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NFT Heat Podcast Episode #34 : Leonard Armato, Founder of Management Plus Enterprises.

Featured guest speaker Leonard Armato joins John Kraski and Justin Shenkarow on the NFT Heat podcast to talk all about the future of NFT's, and how brands can transition from web2 to web3.

Featured guest speaker Leonard Armato joins John Kraski and Justin Shenkarow on the NFT Heat podcast to talk all about the future of NFT’s, and how brands can transition from web2 to web3.

Leonard is a strategic adviser to high profile CEOs and is a Master at Enabling Greatness. He is considered a visionary leader in the convergence of sports, entertainment, marketing and technology and is now quickly taking these same principles that made him a powerhouse in Web 2.0 to becoming one of the top NFT and Web3 Thought Leaders in the world.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ENDORSEMENTS FOR ACTUAL FEMALE ATHLETES.

Under Armour has been named Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year primarily for its novel approach marketing to women. The success Under Armour has enjoyed with its “I Will” campaign underscores why Title IX — while generating lots of positive results — has not succeeded in reshaping opportunities for women in sports marketing and redefining the way our society treats and values women’s sports.

Under Armour has been named Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year primarily for its novel approach marketing to women. The success Under Armour has enjoyed with its “I Will” campaign underscores why Title IX — while generating lots of positive results — has not succeeded in reshaping opportunities for women in sports marketing and redefining the way our society treats and values women’s sports.

Now, Puma has followed suit by signing Rihanna as the face of its women’s fitness line and giving her the title of “creative director,” and Nike has joined the ranks by inking a deal with top model Karlie Kloss.

When Under Armour debuted its “I Will” campaign with a TV commercial featuring Gisele Bundchen, I offered the opinion that, while the effort is effective, a double standard has been created by the media that has shaped viewing habits, public opinion and marketing. This trend does not bode well for the growth of women’s sports nor does it help top-tier female athletes who hope to build a brand for themselves or, at the very least, secure valuable endorsements.

The starting point of all this is that women’s sports get a fraction of the respect and audience that men’s sports do. The media has not historically promoted or distributed women’s sports. And most women athletes grew up looking up to male athletes as their role models.

Title IX was supposed to provide equality for women in athletics by ensuring that women could participate in organized competitive sports, and clearly there have been benefits. Reportedly, 2.8 million girls around the country play varsity sports leading to more than $1 million in college scholarships per year. Moreover, such participation clearly benefited women off the field of play in that sports teaches important virtues necessary to succeed in business: hard work, team work, and perseverance. In fact, 52 percent of women executives today, according to espnW, participated in competitive sports at the university level or above.

However, Title IX did nothing to improve equal opportunity for women interested in professional sports as a career — it just did not go far enough.

Girls got to play instead of cheerlead, but our sports viewing habits did not change. Why? The reason is that, while schools had to change and let girls play sports, the media was allowed to continue its old ways of ignoring women’s sports. A primary reason why we do not perceive male and female athletes equally is that the media treat women’s sports like second-class citizens, and advertisers only follow suit.

Bottom line, our attitude toward women’s athletes is shaped by sports media and Madison Avenue. And Madison Avenue sets the standard for our double standard of social currency among men (rich/winner/athletic) and women (attractive/youthful).

When it comes to male athletes, all that matters is whether you win at one of the major sports. The general rule is that if you are a winner — the best in the business — then you will be rewarded handsomely with endorsements or marketing deals like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Kevin Durant, to name a few. In marked contrast, the sports brands realized over the years that you don’t have to pay top women athletes the big bucks no matter what.

For example, when we represented Lisa Leslie, the best player in the WNBA, Nike kept reducing its offers to her even as she got better and more dominant as a player. The reasoning was that Nike discovered that male athletes were still driving the sales of the shoes anyway (girls looked up to the male athletes more because of the additional exposure and promotion that they received).

More recently, as women have been wearing workout gear or athletic apparel throughout the day (as men have done for years), the sports brands have started to experiment with different approaches seeing this as a growth market. Now, there is much more emphasis on whether a female athlete is attractive and youthful, rather than the best in the world. In fact, it is arguably better to be an athletic youthful model rather than an athlete who happens to be attractive (at least from Under Armour’s perspective). All of this is completely in line with Madison Avenue’s view of how to market women.

There was quite a bit of chatter around Under Armour’s signing of Bundchen to a reportedly whopping deal to be the face of its women’s athletic footwear and apparel line. Obviously, she is super-attractive, athletic and perhaps even a remarkable lady, but she certainly is not considered a world-class athlete nor is she the best in the world at a sport that large numbers of girls play (i.e. soccer, basketball or volleyball).

But who can argue with Under Armour’s results in light of the growth for its women’s business as a result of the “I Will” campaign?

