Rob Gronkowski Wants To Disrupt The Way Brands Work With Athletes

Brands tapping athletes to be the face of their businesses has forever been a cornerstone of company marketing initiatives. In the early 20th century, baseball players helped sell a range of products from alcohol to tobacco, gum, gunpowder, soda and razors.

The role of the modern-day marketer-and-athlete relationship is not limited to sneakers and sports drinks anymore.

Big-box brands with even bigger budgets pay bounties to use athletes to connect with consumers—that is no secret. Players are tapped to be brand voices and faces from anything and everything you can imagine. However, as quarterback Cam Newton recently proved with his sexist comments, one slip and you immediately fall from good grace.

The competitive nature that carries athletes to conquests on the field assists to bring riches from brand courtships off of it. Athletes naturally want to invest the countless millions in spoils they’ve collected and wear the beret of a businessman. Some do so successfully, others not.

One of the most marketable athletes on the planet today is New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, a stellar player who has struck deals with the likes of Nike, Monster, Tide, Dunkin’ Donuts, DraftKings, SMS Audio and BodyArmor—just to name a few—throughout his career.

The two-time Super Bowl champion is now expanding his off-field exploits to Verizon’s digital network go90 as producer for Most Valuable Partner (MVP), a show that helps start-ups connect with athletes to bring celebrity and influencer endorsements and businesses together through an entertainment medium.

In an interview with AListDaily, Gronkowski says the series, which debuts its 18-episode second season Monday on go90, sits right at the center of the evolving relationship between brands and athletes.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have had quite a few successes in the endorsement world,” Gronkowksi told AListDaily. “I’ve always tried to form partnerships where fans will love the finished ads, but now I wanted to give them a behind-the-scenes look into how I find these partners, and also provide a forum for my fellow MVPs to find that next big deal of their own.”

MVP gives athletes like Melvin Gordon, Chuck Liddell, Andre Ward, Calais Campbell, Terrell Owens, Jay Ajayi, Julius Randle, P.K. Subban and Patrick Peterson a chance to meet start-ups Shark Tank-style and find deals they typically wouldn’t be able to elsewhere, all while showing off their business skills to viewers and letting them see the inner workings of how these deals get made. Athletes have the option of pursuing investment, brand ambassador-ship or simply passing.

The show speaks to the explosion in consumer interest in sports, marketing and the world of building start-ups, says Russ Axelrod, creator and executive producer of MVP and co-founder of production company Pitchmen.

“Consumers are becoming savvier than ever when it comes to the business world,” Axelrod told AListDaily. “Consumers have also taken a real interest in what athletes do off of the field, and we’re giving them an inside look at some of the most visible parts of our athletes’ business dealings. If a show like Shark Tank can take off when 99.9 percent of viewers don’t know the panel, imagine what we can do with a panel instantly recognizable by millions.”

Gronkowksi, known more in sports and pop culture for his All-Pro gridiron acumen and frat boy-like personality, believes there is a real consumer appetite for ­­­­the format that creates offshoots showcasing the world of celebrity ambassadorship in categories such as culinary, music and beauty because he says sports fans are just as savvy about business as they are with sports.

Contrary to overwhelming images of the Patriots player shirtlessly shotgunning beers and incessantly partying, Gronk is as savvy off the field as he is a star on it. The spike-smashing pass catcher also wants to show the more serious side to him that’s rarely seen during the offseason.

“While the most important thing for me is far and away football, my off-the-field passions and business dealings are just as fun, and will hopefully be with me much longer,” said Gronkowski. “I want to prove that I’m not just a football player. There’s much more to me than that.”

The 28-year-old admitted in his 2015 memoir It’s Good To Be Gronk that he’s saved every cent from his Patriots contracts and only spends money earned from marketing deals.

He now wants to spread a message with his story that brands can continue to innovate their marketing with athletes to leverage power, reach and connection.

“There are tons of ways to be more creative and have fun on digital—which if you know my personality, I love. I want to move past one-off campaigns. If we’re going to get in bed together, let’s make it a long-term thing,” Gronkowski says. “We’re having a lot more interaction with the teams internally, on a corporate level—as opposed to just their agencies and marketing people. It’s cool because we really get to know their business.”

Axelrod says brands are now open to allowing athletes to be more than just a face—but to be a true partner discussing strategy and investment.

“Athletes are looked up to as heroes of our society for their excellence in their sport, but also as kings of lifestyle as their salaries allow them to afford whatever they want in the world—so if they’re using something, it’s natural that their fans would want to as well,” he says. “You’re seeing people being brought in to have real conversations with the marketing teams. They’re weighing in on packaging, logos, flavors and even the marketing that they aren’t even a part of. There’s so much more to these athlete deals than just the ads we get to see as consumers—how the matches are made, how the deals are built and how the campaigns are created.”

Gronkowski says go90, which continues to grow its exclusive content library, is the perfect platform to partner with because it reaches the right audience and consumer—digitally active 16-to-34-year-olds who are both entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs.

“Young fans are pretty much consuming all of their content on their phones and computers, so it’s the perfect spot for us to reach them with a show like this,” says Gronkowski.

“These are the savviest consumers out there,” adds Axelrod. “They’re the die-hard sports fans playing more fantasy sports than ever. They have a keen interest in the business world. They’re the Instagram-and-Facebook addicts who see postings about endorsement deals. Given that viewer base, an insight into how these deals get made seemed like a perfect place for us to start.”

The days of athletes pushing products they’re lukewarm about are coming to an end Axelrod says because we now live in an obvious and transparent world led by social media.

