Friday, December 20, 2013

College Football Bowl Games: How Much is Enough?

Photo by Flikr user Sean J under
Creative Commons license
      The college football  bowl season is upon us. A slate of 35 bowls begins tomorrow with four games. The climax of the bowl season will be the BCS Championship game on January 6 in Pasadena, California, between Florida State and Auburn. The abundant supply of bowl games means that 70 out of the 125 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools enjoy a trip to the postseason. There was a time when a bowl game was considered a reward for a successful season. But with 56% of all teams making a bowl and able to do so with a.500 record (6-6),has the prestige of bowl games taken a hit?

Demand Exceeds Supply?
The bowl game roster includes diversity in locations, dates, and match ups. These variables and others including costs of travel to a bowl game and tickets challenge some bowl game operators and participants' athletic departments to fill seats. Recent headlines about bowl game ticket sales provide evidence of this challenge:
  • Badgers football: Ticket sales for Capital One Bowl slow so far
  • Gator Bowl ticket sales 'lukewarm'
  • UCF struggling to sell Fiesta Bowl ticket allotment
  • Texas Bowl not exactly a hot ticket
  • Outback Bowl Ticket Sales Sluggish for LSU Tigers, Puzzling to Les Miles
It would be easy to dismiss sluggish ticket sales as a problem faced by lesser bowls, but these headlines represent not only lower tier bowls (e.g., Texas Bowl) but New Year's Day staples Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl and Gator Bowl as well as a BCS bowl (Fiesta). Even the lure of Florida sunshine in January cannot magically sell tickets, at least that is what LSU, Wisconsin, and Georgia are experiencing this year. The novelty of attending bowl games is long gone. Making the trek to one's favorite team's bowl destination becomes an added financial cost of fandom beyond supporting the team in the regular season. Besides, the game will be available for consumption in your living room, at home with family during the holidays. Motivations to attend are diminished compared to years gone by.

The Successful Bowl Playbook
The current number of bowls suggests that demand does indeed exist, whether it is for ticket sales, sponsorships, or media rights. Some bowls consistently enjoy good support and have solid ticket sales. Among the reasons why are:

  1. Match-ups: Bowls that have conference tie-ins have in many cases created natural geographic rivalries. For example, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl  pits teams from the ACC and SEC. The regional appeal usually draws many fans from both teams to Nashville.
  2. Geography: Bowls that are accessible to fans of the participating teams stand a better chance of selling tickets. This year's Music City Bowl match-up of Georgia Tech and Ole Miss is attractive to both fan bases as travel to Nashville will be convenient. In contrast, the Texas Bowl in Houston played tomorrow between Minnesota and Syracuse is hardly an easy trip for fans of either team.
  3. Entertainment: A bowl game is but one stop on the itinerary of many game attendees. Other entertainment options, whether orchestrated by the bowl organizer or part of a city's tourism offerings, add to the overall experience. Returning to the Music City Bowl example again, Nashville is not only a tourist destination, but in the days around the bowl game there are two NHL games, one NFL game, and a New Year's Eve party downtown. 
A Vibrant Business
Despite the many empty seats we will see during telecasts of some bowl games in the next two weeks, the bowl business is doing just fine, thank you. One indicator of the strength of bowl games is that ESPN has made a significant commitment to bowls, owning eight of the 34 bowls (the BCS Championship makes the bowl total 35). With sport media outlets constantly craving desirable content, owning your own bowl game is certainly a means of ensuring there is content to air and valuable advertising inventory to sell. 

