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Safely seated on the sideline, far from the field where his thirteen-year-old was doing battle with a bigger opponent. The sideline where four volunteers were enthusiastically supporting his progeny, the critic went to work.

As his son’s team blew a lead and suffered their second, but only their second, defeat of the season, he let loose with his unabated commentary. “The team wasn’t well coached. It was their fault. They clearly knew nothing about the game. The offence was too complex for kids this age. Look at the other team. They just hand the ball to their biggest player and he runs left and right.”

On and on he proffered his thoughts to those around him, clearly unaware that the involuntary listeners had no interest in his comments, but they heard every word. For some, they dismissed your commentary. For others, it offended.

So, let’s dissect the situation a bit:

Your son plays on a youth football team.

This team is coached by four volunteers, all who also have sons on the team.

The team is in first place.

The team has NEVER been in first place.

The team lost its last two games of the season.

Both games were meaningless because the team had clinched first place.

The team has NEVER clinched first place.

You have never offered to help coach the team.

In fact, you have never asked the coaches any questions.

Such as: Why do you run the offence you run?

Why was it chosen from the three approaches you were considering in pre-season?

What did you see in the players that made you pick this approach?

How about these questions:

How much time do you put in every week coaching my son and his friend?

What time commitment does it take beyond what I see? How much of their own money have the coaches shelled out buying cleats for kids that don’t have them, lunch for players who hadn’t eaten on game day, fees for kids whose parents can’t afford to pay?

Perhaps you could ask them about your team manager who chases kids, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents for confirmation of your son’s teammates attendance?

Or, how much time it takes us to clean and fill water bottles, make sandwiches for bus trips, find replacement mouth guards, and pack the first aid kits?

It might be good for you to chat with some of the many parents who voluntarily car pool kids whose families don’t have cars, bring their parents to road games, and buy ice cream for after-practice treats.

No, you were too busy being a critic.

Too mean spirited to maybe pause and think perhaps the coach is testing new things out for the playoffs today.

Too immature to understand that with the team’s top runner out with an injury, the focus of the game may be trying to ensure the rest of the team understands their potential.

Too focused on their complaints to see the mistakes being made by their own son, who instead of being berated when he started crying on the sideline, was comforted by coaches and teammates alike.

Too self-centered to realize that many of the people hearing his comments were on the verge of anger, but decided to swallow their rage.

Congratulations. You are a super star critic. In fact, you are so good, you should get a trophy for your efforts. It must take extra work to be a critic of a first-place team.

I can’t make this any more succinct or clear.

Our federal government is proposing a ban on marketing all unhealthy foods to children 17 and under. This isn’t just advertising as per the ban in Quebec, it’s all marketing, including sponsorships.

Here is what they consider unhealthy:

“That would then cut out all of the things like, of course, your regular soda, most cookies, cakes, pies, puddings, ice cream, most cheeses because they are high in fat, they’re high in salt,” Hasan Hutchinson, director general at Health Canada, who is overseeing the consultations.

Health Canada would also target foods such as sugar-sweetened yogurt, frozen waffles, fruit juice, granola bars and potato chips, according to Susan Lunn, CBC News.

So goodbye Timbits sponsorship. Say au revoir to granola bars on the sideline. Don’t dare feed a hungry athlete some sugar so they can compete energetically. No yogurt at your Scout jamboree. No fruit juice at your daycare. Say goodbye to ice cream in the park or apple pie at the piano recital.

Banned. All banned.

Leading the charge is Senator Nancy Greene Raine, who didn’t have a problem with a longstanding Mars bar sponsorship when she was a competitor. It used to be one of my favourite Canadian partnerships of all time. Used to be….

By my estimate, we are talking about $500 million to $1 billion a year of corporate support. It could be more, it’s difficult to measure.

The current wave of public consultation ends July 25th. It almost feels sneaky. You need to respond immediately and spread the word. Every NSO, PSO, CSO, Charity, Youth Group in Canada needs to know about this. Let your parents and volunteers know that the government is excited to ensure your child’s fees go up and up and up for years to come.

Then in fifteen years when we are all dying due to malnutrition, we can greet the return of more appropriate solutions from our hospital beds.

