Archives For life

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!

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!

Out of Bounds

MH3 —  October 16, 2013

Last week, my high school football team was involved in a game-ending incident.

Some people called it a brawl. Others called it a fight. Some called it unnecessary roughness. I call it unnecessary.

On the surface, our player started it by manhandling an opponent out of bounds on a play that was completely on the other side of the field. At first I was quite angry. Later, after watching film, it was clear that both players were the villains and they had been going at it for most of the game.

The scuffle that ensued resulted in many more players joining in and candidly my players were outnumbered and out-slugged. At one point it escalated to a scary tipping point, but players and coaches stopped it.

It was touch and go for a moment.

There were some bumps and bruises. This week, suspensions are being laid down. But there is more significant damage than that. I am concerned about how two players could get so mad at each other during a game, a simple game, that they want to fight. They need to respect the sport, the opportunity they are given, and embrace it. Yes, teenage egos can be fragile and tempers even more shaky, but football is a game of hitting, until the whistle blows.

Then it’s time to dust yourself off and help your opponent up. And leave it at that.

I love this game too much to let one scary incident chase me away. But looking at film of the episode does send chills up my spine, as one of my players is kicked in the back. Thankfully, all involved cooled down and the two squads shook hands before parting.

It was in the handshake line that my faith in the game was restored. You need to know the referees did not want us shaking hands. But myself and the opposing coach made it happen. It became more than a handshake. Player after player on their team apologized to me for what transpired, complimented us on a good game though we lost by three TDs, and several even opened up for hugs that meant the world to me. Not only for me, but for many of our players.

Thankfully, the spotlight shifted to the midfield armistice, far from the out-of-bounds area we had bloodied only minutes earlier. Here we embraced our tormentors and rejected the previous senselessness. This was, after all, just a high school football game.

First Cut

MH3 —  September 17, 2013

I still remember the first time I was cut.

Despite being Grant Fuhr’s doppelgänger and my 6.85 House League goals against average, the Orillia Pee-Wee rep team didn’t want my netminding “skills”!

Then again, that wasn’t the last.

In Grade 9 I was thrilled when the basketball coach suggested I join the wrestling team, until my parents advised me this wasn’t an “incremental” suggestion. What I really needed was some incremental inches given I was 4′ 6″, without the skills of Spud Webb.

Seems lots of coaches had some great suggestions for me over the years, but they never involved sticking around. The late Tom Dimitroff took one look at my 5′ 2″ freshman frame and suggested the Guelph campus paper needed a sportswriter more than the Gryphons needed a wannabe Pinball Clemons. (Though in those days, Johnny Rogers would be a better example.)

Even today, when I’m 25 years past trying out for teams, I endure regular cuts from potential clients during the pitch process. Many of them sound just like my old coaches. “We loved your agency, but you finished second.” “If we could only hire everybody.” “Your pitch was great, we just found a better fit.”

But today it’s me who has to do the cutting. It’s my first time. It’s making me sad. I have never had to boot someone off the high school football team I have coached for over 15 years. But I have finally met the kid who won’t try. Won’t listen. Won’t commit.

So it’s bye bye time. Unless he can turn it around. He doesn’t have to be good. He just has to try.

When I am angriest at myself at work, it’s when I lose a pitch I know I didn’t put enough effort into. A valiant effort resulting in a loss is okay. Losing because I was outworked…grrr!

For three long weeks I’ve tried to create the teenage analogy of this lesson in junior’s head. But he doesn’t give a crap.

There is no room in my world for people who won’t try hard. Maybe I should try harder to turn him around. But I really think it’s time. The first time. For me to make that cruel, everlasting decision to cut someone. Because I believe it’s the only message that he will remember.

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!

Ghost of Paignton House

MH3 —  July 16, 2013

Spent the weekend at The Rosseau in Muskoka, a JW Marriott brand property.

Their tag line is “nature on your terms.” Well when I got my bill I thought it was closer to “nature on a 36-month lease”…because that’s the term I will need to pay it down.

If you call four pools, three restaurants, half dozen elevators, and a golf cart shuttle service “nature”, then I guess they are right. This place is l-l-l-large. Dominates the skyline, overpowers the shoreline, and destroyed the sightlines for more than just one cottage. But truthfully… I loved it. Oh hippo-hypocrite that I am.

But one thing bothered me. I used to work “there” and nobody cared. See, back in the day, the same acreage on Lake Rosseau was home to Paignton House. A lovely wee conference and family resort, that was also affectionately known as a poor man’s Clevelands House. I have blogged about Paignton before. One of the Paignton traditions I loved was the hanging of the past staff photos in the lobby. When I last stepped into Paignton in the late ’90s…my 1984 & 1985 photos were still hung proudly. Fast forward to 2013 and no longer.