As the Andy Williams classic tune used to promote Capital One Bowl Week proclaims ""It's the most wonderful time of the year." College football fans, advertisers, and sponsors all agree.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to Have a Career in Sport Marketing? Butt In

I was fortunate to attend the Sport Marketing Association annual conference in Albuquerque two weeks ago. In addition to meeting sport marketing colleagues and learning about the latest scholarly research, I was particularly excited about the keynote speaker for the conference's concluding session. Jon Spoelstra has been someone whose work I have admired for a long time. I took a copy of his book Marketing Outrageously to class last week and marveled at the number of sticky notes I had placed throughout the book marking all of the "important stuff." Spoelstra built an impressive track record as a master of selling tickets with the Portland Trail Blazers, New Jersey Nets, Sacramento Kings, and in minor league baseball as an executive with Mandalay Entertainment Group. I knew his presentation would be good, and he did not disappoint. You can see for yourself here- watch the Livestream capture of his address from the Sports Business Education Network.

Best Advice Ever
The highlight of Jon Spoelstra's presentation was his response to a question from the audience about what advice he would give to students aspiring to work in sport marketing. Rather than touching on the often cited suggestions to build a network of contacts and gain experience, Spoelstra's response touched on the mindset needed to approach pursuing a career in the industry. He said "If you feel like you belong, butt in." His advice is refreshing and inspirational. The deck is stacked against anyone attempting to break into the profession; numbers are tossed around about the ratio of applicants to positions for jobs and internships. The long odds alone are enough to discourage many students from pursuing sport business as a career path. But, for those students who are willing to follow Jon Spoelstra's suggestion to "butt in," you can chart a course for beginning a career in sport business.

How to Butt In
The advice to butt in if you feel like you belong is refreshing; it should give hope to aspiring sport marketers everywhere. Now for the heavy lifting- how do you prepare to butt in? Below are five things you can do starting today if you are not doing them already:

  1. A daily reading routine - Utilize readers like Feedly, Zite, or Flipboard to compile a collection of articles, blogs, and websites related to sport business. Just as stock market investors keep on top of developments in companies and industries, you need to build a knowledge base of firms and executives that are the "players" in the industry.
  2. Join LinkedIn groups - You have likely been advised to join LinkedIn (if not consider yourself advised). But do more than join, seek out groups that are related to your interests. Join the groups, then actively read discussions and take the plunge of participating in discussions by commenting on others' posts, asking questions, or starting new discussion threads. You can join up to 50 groups with a free LinkedIn account. Some people join a large number of groups, while others choose to limit their participation to a small number. Take the approach that feels right for you, but be sure to do it!
  3. Use Twitter for professional development - Twitter is an interesting social networking site; you can do anything from post photos of your lunch to follow the musings of your favorite singer or athlete. But Twitter also can be used as a learning resource. Follow companies, media outlets, and industry pros to learn more about what is going on in sport marketing. Also, be a contributor by sharing links to articles or other information that would be of interest to sport marketers.
  4. Follow industry-specific Twitter chats - Take your Twitter use to another level by following sport business hashtags (e.g., #sportsbiz, #smsports, #sportjc, #sponsorship, and brand-specific hashtags like #NFL and #NBA). Tweets using hashtags like these bring sport-specific content to you. Hashtags also identify Twitter chats, usually weekly real time gatherings of people interested in a particular aspect of sport marketing. If you think you have nothing to say or contribute, no worries. Begin by listening to others and getting to know the participants in the community.Three Twitter chats you should check out include:

  • #sbchat (Sundays at 9:30 pm Eastern)

  • #sportjc (Mondays at 8:00 pm Eastern 

  • #smsportschat (Thursdays at 9:30 pm Eastern)

  • 5. Find a Mentor - Reading and observing can be valuable in building a knowledge base and becoming better versed in the workings of sport marketing. However, there is really no substitute for connecting with someone who is already where you want to be or knows how to help you get there. If you do not know someone who could be a mentor to you, seek out the guidance of industry professionals as you encounter them online. A mentor-mentee relationship takes time to develop; an initial contact with someone that begins with "Will you mentor me?" is not the way to obtain a mentor... but it might be effective in scaring away prospects. Be patient and work on making contacts and building relationships.

