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Indiana State Throws It Back With Celebration of 1979 Final Four Team

The athletic department has built a year-long celebration around the Larry Bird-led team.

Adam White

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(*Old Hat is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

If you asked 10 people to point out Terre Haute, Indiana on a map, chances are maybe one of them would be able to do it.

Meanwhile, if you asked 10 people who Larry Bird is, chances are more than half would be able to tell you.  

Nestled in Terre Haute, Indiana State University was once home to Larry Bird and an improbable run to the NCAA Final Four.

Averaging nearly 30 points per game that season, his last at Indiana State, Bird helped lead the Sycamores to an undefeated season and a national title-game matchup versus a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State Spartans team. Although the Sycamores would fall to the Spartans, to date, they are the only team to advance that far in their first-ever NCAA appearance.

SEE MORE: How UK’s Football Digital Team Creates Content and Empowers Student-Athletes

Forty years later, the university and its athletic department are paying homage to the team through a season-long celebration aptly named “Forty Years Since March Went Mad.”

Working with Old Hat, the two came up a slogan, social media strategy, and logo. Throughout the season, the staff will republish game-by-game recaps — complete with box scores — through various social media outlets to “relive” the legendary season. This was an idea that came from Associate AD of Communications and Digital Content Ace Hunt, who received inspiration from Ari Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary who “live tweets” what happened on 9/11 every year.

“I thought doing something similar for the ‘78’-79 team would be really cool, so over the course of the season, we will be ‘live tweeting’ that season by sharing the press releases, news articles, and photos from just about every day of that year.”

Given the time that has passed, Hunt and his student workers had to rely on some of his good friends who just happened to save everything from photos and magazine covers of Bird to game programs, newspaper clippings and ticket stubs.

While the department could have chosen just one game to honor the team, Hunt felt that not only should the celebration impact the players themselves, but their families and the community of Terre Haute, many of which include blue-collar workers who were “galvanized” by the team.

SEE MORE: Michigan Athletics Turns to Facebook to Drive New Donations

The department is also lucky in the fact that everyone from the team, including the head coach, is still alive and well.

“We’re going to take full advantage of it and really put on a celebration not only for them but for their families,” added Hunt. “They all have kids and grandkids, none of whom have seen those games because they weren’t alive. We want to put on a celebration for them that those guys really deserve.”

The celebration includes a game against Loyola, last year’s NCAA Cinderella story, that will feature a reunion of everyone from that team, including the coaching staff. For the game, the team will don throwback baby blue jerseys designed specifically for the anniversary by Under Armour.

Working with Old Hat, the goal around the project was to rekindle the memories of a team and a season that has become somewhat of an urban legend for those who didn’t grow up in that era.

Bringing the celebration full circle, Hunt is focused on taking advantage of having everyone together again in order to capture video content that will be able to live on to the 100th anniversary of the team, even if he and anyone on the team isn’t there to celebrate.

“The most important goal in this whole thing for us is to get some of the grainy footage from that year into HD format and to capture in-person interviews with the players. We want to actually have those guys on camera so regardless if it’s the 50th, 60th, 70th, or even 100th anniversary, people will have the chance to relive the season through their eyes.”  

(*Old Hat is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

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REP Worldwide Changes The Licensing Conversation For Female Athletes

The NFL Players Inc. extension has executed licensing agreements with more than 25 companies across categories in support of women’s pro sports.

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REP Worldwide launched in 2017 as a unique take on a brand management and representation business. An extension of NFL Players Inc. (the marketing and licensing arm of the NFL Players Association), REP Worldwide aims to have players supporting players through sustainable group licensing and player-marketing programs. In particular, REP Worldwide has focused on bridging the gap in underrepresented women’s sports licensing.

With interest in professional women’s sports among fans and companies alike continuing to grow, so has the desire for player-driven merchandise. To date, REP Worldwide has executed licensing agreements with more than 25 companies across categories that promote players of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, the WNBA and USA Rugby including licensed t-shirts, socks, scarves, novelties, customized jerseys, promotional products and digital collectibles.