In all seriousness, I understand the need to ensure we have a healthy society. Over indulgence is a problem, but it goes beyond teens and children.

Let’s start with affordable access to healthy foods. Let’s look at socioeconomic factors. Let’s look at busy lives, time, and convenience. Let’s look at lack of physical education and free play time in schools. Let’s look at community parks that aren’t properly maintained or secured. Let’s look at the lack of street closures for sporting events. Let’s look at the lack of bike lanes, bike signals, etc.

There are many factors in the equation. Many experts who know much more than I do. Let’s engage them, you, and others to dig into this issue.

Hi there. Remember me?

I am the guy who wrote the non-blog, blog two weeks ago and then went AWOL. Sorry, I had full intentions of stroking something great out last week but my first draft wasn’t clicking. My next draft was too negative. My final draft was useless. So, I proceeded to slunk away and hide. My only excuse is that I was all out of words, so lost without you.

Really? I butchered an Air Supply reference, and that’s all I got?

Nope, I have something to chat with you about for sure this time. I want to give you a couple of quick updates from events I attended in the past fortnight. It isn’t as much about the events as it is about what I experienced in two five-minute occurrences. Let’s start with the good.

The first five minutes were during the 2017 Ex Awards, held as part of Event Marketer’s 15th annual Experiential Marketing Summit. Oddly I attended this year when we had zero entries, despite having won in the past. But, I love award shows. Certainly, not for the cuisine, but for the brain food. Having not attended these awards in the past, I was told the case study videos make for an awesome hour of learning. So, I was willing to choke my chicken – down – and get ready for some exciting insights.

Unfortunately, the event format had changed and we saw only snippets of the award-winning work. It made for a herky jerky award show that certainly would have warranted a justified scathing review until the presentation of the highest honour, the Grand Ex Award which was won by Airbnb and their agency Civic Entertainment Group. Thankfully the amazing case about Airbnb’s 2016 Open program, their conference with hosts from around the world, was given a five-minute overview that deserved every single second it was shared. This winning case capitalized everything I fantasize about when it comes to the experiential marketing world.

  1. Airbnb Open demonstrates that the new trend in B2B events is to make them B2C. They approached this business event as if it was a consumer event and engaged their hosts not as business partners, but as guests. I love the inverted approach.
  2. They went really, really BIG. When they first did a walk through with Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, he encouraged them to go bigger. That’s the unicorn client we all dream of.
  3. It was Year III of their event; what I like to call the critical year of any event or partnership and their patient investing paid off. After Year II, when they hosted the event in Paris during the horrible nightclub terrorist attacks, they could have been justified in calling it off. Instead, they vowed to keep pushing onwards. They have somewhat destroyed all other excuses for not pushing the boundaries from here onwards.
  4. What didn’t exist they invented, whether it be venues, types of mini-events, unique ways to engage the community. They did it all. Partner integration. Civic road trips. Media hosting. Social sharing. Each traditional tactic was given an entrepreneurial twist.
  5. I wasn’t a part of it, so this is an outsider looking in. But hearing the brief remarks from the client and agency gave me a jolt. I could feel the teamwork oozing out of them. Everything about this brand is about what people can do together, like sharing your home with strangers. I think they walk the walk at Airbnb and Civic.

If you weren’t there, I strongly suggest you take a few minutes and go here to get all the details.  You may have different takeaways than me, but I am sure you will share my enthusiasm!

Now I share the not so great experience.

Ever had one of those “How did I get here” conversations?

When you’re trapped at a party or event, back to the wall, escape path blocked by strangers, your mind suddenly unable to manufacture a way out. Your prey understands they have you cornered. They have the perfect stance. Angles cut off. One foot splitting your midline. Their eyes tracing yours. Any rescue signals sure to be intercepted. They have done this before.

Many times.

They know they are the whacko in the room. The off-center crazy who has baseless rants they are going to hammer you with. Their perspective on the topic of the day, the presentation just heard, or the story just shared is soon to be violently thrust upon you as gospel. Agree or disagree all you want; they just seek your conversion to their religion. There is no restraining them. They don’t have the same emotional intelligence as you. In fact, they have none. If they did, their altered reality state is so protected by their lack of sensory devices that no messages would be received.

Their mission will not be complete until they have beaten you into submission.