    The Choice is Yours
    It is important not to confuse Jon Spoelstra's encouragement to butt in with a sense of entitlement. You will have to prepare for a chance to butt in and prove your worth once you do it. The good news is that these variables are under your control. Preparing to butt in will reduce your fears and make the process less intimidating. One of my favorite quotes fits here- Zig Ziglar said "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." Similarly, no one can tell you that you do not belong in sports marketing unless you give them permission to make that assessment. If you have prepared to butt in and are willing to make multiple attempts to butt in if initial efforts are unsuccessful, you have a much better chance at succeeding than your competitors who bail when the road to a sport marketing career is blocked.

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    Under Armour Offers 25,000 Reasons to be Interested in 39

    Like any great marketer, Under Armour seeks to improve the quality and performance of its products. The company is turning to the wisdom of the crowd to seek ideas for enhancing the Armour39, a performance monitoring device and iPhone app. The product is available as a strap (pictured) for $149.99 or as a watch for $199.99. Armour39 collects data such as heart rate, calories burned, and workout intensity. Data can be transferred to the app to compile and store workout stats for up to 120 days. Technology enables athletes to elevate their training efforts without requiring expensive, highly specialized training equipment.

    Innovation through Crowdsourcing
    Under Armour is using a popular practice to develop innovations for Armour39: Crowdsourcing. Many firms use crowdsourcing to solicit ideas from enterprising people who lack an outlet for flexing their creative muscle. Crowdsourcing initiatives typically offer financial incentives to attract interest and bring out the best ideas from the crowd. Armour39 is no different; Under Armour is offering a grand prize of $25,000 and a runner-up prize of $10,000 for the Armour39 Challenge. The competition will be executed in three phases:
    1. Capabilities - Entrants will submit a summary of their idea along with a 3-5 minute video in which they talk about their qualifications to come up with an innovation plus an explanation of how their idea would work. Under Armour will select 50 entrants to move to Phase 2. Phase 1 began October 14 and ends November 15.
    2. Prototype - The 50 winners in Phase 1 will receive a developer's kit that includes the Armour39 strap and software. They will have approximately three and one-half months (December 13-March 1) to develop a prototype of their innovation.
    3. Prize - The final phase is a competition among the 15 semi-finalists will be invited to demonstrate their innovation to a team of Under Armour executives at the Digital Future Show Event at Under Armour in early April. 
    On the website nineshights.com, contest guidelines suggest innovations that the company is seeking such as competitive analysis of workout performance that compares different users, algorithms that identify the exercise a user is performing, and heart rate profile and assessment. In general, Under Armour is open to any ideas that will improve the functionality of the product.

    Why Crowdsource?
    The crowdsourcing approach is interesting in that Under Armour has been a wildly successful company without having tapped the wisdom of the crowd. So, why would the company start now? To understand why a company like Under Armour would use crowdsourcing, here are three considerations:

    1. Great ideas do not reside exclusively within the walls of an organization. As much as Under Armour or any other company would like to believe it has the brightest and most creative employees around, reality is that many smart people with viable ideas are unknown. Crowdsourcing encourages "closet innovators" to enter the limelight.
    2. It fits an innovation culture. Under Armour built its brand on offering a different kind of product. Encouraging innovation by going outside the organization is not an admission of weakness. Instead, it is a sign of strength as company executives are essentially recruiting globally to bring the best ideas to Under Armour.
    3. Crowdsourcing can enhance brand building efforts.The Armour39 Challenge has brought exposure to Under Armour for being innovative. People may see the crowdsourcing initiative as evidence that Under Armour is a highly innovative company, positively shaping perceptions that comprise brand image.
    Time will tell how the Armour39 Challenge affects the evolution of the Armour39 product. But, rather than the product development process being cloaked in secrecy, Under Armour is building excitement for future iterations of the product by calling on developers everywhere to submit ideas for adding new value to Armour39. 

