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An NFL Offseason Offers Hope for Teams, but So Might a Rebranded Look

The NFL’s partnership with Nike has inspired some bolder changes in its first five years.

Scot Chartrand

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NFL teams reveal their new Nike uniforms in 2012–via NFL Films

The NFL’s Partnership with Nike Has Inspired Some Bolder Changes in Its First Five Years

For 30 of the NFL’s 32 team fan bases, it’s the offseason already. The focus is on what your favorite team could do to improve their performance and identity on the field next season.

But for several teams, there’s also the business side of improving the identity of the team.  Sometimes this can go hand in hand with the football side.  Sometimes, that identity can leave fans just as frustrated.

Today in the NFL, these changes have been further encouraged by the involvement of league partner, Nike, since 2012. What’s gone right under Nike? What leaves us wanting?  What happened before Nike?

We reached out to a number of experts in logos and brand identity for some of their thoughts on the past and future of brand and visual identity changes for NFL teams and explored how teams can make these changes.

THE WORLD OF NFL IDENTITY CHANGES BEFORE NIKE

There are teams that have maintained the same, basic look for well over a half-century. The Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and others come to mind in thinking of a more timeless brand identity.

The lone star adorns the Cowboys helmet. Vince Lombardi’s famous “G” for greatness rests on Green Bay’s. Even Bubbles the Lion has been on Detroit helmets in some fashion since the 1960s. Their business side need not worry about that part of their identity.

Not every franchise has such a look…or one that might create a fan revolt if they tried to change it.

Over the years, NFL rebrands have either tried to modernize a look or completely overhaul it.  Sometimes, the rebrands were attempting to jump-start a floundering team on the field.  Other times, teams were in the middle of success.

Let’s take a look at examples of each.

Cincinnati Bengals, before and after 1981 change–via Amarillo Globe News (l) and Bengals.com (r)

Entering the early 1980s, the Cincinnati Bengals had failed to produce much success on the field since their founding.  Paul Brown took to Cincinnati and immediately created an identity similar to what the Browns had built under him in Cleveland with orange helmets designed to aid the quarterback looking down the field.

In 1981, the team switched from an orange helmet with the word “Bengals” plastered over it to today’s unique, striped orange helmet.  Strangely enough, their fortunes turned around on the field right away.

After defeating the Chargers in freezing temperatures to win the AFC Championship, they played in Super Bowl XVI against Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers and made another Super Bowl appearance at the end of the decade as well.

Todd Radom (@toddradom) of Todd Radom Design has worked in sports branding and design for a quarter century.  When we asked him about his favorite brand change in the NFL, he saw the Bengals as most notable.

This may be an outside of the box opinion, but the Bengals’ 1981 helmet and uniform change comes to mind first. They went from a bland, vanilla look to something truly ownable and noteworthy. The uniform has been degraded in the years since, but that first iteration was a brilliant one, way ahead of its time. The helmet communicates the franchise identity seamlessly and effectively. A winning tradition would have helped elevate this in the public consciousness.”

New England Patriots, before and after 1993 change–via Patriots.com

Not all fans of this year’s Super Bowl participant, New England, remember the old Pat the Patriot logo on a white helmet with a striped red jersey at the shoulders.

The Patriots made one Super Bowl appearance in the old uniforms, but fell on hard times behind less memorable quarterbacks, such as Hugh Millen and Scott Zolak. That was until Robert Kraft bought the team from Victor Kiam and hired Bill Parcells in 1993.

That year, the Patriots conducted a dramatic rebrand to their “Flying Elvis” Patriots logo on a silver helmet with blue jerseys.  The look also welcomed new quarterback Drew Bledsoe, and within a few years, Parcells led them to a Super Bowl appearance in 1996.

It would not be until Tom Brady’s arrival with Bill Belichick in 2000 that the look (and another adjusted uniform) became as cemented in the minds of football fans, but the dramatic branding change paid off in New England.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before and after 1997 change–via St. Pete Times (l) and Buccaneers.com (r)

In the middle of the 1980s, things were so bad in Tampa that a local media outlet took a survey to determine which NFL team locals should consider rooting for instead of the Buccaneers (FYI, the Browns were the winner).

The “Bucco Bruce” logo of a swashbuckler with a sword in his mouth and creamsicle orange jerseys didn’t quite inspire fear and neither did the team’s play.

