Super Bowl Metrics

6 02 2012

A social TV analytics company called Bluefin Labs provided a range of data on the Super Bowl. (Their Twitter feed is here.) Let’s get into it.

Game and halftime

Social media comments made during the Super Bowl rose from 1.8 million in 2011 to (wait for it) 12.2 million on Sunday. That’s a  578 percent increase. Last night’s Super Bowl also set the record for social media comments made in any kind of TV event. The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards was the previous record holder with 3.1 million. The fact that this year’s Super Bowl had 12.2 million should tell you why TV advertising rates are so expensive. On no other stage will a company be able to have so many eyes and ears on its product.

Of the game’s 12.2 million comments, 862,000 of them came during halftime. That nearly matches the number recorded for the 2011 Academy Awards, which inspired 966,000 comments. The halftime show on its own would rank fourth all-time for entertainment-related social TV comments – behind the ’11 MTV Video Music Awards, the ’11 American Music Awards and the ’11 Oscars.

Commercials

Bluefin Labs measures commercial comments from when they air live to the 45 minutes following it. The commercial altogether received 985,000 comments, which is ahead of the ’11 Oscars. Here the top five commercials for parents, students and sports fanatics:

Parents – CareerBuilder (“Business Trip”); Teleflora (“Adriana Lima”); Best Buy (“Phone Innovators”); Honda CR-V (“Matthew’s Day Off”); Budweiser (“Prohibition”)

Students – ‘Hunger Games’ trailer; Planet Fitness (“I Lift Things Up”); Sketchers (“GO RUN Mr. Quiggly!”); Doritos (“Sling Baby”); M&M Wars (“Miss Brown”)

Sports Fantatics – Chrysler (“It’s Halftime in America” featuring Clint Eastwood); Bud Light (“Rescue Dog”); Doritos (“Man’s Best Friend”); ‘Act of Valor’ trailer; Chevy (“Happy Grad”)

Top 10 commercials with social media comments – Samsung (“Next Big Thing”, 26K); Bud Light (“Rescue Dog”, 29K); Sketchers (“GO RUN Mr. Quiggly”, 35K); Doritos (“Sling Baby”, 41K); Chevy Silverado (“2012”, 41K); Pepsi (“King’s Court”, 45K); Doritos (“Man’s Best Friend”, 74K); NBC The Voice (“Vocal Kombat”, 90K); Chrysler (“It’s Halftime in America”, 96K); H&M (“David Beckham Bodywear”, 109K)

My three favorite were the Chrysler Halftime in America spot, the NFL evolution piece and then the Volkswagon one with the golden retriever who gets in shape. Laughs are always worth points, but ultimately humorous commercials don’t typically have much takeaway value. (Save for Bud’s “Rescue Dog” commercial, which promoted a worthy cause.)

Ultimately, I want commercials to mean something. I want value. That’s why I was so intrigued by the Halftime and Evolution spots. The Halftime was my favorite because it hit the deepest emotional chord it realistically could during a sports event. Most of us in this country have known some sort of suffering since 2008. Most of us have had to dig for some sort of inspiration or perseverance to progress our lives – professionally, personally and in other ways.

Chrysler has embraced the “serious” side of commercials with its Eminem-laced spot in last year’s game, and now this year with Eastwood. Even though he’s 81. There’s something strangely relatable between Eastwood and people of my generation who are in their mid- to late 20s. We think of Eastwood as being a badass because of Dirty Harry. More than that, Eastwood seems “real”. He’s authentic, doesn’t bullshit and we respect that. That’s why his words brought so much value, even if they were written by other folks.

The NFL Evolution commercial piqued my interest obviously because I’m a sports lover at heart. The evolution of sports is a particular interest, from how equipment changes to the types of player who mark specific eras in a league’s history. I believe that commercial captured it appropriately.

I’ll show three very good visuals that Bluefin Labs provided along YouTube videos of my three favorite commercials.

     






Definition of a Dynasty

23 01 2012

I had a short Twitter debate today with my friend Paul Bourdett on the timeline of the New England Patriots’ dynasty. I tweeted a remark that the Pats’ dynasty is ongoing with their recent admission into Super Bowl XLVI (46). He retorted that the franchise was no longer in dynasty mode since it hasn’t won the big game since 2004 (representing the 2003 season). He thought it ended with their Super Bowl loss to the Giants a few years ago. He made me consider what standards I have for calling an organization a dynasty.

Before I get into that, I want to point out that terming a franchise a dynasty can be made on a case-by-case basis. There’s no clean definition for it.

