This post really needs no introduction. Other than to say H&M are likely to have the most-watched Super Bowl ad this year in terms of female demographics. By a LONG chalk.
Category Archives: Sport
This post really needs no introduction. Other than to say H&M are likely to have the most-watched Super Bowl ad this year in terms of female demographics. By a LONG chalk.
It’s not often that I will post about work-related content here, but the latest debate raging over on Synergy’s blog is actually pretty thought-provoking (well, for those in the sports industry at least).
Any sports fans out there remember when Twenty20 was first ‘invented’? Or when Nike burst onto the scene helping Michael Jordan hit his jump shot? Or even, for the veteran fans amongst you, when NFL was first broadcast on our TV screens?
Well, whatever you think the biggest moment was, Synergy wants to hear about it. We’ve started a bit of a debate going by naming an initial top 12 (below), but we’re a friendly, modest bunch and open to suggestions of things we’ve missed. Have a look at the below, and let us know what you think by commenting on the original blog post here.
And eventually we’ll put up a poll and get to the official #1. But only with your help. So what’s it to be? Let us know…
- 1960 – a promising American golfer called Arnold Palmer shook hands over a representation deal with his friend and Yale law grad, Mark McCormack. This handshake was the start of IMG and birth of modern sports marketing.
- 1968 – After the NFL and AFL merged in 1966 the first two championship games between the two winners were called, snappily, the NFL-AFL World Championship. KC Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt then came up with the term Super Bowl for the game after seeing his grandson playing with a Super Ball, (a densely elasticated ball) and a global phenomenon was born.
- 1976 – already prevalent abroad, Kettering Town became the first British football club to have a sponsor on its shirt – the deal may only have lasted four games but it changed the rules in the UK. The forward thinking brand? Kettering Tyres.
- 1978 – Horst Dassler and Patrick Nally created a sponsorship model for world events starting with The FIFA World Cup that other rights holders have followed ever since.
- 1978 – Bernie Ecclestone became chief executive of the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) which culminated in Ecclestone securing the right for FOCA to negotiate television contracts turning F1 into the global financial phenomenon it is today.
- 1979 – Jack Nicklaus argues successfully for the inclusion of European (rather than just British) players in the Ryder Cup. This turned a struggling, one-sided tournament into what is today probably the most significant global event in golf.
- 1981 – the first major PPV boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns was screened by Viacom Cablevision, the event sold over 50% of its subscribers for the fight and a new form of sports viewing was born.
- 1984 – Nike, a struggling sports shoe company, signed rookie Michael Jordan and created the first shoe named after a player – The Air Jordan.
- 1985 – Michael Payne restructured the IOC Marketing Programme creating TOPs – the building block of the most lucrative sponsorship format in the world.
- 1992 – The English First Division clubs resigned en-masse from the Football League and formed the Premier League which is now the most watched and most lucrative football league in the world with the format copied across the globe.
- 1995 – The first ever Extreme Games (later changed to X Games) was held with the backing of ESPN – it catapulted fringe sports into the mainstream, bringing with it vast corporate investment.
- 2003 – The ECB introduced the world to Twenty20 Cricket via the Twenty20 Cup between counties, the mould breaking game has gone on to be adopted across the globe with IPL changing the financial face of the sport.
It is no secret to this blog that I’m a big advocate of cheerleading. As a former cheerleader myself – in support of our American football team at University, and competitively in London squads for the three years following – this is perhaps no surprise. I don’t pretend to offer an unbiased viewpoint, but I do hope to offer an informed one.
Long-standing has been the debate over whether cheerleading can be deemed a ‘sport’. Yesterday, in a strongly voiced opinion piece for The Guardian, Victoria Coren (daughter of Alan, brother of Giles, star poker-player and one-time porn star) made her position on the point crystal clear. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I wanted to respond – if only to expand on the rantings from many a disgruntled cheerleader who posted some of the 300+ comments in response to the original piece.
What provoked Coren’s opinions was a news story that ran two weeks ago, presenting the latest statistics that show cheerleading has become the fastest growing physical activity picked up by school P.E. departments across the UK. In a nation of growing obesity, where the inactivity of our children regularly hits the headlines, one would think the discovery of a discipline that engages children in this way would be celebrated. Apparently not.
For me, focusing on the sport question tends to overlook the inherent values of the discipline, but more on that later. For now, let’s entertain the harshest critics for a moment and deal with the debate at hand, which requires two distinct definitions: firstly, which section of cheerleading is being referred to and secondly, the definition of sport being put forward.
