Friday, June 30, 2006

Tour de France Ugliness

I could not believe my eyes this morning when I read this headline in the USA Today , "T-Mobile Suspends Ullrich for Tour". So I went to and the news got worse, "More riders suspended: Basso and Mancebo out"

In the last couple of years I have learned not to jump to conclusions regarding the athletes in these doping 'scandals' so I will not focus on that here. As a former event organizer and someone who is in the position to support and sponsor events I can say that the news could not be worse for tour organizers and sponsors the day before the big event.

I'm not particularly fond of the Tour organizer, especially after I read this comment about Lance Armstrong in the USAToday yesterday.

"For the riders of the Tour de France, the month of July 2006 should be something like the 14th of July was in 1789 for the prisoners of the Bastille: a time of newfound liberty ... after seven years of domination and sometimes oppression," race director Jean-Marie Leblanc says.

That pretty much says a lot for his character. However, there are more people than just him that are effected by today's news.

Organizers. Hundreds of organizers around the country and thousands of volunteers, I'm sure, will be in hectic, panic mode for weeks. This is a very, very dark day for all of them. Your biggest stars are OUT of your event. Possibly whole teams. This throws off your entire game-plan for three weeks. Think about that. They are normally in scramble mode for three weeks, but this will be like anything they have experienced before.

Sponsors. Wow. Entire marketing campaigns out the window. T-Mobile have placed much time, effort and money into their campaigns with Jan Ullrich, especially during the summer months, for years. I'm sure they had some great things planned for this July, too. As did his other sponsors and Basso's sponsors.

I'm not just talking advertising either. Sponsors will have made plans to fly in for portions of the race, some for the whole race. They will have set up receptions with athletes and customers, dinners and viewing spots. Yes, if you are a sponsor your customers will be effected by all of this, too. Some customers may have made their whole summer plans around a trip to Le Tour only to have their excitement dashed. There will be some backlash there, too.

Media. There are television stations and networks all around the world that have marketed this event for months and sold advertising dollars to companies that expect millions to be watching. Will they watch now? For those of you in the US - think about this. People have speculated that OLN might not cover Le Tour without Lance. They did this year. If viewership isn't up will they cut out their cycling coverage all together in '07?

The fans. Event organizers are now hoping that the race can be as popular without the marquee names this year to draw in the crowds. People plan their whole summer vacations around the Tour - traveling from stage to stage to cheer on their favorite rider. The disappointment will be monumental for them.

Well, folks, there is still one very good reason to watch the Tour DAY France in the States on OLN. Bob Roll. His partner, Jessi, says that he did get to France and is ready to go. It will be interesting to hear his take on all of this tomorrow.

This is truly a dark day in the sport of cycling. My heart goes out to all involved.

Just a yucky tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

LiveStrong Collection by Chantal

If anyone thought that Lance Armstrong would fade away into the sunset after his retirement from competitive cycling, they were seriously wrong as this USAToday article details. He's been spending much time with his foundation. The Lance Armstrong Foundation was thriving a few years ago when they came out with a unique fundraising item that caught on and became not only a symbol of living life with strength, but became a huge fashion statement globally. The LiveStrong bracelet has sold bazillions worldwide and are still selling today.

The LAF has been at the forefront of finding unique partners to spread its word and raise money for their very worthwhile organization. There is even a LiveStrong Portfolio from American Century Investments. Organizations have realized that this charity organization isn't just something this 'bike racer' started to fulfill his own needs, but that it is quickly becoming one of the powerhouse charities in the country with one heck of a motivator behind them. Lance can open, and does open, doors that many other charities can't to get his message across to lawmakers and large potential donors.

This week I saw another interesting pairing from the LAF - the LiveStrong Collection by Chantal Cookware. How did they become involved with the foundation? The founder and CEO is a cancer survivor and obviously a smart woman.

