PLH 111 | Sports Product Marketing


In today’s time, sports and business, in general, have become so much more personal than ever before. Sports marketing has evolved over the years, leading to more authenticity in the product launch. Dave Meltzer, CEO of Sports 1 Marketing, lists down the three things to do to manage your personal brand. As we touch on George Foreman Grill’s successful marketing, find out the six criteria for successful branding. A national best-selling author of Game-Time Decision Making: High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports, Dave dives into the reason why making bad assumptions leads to tragic results and why understanding how a brand is built is a requisite.

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I’ve got a great guest for you. I like to mix it up and bring you different people from different areas and different walks of life. I’ve got sports marketing coming here. I’ve got a guy who’s an expert. Dave Meltzer is the CEO of Sports 1 Marketing. He’s a top keynote speaker, award-winning humanitarian, two-time national bestselling author, 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and an expert in legal, technology, sports and entertainment fields. He’s uniquely positioned as a world-renowned thought leader, business strategist and leading humanitarian. Dave uses his principles for business and life, gratitude, empathy, accountability and effective communication to help everyone from college students to C-Suite executives to top sports athletes to effectively live by the mission, make a lot of money, help a lot of people and have a lot of fun. Dave, thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to talking about products, products as content, personalization and brands. I love to help however I can.

That’s what I want to frame up for everyone that sports marketing, sports in general, business in general has gotten so much more personal than ever before. It’s that balance of lifestyle and personal that you’ve blended well. You’ve managed to use that in business and not just your own personal brand.

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I ran the most notable sports agency in the world called Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment. I had great brands like Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Evander Holyfield and Oscar de la Hoya. In the traditional sense, understanding how a brand is built is important. I stemmed back to Shakespeare, who in As You Like It said, “The world is your stage.” More than ever, what has occurred is that the world, product-wise and product is content. It’s either materialized content of an item or content could be a product of a person. It could also be an idea. Mickey Mouse, I always say, is one of those great ideas that has transformed itself. Over the last several years, what I realized was Shakespeare more than ever was correct that the whole world is the stage, which means if the whole world is a stage, not just the football field, the baseball field, the basketball court or the hockey rink, that made me a celebrity, a brand. That made all the products that I use important as well.

I realized there had to be three things to do that we could do in person, on the phone, email but also radio, print, TV and most importantly, social media. Number one, the most important thing is you have to have content that has a frequency, just like your product has to have a frequency. I’ll give you an example. DevaCurl is one of the products that I believe is an indie product that ten years ago could never have existed because they could not have reached the market in an effective, efficient and economical way. DevaCurl is a hair product that’s specifically made for curly hair people. In the past, you couldn’t just put up a store in Orange County for curly hair people or it would also be very difficult to build out the brand and have enough investment to go nationwide with one product. Now because you can capture that product, we now can create a brand for a DevaCurl person.

Although there are four billion people and growing on the internet, that great content, that great product now can get the exposure that we can target the specific audience of women and men who have that type of hair, and actually be exponentially more profitable from it. As far as product launch or content long ago, it doesn’t matter. You could have a frequency like Dave Meltzer or a freak like Dave Meltzer who’s a sports executive, philanthropist, speaker, author, keynote and business coach. Specifically I capture myself, amplify and perpetuate the same way I did in the old days when I was CEO of Samsung for a smartphone. That was a product that we had to educate the market, capture it, amplify it and perpetuate it. The only way to do it back then was in stores, in person, via email, phones. We used to print, radio, TV to show people those things. Now, we still do those things but we amplify it with social media.

PLH 111 | Sports Product Marketing

Sports Product Marketing: People buy on emotion for logical reasons.


The past in sports marketing was so different. I used to work on that early on in my career as well. You and I have had probably the same length career here. It’s been several years of product design and practice. It’s been long enough. Looking at that and thinking about what we would do before, it was a lot more about licensing. It was all about taking the sports celebrity and just putting them onto something or sticking hats on them. Now it’s so different. Now it’s about like, “Does this fit their life? Does this fit the audience?” There’s so much thought and difference-making going on here. The tipping point, this is my personal view on it, was the Foreman Grill because that it fit him so well. It was authentic. When people saw that, it went like wildfire at that stage. It caught on because it was so authentic. That matched the people who liked him, the people who got him, the people who understood him and his lifestyle was such a good fit.

There are six components where the Foreman Grill was absolutely one of those turning point items or products. There are six things that we have to look at. One, credibility and George Foreman had great credibility about eating because not only was he a world champ, world-renowned but he also was known for his physique in loving to eat. Two was the emotional connection. A lot of people don’t focus on this. Through content is the most important side because people buy on emotion for logical reasons. They want to feel connected. George Foreman obviously connected to so many and he was lovable. You look at what would be the reasons quantitatively that I would use the George Foreman grill. The impact that it would have on my life and then the capabilities that the grill had. If you looked at the credibility of George Foreman, the emotional attachment and the reasons, impacts and capabilities, when he asked you to buy it, most people couldn’t see any reason why they won’t buy it. That’s why it was so successful.