I once had a guy go off on me for wearing a poppy the day after Remembrance Day. Yes, you read that correctly. He alleged that I was being disrespectful to those who served, as the poppy was to be removed before midnight struck on November 11th. At first, I thought he was joking. That this was some awkward way to break the ice during this first introduction. My misinterpretation only heightened his attack. The rest of that story will be shared on another day.

My most recent beating came at the Ontario Sport Symposium. I can’t afford therapy, and I already spill too much to bartenders, so I am going to lean on you to hear me out.

I moderated a sponsorship panel featuring Chelsea Black (BMO), Andrew Greenlaw (CIBC), and Johnny Misley (Ontario Soccer). Huge thanks to all three for coming out on a Saturday with less than a week’s notice (not my doing, trust me). I hope the panel delivered for the audience and, selfishly, I took dozens of mental notes which I shared with my Leadership Team in my weekly email. Sorry if any of your thoughts were trademarked, panel members. They will soon be populating T1 pitch decks all over North America! If any readers want a copy of my thoughts, email me and if I find your request compelling I may share an edited version.

Back to my rant.

After the panel, all of us spent time in the networking area chatting with attendees. Naturally, the brand folks were besieged with pitches. I was just finishing up a nice chat with someone when I noticed the hawk circling me. Twice clockwise. Once counter. I guess he wanted to make sure I had no escape route. Then, talons out, he came screeching in.

He started with an odd question about an obscure sport. He then gave me a history lesson on why it was so popular in its native country. I am leaving out the sport and the lesson, to provide him with some degree of anonymity. Not that he deserves it, because he then proceeded to blast me, and all corporate Canada, for not doing enough to help raise the profile of less popular sports.  His absurd assertion was that these companies make SO MUCH MONEY, they should pay to have this sport and that sport aired on television, regardless of their tiny audiences and niche appeal.

Now if this gentleman had wanted to engage in a marketing discussion about this topic, his goal could potentially be achieved. I would have been game. But he wasn’t. He wanted to conduct a beat down on corporate Canada. I have no idea why.

I also have no idea why he thought this would be the right tact to take at a conference. He was essentially saying to us “Thanks for volunteering your weekend time to come share ideas with us – but you’re all greedy corporate sloths.” Okay, nice meeting you too.

In the span of five minutes, I wished I hadn’t come to this conference. I wished I hadn’t asked my industry friends for a favour. I wished that I could punch this dude in the face.

Well I didn’t use my fist, but it’s been a long long while since I have told someone I see absolutely zero point in continuing a conversation and walked away.

Five minutes later I was in another, better conversation. The hawk somewhat forgotten. My temper subsiding. My BP back to normal.

 

The Sound of Music

Administrator —  April 4, 2017

I know it sounds pedantic to say that it’s the musicians that make the JUNOS so special, but it’s true. I can also say the same about the 2017 Canadian Sponsorship Forum. The musicians, in many expected and unexpected ways, certainly made CSFX17 the most memorable three days as two hundred new found friends could ever have. 

Making magic may not be the brand promise of most conferences, but all of our delegates this weekend would confess that’s what they experienced. Then again, was CSFX17 a Forum or a Festival? When the speakers are being showcased on band-ready stages. When the attendees camp out together for days. When our bus drivers let us sneak cases of Steam Whistle on the bus. When the founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie belts out an inspiring mash-up of three classic eighties songs during his keynote. When hours of delegate karaoke is called “the best business networking experience of their life” by a longtime sponsorship vet. When every speaker has their own walk-up music. Uh-huh. That’s no conference, that’s a concert. 

I have to personally thank the Arkells for setting the tone for the weekend. You can only imagine how hard it is to play a corporate gig at 1:30pm on a weekday, with everyone sober as a judge. But Max Kerman took on our delegates and had them singing out the chorus to My Heart’s Always Yours in no time. They wrapped up their three-song mini set by fulfilling a spontaneous request from one of our delegates to hear Leather Jacket. The Arkells unplugged from the stage, strolled into the middle of our room, and strummed their ways into the souls of everyone.