I have to say that I think a few pieces are kind of nice. With between 5% and 10% going to charity I might have to take a closer look this weekend. The yellow teapot would match my kitchen nicely.

Just a yellow tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Floyd Landis Eats (gasp!)

With some great banter going on about the Tour Day France here, I thought you all might appreciate this quote from the latest issue of Bicycling Magazine. In this sport where you hear about the top athletes measuring their food and obsessing about weight, this top contender is a little more casual about all of that. Hasn't seemed to slow him down any either!

"I don't count calories or weigh my food. I eat my food.
Yes, I eat hamburgers. I probably eat a more
"normal" diet than most cyclists"
--Floyd Landis

Just a little Tour tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bob Roll off to Tour DAY France...or is he?

Saturday is the start of the best known bicycle race in the world, the Tour de France. This three week event starts with the prologue in Strasbourg and ends on July 23 on the Champs Elysees. In between, the 2006 champion will rise to the top and everyone can finally stop speculating about who will succeed 7-time winner Lance Armstrong.

The event is a grueling one as anyone who has ever watched it can tell you, never mind those that have actually competed in the craziness. The Tour de France blog has this quote about the Tour DAY France from Bob Roll that I just loved - it's a great visual.

"It's basically a penitentiary," says Bob Roll, a former Tour rider and an anchor
for OLN TV. "You've got your walking boss, you've got that sneaky little
bastard who was in "The Longest Yard," you have the honorable
veterans, and then the guys who are just doing time,
which is most of them. Nobody wants to be anybody's boy,
but sometimes you have no choice."

It is comments like this that make me tune in every night for the re-televised OLN coverage when I've already listened to the stage on the computer live. Bob is priceless.

I thought I could report that he was on his way to France this evening, but I hear that there was an airline snafu and Bob is still at home. I'm sure they will have it all sorted out in the morning and he'll be in Strasbourg in plenty of time to report on all the great tidbits from the peloton.

Bob did tell me who his pick is a couple of weeks ago, but I'll let him tell you all during the OLN coverage this weekend. I wouldn't want to spoil the fun! Maybe he'll change his mind after being over there and getting the latest scoop, I don't know.

This Tour will be an interesting one without Lance, that's for sure. Joe Lindsey from Bicycling has an interesting take on the teams in his Boulder Report titled, "Tour de Springfield". It's an entertaining read. During Le Tour my friend Tim Jackson has vowed to do his famous Tour commentating from where he sits in Cali. It was a huge hit last year; I'm sure this year he will be equally as insightful.

Since we are close to the prologue it's time to make my prediction - after all, that's half the fun, right? I'm sticking with my original pick - Ivan Basso. 3rd two years ago, 2nd last year...well, it just feels right for the top spot on the podium this year. Although I won't tell you Bob's pick, I can say that we don't agree here. Then again, he knows a heck of a lot more than I do about all of this! I'm just going to sit back watch some great athletic achievements and listen to the great commentary.

So....who is your pick?

Just a little cycling tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Earnhardts on Father's Day

Budweiser rolled out a new commercial last Sunday during the NASCAR race coverage from Michigan. Budweiser traditionally has some cleaver and/or cute commercials for special events such as the Superbowl and the holidays. They've done it again. This commercial aired for the first time on Father's Day and featured three generations of Earnhardts - Ralph, Dale, Sr., and Dale, Jr. with the tag "Times may change; tradition rolls on".

This is brilliant marketing - three generations of one of the biggest family names in NASCAR showcased on Father's Day during the NASCAR race. The commercial isn't focused on their products, but on the emotions of NASCAR fans, which is highly effective. It is quite a nice piece and perfectly placed.

Nicely done, Budweiser.

Just a little tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Summer!