Let’s talk about sport for a moment. The Olympics, generally considered the ultimate global representation of sporting excellence, makes a discernment between sports (a single or group of sports represented by an international federation) and disciplines (multiple events that can fall under the same sporting umbrella). Thus Aquatics is a sport, fielding activities in the disciplines, swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo.
Now, don’t mistake me here, I am not for one moment purporting that cheerleading should be made an Olympic sport (or, for that matter, convinced that synchronized swimming should be classed as such either). But take a closer look at the IOC’s catalogue and you will find that not only is Gymnastics and its three disciplines (artistic, rhythmic and trampoline) on the official list of Olympic sports, but that ‘Dance Sport’, while not included in the Olympic program is fully recognized by the IOC and therefore could be added to the Olympic program at any given time if sufficiently supported by IOC membership vote.
What I am certain of is that competitive cheerleading represents the ultimate combination of Dance Sport and Gymnastics (artistic, rhythmic and, given the impact of a sprung floor on which all competitions are held, arguably trampoline). Just take a look at the most recent World Championship holders (for the fourth year in a row) and see if you disagree:
And this brings us to our second definition – what sector of cheerleading are we considering here? The competitive squads like the Stingray Allstars are a different kettle of fish entirely to the NFL dancer cheerleaders who bring glitz and sizzle to the football sidelines every Sunday and Monday night. But both have their value – on and off the field of performance. The point of the NFL girls on game day is to entertain the crowd – by their own admission they are first and foremost dancers – and do not enter into the gymnastic stunts of competitive cheer.
However, not even NFL cheerleaders should be cast aside with the aspersions so forthcoming from Ms. Coren in yesterday’s unfounded diatribe against cheerleaders the world over. NFL cheerleaders are a combined force of college students and professionals who give up their evenings, weekends and annual holidays to support their football team, fundraise for charity events, promote local businesses, teach cheer camps to local kids, entertain the forces abroad and promote their game around the world. Quite apart from the commitment to honed athleticism and the upkeep of physical excellence that is required to keep their appearance and performance up to the standard required.
Whether their activities combined could be deemed a sport? Even I find that hard to argue. But to focus solely on the ‘ass-shaking’ of their poms in scantily clad costumes and over-sexualised dance numbers, is an easy observation to make, but is also a crass devaluation of their role and responsibilities.
But when it comes to the competitive cheerleading that I know so well, it is an entirely different story. It is a form of cheerleading that, sadly, seems to have escaped the research of Ms. Coren. I have seen firsthand this incredible discipline inspire thousands of youngsters to dedicate years of their lives to routines that display such athletic excellence – in the quite astonishing synchronisation of gymnastics and dance – that arguing the case for it to be classed a sport is, frankly, a pretty easy task.
Of course, British sensationalist press, the narrow-minded opinions formed from limited exposure to American high-school movies and a British viewpoint partial to condescension of our American cousins for their brash lack of culture means it is all too easy to make the ‘boots and hot pants’ picture the prevailing image of the cheer world. There follows the outrage of parents who (rightly so) find the concept of their child being taught to shake their booty in hotpants and boots quite horrendous. As would I, were that what was being taught in schools. Obviously, it isn’t.
And therein lies the problem, wrought by stereotype and informed by press exposure of the most commonly portrayed ‘cheerleader’ – that we overlook the athletic, competitive form that can indeed be classed as a sport.
Were these folks to turn up to any one of the several weekly training sessions of a UK cheer squad – national champions AEC a primary case in point – they would see a rather different world. Children who happily sacrifice listless evenings in front of the TV, weekends at the local park with friends; not to mention their adult coaching staff who volunteer their own spare time to inspire them – all in the name of athletic excellence.
Perhaps the solution is to take a lead from the IOC, deeming cheerleading as a whole to be a discipline, but discerning the divisions that fall within it – the sport, the competitive/gymnastic cheer (the likes of AEC and the Stingrays), and then the pom dance (the NFL variety) – a system of division that already effectively provides the structure for cheer competitions all over the country.
Cheerleading teaches them teamwork, trust and commitment and gives them a cause to focus on, learning that with enough dedication and practice, great outcomes can be achieved. And with this, combined with the tough athletic program that cheerleading requires, what more could we want to teach our kids?
- To find out more about UK cheerleading – in schools, universities and beyond – visit BCA, UKCA and Future Cheer.
- And head down to Trafalgar Square on 30th October to see the 49ers Gold Rush in action ahead of the NFL International Series at Wembley on 31st.
I love tactical brand advertising. Well, the good stuff anyway.
Following Phil’s big victory at the Masters this weekend, Rolex churned out this beauty in today’s national press:
Rolex’s ads of this nature are always so simple. Completely in-line with their campaign pieces – image-heavy/text-light – but when they do have something to say it is succinct, astute and perfectly bringing in line their brand values with the property they sponsor. Mickelson and Rolex, united in class and success.
