Sunday, February 10, 2013

"What's wrong with Kansas?"

Here in the heartland, few things are as sure a bet as Kansas winning in basketball.  A three-game losing streak is thus cause for a meltdown within the Jayhawk Nation, and reason for gloating and tsk-tsking by local rivals.  "What's wrong with your team?"  "Are you in mourning?"  I couldn't even get away from the recent misfortunes of my team while attending church this morning.

I never want to take for granted the unprecedented success of my Jayhawks, but it's hard not to when one considers the level of success of this program:

- Best winning percentage in the nation, 1990-2010:  .774., followed next by Duke, .771; North Carolina, .765; Kentucky, .761; and Syracuse, .730.
- Longest streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances:  23, followed next by Duke at 17.
- Eight consecutive conference titles.
- A combined 67-10 record for the 2010-2011/2011-2012 seasons, for a .870 winning percentage.
- A 69 game home winning streak, starting in 2007, that ended on January 22, 2011, the day after Thomas Robinson's mother was found dead.  The program then had a 34 game home winning streak which ended against Oklahoma State on February 2.  That means that Kansas has won 103 of its last 105 home games headed into tomorrow's Big Monday matchup versus Kansas State.

The prolonged excellence of this program has made these three losses startling.  But, really, is anyone who closely follows this team surprised?  One, no team can continue to win at this clip.  And, two, the Jayhawks are missing several key pieces which have distinguished their better teams:

- It's been over-reported, but it's true--Kansas does not have a premier point guard on its roster.  Elijah Johnson is playing out of position and insider reports out of Lawrence would indicate that Johnson may not be fully recovered from leg injury problems.  Let's also point out that head coach Bill Self has struck out on some high profile PG recruits and was not able to backfill the vacancy left by Tyshawn Taylor's departure after last year's national championship game.

- This Kansas team does not have a player, or players, who have exhibited the mean streak of Thomas Robinson, Taylor, the Morris twins or Sherron Collins.  Those players, at various times in their career, took over games not only with their skill but also with their attitude.

- Highly touted recruit Perry Ellis has struggled to adapt to the college game.  And, fellow bench mates Naadir Tharpe and Jamari Traylor have been inconsistent, at best.  Solid bench play was an earmark of Self's past five or six teams.

What will happen tomorrow night in Allen Fieldhouse?  Well, let's not discount the work that Bruce Weber has done in Manhattan but it's hard to imagine KU losing four straight games--something that hasn't happened since 1989.  The last time KU lost three straight was in 2005 and the game coming out of that streak was the classic 81-79 Jayhawk victory over Oklahoma State.

One thing's for sure--the KU losses, combined with Kansas State's ascension into first place in the Big 12, has suddenly elevated this game and this rivalry back into the national spotlight.  And, the rest of the league is watching, wondering if Superman has suddenly been dealt a dose of Kryptonite.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl winners and losers

Super Bowl XLVII is in the books and what appeared to be a potential disaster ended with a stunning comeback, a dazzling halftime show, and a much talked-about power outage that Twitter all aflutter.

Let's break down last night's winners and losers:

Winner - Tide.  No ad on last night's broadcast captured the product benefit like this brand's story about a Joe Montana silhouette which appears on a Niners jersey via a salsa spill.

Loser - Anheuser Busch.  Can you remember a Super Bowl with a less distinguished ad effort from A-B?  Yeah, I can't either.

Winner - The Harbaugh family.  Let's face it, the storyline was compelling, both coaches were amped, and the game ended up being another in a recent line of close championship contests.  Good stuff...

Loser - The Superdome.  I rhetorically asked the question last night, "what venue has hosted a Final Four and Super Bowl in the same 12 months?"  After last night's power outage, the NFL and NCAA will likely take a long look at this dome before coming back.  Perhaps the outage was caused by some other oddity but the immediate reaction was "ouch--this isn't good for the Superdome and the city of New Orleans."

Winner - Twitter.  Once again, this social networking and news site was the place to be, particularly during the 35 minute delay due to the power outage.  And, let's give props to those brands (e.g., Oreo) who capitalized on the outage in a witty, respectful way.

Winner - The automotive category.  Auto manufacturers were the overall spending winners on the broadcast as Jeep, Dodge, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Hyundai, , VW, Mazda and Kia were all represented with ad buys, pre-game shows, and/or venue entitlement.  Among the brands, Audi's spot for the S6 stood out, as did VW's controversial commercial, while Jeep and Dodge effectively pulled at viewer heartstrings.

Other winners - CBS, whose broadcast was solid, from pre-game to in-game; Coke's security camera spot; and the girl power of Beyonce, with a fun appearance from Destiny's Child mates, plus pre-game performances by Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It's Super Bowl Ad Sunday!

Super Bowl Sunday--the bacchanalian feast of food, football and...advertising.  I'm not sure when the first advertising person thought, "hmm, there are a lot of eyeballs watching this game on TV," and thus considered the brand benefits of launching a product or key message on the game telecast.  We now know, of course, that the advertising is, for many, as big a draw as the game itself, tracked by AdMeter and numerous pundits who opine on who "won" the Super Bowl ad wars.

I've personally lived through those ad wars on three different occasions where my company was an advertiser.  And, I was intimately involved in the determination of our message and the creation of the commercial which would cost millions of dollars, not only for the media time but for the development and production as well.

The creative process, at any time, is one where the line between great and mundane is very, very thin.  When it comes to Super Bowl advertising, that line becomes razor-thin.  Creative legacies are built on spots that resonate and become a part of popular culture.  Brands are derided for spots that fall flat, failing to capture the public's imagination and thus risking being thought of, by management and critics, as wasted media dollars.

What's the best Super Bowl spot ever?  It depends--if you ask an ad-type, you'll automatically get "1984," the Orwellian spot from Apple that launched the brand mystique of that company; if it's a consumer, aged 45+, you'll likely get the Mean Joe Green commercial for Coke as the response.  One tugged at the consumer's heartstrings, the other tried to portray the vision of a brand where "think differently" became much more than a corporate slogan.

Which spot will win on today's telecast?  Maybe it'll be Audi and the Venables Bell spot, featuring a bookish teenager who goes to the prom solo, but gets a heavy dose of swag by getting to drive his Pops S6.  If it's a tearjerker spot you want, stay tuned for Budweiser's Clydesdale spot where the trainer of the horse reunites with the adult animal.

I'll be tweeting about my take on the Super Bowl advertising, on behalf of Premier Sports, at @PremierKC.  Follow us on Twitter and let me know what you think--advertising game on!