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    Keurig Brews Sponsorship to Reach Next Generation of Customers


    Textbook sponsorship strategy entails selecting and activating a sport property sponsorship in pursuit of business objectives. After all, a sponsorship should do something, whether it is increase brand awareness, shape brand image, attract new customers, or grow sales. This given is often overlooked as companies enter into sponsorships without clearly stated expectations or objectives. If you want a glimpse of how sponsorship should mesh with business strategy, look to Keurig's new college sports sponsorship initiative. The maker of coffee machines and owner of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters signed a deal with IMG College to have a presence on 25 campuses across prominent conferences including Florida, Georgia, Pittsburgh, and Texas.

    Clear Objectives
    What is most notable about Keurig's deal with IMG College is its intentions to use the partnership to achieve crucial marketing objectives. In a recent Sports Business Daily article, Green Mountain senior vice president of marketing Dwight Brown touts the deal as a way to reach the next generation of coffee drinkers. Moreover, Keurig has a need to influence a particular behavior, brewing and drinking one cup of coffee at a time versus brewing a pot of coffee. Another strategic consideration is that Keurig is interested in expanding its market presence in Texas and California, relying on sponsorship of Texas and UCLA, respectively, to support that objective. Finally, Keurig has rights to make officially licensed coffee makers for 11 schools, providing another platform for selling machines to fans who wish to own a coffee maker branded with their favorite college sports team.

    Now What?
    What is not discussed in the SBD article is most intriguing about the Keurig-IMG College partnership: How Keurig will activate its new asset. The possibilities seem limitless for Keurig to create campaigns around the college sponsorship program. Can you see the following in the coming months:
    • Keurig or Green Mountain branded experiences at sporting events
    • Cause marketing promotions with partner institutions
    • Social media contests
    • In-game promotions
    and much more. Keurig seems to have a great deal of creative leeway in developing activation programs to maximize the association with their collegiate partners. What would you recommend Keurig do to market its college sponsorship?


    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Arizona Wildcats Bring Fans into the Gameday Experience


    Marketing has evolved from being about selling products to delivering services, and more recently, creating experiences. The shift toward experiential marketing is more about fulfilling customers desires and less about using gimmickry to "wow" them. Experiential marketing can be defined as the creation of a multi-sensory, interactive environment by a sports property or sponsor designed to add value to a consumer’s experience in the short-term and strengthen relationships in the long- term. This definition implies there is strategy behind experiential marketing... at least there should be.

    Experiential Marketing Strategies
    In Chapter 7 of Sports Marketing, four strategies are identified for connecting experiential marketing with desired business outcomes:
    1. Achieve brand differentiation - Immersion in an experience can change people's perceptions about a brand relative to competition.
    2. Provide benefits through exclusivity - One of the greatest assets a sports property has is access to its events, players, coaches, and facilities. How can access be used to create experiences that give  customers unique benefits?
    3. Offer rewards to key customers - Let's face it, not all customers are equal in terms of their financial value and loyalty. Offering unique experiences to your most important customers is a way to reward their commitment and strengthen relationship bonds with them.
    4. Motivate product evaluation and trial - The opportunity for people to participate in an experience can serve as a "nudge" to try or adopt a product.
    Different strategies can be developed to market to customers or prospects at different relationship states with a brand.Offering rewards to key customers and motivate product trial are strategies aimed at two very different customer segments. The former is an audience that is already your customer... and a valuable one at that. The latter targets people who may have never bought from you or have less familiarity with your product. In other words, experiential marketing can be a platform that includes different experiences tailored to meet people at their present relationship state with your brand.

