By Colby Cosh - Monday, January 7, 2013 - 0 Comments
The conventional wisdom on the NHL lockout, usually delivered with a sneer, is that Canadian hockey fans will belly-crawl back to the league uncritically now that all the bickering and all the tantrums have ended. Like all conventional wisdom, it is conventional because it is quite a safe bet. I know I’ll crawl with everyone else: I’m capable of intellectually segregating my fondness for the game of hockey from my loathing of the existing institutions of hockey. (It’s not all that difficult! Nor is it shameful!) What’s different about this lockout is that in the meantime I took the bait of regular-season NBA basketball with enthusiasm for the first time ever. Continue…
By Michael Friscolanti - Monday, December 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
From Sarah Palin’s presidential bid to dire visions of the apocalypse–everything that didn’t turn out in 2011
After losing ground ever so slowly in the previous three elections, the federal Liberals were slaughtered this time around, relegated to just 34 seats. The once-unbeatable party of Wilfrid Laurier, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien is on the brink of political irrelevance, and some long-time Liberals are not convinced that their fortunes can recover. As one senior official said: “It’s do something or die.”
Despite album sales topping 50 million, Nickelback could be the most despised band in the history of musical instruments. Critics have long panned the Canadian rockers as dull, predictable and formulaic, but the venom reached a new level this year when the group was chosen to perform the halftime show at the annual Thanksgiving football game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The announcement triggered such rage that 52,000 people signed a petition, demanding a replacement.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
The company is challenging Nike on its own turf
Kevin Plank, the founder and CEO of sportswear apparel company Under Armour, has been a long-time supporter of the University of Maryland’s football team, the Terrapins, where he was once a special teams captain. But the relationship entered a new phase last week when the Terps’ new, Under Armour-made uniforms were unveiled for the upcoming season—all 32 variations of them.
The over-the-top, mix-and-match approach—there are four different colours of Terps jerseys, four different colours of pants, and two different colours of helmets—is all about marketing buzz and drew immediate comparisons to Nike’s efforts to use football players at the University of Oregon (Nike founder and chair Phil Knight is an alumni) as human billboards. “The sheer number of articles that have appeared last week about the Under Armour jerseys shows that it’s already been a successful marketing campaign,” says Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsONESource, which tracks sportswear sales in the United States.
It’s not the first time that Plank has challenged industry giant Nike on its own turf. On the eve of Under Armour’s entry into the Nike-dominated $2.5-billion U.S. basketball shoe market last year, Plank boasted that it was only a matter of time before he owned the category. “I’m 38,” he told Bloomberg news. “I’ve got a long time [to get there].” As for Nike, he said, “those guys are old.”
By Jason Kirby - Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 3:50 PM - 2 Comments
Some wealthy Americans are starting to take interest in the Beautiful Game
Football, footy, soccer—whatever you call it, most Americans still don’t get it. But that hasn’t stopped a few Americans, very wealthy ones, from taking a serious interest in the sport overseas. On April 11, U.S. billionaire Stan Kroenke bought Arsenal, the English soccer team, for US$1.2 billion in cash. Kroenke, who made his fortune in real estate development and then became considerably richer when he married Ann Walton of the Wal-Mart Walton clan, already sat on the team’s board of directors. Now the famed club is part of his growing sports empire, which includes the Denver Nuggets of the NBA and the NHL Colorado Avalanche. The deal came just days after basketball star LeBron James took a minority stake in the soccer club Liverpool. Last year, Fenway Sports Group, a company controlled by Florida hedge-fund manager John Henry and Hollywood producer Tom Werner, paid US$488 million to buy the club.
