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FC Schalke 04 and Kick It 3v3 Aim to Develop Youth Soccer Talent in Atlanta

The German Club and American grassroots soccer tournament tour will host a youth tournament in Atlanta this month — aiding the sport’s growth in the States.

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Atlanta - Soccer

Soccer in Atlanta is hotter than ever. In turn, the city’s booming energy around the sport caught the attention of German soccer club FC Schalke 04, sparking it to plan a series of youth soccer events this month in partnership with Kick It 3v3.

Earlier this year, Schalke announced a partnership with Kick It, the largest grassroots soccer tournament tour in the U.S. As a part of that, it has committed itself to connecting with and developing American youth talent. The next step in the partnership will take it to Atlanta, a fast-growing soccer hotbed and a city where Kick It has been growing its presence as well.

The events, which will take place December 15 and 16 at LakePoint Sports Complex, will include youth soccer clinics, mascot tours and contests, amongst a larger Kick It tournament. In working to fulfill its goal of youth development, Schalke will send coaches to the city for the weekend to oversee two youth clinics during the Kick It competition.

“With one of Schalke’s main focuses being youth development, this upcoming Kick It 3v3 tournament in Atlanta is our first foray into scouting new and promising talent at this level in America,” said Alexander Jobst, member of the Managing Board for Schalke.

READ MORE: Super Soccer Stars Grows Its Presence in the Health and Wellness Space

Schalke has an impressive history developing youth talent and is known for its “Knappenschmiede” youth academy, which has produced a number of world-class players, including American star and Kick It alum Weston McKennie, who plays for Schalke and the U.S. Men’s National Team. Through its partnership with Kick It, it is helping develop the next generation of American players and finding creative ways to connect with the country’s growing soccer community.

“Our global partnership with Schalke continues to drive unique, innovative experiences for soccer players and communities across the country,” said Matt Novogratz, CEO of Kick It.

In addition to providing an opportunity for young players in Atlanta to develop their soccer skills, Schalke will work to instill the club’s values of confidence, helpfulness, supportiveness, a strong character, focus, fairness, honesty and passion into the athletes as well.

Over the course of the weekend, the German club’s coaches will select a Kick It youth team that embodies those values to travel to Gelsenkirchen, Germany, for a behind-the-scenes tour and tickets to watch a Schalke home match at its home stadium, VELTINS-Arena.

“We’re excited about taking this step with Kick It to bring the power and tradition of Schalke to Atlanta,” said Jobst.

READ MORE: Sacramento Republic FC Makes a Child’s Dream Come True

In a bit of lighthearted fun, Schalke will unleash its mascot, Erwin, at the tournament and around the city over the weekend to visit iconic locations within Atlanta and search for other mascots residing in the strong sports city.

There has been a growing trend of European clubs trying to connect with the American soccer community and develop a fan base. Schalke plays in the Bundesliga, a league with a growing U.S. presence that is currently home to several young, talented American players.

Opportunities like this, with an impressionable young audience, will allow Schalke to develop a personal connection with the club, aiding its long-term growth in the States.

Lucy is a contributing writer for Front Office Sports. A storyteller and brand strategist, she has worked in the sports industry for organizations including the United States Olympic Committee, IMG/WME and the Miami Open, the University of Miami Athletic Department, Florida Panthers, and Minnesota Twins. She spent 2016 living in Colombia where she accomplished a life-long goal of becoming fluent in Spanish while working for the Ministerio de Educación Nacional. Lucy is a graduate of the University of Miami. She can be reached at lucy@frntofficesport.com.

Community Relations

How the Sacramento Kings Raised Over $100,000 for Wildfire Relief

The Sacramento Kings organization is lending a helping hand to their community and home state in the wake of catastrophe.

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Earlier in the month, one of the most destructive wildfires in the history of California began burning in the northern part of the state. Known as the Camp Fire, the blaze has killed at least 85 people, burned through well over 150,000 acres, and destroyed the homes of tens of thousands of residents.

While the American Red Cross and other relief organizations are set to work rebuilding parts of the state and aiding the displaced and injured, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings saw an opportunity to help the people of their hometown and the surrounding area.

On November 13, the staffers of the Sacramento Kings and the Stockton Kings — Sacramento’s G League affiliate — spent the entire day getting in touch with Kings fans and stakeholders asking for donations that would go to the American Red Cross.

Several of the Kings’ sponsors offered to match donations made of up to $25,000. By the end of that day, the Kings had raised $75,000 for the cause.

