Ice to the Eskimos: How to Market a Product Nobody Wants

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That's Right. YOU.
You've got a problem.
You've got a product that's not first in its class.
It's not even second.
You've got to find a way to market that product.

What Are You Going To Do?

You're going to read this book, that's what.

Let's face it. There comes a time in the life of every business when a product or service does not sell up to expectations.

Maybe your product is outmoded. Or hasn't been positioned correctly. Or is competing in a crowded market. Whatever the reason, Ice to the Eskimos is dedicated to helping you reclaim that lost ground. It's about taking a product or service and turning it into a winner. If you've got a product that is not the best in its field, then you will love Ice to the Eskimos. Take the principles Jon Spoelstra writes about and run hard with them—you'll be amazed by the results.

Written by the former president of the hapless New Jersey Nets, Jon Spoelstra is the man responsible for tripling that team's lagging revenues in just three years and increasing the season-ticket holders base by 250 percent. This guy knows what he's talking about. What everyone else had seen as a lost cause, Spoelstra saw as an outstanding opportunity to reawaken a tired and beaten product to achieve unprecedented profitability.

Not just for sports marketers, this lively, entertaining book successfully makes the jump from sports to whatever your product may be. The techniques Spoelstra perfected while working for teams in the NHL and NBA—from innovative packaging to image overhaul—apply to any product in any company. The numerous winning examples are sure to make Ice to the Eskimos a must-read for anyone with a product or service to sell.

Ice to the Eskimos is sure to be an instant marketing classic. It will show millions of readers how to market their product...sometimes even after they've given up hope. By using the powerful techniques in this book, you too can learn to achieve the impossible and market ice to the Eskimos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To his credit, Spoelstraformer general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers and president of the New Jersey Netsannounces in the foreword to his how-to marketing book: "At the beginning of each chapter [I'll] tell a little anecdote from my experiences in the NBA. Sometimes [it is] related to the chapter; sometimes it isn't." The candor is appreciated; the approach is not. The problem with his stories about life in the National Basketball Association is that they invariably involve players and executives that the average fan has never heard of and they rarely return to the point Spoelstra is trying to make. That's unfortunate because he does have worthwhile ideas. He spends a lot of time discussing the markets that companies should not target when they're trying to move more product, and he's great at explaining how it's far easier to sell more to existing customerswhatever the businessthan to find new ones. Those willing to wade through all the incidental stories will find their effort rewarded. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887308512
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 527,751
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Spoelstra, widely acknowledged to be the best pro-sports marketer in the world, spent 11 years as the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. He lives with his wife in Portland, OR.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Jump-Starting Out of Hell

Ground rule #1: You've got to want to clip on the wires and turn up the juice.

I've spent almost twenty years as an executive for teams in the NBA. Of the four teams that I have worked for, I've seen over 250 players come and go. But the most charismatic player I've ever been associated with is a player you probably have never heard of: Billy Ray Bates.

Billy Ray joined the Portland Trail Blazers about halfway through the 1981-82 season. He was a 6'4", 200-pound shooting guard who had toiled in minor league basketball for a couple of seasons. Once he got the chance with us, he exhibited dunks that only a Dr. J or a Michael Jordan could even think about. And he shot the three-pointer like a Larry Bird. One season, he hoisted the Blazer team onto his shoulders and lugged them to a playoff birth. Then he averaged 27 points a game in the playoffs. The Portland crowd loved Billy Ray more than any other player I have ever seen, including Clyde Drexler.

Billy Ray's education was spotty at best. But he sure could come up with some great one-liners. For instance, once when Billy Ray was being interviewed on our postgame radio show by Bill Schonely, the voice of the Blazers, Schonely asked him about his time in the CBA, basketball's minor league. Billy Ray said, "The CBA is a great street corner, but you can't hang around there for the rest of your life."

There are hundreds of other one-line responses by Billy Ray that we heard over the two and a half years he played for us. The best was when he was in the office one summer visiting Stu Inman, the Blazers director of player personnel. After the meeting, Billy Raywalked down the long hallway where our offices were. Stu called to him, "Billy, Billy Ray."

Billy Ray stopped right in front of my door. I looked up.

Stu yelled, "Did you see where Kentucky State [where Billy Ray starred in college] is dropping basketball?"

Without even a blink or a quick head fake, Billy Ray said, "Aw, shucks, now I won't have nothing to remember."

It sounded like Billy was referring to Communist Russia. You know, fall out of power and your name gets removed from the history books.

In reading this book, I think you'll have plenty to remember and implement. If you implement just one of the jump-start marketing principles, you'll be way ahead. If you implement a lot of the principles, you could even market ice to the Eskimos.
At the beginning of each chapter, I tell a little anecdote from my experiences in the NBA. Sometimes the anecdote is related to the chapter; sometimes it isn't. The anecdote is just an easy way to get into the chapter. If you need a small break from reading about the jump-start marketing principles in Ice to the Eskimos, skip ahead and read the anecdotes.

