Sports, Catfish, and Country Music

Zach Jones

As Nashville prepares to host its first major sports championship event ever, we know two things: 1) the national sports and sports business audience will set eyes on a galvanized Nashville fan base for the first time and 2) someone is going to throw a catfish on the ice during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in Bridgestone Arena. Mark it down.

At first, you may not understand the combined power of those certainties but it’s huge for Nashville. The city already has the Preds and Titans, Memphis has the Grizzlies but Tennessee doesn’t have an MLB or MLS team. Both leagues are currently considering expansion. Without getting into the details of landing an MLB or MLS team, note that the attention surrounding the Stanley Cup gives the city a chance to show sports business brass that it can support more professional clubs.

The Country Music Capital of the World is all-in on the Preds and country music stars singing the national anthem before games has become an expectation, along with throwing catfish on the ice. Here’s a look at the history of the catfish tradition dating back to 2002. Overall, it’s pretty similar to the Detroit Red Wings’ “Legend of the Octopus” but it will be interesting to see how the NHL handles it. In 1996, they refused to broadcast Detroit fans throwing octopi on the ice. Will it be different in Nashville? It should be. If there’s one thing Nashville knows how to do, it is entertain, a component crucial to sporting events trying to attract spectators in a world where it’s easier for fans to tune in from home.

Just look at the other big event coming to Nashville next week, CMA Fest. The country stars performing at the festival are the same ones bringing extra entertainment value to the Preds’ playoff games by singing the national anthem, not to mention getting fans in the door on time so they spend longer in-venue, leading to increased merchandise and concession revenue.

Meanwhile, First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds, is set to host their inaugural concert on September 29, 2017. The Kings of Leon show will provide the stadium execs a firsthand look at the atmosphere and musical sound quality the park can offer. If it goes well, it won’t be long before the ballpark starts booking acts with eyes on joining Ascend Amphitheater as one of the premiere outdoor music venues in Nashville.

So how does that impact Marbaloo and me?

Let’s bring it back to the catfish angle here. After Game 1, a media storm rolled in around the tradition, the guy who threw it aka Catfish Jake, and if country music superstar Carrie Underwood might throw the next one during Game 2 in Pittsburgh. In fact, local sports media figure and Catfish Jake’s pro bono legal defense Clay Travis offered up $10K to charity if Carrie made it happen. ORCA Coolers, Logo Brands, PGA Tour Pro Brandt Snedeker, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Bobby Bones, and the NBA’s Brandan Wright all got in on the act via Twitter. They each matched Clay’s offer of $10K to charity if the woman married to the Preds’ captain threw a catfish onto the ice in Pittsburgh. What a great way to organically engage with your market! That’s smart, creative activation. How many other companies miss opportunities like this because they just don’t see them? ORCA Coolers’ tweet received 200 more “likes” than anything they’ve posted in two months; their next most popular tweet also involved the Preds.

What I’m getting at is that the general sports audience is one that overlaps with country music artists and fans. The opportunities that arise for artists and brands through sponsorship, creative activation, television, radio, and press surrounding sports are abundant and even more are on the horizon. Sports teams and organizations continue to focus on improving the live experience for fans to compete with at-home viewing options. Marbaloo has worked hard to get our clients involved in the action surrounding the Nashville Predators’ run at the Stanley Cup and find other sport and lifestyle angles outside of standard music coverage. It’s something we emphasize and it helps create extra looks for our clients that theywouldn’t get otherwise, helping them build their brand.

I’m looking forward to finding more opportunities to connect these dots to music and our clients through the Predators, Nashville Sounds and First Tennessee Park, and many others. My only other two hopes in the near future are for are a Mike Fisher/Carrie Underwood national anthem duet and four wins from my hometown team. Go Preds!

How 3 Women Made Their First Million

Fewer than 2% of women-owned businesses ever reach the $1 million revenue mark; compared to about 6.2% of their male-run counterparts, according to Inc.. However, female-led enterprises are increasing: in the past decade, the number of women-owned companies increased by 42%.

To address how to break the $1 million revenue milestone, we spoke with three women currently running multi-million dollar companies to give their best advice for entrepreneurs.

Ohio native Faithe Dillman Parker founded Marbaloo Marketing, a Nashville-based creative and marketing agency, in 2010. Seven years later, Marbaloo Marketing has grown to include four companies and 40 employees. They oversee digital marketing for some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Miranda Lambert and Tim McGraw.

SF: Faithe, you’re a fourth-generation entrepreneur. What lessons did you witness growing up that stick with you today?

Faithe: Always do what you say you will do regardless of the consequence, was — and still is for my father — a non-negotiable personal and professional mantra that I have watched him live out since I was playing with highlighters under his desk. If you give someone your word — client, employee, friend — no matter the cost to you financially, physically, emotionally — you follow through.

