Iron City beer plays ball with Pittsburgh’s sports teams

Pirates-cansHere’s a nice story that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently ran about our BrandMill client Iron City Beer and their local sports partners – the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers!

We’ve been working with Pittsburgh Brewing (Iron City Beer) for sometime now helping them to rebuild their brand presence and favorable awareness with the regional media and customers.  And, I’m proud to say that we’re tracking well together and the Pittsburgh region is going to like what we’re cooking!

As Pittsburgh natives, we’re proud to say that Iron City Beer is coming back strong!


Super Bowl Ads Fumble Every Year

fumble-footballEvery year when the Super Bowl rolls around, I’m offended by the ‘professionals’  in my industry who kickoff campaigns at this time. Granted, from a media efficiency standpoint the Super Bowl is a pretty decent investment. On a per-person basis, the cost of a commercial in the big game is virtually the same price as a 30-second primetime  weekday commercial throughout the year.

My problem is that the overwhelming majority of commercials fumble when they simply try to shock or make viewers laugh with no regard to motivating them to buy. And, few have ever built market share or earned a significant return on investment.

It’s no wonder at all to me why the C-suite of executives lack respect for the marketing function. Shame on us marketing folk and shame on the ego driven brand executives who approve this rubbish.


Immaculate Reception Marketing Memories

Sprint PCS Immaculate Reception Billboard

I’m so looking forward to tomorrow, December 23 because its the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Immaculate Reception. I was 10 years old and was listening to the Steelers Raiders football game on the radio (local broadcast was blacked out) and heard the news LIVE!

What a thrilling end to a game that propelled the Steelers to future greatness. In addition, this single play would change a city and would forever be immortalized as the greatest NFL play in history!

Immaculate Reception Marketing Memories

Ranking just as high on my list of favorite Steelers memories, was back in December 1997 when as the Director of Marketing and Sales Operations for Sprint PCS, I came up with an idea to help us more effectively communicate our digital ‘call clarity’ position.

Sprint’s Immaculate Reception Print Ad

You guessed correctly – it was also around the same time as the 25th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

To clearly position our new wireless phone service in a hyper competitive wireless phone market, I searched and found a high profile customer (football great Franco Harris) whose testimonial and personal brand matched up perfectly with Brand Sprint.

The marriage between Franco’s most famous play in football and Sprint’s unique selling proposition of digital call clarity, helped drive favorable awareness, considerable store traffic and effectively communicated our unique product positioning (the first and only digital phone service in the market). And, the timing was perfect.  The 25th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception coincided perfectly with our new product launch.

Franco Harris and Stephen Wayhart
25th Anniversary of Immaculate Reception
1997 Commercial Photo Shoot

Testimonials are one of the most effective methods of building brands, and Franco’s testimonial helped us to effectively pull together a strong brand building and sales effort.

Our strategy was so on target that Sprint PCS realized record store traffic and sales.

Now 15 years later, I’m proud to say our campaign – like Franco’s famous catch – has been immortalized by the NFL Network in its feature film A Football Life – The Immaculate Reception.

Click here to watch the entire video of the Show and be sure to check out the mark at 31:57 to 32:04 to see one of our ads!

Happy Anniversary Franco and thanks for the memories!

P.S.: See Case Study here. Also, many thanks to my boss Doug Cotton for giving the idea a ‘thumbs up.!’ And to photographer Harry Giglio, designers Kathy Kendra, Mark Power; Mike Cusick Sprint Director of Sales; and Sprint marketing partner Maria D’Abruzzo.

Click here to see a super video treatment of the 40th Anniversary Celebration and marker unveiling of the Immaculate Reception from Steelers.Com


Pirates Miss PNC Park Anniversary Tag

Your birthday.  Your spouse’s, kid’s, parent’s, grandparent’s, brother’s, sister’s etc., birthdays. Your wedding anniversary and/or your parent’s anniversary. The 4th of July – America’s anniversary. All big time events and occasions to celebrate right?