The principles of jump-start marketing began for me with a phone call at about 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday between Christmas and New Year's in 1991.

"This is Alan Aufzien," the caller said. "I'm the chairman of the New Jersey Nets."
Normally, you would answer, "Yes?" or something like that. Instead, I experienced one of those phenomenal thought processes where somehow we can think of a whole slew of things in just a nanosecond. In that nanosecond before I answered the chairman, I thought I was being set up by some students. You see, I had been teaching sports marketing at the University of Portland. To make a point on how not to do something, I always referred to the New Jersey Nets. For as long as I could remember, they had been the laughingstock of the NBA--both on and off the basketball court. To add some sick humor to the class, I would make some awful comment about their penchant for acquiring players who had problems with drugs. I would say, "The only thing that the Nets have led the league in were drug rehab cases." Sometimes I would add, "If the Nets couldn't draft another drug addict, they would trade for one. If that didn't work, they would sign one as a free agent."
When Alan identified himself, I immediately thought that some students had dreamed up a practical joke and got an adult to call and accuse me of always picking on the Nets. The tip-off was the time of day. At 11:00 p.m. in Portland, it was 2:00 a.m. in New Jersey. On a Sunday night. Little did I know at the time that the Nets would keep you up on any night of the week.

In that rush of thinking in that nanosecond, I had a perfect rejoinder to the students' practical joke on me. "What do you need, a new drug connection for your players?" As I started to say those words, I caught myself. I chickened out. I said, "Yes?"

As you would figure, it wasn't a practical joke. It was really the chairman of the Nets, and I didn't make a fool of myself.
"We would like for you to come and talk to us about some consulting," Alan said.
"I'm not interested," I said. After eleven years as senior VP/general manager with the Portland Trail Blazers (where I resigned) and then ninety days as president/GM of the Denver Nuggets (where I was fired), I was enjoying my career as an adjunct professor. You would, too. Think of the life I was leading.

Twice a week, I would go to the campus about noon. I would have lunch with some students. I would teach my class from 1:00 to 2:20. I would walk over to the student center and have a cup of coffee. After coffee, I would walk over to the basketball arena on campus and watch practice. After an hour or so, I would come home. My wife would ask, "Well, how was your day?" "Tough," I would say. "Really tough."

On days that I didn't teach, we would drive an hour and fifteen minutes to our beach house on the Oregon coast. Really, really tough.

"If you don't want to consult, could you at least come into New York for dinner with us and give us some advice?" Alan asked. "We'll pay all of your expenses, and a fee, of course. What would your fee be?"

I didn't want to go to New York to have dinner. The seven owners of the New Jersey Nets had a reputation for being cheap bastards, so I gave him an outrageous fee, plus first-class expenses to fly into New York to have dinner. I knew they wouldn't accept.

He said, "Okay, how about Wednesday night?" Ice to the Eskimos:. Copyright © by Jon Spoelstra. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Table of Contents

1 Jump-Starting out of Hell 1
2 Ulysses, You, and Me 9
3 The Quick Fix Silver Bullet 25
4 Ah So Desu (It is so, it is so.) 44
5 New Customers from Heaven 55
6 Paying Bonuses for Mistakes 71
7 Innovate, Innovate, Innovate, and When You're Tired, Innovate Some More 82
8 Creating Your Own Terrorist Group for Innovation 97
9 The Jump-Start Golden Rule 109
10 You Can't Jump-Start from an Ivory Tower 121
11 Marketing to a Segment of One 138
12 Cheap Is Good, but Free Is Better 153
13 I'll Be Your Friend for Another Year 164
14 The Secret Weapon 182
15 An Offer They Can't Refuse 199
16 1,000 Widow Ladies 214
17 Choose Which Customer to Dump 226
18 When Will You Stop? 240
19 Is it Fun? 252
20 Afterword 263
Index 269
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Adds More to Marketing Outrageously

    I read these books out of order. I guess Ice to Eskimos was written prior to Marketing Outrageously but I loved them both. What I would really like to see Spoelstra and the publishers do is combine the two! There are several great techniques here not mentioned in Marketing Outrageously and lots of new stories. The bottom line though, is that even after reading Marketing Outrageously 3 times already, this book got me just as pumped and excited and thrilled about implementing new concepts!! For a guy whose marketed a couple of sports teams, it amazes me that he could keep my interest let alone spark my imagine in a way that certainly no other marketing book has ever done!! There are tons of things to get you excited about your job, your product and your own problem solving tasks!! It's easy reading but inspires heavy note taking and a lot of creative ideas no matter what your industry, position or field.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013


    She slept soundly.

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  • Posted May 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Must read for anyone in ticket sales in the sports industry

    I read this book to prepare myself for a career in sales in the sports industry. I think this book really is a must read. It has great ideas and makes great points. I think it is an overall useful book. Again, a must read for those starting out in sports, especially if you are in an inside sales position for a sports team.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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