READ MORE: Former NFL Player’s Philanthropy Fund is Bigger Than Sports

Fast forward one week later, and the Kings announced another unique way of donating through partner Milagro Tequila. For every rebound the Kings grabbed in that game, Milagro would donate $300 to the American Red Cross. By the end of the night from the rebounds and additional donations, Milagro had donated $15,000 for the cause.

“Kings fans have truly embodied the ‘Do Good’ motto, stepping up to help others in need and again proving why they are known as the best fans in the NBA,” said Kings President of Business Operations John Rinehart. “We are proud to come together with the support of season-ticket members and fans to help our fellow communities in need.”

“All donations are gratefully accepted and will be used appropriately to assist those affected by this disaster,” said American Red Cross spokesman Stephen Walsh.

When natural disasters strike, it’s important to find ways to bring people together. For one, this is simply the right thing to do. Second, it’s a straightforward way to build a wealth of goodwill among fans and the local, national, and global community. Over the years, the Sacramento Kings have done a remarkable job of this.

In August, the Kings also donated an additional $30,000 sum to the American Red Cross for the relief of other wildfires that have ravaged the state of California this year. The team also made significant donations to support relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Public relations professionals from across the country have taken note of this.

“The efforts by the Kings organization to raise $75,000 for wildfire recovery is remarkable,” said Lauren Teague, an analyst at Convince and Convert and an expert in reputation management. “While the fires and the impact of them are devastating to the entire state of California, the organization deserves applause for rallying their fans and corporate partners to collectively make an impact.”

LISTEN: Rob Perez’s Journey from Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality

“There’s an opportunity for them to tell the stories of those impacted as the season and the recovery efforts continue,” Teague added. “Fans can continue donating through the Kings’ online ticketing system. I’m sure this is the beginning, not the end, of how the team and their fans, players and sponsors will be intertwined with the fires all season long.”

You can donate to the American Red Cross and help the continuing recovery efforts in Northern California by visiting this link.

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Community Relations

Lyndsey Fry Brings Homegrown Passion to Coyotes’ Front Office Staff

After her time playing Division I hockey and competing in the Olympics, Lyndsey Fry has taken on a new role with the Arizona Coyotes.

Bailey Knecht

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Photo via Norm Hall Photography

Growing up in Arizona, a state with no professional or Division I women’s ice hockey teams, Lyndsey Fry didn’t have easy access to female role models in her favorite sport. That doesn’t mean she lacked access to the sport itself, however.

As a kid, she was an Arizona Coyotes fan and was heavily involved in the youth hockey community in Arizona, which led to her playing college hockey at Harvard University and then helping Team USA to a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Now, she has been hired by the Coyotes’ front office, and she’s back where to her hockey career was born.

“My forte has been that I knew I could make huge impact here in Arizona,” Fry said. “I asked myself, ‘What’s the opportunity for me to make a difference back at home?’”

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Fry has worked with the Coyotes’ amateur development staff in the past, but she was recently hired on as a special advisor to the team’s president and CEO, Ahron Cohen, and as a brand ambassador.

“Lyndsey brings an unparalleled passion for growing the game of hockey throughout Arizona, and she serves as an amazing role model for all young kids throughout the state — not just for girls or just for hockey players,” Cohen said.

Fry’s main role will feature work with the team’s youth hockey programs, with a particular focus on girls hockey.

“She’s a passionate, young woman who continues to pursue this path to create opportunities for kids to be able to play the game she loves,” said Fry’s former coach at Harvard, Katey Stone, with whom she remains close. “She has a great work ethic and an awesome disposition.”

Fry will also be a part of community engagement, corporate communications and brand awareness initiatives.

“It’s stretched now beyond just a girls’ and women’s ambassador,” she said of her position. “There are a lot of aspects that, being a local Arizonan, I can help with making sure there’s a good bridge between the local hockey community and the Arizona Coyotes, getting the brand out there and making sure we’re painting the town.”

With her playing background, particularly in the youth scene in Arizona, Fry brings a unique viewpoint to the job.

“For sure, I have a different perspective,” she said. “For the women’s side, I’ve played at the highest level, but I grew up playing boys hockey in Arizona. The nice thing is I understand the youth community as a whole, but I can bring that female side of the game too.”

Although she didn’t have the opportunity to play in an all-girls league when she was growing up, much of Fry’s work now is focused on the Coyotes’ girls program.

“Right now, we’ve had success with the Small Frys program,” she said. “It’s a girls-only development program that stems from the Coyotes’ Little Howlers learn-to-play NHL initiative… The stars are aligning, so the strategy is just making sure everyone is on same page.

“I’m very fortunate; the Coyotes have been wonderful to me. We have the resources, and we have an opportunity to make a difference and show little girls they can do this.”

