Al Davis Dies

One of the reasons I grew to love the NFL was Al Davis…before there were sports franchise owners like George Steinbrenner, Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban, there was Al Davis, outspoken and brash, who was a central figure in the merger of the upstart American Football League with the established N.F.L., paved the way for the extravaganza known as the Super Bowl, and managed to win championships while irritating the rest of pro football.

Davis was a coach, general manager and owner of the Raiders for nearly 50 years. He left briefly, in 1966, to become the commissioner of the A.F.L., vowing to battle the older N.F.L. for the best players available. That attitude helped lead the N.F.L. to agree to play the A.F.L. in an annual championship game, which became the Super Bowl. In 1970, the leagues played a united schedule, creating the modern N.F.L.

For his part, Mr. Davis vehemently opposed the merger. And he feuded for decades with the former N.F.L. commissioner Pete Rozelle and sued the league in the early 1980s so he could move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. Then, 13 years later, he moved them back.

Davis became the symbol of a franchise that garnered a reputation for outlaw personalities and a kind of counterculture sensibility. The Raiders were the first franchise in the modern era to have a Latino head coach (Tom Flores), a black head coach (Art Shell) and a female chief executive (Amy Trask).

He was also one of a dwindling number of N.F.L. owners whose riches came primarily from the business of football. There were no hedge funds or shipping companies in Davis’s background. He simply ran the Raiders — the team appeared in five Super Bowls under his ownership, winning three — and his business model could, for all intents and purposes, be summed up by the phrase that became his franchise’s motto: “Just win, baby!”

Mr. Davis generally inspired deep loyalty from his players, though he had an ugly battle with one of his stars, running back Marcus Allen, and when he got along with his head coaches (not a given) — most notably John Madden, who led the Raiders from 1969 to 1978, perhaps their most successful decade — they spoke warmly of him.

How Nike and Pepsi Again Hijack the World Cup

The world’s greatest sporting spectacle, the World Cup, began this weekend. Do you know who the “official” sponsors are?

You might think from the prevalence of its “Write the Future” campaign on the web and in pop culture, that Nike is an official World Cup sponsor. It’s not. Nor is Pepsi, whose “Oh Africa” has been racking up millions of views on the web since May. Rather, the official sponsors are Adidas and Coke — and both have also produced compelling online videos in association with their campaigns.

As we all know, brands often pay significant sums of money to be the exclusive sponsor for high-profile sporting events including the World Cup, Olympics and Super Bowl. These sponsorships typically include a number of elements and are supported by TV, on premise and promotional support. To their credit, the event organizers themselves go to great lengths in order to protect the value of the sponsors, and the relationship they have with the event.

I remember that before the Beijing Olympics, the government assumed control of the outdoor ad space so that the sponsors would be given access to it. I thought it was a great idea.

For as long as brands have sponsored these events, other brands have tried to ride along on the brand equity of the events as well. This concept, known as “ambush marketing,” involves running similarly themed campaigns around the time of the event without actually mentioning the event itself. A famous example of this was American Express’ campaign around the Barcelona Olympics, “You don’t need a visa to go to Barcelona” (Visa was the Olympic sponsor). Aware of this practice, sponsoring brands usually think ahead of how to counteract them on site or on TV.

Enter the web…

As Nike and Pepsi have recently demonstrated, the open distribution and viral nature of the web create a whole new path for ambush marketing. In the “Write the Future” campaign, Nike produced a video starring their top-tier talent.

They then used the web as an initial distribution ground. Two weeks and 15 million-plus views later, Nike has created a brand association with soccer, and likely the World Cup itself. Adidas also produced a very compelling video using talent as well — only it debuted a bit later and was far less seen or distributed. While Adidas may have a significant TV or local presence planned over the next two weeks, it got hijacked online.

So what can a brand do to protect itself, or alternately, what can you do to best position yourself to steal someone else’s thunder?

Start early!!!!

While you might not be able to own the conversation, you can at least start it. Plan far in advance — it is better to be a bit early to the party than to miss it completely. Starting the conversation immediately allows you to insert yourself into it.

Spend early!!!!

Don’t just plan your viral campaign to start early — adjust some of the spending cycle as well. Social media, rapid news cycles and thousands of bloggers are all affecting marketing plans in ways no one would have predicted 10 years ago.

