Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New Raiders Ad Campaign?

As far as I know, the Raiders don’t yet have a new advertising campaign. But word is that they will soon embark on one to support their new ticket program. I have some ideas.

Let’s first dispense with the notion that big advertising agencies are the key to a successful campaign. Did you see those Super Bowl commercials at $2 million each? Many were awful and, worse, ineffective. Why spend $2 million when you can read Raider Take for free?


A basic tool of the marketing trade is what is called the “creative brief.” The creative brief is a strategic road map to an effective advertising campaign. It identifies such things as the following: Target Audience, Objective, Rational Benefit, Emotional Appeal, and Tonality (personality). So let’s start with a creative brief.

The TARGET AUDIENCE is football fans in the Bay Area and outlying regions. The OBJECTIVE is not only to maintain existing Raiders fans but to also grow new fans. Who are these fans? They are people you and I already know, mainly casual football fans who avoid Raiders games because of various misperceptions.

(Please don’t scold me for trying to poison the Raiders well with casual football fans. We need bodies in the Coliseum. Preaching to the choir of 40,000 won’t keep the Raiders in Oakland. We need to welcome new Raiders fans into the fold, even if they don’t know the difference between Heidi and Cindy or the Mad Stork and the Crazy Chicken. Once they get a taste of being a Raiders fan, the knowledge and dedication will follow.)

The RATIONAL BENEFIT is that an autumn Sunday at the Coliseum is worth your entertainment dollars. There is nothing like it in the NFL, let alone the Bay Area. If you make a day out of it—and that is very easy to do—then you are buying six or eight hours of entertainment and camaraderie for as low as $26 plus parking.

Winning also provides a rational benefit, as it promises excellent football with a positive outcome. But you can’t build your advertising around winning when you’ve only won nine games over the past two years. In fact, in today’s parity-ridden NFL, when yesterday’s winner is tomorrow’s loser, you must build your marketing foundation on something more stable than winning.

This is where the EMOTIONAL APPEAL comes into play. Now, the worst tactic would be to “rebrand” the Raiders as something they are not, and to pretend that Raiders games are all sugar and lollipops, like sipping a cappuccino while watching the Rams run around green carpet in a temperature-controlled dome (and I guarantee you that there are ad agencies out there who would do just that).

In fact, the Raiders don’t need to be less of what they are. Rather, they need to be more of what they are. The best way to remain true to the identity of the Raiders while broadening the team’s appeal is to simply correct the conventional wisdom about what it means to be a Raiders fan:

OLD: violent, dangerous, mean, exclusive, scary, unwelcoming.

NEW: real, intense, hardcore, diverse, passionate, loyal, welcoming.

So how do we deliver this new conventional wisdom to our target audience? Well, the Bay Area is renowned for its countercultural roots and innovative thinking, for its diversity, individuality and originality. Sound familiar? Sounds like the Raiders to me. So the emotional key is to tap into the truth of the Raiders as an organization that embodies the virtues of the Bay Area. That is how you emotionally grab your target audience and guide the TONALITY of your campaign.

In his farewell column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Ira Miller wrote this about Al Davis: “Say what you want about the man, no one has been more consistent in his approach.” That, friends, is the definition of “real” and “original” and “authentic,” and the same could be said of Levi-Strauss, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Robert Mondavi, the Grateful Dead and any number of Bay Area icons who revolutionized their respective industries and gained mass “cult” status along the way.

In fact, in the conformity-based Microsoft world of the NFL, the Raiders are Apple, the renegades who succeed (and fail) on their own terms. How did Apple stage its comeback? By asking us to “Think Different.” Brilliant! They didn’t try to fit in. They became more, not less, of what they are. They went on the offensive and, along the way, they conquered hearts and minds and customers.

It’s interesting that the Raiders, who are so aggressive, unique and confident in how they run their organization, have been relatively timid when it comes to local marketing (although the recently disbanded OFMA might have been a big part of that problem). Now the time has come, in my opinion, for the Raiders to aggressively claim their Bay Area cultural turf.


