May 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
So it’s May, 2012. A season begins a new for 16 hopefuls who battled 82 individual parts to reach that one glorious goal— the opportunity to win The Stanley Cup. The media and marketing Gods have ingested their magic dust and evoked what I’m sure they have hoped to be, a connection between the fans, the players and that emotional bond of being along for the ride. Whether it’s on the ice, at the arena, at a bar or in front of your TV to experience it all, be part of the roller coaster ride of one goal games, overtime thrillers, wins, losses to live for another series and move on to the next round.
But I ask you the Fan, do you feel this campaign, “Because it’s the Cup” touches us all on the visceral level that unites us? Does it capture what a player goes through, his team, team mates, coaching staff, ownership— what they’ve done to get here, stay here and continue here for another series?
Does it really capture our emotions? And are our emotions the same or different than that of the aforementioned? I truly believe they are very different but ultimately share a common bond— none of us could imagine (unless we’ve played at that level or close to it) the sacrifice, the grueling schedule, injuries, practice time, weight room, training facilities and sheer grit it takes to get here. And then to sustain it over another grueling two months against stiffer and stiffer competition to win 16 more games to hoist Lord Stanley’s coveted prize.
So tell me— how do you feel? I know for me, when my team wins, I want to watch the highlights again, and again and again at infinitum. I want to listen to the talk shows, log on to the various web channels and hear the spinsters talk about how good my team is. Why they have a legitimate chance THIS YEAR. I am so sky high, I could walk on air, feel good all over an proud to wear that emblem on my sleeve— even if it’s a little one. Because those who know me, know quite well I just don’t bleed orange and black on given nights. I’ve been supporting my team since their entrance into the NHL’s first expansion back in 1967 through the good years and bad. My pride brims over to hear the pundits brag about my guys and my hope grows larger with each victory. But when they loose, well now that’s a horse of a different color. I don’t want to hear anything. Don’t want to watch the lowlights, hear the analysts, listen to the sports talk show hosts or even get coach’s perspective. Because I’m actually depressed. I’m in a bad mood. My confidence is shot and my pride is wounded. All the cliches come out, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, have to just take it one game at a time and on and on. I want nothing to do with it. I want to win and want to win now. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect to go the route of the 1980 76ers, when Moses Malone predicted four, four, four— they did it in four, five four, but all in all I hate to lose and live for the next thriller, that next win.
So if you’re anything like me, and I bet there are a lot of you out there, I’m sure you can relate. Don’t you put that loss behind you after a day or two and hope springs a new with the drop of the opening faceoff the next time they play? Aren’t you as behind them as you’ve always been? With clenched teeth and closed fists— your knees shaking and the tension building up inside you like a boiling pot of water? Don’t you live for that next goal? The great save? The two-goal lead late in the third so you can just relax even if it’s for a minute.
Can that type of campaign be created? Can some bit of logic and emotion tie us together as fans and players, owners and coaches? Can their be such a campaign that relates to each and everyone one of us?
What would you do? How would you capture the spirt, the emotion, the hope, the despair, the jubilation of it all?
A couple of my thoughts are this:
Extend 24/7 “Road to the Winter Classic” to be the same documentary for the 16 teams vying for The Stanley Cup. Good for the fan, good for the game and although it might not be the greatest for the players, would connect us to our team on such a visceral level— almost like taking a page back from yesteryear when teams played each other 8—12 times a year and didn’t wear helmets. Wasn’t there a connection to the player back then unlike today? 24/7 would go a long way in bringing our heroes into our living room. To see another side of them, a personal side of them to connect to.
And what about the campaign “There are No Words”? Doesn’t that say it all from a player’s perspective without saying anything. Can’t you connect to something like that?
What’s your thoughts?
Weigh in and Join the Conversation!
