NEWS - AUGUST 2015
Liberty Names Quest Diagnostics Official Performance Testing Partner
Liberty WNBA August 11, 2015
New York, NY, August 11, 2015 – The New York Liberty, a charter member of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), today announced that Blueprint for Athletes™ by Madison, NJ-based Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, is the official Performance Testing Partner for the 2015-2017 seasons.
Earlier this year, the New York Liberty began using Quest’s Blueprint for Athletes service, which offers customized test panels that evaluate blood-based health markers to provide personalized insights athletes can use to help improve their performance. Quest Diagnostics is currently piloting Blueprint for Athletes at athletic performance events in select regions and expects to make the service available nationally by early 2016.
Through its Sports and Human Performance Diagnostics clinical franchise business, Quest Diagnostics spearheads services based on medical-grade lab testing to help professional and amateur athletes improve their performance through diagnostics insights.
Throughout the remainder of the season, the Blueprint for Athletes logo will be featured on the Liberty’s practice jersey and Quest Diagnostics will be integrated on the Liberty’s website and GardenVision, Madison Square Garden’s state-of-the-art center-hung multimedia display.
“An ideal partner for us is one that can help us optimize our team’s competitive edge, both on and off the court. Our relationship with Quest Diagnostics represents an exciting opportunity for the Liberty to work with the world’s leading provider of diagnostic health services to bring meaningful health insights to our players. The fact that their logo is literally woven into the fabric of our team’s practice jerseys is more than symbolic,” said Kristin Bernert, senior vice president, Business & Basketball Operations, New York Liberty.
“Blueprint for Athletes is a powerful tool for improving athletic performance, giving athletes scientific, sport-specific insights about how their body optimally functions to enhance performance,” said Richard Schwabacher, MPH, executive director, Quest Diagnostics Sports and Human Performance. “New York Liberty athletes exemplify the type of competitor that benefits most from Blueprint for Athletes: high-performing, driven and focused individuals who are committed to reaching their full potential. We’re proud to partner with the women of the Liberty, and for the opportunity to help these outstanding athletes compete at the highest level.”
Blueprint for Athletes incorporates the latest science and input from professional and amateur athletes in basketball, football, cycling, running and other sports. The service evolved from a collaboration formed between Quest Diagnostics and the New York Giants in 2013.
“It made perfect sense for us to pilot the program with the high-performing athletes of the Liberty,” said Laura Ramus, director, Player Performance, New York Liberty and a member of the Blueprint for Athletes Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. “From the first round of testing to the most recent, the results from the Blueprint for Athletes service have helped both improve individual player performance and guide our approach to the team’s training and nutritional protocols. Those value-added insights about how our players’ bodies function has helped us as a team to train not just harder, but smarter.”
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16W Marketing Vice President Ralph Vuono Named to the 2015 NJ Biz "Forty Under 40"
NJ Biz August 18, 2015
Rutherford, NJ (Tuesday, August 18, 2015) – 16W Marketing announced today that Vice President Ralph Vuono has been named to the 2015 NJ Biz “Forty Under 40” list. Vuono, 36, becomes the first member of the 16W Marketing staff to be named to the list honoring New Jersey business executives under 40 years old.
“16W Marketing is proud to have a member of our family on the NJ Biz Forty Under 40 list,” said Frank Vuono, Partner, 16W Marketing. “Ralph is most definitely deserving. His energy, creativity and dedication to our clients is a great representation of the principles we espouse as a Company.”
Ralph Vuono is considered a leading sports marketing executive. Most recently, Vuono played an integral role in the negotiations between Quest Diagnostics and the New York Giants for the naming rights of their training and practice facility in East Rutherford named The Quest Diagnostics Training Center. This was the first major sponsorship in all of sports for a diagnostic company, which created the sponsorship category “Diagnostic Testing”.
Vuono helped the New Orleans Saints in securing the $11 million in sponsorship revenues following the disaster as the result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Vuono and 16W Marketing were hired by the NFL Commissioner’s Office to strategize on how to leverage revenue for the Saints through sponsorship, merchandise, public relations, suite sales and advertising sales. These efforts helped the Saints solidify their presence in NewOrleans, which was critical to the financial stability of the city.