Thus, I unveil my fictional advertising campaign: “Real Football.” and the supporting concepts of Authenticity, Individuality, Originality and Legacy (and the welcoming verb “embrace”):

Concept #1
HEADLINE: Embrace Authenticity
ARTWORK: A photo of a Raiders player being embraced by the Black Hole after a touchdown
TAGLINE: Real Football.

Concept #2
HEADLINE: Embrace Individuality

ARTWORK: A photo of a group of geared-up fans (including skulls, pirates, etc.) exhibiting the expressive personalities and multicultural spirit of the Raiders fan base
TAGLINE: Real Football.

Concept #3
HEADLINE: Embrace Originality
ARTWORK: A photo of Al Davis and Randy Moss talking football (yes, Al Davis…Quit hiding the guy, celebrate him, he’s the original football outlaw).
TAGLINE: Real Football.

Concept #4
HEADLINE: Embrace Legacy
ARTWORK: The classic shot of the Raiders helmet with the three Lombardi trophies
TAGLINE: Real Football.

Complexity is the enemy of good advertising. So I would focus solely on these four creative concepts (headlines and images), all of which synergize with the core message and tagline. Then I would simply hammer the hell out of them in print, on the web and on billboards.

(I would also distribute free posters of the advertisements to sports bars and taverns across the Bay Area, and would also sell these posters at cost to Raiders fans. Such posters would be nice form of “viral marketing,” which is the process of empowering others to spread your message.)

And that concludes my unsolicited two cents regarding how the Raiders could approach their advertising in the coming months.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Gear of The Week

The Reebok Raiders Quarter-Zip Pulloverearns Gear of the Week for its classic no-frills Raiders design and for being on sale ($45, down from $75). It is a close cousin to the lighter weight Raiders Coaches Jacket featured here earlier, which is also still on sale ($40, down from $65).

I say load up on this stuff at a nice price while you can…Next year, Reebok may very well return to the crazy fonts and rowdy circus designs that have marred NFL apparel over the past several years.

This medium-weight polyester bonded fleece pullover features the shield on the front and RAIDERS line logo rendered in authentic team font along the back. The black exterior is rugged with a hint of sheen. Silver piping adds just a touch of style and class to an otherwise lean and mean design.

P.S. Note that Reebok NFL gear tends to run on the large side. For example, someone who’s a “tweener” between large and medium, depending on the brand, would typically be a medium in Reebok NFL gear.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Reload and Repeat

First, Raider Take’s favorite columnist suddenly makes sense and merits praise, as noted in an earlier take. Now, the author of an anti-Raiders column actually copes with reality and admits the following:
“I know it's pretty hard to justify what I am writing when the Raiders were in the Super Bowl just a few years ago…”

Is honesty making a comeback? Again, I won’t hold my breath, but things are definitely looking up this week.

Of course, this guy also says some pretty nutty things (they always do, which makes my job much easier), such as: “Davis has become a joke in my opinion and in many others'. They're just not willing to say it publicly.”

Wow, what a pioneer. Al Davis bashing is rare? Where has this guy been? Nevertheless, I have to give the guy his due, because at least he stands by his take within the context of reality, not fantasy.

The worst thing that ever happened to the Raider haters is the team’s dominant run from 2000 through 2002. It disturbed their worldview. It left them silent and slack jawed. It forced them to go on a three-year sabbatical from trashing Al Davis.

The best thing that ever happened to the Raider haters is this recent run of three losing seasons. They returned from exile with a vengeance. Still, they knew that things would never be the same unless…unless they pretended that 2000 to 2002 never happened. And so it began...

Such as: “A decade of largely indifferent results.” And: referring to “The History Channel” when addressing the team’s success. And: calling out the team for “ignoring every NFL strategic upgrade of the past 20 years.” And so on.

So we’re going to keep reminding them that it’s impossible for Al Davis to be both an all-powerful serial meddler who is entirely responsible for the bad years and a hands-off guy who gets no credit for the teams that recently won the AFC West for three straight seasons (resulting in two AFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl berth). We're going to remind them that it's impossible for the Raiders to have recently gone to the Super Bowl and to have done nothing lately. It doesn’t add up. Do the math. You can’t have it both ways. Logic will always be bigger than bias.

