Jun 28, 2010

On music, baseball, and branding

Here's a really interesting blog post about music and branding in baseball: "What My First Kiss Taught Me About Branding". Some highlights:
During my time in baseball, I was responsible for the audio in the park. I was the guy who played all the music before and during the game, all the sound effects and cheers in between. A common practice was labeling certain events with audio. While with the Padres, the at-bat song for a player was all the rage; it was a brand builder for a player. In 1998 we introduced “Hells Bells” as the music when closer Trevor Hoffman entered the game. Within a matter of months, it became one of the most recognizable sports/audio branding moments. It led to a slew of other closers utilizing a song to come into a game, including Joe Nathan, closer for the Minnesota Twins, using “Stand Up and Shout” from the film Rock Star.

I made sure that every single time the Padres (and in later years the River Cats) hit a home run, the exact same song was played as the batter rounded the bases: Land Of 1,000 Dances by Wilson Pickett.

...There are certain moments in our lives that have a very specific soundtrack. Like a visual brand, the audio identifies the event. Every time you hear that song, or that sound effect, nostalgia hits you like a kick in the shin, reminding you of everything about that event.

...There are several parts of a game that have a soundtrack: foul balls, cheers, player intros. . .and home runs. The reason a home run has a single audio identifier is to associate the audio with something great. This has two benefits to it. First, the crowd associates the song with the event. So whether you’re in the stands, at the concession, or in the restroom, when you hear the song, you know exactly what has happened. Second, the song becomes nostalgic outside the sporting event. To this day, I cannot hear Land of 1,000 Dances or Hell’s Bells without mentally drifting back to warm summer nights at the ballpark. I make sure I have something cold on those warm summer nights. Then I drift. . . To this day, eight years since I have worked a Padres baseball game, I can still recount the events of a game based on audio alone...

Read the entire post...

Jun 25, 2010

All about the L.A. Lakers Kiss Cam

Here's an article from the L.A. Times about one of the most celebrity-filled Kiss Cams in North American sports: The L.A. Lakers at the Staples Centre. Highlights:
Midway through nearly every Lakers game at Staples Center, in a manner so pure and unscripted we sometimes cry out in wonder, it happens.

It's about twisting, spinning, lunging, stretching, feinting, grabbing, clutching and, ultimately, scoring.

It's about kissing.

...Nobody does Kiss Cam like a Lakers crowd.

Nowhere, it seems, are the couples as animated, or the crowd as involved, or the message about the heart of Los Angeles any more clear. In a night filled with supermen, it is a brief, heartwarming reminder that the Lakers have been built upon the hopes and ideals of those who are real.

In a town where everything is supposedly disposable, no Kiss Cam moment is cheered louder than a smooch between an elderly couple. In a town that supposedly doesn't trumpet family values, the second-loudest cheers occur for the forehead pecks of a parent on a child.

The third-most popular Kiss Cam moment? Hugh Hefner sitting in a luxury suite kissing three or four bunnies. C'mon, this is still Hollywood.

...In the end there is usually wild cheering, because there is usually Dustin Hoffman. Sitting several rows behind the scorer's table, Hoffman has inexplicably become the star of this show, giving the old-fashioned segment a vaudeville ending.

He will kiss wife Lisa passionately, or with popcorn coming out of his mouth, or mysteriously behind a program. Recently he topped himself by kissing her before the cameras found him, as if he's always making out in the middle of the game.

The cool thing about Hoffman is the cool thing about Kiss Cam. Not once have the Lakers talked with him about his participation. Not once have they warned him that he was going to be shown. Like everything else on the Kiss Cam, it just happens.
Read the entire article...

Jun 22, 2010

Article: Finding a mascot a key to pro sports organizations

Here's an article from nwi.com about mascots in professional sports. Some highlights:

"You have to miss family birthday parties and weddings to go to other people's birthday parties and weddings," said Carrie Norwood, mascot coordinator with the White Sox. "You have to have a bigger than life personality, and know when not to have a bigger than life personality."


Professional sports teams see the importance of a mascot equal to who is on the field. The mascot is the friendly member of the team that fans can touch and interact with, while athletes aren't always as available.

"When kids think of the RailCats, they do think of Rusty as being No. 1," said Laura Blakeley, Manager of Merchandise and Community Relations for the RailCats. "For a lot of people, when they hear 'RailCats', they think of Rusty."

Rusty the RailCat, mascot for Gary's Northern League baseball team, makes between $50 to $70 per appearance. Southpaw is a full-time front office staff member in the franchise with a full slate of regular-season home games plus an additional 250 outside appearances.