SF: Crossing the $1 million revenue mark is a milestone. What was one of the earliest obstacles you encountered?

Faithe: As a marketing executive who became an entrepreneur, scaling our operational staff was the biggest challenge I came up against. Finding the right finance staff, recruiting resources, HR softwares, CRM vendors, benefits providers, etc. was difficult because I hadn’t done it before, but also because it wasn’t my passion place.

SF: Now that you’ve got a team of 40 employees, how do you prioritize to make sure your most important tasks get done each day?

Faithe: I touch base with my leadership team daily, but I trust them to prioritize their needs, their staff’s needs, and the client needs. Hiring great people and trusting them to communicate and prioritize appropriately is the only way at our size and with our growth trajectory for us all to keep sane.

Read the full article here

The Wild World of Facebook Live

Anthony Langone

Social editorial is still a fairly new idea for publicists. The fact that the outlets we’ve been working with for years are hiring editorial editors to curate social content represents a shift that changes the course of publicity as we know it.

It’s the new Wild West and Facebook Live is leading the charge. 

I won’t discuss the benefits of Facebook Live on a personal page because frankly, that doesn’t appeal to me. What excites me is the ability to turn a media outlet into a broadcast show. Turning a magazine into a concert venue. For the first time, musicians truly have a mass audience at their disposal with the click of a button. 

After a year plus of working with numerous of Facebook live teams in media, there are three major benefits that I’m thankful for.

+Playing for a Mass Audience: It takes years for most artists to play for a crowd of 20,000 - Facebook Live allows it to happen anytime,anywhere. This is why it's essential for up and coming artists to book as many sessions as possible. It's truly the most engaging way to get you music in front of new listeners.

It's Inescapable: Never before has a release week felt so full than now. Facebook Live's help even out the gray space, and ensure that Facebook feeds are non-stop artist advertisements when multiple Facebook lives are booked. More face time = more sales. Who doesn't like that? 

We're Writing the Rules: There is no "expected procedure" here. Outlets and publicists alike are trying new tactics everyday and that allow space for creativity. 

Change in media is a good thing. Social editorial benefits us all. You just need the time and determination to figure it out and wrangle in each win. 



Cole Swindell // Stage Right Secrets

Hunter Airheart   

On March 17, 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Madison, WI, to photograph Cole Swindell at his concert in the Orpheum Theater. These photos were for Stage Right Secrets (, an online magazine that features several artists across all genres with hopes to connect the fan to artists on a more personal level. Below I share my experience from start to finish of this trip!

I flew out of Nashville the afternoon of the 17th and with only a few minor roadblocks along the way...five o’clock traffic, forgetting my luggage at security, and being in a full out “Home Alone” sprint through the airport...I arrived in Madison roughly 4 hours before show time. It is always an unique experience working with different artists, particularly if I have never worked with them before. When I approach a new job or client, I do my best to discern the mood and vibe of the setting and artist. Imagine having some random guy who you have never met before be in your face trying to take photos of you before a show...very few people naturally are comfortable with that. In addition, every artist is surrounded by a team of people who not only play crucial roles in their career, but also develop relationships that become familial. They travel, eat, and sleep together months on end throughout the year. As an outsider coming into that family, I want to honor that artist’s space while also working to gain the trust of that person/family. It is an interesting line to maintain, one that I have had to learn and grow in, however Cole and his crew very quickly broke down that barrier.

Prior to any show, my goal is to collect as much behind the scenes content as I can. I walk around the venue, go in all of the green rooms and behind the production table, and even walk through the crowds of people. I am always looking to capture moments that most fans would never have the chance to see unless they were the artist. If I am able to bring people into a room or a moment where they feel as if they are there, a setting that most never know exists unless they see my photo, then I have done my job. Cole’s show was no different. I spent a good bit of time walking around the venue, which was absolutely beautiful, talking with some of his band on the tour bus, and capturing moments where Cole interacted with his fans.

After a few hours of documenting the atmosphere of the venue and the excitement of the fans, it was time for the show to start. I always position myself in a spot where I can capture the moments before an artist goes on stage. Everyone has a different preparation and feels different emotions before going out, which is a cool moment that I get to witness. It’s easy to forget that these “superstars,” as we see them, still get nervous and put so much into each and every show. It looks so easy and effortless when they are on stage, which is what makes them great...particularly with Cole. As he went on stage, I circled around backstage to go into the crowd to photograph the moment he came on. The first note hit...hands going up everywhere and cheers echoing throughout the theater. Cole’s ability to work the crowd, to take them on a journey with him, get loud and crazy, and then the very next song being able to hear a pin drop in the is an art, and when the audience and artist are going through the performance together, it makes for amazing moments to photograph.