Go ahead and hold Al Davis responsible for the current state of affairs. Many loyal Raiders fans do. But, like the aforementioned columnist, at least proceed within the complex reality of the Raiders instead of a simple biased fantasy. That’s what distinguishes real journalism from hatchet jobs.

As for Raider Take readers who might feel that I’m starting to sound like a broken record, you have a point. However, they say that if you repeat lies often enough they undermine the truth. We’ve certainly seen that with Raiders coverage. At Raider Take, we believe that if you repeat the facts often enough you can regain the truth.

So for now, it’s reload and repeat. We need to grow our fan base. We need to fill seats. We need to keep the Raiders in Oakland. We’re already facing an uphill climb. We can’t afford to have Raider haters making our climb steeper by distorting reality and turning off potential newcomers. So it's reload and repeat and spread the good news.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Unsolved Mystery: Next Raiders QB

I took some heat several weeks ago for suggesting that Jon Kitna merits consideration in the wake of what was once considered the inevitable dismissal of Kerry Collins. I was careful to note several contingencies, such as the Raiders’ penchant for signing grizzled veterans at QB and the fact that Kitna is a free agent itching for a starting role. It's important to cover your ass when suggesting that Jon Kitna might be a sensible pickup.

Regardless, availability was, and is, essential to this discussion. Yes, perhaps David Carr danced like sugarplums in your dreams. But he was never available and now he’s locked up.

Now comes the three-year signing of Kurt Warner by the Arizona Cardinals. Suddenly, Josh McCown, a free agent, is expendable in the desert. Suddenly, he’s wearing the availability halo. Very interesting.

There are two factors that make McCown particularly intriguing. First off, the guy has shown some poise and promise with the Cardinals, and is in fact the only QB who has won games for Denny Green over the past two years. Second, it’s the Cardinals, who screw everything up—which means signing Warner is a big mistake and the football gods are now sure to shine on McCown.

Three years ago, NFL newcomer McCown chucked a 28-yard touchdown strike on fourth and 25 as time expired in the final game of the season to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs. Perhaps that was a flash of things to come, only to be crushed by the grand losing tradition and bizarre personnel moves of the Arizona Cardinals.

I don’t know if McCown's a great answer, but I guarantee you that he would show more fire and win more games that Kerry Collins (as would Kitna, whom Sports Ilustrated declared this week the NFL's "best backup quarterback"). Maybe McCown is ready to bust out. Maybe he could fend of Andrew Walter for several years. Maybe Walter would fend him off. But at least we’d be talking about promise and passion again at the QB position.

Meanwhile, the Culpepper talk is still simmering. But is he available? And will he even be ready to play come September?

Right now, the Raider Nation may be divided on some issues, but we seem almost unanimously united in the notion that Collins must go. He is a complicit symbol of the Norv Turner era, short on passion, long on losing. I am confident that Mr. Davis and Coach Shell will come to the same conclusion.

If Collins is shown the door and Walter still isn’t quite ready for the starring role, then it’s time to turn the QB burner on high and get the discussion cooking.

P.S. I am writing this addendmum at 7:15 a.m. before I am miscast as the president of the Josh McCown fan club, as a few folks have suggested.

I'd love Schaub, too. But as LK said in the comments section, it's really doubtful that Atlanta will dangle him. Again, availability is key. Until I hear that Houston is dangling Carr or Atlanta is dangling Schaub or San Diego is dangling Brees, then I've got them categorized as wishful thinking, right alongside Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Free agent QBs who are viewed as on the "outs" with their teams are the guys I'm looking at right now. These are guys that a team like the Raiders, if they have the cap room, can go wine and dine and sign. No wishful thinking. No trade demands.

I would love to see Andrew Walter step up and be the future. I dig the guy. But is it realistic for a new coach to build his team around last year's 3rd stringer? I'm not saying Walter can't do it, the question is when? 2006? And who would his backup be? Collins? Remember, Walter has been injury prone. If Collins takes a pay cut and somehow becomes Walter's backup, you might need to brace yourself for "Return of KFC."

I must sign off now, I'm choking on my Lucky Charms.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

An Early Valentine

Here at Raider Take, we strive to give props when props are due. No one is immune, even Raider Take’s favorite columnist, who has actually written a Raiders piece that is mature and balanced. In other words, hell is freezing over and our columnist is suddenly resembling Cupid, slinging arrows instead of hatchets.

