Category Archives: Corporate Communications

Tweets from Brooklyn: NBA Team Exec Wins with Direct Customer Engagement

It’s fascinating to observe how executives communicate, particularly on social media.

Irina Pavlova. President - Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc.  Credit: Brooklyn Nets.

Irina Pavlova. President – Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc. Credit: Brooklyn Nets.

A related dynamic is how senior leaders of professional sports teams are increasingly communicating directly to fans.

Last week, the top executive overseeing the operations of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets selected Twitter to directly engage the team’s fan base, which I’ll discuss.

I’ll also share 7 Tips to help leaders navigate in this new age of omni-platform communications.

But first, some background.


In early July, after just his first season as an NBA head coach, Jason Kidd left the Nets in a controversial, messy fashion. Despite his reported power-play motivations, the Nets, specifically General Manager Billy King, took the high road in public comments.

There was much speculation about how Kidd should be/would be treated in the run-up to his return to Brooklyn as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks on November 19th, as well as continuing media coverage from both team’s perspectives.

The speculation was fueled by the first public comments on the matter from the team’s principal owner, Mikhail Prokhorov.

Answering a reporter’s question before the Nets’ home opener on November 3rd, Prokhorov invoked a version of the famous American phrase “Don’t let the swinging door hit you in the *** on the way out.”  It was communicated with his typical wit, and a bit of humor, in a calm, non-emotional manner.

For non-NBA fans, note that Jason Kidd’s number is retired and hangs in the rafters of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Rightly so. Kidd was a terrific player for the New Jersey Nets, leading their transformation in the early 2000s that culminated in two consecutive appearances in the NBA finals.

Nevertheless, sports fans are typically dismissive of players and coaches who “don’t want to be here,” and it’s fair to say that Kidd wanted to be elsewhere. Prokhorov’s comments reflected that sentiment.


Irina Pavlova is President, ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc., the business entity that oversees and operates the Brooklyn Nets on behalf of its principal owner.

Understanding the backdrop and context, take particular note of Pavlova’s personal account tweet a few hours prior to the game:

Well done!  This is a superb example of leadership in action and effective, “taking the high road” communication.  Importantly, Pavlova was able to change the conversation to where it should be – about the Brooklyn Nets and looking forward, not about the former coach.  Her tweet was noted and reported by the media, including ESPN NY.com, thus propelling her message to a wider fan audience. Continue reading

Pro Teams Score with Direct-to-SportsFan Marketing

Increasingly, professional sports teams are taking their important communication messages directly to fans.

Powered by the ubiquity of the Internet and fan tethering to social media platforms, direct-to-sportsfan (D2SF) marketing offers pro teams an unprecedented, and unfiltered, communication vehicle to their fans and season ticket-holders.

Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins. Photo: Brooklyn Nets website.

Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins. Photo: Brooklyn Nets website.

What is direct-to-sportsfan marketing?

D2SF is a hybrid marketing strategy designed to enhance the relationship, connection and relevance between teams and their fans, especially season ticket-holders, via the creation and direct sharing of special access, customized content.  It’s a combination package of marketing communications, content marketing, public relations, customer engagement and social media marketing.

Tactics include:

  • In-house Broadcasting.  Teams create their own reporting and broadcast content, typically with their own, paid journalists.
  • Coach-To-Fan Communication.  This takes the form of letters, short videos and recorded telephone messages.
  • Owner-To-Fan Communication.  Public letters, season ticket-holder messages and tweets are commonly used.

Communications expert Ivy Cohen, president and CEO of Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, provides some perspective to help understand this developing marketing philosophy:

“The fan-team relationship is a symbiotic one.  Teams need fans to establish the value of their brands and keep the franchise flourishing.  Fans want to connect with their favorite teams for the psychic rewards of competition, winning, belonging, and a variety of benefits that come with entertainment, love of sport and following a season.”

Cohen adds:

“When player contracts were long-term, fans felt strong ties to individual players, the team brands were represented by a steady player roster and fans had strong team brand loyalty and player attachments.  Since that system eroded, fans need more and meaningful ways to feel an ongoing connection to a team.  Fans want to feel connected to their team and are seeking a persona to contribute that.  Owners and coaches can be strong representatives for their teams.”

Overall, as a targeted sports fan recipient myself, I like to see what the coaches or owners have to say unfiltered.  It’s a nice supplement to all the sports journalism.  And, as a marketing observer, it’s interesting to note what and how teams decide to communicate.


Let’s look at two examples from the past few weeks.

Jason Kidd Letter to Bucks Fans.  Posted 7/7/2014 to Milwaukee Bucks website.

Jason Kidd Letter to Bucks Fans. Posted 7/7/2014 to Milwaukee Bucks website.

