Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kobayashi, Joey Chestnut, and My Favorite Holiday of the Year

By Pete DeLuca

My favorite holiday of the year is rapidly approaching… the Fourth of July! Before you call me crazy, think about it. Barbecues, 3-day weekends, and fireworks – what’s not to love? No gifts to give, no holiday shopping, and no fruit cake.

But it’s not just the pool parties and miniature American flags that have me confessing my love for America’s Birthday. I love the Fourth of July because each year marks another chapter in the rich history that is the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

I attended the event in 2009 – not something I am particularly proud of, but as a graduate student spending my first summer living in New York City, I saw the event as opportunity to cross another line off my sports “bucket list”.

If you ever wanted to follow competitive eating, it’s easy. There are really only two names worth knowing; Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut. Kobayashi became a household name after downing 50 hot dogs in 2001, doubling the previous record set the year before. Because of him, ESPN began airing the contest annually – turning competitive eating into a multimillion dollar business overnight. Kobayashi went on to win the event six times before losing to Chestnut in 2007. Chestnut won each of the last four contests, including 2009 when he ate 68 hot dogs – a feat that I, embarrassingly, was front row-center for.

But 2010 was different. For the first time in nearly a decade, Kobayashi opted out of the contest citing a labor dispute with Major League Eating (MLE) – he wants to have negotiating rights with sponsors for event he attends. Chestnut, who openly admits to not liking Kobayashi, cruised to victory that year and later hinted to reporters that Kobayashi was scared to compete against him. “… He was asking for weird [demands],” said Chestnut. “It seems like he didn’t really want to come.” It was enough to make Kobayashi, who was standing in the crowd, rush the stage and get arrested by security.

Now to 2011 – Kobayashi’s dispute with MLE is still ongoing, and Chestnut looks like a lock for his fifth straight title. But there could be an asterisk next to Chestnut’s name this year. Just a few miles away, at a rooftop restaurant in Manhattan, Kobayashi will be having his own one-man contest – running simultaneously with Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. He will be held to the same rules and standards as the participants in Coney Island and plans to broadcast his performance to increase awareness about the unfair treatment he’s received on behalf of MLE.

Publicity stunt or not - it makes for great television. Sure, it’s not Brady versus Manning or Magic versus Bird - but it’s controversy and it’s entertaining. The contest will air on ESPN this Monday at noon. Over 2 million viewers are expected to watch the event live, and nearly 50,000 plus fans will be in attendance. I won’t be in Coney Island this year, but I certainly will be glued to my television!

Pete DeLuca is Manager of Creative Services at Maroon PR. Contact him at

Monday, June 27, 2011


By Chartese Burnett

Last week, Jim Riggleman, manager of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club, shocked “the world” (certainly rocked the baseball universe) with his “abrupt” parting of ways with the baseball franchise. (By the way, these kinds of actions and decisions by rational people are rarely abrupt but usually a culmination of circumstances). His team had managed to put together an 11-game winning streak, surpassed the .500 mark in wins, and had just notched a win at home. I don’t know the back story of circumstances (we never do unless we are a principal in it); I only know what we’ve all heard during all of the news broadcasts that bombarded the air waves last week. The story inundated every local (and national) sports television broadcast, along with taking over much of the inventory on sports and news talk radio.

What really prompted Riggleman to leave, why he decided to leave, how he chose his manner of departure, for me, is personally not relevant. That decision is one that only intimately impacts Jim, his family and the Washington Nationals players and the club. What struck me as poignant, however, was Jim’s “press conference” that was held in the tunnel of Nationals Park after the fact. I listened intently, especially since I was stuck in horrific traffic on 395 South, and I reflected on his dialogue with reporters.

Oftentimes, we assume that key players (coaches, managers, players, front office staff) should look at their careers through a “different” lens than anyone else in the workforce. Certainly, sports professionals and those that work in that arena are afforded above "average” salaries and perks (their workplace is a game field or court and they get paid to entertain us); however, their jobs define their livelihood, lifestyle, and family dynamics, just as the work of anyone else who considers him/herself an employee.

I could appreciate and respect what I considered the “core” of Jim’s statement to the media, i.e. that he had to look himself in the mirror each day and live with himself. He went on to say (I am summarizing my interpretation) that, because his repeated requests to discuss with management his contract (extension, etc.) was not met, he felt that it was in HIS best interest to walk away. Riggleman alluded to not being able to “think outside the box in making coaching decisions” and that he ultimately felt that because there was a failure to have meetings regarding his compensation, he took from that he was not the manager that the club was convinced would be there next year, for the long haul, into the future.

Again, I am not offering any opinion on IF Jim’s leaving was right or wrong, IF the club was right or wrong; my only opinion is this: if someone strongly feels that his or her work is somehow not appreciated, valued, integral to the current and future success of their organization, and that is clearly and repeatedly demonstrated by their employer (by whichever barometers are used to make that determination), I respect and admire the courage it takes for an individual to stand up for what he or she believes in, to risk admonition by a world that’s watching, and to even walk away when the organization is thriving.