March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
The window in my bedroom, half open to the world, allowing a warm breeze from the early morning air gently sliding the silky off-white curtains like the ebb and flow of a warm summer’s tide teasing my body with a familiar sense of freedom and nostalgia from my childhood summers at Goose Rock Beach, Kennebunkport, Maine. I awaken with this warm but cool sensation hovering two inches from my body. The birds not yet in full swing, just rising with me to an easterly sky that’s more reminiscent of the Painted Desert than the suburbs of Chicago. I lie still for a few more moments, alone with my thoughts and orgasmic sense of fulfillment before I rise to enjoy another day disguised as a career. It’s 5 a.m., I slowly raise my head, ignoring the alarm clock on the night table to my left, made of cherry wood, with its two perfectly aligned drawers and antique brass horse-shoe shaped handles gracefully standing tall from its curved yet simplistically ornate legs. I turn to my right and see Ruth, my wife of 30 years sleeping in what appears to be a deep REM stage, no doubt on an excursion fulfilling her wildest imagination. I slowly turn to the left pulling my legs from the warmth and security of the loose cotton blankets covering three quarters of my body, careful not to make a sound to awaken Ruth and fearful of stirring our golden-retriever, Sawyer, now 12 and although not the playmate he was at two, still with the healthy heartbeat and the spunk of a pup. Slipping my feet into my favorite pair of UGG slippers, gingerly walking towards the hallway, Sawyer at my side we make the 15-step journey to the main level of our classical colonial home as I brew a fresh pot of dark French-roasted coffee and carefully measure three nourishing scoops of food for an awaiting and patient loyal best friend.
As I prepare a simple breakfast of various berries, nuts and yogurt, I lazily watch Sawyer’s routine of swallowing his food, grabbing his favorite toy doing a few laps around the kitchen, eventually making his way upstairs to wake up Ruth with his prideful smile and full stomach. I follow him up, jump in the shower where I enjoy a seven-minute deluge of 95-degree water beating on my body, cleansing it with Oil of Olay, and a quick shave readying myself to tackle the world.
While Ruth showers, I dress in my casual but impeccably put together outfit resembling a Ralph Lauren commercial more than a high-level executive responsible for the world-wide marketing operations of the three most visible hockey organizations in the world.
As the coffee brews and Ruth gets ready, I walk through a pair of French doors into my home-office adorned with a wall of technology, accented by high ceilings, skylights and sliding glass doors that has such a sense of comfort and style it allows me to be in the thick of the action or alone with my thoughts.
It’s now 6 a.m., I log onto my computer, check the correspondence from my European colleagues, visit my blog, favorite websites, news sources and the relevant dialogue of hockey opportunities around the globe.
I leave my thoughts and muse behind me, joining my wife for an hour of company, conversation and nourishment. We pleasure our taste buds with ingredients that keep us healthy, young and energetic, clean up and take a brisk 3-mile walk with Sawyer.
Upon our return, we’re off to our separate ways, she to the Federal Courts for a half-day of testimony as an expert witness for Social Security and Disability, while I hop into my little Mini-Cooper S Convertible for my 20 minute commute to the office in the heart of Chicago’s Loop business district.
I park in the space designated for me in the garage adjacent to the office building, The Sears Tower, and make the familiar ride up the elevator to the 47th floor. The number has always had significance in my life, it was the age my father, a hockey legend, died.
I enter my office promptly at 8:30 with a view of Chicago; the skyline in front of me, Chicago River to the west and Lake Michigan to the east, a view that would make Olmstead himself green with envy.
I look around my eclectic 600 square feet world filled with a sleek combination of Scandinavian office furniture, contemporary light fixtures, antique accents of Japanese and Indian decent and a technological suite that would make a nerd’s head spin, juxtaposed against the plethora of hockey memorabilia, signed pictures from the greats of the game, letters, political acknowledgements and my prized possession, my family.
I spend the next 45 minutes privately reviewing the events that happened abroad, collecting my thoughts and preparing my game plan for the day. In the six years I’ve been here as the Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Global concern, The World-Wide Hockey Initiative, I can count on one hand the amount of times my day went according to plan. What I’ve come to expect is the unexpected. Part of what I set out to do years ago was to find a job that not only consumed my passion for hockey and skill in marketing, but also incorporated excitement, creativity, fun, innovation, all with a competitive spirit that’s totally invigorating. The unexpected nature of this passion I call my career keeps my heart beating at a rate that is consistent with trained professional athlete and my mind racing at the speed of light. It’s the thrill of the deadline and being able to think on my feet with a precision and swiftness that makes my colleagues tired just by watching me. I am in my element. The true definition of creativity. Thinking, strategizing, solving challenges happening instantaneously that not only affect the sport, but changes peoples’ lives.
