Nine-Year-Olds Got Nothing on These Nine Mascots

I taught nine-year-olds for two years coming out of grad school, and believe me, those kids had nothing on the nine mascots that took part in our recent CAA Basketball Mascot Tour in Baltimore.

The purpose of the tour was to help promote the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship’s move to Baltimore in 2014. I was tasked with manning the conference’s social media efforts during the tour alongside several members of a local public relations team helping lead the day’s events.

Needless to say, given the efforts (and antics) of our nine so-called furry friends, I think we got the word out.

The tour began at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, site of our CAA Basketball Media Day. Several mascots arrived earlier than the others, so while we waited, the mascots wasted little time finding their form, greeting (i.e. scaring the hell out of) guests as they got off elevators, getting spanked by security and even taking some time to check in folks at the front desk.

Elevator

Check In

Before heading out to our first stop, we corralled our cast of characters for a photo. The expression “herding cats” certainly applied here. They are a good-looking bunch, though, right?

CAA_0052

Waiting outside for us was Baltimore Trolley, which so graciously carted the group around for the day. There was plenty of room for the gang, including James Madison’s Duke Dog, who if it weren’t for his lack of opposable thumbs could probably start for JMU given that he’s a good 6’6″.

Mascots Trolley

Our first stop was the Under Armour Brand House, where the mascots did everything from play a little hoops to fold some of the apparel. There was also some fooling around with the checkout scanner gun. Oh, and this happened on the counter…

Doc Checkout

It was then off to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s office. While we waited for the mayor to return from some important business, the mascots rested up and took in a little TV.

TV Mascots

We were then led into an immaculate chamber featuring artwork and furniture that had to be well over 100 years old. The mascots took full (and I do mean full) advantage of the space, with each taking a turn behind the podium, including Sammy, who’s got the whole politician thing down.

Sammy Podium

Mayor Rawlings-Blake arrived to quite a sight. After taking in the fur-filled scene and a little one-on-one time with the league’s lone female mascot, Hofstra’s Kate the Lioness (who had just finished dolling herself up in the 19th-century mirror), it was time for what was the day’s premier photo opp.

mayor

Following a quick return trip to the hotel to greet the media and their head coaches, the mascots joined us at Phillip’s Seafood in the heart of the Inner Harbor. A full spread had been set out for us, and it didn’t take long for the mascots to begin cracking crabs and making a complete mess. Even William & Mary’s Griffin was at a loss at the spectacle.

Griffin

At least Kate was there to help clean everyone up.

Duke Dog Kate

With everyone now stuffed full of seafood, we headed to Federal Hill. Along the way, Drexel’s Mario the Magnificent stumbled upon some long-lost family members.

mario dragons

We also discovered that Towson’s Doc the Tiger has some mad skills on the drums. We thought he was just cattin’ around when he first sat down, so this was a pleasant surprise to all of us and the other Inner Harbor visitors who gathered around for the impromptu show.

Doc Drums

A beautiful view of the city awaited us atop Federal Hill, making the hike up the several flights of stairs very worthwhile.

Federal Hill

It was important that we all stayed hydrated after that climb, as Northeastern’s Paws the Husky took to heart.

Paws Fountain

The next stop on the tour was a highly anticipated one – M&T Bank Stadium, where the reigning Super Bowl Champion Ravens’ mascot, Poe, joined us for a shot in the stands. Love or hate the Ravens, they boast one of football’s cleverest mascots.

ravens

We followed up our trip to the stadium with a visit to the Orioles’ historic Camden Yards, which combines classic ballpark beauty and an updated modern feel to create a great stadium aesthetic. Enough about architecture, though, as we were joined by The Bird, who led our nine mascots onto the dugout for this sweet shot.

camden

A few of us got left behind (not because we were perfecting our dugout dances), so the mascots enjoyed some extra time at Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum.

museum

The four of us stragglers quickly caught up with the group and we then set off for Baltimore Arena, home of the 2014 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The league hopes to see plenty of fans in these lines come March.

arena

Our last stop on the tour was the National Aquarium, where the mascots made friends with one of the dolphins.

Dolphin

Sammy made a friend on the way out as well. Yeah, this is pretty adorable.

Sammy Girl

All in all, it was a highly entertaining and ultimately successful day spent with our nine crazy mascots, thanks to a lot of teamwork…

Teamwork

and a lot of fun.

Scared Lady

Hey Vine, Meet Instagram Video

Instagram vs Vine

It’s my first Free Friday from work and I’m up early at Starbucks researching (i.e. nerding out to) the latest battle in the social media landscape between Vine and the new Instagram Video. In my eyes, these kind of digital duels are like boxing or pro wrestling, but only better – quite a statement given my affinity for WWE.