My first general rule is that the same core group of players and/or coaches must win multiple league championships, e.g. Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series. And the time frame in which that franchise was elite in its sport should have lasted for at least five seasons. By saying ‘elite’, that doesn’t mean a team has to appear in a semi-final or final series or game every year. There are times when a team has a great regular season and flames out early in the playoffs. Yet if that campaign is sandwiched between others in which it advances far in the playoffs – or wins the damn thing – then it’s fine.

A good example is the ’90s Dallas Cowboys. They get automatically called a dynasty because they won three Super Bowls in four years – ’92, ’93, ’95. They were absolutely a dynasty, but I think people forget that their run atop the NFL was relatively short. In that four-year window in which they won three Super Bowls, they won 12 regular season games three times and 13 once. In ’94, they lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. (It was technically in ’95 but it was for the ’94 season.)

Yet the ‘Boys won 11 games on the front-end of their Super Bowl years and 10 games on the back-end. In totality, they had six straight 10-game win seasons, with four of them having the ‘Boys playing at a Super Bowl level. I suppose it’s arguable whether they were truly elite for five straight years, but they come close enough.

I consider the Patriots to still be a dynasty because, first and foremost, Tom Brady has been the quarterback and Bill Belichick has been the head coach. They’ve been around the whole time. I can’t argue the Super Bowl title thing, since they won one in ’01 to kickstart their dynasty, two more in ’03 and ’04 and haven’t brought home the Lombardi Trophy since then. They obviously lost in ’07 (technically ’08; these NFL seasons are so confusing) and they’re back in the ’11 season. Look at their overall timeline, though.

Since the 2001 season, they’ve won 11, 9, 14, 14, 10, 12, 16, 11, 10, 14 and 13 regular season games. That’s a run of almost 10 consecutive seasons with double-digit wins. They’ve made the playoffs all but two years – the nine-win campaign in ’02 and the weird 11-victory season in ’08 when Brady was hurt and Matt Cassell QB’d the team. The Pats have been remarkably consistent in this NFL era of increased free agent movement. This is their fifth Super Bowl appearance during that time. Given how little difference there is in team quality between the Super Bowl winner and loser, I think Super Bowl losses shouldn’t count too much against a team.

That’s why I consider the ’90s Atlanta Braves to be a dynasty. They don’t pass my requirement of multiple titles – they won a single World Series during their 15-year reign atop the National League East from 1991-2005 – but they were still so damn dominant. They nearly strung together 15 consecutive NL East titles. The only division title they didn’t capture during that ’91-05 period was in the strike-shortened summer of ’94, when they finished second, even though they may have won the NL East had the season not halted in August.

During their reign of terror on the NL, the Braves lost four World Series – ’91, ’92, ’96, ’99. This got people to call them the Buffalo Bills of MLB, although they were stronger over a much longer period of time than the western New York club. Extended dominance must count for something, especially when factoring in the need to replace productive players due to injuries, retirement or reduced, you know, productivity.

Anyway, I think the Patriots are still in the midst of their dynasty, which stands a decade long. I’m interested to hear (or read) from my readers about this subject. Do you think the Patriots are still a dynasty? What is your criteria for determining what constitutes a dynasty? Fire away on here or get at me on Twitter (@KyleStack) or Google+ (+KyleStack).





Wired.com: NFL Teams Embrace iPads

27 12 2011

When I decided to write a story about the effect iPads are having on the NFL, I knew at least four or five articles about the topic would come out in other publications before mine. I was spot-on.

My research on the subject began in early September after I read an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ use for the tablets. I knew the way I would start it was by contacting each team in the NFL. It was necessary to run team-by-team to see who was putting their playbooks on iPads, who was using them to watched edited video and to see who was and wasn’t using iPads, or other tablets, in the first place. It’s a responsible thing to do when writing a national story, as I intended this to be for Wired.com.

Given that I didn’t have a particular locale to cover, it was better for the story that I cover all my bases. So, I contacted each team. As you might suspect, that is a lengthy process. Some teams respond immediately; others doesn’t. For those who do, it then takes awhile to coordinate interviews with those willing to talk and it takes time to convince other teams to discuss things. But this was just one part of what I knew had to be a well-rounded story.

By October, I noticed the New York Times had a story of their own. In it, they detailed the Bucs and the Baltimore Ravens creating digital playbooks via iPads. The story also incorporated information from the NFL on how the league monitors security issues. Contacting the NFL was a given, but this story made it that much more of a priority that I included it in my story.

I recognized that my goal for the story had to encapsulate as many aspects of the NFL’s relationship to tablets as I could find. That meant embracing teams which use them for more than just playbooks, as the two stories I had seen represented only that part of it. Which led me to contact the software companies which make applications and programs that make it possible for teams to view playbook information, scouting reports, video edits and other stuff on their tablets. (I discovered early on that iPads were the only tablets relevant to this story.)

