madison square garden

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I’ve been thinking about two brand strategies lately. One for the Madison Square Garden the other for James Brown. Madison Square Garden’s is “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” James Brown was “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”  These two sentences are brand claims.

A claim is only good when it’s believable. If you’ve ever seen James Brown, you know his claim to be true. As for MSG, the same, but you may have to take their word for it to a degree.  There have been 4 Madison Square Garden’s and none in Madison Square since 1925. There have, indeed, been some amazing events in the 4 gardens, but it’s no Roman Coliseum. What The Garden is is a well-tended brand. At every major sports event the announcer welcomes one and all with “Welcome to Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena.” The halls are bedazzled with black and whites of Ali-Frazier, George Harrison, and Mark Messier.   Hanging from the rafters are aging championship banners from the NY Rangers.

MSG works hard to prove its claim. James Brown used to sweat his claim.

Claims are the basis of brand strategy. With claim in hand, all that is left are the deeds and the proof. Peace.


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James Dolan should remove himself from Cablevision and focus on Madison Square Garden, Inc.  For my friend Mac who jeers Mr. Dolan after every Knick home game as he passes into the tunnel this idea won’t find favor. But it is the right thing to do.  Mr Dolan’s heart is not in Cablevision and Newsday and telephony and financials the way his head in into sports and entertainment.  And face it, Mr. Dolan has goobed it up a little bit with the Isiah Thomas fiasco, but he still has time to play guitar, smile, and hit the Garden with love in his heart. Did I mention the NY Rangers are killing it?  And NYC has become a mecca of hoops once again.

Mr. Dolan is not the boss’s son at MSG; he is a man learning a business. Every day.  He’s sticking to it and earning stripes by surrounding himself with different kinds of people – some smart, some not so.  (I don’t know Mr. Dolan from Adam, though we made a TV spot together as 20-sometings.) Life it too short, sir.  Give Cablevision to some cable/telco/media nerds and get back to Broadway.  Where else are you going to find Kate Upton, Melo and some crazy happy kids from the Bronx screeching on a Thursday night?  Peace. 

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Poor, poor New York Knicks.  They own and play in the world’s most famous arena.  They’re backed by a smart company that has more money and love (for them) than are most sports franchises, but when it comes to marketing they can’t find their fanny with their hands.


Co:, a new marketing company formed by Ty Montague and Rosemarie Ryan, most recently of JWT, touted the Knicks as one of their first clients.  How’s that coffee smell y’all?  What a mess they stepped into.  Today’s New York Times reports the new Knicks adverting effort is a five agency ass-grab, sans an idea.  Co: has really taken a small role, according to the article, with only a limited mention.  Stuart Elliot, the Times advertising writer, suggests the idea is “You. Us. We. Now.”  Is that an idea…or four? Is there an acronym for Cry Out Loud? 

Everyone interviewed in the article says the wrong thing. The story suggests tactics-palloza  — and there is a focus on “fan engagement” that is well-intended but laughable.


Last year the Knicks idea was “Declare.”  What they meant to say was “Represent” but that, I’m sure, was a bit too urban.  How can you be urban and not urban in one word?  

The creative this year focuses on the players because they are all new. Lazy. It should be focusing on the basketball void that has been NYC for years. Hear that sucking sound?  If you want some hoops in NYC this year get your shoes out to Carnesecca Arena. Peace!

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I was talking to my accountant yesterday who is a bit of a firebrand when it comes to local politics and he mentioned how our local cable company, Cablevision, is in position to gather an amazing amount of data about its customers. We on Long Island have always thought of Cablevision as a monopoly when it comes to our television, but check this out: Cablevision owns most of the Internet pipes into our homes. Not to go all “24” on you, but that means they can monitor IP addresses visited. They have intelligent cable boxes in most houses and can easily monitor TV viewing habits by channel, time-of-day, recording habits, commercial viewership, even room. Moreover, they are setting up free a Wifi network which will be able to track our log-ons all over the island.


Sound like a lot? Cablevision also owns Newsday, Long Island’s only real newspaper and, an online property that may someday be the cash cow. They own a chain of movie theaters, now tied to a rewards program. They own a telephone company, which is bundled with Internet access and TV for better value. And they own Madison Square Garden, should we ever decide to leave Long Island and visit the big city. Oh yeah, they own the NY Knicks and the NY Rangers. 


This company has the potential to know more about the denizens of Long Island than Google or Homeland Security. If they were to invest in a really smart database and decide to use all of this data for good, Cablevision might just become a marketing intelligent and predictive buying company of historic proportion — something they never imagined in their business plan. Peace!



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Better Man


Eddie Vedder sang “Better Man” last night at Madison Square Garden and it was extraordinary. Though there are lots of songs written by PJ that incite sing along, Eddie seemed to want to sing this one by himself. He stopped the song after a few bars and was motioning to the crowd to let him do it.
Sorry. As soon as he started up again, the 19,000 really started singing. My friend turned to me and asked “Why do they do that?” My response: “It’s not his song.”  Were Eddie more sensitive and a prima donna, he may have taken offense. He didn’t.  He knows Better Man is no longer his song. It’s our song. And that is the highest compliment fans can pay an artist. He was euphoric from that moment on.

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