Fry mentioned that her greatest satisfaction comes from watching the girls evolve as hockey players.

“The parental feedback from moms and dads — we hear them say, ‘When my daughter was doing learn-to-play with the boys, she was kind of intimidated and scared. Now, she’s in this social setting with other girls and coached by women and she loves it,’” said Fry. “It’s really positive for us. The coolest is the transition in the girls. They come in as shy, timid kids, and by the end, we can’t get them to be quiet.”

The Coyotes’ commitment to growing the youth game is something Fry takes to heart.

From a team perspective, our biggest fans are hockey players,” she said. “The more we grow the game in the valley, the more fans we generate for the team. From a personal perspective, it’s something I’m passionate about. I’ve gone through the system here. Everything I’ve had — from my social life to my professional life — has come from hockey. I want to make sure I give those opportunities to other kids.”

LISTEN: Coyotes’ Marissa O’Connor on Building a Personality-Driven Brand

Fry’s involvement with the Coyotes isn’t just making an impact on the kids she works with — her position signals an ongoing shift towards gender equality in the sports industry.

“As far as the job, I hope to see more women involved in pro sports teams, especially in the NHL,” she said. “I don’t think I got the job because I’m a woman — because I understand what I’m doing — but it signals to people across the country that we’re just as capable… [The Coyotes] have a lot of female leadership. It’s a nice balance.”

“It’s something I personally take a lot of pride in,” added Cohen. “We have the highest percentage of female executives on the executive team of any NHL franchise. When we’re building our organization, we’re looking for smart, passionate people who can help us get better. We’re always striving to give people opportunities they maybe wouldn’t have in this industry.”

Fry has already made strides by taking advantage of those opportunities with the Coyotes, but her work to elevate both the team and the sport of hockey in Arizona has just begun.

“I think within the hockey community, there’s a lot of support,” Fry said. “The challenge for any pro team is not just competing against other sports, but every other form of entertainment. So, we’re making sure we’re telling the story of our long-term vision, which is to be a part of the Arizona community for a long time, be active in the community, and tell that story every day to get people excited.”

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Community Relations

Toyota, Philadelphia Sports Teams Go Extra Mile to Honor the Military

The international car brand worked with all five teams to deliver integrated and niche community outreach activations to unite with veterans.

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Photo via @Eagles on Twitter.

The City of Brotherly Love has always been known for both its sense of community and intense sports fandom. With the help of Toyota, the Philadelphia Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers, and Union put on a display that exudes the kind of American patriotism which harkens back to the city’s early beginnings.

This year, 25 local Toyota dealers teamed up with the professional franchises to integrate campaigns into each of their military appreciation-themed games.

Through a combination of joint messaging across all five teams, as well as unique activations put on by each individual club, the Philadelphia community has been a melting pot for sports fans and military personnel alike to come together and honor America’s heroes this year.

Philadelphia Union

The Union kicked off Toyota’s sponsorship series with their Military Appreciation Night on May 19 of this year. To start, the first 5,000 fans entering Talen Energy Stadium received a free camo hat courtesy of Toyota.

Branches of the military were also directly involved by interacting with fans on the Toyota Plaza prior to kickoff. Other activations included U.S. Army Sergeant Tony Yates singing the national anthem, a large American flag at midfield being hoisted by active military members, and Union players wearing limited-edition military appreciation hoodies during the team walk-out.

WATCH: Inside Toyota’s Massive Daytona Activation 

“It is also very important to recognize and honor those who have fallen and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Tim McDermott, chief business officer for the Union. “This is central to the Union’s support for our military around Memorial Day and all season long. And, it is an honor and privilege to have partnered with Toyota and our sports colleagues here in Philadelphia again this Veterans Day weekend to salute our service men and women.”

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies, meanwhile, hosted their Salute to Veterans Celebration presented by Toyota on Independence Day. One of the more engaging festivities of the day involved all Phillies day-of-game employees who served in the U.S. military having the honor of carrying the 50 state flags onto the field during pre-game ceremonies.

Additional highlights included having an all-service color guard presenting the colors and Sgt. Brian J. Clemente of the U.S. Marine Corps leading fans in the reciting of the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Plus, 1,000 fans who wanted to take home a souvenir from that day could purchase an exclusive Phillies Salute to Veterans “Home of the Brave” t-shirt ticket package.

READ MORE: Toyota’s NASCAR Involvement Drives Brand’s Market Growth

“The overall collaboration together is part of each team’s individual efforts to salute active military members and honor veterans throughout the year,” said Dave Buck, the Phillies’ executive vice president. “Our annual Salute to Veterans Celebration presented by Toyota during the season is the culmination of the Phillies’ yearlong tribute to those that serve our country. While our team is in the offseason during Veterans Day Weekend, we are proud to again partner with Toyota, and fellow Philadelphia sports teams, to support – and salute – our active military and the nation’s veterans.”

