“The world belongs to those who cross many bridges in
their imagination before others see even a single bridge.”
BREAKING DOWN WALLS ONE AT A TIME #JEHeartbreakToo
Between his final game coaching the Los Angeles Lakers in May 2011 and his official hiring as president of the New York Knicks in March, Phil Jackson worked through quite the tumultuous 34-month stretch. He became engaged, he watched his family grow, he underwent a series of significant surgeries, he nearly became coach of the Lakers for a third time, he flirted with front office gigs, he discovered that he was great at Twitter, and he wrote a book.
During that stretch, the mutual interest between Jackson and potential NBA owner Chris Hansen was an open secret. Hansen took great pains and offered huge gobs of cash in an attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings during the 2012-13 season (moving them to Seattle along the way), and he pitched a role to Jackson that seemed to fit for his post-coaching career – that of a, in Jackson’s words, “keeper of the flame.” We quote Phil here, because on Thursday he followed up on his most recent book with an addendum published in the New York Daily News.
In one of several anecdotes, Jackson discusses his proposed partnership with Hansen:
The prospect that captured my imagination didn’t involve any coaching. In December 2011 my son Charley introduced me to Chris Hansen, a successful hedge fund manager who had put together a group of investors who were trying to bring an NBA team back to Seattle. Hansen’s plan was to buy a majority share of the struggling Sacramento Kings franchise, then persuade the NBA to let him move it to the former home of the Sonics.
What I liked about Chris was his innovative thinking about sports and community. He wanted me to help him create a new kind of sports culture, focusing on the team itself rather than individual superstars. His goal was to make the fans feel as if they, too, were part of the family. One of Chris’s ideas, inspired by the Seattle Sounders soccer team, was to hold large pep rallies before each game to get the fans juiced up as they made their way to the arena. Another idea was to create a low-priced standing room section behind the baskets, complete with beat boards to rev up the noise level. Chris even wanted to remove the players’ names from their jerseys to shift attention away from individual players. I told him the marketing department of the NBA might have a problem with that one.
What’s interesting to note is that Jackson claims his role with a Seattle franchise would not have him working as “the hands-on general manager,” as he kept the flame for a franchise that doesn’t actually exist. This begs the question as to how similarly aligned that potential role is with his current gig as Knicks president, and if technical Knicks GM Steve Mills is the one working over cap figures and negotiating with players.
One thing fans of the Sacramento Kings will especially notice is how dispassionate Jackson is when discussing the potential uprooting of a team that has been working out of the California capital since the mid-1980s, and how matter of fact (or borderline dismissive) Jackson is in discussing both the “$258 million public subsidy” that Sacramento residents will have to foot in order for the Kings to have a new arena, how the NBA’s Board of Governors voted to block any move from Sacramento, and how the entrance of current Kings owner Vivek Ranadive “put an end to the dream” for Jackson and Hansen.
It’s a tricky situation, one the NBA stuck itself with when former commissioner David Stern decided to back off as former Seattle SuperSonics owner Howard Schultz sold his team to a pair of Oklahoma City-bred men with clear (and proven) designs on moving the team to OKC. Current Oklahoma City Thunder owners lied to the SuperSonic fan base and eventually hauled off to Oklahoma, and Stern declined to intervene, only tossing off snooty replies to a local Seattle government that he did not get along with.
Stern and the owners went the complete opposite route when dealing with the Kings’ sale and potential move, which has to frustrate Seattle fans to no end. The problem here is that the NBA has an even 30 teams, no current need to expand in spite of the game’s remarkable growth over the last quarter century, and there isn’t a single franchise that seems like an appropriate candidate to move to Seattle. Presuming the NBA, as it watches small market teams being sold for half a billion dollars, votes to allow such a thing.
Jackson went on to discuss well-worn topics, such as his engagement, and the Lakers’ front office impatience in jumping ahead of Phil’s decision to coach again, and he also mentioned his role in working to convince Dwight Howard to re-sign with the Lakers in the summer of 2013.
The former Lakers coach was working as a consultant to the Detroit Pistons at the time, and in his book addendum Jackson claims that Howard asked Laker GM Mitch Kupchak if he could guarantee that Jackson would return as Lakers coach in 2013-14, should Howard re-sign as a free agent. Kupchak “quickly disabused him of that notion,” according to Jackson, though Phil did reach out to Howard with a series of phone messages that Howard, according to Jackson’s newest revelations in the Daily News, never responded to.
The former Lakers coach then details Los Angeles’ re-recruitment process:
The Lakers invited Kobe and Steve to the final pitch meeting to help persuade Dwight to come on board. It sounded like a good idea. Steve sent out an amusing tweet before the meeting: “Dwight Howard we’re coming for you. You’re going to love the statue we build for you outside Staples in 20yrs!” And Kobe made a moving speech during the pitch, promising to teach Dwight the secret of winning championships that he’d learned from the best in the game.
