Rich Rod Losing Control of Wildcats

Four football players from the University of Arizona were arrested last week for charges ranging from trespassing to assault. The charges were made after the players initiated a brawl at a party they were not invited to. The police report says one players “started punching everyone he could reach,” including women.

The University’s response is crucial because the team has started off on the wrong foot with new head coach Rich Rodriguez. Not only does this situation show a lack of current control with his team, Rodriguez has had trouble with his teams in West Virginia and Michigan.

Photo by RichKD via flickr

Having control over his team is more than just this one incident for Rodriguez. If he lets this incident pass without sufficient penalties, he will not have the necessary respect from his players. One incident will turn into two, then the build up of incidents will turn the focus from the Wildcats performance on the field to their performance in the courts. Rich Rod cannot afford to lose his team’s respect before he ever coaches a single game in Tuscon.

The next couple weeks are vital for the image of the University of Arizona and their football program. The reputation of the University is at stake if Rodriguez doesn’t take appropriate action. Having a reputation as an institution that allows athletes to skate by after assaulting women is the wrong image to have.


Ochocinco Going Back to Johnson

Chad Ochocinco is changing his name back to Chad Johnson after he made the original switch in 2008. Ochocinco changed his name after he was fined by the NFL for putting “Ochocinco” on the back of his jersey while his name was still Johnson. In my opinion, the move was made simply as a slap in the face of the NFL and to create a new brand for his career. Changing his name to Ochocinco sold more jerseys and earned more attention from the media.

Athletes will change their name because that is their personal brand. Ervin Santana, pitcher for the Angels, changed his name from Johan Santana because there is already a dominant pitcher in the league with that name. If you’re a quarterback in the NFL, you don’t want to be named Tom Brady and not be THE Tom Brady. Ervin Santana was trying to develop his brand and separate from the expectations his name carried.

The list of athletes with unique name changes continued to grow with Ron Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace this past summer (similar to Lloyd B. Free changing his first name to World). These situations are to get out a message, but personal branding is still involve, although it is rooted deeper in the athlete.

Chad Johnson’s name change was extremely successful. It made an above average NFL receiver relevant every week because we wanted to see what “Ochocinco” was doing. Changing his name back to Johnson marks the end of an era, and potentially a career. I believe the switch back to Johnson is to retire with his family’s name on his back. We will all remember Ochocinco.


Stop Letting Celebrities and Sports Stars Tweet

A recent Crushable article politely asks PR people to stop letting celebrities tweet. Celebrities will not filter racism, homophobic slurs, or ignorance out of their content, so PR people have to work double time to quickly fix their clients mistakes. The same plea could be made to sports stars who often take no responsibility for their politically incorrect content.

Aside from ignorant comments, athletes can openly criticize the organization they work for, thanks to Twitter. During the 2010 NBA playoffs, Lakers coach Phil Jackson spoke openly with the media about Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace). Artest took to twitter to call our the Zen Master. He tweeted, “Ever since phil mention things about me in media before coming to me first I was weird . So every pray he can somehow close his yapper.”

Photo by Keith Allison via flickr

No team wants their players to speak publicly about their problems with the organization or coaches. The question begs to be asked, should teams ban their players from using twitter? Or, should players be accountable for their tweets in the form of fines or suspensions?

Twitter bans have been implemented in the past at Ohio State and South Carolina’s football programs. Both bans were criticized in the media for “babying” players or for restricting free speech.

I believe the answer is for teams to implement strict rules on social media behavior. Breaking the rules will be punishable by fines and/or suspensions. Playing time and paychecks are all that players care about, so this should clean up missteps in the social media world.

Peyton and Indy Part Ways

Photo by BradJWard via flickr

The Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning this week, marking the end of a 14 season career for the Colts. He was the face of the franchise who won the first Super Bowl for the franchise since 1970. A recent ESPN article breaks down the value Peyton brought to the Colts. The value of their franchise increased approximately 474 percent after Manning joined the team. The Colts made the move because of the doubt about Manning’s future health, and they will draft Andrew Luck first overall in April’s draft.

This was not an easy move for the franchise. They have to be careful about maintaining good relations with their fan base. They finished the 2011 season with a record of 2-14. If they don’t win or show promise in the first season with Luck as their quarterback, fans will stop showing up at Lucas Oil Stadium. Losing fan support will doom the franchise and put them back into their state of being pre-Manning. Less fans equals less revenue. Less revenue results in a lower talent base.

What does Indy need to do to ensure that this doesn’t happen? First, they need to sign a veteran backup quarterback. They need someone to mentor Andrew Luck as he makes the transition from college to professional football. Without the proper mentor, Luck could get lost and frustrated in his first season. All of the analysts project Luck as the next great pro quarterback. They say he is a can’t miss talent and a sure NFL star. The analysts have been wrong in the past (Most notably Ryan Leaf, who was picked one spot after Peyton Manning in the 1998 NFL Draft).

The next two season are vital for the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton will land on his feet somewhere, while the Colts need to reinvent their identity for the post-Manning era. Winning will make everyone forget about Manning, but the Colts will be fighting an uphill battle.