Yes, Instagram has introduced a 15-second video feature to complement its trademark filtered-photo sharing service, news my broworker Bobby rushed down to share with me at the office yesterday (see, I’m not the only one who’s amped about this development). I suppose this should come as no surprise to the world’s 130 million Instagram users and the 13 million of us on Vine; it was only a matter of time until Instagram introduced video.

Let’s not lose sight of the overarching significance here, though, because while this is seemingly a battle between Instagram Video and Vine, in all actuality it’s a larger war between Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, and Twitter, owner of Vine. Furthermore, in no way is this simply a competition for users, but a play for advertising dollars – two concepts that go hand in hand in the digital world nowadays.

When it comes to the advertising aspect, it’s no coincidence that Instagram went with 15 seconds given that it’s an increasingly popular length for TV and online ad spots. Companies can do a great deal in 15 seconds – and much more than in six seconds on Vine – as evidenced by Lululemon in this sweet Instagram Video. Here are a few other brands also wasting no time taking advantage of Instagram’s new video offerings.

Facebook was undoubtedly smart to embrace the bite-sized video-sharing side of the industry, thus stealing a key element of Twitter’s business model following the latter’s immense success with Vine. As an early adopter, it seems like Vine’s been around forever, but it’s important to note what many have called “video Instagram” was only just introduced in late January 2013.

Instagram CEO/co-founder Kevin Systrom billed his app’s new 15-second video feature as “everything we know and love about Instagram, but it moves.” In my quick research online and limited experience with the feature itself, here are a few notable comparisons between Instagram Video and Vine:

  • Both offer stop-motion video (thus allowing you to take clips within the full video clip itself), but Instagram Video allows you to actually delete any undesired clips.
  • Instagram carried its classic filtering feature over to video as well, giving users the ability to edit individual clips. Vine doesn’t offer this capability… yet.
  • Two big advantages of Vine, however, are looping and embedding, which Instagram did not implement as part of its initial video launch.
  • And longer is always better, right? I’d imagine that Instagram 15-second videos are preferred to the six seconds granted by Vine. I do wonder if 15 seconds is too long, though, in the sense that we’re so used to six-second videos, 140 characters and the general notion of concision in our digital world… I mean, I know it’s hard for me to even bear the five seconds before I can skip ads on YouTube. Nevertheless, I think 15 seconds will soon become the perceived norm.
  • Creativity is king when it comes to digital, so users will undoubtedly learn to be even more innovative with their increased time allotment. Just look at these people who are already doing unbelievable things with six-second videos… and they’re getting paid for it.
  • Interested in additional comparisons? Jordan Crook of Tech Crunch (great site) compiled this breakdown of the two dueling apps.

Some folks are already predicting the early extinction of Vine (hence the #RIPVine hashtag) after yesterday’s announcement, but this guy’s not so convinced. With Twitter behind it, I have little doubt that Vine will fight back – some of its most faithful users (hilariously) are already firing back.

and up its proven game. And let’s face it, a little healthy competition never hurt anyone and should only serve to benefit us users.

Lastly, if you want some extra help before taking a stab at your first Instagram Video, how about a little seven-step tutorial care of the great folks at Mashable?

Oh Hail Yeah!

hail yes

I’m a huge fan of T-shirts – as in I easily own 100 – and this one immediately caught my eye as I made my way through my Instagram feed yesterday. The NFL was peddling these clever tees at Radio City in NYC – site of the NFL Draft – this past week and in the process showed it could have a little fun with the criticism of its decision to hold next year’s Super Bowl at the non-domed MetLife Stadium in Jersey.

True, any three of these weather conditions could potentially strike the Metropolitan Area come next February 2, but let’s remember this is football, folks; a game where inclement weather is often embraced and can make the gameday experience all the more memorable.

I must admit it would be pretty incredible if the game actually came down to a Hail Mary pass. Equally incredible would be da Bears making it to the Super Bowl, but the likelihood of that happening is about as good as Mother Mary herself returning to throw the game-winning pass.

Odds Ever in Our Favor With New ‘Hunger Games’ Campaign

Effie Katniss Meme

Well, we’re only eight months and some change away from Katniss, Peeta and crew returning to our lives in “Catching Fire,” the second chapter in the beloved “Hunger Games” series. If you’re like me and need a consistent fix ahead of the November 22 premiere, the odds are ever in your favor thanks to Instagram.

The film’s studio, Lionsgate, is utilizing Instagram to rekindle our interest in the series by releasing individual character posters featuring portraits of empty chairs and soliciting guesses as to which character will eventually take each seat. The full fashion-themed photos portraying both chair and occupant are being periodically released on entertainment websites like People.com.

Until their release, the photos include hints in their captions with a countdown clock also being made available on the relaunched Capitol Couture site (the .pn in the site’s name is a nice touch, right?), run by the fictional Panem government. The first photo released is of Effie Trinket, who’s depicted as a more stately and slightly older Lady Gaga.