Enter new owner Malcolm Glazer, new head coach Tony Dungy, and the color known as pewter. The “Pewter Pirates” suddenly sported a large red pirate flag on the pewter helmet and a team muddled in failure for 15 years became a consistent playoff participant through winning Super Bowl XXXVII under Jon Gruden.

In these cases, the teams rode significant branding changes from rags to riches.

Two other teams made major changes while on top of the world.

Denver Broncos, before and after 1997 change–via NFL.com (l) and Rant Sports (r)

The Denver Broncos logo and “orange crush” persona were so iconic, that the horse in the middle of the D on their helmet came from not just the top of Mile High Stadium’s scoreboard—“Bucky Bronco” was actually a model cast from Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger.

Denver had been a top-tier AFC franchise since John Elway’s arrival, but they had gone 0-for-4 in the Super Bowl to match the dubious achievements of the Vikings and Bills at the time.

The first year the team switched to the dramatic rebranded horse head along with the navy uniforms (fueled by design from Nike), they erased that tradition of losing the big game and claimed the first of their two back-to-back titles.

St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams, before and after 2000 change–via TheRams.com (l) and stltoday.com (r)

In 1999, Trent Green went down with a season-ending injury for the St. Louis Rams in the preseason, and well, the rest is history.  Kurt Warner’s improbable story resulted in a title, but the following year, the Rams ditched their bright blue and yellow colors they brought with them from the Golden State to wrap themselves in Y2K with Millennium Blue and New Century Gold.

They went right back to the Super Bowl after a year and fell short to New England, but the bold move caught the eye of Chris Creamer (@sportslogosnet), who is well known for his work for two decades on SportsLogos.net, a comprehensive database of sports logos for all things sports.

“At the time I was a big fan of the change the St. Louis Rams made to their logo and color scheme, back around the turn of the century. It seems odd to have this opinion now with everything retro being big, but by the late 1990s that yellow and blue of the Rams was aging poorly and needed an update bad – a switch to navy blue and gold while maintaining the classic horns and introducing the modern rams head logo was great for the era. It hasn’t stood up to the test of time (the color scheme, that is… the logo is doing just fine) and it could stand an update now, but as far as a classic look getting an update in 2000 that was a good way to go.”

Arizona Cardinals, before and after the 2005 change–via USA Today (l) and AZCardinals.com (r)

So, what about simply modernizing a classic look?  That’s what impressed Donovan Moore (@colorwerx), founder of ColorWerx, a website dedicated to preserving historical sports color data.

“My favorite logo change of all time is a completely biased one, but I believe is still worthy of mention: the Arizona Cardinals rebrand in 2005. I’ve been a die-hard Cardinals fan since the late ‘60s, and what makes that particular change so perfect (in my eyes), was the fact that they created a logo that completely modernized the look, while still preserving the tradition of the primary mark. Most people noticed the corresponding uniform changes, but were somewhat unaware of the logo change. Put them side-by-side and you can easily see the differences, but on the field, they still look like the Cardinals.”

These days, there are fans of some teams who would long for such an incremental change.

An incremental change wasn’t on the mind of two NFL teams who were quite successful in the 1980s and 1990s.

Carmen Policy speaks at a press conference unveiling an ill-fated 49ers helmet in 1991–via San Francisco Chronicle

The San Francisco 49ers unveiled a “49ers” helmet in 1991 that replaced the “SF” they had won four Super Bowls with and scrapped it six days later.

Also in the 1990’s, the Miami Dolphins had prepared a very avant-garde design that would be a violent shock to the system for most Dolphins fans that was dismissed before any public unveiling.

Even the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns kicked around prototype helmets in the 1960’s with logos that would stun many fans that weren’t aware.

It’s not that teams didn’t try major rebrands prior to Nike’s work with the NFL…

NFL IDENTITY CHANGES UNDER NIKE

After replacing Reebok as the NFL’s exclusive manufacturer in 2012, Nike sought to bring with them some of the same revolutionary branding they had created for universities, such as Oregon.

At first, the only team in the Pacific Northwest tried Nike’s magic.  In the following years, teams became bolder.

Seattle Seahawks Nike uniform–via Tacoma News Tribune

NFL Rebrands by Year under the Nike agreement:

  • 2012:  Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks
  • 2013:  Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings
  • 2014:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 2015:  Cleveland Browns
  • 2017:  Detroit Lions

While some were more modest upgrades and modernization of the brand, others were much more dramatic.  Seattle, Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa Bay and Cleveland are generally considered to be among the greatest changes in terms of rebrands in this group.