I appreciate attractive female athletes, but I don’t think that being physically attractive should be the initial criterion when a sports brand is deciding whether to sign a woman endorser. But it seems the women who are buying the product don’t really care about this.

If we really want to see change, the sports media, starting with the major distributors like ESPN, Fox and NBC, should be required to promote and distribute a certain amount of women’s sports on TV. This would require legislative action much like Title IX or the Children’s Television Act. The Federal Communications Commission and perhaps the courts would likely follow to support and give teeth to that legislation.

Girls and women need to be conditioned to watch women’s sports. They make up more than half the viewing audience for goodness sake. Not only should sports companies apply the same standard to female athletes as they do to men, they should make women’s sports just as relevant to women as men’s sports are to men.

If the government were courageous enough to take affirmative action, this would likely happen.

WHY NBA IS BEST-RUN SPORTS LEAGUE.

NBA All-Star weekend marked the anniversary of Adam Silver’s remarkably successful first year on the job as NBA Commissioner and was symbolic in many ways. It was held in NYC, between Brookly
n and Madison Square Garden (the mecca of basketball) where the NBA showcased the best of the sport and NYC (from the Rockettes to hit Broadway shows). On display was what is great about the NBA and makes it the most well managed and “high growth” sports property in the world.

NBA All-Star weekend marked the anniversary of Adam Silver’s remarkably successful first year on the job as NBA Commissioner and was symbolic in many ways. It was held in NYC, between Brookly
n and Madison Square Garden (the mecca of basketball) where the NBA showcased the best of the sport and NYC (from the Rockettes to hit Broadway shows). On display was what is great about the NBA and makes it the most well managed and “high growth” sports property in the world.

There are numerous reasons for this. The NBA features the best athletes in the world with their athletic skills, image, and faces on full display. At the heart of the NBA culture is giving back to the community (as they did on Friday’s “day of service”). The NBA celebrates its history and treats their stars of the past with great reverence (Legends Brunch). The NBA is always out front on most the important social issues, including racial equality (Newsmaker Breakfast). It is also a leader in every development in media and technology as was plainly evident at the groundbreaking NBA Tech Summit where Commissioner Adam Silver put on a pair of Oculus Rift goggles during his opening remarks and led the audience through a virtual reality tour of All-Star Weekend activities.

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But in the end, it is all about the game and players that just seem to be getting better, more well-behaved, and socially conscious all the time. And, this game is becoming more global by the minute as evidenced by the record number of international media in attendance covering over 100 NBA players that currently hail from countries other than the USA.

All this did not happen by accident. What distinguishes the NBA’s extraordinary management is its carefully crafted succession plan which resulted in a seamless transition from former Commissioner David Stern to current Commissioner Adam Silver. David Stern was a true sports “icon”—larger than life; George Washington on the horse leading the troops— knowing how to do everyone in the organization’s job, better than they did. Lecturing to his owners like they were school children—but always commanding enormous respect. He was Plato’s consummate benevolent despot, although he could be a bit tough on employees at times because of his searing intellect, unparalleled work ethic and almost prescient knowledge of everything that went on at the league office.

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During Commissioner Stern’s tenure, I was the “agent” and marketer for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Hakeem Olajuwon; Kevin Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal, among others. I had the opportunity to work closely with Commissioner Stern in a slightly adversarial capacity (because of the inherent conflict between the league and its players) but that grew into a relationship of mutual respect that left me with deep admiration for him. I have never encountered anyone smarter, with greater command of all the facts, and one who knew how to exercise nearly perfect judgment in the face of crises. He also possessed a true sense of humanity and made “giving back” a foundational principle of the league.

Stern groomed Adam Silver (for nearly 20 years) as his successors and their styles couldn’t be more different. Ironically, Silver’s style, while polar opposite, is no less effective. The NBA he has inherited (which he also contributed largely to building in his own quiet way) a globally burgeoning business where “media” has changed from a relatively simple TV deal to a highly sophisticated and fragmented array of digital rights. In Silver’s first year he was faced with three big jobs. First, restructuring the NBA organization for Global Growth; second, dealing with the unanticipated Donald Sterling fiasco; and third, negotiating a new TV/media deal. It is a matter of public record that he passed all these tests with flying colors and catapulted himself from a relatively unknown to a guy on the cover of Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, appearing on David Letterman, and getting stopped constantly for photos and autographs. He’s almost become a cult hero.

Silver also gets high marks for the loyalty he engenders among employees, partners and friends. He is very inclusive, considerate, generous and sensitive to others. He doesn’t lead on a horse as much as through consensus but always makes the final important decision after conferring with his trusted advisors, such outstanding, hand-picked Deputy Commissioner, Mark Tatum. In a way, Silver’s style may be even better suited for today’s more sprawling NBA than was his micro managing predecessor, but his predecessor must be given full credit for orchestrating the scenario where the owners put exactly the right man in charge at the right time.