Well, as a ‘homer’ living in Pittsburgh, and as a professional marketer I’m baffled by the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates marketing team did absolutely nothing – zero – not a thing – this season to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PNC Park (a gift by the citizens of Pittsburgh), arguably the best ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

Hey, but don’t take my word that the Pirates’ PNC Park is the best, check out this brief  ranking list of the best Major League Baseball ballparks by some of the ‘folks that really know’:

YELP ranks PNC Park first

Fox Sports ranks PNC Park first

ESPN ranks PNC Park first

Forbes ranks PNC Park third

Now, certainly you can argue that PNC Park might not be the best Park in all of Major League Baseball, but you’d have to agree that it’s at least in the Top 5.  And, even if PNC Park wasn’t ranked that high, why wouldn’t you still take advantage of the significance of the date and celebrate all season long?

In fact, the symbolism for a 10th year anniversary for the Pittsburgh Pirates is incredible too.  The symbol for the 10th year anniversary is aluminum or tin and here we have one of the greatest companies ever headquartered in Pittsburgh – ALCOA – the Aluminum Company of America (its Headquarters is only .19 miles or 44 seconds from PNC Park) and the world’s leading producer of aluminum! And the designated gemstone of a 10 year anniversary is the diamond…get the symbolism, baseball diamond?

You could also argue, that the Pirates didn’t have much to celebrate and/or remember over the past 10 years, but don’t we all have bad years? It doesn’t mean you forgo celebrating your birth!

We do a ton of hospitality marketing consulting and anyone in the business will tell you the profitable, sales building significance of celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries.

It’s sad and disappointing that the Pittsburgh Pirates missed the tag on the 10th anniversary of PNC Park. They would have hit the cover of the ball knocking it clear out of the Park and into the Allegheny River!

Don’t forget to step up to the plate and swing for the fences when your brand’s birthday/anniversary rolls around!


NHL Scores Clutch Marketing Goal

Growing up in the city of Pittsburgh in the 60’s and 70’s, hockey wasn’t the hot sport it has become, and even today I’m what the NHL calls a “casual fan.”

However, when it comes to NHL hockey marketing, I’m a rabid fan. After the lockout season of 2004-05, the NHL has put forth an amazing marketing power play. The NHL has become more relevant, is skating with a cool, new swagger and is scoring huge marketing goals!

This New York Sports Journalism feature outlines several of the key marketing initiatives the NHL has embraced such as getting back to the roots of their game with the Winter Classic, embracing and communicating player’s unique stories, creating special events aligned with sponsor brand needs, taking full advantage of the 2010 Olympics in Canada, becoming an online category killer and more. Their social media strategy is a killer one too.

The NHL offers great marketing lessons to all brands in search of a comeback.

As an added bonus, here are a few mobile marketing insights from the Chicago Blackhawks featuring an SMS case study and the New York Rangers $1 million dollar mobile sweepstakes.

P.S.: More good news.  Brand NHL has got it’s groove back and introduces its cool new NHL iPhone App announced via NHL.Com

Go Pens!


All Football Field Goals Aren’t Worth 3 Points

Did you ever wonder why all football field goals are worth three points or all touchdowns are worth six points? I have…and the more I think about it, the more outdated the tradition seems to me, and changing the values would make the game more exciting.

Aren’t 50 yard field goals tougher to make than 20 yarders? Certainly they are, so why aren’t their values different?

In gymnastics and other sports, the degree of difficulty is rewarded so why not football.

Here’s a thought…how about…

  • Making all field goals between the goal line and 10 yard line worth 1 point
  • 11-20 yard line = 2 points
  • 21 – 30  = 3 points (probably today’s average kick)
  • 31 – 40 = 4 points
  • 41 – 50 – 5 points
  • 51+ = 6 points (double the average)

Wouldn’t this single idea create cool new strategies and more game excitement in the NFL, College etc.? Yes it would – it would open up the game a ton. I’m not sure about changing the value of touchdowns, because the degree of difficulty getting a touchdown in the Red Zone (20 yards in) can be tough, but why not look into it.  Why always stay with the status quo especially when the environment you exist in has changed?

The NBA finally adopted the 3-point shot in the 1979-80 season after seeing it tested over the years, so why can’t the NFL change?

Bringing this marketing idea home to you and your business, what can you take away from this discussion?

