Tuesday, September 27, 2011


By Pete DeLuca

With football season in full swing and baseball’s postseason rapidly approaching; I - like millions of fans worldwide – remain glued to ESPN for constant highlights, news, and updates. And whether it is the Coors Light Cold Hard Facts or the Chevrolet Clubhouse, I find myself willing to sit through any poorly named segment in order to get information about my favorite team – regardless of SportsCenter relentless product placement.

But just when I thought I was wise to all the Gatorade Ultimate Highlights and Bud Light Top Ten Plays segments – ESPN throws a curve ball and begins airing this commercial:

Wait… What is Grantland? I saw a Subway logo in there, and Dove soap one too… but what is Grantland?! Thirty seconds and I was hooked. I caved. I ran to my computer, opened up Explorer, and typed in “grantland.com” so fast that I misspelled it twice.

Turns out, Grantland.com is a new website launched by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons. The site provides a new take on sports journalism – articles written in a narrative format aimed at connecting sports to broader cultural trends. Simmons, as well as a collection of other talented writers, cover everything from Fantasy Football to Brad Pitt’s Moneyball Oscar Odds. I spent a few minutes on the site before closing my lap top and moving on.

ESPN launched Grantland.com as a new, innovative way to present sports news. But, the marketing of the site breaks from their norm. For a channel whose lineup includes such shows as “College GameDay Built by The Home Depot” and the “GMC Post Game Show”, it was intriguing to see such a subtle advertising. And it worked. It’s a lesson that thousands of advertisers can learn from.

Pete DeLuca is the Manager of Creative Services at Maroon PR.  Contact him at Pete@MaroonPR.com.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Too Big a Target?

By Jennifer Schiller

Want to cause a massive crash of your online shopping system? Offer one of the most high-end fashion labels at bargain prices. That’s what happened to mega-everything-retailer Target last week when it offered a line designed by uber-chic Italian brand Missoni.

Just minutes after launch the site crashed due to high volume and many of those who waited anxiously were left without the pieces they had coveted since the collaboration was announced. Stores too were left dismantled only hours after opening.

Now, the Associated Press is reporting that many of the customers who thought they had purchased one of the line’s many items - from clothing to house wares - are experiencing delays with shipping or having orders canceled. Many of those dissatisfied shunned brand loyalty and taken to social media outlets to protest and encourage others to no longer shop at Target or Target.com.

This was not Target’s first major label collaboration, having worked with industry giants like Jean Paul Gauliter and popular Liberty of London in the past. But this time Target’s PR folks did such a phenomenal job drumming up unparalleled levels of anticipation the tech world could not keep up, leading to the problems facing the giant now.

All of which begs a question: can a brand get too big? Is it really possible as the article suggests that Target was too good for its own good in this case?

In the popularity contest that is retail is losing some disgruntled shoppers worth the risk of gaining celebrity attention with tweets from stars like Jessica Alba and lines around the corner? And as social media grows can the average person outweigh celebrities and brands in terms of clout?

Only a week removed from Missoni-mania it remains to be seen how much of a hit Target’s image will take from the ordering and site issues. Analysts disagree on the long-term effects for the chain-retailer with some saying the disappointment is fleeting and others forecasting larger worries. However, in the immediacy it brings to the forefront whether an idea and campaign can be so good, it’s bad.

Personally I will enjoy my Missoni for Target heels I picked up worry-free at a nearby, nearly empty Target, but as I do I will wonder did Target create too big a bull’s-eye, one it simply couldn’t escape?

Jennifer Schiller is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at Jennifer@MaroonPR.com.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Social Media, First on the Scene

By Sarah Gubara

Long gone are the mornings where you’d see a man in his pajamas, sipping coffee, and reading the newspaper. Instead the likely image is that of a young woman with a Starbucks to-go cup in her hand and a smart phone in the other, browsing her social feed.

A survey conducted by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism found that 65% of people cast the internet as their main source of news. While, the Canadian Media Research Consortium found that 43% of social media users get their daily news via recommendations from friends and family on sites like Facebook.

Social media sites, especially Twitter, have proven to be the fastest and most effective way to monitor events and stories as they’re happening. The no commitment 140 character limit on Twitter allows you to quickly browse multiple perspectives and opinions of people around the world on any given topic.

You’ll find that more and more stories break on Twitter first, such as the revolutions in Egypt and India or the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 737, where passenger Mike Wilson was the first to tweet. Another vivid example was the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death as Keith Urbahn, Former Chief of Staff for Donald Rumsfeld tweeted “I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot Damn.” Within 2 minutes, Keith Urbahn’s tweet had been shared over 300 times, stealing thunder away from the Presidential Address that was to come later that night.

The advantage is clear, Social Media has what traditional news sources don’t always have: personality. On Twitter, people contribute their own reactions while sharing news, which makes it not only faster but way more entertaining than traditional outlets.