Ryan Braun Knocks Drug Testing Out of the Park

Photo by Steve Paluch via flickr

Ryan Braun recently had his 50-game suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs reversed, and he is eligible to play at the beginning of the season. The drug testing process came into question after it was revealed that the collector held the sample in his house over the weekend. Dino Laurenzi Jr. opined that it was his responsibility as the collector to safeguard the sample until it could be transferred to the laboratory by FedEx. This has been Laurenzi’s procedure for more than 600 samples since 2005, says one writer from US Baseball Pro.

Braun should have been satisfied with his suspension being reversed. Instead, he chose to curb stomp the drug testing procedure in one of the more interesting press conferences. He called drug testing a “failed process” and publicly berated Major League Baseball.

This story was a PR nightmare for the MLB, but what about Ryan Braun? He insisted on his innocence and blamed the process. He embarrassed the league, and we are sure to see a change in drug testing policies. Now, what happens if he tests positive again? He will be targeted by the league. Another positive test will ruin his reputation and any respect fans and teammates may still have for him. Maybe he won’t test positive. In that case, he needs to continue to put up the ridiculous stats he has in the past. He won the NL MVP in 2011 and needs to be in the MVP race again this year. If he doesn’t, his innocence and natural ability will be questioned.

Ryan Braun was trying to make a point and throw the negative press back in the face of Major League Baseball. All he accomplished was drawing extra attention and potential for scrutiny. One misstep and he will be in the news again.

Saints Place Bounties on Opposing Players

Photo by MarttJ via flickr

“Bounties” are a hot topic around the NFL right now. A bounty is when players get paid to knock specific members of the opposing team out of the game. That’s right, intentionally injuring another athlete to make a couple grand.

The New Orleans Saints are the team currently accused for placing bounties on opposing players, but it is hard to believe this is an isolated incident. This news will make me question every dirty hit I see on Sundays because it may have been due to a bounty.

The NFL and the New Orleans Saints need to fix their current image. The NFL has cut down on dirty hits by fining and suspending players after dangerous plays. This is another subject completely, but James Harrison has been suspended and fined repeatedly for his dangerous plays. These penalties have resulted in negative press for the NFL simply because players around the league disagree with the penalties. The NFL needs to continue to punish dangerous play if they want the league to be perceived as clean and without bounties.

The league can get in front of the bounty issue by starting with the Saints. Make it known that bounties are unacceptable and can be penalized to the max. Fine the organization and launch an investigation into New Orleans defensive players in the past few years. It is extremely cliche, but make an example out of the Saints. Other teams will avoid making the same mistakes if the punishment fits the crime.

(The original bounty hunter)

PR Move by the Front Office at Fenway

Photo by Keith Allison via Flickr

Bobby Valentine, manager of the Boston Red Sox, announced last week that alcohol will be banned in the team’s clubhouse for the upcoming season. The ban comes after last season’s historic collapse in which they blew a 9-game lead over Tampa Bay in the Wild Card race in the final month of the season. Pitchers openly admitted to consuming alcohol in the clubhouse during games in which they were not playing. Although this is seeming harmless, Red Sox Nation (their fan base) was livid that the players seemingly cared so little about their team.

The announcement was very strategic for the Red Sox office to make. Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, has been sold out for over 700 consecutive games. Although that streak doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy, the front office needs to keep the fans interest in knowing that this team is not screwing around. If the team continued down the path taken in 2011, the streak would inevitably end this season while the team sunk into a sullen state of losing.

Wholesale changes were made around the Red Sox organization in the off-season. They changed managers from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine, and they hired a new General Manager to replace Theo Epstein, the man given credit for the Red Sox breaking the curse of the Bambino. This announcement was important simply for keeping Red Sox fans faithful to the team.

Financially, the Red Sox can’t afford for fans to lose interest in their team. Forbes ranked the team as the second most valuable baseball franchise. They have the third highest payroll in all of baseball at $161,407,476 annually. Losing fans in the seats would put a large burden on the front office, and that is why it is necessary for the front office to set the tone that this team will be different than last year’s team.

Gatorade Sponsorship Carries Calculated Risk

Photo by PDA.PHOTO via flickr

Gatorade announced their new sponsorship of Cam Newton early last month. We can expect Cam Newton to have many endorsements in his career because he is an instant superstar. He won a national championship, Heisman trophy, and was the first player picked in the 2011 draft. It should come as a surprise that Gatorade has gone all in on this endorsement so early in his career though.

Gatorade’s only other NFL players are Peyton and Eli Manning. Those are two very safe sponsorships because neither player has the risk of negative press. Cam Newton carries a huge risk with a criminal background in Florida and alleged NCAA violations from his stint with Auburn. Any slip up in the NFL can ruin his reputation and haunt his career. This sponsorship has the potential to be gold if Cam stays out of trouble off the field and starts winning on the field.

Being a Gatorade athlete is a rare accomplishment. Only the best of the best in their particular sport are sponsored by Gatorade. So, why Cam Newton over other stars in the NFL? Why not Tom Brady or Devin Hester? Tom Brady carries no risk when it comes to endorsements. Devin Hester has been the most explosive player in the NFL for the past few years. When I think of Gatorade and athlete’s performance, Devin Hester would be the perfect athlete for the slogan “Is it in you?”.

Gatorade is taking a calculated risk with this sponsorship. They want the young star. Cam Newton can be the face of the Gatorade brand the same way Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm and Serena Williams have carried the brand in the past. For Gatorade’s sake, let’s hope he stays out of trouble.

I’ll leave you with my favorite Gatorade commercial from my childhood.

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, 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.

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.