SportsLogos.net’s Chris Creamer saw the perks of teams trying to be bold in utilizing Nike for rebrands so far as well as the drawbacks teams have faced.

“Nike taking over the NFL has led to some interesting and out-of-the-box designs – their Miami redesign would’ve worked if the team was an expansion franchise, but alas a history (with championships) is involved there, so it changes how one perceives it. I can’t say I was much of a fan of what they did with Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, but I’m never going to fault a company for trying something new, I’m just not necessarily a fan of the result.”

On the other hand, fan sentiment seemed to applaud redesigned uniforms in Seattle.  It certainly didn’t hurt that the team has since experienced success in them with a Super Bowl title and two appearances coinciding with the Russell Wilson era in 2012.

However, as Creamer noted, some fans in places like Cleveland and the three Florida teams have been less receptive.  A visit to some of the pages of the SportsLogos.net Forum section of his site will often find discussions about the two-toned Jaguars helmet and the appeal of the Dolphins’ throwback jerseys as examples of fans hoping for change already.

Todd Radom sees some improvement in the work Nike has done as the contract has aged along with some opportunities ahead to improve their work:

It’s still early, but Nike has corrected some egregious mistakes, particularly with regard to neck trim. I think it’s safe to assume that we will begin to see a wave of changes next year and beyond, so the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.”

Those windows for change of the initial teams to rebrand under Nike are now starting open.

As noted, Nike’s contract with the NFL began in 2012.  According to the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, teams essentially must wait five years after a change in branding to try again.

NFL Constitution and Bylaws Article XIX 19.9

NFL Constitution and Bylaws Article XIX 19.9–via NFL Digital Care

NFL 2002 Resolution G-3 and Attachment–via NFL Digital Care

It’s not just the five-year waiting period, though.  Besides the notification of March 1, of the year prior, it takes two years just to design a new uniform as noted in a report published by CBS Sports last year that dealt with dissatisfaction around the Cleveland Browns uniforms.

Cleveland Browns huddle–via NFL.com

Cleveland will have to start the process now, but still wait until 2020 to see the finished product. However, fans in Jacksonville and Miami are eligible this upcoming season—provided that pre-work has gone in.

So what is sparking all this fan interest in uniforms and logos?  Is it just Nike?

Again, we reached out to our experts for their thoughts on the evolution of fan interest in team branding elements.

From Todd Radom’s perspective, he noted, “Some folks have always cared about this stuff, but the sheer number of uniforms that are trotted out these days and the marketing behind them has really ramped up interest tremendously. There was a time when NFL uniforms were, for the most part, functional and very utilitarian. Third jerseys, the use of throwbacks and, yes, ‘Color Rush’—have all helped to ramp up fan interest.”

Chris Creamer remembers an earlier time that piqued his interest, sharing as follows, “Pre-internet, I just presumed I was the only person in the world who cared about the uniforms being worn. I’d point out the throwback helmets and jerseys during the NFL 75th anniversary games in 1994 and the others in the room would usually respond with ‘huh, I didn’t even notice.’

The internet changed all of that when I discovered that there were plenty others just like me and they all thought they were all alone in their interest. The explosion of interest is fantastic for me because I run a site dedicated to this topic, but I also wonder if it puts too much pressure on teams to tinker with their look and to try and come up with a reason for every little design element perhaps complicating a design.

Back in the day, a team would have two stripes on each sleeve and it wouldn’t be for some manufactured reason, it’d be because it looked better that way.”

To Creamer’s point, when the MLS’s Columbus Crew SC rebranded back in 2015, they actually identified six separate elements to a simple soccer roundel.

So, these days, fans don’t take rebrands that lightly as evidenced by the infamous one-day L.A. Chargers logo last year that involved the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Lightning exploring their relationship dynamic on Twitter and sparked a quick retraction.

LOOKING AHEAD TO CHANGES IN 2018 AND BEYOND

So, what’s on the horizon in the NFL?

As already noted, the Jaguars and Dolphins are eligible to make a change—as are any teams that have not made a change since 2013.

Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk confirmed last training camp in an interview with The Tennessean what had been rumored previously, that the Titans would be changing uniforms (and likely helmets) for 2018.  She went on to add that the changes are “not minor.”

