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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.

Marketing

How MGM Built Hype for ‘Creed 2’ With Athlete Screenings

The campaign seemingly paid off as “Creed 2” had the largest Thanksgiving weekend opening ever for a live-action title by grossing $55 million.

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Creed - Marketing - Sports

A look at one of the posters for “Creed 2.”

As President of Motion Picture Group (MGM) Jonathan Glickman puts it, the “Rocky” movies have separated themselves as “the preeminent sports movie franchise.” With a narrative throughout all eight films that chronicles the trials of underdog boxers, it seems natural that athletes have taken such a liking to it.

It also seems natural that after the critical and box-office success of 2015’s “Creed” starring Michael B. Jordan, and the original Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, professional and college teams from all over the world were incredibly excited to get an advance look at the sequel.

“Athletes from all walks of life can identify with that story of being doubted and having the odds against them,” Glickman said. “The tagline for the original ‘Rocky’ in 1976 was ‘His whole life was a million to one shot.’ Athletes ever since have been taking inspiration from the stories in the films to achieve athletic greatness in real life.

READ MORE: How to Break Into a Career as a Creative Storyteller 

For that reason, MGM started offering advance screenings of the film in the weeks leading up to its November release to teams that needed or wanted some extra motivation. A University Michigan alum himself, Glickman saw a great place to steer this campaign by giving the Wolverines football team a chance to see the movie prior to their game against Penn State. The idea worked, seemingly, as Michigan rolled to a 42-7 win.

“With U of M being my alma mater, I was very excited to offer the chance to screen the movie for coach Harbaugh and members of the team,” Glickman stated. “It was admittedly very cool to see the movie get them riled up and then to see them get that victory against Penn State.”

MGM’s communications team reached out to several other professional teams, athletes and colleges to work with them on screening programs, and had a few request information about the screening as well.  The list included Alabama and Georgia football, Michigan State, Virginia — coach Tony Bennett is a “Rocky” savant — and the Kansas men’s basketball team, which was also given a preview screening.

Perhaps most notably, the Philadelphia 76ers screened the movie early and integrated the movie into the reveal of their 2018-19 city edition jerseys, which pay homage to Philly’s history in the boxing world.

READ MORE: Traditional Pro Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

MGM also worked closely with the NBA to have as many as 13 teams engage with the film and even worked with Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwoodie to design custom-made shoes, a pair of which were worn against the Sixers on Thanksgiving weekend and were auctioned off to charity.

MGM collaborated with ESPN and the NBA to create a custom open with Michael B. Jordan for LeBron James’ return to Cleveland during Thanksgiving week, which was the most-viewed regular-season game in at least four years on ESPN.

The film was also used in other contexts by teams who were granted advance screenings.

In this vein, the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks screened the movie for local at-risk youth in an effort to inspire them to overcome their own adversity. The Nets used the film to partner with their Brooklyn Boxing initiative to bring young boxers in to experience the film, and light middleweight champion Caleb Truax held a screening for youth programs in his native Minneapolis.

The campaign seemingly paid off as “Creed 2” had the largest Thanksgiving weekend opening ever for a live-action title by grossing $55 million. Expect MGM and other studios to continue with this style of campaign and tapping directly into athletes to market sports movies in the future.

“If pro athletes see a movie and tweet or post positively about it, then that’s a huge win for us,” added Glickman. “Not only does that get the message out about the film to the rather large followings that these teams and players have, but it gives us a direct line to what is ultimately our target audience, and it establishes a line of credibility when high-level athletes identify with stories like the one in ‘Creed 2.’”

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Marketing

Why Major League Lacrosse Turned to Troika/Mission Group for a Visual Rebrand

Major League Lacrosse is about to have a new look and feel. During this upcoming process, Troika will be offering immense support and guidance.

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When Sandy Brown took the reigns as Major League Lacrosse commissioner, he knew a few changes needed to be made.

On the marketing front, the biggest alteration is yet to come with a complete visual rebrand for the league. This will include a new logo, a new website, and new league-branded apparel along with a new look for all marketing and communications materials for the league.

Naturally, this is a fairly large undertaking considering the league has been operating under the same logo and branding since its founding back in 1999. While some fans will always have an affinity for the original, it was time for a change. MLL Director of Marketing Carrie Gamper explained why.

“On the old logo, you can see the helmet, and the player is a little bit out of date and it doesn’t necessarily connect to how the game has grown leaps and bounds since the time of the league’s inception. We want to make sure that where we are and where we’re going is reflected in the new branding.”