In 2009, Vuono served as a Founding Executive for the United Football League, where he reported directly to the league’s Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. In the role of Vice President, UFL Properties, he oversaw multiple facets of the league including sponsorships, consumer products, television production, public relations, stadium operations and game day production.
In 2011, Vuono and 16W Marketing were hired by the NFL Commissioner’s Office to revamp the NFL Alumni Association. Vuono was responsible for rewriting the NFL Alumni Association’s business plan to steer strategic growth for the organization. He made his mark by growing the organization’s annual hospitality event into a nationally televised event called the “NFL Alumni Player of the Year Awards” that aired on the NFL Network.
About 16W Marketing
16W Marketing (www.16wmktg.com), established in October 2000 by partners Frank Vuono and Steve Rosner, is a full-service sports marketing company utilizing a completely integrated approach in the development of client programs. 16W specializes in athlete/celebrity marketing, corporate sponsorship, broadcast negotiations, special corporate hospitality, stadiumdevelopment, venue entitlement and digital/e-commerce solutions. The Rutherford, NJ-based company represents some of the top sports personalities of all-time including Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Howie Long, Cris Collinsworth and Ron Darling. Furthermore, 16W Marketing provides consulting services to Quest Diagnostics, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Pro Football Focus, Panasonic, Rita's Italian Ice, Aramark, Fanatics and The Experts Network (TXN).
For all 16W Marketing media inquiries, please contact Sammy Steinlight at (917) 750-8747 or email@example.com.
Collinsworth's constant quest for what's next
Sports Business Daily August 31, 2015
Cris Collinsworth was sitting and staring at a number of monitors and TV screens as I interrupted him in his office at his home outside of Cincinnati. With a blue Nike windbreaker, shorts and black loafers, and sporting a white Harvard hat, he wore the relaxed look of a man chilling on his day off. But he was breaking down NFL game film to prepare for the upcoming season, working in his basement office on a Wednesday morning.
It had been a busy few days at the Collinsworth house, which Cris and his wife, Holly, built more than 20 years ago in Fort Thomas overlooking the Ohio River. They and their four children had celebrated two graduations (Austin from Notre Dame and Ashley from Harvard) and an engagement (Katie), which came after a family trip through Europe this summer. Now the 56-year-old was back and preparing for his seventh season calling NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
Cris quietly wonders why I was interested to come to his home and spend time with him, saying, “There are a lot of people more interesting in the business of sports.” But I tell him of my appreciation of him over the years, and how he aces my “mom” test. Each Sunday during the NFL season, my 81-year-old mother sits on cold, dark evenings in Vermont and watches Collinsworth and Al Michaels. She’ll call me days after and praise the NBC analyst, invariable saying “He’s so smart and witty. He articulates so well! And he has a nice smile.” His easy voice and insight get her through some cold winter nights. He smiles humbly after hearing that story and laughs when I say she also admires that his father was named Abraham — Abe Lincoln Collinsworth, born on Lincoln’s birthday, Feb. 12, 1936. It’s with Cris’ late father that our 90-minute conversation starts. It takes us through his days as an athlete, how he learned the craft that has won him 16 Sports Emmys, and what’s next for a person with an insatiable appetite to learn.
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Abe Collinsworth was a star basketball player who won a national championship at the University of Kentucky under Adolph Rupp, and later became a teacher, principal and basketball coach. Cris’ parents were educators, and the family moved from Ohio to Florida during the race-tense days of the 1960s, where Cris learned about sports and society.
“I used to always tell my dad there’s nothing better than reading about him on the bathroom walls of the high school,” he says with a laugh. “He was the principal in the early integration days, and there were problems, there were fights. It was football player on football player in the rough section of town. He used to have to go to the black church and tell them why those kids were suspended or expelled, and then he would go to the white church and explain why those kids were suspended or expelled. Years later I asked him, ‘Where were you more afraid going?’ And he said, ‘By far, the white church was more frightening, because I was seen as a traitor there.’ He was a big guy, 6-4, and the only way those fights ever broke up was when he waded in there, and then bodies were flying out. He was a tough guy, but he was a good guy and a lot of fun, and everybody loved him.