With these new tools, people have more outlets to talk about big events way in advance and websites actually have incentives to do so to increase search and other referral traffic. As a result, there is no shortage of relevant content to associate with from a very early stage, and users are in the right mindset well in advance of where they were years ago.

As a frame of reference, type World Cup 2010 into Google — you get 196,000,000 results. Think about that –- there are close to 200,000,000 million pages that have already been indexed about the topic and the event hasn’t even started yet.

Be Clear as well. While I assume that event sponsors have many restrictions on how they can market their association, it is increasingly clear that subtlety does not work online. As creative as the Adidas video is, it does not directly refer to their sponsorship.

Wow factor

It seems that the High Jackers always have more bling than the High Jackee. The videos produced by Nike and Pepsi both have what I call “the wow factor.” You watch the video and want to share it as a result of the story and creativity. Adidas and Coke also produced high quality content that was interesting and compelling –- but needed more “wow” to succeed online.

Target an audience

Targeting a specific audience may seem like impractical advice when talking about events like the Super Bowl or Olympics, which are inherently broad and have mass appeal. In reality though, you need a core group of evangelists to help spread the word for you, or you will never reach the broad audiences. Reach out to these evangelists early, let them know what is coming and get them excited.

In today’s world, the web and social media are rewriting the rules of marketing. This presents both new opportunities and challenges for brands, but in any event, it is a factor that must be considered when hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorships are on the line.

Gentemann on is an Internet portal site that provides arguably the best content available in soccer.’s intention is to launch in the USA with a new USA centric site with eighty percent International content and twenty percent local content created by US sports journalists. also offers the most extensive soccer database and search engine for soccer facts and statistics.’s intention is to develop specific products and services for the local market such as forums, blogs, games, exclusive multimedia content.

In addition Goal and its sponsors will strive to develop a strong community site to drive traffic. According to Gian Luigi Longinotti-Boutoni CEO of, “For the USA: the next big thing is soccer.” This big thing represents .a major opportunity for sponsors and advertisers.

The USA has the largest and wealthiest community in sports and few people realize how popular soccer has become within that market. Goal estimates that there are 50 million people following soccer in the USA now with 18.7 million players with the player’s average age hovering around 16 years of age. These players clearly represent the so-called “New Media Generation.”

Forty eight percent of the players are teenaged girls who could be considered the most influential and active consumers in the country now. This is also a community largely ignored by traditional media. The entertainment: industry is waking up to the movement however releasing such movies as “Goal,” “The Game of Their Lives,” “Kicking and Screaming,” and “Green Street Hooligans.” by Nick Hornsby.

This is obviously becoming a very passionate community so’s launch into the US market comes at an opportune time. Sponsors will be able to reach this market with very cost efficient on line media communication when compared with TV, Radio, newspaper and magazine. The advertising on the site will also be more effective due to the interactive qualities of online communication making the space on much more valuable yet still more inexpensive that traditional media. With the World Cup approaching in Africa and The USA’s National Team qualifying in the Olympics’s launch in 2008 is critical to capture sponsorship dollars intended to promote products prior to the increased interest in soccer before the next World Cup.

One strategy that will utilize to enhance revenue based upon the ceiling issue is to offer premium, micro-site advertising. This type of advertising can be visitor interactive and create a reason for visitors to return to the site and click through to the sponsor’s site. This also keeps visitors on the site longer making their visit more valuable to sponsors Also with the World Cup approaching sponsors are looking for more media exposure and offers a highly targeted audience.

The limited space available on prior to World Cup will be more valuable in the immediate months prior to the event. will establish an evaluation process for the above metrics and both consumer and writer feedback, including timing.

Timing currently is almost daily as is monitoring every facet of the launch carefully during the first three months of operation. In essence the site is in test mode and even sponsors are enticed to sponsor the site as a test for success. is confident that once sponsors test the site and evaluate the results that they will become consistent advertisers on the site. No acceptable margin of deviation for each measure has been set to date however is flexible enough with its platform and staff writers to adjust within seven working days should additions or alterations to the content be needed.

The average growth in the previous markets has been a healthy twenty five percent per month any growth numbers below this benchmark would warrant investigation of’s Search Engine Optimization plans and distribution partner’s performances