So, I called and emailed XOS Digital and DV Sport, two software companies I already knew of. Through speaking with people there and with more teams which were getting back to me, I became aware of Hudl and Coach’s Office. Then I found out about Ironworks Sports through an email the founder of that company sent my editor.

Player quotes weren’t a valued asset for this story. They’re in the newspaper stories I mentioned above as well as subsequent stories in the Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times, which each outlined only the Ravens’ incorporation of their playbook into iPads. (A CNN.com story shined a light on how iPads were revolutionizing several sports, including basketball.) While those newspapers likely included player’s quotes on iPads because fans are intrigued by what they have to say, I avoided players for their lack of specificity. I did make an exception when the Bills told me they would rather offer a player to speak with than someone in their front office; I relented.

By and large, I wanted this story conveyed by the several teams I spoke with and then the software companies to explain what they’re focused on developing. The NFL interview would play a supporting role in it. That’s how this story came together.

Click on the link below to read the story:

For NFL Teams, iPad Is Valuable Playbook





Raiders or L.A.

11 10 2011

Hopefully, the Raiders move to Los Angeles and solve my dilemma. Ever since 2008, when I officially dropped the 49ers as my favorite NFL team, I’ve been in this weird fan free agency in which I’ve sought a new favorite club. My dilemma exists primarily because my hometown, L.A., doesn’t have a team.

I’m a supporter of people rooting for teams from their hometown. The Dodgers and Lakers are my teams and have been since I was 5 or 6, whenever I started paying attention to sports. The 49ers became my team around that time mostly because I was a frontrunner. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Super Bowls. I was all in. Plus, the L.A. teams didn’t do anything for me.

The Rams played in Orange County. For those not in the know, Orange County is NOT in Los Angeles. The Raiders were a natural fit since they played at the Coliseum in downtown L.A. But my Dad didn’t like them and the association with the Raiders wasn’t great. Yes, they had Bo Jackson in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Yet they played in the rundown Coliseum. The neighborhood surrounding that stadium when I was growing up in L.A. wasn’t good; it’s different today.

Of course, I regret not rooting for the Raiders. Now that they’re back in the Bay Area, I wonder if I could root for them. It would violate essentially every reason I had for dropping the 49ers. For one, they were a Bay Area, specifically, San Francisco team. Given that I’m a Dodgers fan, San Fran is the last city for which I want to cheer for a team. Second, the 49ers aren’t in L.A., which goes against my belief that people should support hometown teams.

I’m considering waiting out the situation to see what develops in Los Angeles. Two viable stadium projects are set up for potential NFL landing spots. The Chargers, Jaguars, Bills, Vikings and even the Rams and Raiders are considered teams which might make a move to L.A. How long a wait there is before a team makes a move is undetermined. I hope it happens sooner than later because I’m tired of being without an NFL team. If I get impatient, I may just bite the bullet and do what I really want: to become a Raiders fan.

 

 

 

 





Football’s Best Tailgaters

22 09 2011

ESPN Magazine told me to find the country’s best tailgates for its GO section. That was an assignment handed to me two Tuesdays ago, due the following Monday and in the issue which drops this week. The idea was to find the best NFL tailgating spots; I expanded it to college football to capture a few of the traditions held on campuses a handful of Saturdays each Fall.

I eventually amended the story’s angle by targeting a specific tailgater for a select number of teams, rather than try to describe the tailgating culture, or atmosphere, of an entire NFL or college team. Given the limited space in which we have to write stories for GO, I thought it would be easier to detail specifics of a tailgater’s typical experience instead of an entire team’s tailgate scene.

The number of capsules I would have to write – one capsule for each team – wasn’t clear to me. The word count expanded during the week as I found more and more information. I had basically three days to do this, Wednesday – Friday. So, I had to hit it fast, which I did by emailing each NFL team’s PR department and 10-15 college team PR or SID departments. I estimated that I would have to do 6-8 capsules by the time the word count was somewhat finalized. (That’s usually a fluid process with these types of stories. And whatever I turn in will eventually get cut down as editors design their pages.)

Three things were imperative to the story as I began receiving information from teams: 1) I had to try to split teams between the NFL and college, 2) all, or at least most, regions of the country should be represented and 3) I would go after the tailgaters of teams that got back to me first. I was relying mostly on teams to tell me who their fanatic tailgaters were, and I didn’t have time to wait around for teams to get back. But it was tough.