I joke around, but most people look at the Pet Rock as one of the dumbest product launches of all time. Don’t we all wish we would’ve thought of it? The reasons that it’s successful is to understand why the Pet Rock was successful is it’s not as dumb as it is perceived to be quantitatively. People are emotionally attached to their pet, so they lack in the most important thing why you would buy it, is because people buy on emotion for logical reasons. What are the logical reasons to buy a Pet Rock? Number one, you can take that pet anywhere. You can fly with it, drive with it, train with it. You can have various sizes and colors and customize your pet. It doesn’t pee on your floor or poo on your shoes or eat your shoes or ruin anything. It’s a very inexpensive pet and most importantly, it will never get sick, never die and it will be with you your entire lifetime and beyond.

Not only can we be great leaders, but we can brand ourselves to attract to our own businesses and our own brands. Share on X

Emotionally, the Pet Rock obviously makes sense but the reasons to buy one were extraordinary. That’s why many people bought the Pet Rock. We don’t look at it in that way. I look at things with those six criteria. Does it emotionally attach to someone and is there a quantitative analysis where I can see any reason why somebody would buy it? If you go through that, you can even launch a product like Dave Meltzer that is focused in on and have millions of people watch my TV show, my podcast. Here’s the irony of it. When you build that brand, people want you to sell their brand. One of my frequencies or authentic being is I don’t sell anything except for inspiration. I believe in the fact to put faith in the fact that if I can inspire others, the universe itself will bring business to me. I think that’s why I do have bestselling books. That’s why people want me to speak and want me to coach them is because of that authentic side.

You have that one little thing. When I talk about emotional connection to products, like if you can make people laugh on top of it, which George Foreman was great at, which in a way the Pet Rock is, because I tried giving it to my five-year-old and nine-year-old and they flipped out and said, “This is not a real dog, mom, but I thought it was funny.” That doesn’t work. When you get the humor in something, whatever that is, and that’s what you’re all about having a lot of fun. A personal brand helps as well. Even if you’re not like slapstick funny, but if you can have a sense of humor about it, that always works well and resonates.

It’s illumination as well as authenticity. A lot of times we don’t illuminate the weaknesses that can put into a place and be a strength. Vulnerability, illumination are all things that people do with brands that make them attach to people emotionally in a greater way. If we are more accepting of ourselves, forgiving of ourselves, which is why those principles that I teach are important is that I illuminate a lot of different things that make people feel comfortable. I make fun of myself and make them laugh. I also elevate others to elevate themselves. I talk not about what inspires me but more importantly, how can you live an inspired life? What value can we bring you?

PLH 111 | Sports Product Marketing

Sports Product Marketing: One bad assumption can cost you everything that you have.


I happen to have one of your books here, Connected to Goodness. I’ve had this one a while. I don’t remember. I must have gotten a few years ago, so this one has been in my library for a while. I love the messaging that you have going through that about you’re making choices every single day by how you spend your time and what you put into that. Those are significant. They make a difference and an impact on thousands of lives maybe around you, in your business like in your case, in your clients and that impacts millions more maybe. Making those choices to be connected to goodness, connected to the things that bring joy, hope and inspiration into the world is important. I think of a product that way.

I think of a product in the context of that with also the activities that they support. Life is a myriad of 24 hours of activity. I divide them by activity. I get paid for activity. I don’t get paid for it. I don’t believe in making a lot of money first, so I can help a lot of people and have even more fun. If we look at a brand in the context of the activity, then what do we want to do? We want to make sure that the brand itself is a productive brand. It brings value to people and also an accessible brand, which means that it’s accessible to many different people as well as that brand is able to access more and more energy, more and more people that brand thrives, which in context is, will it excite someone well-enough? Will it manage and develop a vision well-enough that they will become salespeople for your brand? They’re out there going, “You’ve got to have Dave Meltzer on your podcast, you’ve got to hire him as a speaker. You’ve got to go listen and buy this book,” whatever it may be, that’s through branding and marketing, when you can thrive where not only does one person purchase or accept your brand, but they are so inspired by the management and development of that brand that they’re out there selling your brand to other people.