I’m impressed by Lionsgate’s clever use of cross promotion among its various digital platforms and its additional incorporation of outside entertainment sites into the mix. I look forward to following the campaign as both a fan and a new media junkie.

And because I can never take myself too seriously here, after you follow Capitol Couture on Instagram definitely check out these amazing Hunger Games memes. They were released last year, but they never get old.

Seth MacFarlane, I’ve Got Your Back

Watching major awards shows and sporting events allows me to completely nerd out. It’s on such nights that I can be found on my couch watching while live tweeting like I’m in some kind of catatonic trance – taking a quick sip of my beer or pausing to banter with friends being the only acceptable distractions.

Sunday’s Oscars was no different. I’m generally a big fan of the event because I’ve always appreciated the caliber of the nominees. My one resounding complaint, however, is how altogether stuffy they tend to be every year.

This year, insert host Seth MacFarlane into the mix. Yes, I know he’s widely perceived as a douche, but I’m a big fan of the guy and am impressed by how insanely creative and successful he’s been over the course of his career (I mean, need I say more than Family Guy?).

And while MacFarlane was admittedly a bit more crass than the typical Oscars host (e.g., Lincoln joke), he had some brass and remained true to his comedic persona, making the event far less stuffy than in the past. Unlike most years, I actually looked forward to the camera panning back to him for a monologue… or dialogue with William Shatner.

Despite what many have said about the guy, who was massacred on Twitter for his performance (he’s since said he’ll never host again), I was thoroughly entertained throughout this year’s show. I know my sense of humor can be a little more “bro” than some, but if the Oscars has any hopes of connecting more with the younger generation – a legitimate concern – the show should feature a host who’s actually relevant and relatable to us (i.e. our parents, grandparents and today’s young adults).

Sure, MacFarlane wasn’t a Billy Crystal crowd-pleaser type, but the show itself still lived up to its reputation as the gold standard of Hollywood awards shows and garnered its best ratings in three years, reeling in younger viewers. So recruit some younger celebrities like him to host, or at least someone like Steve Martin who viewers of all ages find to be timeless and funny as hell.

Really all I ask for is relevancy and an end to of the inane stuffiness that had so come to define the Oscars until recent years. Let’s have some more of this…

ABC News did a great job summing up MacFarlane’s best and worst moments as this year’s host…

The Best of the Harlem Shake

In the matter of a few short weeks, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” has shaken up the online universe like few viral sensations have in history. The 30-second flash mob trend whose titular song is currently No. 1 on the iTunes chart has caught fire across the world, taking workplaces, college campuses and sporting venues by storm. Heck, the trend has even gone underwater and taken to the friendly skies.

Since I’ve watched my fair share of Harlem Shake vids these last several weeks (counting the hours would be pointless), I thought I’d share some of my favorites from the thousands that exist and the more than 4,000 now uploaded each day.

While I’m gladly riding the wave of the phenomenon, I think we’re quickly approaching the point where this is no longer a new trend and the videos are becoming old news. This seems to be the growing sentiment I’ve found in my long hours of recent informal research.

Nevertheless, the trend isn’t over yet, which is why my workplace is planning to create our own Harlem Shake video on Monday. With viral videos like these serving as essentially free, proven methods of gaining instant viewership, there’s no reason not to jump on the bandwagon, especially when there’s a means of publicity behind it.

If you’re interested in learning the dance (like I’m attempting to do), then wait no longer. And I came across the Daily Beast’s interview with the man behind the Harlem Shake, Baauer, whose take on all of this is definitely worth the read.

The video that supposedly began it all

Georgia Swim & Dive goes underwater…

A group takes the shake to the sky…

Maryland may have set the bar for college campuses. They do a range of dances, but the Harlem Shake begins at 1:30 mark…

Jon Stewart’s twist on the trend has been a definite success…

Even Lucy and Linus are into this thing…

The Coast Guard is one of many military schools to create a video, but theirs is the only one featuring a guy who falls off the stairs (guy in brown jacket to left at :20 mark)…

And I can’t leave out my alma maters…

One Freakin’ Amazing Freakout


Please check out this phenomenal freakout by Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. Was this a tantrum? Indeed. But more importantly, was it effective? Undoubtedly, as Reeve’s Lynx responded accordingly and won the game to tie its WNBA Finals series with the Indiana Fever at 1-1.

I’m going to argue that we need to see more fire like this in the WNBA, and in women’s sports in general. While some fans are turned off by such displays (boo you whores), the vast majority of true sports fans enjoy seeing this kind of passion in their coaches. As evidenced in this case, players are often times receptive to this kind of behavior in their coaches as well.

Plus, coming from a PR perspective, it’s also an incredibly effective way to generate buzz around your team, as Reeve has done with multiple replays of her display on ESPN and well beyond in the realm of social media. While tantrums don’t always necessarily trigger positive storylines, they’re certainly memorable and women’s sports should be fighting for all the buzz they can get.

You go girl.