The Race to be First

Reporting any new information to the public can be risky, especially when it is a headlining topic.  As any social media expert, one should always make sure that the information they are providing the public is 100% accurate.  Any false information can put you and your company’s reputation at risk.

With overwhelming attention surrounding the football program at Penn State, every tweet, wall post and blog comment brings more and more Internet traffic to the school and community.  In a society that completely thrives and relies on Internet access, acquiring information has never been easier or faster.  Along with the ability to supply millions with information via Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites, comes the responsibility to maintain an ethical mindset when sharing information.

Joe Paterno, the recently released Penn State head football coach who served for 42 years, passed away at 9:25 am this past Sunday. On Saturday night, several hours before Paterno’s death, Onward State, a student-run news organization, reported through a tweet that the community icon had passed. The Onward State managing editor, Devon Edwards claims the tweet was based on an email hoax and has since resigned.

It is shocking that a student organization (which presumably is more focused than professional organizations on performing tasks “by the book”) that is tied to an institution which has been so heavily shrouded in controversy recently, would fail to perform such a basic and necessary task as confirming information, especially when dealing with such an emotionally charged topic as the passing of Joe Paterno. Unfortunately, this is just the latest occurrence in what seems to be an ongoing problem with many forms of media.

Managing Editor of Onward State’s Apology

March Madness: The True Underdog Story

Every NCAA Tournament kick starts spring and there is truly nothing like the opening days of tournament basketball. People have put all their time and effort into studying brackets for their office or friendly pool. As the tournament starts we all question whether a 16 seed will finally upset a number 1 seed. Yet again, this year it did not happen. No matter what happens there are always upsets, and this tournament was no different. After the upsets occur the “Cinderella Story” comparisons start to fly around. Marketers and advertisers beg to ask who will wear the glass slipper this year.

For some reason our country loves the underdog story. We love to see Rocky make a courageous comeback and win the fight in the last round after getting beat the entire time. The NCAA Tournament has its fair share of underdog stories this year with Virginia Commonwealth, Richmond, and Butler. Butler is the most ironic of the “Cinderella Stories” because they reached the NCAA Final last year and came narrowly close to beating National Champion Duke. So why do we love to see Butler as the underdog? Reporters continue to ask Butler Head Basketball Coach Brad Stevens about the Cinderella story and he simply responds with “the Cinderella story worked well for us last year so I love to hear it.” The problem is that we are much too quick to forget about Cinderella teams. Marketers and advertisers use these schools and teams to market their underdog story and then after the tournament we quickly forget about them. We don’t hear a word about the universities or their basketball teams until they become the underdog story then marketers pump money to inflate their story. The Butler Bulldogs were not talked about much this regular season yet they find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen again. No matter how successful they were last season Butler will continue to be branded as a Cinderella team because they are a small school that lacks a deep, rich basketball tradition. Teams like Kansas and North Carolina will never be mentioned as an underdog or a Cinderella no matter how much better the opposing team is. These branding techniques seem to always be used during March Madness.

There is a special story for two of the three Cinderella teams previously named. If Richmond and VCU both win it will be the first time in NCAA Tournament history that two teams from the same city or town will have played each other. Let’s hope that both win so we can celebrate two great teams from Richmond making it to the Elite Eight. More importantly, we can cheer for our fellow Colonial Athletic Association partners the VCU Rams. I’m sure CBS and advertisers will hype up the battle of the underdogs and ask whether the glass slipper fits Richmond or VCU. At this point we might be getting ahead of ourselves, but we can all dream. Hey, it worked for Cinderella.

Basketball FREAK?!

March Madness is a time of great success along with upsetting, shocking defeats.  The tournament lasts a month long that will determine the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship team.  So why did it take millions of viewers missing parts of games for decades before the networks realized we ALL want to watch ALL the games?  Well, 2011 is the year!! 

 One network, CBS, and three Turner cable channels, TBS, TNT and truTv will each individually broadcast different Division I Men’s Basketball matches from start to finish so that collectively they will show all the games. Not only are you able to watch one game, you are able to view the continuous scores of all the other games on the other networks from the top of your tv screen so you don’t miss a beat! Viewers now have the ability to flip between channels to the most exciting matches. This brings more coverage to the networks while broadening the audience of viewers.  Not everyone watches basketball, but during March Madness, many more do because of the upbeat competition of the tournament.  These four channels allow all the viewers to keep track of their bracket and join in on the fun!