In fact, Titans fans need to ready themselves for this in April. Back in Jacksonville, one of the newly eligible teams to make a change appears ready to take another swing for the fences with Nike.

The Titans aren’t the only fan base that can look forward to this upcoming April.

As rumored last year and confirmed this week by Mark Long of the Associated Press, the Jaguars will have new helmets in 2018 and will feature more teal in their uniforms in a redesigned look.  The impetus here might be the team’s former coach now serving in the front office—Tom Coughlin.

Chris Creamer agrees with the suspected changes ahead with the Jaguars.

“The Jacksonville Jaguars need to re-embrace the teal part of their identity; I realize the Dolphins use something similar in-state, but there’s nothing necessarily special about this club wearing black and gold (also… Saints?), not to mention that gimmicky helmet. One of those designs folks will look back on ten years from now with a chuckle, and twenty years from now with a ‘they need to bring it back!’”

So, we have two teams making changes to their identity this offseason.

What else would our experts like to see?

Dallas Cowboys huddle–via Bleacher Report

For Donovan Moore of ColorWerx, it’s cleaning up some aspects of “America’s Team.”

My most hoped for uniform change is one a lot of uniform aficionados have been waiting for: the Dallas Cowboys. Although they made a very subtle color change in 2012 to match the helmet color to the road pant color (at least in print – the helmets used to be Silver-Blue), they are still using Silver and Navy helmets with White, Royal Blue and Silver-GREEN pants at home (yes, they are officially called Silver-Green). I truly believe they could easily standardize the color scheme without too much of an uproar from the traditionalists.”

Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff–via WPVI-TV

Todd Radom looked ahead to two teams rumored to be targeting notable changes in 2020.

Let’s start with the Rams, who are a disjointed mess. Then we can shift our attention to Cleveland, a franchise that needs to blow many things up and start anew—and yes, this sentiment applies to their on-field look too.”

The Orange County Register confirmed last year that the Rams have begun the process of making the change, but have yet to decide when. Originally, they were to change uniforms to coincide with moving into their new stadium in Inglewood, Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park. However, with the project delayed by a year, the Rams may very well give the new uniforms the same fate.

Perhaps the Rams will return to something closer to their look when in Los Angeles most recently?  Don’t get Rams fans started…

Los Angeles Rams “Melonheads” fans–via Los Angeles Daily News

There are a whole host of possible changes and tweaks diehard fans have thought about that weren’t even mentioned.

Occasionally discussion will arise topics like the Philadelphia Eagles and Kelly green uniforms (owner Jeffrey Lurie has said he’d love to see this). Additionally, the Denver Broncos and the old bronco in the D logo on helmets occasionally will arise as a possible change (Color Rush helmets tried this the last two years).

After all, beyond the traditional uniforms, teams can experiment further with throwbacks and now Color Rush uniforms to stir the imagination and support of fans.

Branding and identity are big business.

So, it’s the offseason again for most teams, and all hope springs eternal for next season.

What can we expect? We’ll know soon enough.

…and for other teams that won’t see April showers bring new branding flowers, it’s another opportunity to stir up more and more interest in their team’s identity and only increase awareness of branding, uniforms, and logos.

Scot Chartrand is a contributor with Front Office Sports and has worked in program management driving strategic initiatives at a corporate level. He has a passion for helping clients and corporate stakeholders achieve strategic goals while providing change management and optimizing process that drives repeatable results.

Business

Baron Davis and POINT 3 Want to Disrupt Basketball Apparel With Towel-Like Technology

With Baron Davis on board, POINT 3 hopes to grow its DRYV Moisture Control Technology, which is like a towel on your shorts or jersey.

Jeff Eisenband

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Photo credit: Baron Davis

Walking around Charlotte in 1999, the locals saw an unfamiliar sight: Baron Davis and former North Carolina State Senator Marshall Rauch.

“I remember being a 20-year-old rookie and him sitting me down and asking me, ‘What do you know about finances?’” Davis says. “I told him I didn’t know a lot, but I knew enough and he taught me a lot. People would see an 80-year-old Jewish man and a young black dude with a durag on his head, sitting, having breakfast or lunch in Charlotte at one of these uppity, uptown places. It was just like, ‘How do those two know each other?’”