“There’s no worse way to market your product than letting fans know the person you’re paying to use it won’t even use it. ‘How could you expect me as a consumer to pay for it if that’s true?’” he says.

Gronkowski, a former Madden cover athlete whose previous business ventures have hit the seas with a three-day cruise dubbed the “SS Gronk” says start-ups are changing the brand ambassador model because they’re more likely to give equity since they’re strapped on cash.

“There’s real upside for both of us. We’re in it together,” he says. “Sports is, and will always be, one of the more popular interests in our country. What I love about athletes is that we earn our cred with our fans through talent and hard work, and I think the fans respect that, which we can hopefully pass on to our brand partners.”

‘Covet Fashion’ And The Zoe Report Box Of Style Gamify Ecommerce

Mobile app Covet Fashion has partnered with The Zoe Report Box of Style to share a love of fashion across its users and funnel that love into real-life purchases.

Launched in 2013, CrowdStar’s grown-up dress-up game is targeted to adult women with an eye for the latest styles. Covet Fashion allows users to create outfits and enter their wardrobe choices into contests that are judged by the app community. But unlike dress-up games designed for young girls, CrowdStar’s app features ecommerce.

Covet Fashion shopping
Ecommerce within the Covet Fashion app. Source: CrowdStar

Covet Fashion acts as each user’s dream closet,” Mark Van Ryswyk, SVP of studio management at CrowdStar told AListDaily. “Through the platform, users are able to discover and explore different fashion brands while flexing their creativity in daily style challenges. If a user loves a piece so much that they have to own it in real life, Covet Fashion links out directly to ecommerce.”

The Zoe Report Box of Style is a quarterly subscription box curated by American fashion designer Rachel Zoe. Covet Fashion users have been given an exclusive code for $20 off the Fall 2017 Box of Style—normally priced at $99.99 a quarter—as well as in-app style challenges.

Throughout the month of October, the app’s community will have access to digitally rendered items from The Zoe Report’s Fall 2017 Box of Style—the Gigi New York Convertible Clutch and La Soula Two-Diamond Ring Set.

“The Rachel Zoe brand has been part of the Covet Fashion app since launch, that’s why we couldn’t be more excited to expand our partnership by integrating the Fall 2017 Box of Style,” said Van Ryswyk. “There are a lot of synergies between The Zoe Report and Covet Fashion in terms of audience, content creation and fashion-focused messaging. Together, we thought it would be a great initiative with the goal of bringing awareness to Box of Style while introducing their subscribers to Covet Fashion.”

Both The Zoe Report and Covet Fashion will be cross-promoting the partnership through in-game messages, direct emails and social media posts.

More than 175 brands have partnered with Covet Fashion to have their fashions appear as virtual wardrobe options, which in turn can be purchased for real-life wear through an ecommerce portal. The brand’s website shows that Covet Fashion has over three million unique monthly users who spend an average of 30 minutes per day in the app.

Meanwhile, free-to-play mobile titles like Covet Fashion are driving digital revenue growth in the US, according to SuperData. Covet Fashion uses the popular “freemium” model, where users have the option to purchase virtual currency—in this case, diamonds. Covet Fashion users can trade diamonds for new items of clothing or accessories to dress their virtual models in.

The fashion industry has explored new methods of discovery in recent years, from augmented reality Snapchat filters to virtual reality runway shows and even recruiting video game models. AI-powered tools like Pinterest Lens and Google Lens can also turn discovery into purchases.

Fashion is a $2.4 trillion industry, but it is not immune to the effects of geopolitical and economic instability and a “buy now” culture, according to the McKinsey & Company’s 2017 State of Fashion report. The consulting firm found that 29 percent of fashion executives see digitization and ecommerce as the biggest opportunities of the year and predicts that ecommerce luxury fashion sales will increase fourfold by the year 2020.

Madefire And Magic Leap Are Creating AR Comics

Jon Middleton, chief revenue officer at Madefire

Comic books are truly coming into their own in the digital age, especially as they’re backed by platforms like Madefire. The platform specializes in digital comic books, particularly its signature motion books.

Madefire has also been on a hot streak lately, having announced partnerships with companies like Blizzard to create motion comics based on video games for IPs such as Overwatch, adding both DC Comics and Marvel Comics to its extensive library in two separate announcements, all topped off by Friday night’s New York Comic Con announcement that it’s partnering with Magic Leap for a new augmented reality experience.

“We’re going to be developing a series of motion books and comic books for the Magic Leap AR experience, using their lightfield technology to deliver interactive panel comic books with animation, sounds and possibly navigation,” Madefire’s chief revenue officer Jon Middleton told AListDaily at New York Comic Con. “You might be able to interact with your comics.”

Madefire will be one of the first launch apps for the Magic Leap platform. Although the experience is still in development, Madefire promises that comic panels may be viewed as 3D images that float midair, and users will be able to pin them to physical objects as digital wallpaper. However, much is left to speculation, as Magic Leap is notoriously secretive about its lightfield technology and when the AR headset will launch.

Middleton said that the exact level of interaction will be determined by the creators themselves on a book-by-book basis, and it plans to bring its entire library of graphic novels—including titles from Marvel, DC and Blizzard—to the Magic Leap platform. Original titles like Mono, a comic book about an ape-human hybrid secret agent created by Madefire’s co-founder and CEO Ben Wolstenholme, also almost certainly tops that list.

“Motion book technology adds a 2.5D plane, building a screen-by-screen and instance-by-instance moment, where you’ll be able to see animated comic book frames in front of you,” said Middleton, discussing how motion books fit well with AR technology.

At the announcement, Madefire said that it had been partnered with Magic Leap for five years.