READ MORE: The New Direction of Major League Lacrosse 

To get this project done, MLL has brought in Troika/Mission Group, a brand consultancy and creative agency. Troika’s previous sports-rebranding and promotion work has included projects with the NFL, ESPN, UFC, and the PGA. Notably, Troika created the PGA’s current slogan “Live Under Par,” which was included in a larger brand campaign that helped reenergize professional golf among younger fans. This campaign was a big selling point for MLL as it decided on Troika from four agencies.

“With that ‘Live Under Par’ campaign, they were able to remain true to the organization’s history while marrying it with this new, fresh, young, energized, digitally focused brand that they are,” Gamper said. “That also enabled them to engage younger fans and current golfers in new and exciting ways. Given who our core audience is and who our athletes are, that got us really excited to work with them.”

Troika will be working off data gathered in a Nielsen study among MLL fans that was completed over the course of the 2018 season. It was this same study that convinced MLL’s leadership that a rebrand was the right step in the first place. The Los Angeles-based agency seems ready for the challenge.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Major League Lacrosse on the rebrand,” said Dan Pappalardo, president of Troika. “It is an opportunity to reinforce MLL’s legacy as the beacon of the lacrosse community, and position the league for the future.”

READ MORE: Major League Lacrosse is Turning to Digital Assets to Grow the Game

Troika/Mission Group and the league office, as well as MLL’s nine teams, will work hand in hand to establish new brand standards that will factor into all of the league’s new marketing materials. Fans can expect these new materials to start rolling out just prior to the 2019 MLL season, which begins on May 31.

“The support and guidance that Troika has been able to give us have been fantastic,” added Gamper. “The feedback and support we’ve gotten from our partners, sponsors, players, and owners have been overwhelmingly good. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of. We couldn’t be more excited to show everyone that new brand in 2019. It’ll look great and be a great beacon for the sport.”

Follow Major League Lacrosse on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to watch its visual rebrand unfold.

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NeuLion College’s New Tool Makes Social Marketing Easier

Collegiate social marketers hate having 40 different tabs open on their browsers, so NeuLion College crafted a solution.

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NeuLion College - Social Media - College Athletics

Many of the most recognizable brands in college sports distribute their communications through NeuLion College’s publishing tools. Customers use the Titan content management system to post to the team website, mobile app, and/or email lists.

Now, with SocialDirect, NeuLion College users can also post to team social media accounts right from within Titan.

NeuLion College’s Director of Product Innovation Mark Hodgkin believes that people already familiar with using Titan will pick up SocialDirect fairly quickly and easily.

“SocialDirect is embedded completely into the Titan content management system, which is what we use to control all our digital offerings, mobile apps, and ticketing/donor platforms,” Hodgkin said. “So, it’s kind of baked right in there as a standalone tool, but also embedded into a bunch of the most common workflows.

“If you’re creating an article or uploading a video or photo and you want to share it right away, hit save, and it takes you right into the SocialDirect flow using the link that the system creates — putting it right there for Bitly to shorten. You can also put a photo in there, sending it natively to the social platforms, while the program takes the headline and gives the photo a suggested caption.”

While social media has not traditionally been the biggest component of NeuLion’s products in the past, this seems like the logical next step for its CMS, as Hodgkin can attest to.

“It’s not our overall core-business focus of being a social aggregator,” he said. “We just tried to make Titan as robust a content distribution tool as possible. So, instead of having 40 different tabs open on your browser, digital managers and SIDs are now able to do it in one place.”

To say the least, this tool can save an athletic communications office precious time in getting all content to the proper channels very quickly.

SEE MORE: Overtime Is a Sports Network for the Next Generation 

“There’s less of the copy-and-pasting and uploading photos,” said Hodgkin. “The photos you’re going to use are already in the system. Once they’re in the system, you could use them for articles, ad spaces, or post to SocialDirect.”

One of the big differences between SocialDirect and other similar tools out there is that there is no limit on the amount of Twitter or Facebook pages that can be associated with an account. As athletic departments often have many different handles or pages for the different sports or staff members, this makes getting content where it needs to be even easier. Those accounts will still operate on a permissions basis, though, so anyone who does not have the login credentials for a specific account will not be able to publish.

Users can also submit posts in an approval queue, allowing for a scenario where, say, a student worker can create a post to be distributed on Twitter and Facebook, submit it as a draft, and an SID can review it and publish later.

SocialDirect also has Bitly integration, enabling the posting of custom URLs — if the school has one — very easy. The feature also works on NeuLion’s mobile app, making publishing on-the-go much easier.

Simply put, like much of what NeuLion College has launched, this is yet another product perfectly tailored for college sports communicators.

“We’ve added several people to our team recently who are either former SIDs or directors of marketing at colleges around the country,” Hodgkin said. “So, we wanted to have people on our team who have been in the seats of these schools and can relate to what they deal with beyond just a normal technology.”

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