ANALYSIS: Profile - Hope: event marketing�s home run hitter/Bob Hope might have ended up an accountant, but it�s a good thing he got into PR. If he hadn�t, baseball fields would be bland and colorless, and no one would know who Ted

He was working his way through Georgia State University by literally pushing paper at the Mead plant in downtown Atlanta. It was good work, but it was heavy, hot and dirty. A baseball fan, one day he walked into the Atlanta Braves? management office at the recently opened Fulton County Stadium to see what was available.

He was working his way through Georgia State University by literally pushing paper at the Mead plant in downtown Atlanta. It was good work, but it was heavy, hot and dirty. A baseball fan, one day he walked into the Atlanta Braves? management office at the recently opened Fulton County Stadium to see what was available.

He was working his way through Georgia State University by

literally pushing paper at the Mead plant in downtown Atlanta. It was

good work, but it was heavy, hot and dirty. A baseball fan, one day he

walked into the Atlanta Braves? management office at the recently opened

Fulton County Stadium to see what was available.

?If they?d had an accounting position open, I probably would have been

an accountant,? says Bob Hope, co-founder and president of Hope-Beckam

public relations and event marketing in Atlanta. Instead, the team?s PR

pro had to leave for a tour of duty with the National Guard. ?Back then

you could walk in the door and have something lucky like that happen,?

he recalls.

Up against tradition

At that time, Hope and the city of Atlanta were new to baseball, and

both had to learn along the way. ?Tradition is a major obstacle in

sports,? he says. ?There are invisible walls and unwritten rules that

you have to deal with to be a part of what?s going on in a meaningful

way.?

Hope didn?t set out to scale any walls; he just stumbled through them

accidentally and became a part of Major League Baseball folklore. In

1972, he was only 25 years old and found himself in charge of promoting

the MLB All-Star Game, slated that year for Atlanta. With the gentle

mirth of an Andy Griffith or Garrison Keillor, Hope proudly recounts a

tale of the game that almost wasn?t.

?We were putting on an All-Star Game in Atlanta where there really

wasn?t a baseball tradition. Well, the NFL used to paint the middle of

the field, so I thought, ?Let?s just paint up the outfield.? I thought

it?d be cool.

So I hired an artist to paint the All-Star Game logo, and I asked him,

?How big can you make it?? We made that field as colorful as we

could.

Well, the umpires showed up and said, ?We can?t play.? I asked, ?Is that

against the rules?? They said it was a ground rules violation. Well, it

wasn?t a ground rules violation, nobody had ever done that before. We

looked out there at 55,000 people and the NBC cameras. What were they

going to do? Not play the game? From then on everybody painted the

field.?

To the horror of the Baseball Press Association of America, the young

upstart also made changes in the press box. Hope?s tenure as PR director

for the Braves coincided with Henry Aaron?s magnificent pursuit of Babe

Ruth?s career home run record. It is hard to fathom now, given the

ubiquitous presence of national media in today?s sporting events, but in

those days, sports coverage was generally a local matter. In the early

1970s in Atlanta, however, Hope and the Braves were faced with a tumult

of press interest in the black superstar athlete, who was on the cusp of

breaking one of the most hallowed records in the annals of baseball.

?Two hundred reporters would show up at every game to follow the

chase.

We held a lottery system to assign cameras for TV coverage and we let

radio and TV people in the press box. Well, we got calls about that,?

laughs Hope. ?The New York writers were appalled that we let radio and

TV in the press box. Then we started setting up post-game press

conferences.

(Reporters) were used to going into the locker rooms. We got calls from

people saying (they) wanted their own private interviews.?

Hope held firm, making the most of the conferences with backdrops

celebrating the magic number 715, and yet another hidden barrier fell

down.

Hope, the author of We Could?ve Finished Last Without You and Greater

Late than Never, credits Ted Turner with inspiring his unabashed

determination to carry sports promotion farther than anyone had ever

taken it before.

?Ted bought the Braves and his whole attitude was, ?life is an

adventure, let?s try things,? ? says Hope. ?You know some people will

ask you to think outside the box; well, Ted never found the box! He?d

come in with an idea and I?d think, ?Well, that?ll never work,? but

through sheer energy and passion, it would.?

Hope describes Turner as raucous and rambunctious, but also as a man who

never put things off. ?He gets excited about (ideas) so the people

around him get excited.? Hope says Turner knows how to engage people in

the most personal and meaningful ways, and this is the essence of

?presence? marketing.

?For the most part (presence marketing) requires discretionary

thinking.

It requires breaking away from the normal commodity way of doing

business,? counsels Hope. ?To maximize a sponsorship, you have to be

able to play it like a musical instrument and make something that?s

relevant to the brand, means something to the audience and strengthens

the brand?s personality.?

Breaking boundaries

Hope is personally credited as the big-idea man behind some of the most

forceful and memorable presence marketing achievements in the last

decade.

Still breaking boundaries, he sold Coors on developing the famed

Colorado Silver Bullets, the first US women?s professional sporting team

of any kind since the 40s. He also developed Coca-Cola City, a massive

theme park within Centennial Olympic Park that thrilled millions of

visitors at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Hope is also the creator of

Pepsi-Ball, a new sporting rage on college campuses around the

country.

Each of these enterprises achieved what few marketers are able to

accomplish.

They created indelible memories for those who participated and redefined

the relationship between the brands and their targets.

?The biggest obstacle is that you have people who are open to ideas,?

says Hope. ?Some people are just fixated on their ways of doing things,

so you have to present them in a way that makes sense from their

perspective.

If you can move them in the boardroom, you can make it happen.? Hope

adds, ?You can?t be afraid of getting your hands dirty. Somebody has to

be on the ground making it happen.? Fitting words from a man who earned

his PR stripes on dirt fields. And they say PR is a glamour job.

BOB HOPE

PRESIDENT AND CO-OWNER OF HOPE-BECKAM

1966-1979

PR department of the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks. Also Ted Turner?s

personal publicist

1980-1981

Manager of promotions and event marketing for Coca-Cola USA 1982-1992 VP

at Cohn & Wolfe, then corporate EVP for Burson-Marsteller after C&W was

bought

1992-1994

President of event marketing and private media for Whittle

Communications

1994-Present

President and co-owner of Hope-Beckam.

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