The Key to Super Bowl XLII

January 31, 2008

Pats

 With support from bettors, bandwagon-jumpers and the national media beginning to swell, the Giants are becoming a trendy pick to make Super Bowl XLII a competitive, nail-biting, whoever-has-the-ball-last-wins affair.

However, the Giants’ chances this Sunday come down to one thing and one thing only: how well they perform in the first 10 minutes of the game.

This isn’t just one aspect of Sunday’s game — it’s everything.

If the Giants match the Patriots or at least keep the score within 3 for the first 10 minutes, they will be in this football game. If they let the Patriots score first, go 3-and-out, then watch the Pats march right back down the field, this one is over.

Simple as that.

The whole key to playing the Patriots — and this isn’t just true for the Super Bowl, it’s been the case for the whole second half of the season — is making sure you’re within striking distance after the first couple possessions.

Want proof? How else do you explain how decent teams like Buffalo and Washington got waxed by 40+? The Pats score first, create a turnover or force the other team to punt, score again, and now it’s 14-0 and the opposition has officially packed it in.

They have no chance after that. They’ve already been psychologically defeated.

Against the Chargers in Week 2, it was 7-0 Patriots before you could sit down and 14-0 just seven minutes later. Think about it. Just 11:05 into the game and this one was over. Not pretty much over, or looks like it’s over, but truly and unequivocally over. The Pats went up 17-0 after 20 minutes and 24-0 after 25. Good night, San Diego. You stay classy.

Against Miami in Week 7, the Pats went up 14-0 just 10:32 into the contest after two Tom Brady TD passes. I was at that game. New England scored on its first possession a little over five minutes into the game and you could see the reactions of the Dolphins’ players. “Here we go…” They were already taken out of the game. It felt like someone sucked the air out of that putrid stadium. The fans thought it was over (they were silenced already), the players played like it was over (it was 42-7 at HALF!) and the Pats kept marching on.

Look at the close games the Pats had this year. Indy. Philly. Baltimore. The G-Men in the last game of the season. In each case, the opposition was leading after the first quarter — except the Eagles, who were actually trailing, 14-7, after the first 15 minutes, but scored twice in the second frame to go up a score heading into halftime. These teams all felt like they could play with the Pats for 60 minutes.

Because let’s face it. Playing an undefeated team that’s stacked on both sides of the ball, has already won three of the past six championships and is routinely referred to as the Greatest Team of All-Time HAS to have some sort of mental effect of players, no matter what they may say.

If you can score first or at least keep up in the first 10 minutes of the ballgame, all of a sudden you’re saying to yourself: “Hey, we can play with these guys. They’re just another team in the NFL.” After that, the key to winning is reduced to the most rudimentary and fundamental prism of the NFL: limit turnovers and get 7 instead of 3.

If you keep it close early, you think you can win the game. That’s why the Giants, Colts, Eagles and Ravens all came close to knocking off Tom Brady and his stable of all-world wideouts. They were that little blue locomotive that had to tow the much larger train up a huge hill — they thought they could.

The Giants certainly aren’t lacking confidence. But we’ll have to reassess that after the first few possessions.

You don’t have to score first if you’re playing the Pats. But if you don’t, then you damn well better stop them. Or make sure you match them on the next drive.

Otherwise…you’re in for a long day.

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How To Fix College Football

January 8, 2008

In the wake of  the President of Georgia’s call for an 8-team playoff system, I was reminded of my very own project from my Sports PR class last year that — tada! — proposed an 8-team playoff system at the four major BCS Bowl sites. Guy like copy me??

Check it out:

I am writing you to propose a feature on how Commissioner Myles Brand and the National Collegiate Athletic Association came to the decision to implement it’s first-ever college football playoff system designed to crown an undisputed national champion.

After the much-criticized, highly controversial Bowl Championship Series, the NCAA finally decided to employ an eight-team playoff bracket to be played at the four major bowl sites – Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.

This feature would delve into the behind-the-scenes workings of Brand and the members of the NCAA Competitiveness Committee, detailing how they came to this deal after years clamoring for a college football playoff tournament.

Perhaps your broad-based readership would be interested to know what, after years of controversy, made this year different than the rest – what finally pushed the NCAA to comply with popular demand.

I can provide access to Brand, as well as top-tier college football coaches, high-ranking NCAA officials and executives of the four major sponsors whose names appear across everything bowl-related.

Thank you for you consideration.

Sincerely,

Nick Williams

Nick Williams

Sports PR Final Plan

12/12/06

The client for this public relations plan is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, specifically NCAA football. Previously, the NCAA has used the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings to determine the participants in the national title game, the National Championship Game, with the other four BCS bowls determined by the BCS rankings as well (Note: there are also 27 non-BCS bowls). Now the NCAA wants to introduce its long-overdue playoff system, an eight team bracket comprised of the top-8 ranked teams in the Associated Press and Coaches Polls and show the fours sponsors of the four bowl games that their revenues will not just be the same as before, but will actually increase.

  1. 1. The quantifiable goal of this plan is to sell out all seven playoff games and increase the television ratings for the national title game.

2. The central message we’re trying to convey is the excitement and closure this new playoff system provides. We want the general public to know there will no longer be any controversy surrounding the participants in the national championship game and for the first time ever, there will be a road to the title game.