    Experiential Marketing - University of Arizona Football
    A current example of how experiential marketing can be used to meet a sport property's marketing challenges is being implemented by the University of Arizona. A combination of off dates and away games meant that Arizona had a span of 35 days between home football games. To build and maintain interest for the remainder of the season, Arizona athletics director Greg Byrne announced experiential initiatives that put a few chosen fans in the middle of the action:
    • Beginning with this week's game against Utah, a ticket holder will be selected to announce Arizona's uniform combination for the upcoming game on his or her own Twitter feed. Byrne and the Arizona athletics Twitter feed will "retweet" the fan's announcement.
    • On the morning of a home game, a fan in attendance will be chosen to accompany head football coach Rich Rodriguez and the team on the "Wildcat Walk" to the stadium.
    • A fan in attendance at least one hour before game time will be chosen to run out on the field with the Arizona team.
    • A fan at the game will be chosen by Byrne to accompany him to Coach Rodriguez's post-game press conference.
    A cynical view of these experiential tactics might be that they are nothing more than gimmicks. A comment on a media story about the Arizona experiential initiatives suggested that a better way to engage fans would be to put a better product on the field (that is a topic we will let other bloggers handle).

    Two characteristics stand out regarding Arizona's experiential marketing plans for its football program:
    1. The experiences are not "manufactured" but are occurring already - Announcing uniform combination, the Wildcat Walk, the team running onto the field, and coach's post-game press conference are actual product elements of the total product. Greg Byrne and Arizona athletics are transforming these elements by involving select fans in them.
    2. No additional costs required - When you think of creating memorable experiences for customers or fans it would be assumed that it can be done only with a significant financial investment. To be sure, many experiences created for fans require investment in creating physical spaces, interactive elements, or compensating talent. The Arizona football experiences can be offered with no additional investment.
    Market Experiences, not Products
    People do not want products, they want what products will do for them. Experiential marketing falls in line with that fundamental customer desire. Experiences can add to perceived quality and enjoyment of sport consumption. Look for opportunities to turn your products into consumption experiences, just as Arizona football has done on a small scale.

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    Matheny Wins by Putting Others First

    Imagine you are new to a job in which you have a leadership role, and you immediately face the following challenges:
    • Your predecessor is widely considered a legend in the industry
    • Your company has just completed a stellar year- is there anywhere else to go but down?
    • Your best employee leaves the organization as you arrive
    On top of these challenges, this is the first time you have held a leadership position this high in an organization.

    This string of challenges might make for entertaining lyrics to a country music song, but they also are the reality that Mike Matheny faced when he was named manager of the St. Louis Cardinals in late 2011. To recap the environment around him upon being named manager:
    • Matheny replaced Tony LaRussa, a beloved manager who had led the Cardinals to two World Series titles.
    • The Cardinals had just beaten the Texas Rangers to win the 2011 World Series. No team has repeated as champions since the New York Yankees won three titles in row between 1998 and 2000. 
    • Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, also a beloved figure in St. Louis and the team's best player for a decade, left for the Los Angeles Angels.
    The stage was set for Mike Matheny to fail, so it seemed. But, the team the Cardinals are in the National League Championship Series for the second straight year with Matheny at the helm. 

    A Servant Leader
    Mike Matheny makes clear the reason he has enjoyed success as a Major League manager: The practice of servant leadership. After his playing days as a catcher, Matheny learned about a practice known as servant leadership. Rather than leading by exerting authority, a servant leader puts other people's interests ahead of his or her own. Matheny's style is to build rapport with players from top stars down to minor leaguers vying for a spot on the Cardinals roster. He instills confidence in young players and reassures players that are struggling to play to their potential. Matheny advocates servant leadership because it "makes other people better. When you make other people better, and you set your mind on how to focus on someone outside yourself, you create something pretty special."

    Can You Win by Being Last?
    On the surface, servant leadership seems to go against most of the advice given to advance one's career- "look out for number one" and "build your personal brand" suggest a focus on ourselves, not others. Notice what servant leadership is not- it is not about letting others use you and your talents at your expense. Instead, servant leadership advances the interests of a group, team, or organization by empowering individuals. You win when the group wins. There is no doubt who is in charge of the St. Louis Cardinals. Mike Matheny has created a culture not based on traditional top-down managing but rather a mindset that individual players are valued contributors to the team's success. Matheny has proven that you can be first (literally) by putting the interests and needs of others ahead of your own.

    MLB.com - Matheny's selfless approach a perfect fit for Cardinals

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    A Kick-Butt Innovation for Sport Consumption?

