non-football fan, it means the one time of the year that you can look forward to the commercials. The Super Bowl is the prime event for advertisers each year because of it’s ability to draw up to 46% of US households.

AdAge recently compiled a list of the 12 Ads that Changed Super Bowl Marketing. The list includes the popular “1984” Apple ad, the Xerox Monks, and the obligatory Budweiser commercial.

My favorite ad from the list was last years Chrysler “Imported from Detroit” commercial. It was an unheard of 2 minute Super Bowl ad, which made Fox rearrange it’s whole commercial line-up to make it fit. The ad resonated with the audience and led to a series of similar commercials featuring prominent Detroit figures. (I am biased towards the “Homecoming” Ndomukong Suh commercial because it’s filmed in Portland.)

All of the ads chosen were worthy of making the list, but one commercial was noticeably missing. The “Mean Joe Green” Coke commercial from 1979 is one ad that is often still referenced today. There have been parody’s and remakes, but Mean Joe Green will always be associated with Coca-Cola.