Tactics:

The very first course of action will be to hold a press conference announcing the new playoff system. NCAA Commissioner Myles Brand will hold the conference, introducing the new format and answering questions from the media.

We will also use this opportunity to issue the news release and text of the official announcement, so each member of the media has a physical document detailing the basics of the new playoff system. The news release will explain the eight team bracket decided by polling. The poll will be a compilation of the Associated Press poll and Coaches Poll – basically one poll voted by members of the media and coaches. Members of the media will surely appreciate their poll carrying more weight than usual as well as the elimination of any controversy, like in 2003 when the AP Poll had a different national champion than the BCS Bowl designated.

The eight teams in the playoff bracket will be seeded properly (i.e.: No. 1 vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7, etc.) with games spread over four sites – the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fl., and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La. These were the four bowls which previously hosted the BCS title game, with a four-year rotation implemented to decide which site hosted the title game that year.

But that was before 2006, when the NCAA and BCS decided that there would be a Bowl Series Championship which would be the No. 1 vs. No. 2 game separate from the four major bowls (in the case of 2006, the game will be played in Glendale in addition to the Fiesta Bowl). This is the premise that we will operate on – namely that two or more games can be played at the same site.

The eight teams in the bracket will be allocated to the four different sites, with the host of the 2-7 and 3-6 games to also host the semi-final game in each respective bracket and the host of the 1-8 game to also host the national championship. The host of the 4-5 game obviously receives the best first round game on paper and will not host an additional game – this designation will rotate every year amongst the four bowls.

We will also hold a meeting with our four current sponsors, Tostitos, Citi, Allstate and FedEx, explaining to them that this system will work – and better than the old one. Our point of emphasis will center on the fact that each game in this playoff system will be bigger (more hyped) than any bowl game in history.

Plus, three out of every four years, a site will host two games – that’s two games of ads, two game of a worldwide audience seeing the sponsor’s logo on the television graphic. Each sponsor will get its logo on the name of the game (i.e.: The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl quarterfinal game, the Rose Bowl National Championship game sponsored by Citi, and the FedEx Orange Bowl semi-final game). The usual augment advertising will still apply – the logo on the field, on all the banners, etc. – and will be two-fold in three out of the four years because of the hosting of two games.

Basically, we will drive home the point that the sponsors do not lose, they either host one game as usual or get to be a part of two games. And as for the 27 other non-BCS bowls, we’ll ensure those sponsors and those associated with those games that they can still be held, based on whatever selection process and formula they used before. These bowls have always been held before the Big Four anyway, and they will still have the same pool of teams to draw from (the four bowls always necessitated eight teams).

Once we conduct the press conference and get the word out about the new, exciting less-controversial playoff system, we’ll create our own website to fuel the pre-event hype: http://www.roadtothetitlegame.com/ will be an NCAA run website designed to foster the fervor surrounding this historical movement and provide easily accessible information on the playoff tournament itself and the teams involved.

The site will feature a message from Commissioner Brand to the fans describing his feelings for why the NCAA finally switched to a playoff format and the excitement this brings him and the college sports community. Once the eight teams in the bracket have been finalized, the site will contain information pertaining to all the schools, specifically rosters, player and coach bios, the team’s schedule, record and results from the year and a brief team history. We will create a section for game previews for each game, laden with injury reports, scouting reports and any other information pertaining to that game’s matchup (who’s hot, who’s not, history between the two schools, key matchups, etc.). Basically, we want this site to be the site for fans who want to follow the road to the national title.

The website will also contain a section pertaining to the four host sites and brief history of each as well as section with information on all four sponsors. The website will also allow for more advertising opportunities for other sponsors to advertise on the site itself.

To market this website and the event itself, we will take our ads in all major metro dailies, as well as USA Today, across the country. We’ll run television ads on ESPN and the major networks covering the game. On each TV ad and at the bottom of each print ad, we’ll be sure to broadcast the name of our website, depicting it as the go-to source for all info on college football playoffs.

As for the media targets, we can sell this new playoff system easily. There will be no shortage of coverage for this historical, perhaps overdue, announcement. For feature ideas, we can suggest the obvious and most interesting: how this new deal came to be. The story of Commissioner Brand holding closed-door meetings with everyone from sponsors to coaches and what finally pushed his hand will surly spike the interest of any sports fan, business executive or anyone who follows the news – this is a momentous occasion. In addition, national and local media outlets alike will strive for the story of what got the wheels in motion on this movement and what was done this year to get this deal done that was missing in years past.

In addition, features on each of the eight teams would not only be applicable for their local media outlets, but also for national publications. And once a winner of the tournament is crowned, a magazine feature on the “first undisputed national champion” would surely be a hit. Also, because so much of the bowl games are business- and sponsor-driven, a feature in regards to the business aspect of the tournament, like the effect hosting two games will have on sponsors, would make for a good placement in national business magazines, The Wall Street Journal or any local business section.

In terms of the electronic media, 60 Minutes could conduct a sit down interview with Myles Brand explaining how this decision came to be. Also, an ESPN special on the eight teams in the bracket and their road to the title game would be applicable.

Overall, because of the magnitude of this change, we are practically ensured blanket coverage. But, we want to take this to another level, and that hinges on the website and the promotion of the website. We want the road to the title game to run through the NCAA, and the fans’ road to information to run through our website.