At 10 a.m. I head into the conference room with a folder slipped under my arm that my assistant gave me from our session the day before. It’s filled with research, creative briefs, demographics and the new marketing challenge we’re facing today. Our goal is the Southeastern United States not only trying to bring another NHL team to three markets simultaneously, but for the first time in our existence, we’re attempting to embrace the communities they serve from every level starting with youth hockey development in the inter-city. It’s a novel approach, my brainchild, and our team is assembling to brainstorm pros and cons and see the viability of our approach.
I’m so blessed with a group of professionals with such varied disciplines, ages, strengths and skill sets, that we meticulously dissect everything six ways from Sunday with one single objective in mind: to make hockey the greatest game on earth.
There are so many things to discuss, everything from marketing a semi-pro team, involving the community, city officials, sponsorships, player personnel, security, food services to branding and event driven initiatives. We’re just scratching the surface as our plans filter up to the NHL level and down to the youth hockey community. This is our kick-off meeting that will begin in earnest this summer for a launch next fall. Our meeting lasted for two hours and we have begun a framework from which to build upon, very productive for our first meeting.
As we hit the lunch hour, I walk back to my office, stopping off to chat with my boss and mentor, exchange a few pleasantries with some of the staff and decompress in the confines of my home away from home —my office.
With my feet firmly angled on the edge of my desk and my body situated in the comfort of my favorite black leather chair, I reflect on the hours just passed and pinch myself to make sure this is all real. I pick up the phone and call my son Matt, a copywriter at Leo Burnett just down the street, four blocks away. He’s climbed up the ranks like a shooting star at the speed of meteorite. Now the Associate Creative Director responsible for the agency’s largest accounts in just three short years. He shares my passion for hockey, as he’s not only made his mark on the game with a productive career through college, but continues to play today and finds time to volunteer coaching young boys in inter-city Chicago. I tell him about our plans and some of the thoughts we had for the new teams in the Southeast, we suggest to meet for lunch, but postponed till evening, as I wanted to put in a workout prior to my afternoon meetings with my creative staff.
It’s a little before 1 p.m., I head to the elevator, black leather bag in tow, and push the button for the 77th floor where the gym with a panoramic view and every conceivable workout gadget one could think of awaits. I change into my black Nike workout shorts, cobalt blue Under Armour shirt; light grey mesh socks and steel grey Puma low top sneakers equipped with day-glow green laces to make sure no one misses me. At 62, I’m a medical marvel, with the heart and body of a 45-year old with the humor and laugh more reminiscent of my grandkids than of a middle-aged man. I start my routine by stretching for 15 minutes, elliptical for 10, free weights for 30, legs, abs and finish with 100 sit-ups. A nice easy stretch for my cool down period of 10 minutes, then a refreshing shower, yogurt and fruit, 16 ounces of water and I’m recharged for the rest of the day.
I’m back in my office by 2:30, with a half hour to prepare for a creative brainstorming session with my staff, this time in the comfort of my own office.
With a few minutes to spare, I text my wife; “I love you,” and make a quick call to Allie who’s two years into her career as a junior business consultant for an alternative energy company that has offices around the globe. Allie mainly spends her time in the corporate office in NYC, but travels a bit to Latin America, as she is bi-lingual combining Econ and Spanish as a dual major in college. I knew from the time she was a toddler, she was destine to become a CEO, and she’s well on her way to being exactly just that.
One of the highlights of my day is a brainstorming session, with three of my favorite creative people, a copywriter, art director and strategist. It’s what I call “the magic,” there’s so much chemistry, so many ideas, so much fun, it’s almost criminal.