When I asked our delegates who was their favourite presenter (oh please let it be me I hoped), there was an abundance of love for Don Amero. The three-time JUNO-nominee surprised the attendees of his Music as Medicine workshop with his intellectual depth and passion for healing. If they had watched my T1 Speaker Series interview with Don, they would not have been surprised. What most delegates didn’t see is how under the weather Don was, battling a six-week bug. He even skipped attending the JUNOS to rest for his performance at our after-party. There is no price you can put on honour or friendship. Thanks Don. 

The other musical highlights were not programmed by us, but came courtesy of CARAS, as our delegates attended the jewel of the weekend – the Songwriter’s Circle, and of course the Awards Show. 

The Songwriter’s Circle host and Ottawa native, Bruce Cockburn, brought back so many memories for me with his songs. Not surprisingly, his stories were just as thoughtful. Delegates raved to me about Chantal Kreviazuk, who told the story of her best friend committing suicide when she was eighteen and playing the song inspired by this tragedy. Then, her second song was a passion pitch to young artists to follow their own voice and not bow to outside pressures. 

The JUNO Awards had me pumped. I love Russell Peters. I can only imagine having the talent of Bryan Adams. I am young enough at heart to know the words to Alessia Cara’s Scars to Your Beautiful. I am old enough to respect an 18-year-old Shawn Mendes. M\I think I am still man enough to still have a Sarah McLachlan crush. 

We had the aforementioned-smuggled beers on our bus and great seats thanks to Amazing Andreas Mendoza. But it was two verbal performances I will remember for a long time.

The first, was Sarah McLachlan’s Canadian Music Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

Canada is a country “where the rights of girls and women are respected, where people of all ethnicities, genders and sexual identities can stand together as one. Where diversity is cherished. Where the arts are revered. Where people being polite is still an important thing,” she said. “We Canadians, we’re far from perfect, but we have a lot to offer the world and we have to continue to set the bar high.”

The second amazing acceptance speech was from Rob Baker and Paul Langlois of The Tragically Hip. But things got ugly when the show producers inexplicably tried to cut off Langlois, as his speech ran overtime. The situation was unforgettable, unfortunate, and completely unnecessary.

As Langlois’ speech ran past the allotted time, the show’s producers tried to play him off stage with music.

He asked, “Oh, you’re actually going to play me out?” and continued to deliver his speech, while the producers changed the music to the Hip song Ahead by a Century. Langlois continued talking, saying, “Go to commercial, go ahead. This is my arena, not yours.” He proceeded to thank Downie, which was met with thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. Many people took to Twitter to share their disapproval about the beloved Canadian band’s cut-off.

I think Surprise & Delight has become overused in marketing. But the way we ended CSFX17 with a SURPRISE performance by The Lytics, there was unmatched DELIGHT for all who attended the after party. This was a true, funny and random surprise can be. The group was stranded outside the JUNOS and in need of a ride. Not shockingly, our team bartered a deal with them. They could get a ride if they performed on the bus. That was S&D performance number one. Then an invitation to join our after-party for a drink, turned into an uber facilitated scramble for a beats-laden computer and a three song set.

Another shout out to Don who was our scheduled party headliner, performing after Universal Music artist Gabrielle Shonk (who has a voice you need to check out) despite his weary bones. Don had no problem ceding the floor to his fellow Winnipeggers, knowing the Lytics would get the room a jumping! 

That’s the type of respect only a talented musician could show to fellow musicians. 

Okay, so I borrowed the title from a session I saw at SXSW 2017. 

I hope the panelists –  Aaron Hillis, Indiegogo; Jen Yamato, LA Times; Roxanne Benjamin, We Summon the Darkness; and Tom Hall, Montclair Film Festival – don’t mind my plagiarism. That’s not my intention. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s to promote what I found to be a fascinating little gem of a panel, tucked away in the corner of one of the biggest and best conferences in the world. 

When I say tucked away, I mean tucked away. At go time there were only nine of us in the room for the panel, with one attendee being the husband of a panelist. I felt bad for the quartet on the podium, who summoned their mojo and committed to making an amazing experience for their few supporters, including me. 

I’m pretty sure I was the least musically inclined or talented person in the room. I stood out like a broken guitar string. The others were all clearly into music, into karaoke, and into each other. 

The premise of the panel was that for some reason karaoke is the golf of the film/festival business. Who knew? The panelists claimed that movie deals get done, pitches get made (no pun intended), and relations get built at karaoke parties.