Not that I like everything in his latest piece. But that was never the point. The point was journalism, and this is solid journalism. He has toned down the egregious literary fluff detailed in
this take, and he has backed away from the pointless venom and dishonest bias evident in columns such as this one and this one.

What we are left with is a column that, while far from favorable to the Raiders, is fair and measured. It contains useful information. It avoids insensible analogies to fast food and movies. It advances reasonable opinions that follow a logical chain of thought. In other words, it’s a column worthy of a major media outlet as opposed to a high school newspaper.

Of course, our columnist remains willfully and conveniently unaware that the Raiders went to the Super Bowl three years ago after winning the AFC West for three straight campaigns (see his statement about "a decade of largely indifferent results"), but progress is progress.

I know for a fact, based on several emails that I’ve received, that Raiders fans have been directly giving it to this columnist. The
Raider Nation Podcast bestowed a rather special award on him, too. Is it possible that that the Raider Nation has been heard and heeded? I won’t hold my breath, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Mr. Ratto, will you be my Valentine?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

All in The Family

Well, friends, I’m a bit speechless today. I don’t have a lot of insight or foresight into this hiring of Art Shell. How could I? The guy hasn’t prowled a sideline lately.

What I do know is that I have a personal choice today between optimism and pessimism. I’m choosing the former over the latter. My eggs are being cooked sunny side up this morning.

While Art Shell hasn’t prowled a sideline lately, neither had Joe Gibbs, and he seems to be writing a fine second chapter for himself in D.C. Art Shell is a presence. Art Shell is a true Raider. Art Shell can anchor this team and instill a winning attitude from the top down. Welcome back to the helm, Mr. Shell.

Anyhow, there is clearly considerable dissent in the Raider Nation family about the process and the outcome of the coaching search. That’s what families do, they get in each other’s faces and they keep each other accountable. But when the wolves come knocking at the door, families unite and proceed as one. That’s my message today.

There are a lot of wolves out there right now. They will talk smack. They will spin this upside down and sideways, they will say that the Raiders went shopping at Nordstrom for Ken Whisenhunt and found themselves walking out of Goodwill with Art Shell (without offering any evidence of such). They will ridicule the Raiders until the Raiders roar back and shove it in their faces with winning performance. That day will come, I am confident of that.

This isn’t a plea for mind control or self censorship. I love the thought-provoking dissent unfolding here and elsewhere in the Raider Nation today. We’re a family, and we don’t always agree. We scream and shout behind closed doors, then we grab some beers from the fridge and move on.

But the wolves will be knocking in the coming weeks. It’s one thing when a loyal Raiders fan tells me he or she is disappointed with the choice of Art Shell. It’s quite another when a Raider hater mocks and spins the choice of Art Shell to serve a biased agenda.

Let’s guard that distinction and remember: We are the Raider Nation.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Hunt for Whiz is Over?

As already noted by several readers, it is being reported that Ken Whisenhunt has withdrawn himself from consideration for the Raiders head coaching job. Please visit for the breaking stories.

I look forward to everyone's comments and takes on this development. Please post them in the comments section below. I don't want to litter Mr. Otto's piece with too many negative non-coffee takes (especially after Doobie did such a clever job of tying things together).

Onward, Raider Nation! There may still be some rabbits hiding in Mr. Davis's hat.

A Coffee Break with Jim Otto

Both on and off the field, Jim Otto embodies the Oakland Raiders experience: toughness, dedication, loyalty, innovation and success. You probably already know plenty about Mr. Otto’s Hall of Fame career with the Raiders from 1960 through 1974. During that span, he never missed a game, his famed “00” jersey at the center of a ferocious line that anchored one of the NFL’s most prolific and fearsome offenses.

While Mr. Otto remains an active member of the Raiders family and team operations, he is also an entrepreneur with a record of success in retail, restaurants, real estate and farming. His latest venture is coffee, and when Raider Take recently spotlighted his Jim Otto’s Special Blend Whole Bean Coffee, he wrote to thank readers for their interest.