Philadelphia 76ers

To kick off this year’s Veterans Day weekend two weeks ago, the 76ers collaborated with Toyota to showcase its “Stars and Stripes” program on Military Appreciation Night on November 9. The first 5,000 fans in attendance at the Wells Fargo Center were treated to a 76ers/Toyota co-branded camo rally towel.

But the activations didn’t stop there.

As it was its sixth year as the presenting sponsor of the 76ers’ Military Appreciation Night, Toyota stepped up by helping to provide over 1,000 tickets to members of the military and their families for that night’s contest.

The company also hosted pop-up workshops by Hiring Our Heroes prior to the game. The Honorable Patrick Murphy, a Toyota ambassador for Hiring Our Heroes, was also recognized for his work in helping veterans, service personnel, and military spouses to find meaningful jobs and careers once they return to civilian life.

READ MORE: Thanks to Toyota, Paralympics Saw Broadcasting Boost

Other activities also included a full-court American flag held by season-ticket members and soldiers from all five branches of the military during the national anthem, as well as letter-writing stations set up throughout the concourse in order for fans to write letters to active and retired military personnel.

“Our season-long ‘Stars and Stripes’ initiative is the backbone for our organization’s support for those that serve in our armed forces,” said Chris Heck, the 76ers’ president of business operations.

“Our service men, women and their families make unbelievable sacrifices to keep our nation safe, and we are proud to honor them at our Military Appreciation Night and throughout the year with our ‘Stars and Stripes’ program presented by Toyota.”

Philadelphia Flyers

With Toyota also in its sixth year as the presenting sponsor for the Flyers’ Military Appreciation Night, the festivities continued the next night back at the Wells Fargo Center on November 10. Both the Flyers and Toyota teamed up to provide 200 tickets to local veterans and active military for that night’s game.

Additionally, local veterans representing all five branches of the military were honored with the puck drop, as well as being presented with jerseys during a symbolic ceremony, courtesy of the Tri-State Toyota Dealers.

The players got in on the action with unique camo-themed warmup jerseys. The Flyers also included the pop-up workshops by “Hiring Our Heroes” prior to the start of the game, while the Honorable Patrick Murphy was again symbolically honored for the pre-game puck drop ceremony on behalf of all that serve.

“What is great about the military appreciation efforts is our opportunity – and our fans’ opportunity – to give recognition and thanks to the heroes we truly respect and admire — the men and women of our armed forces,” said Shawn Tilger, senior vice president of business operations at the Flyers. “It is a privilege for us to partner with Toyota and show our appreciation for all of these brave men and women as we honor them.”

Philadelphia Eagles

To wrap up Veterans Day weekend, the Eagles and Toyota teamed up to provide all fans in attendance with an #EaglesSalute flag. As Toyota was in its third year as the presenting sponsor of the Eagles’ “Salute to Service” game, it further increase exposure by integrating content into the nationally-televised Toyota halftime show, as well as also highlighting the “Hiring Our Heroes” platform featuring Medal of Honor Recipient Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer.

Toyota helped to increase branding throughout the stadium by having a place on the cover of the Eagles’ game day magazine, video board, and two vehicle displays featuring Toyota-branded military vehicles.

“Our annual ‘Salute to Service’ game is an opportunity for us to pay tribute to the courageous efforts of our veterans and active duty service members,” said Eagles President Don Smolenski. “As we reflect upon the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I, we look to recognize and thank our nation’s armed forces for their heroism as a community of supporters.”

Toyota’s overall campaign allowed for each Philadelphia team to honor America’s heroes in its own unique way. In addition to these specialized activations, Toyota also collaborated with NBC Sports Philadelphia to release a one-minute Veterans Day weekend PSA. In the video, which was streamed on local Philadelphia-based NBC affiliate networks, players, mascots, and fans were showcased from all five teams as they showed their support to the veterans and active military still serving.

“At Toyota, we believe that hiring veterans is a smart move and a great investment,” Paul Muller, president of the Tri-State Toyota Dealers Association. “We encourage every business to support returning service members who are starting new chapters of their lives.”

With Toyota being a longstanding partner for all five Philadelphia teams, it was a natural fit for the brand to continue its community efforts through the use of integrated marketing and showcasing military-themed offerings.

The Philadelphia sports community coming together to unite for a good cause helped make this year’s Veterans Day weekend, especially, a memorable one.

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