Archives For Opinion

Licensed to Kill

MH3 —  January 27, 2014

Around 8:00 PM Friday night I wished that I was anywhere but on a blinding strip of highway, just a few miles north of Toronto.

It was the worst weather you could imagine.

For endless hours the visibility was limited to a few feet. The wind didn’t gust. It blew constantly. Seemingly on demand, when the road got icier, it blew harder. Deserted cars, overturned trucks, spontaneous snow drifts all had to be dodged. I was helpless. Providing me a tiny taste of what a blind person must experience daily, ever hopeful they have safely chosen their path and that those around them are mindful of their vulnerability.

On several harrowing stretches I was forced to stop completely and pray that no one was dumb enough to even attempt to keep moving. Tornado-like snow gusts created a vortex around us that had me convinced our all-wheel-drive wheels would soon be airborne; with me powerless to return our ship to tarmac.

Nearly 180 minutes later, we made it safely to our destination. Beyond the obvious gratitude to the driving gods and relief to have kept my family safe, I was quietly pleased that only once had I let my true emotions show how frightened I truly was.

I think everyone got thanked for their divine intervention. The maker of my automobile. The aforementioned driving gods. My dog’s role as a good luck charm. My fellow drivers for being equally as cautious as me.

At the same time as I was issuing my gratitude, a driver just a few miles from us didn’t exercise the same caution as those that had shared the road with me. Inexplicably he (I actually don’t know their gender) decided to pass a transport trailer.

Seconds later they were dead.

So was their passenger.

Four other people were extracted from their vehicles.

Three were airlifted to hospital with serious injuries, including a one-year-old baby who was ejected from the car. Yet somehow survived.

What could possibly have been so important on a snowy Friday night in Clearview Township that the driver had to pass a transport truck in zero visibility conditions? Was he or she the parent of this child? Or was the baby from the innocent vehicle they struck head on? There were at least two people in that car severely injured. But thankfully alive. For now.

I don’t care how big of a rush you are in. I don’t care how impatient, self-important, impaired, or utterly stupid you are.

PLEASE SLOW DOWN.

Do you share your New Year’s resolutions?

A 2007 research study from the University of Bristol found that women were more successful at achieving their New Year’s resolutions when they shared them publicly.

At a weekend dinner party, I kicked off a discussion about resolutions and then was appropriately heckled when I tried to not to share mine. One could argue my conduct was misguided given the research, however the same study found the secret for men was to set measurable, goal-oriented resolutions.

I am strikingly influenced by both data points. I am always a big fan of measurement and I have been known to share more than one personal tidbit in my life. Both about me and those close to me…usually to their unfortunate chagrin. So it wasn’t totally unfounded when one of the dinner party guests whispered to my wife that my # 1 resolution should be to “get some duct tape for my mouth.”

Given that sort of sentiment, I should have received heaping praise for my reluctance to share. But there was a deeper reason. The best resolutions reflect something much more powerful than a simple “goal.” They provide a window into our soul.

For that, I wanted keep my resolutions list secret, or at least partially. Allow me to explain. I think it’s fundamental to the challenge we all face in life. And that is, we are human.

I had many successes in 2013. But I also had many failures. I am convinced that if I shared the events that I deemed unsuccessful, or the situations that cause me to lose sleep, or the demons that run through my brain daily…you may somehow see me as weak and unfit to be your consultant, colleague, boss, friend, or trusted family member. Most of my “resolution” checklist is built on these loose footings. Somehow it’s easier to make plans from ashes than flowers.

I realize this isn’t healthy. Allowing these issues to rule one’s life will take the colour out of 2014. So I have been trying to crystallize one simple, more positive resolution for the year. I don’t have it perfected yet and candidly that makes me happy. If I can distill it to a tag line, it wouldn’t be authentic. God knows I do enough of that in my life.

During the party I stated I wanted to avoid the one BIG work disaster that seems to throw a cloud over every year. Pretty sure each of us could circle that one on our calendars. But yesterday as I trudged my way through fresh snow on the Niagara Escarpment, I realized this resolution needed reorienting. Let’s make it positive. So instead I resolve that every day, I am going to chase the one BIG work triumph that will shine brightly over all else that happens. In fact I am so enthused by this idea, I plan to extend it to my family life, my circle of friends, my personal fitness, my coaching, my volunteerism, and even my pets. Okay, the last one I made up.