Amid all of the speculation regarding the head coach hiring, Raider Take was inspired to take a virtual coffee break and ask Mr. Otto more about his java venture. He was kind enough to answer, and what follows is our exchange via email:

What are the origins of your Special Blend?

For a long time I have been making the coffee at home. I have a friend with a roaster. We roasted Colombian Select Beans and flavored them with my SECRET flavoring, everyone loves it. Everyone who would drink it would tell me that I should market and sell it. I grind enough to make two pots and bring it to work with me every morning. After being told by fellow workers to market it, I decided to give it a try. I do not make any profit on the sales, the profits go to my young friend who owns the coffee roaster. I’m trying to help him get his business going.

How would you describe your coffee?

The aroma is fantastic, as is the flavor and body. It will give your mind and body a kick to get your day started, and a good start once again in the late afternoon. I like strong coffee but not the bitter strong coffee that you get at moonbucks coffee shops.

What’s the best way to brew your Special Blend?

I grind the beans into an espresso grind. Doing it this way you get all the greatness and flavor out of the beans. Use good pure water and three level tablespoons of coffee, which will make up to 10 cups. Store your unused coffee in an airtight container.

Was coffee a big part of your playing days with the Raiders?

Our trainers and equipment managers made the worst coffee, so needless to say I didn’t drink much of theirs!

Where can Raiders fans buy your coffee?

You can buy my coffee at THE RAIDER IMAGE stores here in the Bay Area or you can order it from THE RAIDER IMAGE on RAIDERS.COM.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ken Whisenhunt Beware!

Instead of consulting What Color is My Parachute for career advice, Ken Whisenhunt can just read the local paper. Suddenly, everyone is worried for him. He’s going to interview with the Raiders! Doesn’t he know what he’s getting into? Pittsburgh is the happiest place on earth!

A lot is being made of the fact that turnover is rare at the head coaching position for the Steelers. That's all very warm and fuzzy. But is it really great news for a driven, ambitious coordinator on that team? At this rate, what are the chances that Ken Whisenhunt will inherit the helm from Bill Cowher in the next five years? Slim to none.

This whole Holmgren-Allen/Cowher-Rooney media lovefest is predictably being exploited as a finger-pointing device against the Oakland Raiders. Stability! Consistency! Oh, if only Al Davis would learn the ways of Paul Allen and Dan Rooney. Last I checked, over the last five years, the Raiders and the Seahawks have both lost one Super Bowl. But, of course, the Seahawks are a model franchise and the Raiders are a disaster (let the Seahawks play the Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos twice each year and get back to me). In the new post-XL media reality, firing an ineffective coach is heretical. All Steve Mariucci, Dom Capers and Mike Mularkey needed was another 10 or 12 years, and they would have made the playoffs, too.

The last time a driven, ambitious young coordinator came to Oakland from the outside, he made out pretty well, didn’t he? He helped revitalize the team, then parlayed his success into a sweet deal in Tampa Bay, and established himself as an elite head coach who won’t have to look too hard for work for the rest of his life.
What a raw deal for Jon Gruden. Ken Whisenhunt beware!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A History Lesson

Raider Take’s favorite columnist is going to curse our team. Last time we heard from him, he was anointing Al Saunders as head coach of the Raiders. We know how that turned out. In fact, his own paper revealed two days later that Al Saunders was not even close to being offered the job. Now he’s jabbering about Ken Whisenhunt. I hope that doesn’t ruin our chances.

In his latest piece, our columnist rhetorically asks why Whisenhunt would want the Raiders job. Here’s how he frames Whisenhunt’s reply: "'They’ve been successful,' he (Whisenhunt) said, turning into the History Channel.”

Thus, Raider Take is inspired to publish the following history lesson for confused local columnists:

2000 – The Oakland Raiders win the AFC West and advance to the AFC Championships, where Tony Siragusa illegally turns Rich Gannon into a recliner. Man discovers fire.

2001 – The Oakland Raiders win the AFC West and get robbed by zebras in New England. The light bulb is invented.

2002 – The Oakland Raiders win the AFC West and advance to the Super Bowl. The telephone becomes a household item, enabling anyone to reach out and check their facts (if they want to).