Today's the first day of summer. Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day, NASCAR style

Thanks to the generosity of Dave Perewitz, I'm off to give my dad one of the most unique Father's Day presents ever. As I mentioned back in February Kory Souza and Jody Perewitz put on MS4MS as a fundraiser for the National MS Society. They had a silent auction at the event where Dave donated this piece of Jeremy Mayfield's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race car. When he walked in with it, I set my sights on it and started bidding. It was a complete win-win situation at the end of the day - I had a unique gift and the National MS Society had more funds for their important programs.

As you can see, this isn't a small piece of metal; it's the better portion of one side of the car Jeremy ran at Richmond International Raceway on September 10, 2005 where he was 6th. For those of you new to NASCAR, the green arrow indicates to the jack man (Ed Watkins) where to put the jack during pit stops. The yellow on the left? That's where someone rubbed their wheel against him during the race. The yellow comes from the Goodyear logo on the tires. Goodyear on your car would be in white, but on the race cars it is yellow so the photographers pick it up better during a race. Smart marketing department at work there.

Thanks to Jeremy for giving the car piece to Dave and thanks to Dave for donating it to the auction!

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Here's wishing all you dads a relaxing day! Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Boston Herald's Inside Track

As I've mentioned, I'm helping out the Falmouth Road Race again this year. Every summer for the last 15 years or so I've counted the summer days until road race weekend. It's a great time to catch up with friends you, regrettably, only see once a year. Friends that live down the road, friends that live across the country and friends that live around the world. It's a great event and the best 'work' there is (having fun on the that really work?).

This week we sent out some fun news about Heidi Bruschi, Dawn Timlin and Kathryn Nixon running the race to raise awareness for charities near and dear to their hearts; Tedy's Team and Babes Bookin It. For some of you those names won't mean much, but to Boston sports fans they mean a whole heck of a lot.

Two ladies that understand the power behind these names are Gayle Fee and Laura Rapoza of the Boston Herald. They write a six-times a week section of the paper called the Inside Track. If you want to know what is going on in Boston and the surrounding areas you must read "The Track". I have read it every single day for more years than I can count and have often wished it was 7 days a week - I miss it on Saturdays but they make up for it with a huge piece every Sunday. I've learned some very interesting things via these ladies over the years.

Today, I'm happy to say, they covered Falmouth's news! Thank you, Gayle and Laura, for not only mentioning Falmouth, but giving these very deserving charities a well-deserved plug! I'm sure they appreciate it as much as we do. Can't wait to see what you have in store for Sunday's section!

Just a tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bank of America, Google & Timberland Programs

This makes me want to work for one of these progressive companies! Buy a hybrid car and get money from your employeer. It's a win-win situation for everyone, including the environment!


Just a tiny tidbit. Thanks for stopping by.

Mobil on the Run? Not So Much

The other day I was a little late and in a hurry when I stopped for gas at the local Mobil station because it was most convenient. I noticed it was a few cents more expensive than the place I usually go, but that was about a half mile out of my way and, well, I was late.

At the pump the computerized screen reads, "Insert card or begin pumping now". Great. I have cash so I lift the lever and try to pump the gas. Nothing. After fiddling with the pump, I run into the cashier (in the rain, by the way). So far, I'm still ok with Mobil but the cashier did two things that made me think I would not go back for a long time. It also made me think that their marketing department doesn't have a clue that 'on the run' doesn't mean much to those that are expected to implement the slogan.

First, I mentioned to the cashier (nicely, actually) that the pump said one thing, but clearly you need to do a different thing and maybe someone would want to look into changing that. He replied, "I was in the back so I didn't see you". Ok.... When I repeated what I said (admittedly a little more sternly) he replied, "Oh, I don't have anything to do with that". Clearly.

Secondly, when he asked how much I wanted I mentioned that I was going to fill it so I didn't know. He stared at me. So, I gave him a $20 and said that it would be more certainly be than that in the end. Back out in the rain I go and pump the gas and the pump shuts off at $20. Now, maybe their policy is that you need to pay up front and come in for any change. Fine. Tell me that! I was so disgusted, I got in my car and left.