“I got an interesting perspective on life, because if you grow up in sports, you’re integrated from the beginning,” he said. “It’s one of the great advantages that athletes have, is that we learn to like or dislike people, not races or groups of people. For me to see at such an early age the net effects of what it can do to a community and what it did to my dad, who had to be the enforcer at times, was really stunning.”
With a long, lean build, Cris followed his father’s love of basketball. “All I ever did was play basketball,” he recalls. “My dad coached basketball, so I literally went to basketball camp for nine weeks every summer, and after a while, you get pretty good at it.” Football was secondary, playing off and on until eighth grade. “I got talked into it, and things started to take off from there. I played quarterback and went on to play quarterback my freshman year at Florida. I had a horrible spring game; was something like 0-for-11 with two interceptions. [Quarterback coach] Steve Spurrier moved me to running back, and I tried a blitz pickup on an outside linebacker and that was the end of that. Then I got moved to a wingback,” he laughs. Playing receiver was a welcome move for him. “I knew I couldn’t play quarterback. I couldn’t throw a lick.”
But with coaching at Florida from Spurrier and offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, Cris was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft and had a successful eight-year career with two Super Bowl appearances and three Pro Bowl appearances. Growing up, I always enjoyed watching Cris — he was not your prototypical wide receiver but was tall, had great hands and went over the middle in catching balls from Ken Anderson or Boomer Esiason. By 1989, he knew his playing days were done and looked for new challenges to support his growing family that remained in Cincinnati. But broadcasting wasn’t on his radar.
“Not at all. I was in law school at the University of Cincinnati with my wife, who graduated way up there,” he says, putting his hands above his head. “It took me five years to get a three-year degree because I was going during the season. I am always going to be a big fan of [Bengals President] Mike Brown because he let me skip morning meetings to go to law school, which I don’t think sat very well with the coaches. I would go to an 8 a.m. class and come back and they were installing Cover 2 again. But I’d been around seven or eight years, so I kind of got it. But law school really allowed me to have a jump-start. When I got cut by the Bengals, I had a couple of calls from other teams, but my knee was really messed up. I figured I’d finish law school and go to work. Holly was already working; she was pregnant with [their first child] Katie, so it was time to go to work. Within two days, I got a call from HBO, and they said, ‘Do you want to do features?’ I was like, ‘Sure! What’s a feature?’ After that, the local radio station, WLW, called and I started to do a show there. I was horrible at that. That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. You come in and they put a microphone in front of you and flip the switch, and you think as a talk radio host that the phone lines just light up. Well, they don’t. You’ve got to say something controversial or stir the pot. I just thought we’d go in there and talk football, so I was boring as heck and nervous and hated it.”
But he stuck with it and “after a while, you finally figure it out,” he says. Cris finished law school, stayed with the radio show, worked at HBO Sports and then joined NBC Sports in 1990, doing college football, NFL games and some studio work. The low-profile gigs were a blessing. “The greatest thing that happened to me was that I wasn’t a big enough star to get the really good games. I really truly had the bottom-of-the-bottom games when I started at NBC. The good thing was that after a couple years of nobody seeing me, by the time I got on a more national stage, I’d had some practice.” And that’s a message for today’s talent. “The stars that come out today, they don’t get those two years of practice. They put them right on ‘Monday Night Football’ or the prime-time game. I really appreciate that I got to go that route. I would have been gone after a year if I got thrown into prime-time games from the start. No question.”
Now, 25 years in, Cris thrives. I admire his mix of game knowledge and easy rapport with Michaels. He is smart and opinionated, but not snarky, and it’s that balance that makes him my mother’s favorite. When I ask him who he is trying to reach during a game, he pauses. “It’s a strange world, because you really want to do the game for football people. We want to impress coaches and players and show them everything we see on the field and everything we know. Unfortunately, football players only comprise about 1 percent of your audience. You’ve got a lot of moms, dads, aunts and uncles, grandmas and kids, so we try to do our game to everybody,” he says. “Do I want to show unique things that make the game interesting and compelling to a football audience? Yes, I do. But every time I say something about a ‘three technique’ for a defensive tackle, Al hits me on the shoulder, like ‘Stop that! What are you doing? Nobody knows what that is!’ And he’s right.”