So I started asking questions. I asked my waitress. I asked my bartender. I asked the pool staff. No one knew where the photos were. No one knew about Paignton House. No one knew me!

I was reduced to being the ghost of Paignton past. How distressing. I needed someone to tell my stories to… like when our cabin neighbour “Jacque” (who wasn’t French, but was from Sault Ste. Marie so the racist handle stuck), was peeing into his overflowing toilet one night while straddling the basin with his feet wedged into the wall studs. There he was wedged, with the door wide open for all of us partying staff to see as he somehow rationalized adding fluid to an Alberta-like flow.

No one was ready to hear about my over-sized bunkmate who snored so loudly that my roomie Rosie & I went Muhammad Ali on him every night and still couldn’t beat him into silence. There were no takers for the tales that only a nineteen year old could dream of and those that didn’t happen I made up anyway.

Cottage parties. Staff hookups. Guest-staff hookups. Guest-guest hookups. Drunken bar managers emceeing an evening show (who was that?). The scary staff food. The carpools to the liquor store. The local couple who got drunk in my bar and fought every Sunday. The cottage couple who did the same on Tuesdays. The rich staffer with the Camaro and his harem of waitresses from our dining room. The rich staffer who quits after five weeks, because why work when you can party. The rich staffer’s groupie who followed the harem into the parties carrying the cooler of Malibu rum and beer. (Hey, I was darn good at carrying that cooler!)

I think the Rosseau needs to write some briefing notes for the staff enfants! I can’t be the first ghost to show up. It was the time of my life, or at least that’s the line we stole from the movie Dirty Dancing. I should have been provided an audience to hear about it!

Old Man Winter

MH3 —  March 27, 2013

You’re not going to like me for this, but I have no desire to see winter over.

Correction, I have no desire to see it end right now. Maybe in a few weeks. But not now. I want a bit more winter. Remarkably I love winter and I am tired of going from meeting to meeting listening to people bemoan the white season. In Orillia right now, the thirty-six families I used to have as newspaper customers are hysterically mocking me. If you could have seen me in 1976, delivering papers at an abominably slow pace while shedding shivery tears you would understand the irony of that statement.

But as I have aged, my frosty enthusiasm has picked up.

So I prepare this blog as an offering to the weather gods, requesting a bit more snow, frost, and ice. Winter is really, really nice. You just need to understand it.

Winter refreshes. I find the cool weather sparks my senses and gets my brain revving.

Winter rejuvenates. The holidays, New Years, March Break, all contribute to an emotional season of inspiration.

Winter restores. The long days give you time to get things done, projects organized, life put in order.

Today I had a taxi driver who moved here from Nigeria 19 years ago. He too loves Winter he told me. He goes home to Africa every year and explains to his family that because of Winter, Spring is the most wonderful season a person could experience. I agree.

So give me a wee wee wee bit more winter. I like shoveling my driveway (only did it twice this year FYI). I hate cutting my lawn (hence the crew that shows up every Tuesday). I like my dog not getting muddy. I like jogging in the cold. Toronto heat is a deathtrap for summer runners. I like the streetlights strobes made by falling snowflakes. I like the cleanness of it all. I like the stuff that makes us Canadian.

In the name of Bill Murray, let me awaken to Groundhog Day just a few more times.

Co-Branding by Tiger & Lindsey

MH3 —  March 21, 2013

I had barely finished my recent issue of Sports Illustrated, where Lindsey Vonn denies any romantic involvement with Tiger Woods, when suddenly the pair conduct simultaneous Facebook announcements confirming the opposite.

Before you get caught up speculating how athletic any offspring they may produce could be and certainly before you wonder as to who earns more endorsement money, today there are some more fundamental issues to deal with.

Category exclusivity.

Nike has Tiger.

Under Armour has Lindsey.

When they pose for a photo in branded gear is this somehow contradicting their duties. Are they inadvertently generating impressions for their sponsor’s competitors?

If Tiger starts wearing Red Bull hats do the marketing folks at Fuse Science lose their wings?

If Lindsey refuses to fly NetJets, will their stock crash? Hey wait a minute, doesn’t Tiger own his own jet? Why does he have a fractional aircraft sponsor?

Consider what we know. The pair released four posed, professional, sunny studio photos, featuring their super human athletic frames, to thwart paparazzi from profiting off disclosing their relationship. These photos spun through the digital universe almost as quickly as the stories of Tiger’s philandering did a few years ago. Did they really need to be on the cover of my daily newspaper. In Canada? Two divorced American megastars with (deservedly?) out-sized egos dominating my daily circular.