All I kept thinking as the gas was pumping is, "This is clearly not 'on the run' at all!"

Tonight I went to my normal gas station, the local Exxon station. I got out to pump, noticing that the computerized screen says 'insert card now'. Right next to it is a good sized sticker with printed red letters that says something to the effect of 'cash customers kindly pay inside before pumping'. I felt much better because my first impression of the company is that they are trying to help me navigate the buying process.

Someone at Exxon understands that customer service may begin without a personal interaction at all. My initial impressions of these two companies formed as I read their pumps. When we are all paying an arm, leg and first born for gas these days we should at least be treated kindly. If 'kindly' is too much to ask then certainly with some forethought to our questions and needs.

Having a slogan is one thing. But it is only half the battle. Having buy-in from everyone that works for the company is another thing entirely. Smaller companies have an advantage there. Getting 25 people to live a tag line or slogan is much easier than asking tens of thousands of employees to do the same. It's a challenge, but one that marketing departments need to be very aware of, especially with consumers having so many choices for just about everything these days from the way they get their news to where they buy their gas and even where they buy their pet food.

For me, these two experiences have left me knowing that Exxon is a little more ahead of the game and, clearly, understand that time is of the essence. Not to mention, around here, they are less expensive. That, too, goes a long way!

Just a little tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

"Congress Votes to Raise Its Pay"

That is the headline I saw this afternoon.

Is that really news that surprises anyone? Did you seriously think they wouldn't? If your department sat down and discussed that everyone would get a raise in the deparment if they all voted for it and not against it do you really think anyone would vote 'no'? Seriously.

Do I think they deserve it? Well, that's another issue all together.

Just a little tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Life on Display at Proof on Main

It is said that blogging is about transparency. Well this 'actress' takes transparency to a whole new level. Lauren Argo is, literally, putting her life on display in Lexington, Kentucky. The ultimate transparency, I guess. From June 4-10, she's living in the window of the restaurant Proof on Main. Yes, there is a camera on all the time and you can view that here.

A small tidbit for this rainy (what else is new?!) New England morning. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Stonyfield Farm - Test Your Farm Smarts

I really enjoy Stonyfield Farm yogurt; have one just about every day. They are one of the few yogurts that does not incorporate gelatin, which is key for me. Not to mention, their chocolate yogurt mixed with fresh strawberries is pretty darn tasty! They have an interactive website with good facts and fun things and even have two blogs - Baby Babble and The Bovine Bugle.

However, in their quest to keep a consistent look to their brand some people may miss their latest promotion. Their single serving yogurt containers have the base colors of blue, pale yellow and white. It's their brand colors. No matter what flavor they have a consistent look for the family. When they are stocked properly they look great.

The promotion, "Test Your Farm Smarts" is being advertised on the cover/lid to the yogurt. Great place to put it. However, the base colors guessed it, blue, pale yellow and white. To someone not paying too much attention when they are ripping off the lid, it might all blend in and be missed because it looks like part of the rest of the container.

A promotion like this is great - you can win a weekend get-away for 4 to a working farm bed & breakfast; who wouldn't like that? It should be seen as something different, because it is, not just blended in with the "same 'ole, same 'ole" of the container. This is not a time to keep the brand identity, you have that on the container itself. Let your promotion 'shout' at the person opening the container so they stop for a moment and read the few lines of copy. Toss in some purple around the edges rather than blue. Don't like purple? How about some red? Green? Any of them would work and not hurt the brand identity because, as I mentioned, that's on the container.

Note: Unfortunately, although the lid sends you to their website, the link for the "Test Your Farm Smarts" promotion isn't working right now. Bummer. I wanted to try it out. I'm sure it will be fixed soon (we all know about computer glitches!) and I'll point to it then.

Update: The link is now working for the Test Your Farm Smarts promotion. Check it out. It actually was up at the end of last week, but Blogger was acting up. Ah, computers....

Just a small tidbit for today. Thanks for stopping by.