So far all channels collectively have done an excellent job of keeping fans up to date with coverage and news on the tournament before and after each game. A team of commentators led by Greg Gumbel have kept the conversation going for every match up. The partnership that CBS and Turner has created where the feel and look of each station’s broadcast, including the same graphics and commentators, has convincingly made viewers feel like they are watching the same tournament. As opposed to the tournament being broken down among four different stations with their individual interpretation of how it should look. This ideal broadcast is what March Madness fans have been craving for years.

CBS has owned the rights to March Madness since 1982 and since all that time CBS controlled what games were shown. So in a bold move for making the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament available for all basketball freaks and bracket-fillers, CBS signed a 14 year deal with Time Warner’s Turner cable company for $10.8 billion to own the rights to the tournament. In doing so CBS and Turner have become each a customer-centric organization. They saw what the fans wanted and delivered. “It’s a better programming option for the viewer at home and the basketball fan,” said CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus. “More work on his or her part to find the game, but they get to decide what game they want to watch. In the past, I think we did a very good job of moving around, but it was our [CBS] decision.” Since CBS and Turner have become customer focused they see the importance for the NCAA tournament to be controlled by the viewers, and to allow the Madness of March to be experienced by the fans. 

The next set of tournament games are this Thursday and Friday, March 24th and 25th, which showcase the remaining Sweet Sixteen. Check www.ncaa.com for a live bracket of the remaining teams and teams whose road to victory has ended.

-Lauren DeHart & JC Salter

Price Tag on a Super Bowl Ticket? Not for these fans.

It seems fans whose plans were altered by seating issues at this years Super Bowl have filed a lawsuit against the NFL. Go figure. The lawsuit also targets specifically the Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones and alleges a breach of contract, fraud, and deceptive sales practices. The massive group of fans, as many as a thousand people, are pushing for a collective gain up to $5 million from the NFL. While some of these fans pushing for the lawsuit are legit (400 fans did not even get a seat for the game), others seem to be coming off as a bit forced such as season-ticket holders who weren’t aware that they would be in “temporary seats”.

Perhaps the NFL’s biggest problem stemmed from an inadequate offer that would have given the displaced fans $2,400 and even a ticket to next year’s Super Bowl, airfare and hotel included. But clearly this just is not good enough for these fans who felt gipped out of their paid-for seats. Apparently the NFL should have made these fans an offer they couldn’t refuse, at least up front, and now they will really have to pay for it. Clearly, the NFL cannot afford to get into a legal battle with these angry fans as it would lead to nothing more than a public relations disaster and a huge blow to the brand. It is no secret now that the league is to blame for the seating fiasco. So now in order to evade future damage to sales efforts and brand integrity and credibility, the NFL needs to do whatever it now takes to keep its faithful customers.

Apparently there is no price tag on a Super Bowl ticket for these fans and they show no signs of dropping the issue. It seems at this point, the main hope for the NFL is that this story gets out of the media as fast as possible, and without further damage to the brand and future marketing and sales efforts and profits.

-Eric Holtzman, Chad Graves, Ryan Kelley, Maxann Keller, Katelyn Truss

Battle of the Blues

How do you market one of the most watched sports programs when it doesn’t have as grand advertising sponsorships as the Super Bowl? The answer is you let the fans advertise for you. The historic game I’m referring to is the infamous and arguably most intense rivalry in college basketball- the UNC Tarheels vs. Duke University Blue Devils. At least twice a basketball season, these two juggernaut teams battle it out for who is King of Tobacco Road (the literal 8 miles of road that separate each university).

The feuded rivalry between both schools is long and exhausting but no one has taken it any more serious than the fans and the schools’ students. These fans through word-of-mouth advertising taunt their opposing fans to the point where no matter what the current team’s ranking or accomplishments, everyone must watch the game between Carolina and Duke that will shut their rival’s jabbering faces. To some die hard fans it doesn’t even matter how great the season, if Duke didn’t beat Carolina or if Carolina didn’t beat Duke, the rest of the season hardly matters.

It also doesn’t help that not only bragging rights between fans are on the line, but each school’s newspaper gets in on the action and goads one another. This is truly the best representation of how the game should be advertised, capturing the essence of each school’s spirit. The day before each match Duke’s newspaper, The Chronicle, runs a phony page titled “The Daily Tar Hole” to ridicule UNC’s The Daily Tar Heel. To punch back, The Daily Tar Heel, publishes the “Insider’s Guide to Hating Duke” by Ian Williams. Also, to add gasoline to the flames, each newspaper has agreed on a bet to if their school loses they will place the logo of the winning team in their newspaper announcing that they are “still the best” and change their newspaper’s masthead to the opposing school’s color. Nothing could entice fans anymore to watch the big game than knowing that if their opposing team loses, that loss will be sensationalized in print.