Well, for starters take a hard look at your pricing and see if the pricing of the selling of your goods and services (goals) truly reflects what their real and perceived worth is to your customer.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when reviewing your pricing policies:

  • Do you offer better terms of service than your competitors
  • Does your stuff last longer
  • Is your stuff simply better
  • Are you nicer to do business with – more trustworthy
  • Do you offer guarantees – replacements
  • Are you faster
  • Are you cleaner
  • Are you more thorough
  • Do you offer more prestige
  • Do you offer more value-added services
  • Is it harder to do what you do
  • Is your error rate smaller
  • Does the quality you deliver reflected in the time and care you take to deliver
  • Do your ideas transform businesses into more long term profitable brands vs. short term easy to lose small gains

Certainly this list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea.  You get the picture.

In my experience, over 80% of the pricing problems I see with brands, turns out to be that they should raise their prices and clearly demonstrate their true value .

The problem most brands have (if they have a quality product) is that they do not clearly communicate and demonstrate the value they offer, so they simply resort to lowering their prices until their customer believes their effort to be of some value.

I contend that 50 yard field goals are worth a lot more that 25 yarders and should be valued accordingly – it’s certainly easy to demonstrate the value because they’re longer and harder to make!

What do you do that’s better than your competitors, but your prices are similar?

Figure out what your dramatic difference is and clearly demonstrate your value-add and win! If you don’t have a dramatic difference that you can clearly demonstrate…get one!

Photo: James Clear


Welcome Back Tiger

Tiger Woods is back prowling the fairways and I'm as jacked as any golf fan!

Tiger epitomizes all that's great in the brand of sports and most certainly exposes what's bad about it – and what might be wrong for your business too.

This Wall Street Journal story states that according to Nielsen the average number of viewers who watched network broadcasts of
eight golf tournaments without Tiger dropped 47% vs. last year, when Mr. Woods when he was playing.

Do you have a Tiger Woods in your portfolio of stocks, clients etc.?

If so, you need to work on diversifying your portfolio or you could experience the same troubles the PGA endured last year.  The PGA might be in for more trouble this year as well even with Tiger on the loose because it is built on corporate sponsorships – lots of automobile ones – and it appears as though they won't be backing the Tour as much as in previous years especially if they're getting financial help from the government – check that – help from you and me!

Net – as much as I love Tiger, the PGA and your portfolio needs a few more Arnies and Jacks too!


Are Your Fans Like Steelers Fans


On Monday Night Football,
Hank Williams has sung about rabid Steelers fans for years.

And, Sports Illustrated's Ross Tucker believes what he sees 

That is, Steelers fans are the best in the NFL and take away a home team's advantage! Don't just take Hank Jr.'s or Ross' opinion. ESPN's Matt Mosley says the Steelers fans are the best too!

Yes – I'm a rabid Steelers fan and we are the best!

Do your fans travel with you across the country, wave things, applaud and cheer till they're hoarse and try to convert others? If not, why not?

When the steel industry finally collapsed in the 1970s, it coincided with the
rise of the Steelers dynasty and the team helped lift people's spirits – believe me I was there and am still here bleeding black and gold!

A generation of young people left the city to find work elsewhere, but
they remained passionate about the Steelers and that's what you'll see in Tampa today at the Super Bowl. The Arizona Cardinals may be the designated home team, but with thousands of Steelers fans waving their Terrible Towels, it will be like playing in Heinz Field back in Pittsburgh.

Here's my take on why the Steelers are one of the strongest brands around.

  1. Stable Authentic Ownership and Leadership – The Steelers have had the same stable family ownership in the Rooney's and consistent management style since 1933.  Since 1969, they've only had three head coaches, Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin.  They hire well, are patient and get out of the way of the people they hire and let them do their job.
  2. Clearly Defined and Developed Brand with deep customer insights -  The Steelers brand epitomizes and complements their town and fans. That is, both are strong, tough, hard working, no nonsense and blue collar and that's how both play their respective games.
  3. There is no "I" in Team – Today, the Steelers aren't Ben Roethlisberger's team, just like it wasn't Terry Bradshaw's, Franco Harris' or Joe Greene's team in the '70s. The Steelers brand is dominated by a complete team – the sum of all its parts – and no superstar drives the bus. This is a big reason with they have 17 Hall of Famers – congratulations Rod Woodson!
  4. Blocking and tackling fundamentals – The Steelers success has always been attributed to running the ball and great defense (ever hear of the Steel Curtain?) which is the basic fundamentals of Pro Football since it began. They do the basics well.
  5. Recognize that the Steelers brand belongs to its fans. The Steelers recognize that they are stewards of their brand and consider (not make) decisions based on what their fans will think.

