Tuesday, June 25, 2013

NFL Players Giving Back


New Orleans Saints Linebacker Martez Wilson held his 2nd Annual “You Are The Future” Youth Football Camp in Chicago June 21st and 22nd, 2013

Wilson, a 2007 graduate of Chicago’s Simeon High School and University of Illinois graduate, has produced this camp comprised of children ages 7-17 along with his PR company, 4th & Long, for two years in a row, in Calumet Park.
A positive effect!
Having grown up on Chicago’s South Side, Martez Wilson is no stranger to the epidemic of violence that plagues many Chicago neighborhoods (in just the first four months of 2013, Chicago dealt with 92 homicides). As told to us by Pilar Ellis, co-founder of 4th & Long, Martez Wilson has referred to the violence as a disease. “Violence is a contagious disease, and to prevent it from spreading, we need to combat it with an alternative. This is what I hope to achieve with my camp and foundation”, says Wilson. He adds, “the goal of my foundation is to directly engage the youth of Chicago and hopefully one day, America, where they can positively impact the life of another child and ultimately realize their potential to effect change both in their own community and around the country, whether through sports or in what they do as adults.  After all, our children are the future”.
So often, I feel that news of “the bad boys of the NFL” get so much more coverage, be it that it’s more salacious news, or our innate love of gossip, so it is so refreshing to see so many players this involved in molding youth’s futures.

In an incredible show of support, 13 of Wilson’s teammates and NFL friends (most of whom also grew up in Chicagoland) flew in to join the camp, immediately taking to the field upon their arrival to meet the campers and start showing them stretching exercises and leading them in drills that they themselves do.

Friends for life, despite often competing against each other, Martez had 9 of his former University of Illinois teammates at the camp. This group included Mikel Leshoure Sr. (Detroit Lions), Glenn Foster (New Orleans Saints), Josh Brent (Dallas Cowboys), and Terry Hawthorne (Pittsburgh Steelers). Wilson’s New Orleans based trainer, Sonic Boom’s founder Wyatt Harris, headed up coaching the camp. Not only was it impressive that he took the time to fly in, but what I found to be most impressive was the way in which he interacted with the campers. He treated them and spoke to them as if they were any of his usual NFL trainees, not condescendingly in any way, but as if they were already pros themselves.

Learning the drills
“We have assembled another all-star cast to teach our young campers about the great game of football,” Wilson says. “The skills we teach have been used by Pro Bowlers, Super Bowl champions and Hall of Famers.” Among the pros on-site for camp were: Terriun Crump, WR for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Dallas Cowboys’ Josh Brent, Mikel Leshoure Sr, RB for the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars’ DE JD Griggs, Pittsburgh Steelers CB Terry Hawthorne and New Orleans Saints players Corey White, Travaris Cadet and Cameron Jordan.

Not even the rain could dampen the campers’ spirits, as they were eager to meet their idols. One of the parents told me that her sons hadn’t slept for two nights prior to the camp, in sheer excitement. I wondered who benefited more – the pros that had the opportunity to directly give back to their own local community, or the children, who had the opportunity to toss the football and learn from those they are growing up watching on tv? 

A great day!!
“This is a great opportunity for us to share skills with the kids that not only will help them on the field, but also how to make it in life,” Glenn Foster remarked.  Travaris Cadet agreed, adding “this is such a crucial moment in these kids’ lives – high school is where decision making becomes the most crucial, the decisions you make now set you up for the rest of your life.”
Pilar Ellis and Wilson made a point to only invite players that not only had the humility and urge to give back to the campers, but also ensured the pros were all college graduates. “It was important that we show the campers “Look – this is where these guys came from too. Now see what they were able to overcome and achieve. You can always achieve your dreams,” shared Ellis.

I was awe-struck and proud to meet Buffalo Bills’ DT Corbin Bryant, who made it a point to come early to the camp and get right onto the field with the players, even with the incredible day he had ahead of him – late in the afternoon Bryant received his Master’s Degree from the prestigious Northwestern University, which I’m sure taught the campers even more about life, the importance of education and striving to reach goals than anything he could teach them on the field.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Starbucks Has No Soul

I’m not anti-Starbucks. I’m not. I’m even sitting at one as I write this. In fact, the idea for this blog came to me as I was being handed my usual: a venti non-fat, no whip Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappucino. The barista handed me my drink along with a straw in a paper wrapping which read “Not recommended for use in hot beverages.” Really? Ironic? Obvious? Soul-less. Why would I put a plastic straw into a close to boiling hot coffee beverage?

We, as writers, marketers, social media-ers spend so much time and place so much emphasis on developing a brand voice, a brand personality – what’s Starbucks? When I hear a brand’s name, I immediately (more times than not) get a picture in my head beyond that of their logo. Sometimes I even get an immediate feeling about said company.

Seattle’s Best? I picture hot scruffy guys in plaid flannel shirts. The Gap? I picture preppy colorful well-dressed men and women, the type that are perfectly put together at all times. Whole Foods? I picture a company of people that feel good about where they work and buy into the corporate culture that has been established. Chipotle? The first thought I get is how well they do social media. Naturally, my second thought is always how much I’d like a burrito with extra sour cream and their chips with a hint of citrus and the perfect amount (read: a LOT) of salt. Starbucks? Blank. I get nothing.

I run the social media for clients and spend much of the past five years developing and running the social media for one CPG brand. It was an important learning curve for me in realizing how much consumers need not only to be able to buy a great product, but how much they also need to have great people behind that product. It was important for me that our over 20,000 social media followers knew ME, the faceless person at the keyboard and many of their events, behind the brand. It got to the point where if I was oddly not responding at all hours of the day and night to tweets and Facebook questions, people would ask me by name, if I was okay…quick! Name Starbucks Chief Digital Officer! Can you? I didn’t think so. While Starbucks has almost 4,000,000 Twitter followers, he himself has less than 5000. He only follows just over 800. Please correct me if you feel I’m wrong, but to me, there’s a disconnect there.

For the sake of transparency and full disclosure, I WILL admit – I have never been a huge fan of Starbucks. While I’ve recently tweeted to Starbucks that they’ve “won me back” with their recently launched Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappucino, I often find their coffee bitter. I’ll be the first in line when Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf FINALLY opens in the Midwest.

And no, as I’d suspected, @starbucks did not respond to my tweet, nor did they take the ½ second it would have taken to hit RT.