This past week ESPN.com’s Jeff Bradley had a very touching story about Colonel John McHugh, a lifelong friend united through sport who was killed recently in Afghanistan. As we head through Memorial Day weekend, it is important to remember not just those men and women in the Armed Services but those in civil service who are defending us each and every day. Four years ago, we had the rare opportunity to take several of our MMA fighters, as well as NFL great Sean Landeta, out into the Atlantic and ride in with them over several days on the USS Wasp as part of Fleet Week. It was amazing to see and be reminded how much sports connects these young people to home every day, and how much they appreciated being remembered and treated in a very special way.
When we docked on Thursday in New York, I was also amazed at what a small reception the troops got, and how few brands realized that doping something small for these thousands of servicemen and women could resonate in brand loyalty for life for them and their families. There was a small Dunkin Donuts coffee reception place, but what a great opportunity for package goods, technology companies and other consumer brands to have been there to get stroing and honest feedback on products for a young, athletic and largely male audience. It remains to this day a missed opportunity for brands to find ways to connect with service men and women in and around all the bases and points of contact. They are loyal, supportive and team players…the perfect mix for growing hungry brands.
Bradley’s story also reminded everyone who has read it that once again sports can provide the glue across generations for people, and it is why brands spend billions to use sports as their activation platform. The emotional ties from childhood to adulthood to the real life drama of sport, whether playing or watching, is still good for the soul and for the psyche and is what keeps everyone going back to follow, play and watch time and again, whether it is cricket in India or NASCAR at Talladega. It is the best kind of reality show played out somewhere every day.
So as we go through the beginning of summer and this first weekend, it may be good to think about how sport and those who defend us every day intertwine, and maybe, just maybe, how that intermingling can provide benefit to those on the front lines and for the brands and promotions that they are so loyal too. Most importnatly if you see someone in uniform, stop and say thanks for what they do…or buy them a drink.