 

The more I sat and listened, the more it made sense. Karaoke is social, fun, interactive, unpretentious, and celebratory. It involves a lot more people than a golf foursome. It’s fueled by emotion. It’s turbocharged by cocktailing.  

The best part of the panel? Each panelist ended up performing a song. Think Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball done by an LA Times film critic. A few audience members joined in as well, including a guest appearance by Brett Galman, who channeled his inner Notorious B.I.G. and wowed us with a Springsteen cover. 

They were awesome and I was jealous and wowed. It was the best hour of my day. 

Every song made me smile, made me laugh. I had some writing to do that I was stuck on, and one performance sung a breakthrough idea into my head. I left the hour with an energy level that a venti cappuccino couldn’t have provided. 

I have a question for you. Why don’t you have music in your meetings? Why don’t people sing, not just talk in meetings? Could you imagine how collaborative your meeting would be if every participant was asked to belt out a favourite before you got down to business?  

Given I have laid down the challenge, I’m sure I’m going to get called on. I plan on practicing in private to prevent total humiliation. 

Purple Rain baby, Purple Rain. 

Southby Soundbites

Administrator —  March 15, 2017

Greetings from Austin.

The general sentiment at SXSW is everyone is waiting for the big news of the year, and for the second event in a row, the general feeling is that it’s not going to happen this year. 

Unfortunately, the lack of splash casts a pall over the event. Additionally, the keynote lineup has slipped this year. But then again, how do you compete with Obama from last year’s conference? Or live streaming Edward Snowden in from a secret Russian location like they did in 2015. Or Star Wars: The Force Awakens Director J.J. Abrams. Or Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone talking about combining humanity with technology.

Admittedly, many of the panels disappointed me. The SX sports content seems to be flooded with expert panelists who think that stating that people watch sport differently in 2017 than 1987 is somehow a breakthrough. At one panel, I tweeted the speakers to ask a leading question to see if they would get back on their stated topic. They read my question aloud and then answered it by going even farther off topic. I really think SX needs to find a better quality control model. One thing is clear; many panelists are first-time speakers, who forget the audience often has more experience than them. They don’t realize their job was to research, craft, and present a very tight point of view or personal experiences that will provoke thought and discussion. Instead, many of them turn into a cliché recital.

Fortunately, I went to a Meetup on Sports & New Media that provided some more interesting perspectives. Meetups are great, because everybody talks, or can if they want. The discussion, led by the NFL Networks Jane Slater, focused on Twitter and its use by sports journalists, teams, athletes, and brands. What made it special is there were attendees there from a Mexican-based online soccer forum (no word on how they snuck past Trump into Austin), a Marketer from the German Bundesliga, programmers from SRC in Montreal, and an Irish journalist. 

The SXSW Trade Show always has some gems and this year it was Pincause. Started by a former management consultant turned world saviour, the concept is simple. Buy a pin and the funds go to important causes. My pin was in support of refugees. The Pincause booth featured delegate created artwork pinned to a content wall. I got chatty with some others at the booth who immediately grilled me on my views on their POTUS (That has been a recurring theme this week. As soon as people discover I’m a Canadian, they express their love and jealousy of Justin Trudeau and want to know what we Canucks thought of their conundrum). I decided to open my arms to my newfound troubled American friends and drew a Canadian flag with a blue border inviting them to come visit…and stay for a while. The Pincause team was pleased with my quick adoption of their values. 

Pfizer impressed me with their activation communicating the Global Goals of the United Nations. I decidedly was not shy about grilling the Community Relations rep about their reason for being at SXSW. It’s an interesting way to activate a partnership. They’ve decided to attend trade and consumer shows attended by influential people, in this case marketers and innovators, to showcase the UN partnership. Pfizer seems to have a healthy dose (I made THAT pun without even realizing it) of self-awareness that they can be perceived as a big bad money gouging pharma company. Shrewd of them to not only invest in a worthy cause, but to be unafraid to toot their horn about their involvement   