By Michelle Magnan - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 2:48 PM - 0 Comments
Backed by rappers and now even Wall Street, headphones are a hit
In case you haven’t heard, headphones are hot right now. Skullcandy, the U.S. headphone maker with a posse of musician, athlete and DJ endorsers, has kick-started the process to go public. Rapper 50 Cent recently used Twitter to pump penny stocks for H&H Imports, a company in which he’s not only invested, but has partnered with to create his own line of headphones, called Sleek by 50 Cent. Can’t wait till 50′s headphones hit store shelves? Then consider throwing on a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones from Monster Cable, a company that’s created headphones bearing the names of rapper Dr. Dre, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and NBA star LeBron James. Big names, for sure. Big business? Time will tell.
Skullcandy’s prospectus, filed on Jan. 28, argues that the growing demand for portable media and music devices, like smartphones and Apple’s iPod, is driving a massive demand for accessories such as headphones. The document points to IDC Research, which estimates that, from 2010 through 2014, the number of smartphones available worldwide will grow at an annual rate of 24 per cent. Not everyone sees the connection being quite as clear. Or as guaranteed. “The market for consumer electronics is massive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the market for rapper-branded headphones is hot,” says Jack Plunkett, CEO of Houston-based Plunkett Research, Ltd. and author of the new book The Next Boom. “The question is: how long will revenues hold up until demand from fans has been filled?”
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Skeletons in Princess Victoria’s closet, Dick Cheney meets his match, and LeBron James goes home
Helena Bonham Carter, fashion plate
Her corsets, crinoline and frizzy hair have made her a constant on “worst dressed” lists over the years, so when the British actor, who counts Marie Antoinette as her style icon and claims a “f–k it attitude” to red-carpet dressing, heard she’d made Vanity Fair’s “best dressed” list, even she burst into laughter.
When nature’s in your path . . .
Vancouver’s organic breakfast moguls, Ratana and Arran Stephens, may have cast their professional lot with the environment—their cereal company, Nature’s Path, aspires to “advance the cause of people and planet along the path of sustainability.” But this week they came under fire for razing 25 trees from their lawn in tony Point Grey: a violation of the city’s famously strict tree-protection bylaw, and a major no-no in Lotusland. Their sins made headline news in Vancouver, which bars homeowners from removing trees from their property, prompting the pair to apologize profusely and repeatedly, even writing a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson insisting that they be heavily fined.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, November 30, 2009 at 4:57 AM - 17 Comments
Chris Ballard’s Sports Illustrated column suggesting that LeBron James should sign for the NBA minimum in 2010, wherever he signs, amazed me for two reasons.
One is that I found myself reading, in the pages of SI, a totally new, non-ridiculous idea I had never considered before. SI remains a great magazine: full of great photography, great profiles of interesting athletes, great tear-jerking stories, and sometimes even great moral force. It’s never been so strong on the ideas. That’s not really what it’s for (though maybe it should be), and we’ve got the internet for that.
But, and this is reason two, “LeBron for a buck” seems like such a terrific idea that I started to go a little crazy for a couple of minutes after reading Ballard’s piece. “This argument is so convincing,” I thought to myself, “that LeBron’s actually going to do this. Not ‘should do it’; ‘will do it’. He has to. The value of being the guy who took the bare minimum to win some championships, who chose a franchise totally without regard to salary and gave up his own money to get the best teammates, is too big to pass up. It puts Jordan and everybody else, everybody in any sport, in the shadows instantly—even if it doesn’t work.” The ploy isn’t even vulnerable to the “Why should a rich guy be expected to give money back to some even richer guy?” line of attack, if the team agrees, in an enforceable way, to spend close to the salary cap on top players.
But in short order I came to my senses, as you probably already have. Here’s the problem with Ballard’s idea.
“I think it’s very smart,” says one Western Conference general manager. “LeBron’s personal brand is worth way, way more than any salary he could draw from a team. It’s myopic to think otherwise.”
This unnamed GM (I’m guessing his name rhymes with Daryl Morey) is obviously right. Considered as a revenue stream, LeBron’s future salary from playing basketball is small in comparison with the value he can potentially earn as an endorser, speaker, businessman, totem… the off-court value of the LeBron brand. And championships inflate that brand value. Sure, fans in 29 cities might look slightly askance at a move that could injure the competitive balance of the league for a while, but ultimately, championships are the sources of the best stories, and the stories are what makes athletes attractive. Stacked superteams aren’t bad for sports leagues, they’re good. (If they weren’t, the Premiership would have gone under ages ago.) When those teams win, we talk about “Are they the best ever?”; when they lose, you’ve got David and Goliath. Everybody loves to hate the Yankees.