“The companies have been friends for a long time,” said Middleton. “Both Madefire and Magic Leap are very much companies that started for a cause—very specific purpose development—on a mission where technology is a means to an end. Magic Leap wants to build a computing platform and change how people interact with technology, while we’re more geared toward story and building comic book universes as the myths of the 21st century. We’re developing a platform for different kinds of interactive comic books.”

In addition to AR, Madefire has also been building up its brand in the VR space—its VR motion books on the Samsung Gear VR platform were available for attendees to experience on the New York Comic Con show floor.

“VR is all-encompassing, and you’re interacting with the real world with AR,” said Middleton, comparing VR with the potential of AR. “Being that AR has you in real world, it adds a different element, where the book is more-or-less appearing in front of you in your daily environment. It’s a totally different experience in the way it makes you feel, how we can tell stories—even the physical experience of how you think about what you’re looking at is oddly different, since it’s not as all-encompassing as VR. It’s not an apples-to-apples kind of question.

“The more we can innovate with our technological partners, the better. There has been a lot of innovation in the digital realm, and we want to push that and develop a platform that allows for the comic book industry to grow.”

Multiple platforms are turning to AR, particularly Apple and Google. Middleton said that Madefire was also looking into mobile devices to create accessible augmented reality experiences.

“For us, it’s about bringing the comic book reading experience to as many places as people can consume it, whether that’s a technological platform, a hardware platform or just through geographical distribution. The big thing is getting the ability to tell these stories and get content out to these audiences to make them happy wherever they are.”

According to Middleton, Madefire describes itself as a creators-first platform, but it’s really all about the storytelling, making it the ultimate end-result product.

“We love creating it,” said Middleton, “but in order to get there, you’ve got to develop the technology for creators to tell stories. We’re really a creator’s platform.”

NRG Brings In Celebrities To Grow Esports

Andy Miller, NRG Esports co-founder and chairman, Sacramento Kings co-owner

Andy Miller knows traditional sports as the minority owner of the Sacramento Kings, but he was early into esports with NRG Esports, which fields teams across Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros., Hearthstone, Rocket League and Vainglory.

NRG recently raised an additional $15 million in a Series B funding round from celebrities that include Jennifer Lopez, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Strahan and Marlon Byrd. Additional funding comes from Twitter’s chief operating officer and former NFL chief financial officer Anthony Noto, Kings minority owner and Sacramento Republic owner Kevin Nagle, and Fortress Investment Group chairman Pete Briger. NRG already had enlisted Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins in March 2016 in its Series A round.

NRG Esports is one of the inaugural city-based teams for the Overwatch League, which debuts December 6 with a preseason competition at the new Blizzard Esports Arena in Burbank, California, ahead of the January 10 first season competition. Blizzard assigned NRG as the league’s San Francisco team, which encompasses a fan base from San Jose to Oakland to Sacramento.

Miller told AListDaily that Overwatch League is opening unique opportunities for brands and sponsors interested in connecting with the millennial and younger audience.

“We’re having a lot of conversations on the brand side, which has really been an evolution in getting non-endemics interested in esports,” Miller said. “A lot of brands are still trying to figure out how to get involved and whether they should invest in a team or a league or work with a publisher.”

Miller said that the companies he’s speaking with see the global reach of esports teams. NRG Esports is currently seeking a title sponsor for its Overwatch League team, which Miller would love to recruit from a local Bay Area brand.

Activision Blizzard is taking a page from soccer with its new Overwatch League jerseys.

“It’s more of a clean design like Premiere League soccer jerseys and not the NASCAR look with all the team sponsor patches,” Miller said. “This presents a great opportunity for a title sponsor to be extremely visible in front of millions of well-educated Gen Z and millennials globally with disposable income. It’s a neat and different approach.”

Miller’s team designed the logo for the jersey and all teams have submitted their names and logos to Activision Blizzard. The Dallas and Shanghai teams have already revealed their names and logos and other teams will soon follow suit.

NRG Esports is still scouting locations for its home arena, while preparing to move its Overwatch team to LA for the first season of competition at the converted Burbank Studios.

“It’s been a really well-thought-out plan, where we have a league and all of the teams have a chance to get our houses and coaches and players going,” Miller said. “It’s great having a uniform place for broadcasts for the first year, complete with practice rooms for every team at Burbank for pre-season and season.”

Miller has high hopes for the Bay area territory, which is home to a slew of tech giants that include Apple, Google and Oracle. He said, “We already have a great culture here and tons of players who play Overwatch. We’re really primed for season ticket holders and building out a local fan base.”

Miller has learned a lot of lessons from his involvement with the Sacramento Kings, including best practices with ticket sales, social media and how to engage with the younger audiences.

“Right now, it’s about defining what our gaming culture is,” Miller explained. “We created a pre-season calendar for our Overwatch team and have focused on how to bond and communicate as a team, how to take care of themselves physically and mentally, and how to work with our coaches.”

With the Overwatch League, Miller has watched as his organization has evolved from just “winging it” and doing things economically to building a sustainable business with a team that has the potential to become perennial winners.

On the merchandising side, Blizzard is in charge of the outside market, while each team will focus on sales within its territory.

“We’ll have to do a good job of having events in Northern California and getting people interested in what we’re doing,” Miller said.

Miller likes the fact that the rules haven’t been written yet for esports.

“My team loves San Francisco and we get to have 20 home games coming up and our own theater and arena to put our footprint on,” Miller said. “It’s not like MLB, where you know what’s going to happen. We’re going to create a different type of entertainment offering with these events.”