    Technology enhancements have made the experience of viewing sporting events at home a viable substitute for attending in person without the traffic, long lines, and unruly spectators. In fact, the viewing experience has become of such high quality that it may actually threaten revenue streams associated with live events such as ticket sales and foodservice. An innovation by the Guitammer Company has the potential to further shake up the in-home viewing experience... literally.

    A Kick in the Butt for Sport Properties
    Guitammer's ButtKicker line of products has brought a new dimension to consumption in movie theaters, home theaters, and video gaming. Now, ButtKicker is poised to change the sporting event viewing experience by making possible "4D" broadcasts. Its first venture is a partnership with the National Hot Rod Association and its media partner, ESPN. The ButtKicker's 4D sports product is a device that when attached at the base of sofa acts like a "silent subwoofer." Sensations of roaring cars that fans experience at NHRA races are replicated through the ButtKicker device. The product is touted for having simple set up, but the $299.99 price may slow the adoption rate of the 4D sport consumption experience.Price aside, introduction of the ButtKicker for sports is a call to sports marketers and businesses that are suppliers to the sports industry to explore how to blend technology with underserved customer needs to guide new product development.

    Innovation versus Novelty
    For the ButtKicker or any new product to succeed, four criteria must be met:
    • Relative advantage - The innovation adds value compared to status quo; ButtKicker certainly meets this criterion by bringing the action into viewers' living rooms.
    • Compatibility - The innovation must be congruent with consumers' desires and behaviors. Technology has become very pervasive in our lives, so incorporating a device that transmits "signals" from a live event to our television is not as radical an idea as it would have been just a few years ago. If ButtKicker was for drag racing only it would likely have dim future prospects. But, if the product can be integrated into a wider variety of sports broadcasts the price point may be easier to justify.
    • Complexity - Although the technology that makes a device like ButtKicker possible might be complex, the fundamental benefit provided can be easily explained and communicated. Complexity is inversely related to an innovation's odds of succeeding in the long run.
    • Trialability - Can the innovation be sampled or used prior to committing to making a purchase? Given the price of the ButtKicker product for sports, this criterion might be the most challenging to overcome. Guitammer can demonstrate to 4D sports viewing experience using an exhibit at sporting events as well as partnering with retailers on in-store demonstrations. 
    A straightforward definition of innovation is "adding new value." If the answer to this question is not "yes," then it begs the question why an innovation would be brought to market. Perhaps there is impact as a novelty item, but in the long run customer value, not novelty, will determine if an innovation succeeds.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    What's in a Name?

    Sports teams are branded by their nicknames. While geography is an influence on the brand image of a team, the nickname is leveraged more extensively in brand strategy. Selection of brand colors, logo development, and creation of brand characters such as a mascot are usually representations of a team's nickname. Thus, a team's nickname becomes more than an identifier; it is also a marketing asset that can influence brand liking and attract fans to identify with a team. Great care must be exercised in managing brand reputation given the marketing impact of team nicknames.

    A Threat to Brand Value
    One of the most sensitive branding issues in sports is use of team nicknames and other branding elements that contain Native American references or imagery. Brands like the Atlanta  Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Washington Redskins have a heritage that predates recent debates about the acceptability of their brand names. The debate has not been limited to professional sports. The NCAA addressed the issue by calling on its members whose teams had nicknames with Native American references to change or be prohibited from competing in NCAA championship events (with exceptions made in cases in which a Native American nickname had historical relevance to the institution).

    To this point, the general position taken by professional sports leagues and teams on the issue is "we hear you, but we are not changing." That stance could be threatened as members of Congress have joined in with certain special interest groups calling for elimination of the use of Native American nicknames that contain negative imagery. The Washington Redskins in particular have been the target of calls for change on this issue. Many sportswriters and media outlets have indicated they will no longer refer to the Redskins in their coverage of the Washington NFL team.