If the meeting had ended there, it might have worked. But after the presentation, Dwight asked Kobe what he was planning to do after he recovered from his Achilles injury. Was this going to be his last year? “No,” replied Kobe. “I’m planning to be around for three or four more years.”
At that point, according to others in the room, Dwight’s eyes went blank and he drifted away. In his mind, the game was over.
A few days later he announced that he was signing with the Rockets.
Jeannie Buss, the Lakers’ president of business operations, swears that the presence of the late Laker owner Dr. Jerry Buss could have swayed Howard to stay in Los Angeles, and though Dr. Buss’ track record was a sound one, that’s hard to get behind. Dwight Howard wanted nothing to do with Kobe Bryant’s looming presence, so much so that he left one of the world’s greatest cities and franchises to take less money to join the Rockets.
(That’s not a slight sent toward Houston or the Rockets, just a reminder that it’s hard to turn down so many millions of dollars, even Howard’s finances balance out after his next contract.)
Phil Jackson recently re-signed Carmelo Anthony, he runs a team populated by J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani, and he works for James Dolan.
You have probably heard the story by now: a 16-year-old Omaha resident named Tom White is a media sensation thanks to an amateur photo of White grinning with Sir Paul McCartney and Warren Buffett. But Tom White and the three teenagers who helped him create the moment on the streets of Omaha are more than a passing story. They have taught brands a valuable lesson about how to do real-time marketing right.
As reported via an interview with CNN, on July 13, White, with the help of his friends Luke Koesters, Jacob Murray, and Drew Tvrdy, captured what appears to be a fortuitous brush with fame. Murray photographed White grinning and giving a thumbs-up while McCartney and Buffett sat casually on a bench looking like they were just shooting the breeze. After White posted the image on his Instagram account, the photo went viral. Within 48 hours, the image accumulated more than 4,800 likes and hundreds of comments. Paul McCartney tweeted the photo, and news media such as ABC, BuzzFeed, and Mashable covered the encounter.
Far from being a random moment, the viral photo is a result of four kids hustling to create their own news. Here’s what White and his friends did right — and what brands should be doing more consistently with real-time marketing:
- Listened. On the evening of July 13, White’s friend Jacob Murray noticed an amateur Instagram post mentioning that Paul McCartney had been spotted on the streets of the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha. In fact, McCartney was in town for a concert and was going out for some ice cream with the legendary financial wizard Buffett, an Omaha resident. Murray did what many brands strive to do on a larger scale: performed some good old-fashioned social listening. Credit Murray for being hyperaware of a rapidly unfolding event.
- Acted quickly. Uncovering an opportunity is one thing; acting on it is another matter. Murray quickly notified his friends of the Macca sighting. Koesters, Murray, Tvrdy, and White hustled over to Dundee with their smart phones and personal belongings to autograph, including a guitar and Abbey Road album cover. In the CNN interview, note how aware they were of the need for speed. White notes that by the time they arrived at Dundee, the Instagram photo that tipped them off was already seven minutes old — correctly noting that seven minutes is an eternity in the world of real-time marketing.
- Collaborated. Real-time marketing requires a team. Just as a team at Oreo and 360i was responsible for Oreo’s famous “dunk in the dark” real-time marketing moment during Super Bowl XLVII, so was the McCartney/Buffett moment a team effort. The boys shared a car. Murray snapped the photo. White provided the smile. The boys shared the photo on their social media accounts. Although they did not get autographs they had hoped for, that simple photo gave them sudden fame.
- Did not overplay it. This is perhaps the most valuable lesson for the many brands that over-engineered real-time marketing during the World Cup, including Royal Dutch Airlines, which caused some blowback by trying too hard to be funny. The Omaha teens did not try to get too cute or otherwise overdo the moment. White’s Instagram contains a simple caption, “Chillin with my homies.” He lets his smile and the iconic image of two famous billionaires do all the work. Similarly, his friends allowed the power of the photo to speak for itself when they posted the image on their Twitter accounts. They all understand that the photo would be worthless without the presence of Macca and Buffett, and they quite sensibly focus the attention of their audience accordingly.
- Capitalized on earned media. The boys, showing savvy and charm, have capitalized on all the attention the moment has created. You can see them smiling and speaking in sound bytes to the likes of CNN and CNN Money, while providing information and quotes to journalists from media such as ABC and Mashable. Notice how graceful they are, expressing their sincere respect and admiration for McCartney while freely sharing their own stories.
Real-time marketing has come under attack for good reason: brands are too often exercising questionable taste and bad judgment, they are trying too hard to be funny, and they’re forgetting that “real-time” is about real-time audience engagement, not chest beating. But four kids from Omaha just reminded us that real-time marketing is a powerful way to create your own news if you do it right.
Common is back with the release of his new joint called The Neighborhood featuring Lil Herb & Cocaine 80s produced by No I.D., This song is off Common’s 10th solo LP Nobody’s Smiling due July 22.