Davis was drafted by the Hornets in 1999 after two years at UCLA. He’d grown up in Los Angeles, and Charlotte was his first excursion outside of Hollywood. Davis was introduced to Rauch by Michael Holton, a UCLA assistant and friend of Rauch. Holton played for the Hornets from 1988-1990.

Fast-forward to 2019. It’s Friday of NBA All-Star Weekend and Davis is back in Charlotte. This time, he is hanging with Michael Luscher and Mikko Simon, CEO and COO, respectively, of Atlanta-based POINT 3 Basketball.

READ MORE: Overtime Brings Billboard and Investment News to NBA All-Star Weekend

Davis has recently committed an investment with POINT 3, finalized at the end of Q3 in 2018. He will also serve as creative director. Founded by Luscher in 2010, POINT 3 specializes in basketball attire and is best known for its DRYV Moisture Control Technology. DRYV is a towel-like material that can be incorporated into performance apparel such as basketball jerseys and shorts.

“I’d be in this hot gym in the summer of ‘09 in Atlanta and I would sweat so much, dripping down my arms and saturating my hands with moisture,” Luscher says of POINT 3’s origin. “I’d have trouble controlling the ball, so I would steal my wife’s kitchen towel and hang it over my waistband, like a quarterback does, so I could dry my hands off without leaving the court.”

Luscher also has a valuable asset to this material he can bring to investors. In 2014, POINT 3 was given a patent for its “moisture control garment.”

“I think the protectable IP was a big part of it,” Luscher says on Davis’ decision to partner with the brand. Luscher and Davis did not disclose the amount, but Luscher calls it “significant.”

Investing with Baron Davis is about more than him writing a check. When Davis got to Charlotte, he was not wired like most 20-year-old rookies. He interned at a law firm while in college, and in his first few years in the NBA, he would spend summers working for his agent. Just a few seasons into his career, Davis started his own sports agency, negotiating marketing deals and investing in brands.

Davis’ mentor, Rauch, was also once displaced in North Carolina. Rauch was born and raised in New York City before going to Duke in 1940 to play basketball. He never left, serving in the state senate from 1967-1990. Outside of politics, the World War II veteran was a successful businessman running Rauch Industries Inc., a national Christmas ornament manufacturer from 1954-1998. Rauch is considered to have been the “largest Christmas ornament maker in the world” at one point.

“He was an entrepreneur, he was self-made and he just showed me how to take care of myself, how to take care of my family and the future,” Davis explains. “He taught me what money means, what possessions mean, what things mean in life. It’s really about the opportunities that I get from taking advantage of them and about building a community of people that you can be in business with and where you have great relationships with.”

POINT 3 is far from Davis’ first investment and it will be far from his last. But it is a rare Davis investment into the basketball industry.

Davis has been in hundreds, if not thousands of pitches. At this point, he knows roughly what he is looking for.

“What are they doing? What is their mission? What does the brand look like?” Davis says about analyzing a company. “It’s the law of attraction. After that, it’s about, what do the operations look like? What is the vision of the entrepreneur? Where does this sell? What does the trajectory look like? And then for me, once I start to see that, I start to see where I could help and assist. Me, being a creative person and a visionary, are our visions aligned? Or, maybe they have the vision and I can jump in and support and accelerate it.”

Like any good relationship, potential investors with Davis need to play the long game. It was a process getting pen to paper between POINT 3 and Davis. Luscher and Davis were originally introduced by Josh Gotthelf, co-founder of Dime Magazine and former general manager of Baron Davis Enterprises. Gotthelf, an advisor and investor to POINT 3, connected Luscher and Davis. After all, Davis was constantly coming in to Atlanta for his work with Turner Sports, and he could use a friend.

Davis and Luscher would meet for meals or drinks. As they bounced ideas off each other, the meetings became more frequent.

“He found something that we could connect to,” Davis says. “Not just through basketball, it was more so fashion. I think over lunch, another lunch, we just kept building and talking about all forms of fashion, athleisure, sports performance, things like that. It took us a while to get to the deal, but when we looked up, we had built a friendship. And so it made the deal easy to get done because we were both wanting to make it happen. Sometimes things happen like that through building a relationship and having commonalities and likenesses.

“And then I thought, here’s a basketball brand that can be disruptive. They’re not trying to compete with the big boys, but there’s an understanding of where they are and understanding the community and the audience that they can serve.”

Disruption is a big word. And it means big-time. Shaking up an industry dominated by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour would send shockwaves through the basketball world.