Once again, both proving they are at the very top of their respective games.
Look what I added to the blog today? Now there’s no excuse for not keeping up with the latest NFL scores. Shame Sky Sports don’t have one here so that we can get the games displayed in UK time. Get on the case guys.
Following England’s recent victory at the Oval to reclaim Ashes glory, reflections have been made far and wide on the scale of achievement accomplished.
Amidst all the celebratory guff, Martin Johnson’s salient points in the Sunday Times last weekend rang particularly true to me.
His piece mainly focused on the commendable decision not to repeat 2005’s ‘bacchanalian bender’ (to use his glorious phrase) in light of the relative triumph this time around. In Johnno’s words, it must be remembered that we are celebrating within the context of one average team beating another average team, and not the toppling of a cricketing giant, ending nearly two decades of humiliation.
But his reasoned argument touched on the subject of a fairly lively debate I found myself in during a car journey back from the Cotswolds the previous weekend. Why exactly is it that England cricket fans – the media and civilians alike – seem so ready to forget the 2006-7 debacle that was in fact the previous Ashes series?
Said car-debate was triggered by some frustration with Sky Sports who, throughout this latest series, chose to dominate their match-break inserts with highlights from 2005. Sky, seeming to choose patriotic victory over recency, barely acknowledged what little encouragement might have been drawn from the albeit few inspiring individual performances in the previous series. Instead preferring to instill – or rather reiterate – the blind English belief of, ‘well, we did it four years ago so we can do it again.’
I found myself arguing that this was a symptom of our English optimism preferring to gain strength from previous victories, in order to support our current campaign, rather than dwelling on lessons learnt from past failures. The counter was that while ‘optimism’ might be admirable and reflections on previous success understandable, this should not be at the cost of total denial that an intermittent (disastrous) series ever even happened.
As Johnno himself slipped in one point:
‘…many half expected England to win and retaining the Ashes did not come as a total surprise’.
And what’s wrong with that?
Err, hang on a second - England were never in a position to ‘retain’ the Ashes this summer… seeing as we lost them two and a half years ago. Remember that?
Johnno did at least acknowledge this oversight in the same breath; his point being made that the England cricket fan-base has become so accustomed to blanking that mortifying season from our collective psyche that we barely notice we’re doing it.
He went on to offer a brief account of 2006-7 and the errors inherent therein – so astutely that I felt it worth repeating here. I’m not saying this should excuse our national denial of that series’ existence or that it explains Sky’s seemingly delusional exclusion of those highlights from this summer’s coverage – nor does it solely account for our truly shocking performance that winter. But it does touch upon some key lessons that (please God) the ECB will learn from before packing the boys off for the 2010-11 tour – when we really will be aiming to retain that little urn.
‘…but 2006-7 doesn’t count in that the boys went to Australia on holiday rather than to play cricket.
‘‘They didn’t actually start by sitting around the airport departure lounge wearing shell suits, drinking larger at 9am and checking in at the EasyJet counter, though everything thereafter reminded you of a package holiday booked online at lastminute.com.
‘‘There has never been any adequate explanation for a touring party expanding to 95 people for the flight from Syndey to Perth, a population explosion unmatched outside any colony of rabbits, and there were so many pushchairs in the hold it’s a miracle the plane managed to get off the ground.
‘So…it is also incumbent on the powers-that-be to make sure that this time England’s defence of the urn is treated more like a serious sporting mission than a family outing to Mablethorpe.’
But to end on a positive note - one final counter to all those antipodeans’ protestations that Oz were the better team on paper and thus were the real victors:
‘Let’s hear no more about who, statistically, were the better team. When you’ve got 35 balls to dismiss Monty, and can’t do it, you don’t deserve to win.’
While this isn’t exactly news to me (as we’d heard the Kraft rumblings of this from our buddies over at NFL UK a while ago) now it has made its way into mainstream press via a BBC exclusive, it seemed fair game to post about.
Legend of pop Elton John is apparently an ardent fan of NFL team, the New England Patriots (so much so that he is second only to the President in congratulatory phone calls following Super Bowl wins).
So the story goes, to celebrate the Pats taking to the hallowed Wembley turf on 25th October this year for their match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kraft has asked his old buddy Elt if he would act as honorary captain for the day. No play-calling involved (not even waterboy duties are required). Elt will instead show his support for the team by walking out with the personnel for the coin toss – a la Becky Adlington at last year’s UK fixture.
But as the BBC exclusive below shows – at least he already has his wardrobe choice sorted.