Win or lose today, the Steelers will still be the number one sports team in Pittsburgher's hearts.  And, next season will be a sold out one at Heinz Field.

Survey names Steelers strongest local brand in sports

Check out this video about the how the Steelers rank third in fan loyalty!


NHL Skates Online

I was pleased to read this Wall Street Journal article about how the National Hockey League is making a strong push marketing online and making it easier for fans to watch their games and interact with their favorite teams.

With the NHL getting killed on TV by other Pro sports like the NFL, it only makes sense for them to exploit the Internet and has introduced a
service (and lots more) that allows subscribers to watch nearly every game live on its Web

GameCenter Live, is a
way to serve its young, tech-savvy fans, many of whom don’t live in the hometown
of their favorite hockey team, and can’t catch its games on television.
Users to watch up to
four games at once or one game from several different camera

Read the article. It should give you ideas to use the Internet to beat your larger competitors.

Think about it. 

If you were to start a new business to compete against YOU, you’d strive to be the online category killer in your field.  Strive now.


Pittsburgh Penguins Mobile Into Stanley Cup Finals

180pxiceburgh As the Penguins smacked the Fliers into submission today with a 6-0 victory, and are moving onto the Stanley Cup finals, I thought you’d find interesting how they’re scoring with mobile marketing off the ice.

I couldn’t link to the AdAge story (buy a subscription here- hint), so here it is in its entirety.

Penguins Sell Tickets via Cellphone Alerts
Team Scores With Effort to Sell Empty Seats, Now Trying Contests, Updates

Jeremy Mullman

Published: April 21, 2008

CHICAGO ( — Several major marketers have found themselves
stonewalled when it comes to measurable and effective uses for mobile
technology, but a National Hockey League team is scoring big with a
text-messaging program.

Hot ticket:
Fans of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins form around-the-block lines when
discounted seats are advertised via text message.

Faced with persistently unsold tickets and a bevy of would-be attendees
priced out of the action at area colleges, the Pittsburgh Penguins in
2006 started sending news of available, severely discounted seats to
college kids on the mornings of home games. The messages noted how many
tickets were unsold, letting students know if they needed to camp out
all day to get one of a few available, or if tickets were ample enough
that they’d be available at the booth just before the puck was dropped.

Get ’em while they’re young
Jeremy Zimmer, the team’s
director of new media, said the promotion helped fill otherwise empty
seats and strengthened the Penguins’ bond with students it hopes will
grow up to become season-ticket holders. "We want to engage them while
they’re young, and get them excited about the team early," he said.
"This was a great way to do that."

The around-the-block lines of students waiting to buy $100
tickets for $20 on some days proved as much, but the Penguins — who
feature two of the NHL’s top young stars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni
Malkin — improved enough this season that every game sold out on its
own, leaving the division-leading team searching for a new way to reach
out to younger fans.

So the team tapped mobile agency Vibes Media to run a series
of contests and giveaways via cellphone. In one, it promised to give
away a puck autographed by Mr. Crosby on the young star’s 21st

Messages went out to 2,000 subscribers, and 1,800 replied for a shot at
the signed puck within the first hour. "That response shows that we’re
tapping a fan base that’s just rabid," said Michael Cahan, Vibes’
director-sports and media.

The Penguins also offered a mobile program aimed at its
general fan base, sending team news alerts, including game recaps and
each game’s three stars (a nightly hockey honor awarded after most TV
broadcasts end) to 20,000 fans this year, compared with 8,000 a year

The team has yet to tap the channel as a major new source of
sponsorship revenue just yet, but that may be coming. Pizza Hut has
sponsored some of the alerts and has also delivered free pizzas to fans
camping out for a shot at text-promoted tickets.