For instance, I really wanted the Packers in there, but they had a Thursday night home game to start the NFL season. There was virtually no chance their PR department would have time to help me. So, I tried the University of Wisconsin, which is in this story. I figured the Seattle area would have something special to offer, and the University of Washington happened to have a very cool tailgating tradition. They’re in there. I wasn’t sure I needed another West Coast team, but the San Diego Chargers had die-hard tailgaters, two of whom I spoke with. One of them is in the story.

I didn’t feel as though the Rocky Mountain region was critical for inclusion, but the University of Colorado had an angle that doesn’t represent a team’s typical tailgate. I thought it might be refreshing to have their family-style atmosphere in a story which would inevitably have the drinking details that is associated with the story’s topic.

Now, the Midwest and the South definitely needed a couple of representatives. The KC Chiefs are a natural fit, but I didn’t hear from their people right away. I did hear back from the Houston Texans, who were exceedingly informational. We all know Texas barbeque is amazing, and the Texans had a boatload of willing “super tailgaters” who wanted to talk to me. I chose one of them for the story. Still, I needed another. I tried a group of New Orleans Saints tailgaters, but they never got back to me. The folks at LSU didn’t get back to me. But I did get in touch with the Ole Miss athletics department, who gave me a few leads. I ended up talking with one of their tailgaters, who has extended me an open invitation to join him for a tailgate whenever I find myself in Oxford. I hope to one day take him up on it.

Washington, the Chargers, Colorado, Wisconsin, the Texans and Ole Miss ended up being the six that made it into the story. I tried a few other teams, particularly the Cincy Bengals, but the editorial process sometimes weeds out information. It’s not ideal, but it’s a reality. I tried to find the most details I could in the amount of space I was given. Hopefully, this gives you a somewhat valuable peek into the football tailgates which exist throughout this country.

Click on the link below to read the story:

Football Tailgates

(I’ll tweet about additional story details Friday, Sept. 23 by using the #tailgate hashtag.)





NFL players have brains

26 02 2011

You know that theory that football players are empty-headed jocks who have an IQ no higher than a Golden Retriever? Well, it’s not true. Chances are, an NFL player is smarter than you or I — definitely me. As with many other sports, football is perceived as a simple game. Minimize your turnovers, run the ball, create scoring opportunities on defense, prevent the big play. It all seems so simple, so refreshingly lacking complexity. It’s a bunch of b.s., as I found out in a story I wrote for AOL Fanhouse about how NFL players memorize their playbooks.

Football is a very complicated sport, and the level to which coaches and players strategize at the highest level is mind-boggling. I’ve always been impressed at the number of plays coaches can think of, much less the nuances each one contains. That’s to say nothing of the vocabulary of each play. Some NFL coaches and players will say that most teams have similar vocabularies to their playbooks, but that doesn’t mean the verbage is easy to absorb. It’s highly difficult, which is one reason why the average career of an NFL player lasts four seasons. Physical maladies obviously play a role in that, but the mental execution, or lack thereof, is what can doom a player’s career. Teams might take a chance on an injury-prone player who shows potential; not many have the time to waste on a guy who can’t absorb the playbook and execute what’s within it.

The subject of how NFL players memorize their playbooks has always interested me. The same goes with NBA players and their playbooks, or MLB players and the coaching signs they memorize. Hell, even the way some MLB players memorize all those 10-step high-fives with teammates throws me for a loop. How does Jose Reyes pull it off with 24 teammates?

In my research for this story, I was surprised to find that so little had been written about NFL playbook memorization. It seems as though every other aspect of the NFL has been endlessly debated. I found this bothersome.

NFL fans are smart, curious folks. They deserve intelligent subject matters that discuss the intricacies of the game. I pitched the idea for this story to Fanhouse, and they told me to go ahead and do what I do. So, I began e-mailing NFL team PR staffs to ask if any players would be willing to talk about their preferred methods for playbook memorization.

I didn’t have particular players in my mind — I just wanted variety. I wanted to make sure I represented each position, since an offensive lineman studies a different playbook than a cornerback. Yet even an offensive lineman’s playbook responsibilities differ from that of a wide receiver. Receivers don’t really need to know interior blocking responsibilities, while linemen aren’t always aware of every route pattern. And I wanted to make sure I talked to players young, old and in between. A heady vet like Matt Birk might see things differently than a young buck like Josh Johnson.

The teams I spoke with for this story, mostly off-the-record stuff, told me of the software companies they work with who make digital playbooks possible. This is a new territory, and I’ll throw a hint that I have an upcoming story on a different sport which also takes this into account. Digital playbooks are coming on strong in all sports, although the NFL and college football programs have been using them in some facet for nearly 20 years.

Anyway, I’ve written enough. Here’s the NFL playbook piece.

Click on the link below to read the story:

Method Men_ How NFL Players Memorize Dizzying Playbooks