The best stat I heard this week is that there are 350 parties that occur in Austin around Southby. Everyone has a party. Telefilm Canada. Music Export Canada. Fuse Canada (Where was my invite Nicole Galluci?). Washington DC Events. Mazda. National Geographic. Pandora. Samsung. German Haus. Many of them have created their own custom event spaces. Mazda had an amazing studio and a music lineup that would crush many festivals. Events DC has a prime outdoor space right across from the convention centre. National Geographic, yes National Geographic too, had a multistory space on Dirty 6th (yes the locals call it Dirty and it is) where they were getting rave reviews for the best drinks in the city. I went for the cover shot (not a drink), an unreal AR Experience, and the Einstein Chalkboard robot. The latter was super cool. Consumers were asked to tweet a head shot to NG and then the robot arm would draw your portrait in chalk. They even set you a prompt to come back to the space when your old-school selfie was being produced. 

My Apple Watch, Nike edition (hopefully this plug will get me some brand cred) says I tallied 15,773 steps today for 10.94 K of travelling. It was worth it to find these tasty morsels.

Air Ballin’

Administrator —  February 21, 2017

BIG thanks to NBA Canada for extending the chance for me to attend the NBA All-Star festivities in New Orleans this past weekend. 

Despite the frostiness between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, NOLA boasted warm weather and sizzling Mardi Gras excitement. 

There was certainly no lack of excitement at Sunday night’s NBA showcase game. During the fourth quarter, buzzing fans started chanting “Defence! Defence! Defence!” Hearing the crowd’s cries from the Western Conference bench, DeAndre Jordan returned with “No! No! No!” That moment in time perfectly describes Sunday’s aggressive game. With a short supply of defence, the electric game ended with Anthony Davis destroying a 55-year-old record with 52 points, leading the West to a ten point victory over the East. With 33 steals and 16 fouls, there is no doubt that players were out to give the crowd a show.

The same couldn’t be said about the Slam Dunk Contest, as the crazy 2016 showdown in the frigid 416 was unequivocally better. Unfortunately for Aaron Gordon, his Drone Dunk went awry and overshadowed him getting robbed of the Slam Dunk title in Toronto last year. However, the All-Star game was saved Sunday by John Legend who I think the NBA should just sign a lifetime deal with. 

If there was a Slam Dunk winner over the weekend it was probably Nike. Their Equality campaign cast a long gaze over the visitors from across a fractured nation being hosted in a town whose inhabitants possess an unreliable spirit despite the environmental catastrophes it has overcome.

Featuring Antonio Davis’s steely gaze and the simple word Equality, posted a dagger to the heart of the issues facing the USA. The Equality t-shirt was selling out constantly with stores restocking at a fast break pace.

The effort was glued together by its connection to Black History Month featuring limited edition Nike Shoes raising money for Nike’s Ever Higher Fund. I tried to snare the Nike Air Force 1 Equality special edition shoes but ten minutes after their online launch they were sold out. A quick trip to eBay saw them already listed for a 300% markup. Not bad for ten minutes work (don’t worry my feet had a happy ending after I scored a pair of Kyrie Irvings at local sneaker store).

The other big winner was the City of New Orleans. Pressed into duty as a replacement host after political pressure saw the game pulled from North Carolina, the original southern party town, New Orleans strutted its crazy eccentric self. The fact it was also Mardi Gras made for a combustible combination. Parades, parties, and preachers were on every street corner, I kid you not. Every street corner had some form of apocalypse promising barker.

The parades became my weekend obsession. I followed them around amazed at how excited people get over beads, how elaborate the floats were and how others were nothing more than a pickup truck. My favourite piece by far were the marching bands. It amazed me how dozens of people can walk, play, and perform in perfect unison while wearing uniforms that appear to be fur lined, bejewelled hazmat suits with War of 1812 hats. 

I stalked the bands for two hours Sunday, trying to keep pace with those in full verse. The parade conveniently snaked through the downtown core allowing for some zigging and zagging by a first time Mardi. 

The weekend left me wishing we had more marching bands in Canada. It would certainly add life to Canuck events. Activation idea??? Perhaps. 

The thrill of an NBA All-Star Weekend is that everywhere you look there is a celebrity. Coaches. Current Players. Hall of Famers. Media. Musicians. Agents. Put them in any city and you’ve got an epic scene.

Combine the excitement with a little gumbo and it gets downright spicy!