May Fast Company opens with fast start

The May 2006 issue of Fast Company hit my mailbox yesterday, and it got out of the blocks quickly with “Fast Talk: voices from the creative front lines,” interviews with five brand warriors from the world of sports. Except for the cheesy photo of the Oakland Raiders’ Patty Herrera wearing shoulder pads, it was a great look into the strategies these pros employ to make their brands different, inviting, relevant and truthful.

The aforementioned Herrera, a former Raiderette, is now the director of multicultural initiatives for Raider Nation. She overseas outreach to minority communities, and has helped the black and silver connect with Hispanics, Chinese, German and, even, Navajo. In the interview by Michael A. Prospero, Herrera says “The Raiders have always been about being different from the rest, which is why we decided to broadcast Raiders games in Navajo; to unite the Navajo Nation with the Raider Nation.”

Tom Whaley, executive vice president of the St. Paul Saints, has one of the most intriguing jobs, serving up bizarre activities to keep families coming back to fill the 6,000-seat minor-league baseball season all summer long. Under his guidance, the team started using live pigs to deliver baseballs because they thought mascots were becoming too fluffy. And for 2006, they’ll feature “ballet parking” – ballerinas who’ll park your car. The bespeckled Whaley says “If we just did baseball, we’d probably have 1,000 people here each night.”

The article also includes interviews with Paul Brooks, president of NASCAR digital entertainment and broadcasting (“Everything we do with technology is about giving fans the choice of how they want to watch the race.”); Tanya Van Court, vice president and general manager of ESPN broadband and interactive television (“The appetite for video on demand online is growing, and a year from now, it’s going to be insatiable.”); and Brett Yormark, president and CEO of the New Jersey Nets (“We’re fortunate to have great character guys like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter on our roster, so if I can exploit that in a positive way, why not? Our All Access campaign puts them in touch with fans…”).

These folks are winners that we can all learn a few things from. Check out their programs and their sites and see if you can apply their game plan to your operation.

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