While news spreads quickly via social media, so do rumors. It’s unbelievable to seen the chain of events and speculations that can ensue from a single tweet. I’m sure you’ve heard of many celebrities who were declared prematurely dead on Twitter including Johnny Depp, Justin Bieber, and Tom Hanks. Although, it can become a challenge to balance social commentary against socially useful news, the novelty of communicating news over social networks is still ingenious. As for the useless chatter that comes along with it, my advice is to follow credible sources and verify content before you start writing your eulogy for Justin Bieber.

Sarah Gubara is the Manager of Social and Digital Media at Maroon PR.  Contact her at Sarah@MaroonPR.com.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Media & 9/11…Ten Years Later

By Tim Richardson

When planning my blog for this month, I had an idea in place for many weeks. But as I sat in my living room on the morning of September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the horrific day that forever changed our way of life, I was moved to change my topic.

The morning of September 11, 2001 began as any other day. People got up to go to work; pilots and passengers boarded airplanes for what they expected to be normal business trips, social travels, etc.; and America went about its business as normal…until 8:46 a.m. when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. At first, many, including the networks reporting the story, speculated about what happened…was it just an unbelievable accident? That conjecture ended just 17 minutes later when United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower. Add in the strike at the Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville, Pa., and we knew that our nation was under attack.

Whether it was a national network or a local radio station, every media outlet in the country had to decide how they were going to cover the unfolding stories of that day as chaos and confusion swept the country. Decisions were made in newsrooms across the nation that would have critical and lasting impacts on how the media would cover stories in the future,

This was new territory for the media and they had to evaluate whether exercising sensitivity outweighed the choice to often exploit sensationalism. In the days after the attacks, David Westin, the president of ABC News, ordered that video of the jets hitting the World Trade Center was not to run repeated on the air so as not to disturb viewers, especially children.

Westin’s decision was unique and admirable. In the introduction to “September 11, 2001,” a book that compiles the front pages marking the attacks, former Executive Editor of the New York Times, Max Frankel, describes the media’s role in the hours and days after the terrorist attacks: “honest and reliable news media could instruct the world in its vulnerability, summon Americans to heroic acts of rescue, and ignite the global search for meaning and response. Only trusted news teams could discern the nation’s anxiety, spread words of hope and therapy, and help to move us from numbing fear toward.”

Ten years later, we live in a world with a completely new media landscape. Those “trusted news teams” are much smaller or no longer in existence. The majority of Americans get their news from the Internet. Plus, neither Twitter nor Facebook existed in 2001…can you imagine how that day would have unfolded in the social media universe?

According to Vice-President Biden’s speech from the Pentagon last Sunday, more than 2.8 million people of the “9/11 Generation” joined our Armed Forces following the attacks that September day in 2001 “to fight for the people who died that day” and to protect those of us who live under the blanket of freedom that is America.

My father is part of what is known as “America’s Greatest Generation” and that is a label that he and so many others richly deserve. He was alive on “a day that will live in infamy” when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and killed over 2,400 Americans. I remember my dad telling me 10 years ago that he never thought he would live to see another day where our country was attacked in such a catastrophic way. He also talked about how incredibly different it was in terms of how Americans learned of that attack in Hawaii, compared to the media coverage of 9/11. Close to 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001 and I believe that the “9/11 Generation” will go down in history as our nation’s most resilient and united in a time of great sorrow.

Finally, then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue chose to cancel the NFL games scheduled for the Sunday following the attacks in 2001…a decision that has been applauded and criticized. So it was ironic that the 10th anniversary fell on the opening weekend of the NFL season. Sports are something that tend to unite people, and the NFL should be commended for the role they played on Sunday in uniting a nation:

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

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nike Brings the “Future” to the Present

By Katy Fincham

“The greatest shoe never made” is finally here….and it’s four years ahead of schedule!

In the 1989 cult classic film “Back to the Future II,” Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) have once again been sent through time and finds themselves in the year 2015. Clearly dressed for the 1980’s, McFly is given a pair of NIKE’s in efforts to blend in with the youth of the future. Since their pictorial debut, fans and sneaker collectors have begged for NIKE to release a model of the shoe for purchase.

On Thursday, September 8th, NIKE announced that 1,500 pairs of the mythical 2011 NIKE MAG shoes will be auctioned on eBay and all of the net proceeds will go to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's disease research. The ten-day auction has already created a buzz and awoken their cult following. As of today, the highest winning bid reached $37,500.00 for one pair!

According to NIKE, “the 2011 NIKE MAG was designed to be a precise replica of the original from Back to the Future II. The aesthetic is an exact match, down to the contours of the upper, the glowing LED panel and the electroluminescent NIKE in the strap. The 2011 NIKE MAG illuminates with the pinch of the “ear” of the high top, glowing for five hours per charge.”