"A fair range is between $30,000 to $200,000 per year, but it just depends on who the character is," Norwood said. "It's about how much experience you have, because someone like the Philly Phanatic is going to get paid more because he's flying all over the country."


The secrecy of keeping a mascot's identity varies from team to team. While Famous Chicken Ted Giannoulas isn't shy about giving interviews, talking to a crowd or revealing who he is, Norwood said that there are members of Southpaw's family who don't know about the day job.

Blackhawks media representative Adam Rogowin said the team has a policy of not allowing Tommy Hawk to speak with the media or public. When Rusty practiced routines with the RailCats' dance team last season, media and cameras were limited so as not to reveal the identity of the man behind the suit.

"It's kind of like being Superman," Norwood said. "Once people realize there's someone inside, then the fantasy is ruined. That's one reason our performer doesn't go around telling people what he does. The way adults react toward Southpaw, they totally forget there's someone inside. We want to keep it that way."

Unlike most colleges, which rotate mascots as performers graduate, most professional teams hope to keep performers on the staff as long as possible. The directors say that fans notice anomalies in behavior of mascots, which is why a major league mascot like Southpaw has maintained continuity.

"People notice if Jammer goes from right-handed to left-handed when signing an autograph," Keegan said. "They note the small changes. ... Last year, our Jammer could ride a skateboard. If we have to find someone new, we have to find certain traits.

Read the entire article...

Jun 19, 2010

Behind the scenes: The technology behind the Olympic opening ceremonies

Here's a really interesting article from Production, Lights and Staging News about the technology that powered the opening ceremonies at Vancouver's Winter Oympics. The article details some of the challenges in rigging and programing the massive show. To give you an idea, here's a partial list of the lighting and video gear used for the event:

Projection: (Solotech)
  • 30 Christie 20K Roadster projector
  • 24 Christie 18K Roadster projector
  • 2 Christie 30K Roadster projector
  • 4 Christie 10K Roadster projector
  • 36 PIGI DDRA 7K Xenon projector
  • 6 Only View Master unit
  • 118 Only View Display unit
  • 2 Only Cue Master
  • 6km fiber optic cable
  • Sony broadcast switcher and monitoring for all the creative staff

Lighting: (PRG)
  • Fixtures:
  • 192 Martin MAC 2000 Wash
  • 64 Martin MAC 2000 Performance
  • 19 PRG Bad Boy
  • 70 PRG VL6C+ Spot
  • 242 Vari*Lite VL3500 Spot
  • 165 Vari*Lite VL3500 Wash
  • 173 Vari*Lite VL3000 Spot
  • 112 Vari*Lite VL2416 Wash
  • 74 Vari*Lite VL1000 A/S
  • 104 Vari*Lite VL5Arc Wash
  • 50 Vari*Lite VL5 Wash
  • 44 A&O Technology Falcon 6kW CMY
  • 4 A&O Technology Falcon Flower 7kW
  • 326 Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12 TR
  • 44 Philips Color Kinetics iW Blast TR
  • 33 Philips Color Kinetics iColor Cove MX Powercore 12"
  • 30 Philips Color Kinetics iW Profile
  • 22 Coemar ParLite
  • 386 Element Labs HD Versa TUBE 1 Meter
  • 24 Element Labs HD Versa TUBE .5 Meter
  • 5 Strong 3kW Xenon Gladiator III followspots
  • 11 Strong 4kW Xenon Gladiator III followspots
  • 2 Strong 2.5kW Xenon Gladiator II followspots
  • 16 Lycian 2.5kW HMI M2 followspots
  • 300 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal and Source Four PAR

  • 6 PRG V676 consoles
  • 1 PRG Virtuoso DX2 consoles
  • 2 MA Lighting grandMA consoles
  • 2 PRG Mbox Extreme v3 media servers
  • 27 PRG Series 400 racks
  • 162 S400 208V breaker modules
  • 336 S400 208V break out boxes
  • 4 S400 FOH modules
  • 52 S400 Node Plus
  • 45 S400 10 port switches
  • 17,500 feet (3.3 miles) optical cable
  • 77,745 feet (14.65 miles) S400 trunk cable
  • 37,135 feet (7.03 miles) L6-20 cable
  • 47,710 feet (9.04 miles) 5-Pin XLR DMX cable
  • 21,925 feet (4.15 miles) 4/0 feeder cable

Jun 16, 2010

Behind the scenes: Fan experience in Boston

Boston.com has a great look behind the curtain at TD Banknorth Garden. Some highlights:

Before the final buzzer, 300 crowd shots will be broadcast, along with 45 game-action replays on the high-definition Jumbotron. The Garden DJ will play 125 songs at rock concert volume. The Celtics cheerleaders will fire 40 T-shirts into the stands by air gun. On the court, four promotions will fill timeouts, along with three dance routines by a squad of young women wearing considerably less clothing than normal for a cold winter night. Halftime will feature a similarly-clad female unicyclist tossing bowls from the tip of her bright red shoe onto her head.

