To Run, or Not to Run

By Sean Ryan

 As millions up and down the East Coast and inland states continue to recover from Superstorm Sandy, an iconic brand is under the microscope.

 The New York City Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, one week to the day when Sandy proved an unruly guest that took lives, knocked out power to millions and changed communities forever.

Two days before the race, the decision whether or not to cancel the NYC Marathon is as heated as Obama v. Romney. On one hand, there’s the economic development – reportedly as much as $340 million some years – and clear message that the spirit that embodies the NYC Marathon is what New Yorkers need right now. On the other, it’s way too early, especially when many New Yorkers – particularly in Staten Island, where the race begins – are without power and even still searching for loved ones.

Kyra Oliver, friend, former client and the founder of Richmond marketing firm Oliver Creative and SIDS awareness nonprofit The Hayes Foundation, has been coaching a team of six New Yorkers who raised more than $45,000 for the CJ Foundation for SIDS. It will be her second NYC Marathon – she ran a speedy 3:20.01 in the 2009 edition.

“Honestly, I have gone back and forth in my mind because I’m an emotional person, and I feel for these people here,” Oliver said early Friday morning from a cab in New York City.  “The spirit of this city and the people that it’s bringing to the city, that enthusiasm and spirit is really important to helping these people…they’ve gone through so much.”

She believes that pushing the race back a few weeks – which she also would support – would lead many runners to defer running until next year resulting in a loss of economic development that the city needs now. Oliver added that of the 47,000 original registrants, about 40,000 are expected to run Sunday.

Regardless, if the race is run on Sunday, it will be different.

“New York is the race where you feel like a rock star the whole way,” Oliver said. “Typically the streets are lined at least five people deep, if not more. The only time you don’t see spectators is when you’re on the bridges. I am concerned that it is going to be less than usual and that we may get some negative support from people in areas that need help.”

Sports have a way of bringing communities back together. Mike Piazza and the Mets 10 days after 9/11, the return of the NFL after 9/11, the Saints’ return to the SuperDome. This is a tougher call. The race that means so much for runners all across the world – including many New Yorkers – risks alienating the people that matter most: people who have lost their homes, memories and loved ones.

The prudent thing to do early this week would have been to postpone for at least a week. Now, two days before the race with passionate runners arriving from all over the world, it appears the race must go on. We may have to wait until the finish line to see if the NYC Marathon brand takes a big hit.

Your thoughts?  Please comment.



#RVA, two teams. Our one shining moment.

So there I was about half way through the second half last night, with most of this blog post already written in my head and my wife’s uncle, a huge college basketball fan, sent me this email.

Jon, can Richmond handle two teams in the Sweet 16???   A lot of hype and PR for a small city?

Well, can we?

Given our lack of success in the professional sports arena, there will perhaps be no other time in modern history that the mainstream sports world will focus its eyes on Richmond, VA.

Usually, just one Cinderella in the Sweet 16 would make this glare close to unbearable, but two?

Elite Eight matchup?

This is our time Richmond, let’s make the most of it.

Let’s celebrate our diversity.  A diversity exemplified by the school themselves.  One, a small liberal arts school on one of the most beautiful small campuses in the country.  The other, a prime example of how a large state school can lead the redevelopment of a once-blighted downtown area.

Let’s celebrate our creativity.  Let’s use the media spotlight to promote our neighborhoods, our restaurants, our tourism attractions, our museums.

Let’s speak in one voice.  The welcoming voice of possibilities, the voice of our future with a nod to our past.

Let’s urge our politicians and leaders to be aggressive in seeking this spotlight and for once be on the same page.

Let’s for once agree.  Let’s root for each other (at least until the two schools meet in the Elite Eight),  and put aside out differences at least till next weekend.  It’s time for a moratorium on mean.

Yes, Uncle BK, it is a lot of PR hype for a small city.

This is our ultimate PR opportunity, it is Richmond’s true and rare “One Shining Moment.”

The eyes are on all of us, will we seize it?

And now for something completely different….

So this is my first vlog post.  Something new.  Topics today are a follow up to my “Twitter. Dead.” post.  Recent and upcoming speaking opportunities and what I’m discovering by doing them.  Please comment and react.  Thanks.

The Boss brand

Most people who know me know when I refer to “The Boss” I’m usually referring to the E-Street Band variety.  But growing up in the New York City area in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s you could hardly avoid exposure to another “Boss” who passed away today.

You have to go back to the days of my youth in the late 60’s and early 70’s to remember a time when the Yankees sucked.  As a Mets fan, it happily dovetailed with the Mets heyday.  For many sports fans however, there was never a time when the Yankees were not synonymous with winning.  The winning Yankee brand can be traced directly to the day George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees.

Since this is a PR/marketing blog let’s take a quick look at some of the lessons we can learn from “The Boss.”

  • No publicity is bad publicity:  Under George, the Yankees ruled the famous “back pages” of the New York tabloid sports sections.  It wasn’t always pretty as George feuded with managers like Billy Martin and players like Dave Winfield but it worked as he made the Yankees relevant 365 days of the year.
  • A successful brand starts from the inside:  George wanted his players clean-shaved.  He wanted them dressing well on the road.  He spearheaded the renovation of the old Yankee Stadium and the building of the new one.  He built the winning brand from within and then bought, sold and traded for the pieces to make winning a reality.
  • Be innovative:  He was among the first to see the that the real money-making opportunity for his team was connected to television, specifically the growing “cable” variety.  First, selling broadcast rights to MSG Network, then later creating the Yankees-own YES Network.  Television exposure is one of the main reasons for the Yankees exponential growth as a franchise that is now worth in excess of one billion dollars.
  • Give back:  While not seeking publicity for it, Steinbrenner was known for being one of the Tampa area’s leading philanthropists, giving money to literally hundreds of charities.
  • Become part of popular culture:  To explain this you only have to look as far as this compilation of Steinbrenner/Seinfeld “appearances.”

Sure he was far from perfect.  He slugged his way from controversy to controversy before getting “banned” from baseball for three years in the early 90’s.  But Steinbrenner is responsible for all the Yankees are today.  As a Mets fan, you hate him but you respect what he accomplished and secretly you wish your team could learn from the lessons outlined above.

If that’s not the ultimate compliment, I don’t know what is.

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