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“Find What You Love,” by Steve Jobs at Stanford University 2005 Commencement
I have never met Steve Jobs, but he has had an important impact on my life and career. Elsewhere in this blog you can read about my affinity for the nexus of technology and sport which was bred of the open hand Apple extended to me and my associates 30 years ago when we had the then crazy notion of gathering pitch-by-pitch details of Major League Baseball games to provide broadcasters with enriched commentary texture and baseball operations decision makers with insights to improve game tactics planning and player performance analysis.(ML)
Jobs, who stepped down as CEO of Apple yesterday, Wednesday, August 24, 2011, after having been on medical leave, reflected on his life, career and mortality in this commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. Read it. Breathe it. And hold it close. . .
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots. Read more
Jackie Autry (Owner – California (now “Los Angeles”) Angels) . . . Not satisfied with having attendance stalled, win or lose, at the 2.5 million level, Autry retained us to understand the decision making dynamics of light and heavy attending Angels fans, including focused attention on Hispanic communities, in order to increase marketing and ticket sales effectiveness and productivity. Her customer service consciousness, bred of her experience in banking, was among the highest in the entire pro sports industry.
The structure of the Hispanic community, reinforcing what we had learned when working with the Houston Astros, highlighted the importance of engaging community leaders, informal and formal, including religious, political and small business principals. A key hurdle we discovered that had to be overcome was the issue of “trust” and “commitment to diversity” reflected in the team’s and playing facility’s hiring practices.
Roy Eisenhardt (President/CEO – Oakland A’s) . . . In 1980, leading Major League Baseball into a new technology-enabled age, hired my company’s STATS, Inc. subsidiary (Sports Team Analysis & Tracking Systems), co-owned with Dr. Richard Cramer, noted Sabermetrician, to develop EDGE 1.000 ™. Eisenhardt made it clear from the outset that he wanted to increase radio and TV ratings, the enjoyment of fans and the value of the broadcasts to advertisers.
This was the first computerized pitch-by-pitch and pitcher/batter/fielder tendencies information gathered in real time for the purpose of player performance evaluation, game tactics planning and the statistical enrichment of play-by-play radio and TV broadcasts (Apple, provided the development hardware which also included Hayes modems, a DEC mainframe and a Corvus hard drive) . Jay Alves, now an executive with the Colorado Rockies, was recruited to be the first system operator.
We also worked closely with the broadcasters, Bill King and Lon Simmons, to increase their comfort levels with the rapidly updating statistical and trends texture they now had displayed in front of them.
Our EDGE 1.000 provided the initial analytical underpinnings of the A’s amateur player evaluation and drafting process fostered by Sandy Alderson, then Billy Beane and since popularized in the book, Moneyball, by Michael Lewis. The movie version of Moneyball, with Brad Pitt, opens in late 2011.
For the subsequent two decades, the brand image and reputation of the Oakland A’s as well as the confidence instilled in fans would be influenced and shaped by the innovative bent of the Haas family ownership.
John McMullen (Owner – New Jersey Devils) . . . Then also the owner of another client, the Houston Astros, McMullen retained us (including colleague Douglas K. Nelson) to (a) help re-launch his newly born New Jersey Devils National Hockey League club (formerly the Colorado Rockies) 60 days before its opening puck-drop, (b) restructure its pricing and season plan packaging 30 days after the original plan had been announced and (c) recapture his personal credibility with the New York media. Top tier season plan buyers were given access to the nearby Pegasus Club in return for a front-end long term loan to the club, inadvertently foreshadowing seat licenses.
How the first 30-60 days of a new ownership are managed can have lasting implications for the marketing of a sports franchise and how fans, media and prospects view not only owner intentions but the brand personality. Faltering first impressions are costly to reverse.
Art Savage retained me five months before the National Hockey League granted Bay Area expansion rights to George and Gordon Gund(shown here). The first CEO of the new club, initially dubbed “Bay Area Hockey ’91”, Savage asked me to craft the new franchise’s overall business plan, organization/ staffing plan, marketing/sales plan (including naming the team and designing its logo family) and week-by-week launch countdown for what became the San Jose Sharks.
Upon completion, he hired me as employee #2 to become the EVP Business Operations, overseeing all revenue streams (tickets, premium seating/suites, sponsorships and merchandise), TV and radio production, community development, advertising/ promotion and media development.
The role also included defining the culture and values of the young entity, ensuring they were synchronized with those of ownership and the marketplace.
We gained an in-depth understanding of the market and its segmentation over a 15-week period with a comprehensive mix of marketing research activity that included 32 focus groups that I moderated, “crowd group” concept testing, executive interviews with corporate and affinity group targets by phone and a global team naming sweepstakes, carrying out $350,000 worth of work for $45,000 out-of-pocket.
Having to launch the franchise twice, once in 1991 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, 40 miles north of San Jose, and two years later in San Jose when the city’s new downtown arena was completed, understanding attitudes influenced by geography and distance as well as familiarity with and interest in hockey was paramount.
The spate of interim league takeovers and new owners acquiring existing franchises (frequently with facilities assets) in Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL is inevitably accompanied by dramatic alterations to operating and debt service economics and fan base uncertainty or malaise. Incoming owners always want to put a personal stamp of added value on their new investments during the first 6-12 months after their assumption of the reins, preferring to take time to assess beyond their due diligence processes what exactly they have bought. . . in other cases, as anyone familiar with Machiavelli will understand, the new owners make their first moves within hours or days.