...And they do all this knowing that the latest in game presentation can be hard to take for fans whose loyalties are passed generation to generation, and who may be nostalgic for the days when Garden entertainment meant John Kiley at the organ and fans cheering without Jumbotron prompts.

...Kelly Higgins of North Attleborough doesn't understand the debate over fired-up game presentation. When the 20-year-old won tickets to a Celtics game last season, she tried to give them away. She found no takers and went to her first NBA contest.

"When I got back I couldn't tell you who played, but I could remember everything they did on the Jumbotron," said Higgins, who is now eager to use her boyfriend's season-ticket package. "The atmosphere was so much fun. Everyone was so excited. If it wasn't that way, it would be boring. It's not just about basketball. It's everything."

Even in Boston, where many fans place special value on history and tradition, stage-managing game presentation is a priority for all pro teams. From the Red Sox with their carefully choreographed pregame rituals to the Patriots with their booming music and musket blasts, teams increasingly view the orchestrated spectacle as very good -indeed, essential - for business.

"We're quite confident that if we did not make an effort to entertain fans, the building would not be full and we would not have won Banner 17," said Wyc Grousbeck, the Celtics principal owner. "We're about entertainment and winning banners. We think they go together and last year was the proof.

"If we dialed down the game entertainment, we wouldn't have the third-highest gate in the league. The fans kept coming even in years when we weren't particularly good. Game entertainment was part of that."

...While NBA guidelines keep all forms of entertainment from exceeding 95 decibels - about as loud as standing next to a jack hammer - the "noise meter" appears at crucial junctures and provokes high-pitched, lung-straining, ear-splitting screams. Some wonder if the tipping point between show and game has been reached, when young children appear on Jumbotrons looking delighted to be televised, but wearing earplugs to block out noise?

..."You're dealing with a different type of consumer today," said NHL director of events and entertainment Martin McCreary, who has presented everything from the Super Bowl to beach volleyball to the Bassmaster Classic. "People expect an entertainment experience. We're in the entertainment business. Whatever we can do to make contact with fans and give them more than they expected, that's our job. And what people expect from you, ramps up every year."

..."In terms of cost-benefit analysis, game presentation is a slam dunk," said Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist. Noting the average NBA player makes $5 million per season, he called pay for dancers and programmers a "trivial expense." But it is those dancers, who make on average $100 per game, and programmers who help game presentation express team personality.

..."We've revived first pitch ceremonies with gusto," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino of productions that honor veterans, cancer survivors, and Olympic athletes. "They enable us to market the brand and celebrate certain values, reinforce messages we'd like to communicate to our fans.

"The Red Sox didn't always sell out and they may not always sell out in the future. We've got to stay vigilant, make sure we provide fans with a team worthy of their support and the experience they want. We think there is a key brand loyalty that exists right now and we want to perpetuate it for a long time to come."

The history-filled countdown videos played immediately before Celtics and Bruins games capture each team's essence. The Celtics' video clocks in at 15 minutes, nearly twice as long as any other in the NBA because there are 50-plus years of history, and 17 championships, to cover. The Bruins' video starts with a movie theater-style opening and runs five minutes.

...The real juggling acts take place behind the closed doors of conference rooms and control rooms. The day before a Celtics game, marketing executives and game presentation directors finalize a 75-page script. They plot out promotions. They review music selections for timeouts. They want well-organized chaos.

...NBA games typically last 2 1/2 hours, leaving 102 minutes of downtime to fill. Game presentation directors take each sport's natural rhythm and drama into consideration when making decisions about what music to play and what video to show.

Read the entire article...

Jun 13, 2010

Jumbotron Wars, Episode XXVII: Florida Marlins

The Florida Marlins will be the latest MLB team to install a massive new video scoreboard. This one will be a Daktronics product, almost as big (but not quite) as the scoreboard at the new Yankee Stadium. Here's an article from Forbes. Highlights:
Whether it has been new Yankee Stadium’s 16 MM True HD LED display that measures 59 feet high by 101 feet wide, or the current granddaddy at the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium that measures a whopping 105 feet high by 84 feet wide, each year it seems MLB clubs have come up with a new case of “video display” envy.

