Q: What do Brad Pitt, Steve Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and the Pacific 10 Conference have in common?
A: They are all represented by Creative Artists Agency, the prominent Los Angeles-based entertainment and sports agency.
According to The Sporting News:
The Pac-10 has hired Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to explore expansion opportunities and advise the conference on its next media rights deal.
The Hollywood-based firm also will help the conference reposition its brand to highlight its nexus to the entertainment (Los Angeles) and technology (Silicon Valley) markets of the U.S.
The three mandates are interrelated and increase the likelihood that the Pac-10 will launch its own cable channel when its current media deals expire after the 2011-12 school year.
If you want to get technical, CAA is not "Hollywood-based." CAA is located in Century City. Not that it matters exactly, the company has its tentacles wrapped around all aspects of the sports and entertainment space on a global level.
But what exactly does this mean for the conference?
The Pac-10 has defined itself as an athletically successful conference, having won more NCAA national titles than any other conference. But Scott, who took over as commissioner last spring, wants the Pac-10 brand to be more contemporary and reflect the influential markets in which it has schools.
CAA also will help stage some of the conference's events. Scott expects some of CAA's celebrity clients to be part of events such as football media day. The agency also will bring an entertainment element to an event like the Pac-10 basketball tournament.
Part of CAA's mandate will be to identify schools and markets where the conference could expand, and any Pac-10 expansion will include bigger media markets that could help give a conference-owned cable channel a bigger base, Scott said.
CAA is developing a business plan for such a channel. The agency also is advising the conference on strategies should it decide against launching its own channel. The conference's current deal, with ESPN and Fox, expires after the 2011-12 school year.
"If I didn't believe a channel was a viable option, I wouldn't have made it part of CAA's mandate," Scott said.
From where I sit, all this is not necessarily a bad thing. CAA has a proven track record for successfully marketing and branding its clients and I do agree that the conference is in need of a re-imaging. I've been critical of UCLA for a certain type of inbreeding, whereby they only hire from within or ex-Bruins and thus create an insular world view. Bringing in an independent company like CAA to help define the brand then market the brand makes sense.
But the article created -- at least for me -- the image of a split-personality within the conference.
Six of the conference teams can claim that they are located in a major metropolis, while four of the schools are located in what I'll euphemistically call "college towns. UCLA and USC are in Los Angeles, Stanford and Cal are technically in separate cities, but Berkeley and Palo Alto are (as we know) part of a cluster of cities that include San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose and none of the Bay Area fits the description of a "college town. Washington is in Seattle and ASU is in Phoenix. The other four schools, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona are located in Eugene, Corvallis, Pullman and Tucson respectively. (I'm not exactly sure if Tucson is considered a college town, but it isn't a major city either. I mean no disrespect when I say that -- it's just a fact.)
So, when Commissioner Scott says "We want to position ourselves as cutting edge. "We're a modern collegiate conference," I'm wondering if he seems the same divide that I see. It's not that the college towns are backwaters -- it's just that there is a difference between the Silicon Valley and Corvallis, there is a difference between L.A. and Pullman. What I mean is, the major cities of the Pac 10 set it apart from the other conferences -- name another conference with so many cities housing the teams. But the college towns in the Pac 10 are no different than the college towns in every other conference. Also, I wonder how focusing on L.A. and the Bay Area serve the conference as a whole.
That said, I see no harm at all in bringing CAA in and believe that there are real possibilities for good to come out of the relationship.