Having so many celebrities invested in NRG Esports also helps with the marketing message for this brand.

“The athlete investors came first because when you dig in and see these esports players are athletes with all of their dedication and training, there was an obvious parallel,” Miller explained. “Now we’re seeing Hollywood understand that here’s a giant audience behind esports and a lot of content there.”

Miller said Rodriguez, who has joined the board and become much more active with esports over the last six months, brought Lopez into the fold.

“We love having Jennifer involved because she’s interested in women in gaming and she’d love to be known as one of the first high-profile owners,” Miller said. “We’ve talked about getting a female team together. She also has over 100 million social media followers, and that’s a great way to get our Overwatch name out there.”

Strahan, Lynch, Lopez and O’Neal were all involved recently in revealing the Overwatch roster, which Miller said helps paint the team in an interesting light.

“The profile of esports has risen so much in the last six months due to the games and competition being great, but the audience was always there,” Miller said. “Having mainstream TV distribution has also helped. But most importantly, the sea change in esports has been the switch from a PGA style of competition—where the focus was on turning pro and winning at majors to generate money—to a more traditional NBA style with revenue sharing and city-based organizations. It’s a shift to establishing something permanent with enterprise value.”

Twitch Continues Its TV Programming With An Anime Marathon

New York Comic Con may be over, but Twitch is keeping the fan celebration going with a month-long anime marathon on its social livestream service.

Rooster Teeth’s RWBY kicks things off October 9, followed by Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters on October 23. From its booth at New York Comic Con, Twitch hosted livestream interviews over the weekend with the RWBY cast and crew. Anime fans could also tune in to live talk shows, gameplay and art streams from Twitch creators. Editor’s Note: The date for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Masters has been updated to reflect changes in the Twitch schedule. The original date was October 15.

“Our approach is about giving viewers a new way to experience content they love,” Annie Berrones, director of emerging content marketing at Twitch told AListDaily. “This is done by allowing them to watch shows together with other fans and chat (or meme) in real-time. Because of the community-centric nature of Twitch and our pioneering approach to chat—whether it’s anime, Power Rangers, Bob Ross, or one of a dozen other programs we’ve streamed—watching content on Twitch is an experience viewers can’t get anywhere else.”

RWBY is an award-winning American anime created by Rooster Teeth by animator Monyreak “Monty” Oum. Episodes of the show have been streamed by Netflix and Crunchyroll and have been dubbed in Japanese for Warner Bros. Japan broadcasts. Season 5 of RWBY will premiere in theaters October 12 and online October 14.

“The community has expressed their passion for anime and these are both shows they already know and love,” said Berrones. “For RWBY, it was also a great tie-in to let both new and old fans catch up the series before the new volume drops.”

Twitch was originally founded to stream games, but it has become a thriving community that gathers for whatever passions they share from gaming and music to art, TV shows, fitness and of course, anime.

“Because Twitch is a global service, viewers are constantly being exposed to diverse cultural influences,” said Berrones. “As a result, it’s the collective community that is elevating the appeal of content on our site. It’s also worth noting that since anime clubs already exist offline, we’re elevating that experience by making it easier to do online.”

Twitch audiences are able to chat with one another and in some cases, simultaneously stream marathons on their own channels. This month, Twitch is also releasing new exclusive emotes themed after some of the featured series. Emotes will be accessible to viewers who subscribe to the TwitchPresents channel.

For fans, this creates an interactive viewing experience during their favorite shows. For marketers, advertising on Twitch provides access to the anime market that fetched ¥1.8 trillion ($15.9 billion) in 2016.

Twitch partnered with Crunchyroll in July to host a five-day marathon, which garnered a positive response from the online community. The success of this event illustrates that anime “was more than a novel one-off experiment,” said Twitch, while also elevating its presence in the programmatic TV space.

Programmatic TV ad spending will grow 75.7 percent to $1.13 billion in 2017, according to eMarketer—representing 1.6 percent of total US TV ad spend. Next year, programmatic TV advertising will grow another 85.2 percent to $2.09 billion, and that figure will reach nearly $4 billion by 2019.

TV networks are creating snackable content on social networks and experimenting with new ways to reach young consumers. Other brands turn to livestreaming platforms like Twitch and Facebook Live to take advantage of real-team communication with users. In November, quick-service restaurant chain Carl’s Jr. sponsored a 72-hour livestream on Twitch that included live commercials, a first for the platform.

PlayStation President Moves On From Sony; Airbnb CMO Checks Out To Open New Firm



Andrew House, president and CEO for PlayStation, is stepping down from the position, though he will remain chairman until the end of the year. Replacing him is John Kodera, current deputy president of Sony Interactive Entertainment.

House has been with Sony since 1990, and has worked with the PlayStation team since the very beginning in 1995. He has led PlayStation’s business strategies for six years, overseeing the launch of the PlayStation 4, the fastest-growing platform in the company’s history.

“When I passed the baton of leadership for Sony Computer Entertainment to Andrew House in 2011, I was confident that I was leaving the PlayStation business in the best possible hands, and so it has proved,” said Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corporation. “I’m extremely grateful to Andy for the great contribution he has made to evolving the PlayStation business, and firmly positioning it as one of the drivers of our future growth.”

“I’m tremendously proud of what we’ve built with PlayStation and Sony Interactive Entertainment: entertaining millions globally with the best in games and creating a fully-fledged digital entertainment company,” said House. “PlayStation has been a huge part of my life for more than 20 years, but with the business having achieved record-breaking success, now seemed to be the right time for me to pursue new challenges.”

Kodera has been with Sony since 1992. He joined their interactive media division in 2010, as senior vice president of corporate strategy for Sony Network Entertainment International, and was promoted to president in 2013.