With the Women’s National Basketball Players Association and the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association on board as founding equity partners, REP Worldwide has been hard at work the last year or so establishing agreements with companies like Breaking T, Fanatics, Fansided, Panini America, CultureFly and more. Fans can now purchase a variety of gear from these companies featuring the licensed likenesses of some of their favorite players.

“With a robust marketing and licensing program finally in place, we had to be really intentional about pursuing these agreements,” says Terri Jackson, executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, who opted out of their collective bargaining agreement at the end of 2018. “So we had an initial shortlist of companies that we wanted to work with, and REP got it all done very quickly.

“The timing of this could not be better. It really made sense for us and the leadership saw it as a great opportunity.”

The U.S. Women’s National Team will defend their world championship at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France this summer. In the 2015 World Cup, the Americans defeated Japan in the most-watched soccer game in U.S. history to win their third championship. Despite this, U.S. Soccer failed to see value in properly licensing and merchandising products related to the team and players, only featuring with a limited selection of items.

For this reason, Becca Roux, executive director of the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association, is thankful that the players’ association gained those rights in 2017 as part of a new collective bargaining agreement. This allows them to market the team to different partners where U.S. Soccer does not have an exclusive agreement.

“This coming to fruition will be validating for the players to see the fruits of their labor,” Roux remarks. “U.S. Soccer didn’t see much value in these rights, so finding a partner like the NFLPA to create a company like REP Worldwide to act as our agency was great for the players and for the game. The NFLPA did believe in the rights and it’s been great to see the market’s response.”

As 2019 moves forward and fans purchase more gear to rep their favorite players, current athletes will reap the deserved rewards. However, the meaning of this coming together is slightly deeper. The collaboration between athletes from several different sports represents a larger collective unity that exists between professional athletes that will likely have a lasting impact on sports licensing as a whole.

“As fellow athletes, we see the WNBPA and the USWNTPA as our colleagues and we want them to succeed,” states Steve Scebelo, President of REP Worldwide and VP of Licensing & Business Development with NFL Players Inc. “The idea behind REP Worldwide was helping other athletes stand up for what they deserve. There’s definitely a bond that exists between all these athletes and what we’re doing here represents that.”

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Marketing on Wheels: SLAM Magazine Makes a Splash at NBA All-Star Weekend

By covering a Sprinter with iconic magazine covers and driving around Charlotte, SLAM made sure that the brand could not be missed at NBA All-Star Weekend.

Bailey Knecht

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Photo credit: SLAM Magazine

Like many basketball brands, the SLAM Magazine team pulled up to NBA All-Star Weekend intent on leaving an imprint on the city of Charlotte. For SLAM, that meant taking advantage of nearly 25 years of iconic magazine covers, using them to wrap an entire Sprinter van, and cruising through the streets of Charlotte over the course of the weekend.

“We were trying to figure out how we could make our mark on All-Star Weekend, and we came up with the SLAM Sprinter, which was a pretty simple idea,” said Adam Figman, editor-in-chief of SLAM. “The idea was kind of twofold, because it benefited us in a few ways. It served as a moving billboard for SLAM as a brand, so people saw it and took it in. They would see it on the street, and they could engage with it… It also served for content, so we met up with a bunch of NBA players and rappers and did interviews at the Sprinter.”

With covers adorning every inch of the Sprinter, SLAM was able to pay homage to its rich history while shining a light on its modern-day product.

“We really just decided to go with covers all over because that was the most eye-catching, and it leaned into the history of SLAM,” Figman said. “It also showcased a lot of the guys taking part in the weekend.”

READ MORE: Nike and Jordan Partner With Snapchat for Custom AR Lens

“If you looked, we had Larry Johnson, who was on the cover of the first-ever SLAM magazine in 1994, which was special, considering he was on the Charlotte Hornets,” he added. “We also had players all the way from Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and then a lot of the Sprinter’s space was devoted to the newer guys, like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, plus Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.”