“I think first and foremost was Baron’s desire to not accept the current paradigm and try and disrupt the industry,” Luscher says.

“His creative vision, his contacts, his ideas. That’s when the more we met and started talking about it, I was like, ‘This guy can really be a difference maker to our business.’”

According to Luscher, Davis’ partnership helped “leverage our reach in the team space to supercharge our direct-to-consumer growth strategy” in Q4 of last year. He says the brand saw a 300-percent year-over-year growth in direct-to-consumer online business during that time.

READ MORE: Bojangles’ Channels Its Inner LeBron James for NBA All-Star Weekend

Davis plans to work with POINT 3 to connect with AAU coaches and friends from the NBA world to help grow the brand, while also incorporating current brands he partners with. Under the Baron Davis Enterprises umbrella are four companies he founded: Sports and Lifestyle in Culture, The Black Santa Company, BIG and No Label. Davis was also recently announced as part of Overtime’s $23 million Series B round of funding.

“It’s been maybe decades since anybody made a meaningful innovation to basketball apparel,” Gotthelf says. “And this sweat-drying technology, being able to dry your hands on your basketball shorts, is the first true game-changer in the basketball apparel space in maybe 20 years. And the fact that it’s a protected patent, I know is a big part of what brings value to that investment.”

For Marshall Rauch, it was about ornaments. For Michael Luscher, it’s about towel material.

But above all for Baron Davis, it’s about connections. On Sunday before the All-Star Game, he hosted his “BIG Brunch & Convo” event. Luscher and Rauch (who is 96) were both in the room.

Maybe they can brainstorm a crossover ornament-DRYV idea.

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How Debbie Spander Embraced Change and Followed Her Dreams

Behind some of the top talent working in sports broadcasting today, you’ll notice a commonality: Many of them are represented by Debbie Spander.

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Photo credit: Wasserman

Behind some of the top talent working in sports broadcasting today, you’ll notice a commonality: Many of them are represented by Debbie Spander, senior vice president of broadcasting and coaching at Wasserman.

The daughter of a longtime sports columnist in the Bay Area, Spander had an early introduction to the media world. After college, Spander took the next step in her career by earning a law degree from UCLA.

After law school, Spander rose through the ranks of the sports law and agent world, including stints as a vice president at FOX Sports Net and MTV Entertainment. In 2012, she joined Wasserman as the vice president of broadcasting before being promoted to her SVP role in 2016.

Spander felt drawn to working with broadcasting talent after noticing a trend of people in the profession being treated unfairly by leagues and networks in the early 2000s.

READ MORE: Bleacher Report Is Focused on the Second Generation of Social Media

“I decided that at some point I wanted to work directly with talent because after September 11 and the recession, it seemed that the talent was always getting squeezed by the networks. So, I saw that happening and I wanted to help at that point. I had a couple friends who played in the NFL and at UCLA who were retiring, and I helped them get some small deals broadcasting and I thought, ‘I think I can do this.’”

Spander found clients almost immediately and was soon asked by Wasserman to launch its broadcast division. Her client base quickly multiplied significantly as she began representing coaches and athletes transitioning into broadcasting like Brian Scalabrine and Aaron Boone.

After all the changes that broadcasting has undergone in the last decade, Spander prides herself on embracing change and encouraging clients to achieve their dreams.

“There’s a number of sports broadcasting agencies out there and everyone does a good job in their own way. I think the thing that Wasserman does is we have very personalized service and we’re available 16 to 17 hours a day for a lot of former players who are used to being able to call or text their agents at all hours. If our clients need us, we do all we can.”

LISTEN: Timbers’ Kayla Knapp on Building a Social Voice from the Ground Up

For Wasserman clients, Spander and the group’s other agents often help professional athletes find broadcasting opportunities during their playing careers. In addition to being somewhat of a trailblazer herself as a woman in a male-dominated subsect of sport, Spander represents clients like Candace Parker and Meghan McPeak who are breaking down walls within broadcasting themselves. Parker recently became one of the first women to call both NBA and NCAA men’s basketball games while still playing in the WNBA.

“I didn’t specifically seek them out to have them break barriers, but we’re like-minded and we all embrace the opportunities that are there for them. This was a really exciting fall between what Candace and Meghan were able to accomplish.”

With all that she has accomplished in her career, Spander advises young women to be active networkers in order to get their careers in sport off of the ground.