Airbnb’s chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall is leaving the company to start his own marketing consulting firm. At the home-rental company, Mildenhall oversaw an advertising budget increase of more than 60 percent, including the company’s first-ever Super Bowl spot. His three-year tenure at Airbnb featured the company take firm stances on diversity and inclusiveness and create unorthodox partnerships, such as a print magazine venture with Hearst and a promotional rental Taco Bell.

“I am 50 and I probably have one last chapter of my career left, and I feel I could make a bigger contribution to the marketing industry,” Mildenhall told The Wall Street Journal.

Mildenhall described his new firm, called 21st Century Brand, as small (“20 partners max”) but influential, in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Before joining Airbnb in 2014, Mildenhall served at Coco-Cola as senior vice president of marketing communication and design excellence, and before that was head of strategy at Mother.

Heidi O’Neill has joined Spotify’s board of directors, as the company prepares to go public in the next few months. O’Neill will not be replacing any current board board members.

Currently, O’Neill runs Nike’s direct-sales business, handling both the brand’s retail and ecommerce units, a position she has held for seven years.

Dairy Queen has promoted Troy Bader as their newest CEO, continuing the company’s efforts to modernize their brand. The current chief executive, John Gainor, will be retiring at the end of the year.

Bader has served as COO for the company for the past six years, and has been with Dairy Queen since 2001.

Marni Walden, executive vice president of global media at Verizon, will be departing the company in February, though she will serve in an advisory role beginning in December. She will be replaced by Tim Armstrong.

“Marni helped build our wireless business, starting as a sales representative in a store, and grew into an inspirational leader and role model for so many at Verizon,” said Lowell McAdam, CEO and chairman of Verizon. “She has most recently spearheaded Verizon’s entry into global digital media and telematics and will leave us in a strong competitive position.”

Facebook announced adding 1,000 new positions to combat malicious and deceptive ads, in response to the 3,000 ads bought by a Russian company meant to influence the US presidential election.

“We use both automated and manual review, and we’re taking aggressive steps to strengthen both,” Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with TechCrunch. “Reviewing ads means assessing not just the content of an ad, but the context in which it was bought and the intended audience—so we’re changing our ads review system to pay more attention to these signals.”

Ari Segal has joined esports organization Immortals as president and CEO, where he will oversee all business operations both for the holding company and all of its individual teams. The announcement of the hire also revealed the existence of an as-yet-unannounced team for Blizzard’s Overwatch League, based in Los Angeles.

“Ari brings a wealth of knowledge and passion from the traditional sports industry and has a proven track record of building or repositioning brands to connect deeply with fans, particularly in their local markets,” said Immortals CEO Noah Winston. “Innovation, access, transparency and accountability are all hallmarks of his brand-building strategy and management style, making him the ideal fit for this critical role in our organization.”

Previously, Segal worked for the Arizona Coyotes as their CEO, leading the team to a record-setting season for ticket sales and total revenue. Additionally, he led the launch of the San Diego Gulls as their president of business operations, and helped the team win the AHL President’s Award for Business Excellence.

Anthony Scaramucci has announced starting a new media company, entitled The Scaramucci Post. The former White House communications director told The New York Times that the venture is “going to start out experiential on the net.”

The publication currently exists only on Twitter, and Scaramucci reports no plans to host an actual website.

Steve Davis has signed on with Fanatics International as the company’s president. In the role, he will expand the sports merchandiser’s global manufacturing and distribution infrastructure to expand the company’s vertical commerce model outside of North America.

“Steve brings a broad range of commerce and brand-building expertise to Fanatics with a deep understanding of the global retail landscape,” said Doug Mack, CEO of Fanatics. “His leadership will significantly advance our global footprint and expand the multichannel, merchandising and manufacturing capabilities that we provide to all our partners worldwide.”

Before joining Fanatics, Davis was CEO of fast-fashion online retailer Rue La La and head of global operations for GSI Commerce.

Scripps has started searching for a new chief financial officer after the departure this week of Tim Wesolowski. The have appoined Lisa Knutson as interim CFO.

Knutson has been with the independent TV station owner since 2005, and recently had her role expanded to include both the responsibilities of chief strategy officer and chief administrative officer. Wesolowski had worked at Scripps since 2011.

Cadillac’s car-subscription service, Book, has a new global director in Melody Lee. Before her new role, Lee held the position of director of brand marketing for the luxury car company since 2012.

Private spirits giant Bacardi Limited promoted veteran executive Mahesh Madhavan to the role of CEO, taking over for outgoing Michael Dolan. Formerly the leading executive for Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, the brand will continue to look to Madhavan for insights into global markets.

“With more than 20 years at Bacardi, in different roles in different geographies, Mahesh has a tremendous track record of success,” Bacardi Limited chairman Facundo L. Bacardi said in a statement. “He inherits a business that is in great shape, with a healthy balance sheet, revitalized brands, and an engaged team of employees.”

Continuing with a chain of company promotions, John Burke takes on the title of global CMO. Burke will provide leadership and strategic direction for Bacardi’s global marketing organization, which had been led by Dolan in recent years. Burke has been with the company for over 24 years.

Finally, Ignacio del Valle will take on the role of regional president of the Latin America and Caribbean divisions.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has announced Claire Bennett as the brand’s new CMO. Bennett is moving on after a number of senior marketing positions at American Express, including overseeing global marketing efforts and brand management.

“Claire’s broad and highly relevant brand marketing experience, combined with her deep insight into the hospitality industry, will enable her to provide strong leadership for this critical area of our business, and make a significant contribution to our executive committee,” said IHG CEO Keith Barr.