    A Complicated Issue
    Although current attitudes and publicity about the suitability of Native American nicknames in sports suggests the time is right for change, eliminating brands like Redskins is easier said than done. An article written by John Rowady, founder and president of sports marketing agency rEvolution, explains that a name change would be a more complicated matter than it appears. One issue is the cost to implement a team re-branding effort. It is estimated that a complete re-branding of a team like the Washington Redskins could cost $15 million. A second issue is how a re-brand would affect relationships with stakeholders, most notably sponsors and fans. Rowady cites in his article that a survey of Washington Redskins fans found overwhelming support for keeping the current name. Likewise, sponsors partner with a team to associate their brand with the team brand. What if the team brand changes drastically and no longer has appeal for a sponsor? The point Rowady makes in his article is that the cost to re-brand the Washington Redskins would likely be greater than the costs of new logo development, signage, and marketing campaigns.

    What is a Brand?
    In Chapter 5 of Sports Marketing, four roles of a brand are described:

    1. Identity
    2. Image
    3. Promise
    4. Relationship
    The first two roles of a brand are more obvious and the focal points in the discussion of whether teams like the Washington Redskins should re-brand. However, the latter two roles of a brand should factor into consideration of whether re-branding should occur. A brand makes promises, some explicit and many that are implicit. For a pro sports team brand, implicit promises could include "good community citizen," "caring," and "socially responsible." A team must evaluate its brand against the promises it makes to determine if it is delivering on those promises. Also, brands serve as connectors with customers and other stakeholders to form relationships. If a brand is too controversial or has negative associations it can have the unintended effect of  turning off the very people, groups, or companies with which it wants to have long term relationships.

    Should the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, and Cleveland Indians re-brand? Why or why not?

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013

    NFL Connects with Hispanics through Fútbol Americano


    Marketers face an ongoing challenge to keep their brands relevant among current customers. At the same time, one must always have an eye toward growth through attracting new customers and strengthening relationships with key customer segments. It is the latter opportunity that is behind the National Football League's Fútbol Americano campaign to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. 

    The observance is not a creation of the NFL or the sports industry; it originated as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and later changed by President Ronald Reagan to Hispanic Heritage Month (observed September 15 to October 15). Fútbol Americano salutes past and present Hispanic players. The NFL website has a page profiling the stories of Hispanic players, and all 32 teams have local events and or game day activities slated to celebrate Fútbol Americano. In addition, the NFL incorporates strategic philanthropy into its observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. The league will be holding several youth-targeted programs in NFL cities tied to its NFL Play 60 initiative, and is partnering with Courtyard by Marriott to recognize Hispanic leaders in NFL cities through the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Awards.

    Motivations for Fútbol Americano
    The NFL's Fútbol Americano campaign provides examples in the areas of the external marketing environment and market segmentation. First, it should be recognized that any sound marketing decision can be traced back to a factor or factors in the external marketing environment that prompted the decision. In this case, the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. inspires marketers to explore opportunities to build relationships with this demographic group. According to Pew Research, the Hispanic population grew 48% between 2000-2011 to 51.9 million people. Marketing outreach efforts to a group of such significance is a wise decision. Second, elements of the Fútbol Americano campaign illustrate market segmentation in action. One example is the page on the NFL website that profiles current Hispanic players. Photos of 29 current players and short bios are posted. And, five players appear in videos discussing their Hispanic heritage and the challenges they faced on the road to the NFL. Their stories are likely to resonate with the Hispanic audience that is the target of Fútbol Americano.

    Celebrate, Don't Sell
    The greatest strength of the NFL's Fútbol Americano campaign is its focus on the influence of Hispanic culture in the NFL. Ultimately, the campaign has an objective of growing the NFL's fan base among Hispanics. But, the approach taken is commendable because it is about building relationships instead of being about selling tickets or merchandise. Those outcomes are more likely to follow if bonds are created between brand and audience.