But I like this spin. Forget avoiding disaster, let’s chase glory! After all, there has to be a reason it’s called HAPPY New Year!

TrojanOne is For Sale

MH3 —  December 19, 2013

No, just kidding. But who can blame any of my agency-owning peers for some wishful thinking of selling our businesses this week after witnessing the IMG sale?

In less than 10 years after being sold for $ 750 million to Forstmann Little by the estate of the late great Mark McCormack, IMG is now being sold for more than three times that…$2.4 billion to William Morris Endeavour. These two transactions reflect the brilliance of two men. Mark McCormack, who founded IMG in 1960, effectively invented the agency business model for sports and sponsorship marketing. The second genius in our saga is Ted Forstmann, who, according to the script written by industry pundits, went from a reviled investment banker criticized for gutting IMG…to a man who clearly knew what he was doing!!!

IMG has incredible assets in the properties they own and the rights they broker. Now we know they aren’t just incredible; they are pretty valuable. Worth billions.

So how much would you give me for TrojanOne? What assets do I have? You probably don’t see media rights to international properties or ownership of fashion shows or marketing relationships with star athletes on my balance sheet. But look a little further.

What I do have is the most dedicated and talented team of people you would ever want to be associated with, who proved to me once again in 2013 that they will do whatever it takes to get our clients promoted. They push the boundaries of creativity with Twitter-activated vending machines, keeping a relentless focus on clients’ business objectives, generating thousands of leads for a Grey Cup sponsor, or ensuring our field staff are motivated and equipped to travel the country and endure the demands of a grueling experiential tour schedule.

I have witnessed my team spend all night rebuilding bike racks at an international sports event; held my breath while they created from scratch, in less than 24 hours, a mobile payment system for an event registration venue that threw us a curve; and tried to support them relentlessly during six emergency conference calls on a weekend when a music property went astray.

Most people in life never get to work in area they love. The passion my people have for their work is amazing and I love them for it. That’s why TrojanOne will be accepting bids today starting at Infinity!

Boarding the WestJet Bandwagon

MH3 —  December 10, 2013

You know what I love best about the WestJet Christmas promo video that was soaring to 4 million YouTube views when I started writing this tonight?

Not the fact that the airline’s project lead for this campaign is a former employee of mine.

Not the fact that I was secretly (?) tipped off by a WestJetter the week before it came out. No, not by my ex-Trojanite!

Not the fact that I probably wasn’t being tipped off, but in fact being used as an influencer to hopefully spread the word.

Not the fact that I cry much too regularly at Christmastime, a condition I blame on Jimmy Stewart and his performance in my fave flick of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life.

No. The thing I love best is that this video was done by a company, WestJet, that treats its customers like it’s Christmas 365 days a year.
This has long been their differentiator and it’s entirely genuine. Hence, when you see this video (and if you haven’t, stop reading my drivel, grab a box of tissue, find a quiet place, dial up Google, and get ready to smile), you believe it to be genuine. Even though, in reality, it’s a stunt. A marketing activity. A promotion. Scripted. Contrived. Amplified. What could be more horrific?! Marketing!

Doesn’t matter. It’s a beautiful piece of marketing by a company that walks their talk.

So kudos to WestJet. Not just for the video, but for a little lesson for all of us in marketing.

Imagine if we all treated our clients like everyday was a holiday?

Happy End Year

MH3 —  December 4, 2013

Please stop staring at me.

You’re giving me the willies. Besides it’s not very polite.

What’s so interesting about me? I’m not the only person on the planet who is guilty of what I did. Don’t even try to tell me that everybody else is innocent. Shame. Ridicule. Teasing. All of your tactics are unfair and downright annoying.

I see your beady eyes Father Time. Gleefully telling me it’s December already. Laughingly mocking me that 2014 is so close, that I probably swallowed three days in January with my last swill from my cappuccino accompanying this writing session. Must be nice to be so darn smug.

My annoyance is founded. The truth hurts. It is December. I am down to only a few more weeks to achieve my New Year’s resolutions. Yikes.

What about you?

Did you lose that weight? Go to the cottage more? Make those new friends? Read those books? Watch less TV? Swear less? Drink less? Swear you would drink less?

