SIOUX CITY | Brett Meister has helped the Globetrotters make quite a media impression.
Actually, a record 2.8 billion media impressions.
That figure -- a statistic watched closely by those who work with certain brands in any industry -- measures interest among the public in the Harlem Globetrotters, one of the best-known sports franchises in the history of sports.
Meister, a 1988 Briar Cliff University graduate who grew up in Marcus, Iowa, was recently promoted to senior vice president of communications. The 46-year-old has directed national and international publicity campaigns for the team for 15 years.
Before the Globetrotters make any baskets or conduct their unique brand of worldwide goodwill, it's up to Meister and his "team" to game plan exposure.
The Globetrotters visit the Tyson Events Center April 3. The 2013 tour, labeled "You Write the Rules," marks the first time fans will get to go online and vote on what rules they'd like to see in the game.
"Each quarter we'll have a different rule implemented," Meister says. "And the fourth-quarter rule is on-the-spot based on applause from the crowd and Twitter."
The Globetrotters have used this audience interaction in the past to implement a 4-point rule for a 35-foot basket. Sometimes, games have featured two basketballs at once.
The method to this madness centers on keeping the game as fun and entertaining as possible. The Globetrotters have always been about sharing smiles as much as the ball on the basketball court.
Meister, a 16-year Globetrotter pro who has worked with the organization in 30 countries and nearly every U.S. state, just returned from his first visit with the team to Afghanistan. He's been to Iraq with the team twice. Military trips are among his career highlights.
"Things the Globetrotters do off the court like school and hospital visits, that's what it's really all about as our players are so sincere about those activities," he says. "And you see in the faces of people the positive touch of our players, the reaction they have."
In his recent trip, Meister accompanied the team from Kuwait to Bagram Airfield aboard a C-17. He sported a flak jacket and helmet while on a six-and-a-half-hour flight. The group then boarded a C-130 for the flight from Bagram to Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
"The military visits are very rewarding to me," says Meister.
His most memorable experience, however, involved meeting Pope John Paul II in The Vatican 12 years ago. Meister helped orchestrate a trip involving five Globetrotter players, team officials and himself as the organization made the Pope an Honorary Globetrotter.
"We had a staff brainstorming session on people around the world we could honor as part of the team's 75th anniversary," Meister recalls. "One of my colleagues suggested the Pope and our owner, Mannie Jackson, really liked the idea."
Meister took the reins when a coworker, who wasn't Catholic, had trouble making the connections to see it through.
Meister's connections were, well, a bit closer. His father, Don Agostine, was a priest earlier in his life. So, that's where Meister's first call went.
"My dad gave me a starting point," he says. Agostine's connection opened one door, which led to another and ultimately to a U.S. priest who handled the Pope's scheduling at that time.
"Within 24 hours, we had an invitation from The Vatican," Meister says. "I called my dad back and told him that and he was shocked."
That chain of events serves as a microcosm for Meister's career. He drew up a play, so to speak, used his talents, and executed a winning strategy.
"Brett has done an amazing job of reigniting the Harlem Globetrotters' pop-culture flame," says Harlem Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider. "He and his team have worked tirelessly to make stars of this new generation of Globetrotters; from national appearances on 'The Amazing Race,' 'The Bachelorette,' ESPN, 'Sesame Street,' 'Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader,' and more, to creating local headlines in all 220-plus North American markets the team visits, Brett gets the word out in creative and compelling ways."
The result? Annual coverage for the Globetrotters has grown by 507 percent over the past six years. And media impressions alone during the past year set an all-time record of 2.8 billion. In Meister's work, that's one impressive stat line.