The most important resource a company possesses is its HUMAN resources; it’s personnel, staff, workers. And if THEY aren’t thriving and deemed important to the success that the organization is enjoying, then it’s not a good recipe for sustained success. Jim Riggleman made a decision with which he could live and one that, I assume, will allow him to sleep better at night. His decision will be debated for a long time, I am sure. And, at the end of the day, the opinions of others doesn’t matter when they aren’t walking in those shoes. I wish Jim Riggleman the best as he embarks upon another chapter of his life.

Chartese Burnett is Director of Non-Profit PR at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You’ve Got Klout!

By Courtney Carey

Facebook has taken on yet another addition to its capabilities and marketing potential. Today, the social media start-up company, Involver, announced that they were launching an app that allows brands to customize their Facebook pages depending on the Klout scores of their fans.

What is a Klout score? Klout, a San Francisco based company, provides social media analytics that measures the effectiveness and influence that a social network has. The company gathers data from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and takes into account the size of someone’s network, the quality of their content and how other people interact with that content. Klout then scores the social network based on the influence that it has.

Senior VP of Involver, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, describes the newly launched app: “The first application is a simple coupon-esque experience. A brand will be able to bring an application out of their Page, configure to deliver content to people above and below certain Klout scores, and then input whatever that content is.” The aforementioned content can be anything that the brand wants to offer – coupons, movie trailers, ringtones, unreleased products, etc.

Audi USA is the first to take this new Facebook app on a test drive. Based on the user’s Klout score, Audi USA is offering fans a custom desktop, ringtone or both.

This is an interesting step in the customization of brand pages on Facebook. This level of personalization is going to be what makes certain brands stand out among consumers and the over 500 million users on Facebook. I am very interested to see the other apps that Involver is planning to launch in the near future!

Courtney Carey is Manager of Social Media at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Luck of the Irish DOES Exist

By Tim Richardson

In November, 2009, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the game itself were struck a major blow. Its top golfer, spokesman, face, draw on the tour and overall icon began his fall from grace. Golf’s golden boy and cash cow, was exposed for not being the squeaky-clean, guy next door that he had been built up to be his “camp,” the media and us, “Joe Public.”

As Tiger the golfer became Tiger the punch line, the game took its lumps as well... both from a PR perspective as well as in its popularity as its marquee player took time away from the game to focus on his personal issues (as he should have done).

Over the course of that time, the USGA and fans searched for that new player who would carry the flag…was it now Phil Mickelson’s turn to completely take over? Would Sergio Garcia finally live up to his potential? But while Woods’ personal life unraveled, so did the game of golf’s image and relevance. Without the dominant player who seemed like superman, golf’s attractiveness dipped. No longer was there that dominant player on the tour who struck fear in his opponents, drew immense galleries on the tour and was barreling down on breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for most wins at a major. The signature black slacks and red shirt that Woods wore on final rounds were no longer symbolic of the world’s best player coming out to take yet another tournament.

The tide was turning. The last four majors have been won by players in their 20s who certainly are not household names: 27-year-old South African, Louis Oosthuizen, won the 2010 British Open; at 26-years of age, German Martin Kaymer won the 2010 PGA Championship. And then, there was the 2011 Masters, when 21-year old Irishman Rory McIlroy took a four-stroke lead into the final day of golf’s most heralded tournament, only to implode as the world watched him match the greatest collapse in Masters’ history. As a result, 26-year old South African Charl Schwartzel went on to win coveted green jacket.

Then came the U.S. Open. Woods, who had just fallen out of the top 10 in the world for the first time in 14 years, pulled out of the tournament at Congressional Country Club in D.C. because his left knee and Achilles were not fully healed. Not exactly great news for tournament organizers as Woods’s presence on the tour had again begun to help sell tickets. But who knew last Thursday morning (June 16) that the young lad from Northern Ireland was about to turn in one of the biggest rebound (and redemption) performances in sports. A showing that was vintage Tiger and great for golf’s popularity and ratings. Some say that his “wire to wire dominance” was bad for the game…I argue that it was great for the game, especially considering the events in April when McIlroy had a complete meltdown at Augusta

Now 22-years old, McIlroy shredded the field to become the 111th U.S. Open Champion. His total of 268 strokes, 16-under par, set a US Open record. While he put on a one-man show over the four days of the event, his margin of victory (eight strokes) was still less than Woods’ domination at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when he recorded the largest margin of victory in history (15 strokes). So let’s not give the fresh-faced kid from Ireland the torch just yet as this was only his second tournament victory while Woods has won more than 70 PGA events.

But let’s do enjoy the performance, and the person. Even my wife (who could care less about golf) was interested in Sunday’s final round because of the many things it represented. Cheers of “Rory, Rory, Rory” could be heard as McIlroy walked the course to hit his next shot on that final day. When asked by Bob Costas if he’d play more in the U.S. now, the “kid” in McIlroy showed through as he uttered modestly, “I think I’m going to have to” – leading to a roar from the crowd. But not lost in this magical moment (which brought great PR for the USGA) was the fact that McIlRoy was about to make history in front of his dad on Father’s Day… hmm, remind you of anyone?