Condé Nast, owner of media brands like Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New Yorker, has promoted Pamela Drucker Mann to chief revenue and marketing officer, according to The Wall Street Journal. In a corresponding move, chief business officer and president of revenue Jim Norton stepped down from a position he took on in October.

“I led a very successful print product at Bon Appétit,” Drucker Mann said. “But we’re shifting as consumers shift. My number one priority is keeping our momentum going.”

Donna Josephson is joining Corner Bakery Cafe as senior vice president and chief marketing officer. Her 20-year career includes brand management and marketing strategy for restaurant brands like McAlister’s Deli, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, Chick-fil-A and Fazoli’s.

“Donna brings a wealth of experience in strategically building great brands,” said Corner Bakery Cafe CEO Frank Paci. “She is a great addition to our team and we look forward to her leadership in growing the Corner Bakery Cafe brand.”

Bustle executive editor Julie Alvin has been promoted to senior digital director of lifestyle, where she’ll oversee a number of Time Inc. properties, including InStyle and HelloGiggles. Alvin was one of the Bustle’s first editors and is recognized for her contributions to Bustle’s growth.

“A digital and creative visionary who understands how to engage audiences and build digital communities, Julie is the ideal choice to continue to scale Time Inc.’s lifestyle brands and serve readers on multiple platforms,” said chief content officer Alan Murray.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, October 6. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at

Job Vacancies 

Director, Marketing Razer USA, Ltd. Irvine, CA
Director, Marketing Sony Music Entertainment New York, NY
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Sr. Director, Enterprise Marketing PetSmart Phoenix, AZ

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Marketers Rethink Customer Experience With Zero UI

Zero UI is the next wave in how consumers interact with technology. Zero UI, or zero interface, is a term first coined in 2015 by Andy Goodman, a former designer for Fjord and refers to a system that responds to a user’s voice, gesture, glances or thoughts. In other words, the screens and buttons become obsolete.

In today’s terms, that means Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, voice search, Xbox Kinect and neuro-interface, just to name a few. For marketers, this whole new customer journey creates challenges and opportunities to innovate within the space.

Eric Bisceglia, vice president of Go-To-Market at Voysis—a voice AI platform that enables natural language instruction and search—says that the emerging technology creates opportunities for more than just Google and Amazon.

“Just like with mobile devices in the early 2000s, voice AI is revolutionizing how we interact with technology as well as how we discover and consume content,” Bisceglia told AListDaily. “Consumers are quickly realizing that voice offers a more natural and efficient experience. As usage of voice continues to skyrocket, it’s critical that marketers develop a voice strategy now. While large enterprises like Amazon strive to dominate their respective markets, independent platforms like Voysis will enable marketers at all companies to offer brand-specific voice experiences for their customers and still maintain control of their data and user experience.”

According to eMarketer, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month in 2017—that’s a jump of 128.9 percent over last year. Comscore predicts that by the year 2020, half of all searches will be done with a user’s voice.

Just when you thought you had SEO figured out, Google says 20 percent of all its mobile searches are voice queries. Ranking high on search results means something entirely different now that answers are being read aloud, and the “first page” no longer applies. Consumers may not want to listen through a long list of options, so brands may have to pay a premium to be an AI assistant’s first answer. That being said, the FTC will also have to adapt its disclosure requirements to accommodate voice search.

AI doesn’t have to be a one-way conversation. IBM began testing AI ads last year that interacted with users in a way that coincided with the product. For example, an ad for Theraflu displayed during cold and flu season answers questions about symptoms. Campbell’s AI ad helped users create new soup recipes based on what ingredients they already had.

Since machine learning does just that—it learns and expands—the zero UI marketplace could soon be saturated with brands vying for attention. Marketers will need to find creative ways of standing out and building or reinforcing a brand’s personality, such as changing the AI assistant’s voice.

For the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, CBS created a special skill, or built-in capability, for Amazon Echo that interacts with fans who say phrases from the show. The phrase, “Alexa, damage report,” for example, will give you the weather and news headlines. Saying “revenge is the dish best served cold,” will prompt a response in Klingon. Users can even change the Echo’s wake word to “computer,” so they can live out Star Trek fantasies at home.

Activations like this and Hearst’s experiment with Oprah can help users feel connected to a brand as if they’re having a two-way conversation.

New York Comic Con Experiences Feature VR, Mermaids And Close Shaves

Brands are finding highly experiential ways to engage with comic book fans, whether through VR, a haunted house or free shaves. Here are some of the biggest experiential brand activations found on or near the New York Comic Con show floor this year.


The HBO hit series about lifelike androids rise up and take over a sophisticated Old West theme park, returns to New York Comic Con, but with real life instead of a VR experience. Westworld is building hype for the 2018 season two premiere by tweeting the location of a pop-up tent every morning during the convention. Users can reserve a spot at the tent to visit Delos, the fictional company that runs the Westworld theme park.

At a nondescript office located near the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, visitors are greeted by hosts who prepare them for a live theater experience using an extensive personality test to determine if they are “black” or “white” hats. They then step into a Westworld saloon with performances tailored to their type. Attendees walked home with real white or black Stetson hats and a new sense of self awareness.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is showcasing two new shows at the convention: The Tick and Lore.