So he strives for balance. “You can talk about the three-technique linemen on some broadcasts, and a lot of people do. I pick my spots. I want people to know I do know that, but I don’t want to wear them out. So every time somebody smashes up in the line of scrimmage for a one-yard gain, I don’t want to circle the right guard and say he pulled over here.”
Not dwelling on game technique allows Cris to use his knowledge and offer a sharp point of view. One source told me he admires Cris because he is “fearless behind the mike.” Cris concedes it’s developed over the years. “Talk radio had a lot to do with that, because that was a three-hour fistfight every night. I’m by nature a pretty nice guy. It’s not in my nature to be mean-spirited about anything. But they pay me to tell the truth, or my version of the truth, my opinion of what’s going on. And if I don’t do it, they’re going to pay somebody else to do it.”
But he also knows he can’t hit and run. “I always want to be able to say, ‘OK, coach, let’s go into the film room, I’ll show you exactly what I saw.’ I always want to be able to support it. I try to see it and say it. Whatever you see, don’t feel guilty, just say it out loud,” he explains. “But I will from time to time sort of say, ‘Hey, this is a pretty good player, but he’s had a rough day.’ Something like that, because nobody’s awful all the time or they wouldn’t be playing in the NFL. I had plenty of bad games, too.” Having a son who played at Notre Dame also tempers him. “I watched Austin a lot on television. When I’d hear commentators talk when he made a mistake, I’d want to jump through the television and knock them out. Heck, that would get to me. But then I just laugh at myself, because I know mothers and fathers out there are feeling the same way about me.”
That experience of watching Austin has led Cris to alter his style. “I don’t think I’ve changed in what I say, but maybe how I say it. Early in my career, I would’ve been one of those guys saying, ‘What is he doing?!’ Just growling. Now, I can see it a little bit more as a parent, I can see it a little bit more as a friend and I can see it a little bit more as a father.”
He also understands that he’s one slip of the tongue from being out of the broadcasting business. “Usually when people get in trouble, it’s when they try to be funny or try to be cute. I almost never make comparisons to things anymore — ‘He’s like a …’ That’s death. You can’t do that. I almost never reference race in any way, shape or form, because I don’t feel like I’m the one that should be making comments on that. I just never felt like it was the right thing for me. I just try to stay with what I know.”
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His preparation for “Sunday Night Football” runs the entire week and begins immediately after Sunday night. “I have to start then in order for me to get in all the study that I want to get in, and it’s just trying to get to the level where the local fan is. There’s never been a cab driver, a bellhop, a bartender, a waiter, that I haven’t asked about their team,” he says. “The local fans know what the hot-button issues are in that town. Then I can do my own research. It’s issue-spotting, which is the same thing law school was. You have to spot the issues and the points to shape the discussion around. And that’s the same thing with calling football.”
The grind of the week of prep is visible as he walks me through it. “Most people think we get in on Saturday night and go to the game on Sunday and call it. But we spend the week in final-exam mode compiling all the notes and trying to boil it down. I talk with all the coordinators Thursday on the phone, we meet with one team Friday, the other team Saturday. And then all day Sunday, I sit with [NBC football researcher] Andy Freeland, and I try to regurgitate all of our notes to him. And he goes, ‘Don’t forget him.’ And I’ll say, ‘Is he the guy who worked at the zoo?’ You only get maybe 5 or 10 percent of it into the game. The best moment of the entire week for me comes right before kickoff; I take this pile of stuff and just throw it away. It’s the greatest relief in the world because you can’t study anymore.”
And while he has more than 269,000 Twitter followers, don’t expect him to be trolling after the game. “I never go on Twitter after a game. It’s too much. Everybody’s mad. Usually, it’s split about 50-50 that I’m completely biased in favor of the Steelers or the Ravens. When I get equal hate, that’s a good sign. Usually I’ll read Twitter later in the week to see if there’s something constructive. Sometimes you have a buzz phrase that you say too much, or it’s grammar occasionally. Those things I pay attention to.”