One cover, in particular, was a special area of emphasis for SLAM, according to Figman.

“The newest cover, not coincidentally, featured Kemba Walker, who’s the best player on the Hornets now,” he said. “It was cool. We brought the idea to his people a couple weeks before, and we made sure to have that cover really big and noticeable, and they loved it.”

The team posted up at various All-Star events, selling gear and offering photo opportunities.

“We were selling exclusive merchandise out of the back of it when we got the chance to park or post up somewhere, in heavily crowded areas,” Figman explained. “We made an All-Star-exclusive SLAM box logo hoodie, and had our usual selection of SLAM cover tees, plus a brand-new one that featured Larry Johnson. It will be in store this week, but it debuted on the Sprinter, so our first batch went to local people in Charlotte who happened to walk by.”

Finding just the right spots to take the Sprinter was important for maximizing SLAM’s visibility.

“We were at the NBA’s official events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night,” Figman said. “We were at the Nike and Jordan Brand space at a few points, as well. If we knew where we’d be, we’d announce it on our Instagram story and Twitter and give people a heads up. Secondly, there was also a fluid element to the whole thing. We knew about the heavily populated areas, like the Epicentre in uptown Charlotte, so we spent time on the outskirts of the Epicentre as close as we could get.”

“There was a lot of traffic, for sure, but that’s a good thing,” he added. “If this unique, eye-catching Sprinter is sitting in the middle of standstill traffic and it’s unable to move, all of the passersby are looking at it, so it is literally marketing itself.”

As a media brand that is known for being beloved and trusted by players, SLAM was able to lean into those relationships during All-Star Weekend. The team used the Sprinter to meet up with NBA players like Sterling Brown, Jeremy Lamb, Kyle Kuzma and Joe Harris, and create content for social media.

“The best part is that it’s literally mobile, so we could ask players, ‘Where do you want to meet up? How can we make this happen? Tell us where to go,’ and then we could pull up to events to meet them,” Figman said.

One of the most well-known players that made an appearance at the Sprinter was Walker.

“He was a pleasure to work with in making [the cover], and he hit us up after it went live, saying how it was amazing and that his family and friends loved it,” Figman said. “He wanted to show love back… To see the Sprinter working on that stage, where our magazine cover star thinks it’s cool and goes out of his way to be a part of it, was great.”

The Sprinter wasn’t SLAM’s only activation during All-Star Weekend, either.

“We had an event with Puma, a Baby Dunk contest, for 15-and-under kids on lower hoops,” Figman said. “It was a ton of fun and got a lot of circulation on social. We had the Sprinter parked outside, and everyone was taking photos.”

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

Utilizing social media was a key aspect of the SLAM’s All-Star activations, according to Figman. The team capitalized on a unique combination of traditional and modern branding, between the Sprinter’s vintage vibes and social media’s widespread reach.

“I think it’s, in concept, an old-school idea — wrapping a vehicle is very ’90s hip-hop, rap, like how in the ’90s, if you were leaving a concert venue, you’d see eight of these wrapped vans outside,” Figman said. “So, it has an unquestionable old-school feel to it, but the difference is now with social as a prevailing way people see things and consume content. If you do something cool in person, something like a Sprinter wrapped in eye-catching SLAM covers, people take photos and videos, and post on them on social, on their Instagram story or their feed on Twitter or on Snapchat — everywhere, basically. You get your digital, social piece out of it if you do a good enough job, so there’s an old-school feel with a new-school effect.”

Between the striking appearance of the SLAM Sprinter and its circulation on social media, SLAM’s All-Star activations brought invaluable visibility to the brand throughout the entire the weekend.

“It was a fun activation, and we got our brand out there,” Figman said. “Obviously, we were able to bring in revenue using merchandise sales, but there was also the content play, the brand play and the marketing play… I had never seen anything like this.”

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How Professional Bull Riders Successfully Introduces Its Culture to New Audiences

Professional Bull Riders spreads its events across the country — and world — as it asks potential fans to realize their inner cowboy.