There’s an Irish toast that says “May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is best forgotten.” At the U. S. Open, Rory McIlroy created a memory that he, fans and the USGA will never forget, while also showing wisdom beyond his years by not allowing his Masters implosion to rattle him.

Slainte Rory!

Tim Richardson
is Executive Vice President at Maroon PR. Contact him at

Monday, June 13, 2011

Social Media Users Name LinkedIn as Most Useful Social Network

By Mitchell Schmale

A recent survey of nearly 3,000 active social media users found that LinkedIn was named as the most important social networking site over Facebook and Twitter. The survey by Performics polled 2,997 active social media networkers with 59% of the respondents saying it was more important to have a LinkedIn account than any other social network.

Despite tapping the business-oriented network as the most valuable to users over Facebook and Twitter, only 50% of users with active LinkedIn accounts said they visited the site at least weekly with 20% visiting daily. Experts attribute LinkedIn’s growing popularity with the continued dragging economy and sluggish job market. LinkedIn provides business professionals with the platform to raise their public professional profile by sharing their accomplishments and experience to help grow awareness among other industry professionals.

In 2010, a similar survey found that 41% of respondents believed that LinkedIn was the most important social networking site in relation to its competitors. As the economy continues to slow, LinkedIn continues to grow as an important tool for its users. In the future as the economy and job market (hopefully) recovers, it will be interesting to see if LinkedIn remains an important resource for business professionals. Or perhaps Facebook, Twitter or the next soon-to-be-launched social media tool around the corner will be able to offer effective one-stop shopping to connect users to their friends, family and their next job.

Mitchell Schmale is Vice President of Maroon PR. Contact him at

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Themed Courts and Flashy Fields – The Latest Marketing Tool in College Recruiting

By Katy Fincham

Following in the popular footsteps of University of Oregon, Towson University has thrown themselves full-force into the world of outlandish athletic surfaces, announcing that they are redesigning their basketball court, with the focus on their mascot – the Tiger. According to, the orange watermark tiger stripes on the floor will provide the signature element in addition to new baseline logos and a new ‘Tiger Paw’ mark at the scorer's table.”

While the basketball court design is a unique way to give the facility a facelift and will certainly be a great addition to their new arena, set to open in 2013, the intriguing part of the court’s redesign is that the University coaching staff believes that it will give their program an edge in recruiting.

"Just like Oregon did last year at the Matthew Knight Arena with their new look, we feel that our new court is a plus for recruiting because kids like things that are unique and cutting edge in design, “said newly appointed Towson men’s basketball coach, Pat Skerry.

And Towson University isn’t the only program that feels this way…

It’s safe to say that the college recruiting process is much more competitive that than the actual sport itself. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), 3.1% senior high school basketball players (less than 1 in 35) end up on teams in college and 6% of high school seniors (1 in 16) will play football in college.

College athletic programs have been trying to find new and creative ways to convince young talent that their school is the school to play for. The usual “powerhouse” programs will always have their name and prestige as an easy sell, but over the past few years, we’ve seen more mid-major schools step up to the plate and use flash and pizzazz to convince young athletes that their program is the one to choose.

Boise State’s football program led the way in the movement of using athletic playing surfaces as an attention generator and recruiting marketing tool. The Broncos’ “Smurf Turf” has been around since 1986, and with the recent success of the small Division I program, recruits have taken notice of both the success of the program, as well as the obsessive national attention over the unique field… National attention = recruiting jackpot.

According to Skerry, Towson’s new-look playing surface “has been a discussion item with the new recruits that the program has signed since his arrival in April.” What has yet to be seen is if this investment turns into Stripes of Success or just another marketing gimmick. Stay tuned…

Katy Fincham is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Olympics Remain Must-See TV

By Kristen Seabolt

Yesterday, NBC Universal beat out both FOX and ESPN to secure the U.S. broadcasting rights to the next four Olympic Games from 2014 until 2020… a deal reportedly worth $4.38 billion.

This is no surprise really, as NBC has broadcast every summer Olympics since 1988 and every winter Games since 2002. They also have the rights until the 2012 summer Games in London.

The breakdown per Games will be $755 million for 2014, $1.226 billion for 2016, $963 million for 2018 and $1.418 billion for 2020, making the United States TV rights deal the biggest single source of income for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Also, as part of the deal, NBC acquired the rights for all media platforms, including free-to-air television, subscription television, internet and mobile TV. In the past however, NBC was criticized for using a tape-delay in order to show some of the Olympic events on primetime rather than airing them live, including the famous U.S. hockey win over Russia in 1980. The most recent tape delays occurred during both the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics and the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics.

However, in this media and technology day and age, every minute of every day is primetime. With instant news made possible with the internet and the million of forms of social media, it will be impossible for NBC to air events on primetime TV after the fact, because everyone in America and throughout the world will have already watched it and/or know the outcome.

Kristen Seabolt
is an Associate Account Executive for Maroon PR. Contact her at