The Tick, which features a big blue superhero and his high-tech moth sidekick Arthur, made a huge impression at San Diego Comic Con over the summer with a 24-foot replica of the hero’s head, complete with moving antennae. But instead of getting on the Tick’s head, New York Comic Con attendees got to visit Dangerboat, an AI-controlled superboat from the show. As guests played with the boat’s controls, registered themselves as superheroes at the computer kiosks, and struck poses at the green screen camera, the boat’s AI—played by an actor controlling a moving camera—interacted with guests by making cheeky observations about them. Attendees can then use Dangerboat’s onboard vending machine to get themselves a can of “Fo-Ham,” a synthetic meat product from the show (there’s no actual meat-like substance inside) and leave with a big blue Tick-branded rain poncho.

At the other end of the convention center is the Museum of Lore, which is essentially a haunted house experience built to promote the upcoming podcast-inspired Amazon anthology series Lore. Guests are taken to three rooms: “Gene’s Bedroom,” “The Unveiled” and “The Beast Inside.” Each tells a different story from Lore while providing shareable photo opportunities.

Amazon Echo And Jack Ryan

Escape rooms are in fashion this year at New York Comic Con, and Amazon is pulling double duty with its Echo Escape Room activation. Groups of people are challenged to escape from a bunker inspired by the upcoming Amazon Prime Video show Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, premiering in 2018.

The spy-thriller escape room created in partnership with Intel includes Amazon Echo and Echo Show devices, which help players operate machinery, solve math problems, change the lights to different colors and place calls to the group’s government handler or Jack Ryan himself.


Saw movies have come to epitomize the escape room theme, and Lionsgate is emphasizing that by promoting its upcoming movie Jigsaw with a VR escape room inside a physical escape room. Developed in partnership with Unity to launch its Virtual Room ad unit, attendees are trapped by Jigsaw and must complete his deadly game to get out alive.

Jigsaw is also partnering with Atom Tickets to host a blood drive. Attendees are invited to donate at mobile New York Blood Center locations in exchange for free tickets to see the Jigsaw premiere. This campaign is being called “All Types Welcome,” which protests discriminatory rules preventing queer men from donating blood. Models representing the blood drive include LGBTQ+ spokespeople Amanda Lepore, Nyakim Gatwech, Mykie and Shaun Ross. The “All Types Welcome” campaign kicked off in New York on Thursday and will expand to 25 cities across the US.


In the parking lot across the street from the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, Freeform has one of the most ambitious activations of the convention. The cable channel largely targets young millennial audiences and is promoting four of its shows.

The first, a mermaid-themed show called Siren, is scheduled to launch in 2018. Guests get a tour of mermaid lore as well as a “live” mermaid. Next to this activation is a mock bodega designed to promote Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, a comic book-inspired show slated for 2018. Guests can approach the window and draw tarot cards to win prizes that include t-shirts and black-and-white cookies.

Freeform is also gearing up for the second season of Beyond. The show centers around a man named Holden Matthews, who wakes from a 12-year coma to discover he has supernatural powers. A 360-degree photo booth puts attendees into the iconic forest scene from the show. Shadowhunters, the supernatural-themed show based on the bestselling book series, is also preparing for its second season with a recreation of its Chinese Restaurant locale.

DC Comics

DC is using some of its Wonder Woman movie momentum to promote the November 17 theatrical launch of Justice League. Costumes for Flash, Cyborg, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were taken from the movie set and put on display at the convention. Additionally, players can challenge each other in Injustice 2 at a nearby kiosk.

But one of the more impressive Justice League experiences on the show floor is the VR game. With it, attendees take the role of one of the five superheroes and use their powers to battle enemies.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In a gallery experience sponsored by Verizon, Star Wars fans can get up close with props and costumes taken straight from The Last Jedi set, namely in the form of weapons, flight suits, helmets and miscellaneous gear used by the characters.

Campbell’s Soup also has a Star Wars #comiccan activation. Fans can visit an art exhibit with characters constructed entirely from limited edition Campbells Star Wars soup cans.

Schick Hydro

There are many reasons to attend New York Comic Con, and now one of them includes getting a nice, close shave without irritation.

Schick Hydro Lounge visitors can sit back and relax while a professional barber shaves them from the show floor. The Schick Hydro Robot Razor, aka Hydrobot, hangs out nearby for photos.

Attendees with a more competitive streak can take part in the Schick Shave-Off, a custom video game where one can roleplay as a virtual barber. Using Hydro 5 razors as controllers, participants have five minutes to “shave” superhero and alien-inspired facial hair styles, using features like hydrating gel pools along the way. On Friday, fans can watch Wesley “Wes” Johnson, Amra “Flitz” Ricketts and Damien Haas from YouTube’s Smosh Games battle it out in a shave-off. Heroes that provide the closest super shaves walk away with swag and bragging rights, and the top scorers of the day get a chance to win a “Schick Hydro Mystery Box” filled with exclusive items.

AR Marketing Sounds Like Success For The Music Industry

The music industry is embracing augmented reality that invites consumers to experience music not just through sound, but sight as well. AR experiences create opportunities for brands and artists to engage their fans in new and authentic ways.

According to IFPI’s annual state of the industry report, innovation is the key to broadening appeal in the music industry.

“There is also a concerted willingness on the part of the labels to engage with digital innovation of all stripes,” the reports says, “to make sure music is not only a part of cutting-edge new services—but a legitimate, licensed and monetized part.”

“We’re seeing a big new wave of start-ups coming to us wanting to talk about how music, or music video, can be a part of their offerings, apps, social messaging, virtual reality [and] augmented reality products,” Ole Obermann, chief digital officer and EVP of business development for Warner Music commented in the report.

AR utilizes the smartphones consumers already own and its novelty can be utilized in a number of ways.