The promotion and marketing behind the NIKE MAG is just as clever and fun as the shoe itself. Commercials are already out, featuring Christopher Lloyd playing his memorable role as Doc Brown; and Michael J. Fox officially debut the shoe during a guest appearance on David Letterman last Thursday. With funds going directly to The Michael J. Fox Foundation, fans and collectors get a sense of helping those in need, while also satisfying a childhood fantasy.

The only thing NIKE MAG is missing? Power laces….guess we’ll have to wait until 2015!

Katy Fincham is an Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at Katy@MaroonPR.com.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Marketing of a Female Sports Fan

By Kristen Seabolt

With the official kick-off of the NFL season tonight at 8 p.m. EST when the Saints and Packers face off, I thought it fitting to discuss the growing popularity of football (and sports in general) among a growing market…women.

I consider myself to be a knowledgeable female sports fan. I have played soccer since I was five, watched the Orioles since back when they were a decent team, and have supported the Ravens since they came to Baltimore. However, until recently, I was one of the few people in my group of personal friends who knew the difference between a cornerback and a running back. Now, I know many female fans who know more than most men do.

Over the past decade, women have broken into the billion dollar sports industry that has long been dominated by men, and they are here to stay. Professional sports teams and league organizations alike have picked up on this growing trend, and have altered their marketing tactics to include this new audience. In the NFL for example, more than 40% of fans are female, so why wouldn’t teams and league offices want to draw their attention…and their wallets?

Of the 32 teams in the NFL, several offer exclusive clubs or promotions to their female fan base. The Washington Redskins recently launched “WOW,” the Women of Washington Redskins club. The Baltimore Ravens offer the “Purple Club,” and every year host a “Purple Evening” meet & greet with the Ravens players and coaches for women only. Last season, the Green Bay Packers offered a “Football 101 NFL Workshop for Women” for females to come out to the field and learn the rules and plays of the game.

The NFL as a league also boasts a growing female merchandise section of their online NFL Shop, featuring everything from pink jerseys and earrings to bras and underwear. Actress Alyssa Milano’s Touch collection, hosted on NFLShop.com, has seen a 40% increase in sales over the past five years.

And no one can forget that month of the season when, across the league, players sport pink cleats and arm bands in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. In addition, women’s clothing stores such as Victoria’s Secret, Motherhood Maternity, Kohl’s and Macy’s all sell licensed female merchandise. And it isn’t just the NFL that has geared their marketing toward women. Both the MLB and NHL offer female clubs and promotions. Earlier this season, the Philadelphia Phillies hosted a “Baseball 101” for female fans who want to learn the game, and the Washington Capitals have a very active “Washington Scarlets” club that frequently meets and attends games together. Lastly, and very recently, ESPN launched ESPN W, a website geared specifically for female fans talking both male and female sports.

The need to market to the female fan is clear, whether it be to make them happy or just to make money - and overall, I think they have done a good job so far. As we welcome football back tonight, notice the number of females in the stands with painted faces and ridiculous costumes chanting with the rest of them for their favorite team.

Kristen Seabolt is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at Kristen@MaroonPR.com.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Online Privacy Settings: Putting Up the Virtual Fences

By Eve Hemsley

Controlling who sees what and where you post is the new hot topic of social networking sites like Facebook and Google +. Battling over privacy settings have companies creating new features to immediately control who will see your post as you write it – and photo sharing sites like Flickr will not be left behind in the fight.

Flickr’s latest defense to keep up with the new genre of privacy settings is geofences, a new precautionary feature that allows users to map out zones and set distinct location sharing settings for those areas. With location services now being standard in online interactions, Flickr front-end engineer Trevor Hartsell felt that geofences was essential for adapting to the new standard.

In the words of Mashable’s Associate Editor Jennifer Van Grove, here’s why geofences matters: “Fluffy the cat is being extra cute today. You snap a photo of Fluffy with your smartphone and share it on the web. The photo of Fluffy, depending on your default settings, could carry with it metadata that exposes your home address. Now you have a potential privacy kerfuffle on your hands.”

Jennifer poses an interesting problem that people do not often consider while they are constantly updating their every move and location. Geofences is in place to ensure that only those in your safe and familiar circle will be able to see Fluffy and her exact location.

When setting up a geofence, users can create a 250-meter radius surrounding their home and then specify a group of people (family, friends, etc.) who would be able to see the more specific origins of posted photos within that radius. Users will also be able to go back and create privacy settings for pictures posted in the past.

The endearing aspect of Flickr’s geofences is that it does seem to have everyone’s safety in mind. As the virtual boundaries of the world get smaller and smaller, Flickr is working to at least keep your address a mystery.

Eve Hemsley is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at Eve@MaroonPR.com.