Monday, November 17, 2014

S4SC with Sonny Vaccaro Day 1 Recap

The 2014 Sport for Social Change Conference started off with a bang Thursday night!  Fans were blessed with a wonderful conversation between ESPN's Tom Farrey and basketball marketing legend, Sonny Vaccaro.  Vaccaro began his basketball marketing career with the Dapper Dan High School All Star Game in Pittsburgh, PA in 1965.  Dapper Dan was the first high school basketball all star game in the country; a groundbreaking idea by Vaccaro to help the public see the young basketball talent in the U.S.

Vaccaro and Farrey went back and forth over Sonny's relationship with basketball superstars and their families, Sonny's hatred for the NCAA, and O'Bannon v. NCAA.  Vaccaro began marketing Nike shoes by paying basketball coaches to outfit his team with their sneakers, then moved on to sponsoring entire universities with Nike products.  But Vaccaro is most known for signing legend, Michael Jordan, to a deal with Nike right as Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls.  Jordan revolutionized the game of basketball, as well as basketball shoes with the introduction of the Jordan brand.  But why wait until a player enters the NBA draft to sign a deal?  Vaccaro was adamant about allowing players to sign endorsement deals when younger.  If a player is good enough, why should they be restricted and have to wait to earn an extra dollar?

Sonny ended on his role in the O'Bannon v. NCAA case.  Recently, the District Court ruled in favor of O'Bannon--meaning that the NCAA owes restitution to former college student-athletes for illegally using their likeness in EA Sports video games, including basketball and football.  This is a case Vaccaro encouraged lead plaintiff Ed O'Bannon to bring against the NCAA after seeing himself in a video game without receiving compensation.

It seems Vaccaro spends his entire life discussing and working in basketball, however he is a family man and loving husband to his wife, Pam.  Pam joins Sonny during his tours and talks at different colleges and venues.  But through it all, when Sonny passes away, he wants to be known as, "Sonny Vaccaro [who] was a good husband to Pam," showing that family is trumps basketball 100% of the time.

Micah Sokolsky is a Pre-Junior Sport Management major at Drexel University with minors in Spanish and Business.  Micah hails from San Francisco, CA and was a participant on Drexel Sport Management’s College Sport Research Institute (CSRI) team last year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2013.  Micah completed his first co-op with the Camden Riversharks minor league baseball team in their Marketing and Promotions department.  A member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Micah is involved on campus as the Athletics Chairman for the Inter-Fraternity Council and as a Resident Assistant in Race Hall. Connect withMicah on LinkedIn.

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