So I start as I’ve started my creative sessions throughout my entire career. We play. I have a great little basketball net, a perfect course for matchbook football, Playstation Five, Wii and X-box Supreme. There’s also plenty of research material and creative magazines to influence and inspire us. It’s like a workout for the brain. And although I’m technically their boss having the final say, there are no hierarchical stigmas. It’s all about the work. Egos are checked at the door and it doesn’t matter where a good idea comes from, as long as it comes.
For the next two hours the four of us banter back and forth, and generate a plethora of ideas to name, brand and market one of the teams in the expanded Southeastern division representing the great state of Louisiana. After only 90 minutes my wall was filled with 10” x 14” pieces of white bond sketch paper. Ideas from the most mundane to incredibly brilliant. For the four of us, they all appear brilliant and we’re eager to pin them up to see if they’re worthy of a push-pin and last the test of time by reviewing them the next day. If they still make sense, then their worthy of pursuing further, if not we keep going. Those are two of the gifts I bring to the table, generating a plethora of ideas, being able to sort them out, what works, what doesn’t, and the ability to keep going. The tenacity to persevere, to continue the plight even when it seems hopeless, never to settle unless its great, it will always come. It is this spirit my colleagues are drawn to. There’s no arrogance, no authority, no ego. It’s always about the work.
The sun has long gone from the middle of the sky and it’s starting to descend towards the west, bringing a new day somewhere else and waning on today. The four of us are spent. Nothing drains me more than “brain sessions.” We were non-stop today, maybe because we had a morning meeting laying out our entire plans or maybe because it was Tuesday. Who knows, but the good news is we were very productive today. The sponge had gone dry, it was time to pack it in and say our goodnights. We’ll meet again on Friday. We loved working together and the awards that lined the hallways were proof positive of our efforts.
I sat on the ledge of the heater adjacent to my window that gave me a view one would die for. I reflected on the day and thought about my family, my wife and how lucky I was to be where I am.
I grabbed my worn, brown leather briefcase, turned off my lights, said goodnight to the young “up and comers” staying late to get ahead, and headed off to my evening paradise I called home with my bride of 30 years and grateful heart.
February 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The winter Classic. Brilliant piece of PR— big idea. Best thing for hockey since the Zamboni. Now add to it this incredible dimensional piece of editorial insight and we’ve got something really special. Where does the average fan get to see such an in-depth, behind the scenes look at their favorite team and or players. How cool is that— even if you aren’t a “fan groupie.” The editorial documentary style is so well done, so authentic it gives such insight on a little seen light, a glimpse of player that normally you would never see or know. What they’re like (well almost), completely uninhibited, under the helmet and behind the mask. I particularly liked the locker room scenes, the banter, the chatter, the camaraderie. It really is, “For the Love of the Game.” These guys are just like you and me— that’s what makes it so special. We can connect with them on such a visceral level. No arrogance, no real egos, just a bunch of guys playing a sport they love. So where do we go from here— how can we make it better? For one, I think its major limitation is only two teams. And if you don’t live in, or are from that city, don’t like, or root for that team, is there anything really for you to watch? Am I to believe that there’s so many altruistic hockey fans out there that everyone will want to watch? I think it would be very cool to do the “Road to the Stanley Cup.” Let’s get a 24/7 perspective on what they’re really playing for. Let’s broaden the playing field. Let’s expand on a good idea, open it up to eight cities or even sixteen. Let’s get all the playoff teams involved. Let’s live the pressure with them. Their reactions, their drive, their adversity, their victories and defeats. Let’s see the pressure build as they climb the ladder of their dreams to the coveted cup. That silver bowl from back in the 1800’s— to lift it, to hold it, to embrace it, to engrave it. It’s what dreams are made of. It’s what we all can relate to when we were young and full of piss and vinegar. Ready to take the world by storm. To dream, to hope, to reach for… something, anything important or special. We can all relate because didn’t we all dream of hitting one out, in the bottom of the ninth, down by three with the bases loaded? Don’t we all have that one dream, that we played over and over in our heads? To be that character in the movie, to be the one who became charmed— if only for a minute? Cmon, we all had a dream. So what’s your thought? What can we do with 24/7? What can you do with 24/7?— Start the conversation, or at least the dream.