Father Time isn’t just looking at me. He’s stalking you too brothers and sisters. Better finish off those 2013 proclamations soon.

Or you won’t have time to make any for 2014!

Green Cup

MH3 —  November 27, 2013

The confetti had barely landed on the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Grey Cup Parade when the “dynasty” talk started.

If it wasn’t for a couple of excruciating losses in 2009 & 2010, the Riders would be sporting four Cup titles in the last seven seasons. Even winning two in that span puts them ahead of many of their rivals.

But off the field, the green Riders are a green dynasty. It’s estimated they will sell close to $10 million in merchandise this year; more than all other CFL teams combined…unless the Argos release the highly coveted limited edition Rob Ford XXXXL #12 jersey he has been modelling. It’s even more than most of the Canadian NHL teams, minus obvious exceptions like Toronto and Montreal. The Grey Cup Festival week and game generated $123 million for the local economy, which happens to be a part of what is now Canada’s richest province!

Brent Butt joked at one Grey Cup event that Saskatchewan loves football so much because the province is shaped like a football field. I might suggest the economics might also generate some of that affection!

But there is a key lesson in all this excitement. Like Darian Durant, it wasn’t so long ago that the province was trying to wave its team goodbye. They were lovable, yet losers. They were adored, but unsupported.

Magically, the team turned to community ownership and in a dramatic oversimplification, you could say the rest is history. But it’s true; community ownership has built this green machine. Over the Grey Cup weekend, Commissioner Mark Cohon talked about a 10th team for Atlantic Canada becoming a reality. The community ownership idea being eyed as the key business model.

Nothing makes more sense to me, for the CFL, than to see the Atlantic Schooners become a reality. The very real fan club by the same name would probably agree. A 10th team would do wonders for the league.

But I wonder if more teams shouldn’t look at this model. Sport building community. Community building sport. This past May we themed our sponsorship conference “Building Community.” Guess where we held it?

Saskatchewan. Home of the Green Cup!

Kicking Game

MH3 —  November 13, 2013

I think every year I could write an emotionally charged blog when my football season ends.

If we finished with a championship win (circa 2005 & 2009), then the storyline might be about how my players overcame the odds or how they developed as a team.

If we finished with a playoff loss (insert the other 18 years of volunteer football coaching here…unfortunately), then I could pursue plot lines of valiant effort, or perhaps how I underperformed as a coach, or a wait-till-next year rallying cry.

This year, following our quarter-final upset loss last week, I could highlight being out-coached, a team that was overconfident despite fielding only 21-22 players versus 45 for our opponent, mistakes by me in the kicking game, key injuries to some of our best receivers, and mistakes by my team…also in the kicking game. Did I mention a team that fields only 21-22 players versus 45 for our opponent?

After the game, I was particularly obsessed by my errors in the Kicking Game, but was reminded by a knowledgeable parent of one of my players that one play doesn’t win or lose a game. He’s right, though I only half believe him today….

Admittedly, I’m a sore loser. I’ve been looking inward, very very deeply, over the last few days. Realizing that at 48, it really is time for me to grow up. Thankfully, I think I’ve stumbled over the reason why I feel this way.

It’s not the losing that really kicks. Because losing suggests I’m jealous of the winners. I’m not. They deserved to win. What hurts isn’t the loss of the game, it’s the loss of purpose.

When the season is on, everyone on a team has a common purpose. A brotherhood. A galvanizing force. When the season ends, the suddenness of that loss destroys that purpose. It’s the ending of the mission that hurts. Failure isn’t what creates fear, it’s the end of the journey and what that entails.

This is the true Kicking Game moral. It applies to sports, business, a husband and wife saving for their first house, a person trying to lose weight, someone facing a grave disease. The journey, the mission, the effort is the reward. The outcome is important; in most of my examples there is much more at stake than winning a silly high school football game. But even winning a championship results in the silence of the post-season the next day.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, I’ve recovered faster than ever from this loss. I’ve got a ton of missions to sink myself into. Work, clients, helping my wife and kids fulfill their dreams, mentoring my staff, supporting a sick colleague. Given what’s going on in this world, from devastating typhoons to ridiculous mayors, there is so much for us all to become a part of. Having a mission can be so powerful. So instead of waiting for next season to get my kicks, I’m going to tackle everything else in my life like I do my beloved Lawrence Park Panthers. As a volunteer, a leader, a committed partner.