Jason Kidd is the new coach of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, having controversially orchestrated his departure from the Brooklyn Nets sideline. You can read his letter of introduction to Wisconsin fans:

Continue reading

How NOT to Engage Customers: NY Mets Strike Out with Fan Letter.

Talk about a wild pitch!  Last week’s fan letter and call-to-action produced by the New York Mets baseball team is bad marketing.

However well-intentioned it may have been, the letter is a misfired effort at fan engagement and boosting game attendance.  Note that I’m a big Mets fan, so I take no joy in writing this post.

Source: NY Mets website.

Source: NY Mets website.

________________________

There are so many missteps that I hope the marketing department was forced to implement this idea.  Let’s break it down.

Continue reading

Planet Fitness Drops Dumbbell with Gym Member Communication

It’s not only what you say, but sometimes what you don’t say, that irritates your customers.

Similar to poor communication, a lack of communication can also be damaging if you’re trying to maximize positive customer engagement.  Case in point:   my gym, Planet Fitness, just dropped a dumbbell and they didn’t say excuse me.

Here’s what happened.

Photo: Planet Fitness Facebook.

Photo: Planet Fitness Facebook.

When I signed-up for membership a little more than one year ago, automatic monthly billing was set-up via card credit.  I haven’t had any problems.  The process has worked fine.

Last week, my credit card on file with the gym was deactivated due to fraud concerns.  Once I received the new card, I made a special trip to give the gym my new card number.  I figured it would be easier and faster to handle it in person rather than calling by phone.

It was neither.  To my surprise, I was informed that Planet Fitness no longer offers billing by credit card.  I was told that, based on a recent change, payment is now only allowed via checking account direct withdrawal or debit card (seems the same to me). Continue reading

Duke Libraries Tell Stories to Raise Funds. Plus 3 Tips for Your Marketing Team.

How do you motivate alumni to give money to libraries?

Or, more generally put, how do you persuade someone to do something that’s not top of mind?

You tell meaningful stories.

Storytelling has been a powerful marketing communications tool for a long time.  Today, it’s often talked about in association with content marketing.

And while it’s not a new tactic, when used effectively, it can produce important business results.

Duke Magazine - Special Issue 2013

Duke Magazine – Special Issue 2013

Take this ad for Duke University Libraries, for example.

The photo caught my attention and led me to read about how Duke assigns a librarian to every first-year dorm.

To me, that’s an interesting story I’d like to know more about.  The eye-catching visual, along with the text, quickly dimensionalizes an abstract concept and makes it easy to understand and relate to.  There’s a URL to get more info.

The result:  Duke has a greater chance to raise funds earmarked to its libraries. Continue reading

Norfolk Southern Taps Consumer Marketing Playbook for B2B Success

Even industrial marketers can utilize consumer marketing tactics to get their message out.

The latest example is transportation company Norfolk Southern.  If you’ve watched any television during the past two months, you still might be humming their song “What’s Your Function?”

Since being hired in 2010, the marketing challenge for Norfolk Southern’s agency RP3 has been to turn an industrial brand into a magnet brand.  Previous work was built off the tagline:  “One line, infinite possibilities.”

The overarching message this year is that “trains connect us all.”

Specifically, the new ad is designed to “remind everyone how Norfolk Southern connects businesses, creates jobs, and keeps the economy moving.”  That’s bold. Continue reading

Engage Customers with “Content Marketing”

Imagine this:  Your marketing mission, if you choose to accept it, is to convince Global 2000 CIOs (Chief Information Officers) to use Serena Software’s orchestrated IT solutions.  The company’s “core purpose is to advance the business value of IT.”

Photo: Serena Software Website

Photo: Serena Software Website

Tough one!  I’m not a CIO and I don’t speak the language of “orchestrated IT solutions,” but I can share a clever way to solve the problem.  Let’s talk about the smart marketing Serena Software developed and implemented to bring a rather dry product/service to life with its prospects and customers.

Perhaps you know something about “content marketing” and “inbound marketing” and maybe you’re applying these marketing techniques today.  Basically, content marketing is leveraging “owned assets” (and “earned assets” too) such as websites, social media pages, and a variety of custom produced material to further your sales and marketing objectives.  Inbound marketing, according to Hubspot, “is a set of marketing strategies and techniques focused on pulling relevant prospects and customers towards a business and its products.”

If you’re not leveraging some form of content and inbound marketing today, you’re missing the boat.  In particular, video offers excellent opportunities to engage, inform and persuade customers.  Serena Software created an excellent five-part video episode series called “Doug Serena, CIO” to  bring the benefits of its orchestrated IT solutions to life with its CIO targets.   Continue reading