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Super Bowl: A Game of HORSE and the Pre-Game Debate

Twenty years ago, as a young PR buck, I was tasked with creating a strategy to help McDonald’s leverage its Super Bowl XXVII “Nothing But Net” spot.  I knew we had PR gold in our hands when the storyboards included Michael Jordan and Larry Bird in a game of HORSE. Slam dunk!

What wasn’t a slam dunk at the time was my idea: invite select media on-set (Entertainment Tonight, ESPN, a few others) to capture interviews with Jordan, Bird, director Joe Pytka and behind-the-scenes footage for segments that would air BEFORE the game to build anticipation and consumer engagement.

The heated debates at the Golden Arches over a concept that seemed heretical at the time were unforgettable. But, we hit pay dirt that year with phenomenal pre-game PR and a USA Today Ad Meter victory. It arguably kick-started what today is considered the first page of the Super Bowl Commercial PR Playbook.  In fact, now NOT finding ways to gain exposure for a brand’s Super Bowl spot before the game is considered heretical.

Stuart Elliott did a deep dive on the subject in The New York Times this week that’s worth reading…

Repenting For Your Lins

February saw the rise of Jeremy Lin and the ‘Linsanity’ phenomenon that took over the world for two weeks. Everyone was looking for a way to connect to Lin.  Amongst all of the stories to come from the sensation, ESPN was condemned for running the headline “Chink in the Armor” on their site, as well as saying it on-air. The headline was in reaction to the Knicks first loss since Lin had became an overnight sensation for the team.

As a result, ESPN suspended anchor Max Bretos and fired Anthony Federico, who was responsible for posting the headline. ESPN is known for swiftly severing all ties with any controversial internal actions, avoiding any potential PR backlash in the process. Bretos and Federico both offered apologies via their own channels, but their careers ultimately have been changed.

Lin brushed off the comments, saying “have to learn to forgive. And I don’t even think that was intentional, or hopefully not.”

Fast forward to March 27. Jeremy’s family had reached out to Federico, and after coordinating with Jeremy’s travel schedule, Jeremy and Federico had lunch together.

Said Federico: “The fact that he took the time to meet with me in his insanely busy schedule . . . He’s just a wonderful, humble person. He didn’t have to do that, especially after everything had kind of died down for the most part.”

Jeremy Lin stands as more than just a basketball player. He is an international icon. By following up and embracing Federico for his mistake, he further enhanced his positive image. Lin gave him a chance to right his wrong face-to-face, an opportunity many do not get in this digital world.

Sure, it reads like a feel-good PR story.  Yet it stays consistent with Lin’s genuine humility throughout the Linsanity craze. While everyone is going “Linsane,” Jeremy stayed grounded. His PR value is still through the roof, even if his stock on the court has cooled off.

If you were Jeremy Lin’s PR team, would you have encouraged a meet with Federico? In our mind, this is a for sure PR win for Lin and his team. Stay humble and keep Linchanting the crowd!

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