April 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
So here we are, deep into this era of managed competition. What used to be an old boy network, unquestioned, vanilla flavored industry, when a renewal was a matter of course has exploded into a potpourri of choice, competitive rates and salesmanship. No longer is a phone call and a reassuring “I’ll take care of it,” the order of the day or enough to satisfy anyone. The insurance landscaped has changed and morphed itself into a caveman, a gecko, a waitress, Mr. Mayhem, and agents that appear out of thin air. Not even to mention things like “accident forgiveness,” “name your own price,” and savings from up to $350! And now all I have to do is go online, type in a few answers and presto, I’m insured. Maybe that’s okay if I live in a part of the country with cornfields on either side that goes on as far as the eye can see and the center of town has a church, police and fire station, a diner, gas station (who pumps it for you) and a town hall. Maybe it works out there, wherever “there” is. But round these parts, it’s not so simple. We, the public have been hypnotized, entertained and lured into believing these simplified truths in the hopes of saving money. There’s only one problem, it’s called “Insurance” for a reason. To insure against an unfortunate event. To protect oneself and ones’ family. To honor a code of ethics, to be responsible to be fair and to do the “right thing,” just in case. I know, times are tough, real tough. The economic climate has affected more Americans than that of the depression era. Not as hard, not as fast, but deep, protracted and all encompassing. Of course we’re all looking to save a few bucks and “get by.” Should we take a risk? Should we leave our families and our livelihoods in jeopardy? Just to save a few bucks. Chances are we won’t need insurance, we won’t get into an accident or have a loss. But what happens when we do? Is that 800 # working for you? Will Mr. Mayhem show up? Will the ever present reappearing agent? What happens when the red lights of a police car, the motor of the hydraulic lift, the emotional pain of an unfortunate accident, the fear, the shock of it all, what happens then? Who do you call? Whats next? It is the professionals who represent sound insurance carriers, the experts who understand the “ins and outs” of the insurance business and know how to cover you in the event of a loss. It is their expert opinion who understands the legal jargon and the 8 point type that I can’t read nor do I want to, who can tell me, this is what you need and you have nothing to worry about. That’s what they do, that’s what they’ve been doing for decades. And they have earned our trust. Because they know. Because they are the professionals. The are not salespeople. They are your trusted adviser. Do not make the mistake of believing the “agent” representing insurance companies is what your independent agent is.
March 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
So here we are having come through one of snowiest winters in recent memory just to find ourselves in that dreaded month of March. March, even the sound of repulses me (maybe that’s a little too strong) but what happens in March. It’s still cold, days relatively long, windy, and everything in sight looks dead. What a depressing month! Even the snow looks dead, laced with soot and carbon monoxide. No flowers, no greens, birds, no warm breeze, just stunted, uninterested nowhere’s land, in the middle of nothingsville March. It makes me feel like I’m in this movie and someone has died but can’t decide whether to go to heaven (or hell) or stay on earth. I think they should rename March to “Tweener.” At least it’s descriptive and sounds nicer. Of course you know it will turn cold again— these 60º teasers will only be paid for by biting cold with wind chills of below zero and you can bet your ass we’ll get dumped on again. Winter always gets its last laugh. And to top it off there’s 31 days of it! Not sweet little February with 28 or graceful April with a nice round number— no March just wants to prolong the agony.
At least the Gods of the sports world thought up “March Madness,” and for those of us who like sports and basketball in particular, there’s nothing better than college hoops— some of the most exciting weeks in sports all year. And is March would have it, not much going on in the pro sports world. Season’s coming to and end, a lot of meaningless games (lot of important ones too) but really a whole new season begins when, in April! We’ll all just have to trudge the road of happy destiny till that beautiful little five letter word comes into prominence, April, ahhhh, I’m already warming up. What a beautiful word, what a beautiful sound. And really how many people did you ever know by the name of March? But April, well, ain’t she something? Hope springs eternal.