The problem is that brand value is more fragile than the value of a playing contract. The personal-branding stream may be bigger, unless something bad happens to harm the personal brand—like, say, your supermodel wife chasing you down the street at 2 a.m. trying to kill you with the tools of your trade.
Think about Tiger Woods: he might not have done anything worse than let his attention wander to his iPod when he should have been watching the road, but the hard financial cost of what happened to him on Friday has to be in the high eight figures, no? How does he shape up as an automobile endorser for the immediate future? You think the ads where he’s giving away Buicks still work?—is GM the kind of firm that can afford to shrug off a little ridicule right now, play around with its image? Every firm that employs Tiger as an icon needs to recalibrate now. He has always been portrayed as sort of half-human, half-automaton, a mischievous magician you can cheer for in spite of his gifts from God. He has appealed equally to both sexes; I’m pretty sure that won’t be true anymore.
That’s just a subtle, perhaps even overstated example of how quickly a brand can be damaged by the actions of others, of course. Forget Tiger; think Kobe. Brand value is ephemeral, and not entirely within the control of the athlete. Good character and smart decisions can help maximize it, but they can’t guarantee it. Whereas an NBA salary—that’s money no crazed spouse or tabloid journalist can take away from you. It’s money they have to pay you even if your leg falls off (as Greg Oden’s probably about six months away from proving empirically). It’s the low-risk segment of the portfolio. And as an athlete, you’re made constantly, nightmarishly aware that any contract might be your last. LeBron’s not signing for (the equivalent of) a buck. But it would still be pretty cool if he did.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 1:54 PM - 62 Comments
Amid the hysteria, demagoguery and desperation of the last two weeks, there were at least a few attempts to explore the matters of Stephen Harper’s mind and motivation (see here, here and here). A quick review of the testimony.
“He did not do that for ideological reasons. He did it because he wanted to destroy the Liberal party. That’s what it was all about … He pushed away his ideology because he thought he could win … This isn’t the first time he has gone down a road like this … I don’t think he’s a man who possesses a high level of emotional intelligence. He just doesn’t get it … [Like] someone with a drinking problem who falls off the wagon with damaging consequences … When things don’t go Stephen’s way, he has a tendency to go into a really dark place. When things don’t go his way, his reaction is to quit … He is unable to live the Churchillian principles of being magnanimous in victory and defiant in defeat. He’s mixed them up … He got to where he has by being highly partisan and highly disciplined, but to move from a partisan to a statesman, you need a capacity for magnanimity … He’s not a politician. He does not adapt to a popular way of speaking … He is incredibly brilliant but he’s pathologically partisan. He just has this partisan gene that just drives him to poke political foes in the eye at every opportunity … He likes to take everybody to the brink and push the envelope all the time. It’s inherent in his nature … You ask anyone, any objective analyst from any party, they’ll all give you the same answer, it’s all about Harper. He just wants to crush his opponents and to achieve that objective, he triggered this uncalled for crisis.”
In other words, if Stephen Harper had been blessed of above-average athletic ability, he might have had a career in professional sports. Talent in pro sports is obviously important, but it’s a relative truth that ultimate success is largely dependent on a willingness to compete, a consuming desire to surpass your rivals. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Kobe Bryant, as reported by ESPN.
“I knew I could make a push and…
Kobe Bryant, as reported by ESPN.
“I knew I could make a push and once I made that push, it felt like it energized us a little bit, get the game back under control, get it under 10 where we knew we could be in striking distance. I just tried to read the flow of the game and tried to manage the game. I can get off at any time. In the second half I did that.”
Erm. Ok. Continue…