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Photo Credit: PBR

For Professional Bull Riders, the organization would label the last 25 years as an extended period of steady growth.

In the same breath, it would label the last four years, in particular, as nothing short of explosive. 

Despite its roots in the Western lifestyle, PBR CEO Sean Gleason said the sport is making major inroads in America’s suburban and urban markets. PBR recently finished up its a big weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City and will make its first Los Angeles appearance at the Staples Center Feb. 22-23.

“I wouldn’t say it’s growing the Western lifestyle as much as taking an exciting sport with Western roots and introducing it to a new fan base,” he said. “Bull riding is an extra exciting sport, eight seconds of adrenaline-packed action 40 to 50 times a night, wrapped in with world-class production, and it’s an extremely entertaining product.

“People who give us a trial are surprised by what they experience. We struggle with the reality that a lot of people in suburban and urban areas in America have lost touch with dirt sports and what a cowboy is.”

Gleason said a struggle is breaking down those barriers, but it’s beginning to happen.

PBR experienced an attendance increase of 12 percent from 2015 to 2018, following the acquisition of the company by entertainment and fashion agency, Endeavor, formerly WME|IMG. Now a wholly-owned subsidiary, Gleason said PBR’s solid growth trajectory of the past two decades received a major boost from the firm’s expertise.

READ MORE: Game Changer MVP’s ‘Filter Fan Cam’ Ramps Up PBR’s In-Arena Atmosphere

“The PBR fits perfectly into Endeavor,” Endeavor Properties President Sam Zussman said. “It is a very special league in a very special sport with incredibly passionate fans who want to experience all aspects of the sport and the Western lifestyle. Endeavor’s breadth of capabilities — from events, to content creation and publishing, media, licensing, talent representation and more — makes it a perfect environment to continue to strengthen the PBR.”

According to an ESPN Sports Poll, PBR has 82.5 million U.S. fans, with an established presence on CBS Sports — with an average of one million viewers per telecast. 2018 set more than 20 local attendance records, including 46,000 people at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium in Feb. 2018 for the Iron Cowboy.

Bull riding is generally an individual sport, but PBR recently finished its third PBR Global Cup — a five-nation team competition and the richest PBR purse outside the PBR finals.

The Global Cup is based on the success of PBR’s growth outside of the U.S., as it continues to tap into the rich traditions of bull riding in Brazil, Australia, Mexico and Canada with tours in each territory. Gleason said rodeos have faded from the mainstream with cowboy lore, but the PBR product has the necessary elements to attract audiences.

“Their rich history and tradition is allowing us to do the same thing there,” he said. “It’s allowing us to introduce the cowboy hat and Western athlete to a new fanbase with shared values.”

Brazil’s PBR tour will include six cities this year and up to 10 next year.

Beyond the bull-riding events in arenas and stadiums across the U.S., PBR is now a multimedia company as well. PBR launched its own OTT network, RidePass, last February to “bring Western sports” to the digital media landscape. RidePass has aired more than 500 hours of programming since launch, including live bull riding, news, and highlights. PBR has also utilized Endeavor’s IMG Original Content to help produce several original shows, like the Brazilian bull rider Netflix docuseries “Fearless.” On Facebook Watch, the five-episode “Belles of the Bull” follows rider girlfriends and wives, and “I Got Wrecked” is a free streaming series on go90, showing some of the sport’s most insane injuries.

READ MORE: Whistle Signals an Official Call to Action Within the Sports Landscape

“There’s a huge base of underserved fans out there,” Gleason said. “The digital platform is the right time, the right place and the perfect platform to bring it to the consumers. RidePass is having great success. We’re extremely excited and will continue to invest in the content and brands.”

Gleason is excited about the first quarter of 2019, which put PBR in several of the country’s largest markets including New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. Now, they’ll be investing heavily in the “Be Cowboy” campaign.

“It’s to invite more cowboys into the tent,” Gleason said. “We believe cowboy is how you live, not what you look like. It’s not about a boot and a hat. It’s the values you live by.”

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