As we finish, we talk about sleeper teams (he likes the Dolphins and Cardinals), we talk about how his days of running are over (“After a while, you just don’t enjoy it.”) and take in the sights from his kitchen, which looks over the family pool, the Ohio River and green rolling hills.
I’ve heard his name mentioned as a future political candidate and he certainly has the charm and style, but the showboating of Washington has clearly turned him off. “I got asked to run for Congress once. I always thought that I would have a little bit of an interest. But it doesn’t seem like anybody’s really trying to solve any problems to me,” he says. “It’s too much gamesmanship and more of ‘our side’s winning and your side’s losing’ than it is trying to solve the problems in the country. I don’t think I would feel comfortable playing that game.”
It’s clear that Cris has greater aspirations outside of broadcasting, and he’s in a good spot to explore them. “I enjoy new challenges,” he tells me as he walks me up his driveway to my Uber in waiting. “There’s got to be something new, some new hill to climb. I have an accounting degree, never worked as an accountant; I have a law degree, never worked as a lawyer. I’ve always admired successful businessmen. I just have. I don’t know why, but when I meet them, I want to pick their brains and know everything about them. I always want to know more.”
Something any mother would love to hear.
Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interest in game research leads to majority stake in Pro Football Focus site
Sports Business Daily August 31, 2015
Cris Collinsworth is spending much of his time these days focused on his majority ownership of Pro Football Focus, an 11-year-old football analytics/information site he stumbled upon years ago.
“I always wanted to hire a team of people that would be like a football factory, where all we did was watch film, told each other exactly what we saw on the tape, but the only people allowed in the conversation were those who had actually watched the game tapes and studied the film,” he says. “I came across Pro Football Focus, and I’m like, ‘This is pretty good.’ I signed up for their $26.99 service, where you get all this extra data, and I’m thinking, ‘This has got to be a coach. I don’t know how they’re getting this stuff, but this is dead-on.’ So I go to the contact us page and type, ‘This is Cris Collinsworth. I’m just wondering who you guys are. I really enjoy your site, and here’s my telephone number.’ Three minutes later, my phone rings and it’s [site founder] Neil Hornsby, who has this British accent, and all I can think of is, ‘Son of a gun, I just got hustled by this Brit for $26.99!’ So I start drilling him on guards and inside linebackers and safety play, and after about three or four minutes, I shut up and I just started listening and finally asked, ‘Who are you?’ He told me his story about how it started and I was hooked.”
The site employs nearly 150 people all over the world logging game tape. “We have around 19 NFL teams. We’ve got four college teams. We’ve got networks and work with ESPN, Turner and 120 Sports,” Collinsworth explains. “The big decision we made is that we’re going to do all the college football games. Before, it’s only been the NFL. Now we’re doing more than 100 college teams, and it has really become our most valuable property because NFL teams want it for the draft.”
He sees a business model mix of business-to-business offering and regular fan-based fantasy and subscription base.
— Abraham D. Madkour
'I can't believe the call'
Sports Business Daily August 31, 2015
One of Cris Collinsworth’s signature moments came in February, seconds after Russell Wilson threw a goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX. Al Michaels exclaimed in his trademark voice, “Unreal,” after the play. During the chaotic action, Collinsworth took a breath but pulled no punches.
“I can’t believe the call,” he said on air.
He said he’s been constantly asked about the chain of events by viewers this offseason.
“Those moments come, you just never know where they are,” he said. “Those are really hard, I mean they are. Especially when you know 115 million people are watching. I saw the play, and there were perfectly logical reasons why they threw the ball, but I had seen so much of Seattle by that point, and they were great at two things — either handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch, or having Russell Wilson get out on the edge — and I think they would’ve scored with either strategy.
“I was 75 percent sure they were going to run it, but I was 100 percent sure if they didn’t, they were going to get Russell Wilson to the edge. I didn’t think the strength of their team was in the drop-back mode on the goal line against a goal-line defense. So I just sat there for a second with my mouth open. Al did his thing, and I can barely remember what I said, to tell you the truth, but all that kept coming to my mind was, ‘I can’t believe that call.’”
— Abraham D. Madkour