That will give me lots of kicks!

Fan-tastic

MH3 —  October 30, 2013

Over the past couple of years, the industry volunteers who drive the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada have been working their fannies off to build an organization that is more relevant, valuable, and attractive to the marketing community. This morning proved they have achieved their lofty ambitions.

Every couple of months the SMCC holds breakfast forums in Toronto. In past years they have been hit and miss. Some have had great content, with poor attendance. Others have been attended en masse, only to showcase disappointing content. Finally the light went on and made enough people at the SMCC executive table realize that poorly orchestrated events were more than bad events. They were actually reflecting poorly on the entire sponsorship marketing industry. How can you sell the C-suite on the ROI of sponsorship marketing when our own industry events have zero ROI?

Flash forward to 2013 and you now have all-star panels such as this morning’s featuring my pal Don Mayo of IMI, Jacquie Ryan of Scotia, Nathalie Cook from TSN, Iain Chalmers of Diageo, Alan Dark of CBC and Kyle McMann from the NHL. Today’s 8:00 AM seminar was held in Real Sports, which was great except I had never seen the place sober before. (Bummed that none of the usual waitresses were working either, but I did recognize a couple of their moms serving coffee.)

The topic of conversation was “The Elusive Fan,” with the NHL and its partner programs utilized to illustrate the theory that Fan Value is the key for sponsorship ROI for all parties: sponsor, property, and media rights holder. It’s a sound theory that extends beyond the NHL case study, although hockey is a perfect lesson for us all.

More important than the topic is the effort of the SMCC execs and the commitment of the speakers to ensure that the sponsorship marketing industry in Canada grows, flourishes, and is duly recognized for its impact on business success. That’s ROI for all of us!

Hey SMCC, you have won over this elusive fan.

NCAA Record Holder

MH3 —  September 10, 2013

I set an NCAA Football record last Saturday night.

I did have help from one-hundred and fifteen thousand, and one hundred and eight other people. (Is that even how you spell 115,108?)

The record, which to be precise is 115,109, was for the largest crowd ever to see a single NCAA event… football, baseball, hockey, or otherwise. Michigan-Notre Dame football. Live on ESPN. The Game Day crew camped out in Ann Arbor, MI.

The best part about being there is that I can actually say when I am old (next week), that “I was there.” For real. Isn’t it amazing how many people were at the Joe Carter walk-off home run World Series game at SkyDome? Or attended the first ever Coachella? Saw Usain Bolt win his first 100M gold medal in Beijing?

I-was-there syndrome isn’t just related to major events. House parties. Political events. Epic bar nights. Flash mobs. Full moons. Solar eclipses. Floods. Celebrity sightings.

It’s amazing how the desire to have been witness to a great event suddenly turns the most honest of us all into stone-faced fibbers. Many times we don’t even do it on purpose. The conversation starts, the magic of the moment expands in every converser’s mind, and without an ounce of guilt you are suddenly nodding vigorously, ruthlessly implying your participation.

But I was there. Michigan-Notre Dame. 115,108 people & me. If you want, I will show you my ticket stub. Then you show me yours.

New Year #3

MH3 —  September 4, 2013

In the course of a calendar year there are actually three “new years” we all experience.

One is January 1st. Fairly universal, unless you follow a unique religious calendar.

The second is your birthday. That day marks your own personal new year.

The third is the start of the school year, even, if you are like me, for whom school ended a quarter century ago.

But no matter how long ago your last “first day of school” was, every September still marks the beginning of a new year. Perhaps it’s your child starting school or your niece off to Western (like mine is) or a neighbour’s child entering their last year of secondary school. We all feel the start of the new school year.

The roads are busier. Our meeting agendas even busier. Even TV schedules are packed with the new fall shows.

There is no escaping it. September is the start of a new year.

But don’t fear. Let’s take advantage of it. Let’s use it to motivate us, inspire us, refresh us. Set some school-year resolutions. Take advantage of the fact that everyone is hungry to get stuff done, meet Q4 targets, get a head start on 2014.

So Happy New Year. Feel free to have a little party, some bubbly, a celebration. Nothing better than a perceived clean slate to get the engines fired up!