Being a photographer in today’s digital age, where everyone has a camera, I challenge myself to push what can be done and how my images are composed. As I said above, my main purpose of photographing these shows, aside from providing content to outlets or social media profiles, is to give fans the opportunity to not only see what the show is like, but also feel as if they are at the show, screaming at the top of their lungs with a cold beer lifted above their heads. Cole’s show was no different. I wanted to give perspectives from as many viewpoints as I could...behind the stage, front of stage, in the balcony, at the sound board, side stage etc. I also love taking the time to photograph the fans as well. Their reactions, singing, dancing, and outfits often prove to provide some of the best shots.

When the show ended, I began to pack up my gear and look through some of the shots I had taken. This concert felt to be one of the best I had ever done, and the images proved that. Check out the article about Cole from Stage Right Secrets ( and enjoy some of my favorite shots from this concert.



Snapchat Filters

Dave Goldhahn

In early 2016 Snapchat rolled out On-Demand Geofilters which allow any Snapchat user to create and design their own filters for specific events. The user can customize the location and duration of the filter for a price. This simple innovation produced a huge opportunity for all Snapchat users, but especially to those in the marketing & music industry. As a designer, this initiated a new challenge – how can you create a compelling design that furthers a brand while staying within Snapchat’s submission rules and guidelines? (Because yes, of course there’s rules and guidelines). We quickly discovered ways to keep it interesting…

At Marbaloo, we began using this feature almost immediately. Cole Swindell had a massive hit on his hands (You Should Be Here) and a big sophomore album release on the horizon – He also had a huge Spring Break concert coming up. We got to work instantly and created a Snapchat Geofilter around the venue that promoted the single while also giving fans a fun way to interact – A Cole Swindell hat that they would look like they were wearing while taking a selfie. People love selfies and this gave them a fun way to share their Spring Break experience with followers who were unable to attend the event while also furthering Cole’s brand. After the success of this one, we continued coming up with new creations for Cole for things like Grand Ole Opry appearances and album release parties. 

Since the launch, we’ve went on to create them for many other artists including Kelsea Ballerini, Toby Keith, Olivia Lane and more. For Kelsea, we created a unique filter for each of her summer tour dates that would appear in the app while fans were attending the show. For Toby, we targeted country concerts at venues that Toby would be playing in the coming weeks/months to boost interest and ticket sales for his show. For Olivia, we created a filter for her EP release party that had a speech bubble that made it look like users were singing the lead single, while EP promotion and branding was placed at the bottom.

Marbaloo actually took advantage of this feature before it was even a public feature. For Luke Bryan’s final Spring Break in 2015, we connected with Snapchat to initiate a “Luke Bryan: Spring Break Certified” stamp filter that was implemented during his shows in Panama City Beach, FL. It seems we were onto something a year before it’s official public launch!

We even created one for our boss and fearless leader’s birthday party. Faithe had no idea it was created until the day of the party so it was a fun surprise for her and everyone attending!

Overall, the ability to create custom filters has breathed new life into the marketing and music industries. It allows brands to be promoted in a new way. It allows brands to be spontaneous and exciting. It allows brands to reach a new, untapped audience. Most exciting of all (for me atlas), is being challenged as a designer to make filters that standout amongst a sea of them and garnering the attention of consumers in this ever-changing digital age.

Toby Keith’s First Facebook Live

Going LIVE With One of Country Music’s Biggest Superstars

Conducting a Facebook Live from a tour bus is bound to be a bit tricky, even trickier when it’s one of country music’s biggest superstar’s first time. Our secret weapon? A big ass iPad.

Toby Keith was kicking off his ‘Interstates and Tailgates’ tour in Louisville Kentucky on May 21, 2016 and wanted to give fans a peek behind the scenes with an acoustic preview of a brand new song and a short Q&A session with fans. Since this was before Facebook Live’s program update, notifying fans and collecting questions in advance via Toby’s social platforms was a must.

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Prepping your artist for their Facebook live will combat any awkward or long pauses along the way. You have to let them know what they can expect in advance and what you plan on accomplishing during the live stream. Give the artist and their team an outline and order of events in which you’d like the stream to run, in order to help everything run smoothly. Be sure to answer any questions the artist or team may have to put everyone at ease before you hit the “Go Live” button.

Most importantly, it’s essential to create a fun and light atmosphere during a Facebook Live and recognize that this is a time for the artist to connect with their fans on a more personal and powerful level before and even after the stream.

With a list of some of the best questions collected and printed out in LARGE font, the biggest iPad we could find, secure wifi, and a vintage Toby tour shirt in tow, it was time to go live!

Toby’s first Facebook Live was a huge success (with over one million people reached, 215 thousand views, 4.4 thousand comments and 1.9 thousand shares).

The New Facebook Live

Facebook Live has gotten a huge update recently. Now as marketers, we have the tools to schedule a Live in advance, automatically encourage followers to set tune-in reminders, send push notifications once you’re live and much more. Read all about the updates here and look out for these new advances in Toby’s and all of our other clients’ next Facebook Live.