Album Art Comes To Life

Sony Music Entertainment and Michael Jackson’s estate have partnered with Shazam to create an AR experience for Scream13 of Jackson’s greatest hits and a mash-up by The White Panda. This partnership marks the first global AR promotion of its kind for Shazam or for a Michael Jackson album.

Each Scream CD and glow-in-the-dark 2LP vinyl packaging contains an exclusive poster that will unlock an animated clip through the Shazam app. Billboards promoting the new album will also include billboards and posters, each with the Shazam logo that launches a second AR experience.

Guerrilla Marketing

Earlier this year, singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran returned to social media after a one-year hiatus with a teaser for his new song hidden in a Snapchat Lens. The lens overlayed sunglasses onto a user’s face, along with animated lines and a clip from the song Thinking Out Loud.

Rather than outright market his new song, Sheeran launched the Snapchat Lens without any branding and allowed fans to discover it for themselves. Once found, the news quickly spread. When Sheeran’s album, “÷” (read as Divide), dropped in March, the artist became the first to have two songs debut in the US top 10 in the same week.

AR Exposure

Now emerging artists can book a virtual concert anywhere in the world. In Dublin, a startup is bringing AR concerts to the consumer through a new app called Firststage. Artists sign up for free and are curated by professionals. If selected, the musicians are filmed performing against a green screen and added to the Firststage app. Specially marked cards can be printed and placed anywhere, allowing users to watch performances anywhere from a table to on top of a sleeping cat.

Users who like a performance can request more songs, donate to the artist and purchase the song, all through the app.

“We were both musicians ourselves and learned that one of the only ways to make money anymore was by playing live gigs,” Neil Harrison, co-founder of Firstage told Irish Times. “However, myself and my partner, Keith Lawler, had some advertising experience too and saw an opportunity—what if artists could be playing different gigs simultaneously anywhere in the world? AR provided the necessary tech to make this possible.”

‘Blade Runner 2049’ Marketing Embraces Its Ad-Filled Roots

Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters this weekend, continuing the saga of artificial humans called replicants and the Blade Runners who hunt them. Starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, the story takes place 30 years after the events of the first film. Naturally, marketing efforts for the star-studded sequel have been considerable, from brand partnerships to experiential marketing and even an upcoming mobile game.

Sir Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner portrays a dystopian Los Angeles that reflects his background in advertising. “One thing I’m absolutely sure of is that in 2019 [the year Blade Runner takes place], everywhere you look you’ll be assaulted by media,” Scott said in the book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.

Luckily for Atari—a major source of entertainment in 1982—Scott included the brand’s iconic logo in his “media assault.” That tradition continues with Blade Runner 2049 through giant, digital billboards in the film and officially licensed Speakerhats in the real world.

Michael Arzt, COO of Atari Connect told AListDaily that with the new film, Atari is able to reach audiences that span generations, especially consumers 35 and older—thanks to memories of the Atari 2600 console and its appearance in the original Blade Runner.

“Fast forward to today’s youth, and so much of what Atari and Blade Runner represented back then is benignly taken for granted by this generation,” said Arzt. “To them, gaming and technology have always been there. Today’s teens never knew a world without internet, smartphones and other tech. This is the generation that these two brands are looking to bring into the fold.

“Whether it’s the awesome new Blade Runner 2049 film that is looking to reboot the legendary film into a franchise, Atari’s new Ataribox, reimagined games like Tempest 4000, or wearable tech like the cool new Atari Speakerhats, both brands are looking to appeal to this new generation while also maintaining a bridge to the fans that helped make them cool in the first place,” Arzt said.

Johnnie Walker—another brand featured in the original film—has returned as a marketing partner for Blade Runner 2049. The spirits brand partnered with the film’s marketing team to create an immersive experience for San Diego Comic-Con.

The activation included a VR experience called Blade Runner: Replicant Pursuit that ended with a 2/3 replica of a street in Los Angeles 2049—complete with actors, a noodle bar and of course, samples of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky.

Johnnie Walker released a limited-edition whisky just for the occasion called Johnnie Walker Black Label The Director’s Cut, complete with a bottle design chosen by Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve. Four vignettes teach audiences how to use the whisky to make “cocktails of the future.” Naturally, the brand is prominently featured in the film as Decker’s drink of choice (played by Harrison Ford).

Alcon Entertainment has been in charge of the film’s marketing. Despite so many building-sized billboards to fill, the production company was choosy about which brands to partner with.

“We’ve approached Blade Runner as an alternate timeline. So, our 2049 isn’t like what we expect 2049 to be thirty years from now,” Alcon co-founder and co-CEO Andrew Kosove, who serves as producer on Blade Runner 2049, told AListDaily. “It’s what we expect it would be like in the Blade Runner world thirty years after the original film. No brand that did not exist when the original movie came out was eligible to be part of our film. Apple is not in the Blade Runner world. It doesn’t exist. IBM could, but not Apple. Of course, one of the most iconic aspects of the first film is Atari, and we thought we had to bring Atari back into our film and that’s why we did it.”

Director Denis Villeneuve enlisted the help of fellow filmmakers to create a series of short films leading up to the events of Blade Runner 2049. Taking place in the years 2022, 2036 and 2048, each story focuses on a different character and a city-wide blackout that plays an important role in the theatrical feature.

To help immerse audiences into the dark, neon-clad streets of 2049 Los Angeles, Warner Bros. created a Snapchat World lens. The AR effect dresses users in a hoodie and plants them inside the world of 2049 Los Angeles, complete with fog and neon signs. The lens also features animated flying cars from the film called Spinners.

Blade Runner 2049 is poised to fetch upwards of $100 million in its opening weekend, half of which would come from US theaters.