We’re seeing a shift in sports marketing. Because there’s such a shift and as you pointed it out, like almost celebrity being, it could be anyone’s brand. It doesn’t involve just having a larger audience or a big platform because you happen to be on the sports field. Because that’s happening, we’re also seeing that shift where the sports celebrities are looking at it as, “I don’t want to have my name on a hat and a shirt and hawk these things. I want them to have meaning. I want these products to have meaning. I want more direct access so I don’t have to do these crazy licensing deals. I can direct sell myself. I can create my own product lines.” I’m seeing a tipping point in a trend in that happening right now because the tools of marketing are accessible as well.

A lot of times, what seems obvious in the present is not the right decision. Share on X

One of the secret sauces that I’ve always used was it’s one thing to represent a brand or an athlete or a celebrity, but what I always found most valuable was utilizing them as a bug light, as a point or a source of attraction to all of those other opportunities. Not only can do the normal business, a traditional business that you’re capable of doing in the skills, knowledge and desire that you have but more importantly, unlike any other time, you yourself can be that bug light. You yourself can attract all the business to your own business. Whether you’re the Lululemon CEO or Spanx CEO or whoever it may be, where before we were hiring George Foreman and naming our product the George Foreman Grill, now we actually can brand ourselves and have the grill be named whatever it is that it does. It was an interesting shift in a nuance that not only can we be great leaders, but we can brand ourselves to attract to our own businesses and our own brands.

You’ve got a new book. I want to talk about that, Game Time Decision Making: High Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports. I’m assuming there are lots of interviews and great stories from big names in sports coming through here. Game Time Decision Making, what is that?

PLH 111 | Sports Product Marketing

Game-Time Decision Making: High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports

I’ve been blessed to make a lot of money twice in my life. I’m the rags to riches story. What I find most interesting is people ask me, “Dave, how did you lose over $100 million and make it back?” I always tell them that it was about what I call those game-time decision making. That one bad assumption, not decision, one bad assumption can cost you everything that you have. Normally we make good decisions based off of the information that we received in the processing of that information, which is an aggregate or an assumption itself. If we make one bad assumption, we can have a tragic result. What I’ve done is take the greatest athletes, celebrities in sports as well as executives. In fact, Tilman Fertitta, who with $6,000 credit card founded Landry’s and the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos, as well as owns the Houston Rockets and is a multi-billionaire. He wrote the foreword but we both share a very common philosophy about life is determined upon the decisions that we make. I always say the decisions that we make, those game-time decisions are based on all the assumptions that happened beforehand. What this does is elevates people’s awareness of different strategies and disciplines that can help them be more efficient, more effective and statistically successful in all of the decisions that they make.

That’s so true here because we talk about this all the time. I’m talking to the inventors and product launchers of the world. When I’m talking to them, they make bad assumptions at the very beginning of it, assuming that people will like what they have to sell without checking on that first. That’s our number one flawed assumption that we make and that’s easy to correct. It’s easy to ask the right people or that you can make a hypothesis that these are the right people and check against that. Being able to do that, but that gets in our way of success so often. Those limiting beliefs we may have or they are these assumptions that we’re making in the process in that we think we know how this works, but maybe we don’t. Being able to screen against that is so important. What are some of these stories like?

I think to that matter in getting to those stories and why I call it Game Time Decision Making, not just strategic decision making is the time factor. From my own experience, I was CEO of the world’s first smartphone, which at the time in 1999 was the world’s first color Windows CE device. It was named the PC-E phone. A combination of a PC and a phone. It was so interesting because it was the first failure of Samsung in the phone division, which led to the successes of the flip phones that they had and becoming the second most successful manufacturer of phones in the world. At that time, that game time that we were dealing with, it was too early. I always love when people tell you what a failure Sean Parker was with Napster. I said, “In some respects, economically he was but some of the decisions he made were bad assumptions of the time.” Nobody’s shopping at Tower Records anymore because Sean Parker figured out how to monetize music in its digital format and download it, but it was just the wrong time. For me as well, it’s critical not only to understand the assumptions but the timing. We talk about game-time decision makings in negotiation.

One of the stories was, Steve Young with Leigh Steinberg, it was a big conflict at that time because Joe Montana was the golden boy of San Francisco, but yet it was supposed to be Steve Young’s time. There was a whole bunch of negotiations and decisions to be made and the deal almost fell apart. At 2:00 in the morning, Leigh and Steve Young were kicked out of the office by Mr. Eddie DeBartolo, and they were sitting on the curb in the middle of the night and Steve Young was furious at Leigh and almost in tears going, “You screwed that up. You made a horrible decision trying to ask for that much money. I want to play for the 49ers. I want to be in the NFL and not the USFL.”