Yes it’s that big of a story. Neither leaves anything to chance. So imagine the reaction of their agents when each arrived on the “set” adorned in their sponsor’s logos. The swoosh v. the UA. These are not friendly rivals. Bitter is too subtle.

For the first time in sports marketing history the two logos co-existed in a marketing campaign. Harsh? No. That is what this announcement was. Two control freaks attempting to control our interpretation of their relationship. This is marketing. This communications management. Nothing is left to chance.

So I wish them well. They will have detractors. They will have critics. They will have doubters. But if they want to, they will probably succeed beyond our wildest imagination. They have that type of will power.

What needs to be determined is whether they will have any more co-branded adverts. Me thinks not!

 

 

 

Junior Birdman

MH3 —  March 13, 2013

My twelve year old is taking his first solo flight this week.

YYZ to MIA in airport code speak.

Toronto to South Beach in March break speak. Actually Coconut Grove, but South Beach sounded cooler for a moment. Given that it was the setting for Meet the Frockers and is Dexter’s hometown, the Grove may seem cooler to my tweenager.

This world where we put twelve year olds on planes by themselves is pretty foreign to me. I think I had flown once by that age and it was smack dab between my parentals. My guy? If I told you how many flights he has been on, you would bombard me with the fifty-six known translations of the word spoiled! Yet this one is going to be different.

I am handing him over to a flight attendant who will only be slightly less a stranger than the persons seated next to him and the pilot to whom I am entrusting him. Three hours later he will emerge as just one of the 110,000 daily travelers through Miami International and hopefully be safely escorted into the clutches of his friend’s mother. It frightens me to think that just a few years ago I was holding his hand to cross a street and now he is crossing the border all on his own.

Part of me wants to ride down with him, help the crew refresh the plane, and u-turn right back to Toronto. The other part of me knows I am overreacting. I have put him on a bus for a month away at camp. I have left him lakeside at my parent’s cottage for a week. Less than ten days ago I willingly let him attend a sleepover where the boys were attempting their first all-nighter.

But this is different. I can’t just run over three blocks if he gets a cream soda induced stomach ache or call the camp nurse to ensure he is a-okay.

No this is requiring me to realize he is growing up. That some day he will get on a different plane for a grad trip, university visit,  and eventually for his own career. Not so fast! I still want him to be a junior birdman. A child who wants to sing songs with his Dad. A boy who wants to play with model airplanes, not a VIP passenger on a real one. Sadly no.

So look up in the air. That’s my son.

 

 

 

 

Summer School

MH3 —  March 6, 2013

Seems to me that the weather must be getting nicer, based on the flurry of summer job inquiries I received this week.

Friends, clients, ex-clients, suppliers, neighbours, net-workers are all sending me the same email. This email details the ambitions, talents, and virtues of their son/daughter/niece/nephew/neighbour who are looking for that perfect summer opportunity. This email tells me they NEVER hit people up to arrange summer jobs. This email forgot they said the same thing last spring!

Bring ’em on I say. It’s candidly the best channel for recruitment.

But I would like to offer some unsolicited advice to the young nominees who are approaching us for work, to help ensure they get the best shot at the best opportunities this summer.

1. My name isn’t “Mike”. Yep, happened today in fact. A second year student emailed “Dear Mr. Mike Harrison” for a summer job. Guess they teach name recognition in third year. (I politely, for me, emailed them back and said Mike wasn’t hiring, but Mark might be if they wish to try again.)

2. Our company name is TrojanOne. No space. Capital O. Not T1.

3. Enough of the petty stuff… here is an important one. Brevity! Don’t send me your cover letter, resume, and three references all expertly compressed and PDF compatible. Sorry I don’t have time! I am going to flip your email to one of my hiring gurus along with a quick comment: “Mandatory Hire”, “Please Interview”, “Up to You”, and “This kid puked on my lawn last summer…”. So don’t bother filling up my in-box young stars, send me something short, and…

4. Sweet! Hey if you want to work for us, don’t just send me a form email. Customize. Personalize. Humanize. Here is a real life quote from an applicant yesterday:

Dear Mr. Harrison,
Thank you so much for considering me for a potential summer position.

I saw my mother’s email to you … maybe she should be the one going into marketing and promotion. To be described as tall by her is unreliable, at best, and “busty”… maybe relative to my twelve year old brother.

I look forward to hearing from your “hiring dude”.

Hilarious! I hope we have hired her already.

5. This is the most important tip. Figure out what you want to do, how you want to learn, and whom you want to meet. Then be disciplined and diligent at getting it. Summer jobs can be great experiences. They can be great fun. They can be hard work. They can be a great party. They can be a great foundation. There is no right answer. However you need to figure out how you want these four months to impact your future, because whether you realize it or not… you’re not headed to a job, you’re headed to Summer School.