This has reignited interest (and need) for fresh, objective introspection which is an important segment of our practice.
Rick White (Executive – Major League Baseball Properties, now a sports apparel industry principal), with support from his boss, Joe Podesta, anticipated the emergence of league headquarters-provided hands-on, localized marketing guidance to member clubs when he retained me to carry out market and organization studies of the struggling Seattle Mariners and New York Mets.
Our latter work was completed just as the franchise was sold to Doubleday Publishing and minority investor, Fred Wilpon, so we presented the implications of our findings separately to Nelson Doubleday in his Doubleday Publishing offices and to the latter in his Long Island-situated Sterling Equities offices, his colleagues in attendance. Eventually, Doubleday and Wilpon purchased the club from the publishing house and, later, Wilpon bought out Doubleday.
Since then, when Paul Allen, owner of the Portland Trailblazers, asked the NBA to investigate how he could streamline his business organization and decision making processes, the league created a task force (which retained me to assist), headed by Bernie Mullin, to help bring the organization into alignment with its newly expressed straight forward mission of effectively running an NBA franchise and its venue as opposed to a once-broader vision of becoming a multifaceted media company.
Mascots can be leveraged to create stronger connections with young elementary school-aged children and their parents, conveying an engaging, new, unanticipated facet of the team brand. During the early development of the San Jose Sharks web site, we decided to translate graphic depictions of our popular mascot, S. J. Sharkie, into entertaining learning opportunities.
We took him out of context to create an exciting new type of link with young fans and their families.
One of these executions was an “S.J.Sharkie Does New York” coloring book (we also developed a companion treatment for San Jose). The booklet of 17 pictures of San Jose Sharkie in famous New York City settings was delivered through our web site for printing out and coloring or painting and as a sponsored premium hand-out at a game.
We had taken S.J.Sharkie to New York, shuttling him around Manhattan in a van and taking staged and impromptu photos of him, occasionally stopping traffic, frequently dealing with women of all ages who fell in love with him on first sight. Afterward, we cleaned the color out of the photos to generate the images you see here.
The thousands of nationwide and local downloads of the coloring book from the site suggest we hit an harmonic chord.
Since 2003, magnified by our presence in Silicon Valley, my partners and I have been retained by Boards, venture capital and angel investors, founders and CEOs of early stage tech companies seeking our guidance and assistance to gain footholds in the sports industry or with sports fans/consumers.
They have run the gamut from mobile, tablet and/or web apps to game and software development companies as well as WiFi and online loyalty/retention platform ventures.
Also, because of my experience as the CMO of an online K-8 education and professional development company, organizations developing hardware and software for the digital classroom and home schooling have also sought us out.
Our roles have been both strategic and operating in nature, being engaged as interim operating executives spearheading business development, product development, sales and brand building/public relations functions. We have also augmented the credibility and depth of senior management teams in their capital raising efforts.
Because of our wide reaching understanding of the inner workings of sports entities and sports fans (we have interviewed more than 850,000 of the latter), we assist our clients by helping them understand and capitalize on
Was retained by the National Hockey League and Paul Tagliabue (NFL/NHL Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP then subsequently NFL Commissioner) and his colleague, Bing Leverich, out of their Washington D.C. office to carry out litigation support work in behalf of the NHL in its case against Ralston Purina, then owners of the St. Louis Blues, who were seeking to move the club to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
My work entailed documenting all of the pro sports world’s multi-team ownerships from the 1940s through the 1980s to demonstrate that there were plausible owners that had not been considered. The NHL prevailed. Indirectly, the case served to protect the National Hockey League brand and to ensure that the collective interests of the league took precedent over the agenda of an individual owner.
Tagliabue then supported, in his role as NFL Commissioner, my being retained as an expert witness in late 90s/early 2000s IP/licensing/best marketing practices litigation with the Oakland Raiders. The NFL prevailed, a previously infrequent outcome when confronted in the courts by the Raiders.
One of the image-building programs we conceived and implemented for Strikeforce entailed outfitting our Bagram and Kandahar air bases in Afghanistan with a trove of Strikeforce-branded mixed martial arts training equipment. The military is a major segment of MMA tv/web-based viewership and participation.
Not a traditional function of the Strikeforce organization, thinking globally in this manner, our interim operating role and outside experience-based perspective played a critical role bring this effort about without taxing the lean operating staff.
Working with military intermediaries at Langley AFB near Washington D.C., an extension of Pentagon, and with the enthusiasm of Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, I worked for ten months to deliver MMA gear into the war zone bases to strengthen troop battle readiness and build their morale.
Produced for us in Bangkok, Thailand by Fairtex, where the summer 2010 unrest delayed production, the equipment was deployed directly to the bases by . . . FedEx! MMA training sessions there, as frequently as three times a week, had been limited to grappling absent the benefit of protective and workout gear.
The palletized shipments included Muaythai banana bags, mitts, Thai curve pads, training and combat gloves, sparring head guards, shin pads and a supply of EA Sports “MMA” video games.
As an extension of the initiative, Strikeforce invited attendees, competitors and exhibitors at the 23rd Arnold Fitness Expo between March 4-6, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio to visit its booth and sign onto “Messages from Home” placards to demonstrate support of the United States troops. They were expedited to Bagram, Kandahar and Langley and staged in high visibility locations. Feedback from the troops at all levels inspired and humbled us.
There are now Strikeforce-equipped and comprehensive MMA-based programs in place at the two primary Afghanistan bases benefiting air, marine and army personnel.