Don't be in love with your product because your product is about profitability and purpose. Share on X

Leigh Steinberg looked at him and said, “By 7:00 AM, if I don’t have a deal, just fire me. That’s how certain I am that I made the best game-time decision. Although in this framework over the next four hours, you may believe that I blew it. Just wait and see what happens.” Leigh, having more situation knowledge and experience as an agent and Steve Young is a player, by 7:00 AM they had the biggest and most-highest paid contract for a quarterback ever. Steve Young went on to be MVP of the Super Bowl and won multiple Super Bowls. Game time decisions, you need situation knowledge and experience and help. A lot of times what seems obvious in the present is not the right decision.

You also point out something that we talk about all the time is there is also a deep knowledge that’s required when you need to make speed decisions. When you have to make decisions or you have a deadline and timing like, “I have to be at market in six months because otherwise, I will miss the biggest shopping quarter of the year. I’m not going to do it.” You can’t afford to make the mistakes of not having deep knowledge and understanding and that’s where you need an expert on your side like you were referring to with Leigh here. That’s sometimes the most critical and important decision you can make.

You can buy experience and situation or knowledge and have it partner with you. I always tell people the most critical question that you have to have in your arsenal to be successful is, “Do you know anyone that can help me or anything that can help me?” It takes radical humility to ask for help because even the people that are the experts in their own field, the people that have great experience in situation or knowledge may not know anything about what we’re doing or you need to know about it. I use that example. When I got out of law school, I asked my mom, who is an expert educator. She raised six kids. All of them went to the Ivy leagues except for the low end here but more importantly, she was a tremendous educator as a second-grade teacher and later on a principal. I asked her after law school, “Should I be a real lawyer and take this job as a litigator or should I sell legal research online?” Without blinking and with her experience and situation knowledge she said, “You need to be a real lawyer because the internet is going to be a fad.”

The internet is not a fad. If I would’ve made the decision not to get into the internet and sell on the internet, I would have been a millionaire nine months out of law school. I picked the wrong mentor to ask. We always have to pick people that sit in the situation or have the experience that we’re looking for. Take a quarterback, for example, as a great example in Game Time Decision Making. The reason that they can process so quickly on where to throw the football is because of practice. It’s a situation. You can’t just get out your very first time. I don’t care how strong of an arm you have, you will not be able to complete a pass in the NFL ever unless you practice, unless you’ve seen it before. That’s what we’re always looking for in the decision-making process is the right mentor’s situation, knowledge, skills and desire because desire is necessary for the right decisions as well.

Dave, do you have some advice for our product launchers out there? Anything that they should be doing, should be thinking about, things that you’ve seen go really wrong because we like to talk about the product launch hazards. We like to talk about those risks.

Number one product launch hazard, don’t be in love with your product. If it wasn’t about money, it would be called busy not business. It’s about making money and you cannot be in love with your product. Your product is about profitability, purpose, which makes it all the better, and you can be passionate about the profitability and the purpose of your product. Do not be in love with your product. Your product is about creating a margin, distributing it, amplifying and perpetuating. It needs to evolve, allow that to happen. If people are willing to give you a certain amount of profit for it, take the profit. Don’t wait and think that somehow that product that you’re in love with can never be sold for just that. Don’t be in love with your product.

I can’t tell you how many times that our success has happened in our products because we took the deal. We looked at that and we said, “A deal now is so much better,” because the market shift is strong in retail and that’s the area that I usually practice in. It’s strong that you don’t know what’s going to come tomorrow. Holding out is a huge mistake. I’ve tried that too. We see it happen.

You’ll go on fourth down game time decision making. The game will be different tomorrow, so go ahead. You’ll evolve and you’ll be able to create profit tomorrow. Take the deal if it’s fair. Three criteria of understanding whether to take the deal. Number one, never negotiate to the last penny. Two, always be fair. Three, don’t do business with jerks.

I’m going to end it there, Dave. That is awesome advice. Thank you so much for being on the show. I appreciate it.

Thank you so much. I look forward to being on again and hopefully seeing you sooner than a few years.

Thanks again, Dave. We’ll talk again soon.

Tune in to Dave Meltzer‘s next Office Hours. Connect with and find out more about Dave Meltzer in our Experts Directory.

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About Dave Meltzer

PLH 111 | Sports Product MarketingDave Meltzer is the CEO of Sports 1 Marketing, a Forbes “Top 10 Keynote Speaker“, award-winning humanitarian, and two-time national best-selling author, with 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and executive in the legal, technology, sports, and entertainment fields. With expertise across many industry verticals, he is uniquely positioned as a world-renowned thought leader, business strategist and leading humanitarian.

Dave has created a platform that allows him to communicate with everyone from college students to c-suite executives by using his principles for business and life: gratitude, empathy, accountability, and effective communication. Utilizing these four principles every day allows Dave to live by his mission, “make a lot of money, help a lot of people, and have a lot of fun.”

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