Brand Moves for Monday July 27

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Twenty-two weeks ago, when the gravity of the situation became clear, we started daily reporting on how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. What’s now becoming clear is that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption. So we made the decision to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal remains the same: to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

The pandemic-delayed Major League Baseball opener was the sport’s most-watched regular-season game on any network in nine years. The New York Yankees‘ 4-1 win at the Washington Nationals averaged 4 million viewers on ESPN, according to Nielsen fast national ratings. The game peaked at 8:30 p.m. EDT with 4.48 million viewers. No regular-season game had been viewed by that many since 4.7 million watched Boston beat the Yankees 3-2 in 10 innings on Aug. 7, 2011, also on ESPN. ESPN’s previous high for an opener was 3.7 million for a 2017 matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

The NBA has announced a partnership with Microsoft and its Teams videoconferencing platform to welcome at least 300 fans, split by team, to cheer, jeer and appear on the league’s 17-foot sideline video board. Using the platform’s “Together Mode,” fans will be seated in a virtual arena and able to interact with each other. Audio mixed from the feeds will be incorporated into the game broadcast. “As we were thinking about this, we were focused on creating the most genuine experience for our fans at home and for our players in the arena,” said Sara Zuckert, senior director of experiential and DTC marketing at the NBA. “There’s nothing that can replicate the feel of an NBA arena. We look at all of this as testing for the future.” Teams will be tasked with selecting fans for each game, and the video board will be sponsored by the league’s new partner, Michelob Ultra, which also has seats available for giveaways and prizes. Each “section” of fans will have a moderator. The league will also incorporate at least 30 cameras, some robotic, to get closer to the court than ever before to showcase new angles and shots, such as a huddle camera and a below-the-rim camera for fans watching at home. Other angles will replicate the view of a fan sitting 10 rows from the court. “The most important thing is what happens on the court. We’re going to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” said Craig Barryevp and chief content officer for Turner Sports, which operates NBA TV. He noted that for the first time, the NBA is a “made-for-television event.” For fans not included in the Microsoft experience, a virtual cheering experience will be available on the NBA app and Twitter, which will be reflected on the in-game video board.

For the first time in its 50-year history, the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, India has had to shut its theatre. But the painstaking archival work the cultural institution had been doing over the past several years came to its rescue. For most of its history, the centre has been filming its performances, and now they are being made available online. “These rich archival reservoirs helped us present performances across genres to our members, patrons and wider audiences beyond India through the NCPA@home digital broadcast series,” said Khushroo Suntook, chairman of the NCPA. Some of these digital series have included performances from the Symphony Orchestra of India, plays, operas, and ballets, and works of artists such as tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas. “There is, of course, no substitute for watching a live performance,” adds Suntook. But NCPA is hopeful that it may soon be able to open its doors in a modified, new normal. The institution is working out what the scenario would look like, which will likely include asking patrons to wear masks and keep sufficient seats in the auditorium empty.

With COVID-19 canceling massive pop culture convention San Diego Comic-Con, organizers have spent the past three months programming online panels, exhibit halls and activities for Comic-Con@Home.FX Networks, which has had an experiential presence at the event for seven years, has pivoted planned physical activations to innovative digital offerings for fans stuck at home. The Disney-owned network has debuted FX Unlocked, a free online experience for the virtual convention with activations tied to series including American Horror Story, What We Do in the Shadows, Dave andCake. Fans can access the experience on FXSDCC.com, which is live through July 26.

Publisher Condé Nast is launching Vogue Scandinavia, with the first print issue set to publish in spring 2021. The fashion title will cover Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and the wider Nordic region that includes Finland and Iceland. For years, revenue from print advertising has declined and many magazine publishers have felt the more recent financial impact of Covid-19 pandemic. The past decade has seen Scandinavian and Nordic design influence permeate across the world, thanks to globally acclaimed brands like Ganni, Cecilie Bahnsen and Stine Goya that have emerged from the region, as well as international fascination with Scandinavian lifestyles. “For several years now, Scandinavian design and the region’s unique cultures have been the source of inspiration for people worldwide,” says Wolfgang Blau, global chief operating officer and president, international at Condé Nast. “Scandinavian fashion companies have also been important drivers of the global conversation about fashion, sustainability and climate change.” The region is also home to a lucrative audience. Scandinavia – and Sweden in particular – has also been at the forefront of the technology boom in Europe, and the result is that the region is home to most of Europe’s millionaires, data from Capgemini’s 2020 World Wealth Report shows. Though GDP growth slowed in 2019, Sweden’s millionaires increased 10 per cent from the previous year, moving the country up two places to number 23 despite its population of only 10 million.

Apple has told U.S. employees they can take as many as four hours off with pay on Election Day to vote or volunteer at a polling place. The policy applies to retail employees and hourly workers and is similar to moves made by other companies, including Twitter and Uber. It was announced in a memo to Apple employees. “For retail team members and hourly workers across the company, if you’re scheduled to work this Election Day, we’ll be providing up to four hours of paid time off if you need it to get to the polls,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, told staff. “If they choose, our teams can also use this time to volunteer as an election worker at one of your local polling stations.”

A London-based company is offering an alternative mass transportation mode that addresses some fears about coronavirus infection risks on public transit: a commuter service using open-topped buses. On-demand bus company Snap is currently testing a new offering that would ferry Londoners to and from work in some of the city’s 233 roof-less tourist buses. These are double-decker vehicles with an open-air upper deck, used to ferry sightseers about on “hop on, hop off” routes. Most of the London fleet is parked due to an absence of visitors; Snap is hoping to redeploy the open-topped tourist buses as Covid-safe pop-up transportation for locals, extending the pandemic-era trend of outdoor living to public transport. The service is still in development. Snap is currently going through a crowdsourcing process, taking details of people interested in the service to calculate which routes might have highest demand. Initial test journeys ran this week following the route of London Underground’s Victoria Line. Prices are expected to run at the same cost as an average tube journey – £3.30 ($4.19) – with multiple pick-up and drop off points for passengers but far fewer stops than the average bus. Snap estimates that it can run a viable service at that cost with passengers filling just a quarter of a bus’s usual capacity, a level that would make it possible for everyone to sit on the upper deck and maintain some distance from each other. Frequent cleanings after each trip would further mitigate risk.

“The Tube in London is currently at 30% of its usage before the pandemic, while car use is at about 80% of where it was pre-pandemic” says Snap CEO Thomas Ableman. “We really don’t want a car-based recovery to this crisis, so we need to find solutions that people are comfortable with — and you can’t get a more Covid-secure means of transport than an open-topped bus.”

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