“Get out there and meet as many people as you can. Get internships while you’re in college and law school and just start working in the industry. Don’t look at your gender as a barrier and follow your dreams.”

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TranSports Group Shows That Sports Business Can Happen Anywhere

This past weekend in Atlanta, the TranSports Group had a nearly 100-car fleet shuttling sports industry professionals from one place to the next.

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Photo credit: TranSports Group

The world of business is all about disruptions and, often, all it takes is a little luck and ingenuity.

This past weekend in Atlanta, the TranSports Group had a nearly 100-car fleet in the area shuttling sports industry professionals from one place to the next. The three-year old company worked tirelessly with eight NFL sponsors and several prominent brands on the ground in Atlanta.

A decade ago, Ryan Peck lamented to a colleague in the agency world why there wasn’t a one-stop shop for transportation at major sports and entertainment events across the country. Researching the best companies and ways to get VIPs from point A to point B on the ground at major events can take up a lot of time.

“You’re asked to do 100 things and you have time for 50, and this is one of the easiest things to outsource,” said Peck, the managing partner of TranSports. “For many events, transportation is 10 percent of a program, but takes up 40 percent of the time.”

He knew there was a better way.

Obsessed with finding a solution, Peck sought to become an industry innovator, with a commitment to customers and customer service, and a network of support. Tapping into his prior agency days, he and his team understand the needs of his agency, brand, and property clients.

READ MORE: Former NFL Player Andrew Hawkins Is Building a New Career Playbook

By creating a true one-stop solution for clients, TranSports provides peace of mind with complete program coordination, execution, and real-time tracking technology. TranSports connects all the chauffeurs for a client on the back end and gets them where they need to go via the most efficient vehicle, ranging from a luxury sedan to luxury coach bus. Client program managers are given a vehicle-tracking application customized to their program so they can see where their VIPs are at any given moment. The app provides critical information about their vehicles, chauffeurs, and timing that eliminates inefficient communications with dispatchers and vehicle operations managers.

Peck has always been an entrepreneur at heart. He hails from an Iowa farm and is driven beyond the corporate structure. Despite this, he worked at agencies for the first part of his career, before stumbling on this chauffeur solution.

Peck isn’t from the transportation industry. He had experience with a pain point and knew he could solve the problem. He partnered with George Jacobs and Tim Crockett, highly respected limousine and bus industry executives with more than a combined 60 years of experience, to create solutions for every size of need both domestically and internationally.

The success has in part been because Peck said he speaks the language of the users of the service, but also the delivery of an upscale product that hits when it’s needed.

“We do what we say we’re going to do,” Peck said. “We work hard on the customer service side. Price is price, we don’t compete on price. We compete on service, relationships, and being relentless in pursuing better ways of doing things.”

There are plenty of legacy chauffeur companies across the nation in major cities, but there’s no centralized system. Transportation ridesharing disruptors like Lyft and Uber haven’t broken into the VIP transportation world, but some companies have emerged focusing on the business community — leaving sports and entertainment relatively unserviced.

Unlike Ubers and Lyfts, chauffeurs must know the routes without maps, be sensitive to high-touch clientele, and leave the customer feeling like they had a true luxury service. This means getting to a city — like Atlanta — days in advance to work out detours and familiarize themselves with the traffic.

“The niche is a strength,” Peck said. “People pay for superior quality and service, so let’s be great in this space and let things fall where they will.”

READ MORE: Inside the Event Management Playbook for College Football Bowl Games

Timing was in Peck’s favor. Hard work and brains can only do so much, he said. As TranSports launched, it had the luxury of a nearby Super Bowl in Minnesota. With the large fleet in an area Peck knew well, his initial major event launch was a success.

“If that Super Bowl is in L.A., and it’s my first year, we’re probably not at this same point,” he said.

The company has continued to grow with work at events in the U.S., such as the Super Bowl, NHL Winter Classic, the Masters, Final Four, and Sundance Film Festival. The group has recently made inroads into the PGA Tour too. The international business for TranSports has continued to grow, and it has recently done work at the Olympics in Brazil and Russian World Cup.

“We’re very fortunate. We continue to talk to more and more international events for opportunities,” Peck said. “The tracking technology is intriguing to clients and we are looking to employ it with the largest properties. It’s simple, scalable, and provides a unique value to our clients by adding much-needed transparency and accountability in our industry.”

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