The Duke and Carolina opposition is one of the best illustrations of competition itself and the definition of rivalry in college basketball. It is no surprise that it is one of ESPN’s most watched sports games each year. Next Wednesday, February 9th, when the Tarheels and Blue Devils face again for the Battle of the Blues the ultimate reward for the winning school’s students will not only be the bragging rights, but to take part in the performance of their school’s celebration ritual (the massive crowding of people on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill or the bonfire of burning benches at Duke University). However, luckily for whatever team loses, both schools always meet at least twice each season, and the next matchup after February is scheduled for March 5th.

- JC Salter

Think Pink…Football?

When someone says football, more likely than not the first images that come to mind are big, sweaty, muddy and masculine MEN. However, as a yearly tradition this month the NFL will be getting in touch with its more feminine side. To be more precise, all of the players will be accessorizing with pink. Pink sweat bands, socks, cleats and even pink mouth guards, all in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month. The NFL has designated all games from October 5-27th as NFL Breast Cancer Awareness games, started its own campaign called “A Crucial Catch” which encourages mammograms and also donated 14,000 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure at the beginning of the month. Not only is the NFL taking action, throughout the year Major League Baseball is incorporating 250 pink bats into its games, and the National Hockey League players will be using pink hockey sticks as well as many other professional athletic teams. It seems that breast cancer awareness has turned “Think Pink” into a masculine concept as well.

From the view of a Corporate Communication student, there is more to this concept than meets the eye. Professional sports such as football, hockey and baseball has had (for the most part) a predominantly masculine appeal. Not to say that thousands of women don’t love a full Sunday of watching their favorite team score touchdown after touchdown, or even participate in the sport itself. However, this “Think Pink” concept has become an athletic BRAND of its own. Fans of all genders love to see there favorite male players donning there pink accessories in order to create awareness of a disease that is statistically expected to effect 207,090 women by the end of 2010. Considering the biggest risk factor for being diagnosed with breast cancer is just simply being a woman, sports teams all over the nation that consist of mostly men are creating a whole new concept of branding for themselves. Star players within all areas of the athletic industry are taking action to show their concern for the cause; from Alex Rodriguez using a pink Louisville Slugger bat, to Cowboy’s LB Bradie James forming his own personal foundation that supports breast cancer, “Foundation 56″.

It’s pretty obvious that breast cancer is a disease that effects all parties involved, not only the women (and men) who are diagnosed. This month, the NFL and other sports teams are making a statement about their normally masculine “brand” and letting everyone know that real men really do wear pink.

- Lora Hampton

Integrating Social Capital, The Court and Beyond

As Black History Month comes to an end, many of us would be remiss to think that only about sixty years ago, names like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, or Lebron James wouldn’t exist, or in essence they wouldn’t. Approximately 80% of players that make up the African-American National Basketball Association would not even be allowed on the court, if it weren’t for the efforts of 3 individuals who have truly changed the face of the game.

A New York Times piece covered the 50 year commemoration of the first 3 African-American players to play in the NBA, which took place at a Knicks game in 2000. The article spoke about the men’s struggles with playing an integrated game in a segregated world. Earl Lloyd, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, and Chuck Cooper endured the ugly side of social capital on an everyday basis in the still separated America. Jeering fans often taunted the men when they played well, but ignored them if they played terribly. Lloyd said he “took special pains in those towns” to make sure he was called names.

Though there were many negative aspects of social capital they experienced while in their early days as NBA players, there were also some positive aspects. NBA legend Bob Cousy was one of the white players who created positive social capital as a teammate to Chuck Cooper. Cooper’s widow stated that without Cousy’s continuous support, Cooper’s career wouldn’t have been near as long. She shared “once, they were down south, and the people at the restaurant put Chuck’s food out by a railroad track and Bob went out there and ate dinner with him.”

These historic events happened without much fanfare at all. It happened after Jackie Robinson’s entrance into baseball and the NBA was nowhere near as popular as it is today. The impact of the positive and negative social capital experienced by these 3 players has truly affected the way we come together in sports. Many basketball fans couldn’t really imagine the game without flashy alley-oop passes from the Canadian star Steve Nash or a slamming Amare Stoudemire. Well just think, if the positive and negative social capital between Cousy and Cooper never brought them to a railroad track for dinner some time ago, what would the face of basketball look like today?

Colby Lewis