The latest to jump into the fray is the Florida (soon to be Miami) Marlins.
To add to the mix, Daktronics Inc. , has reached a multi-million dollar contract with Hunt/Moss, A Joint Venture to provide a unique, asymmetrical high definition video display along with multiple digital ribbon boards, pitchers display, out-of-town game display, ticket window displays, digital clocks and control system ready for when the ballpark opens in 2012.

The high definition video display will measure approximately 101 feet wide (top of display) and 51 feet tall, but is wider at the top than it is at the bottom, adding one more architectural nod to the flavor of Miami.

In addition to the main display, two displays will be positioned within the left field wall, the largest of which will measure nearly 100 feet wide and will be used primarily to display stats and scores from out-of-town games in real time. The ballpark will also have two pitcher boards that will track home and away pitcher performance. Other full-color displays will be positioned behind left and right field, and another near the main ramp. Additional video related components will include numerous ticket window displays, backlit signage, and scrolling signage.

Read the entire article...

Jun 10, 2010

We win, or your money back

Here's an interesting article from Darren Rovell about "win insurance" a bit of a trend in sports to refund/credit fans if their team plays poorly. I've heard of "guaranteed win" nights in the minor leagues but this is a bit different. Some highlights:
Tough times have forced even the most creative to be even more creative. For the River City Rascals, an independent Frontier League team based in O’Fallon, Mo., that means selling win insurance for the upcoming season.

When sponsorship talks heated up with the Midwest Agency, a locally based insurance company, the talk focused on bringing more customers into the agency. So the team came up with the idea of selling win insurance.

The team will sell “Midwest Agency Winning Insurance” for $2 if purchased before the start of the eighth inning. The team will sell $5 win insurance in the middle of the eighth, even if the team is losing 10-0.

Ticket prices start at $6, but fans who buy the insurance will collect on the $11 box seats if the team loses. General manager Chris Franklin told CNBC said he can’t imagine the team losing much money, especially considering the fact that it brings repeat customers back to the 2,406-seat ballpark. More than 50 percent of fans last year only attended one of the team’s games and more bottoms in the seats also means being able to make more money at its concession stands.


No team has offered by the game insurance like this, but a few teams have made win guarantees to their season ticket holders. The most risky was the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers, who said for the 2007-08 season they’d refund the entire season to season ticket holders if they didn’t make the playoffs. The Rattlers barely made the playoffs, saving roughly $2.2 million.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were likely the first team to offer a guarantee of sorts in 1987. They didn’t make the playoffs that year, resulting in a reported $500,000 in rebates to fans.

Read the entire article...

And here's another article from The Seattle Times about the MLS Seattle Sounders FC. They'll be giving season ticket holders a one-game credit next season, as a make-good for a poor on-field performance this year.

Jun 7, 2010

You can learn a lot from Wikipedia's NHL mascot page

Clearly, the decline of Encyclopedia Britannica is due to the fact that they didn't have comprehensive entries on topics such as this one: List of NHL mascots.

I thought I knew a lot about NHL mascots, but after reading this page I also learned that:

  • Dallas, Edmonton, New York and Philadelphia* have never had mascots.
  • The giant purple octopus the Red Wings use in the playoffs is called Al.
  • Bailey, from the L.A. Kings, wears number 72 -- as in 72 degrees F, a nice sunny day in L.A.
  • The Colorado Avalanche have had two mascots in their relatively short history. A St. Bernard and a Yeti.
  • Harvey the Hound (Calgary) was the NHL's first mascot*, introduced in 1983.
  • In Phoenix, Howler wears #96 on his jersey, they year the Jets moved to Phoenix. (Take that, Winnipeg.)
  • The Ducks mascot, Wildwing, has a last name: Flashblade.
  • The former Quebec Nordiques mascot was Badaboum, who looks a bit like a walrus.
  • The former Winnipeg Jets mascot was Bennie, who looks like what happens when the Philly Phanatic mates with Grimace.
"The Flyers debuted a short-lived skating mascot named Slapshot in 1976. It remains the only mascot in Flyers' team history."

Jun 4, 2010

VIDEO: Rocky's Fantasy Factory "Nuggest Feet"

Guess we have a bit of a NBA mascot theme going on this week. I don't know why but I really like this dance video from the Denver Nuggets featuring their mascot, Rocky.

Jun 1, 2010

Promotions gone wrong: "A TV for Everyone"

From the Utah Jazz: "A TV For Everyone", starring The Bear.