Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mercedes-Benz and ATP partnership to end after 2008

Mercedes-Benz will be ending their sponsorship of the men's ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tennis tour at the conclusion of their current three year contract, which is set to expire at the end of 2008.

Mercedes has been a sponsor of the tour since 1996. Against the background of a revised brand positioning concept and changes in communication structures, the focus in the sponsoring activities of Mercedes are changing as well. Mercedes plans on shifting its sponsoring emphasis to activities such as golf, equestrianism and soccer as well as fashion and lifestyle. We have already seen evidence of this with Mercedes sponsoring the 2007 Presidents Cup, held this weekend in Montreal.

The 12 year partnership between Mercedes and ATP has been a fruitful one, with the luxury brand present at over 40 tournaments per year. To date, more than 35 million tennis fans came into contact with Mercedes-Benz during the sponsorship, while over a billion people (accumulated) watched ATP tournaments on television.

I wonder who the new sponsor will be in 2009, for either the ATP Tour or the men's tennis tournament in Toronto? I am hopeful that with the changes coming to the ATP Tour in 2009, including new tournaments (combined events), mandatory player participation (i.e. suspensions for missed mandatory events) and record prize money, the ATP will have no problems attracting a new vehicle sponsor.

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Too many events within a weekend?

It's a really busy weekend in Toronto. With so many events happening at the same time, I really wonder if there was any thought by all these event organizers to deal with conflicts between all these well publicized events.

First off, we have Nuit Blanche, a 'a free all-night contemporary art thing'. As described by the website, Torontonians, 'for one sleepless night, experience Toronto transformed by artists. Discover art in galleries, museums and unexpected places. From alleyways and demolition sites to churches and squash courts, explore more than 195 destinations. One night only. All night long.'

Then we have the 16th annual Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure on Sunday morning. This event is part of a fund raising event held all across Canada that generates millions of dollars of donations to fund innovative and relevant breast cancer research, education, and awareness programs.

If that wasn't enough, we also have the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This marathon, which takes place entirely in the downtown area, is one of two Toronto marathons (the other being the Toronto Martahon) to act as a qualifying marathon for the Boston Marathon.

All these events are large events in their own right. While some people might only have interest in one of these three events, I feel bad for those who would have been interested in doing more than one of these events. Either they would have had to make a choice to do only one of these events, or have a less optimal experience at two events, in order to get something out of them (i.e. perhaps do half of Nuit Blanche on Saturday night, and then be tired during their runs early Sunday morning).

Perhaps I am over-estimating the number of people who might have been interested in doing more than one of these events. If so, I am complaining about nothing. But in case I do raise a valid point, I hope that next year, the organizers of these events plan it such that they don't fall within the same weekend. Everyone (the participants, the event, the causes and the host city) will win from this.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

10 things I learned from my US Open trip

The 2007 US Open came to an end yesterday night with an amazing men's singles final match won by Roger Federer.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend this event during the Labour Day weekend, and now that I have had a week to reflect on this great trip, here is a brief list (by no means complete) of some things I picked up:

  1. Matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium are not always the best matches (compare the Del Potro/Djokovic match on Ashe vs Moya/Kohlschreiber and/or Robredo/Gulbis lineup on the Grandstand late Sunday night). Know the order of play on all the courts, and move around as necessary to catch the best matches;
  2. Want to buy US Open merchandise? Purchase them during a match, not in between matches, and certainly not in between day and night sessions, otherwise be prepared to wait. On that note, if a booth doesn't have what you want, walk around the grounds or even inside Ashe to see if what you want is available. But don't leave it until the end of the night session, at this point, even the vendors are ready to go home.
  3. Same goes for food. If you are hungry during the second night match, there might not be any food left, so plan accordingly.
  4. Got an American Express card? Take advantage of what they have to offer to their cardholders. They had free radios and portable TVs (loaners) available, as well as free souvenir pins for those who spent over $75 on the grounds using their AMEX credit cards.
  5. The $7 Unlimited 1 day MetroCard for New York City Transit is a great deal. Do your 'touristy' stuff during the day, and then use it to get to USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center all on one fare. If you don't mind splurging, the Long Island Railroad is another option for $8 (round-trip). Taxi? Costs much more (at least $30 from Manhattan)and takes just the same amount of time. Driving? Good luck finding cheap parking.
  6. If you are travelling in a group, make sure everyone has their ticket in their own possession. Don't hold someone else's ticket for them. If you were ever to get separated from your group without your ticket, trying to find one person amidst 23,000 or more people is not an easy thing to do.
  7. Hate the long line-ups at the East Plaza Gate (especially if you take the subway/train)? Take a walk down to the South Plaza Gate and you will find a significantly shorter line. While you are there, take a little detour and check out Unisphere and/or the rest of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
  8. We all remember Pong. Essentially you get an overhead view of the two 'players' with the ball and net across the middle. If you want to see real players from a similar view, go to the mid-level of Louis Armstrong Stadium, and then walk over to the bridge over the west side of the grandstand. You will get a near-overhead view of the action, one that is much closer than those shots from the Goodyear blimp that we are all fond of on television.
  9. Leave your backpack at home or at the hotel. You won't be able to get on the grounds with it. If you are bringing that much stuff to the grounds, chances are, you are bringing way too much. Carry your stuff in, and find a bag inside the grounds, as many sponsors have bags you can get for free while supplies last. If you must bring a bag, make sure it is no larger than 12″ X 12″ X 16″ (your bag will be subject to search, which involves another longer line-up). See the 'Security Information Page' at the US Open website for further information. My personal suggestion to avoid all this hassle is to wear pants/shorts with lots of pockets (i.e. cargo style) and if necessary, hand-carry a jacket.
  10. The US Open isn't the only game in town in this city that never sleeps. For example, we ran into Brazilian Day festivities on the Avenue of the Americas. Enjoy New York and all it has to offer, with friends, family or loved ones. Who knows, maybe you will be the next to write about your experiences online.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Microsoft releases new details about v2 Extenders

Move over Xbox 360, Microsoft has just announced details about a new generation of Media Center Extenders soon to be available for Media Center platform on Windows Vista.

New devices from Cisco Systems’ Linksys division, D-Link and Niveus Media to bring the ultimate audio/video experience to any room in the home. Additional information about price points and the variety of innovative form factors, including both stand-alone set-top boxes and integration with other devices such as DVD players and televisions will be unveiled later this month.

In addition, these new Extenders have the option of being enhanced to allow support for popular video codecs such as DivX and Xvid, along with continued support for Windows Media Video HD files. They will also allow for streaming of protected HD content, such as content from Cable Card tuners or movies and/or music from CinemaNow, MovieLink or Napster.

It's about time that we see these devices come out. Hopefully they are still on-tap for availability this holiday season as I had blogged about in the entry 'MVP Summit: Media Center take-aways'. I just hope that they will be no more expensive than the Xbox 360 Core, otherwise, it might be a tough sell to get these devices in multiple places in a given home. We shall see what happens.

For more information, visit the Microsoft Presspass release, "Microsoft Shatters the PC-to-Television Barrier, Releases First Details on Extenders for Windows Media Center".