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,?
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
?For the most part (presence marketing) requires discretionary
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.?
Hope is personally credited as the big-idea man behind some of the most
forceful and memorable presence marketing achievements in the last
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
Each of these enterprises achieved what few marketers are able to
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
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.
PRESIDENT AND CO-OWNER OF HOPE-BECKAM
PR department of the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks. Also Ted Turner?s
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
President of event marketing and private media for Whittle
President and co-owner of Hope-Beckam.