    Further Reading - NFL.com - NFL Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    Embrace Rejection in Your Career

    So the headline does not offer much encouragement, no? If you are a student aspiring to work in sports business, it is not much fun to have someone throw water on your vision.  But, you have probably heard stories about there being 100-plus applicants for a single internship or entry level position. The odds are stacked heavily against the field. The competition is enough to scare off many of your would be competitors, but many remain with whom you will battle for opportunities.

    You Will Be Rejected
    Rejection is a given, not just in sports business but in any pursuit. In the book Choose Yourself, James Altucher discusses how rejection will find you... and that is normal. Whether it is trying to find a publisher for a book, line up a buyer for a business, or convince someone to hire you, rejection is an outcome to be expected- often happening many times over. The key, according to Altucher, is how you respond when you are rejected (notice that is "when" and not "if"). Your response may make the difference between rejection winning out and you persevering.

    Using Rejection to Your Advantage
    When you experience rejection, accept it is part of life and resolve to use it to your benefit. Three ways you can make rejection be a matter of turning lemons into lemonade are:

    1. Improve - Rejection can trigger external attribution for why you did not meet your goal. Instead of pointing to other people or factors, look at the person in the mirror. James Altucher says to ask yourself what are 10 things you can do to improve. Let rejection make you stronger.
    2. Ask for Advice - People around you including friends, teachers, and mentors can help by giving you feedback on how you can become stronger at whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. If you apply for an internship or job and did not get an offer following an interview, ask the interviewer if he or she can provide feedback on why you were not selected and how you can improve (going back to #1).
    3. Dance with Failure - Rejection may not be as detrimental to our future as our reaction to it. When you are rejected, do you slam yourself for inadequacies? Blame those idiots that did not choose you? Or, do you look at these disappointments as opportunities to learn and get better? I won't go so far as to say that failure is your friend, but given that it will cross paths with you why not learn to co-exist with it and use it to better position yourself for future opportunities?
    You have probably heard stories about successful people overcoming rejection. Colonel Harlan Sanders could not find any takers for his fried chicken, so he started KFC. Fred Smith got a C on a paper at Yale University in which he proposed a business that would use aircraft to deliver packages overnight (he later founded FedEx). Likewise, if you are trying to launch a career in sports business, you are almost certain to be rejected. Accept it, deal with it, and use rejection to move you toward your career goals.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Dissecting Data toTransform Insights into Action


    Many people view marketing as a blend of science and art. Marketing as a science is being continuously elevated as "big data" offers unprecedented quantities of information about customers, competitors, and other environmental factors. Despite the increased influence of data on marketing practice, a very important characteristic about market intelligence must never be forgotten: Data helps managers make more informed decisions- it does not make decisions for them. Students preparing to become sports business professionals should not only commit to becoming experts about the industry, but at the same time position for success by strengthening analytical and decision-making skills (i.e., the art of marketing).

    A Data Dilemma
    The potential benefits of data gathered gathered from secondary and primary sources are great... but only if managers can effectively interpret and act on the data. If data do not make decisions for us (and they do not), it is up to managers to be the hero and act on their interpretation of data. While some data can reveal causal relationships between variables (e.g., the amount of price discount in a ticket sales promotion), often times data raise more questions than provides answers.

    Below is an example of data can provoke questions but not offer direct answers. The table contains data from a Harris Interactive poll on Americans' favorite sports. Data are shown for four sports (pro football, baseball, college football, and auto racing) in terms of demographic subgroups that have highest and lowest connections with these sports.Interpretation of the data and impact on your business would be very different for marketing executives in the NFL and NASCAR. Each sport can better understand what its core audience segments are and which segments are opportunities to attract new fans to the sport. For example, the African American segment is the subgroup most likely to say pro football is their favorite sport. That same segment is least likely to say auto racing is their favorite sport.

    DEMOGRAPHIC VARIATIONS IN FAVORITE SPORTS
    " If you had to choose, which ONE of these sports would you say is your favorite?"
                 Base: All adults who follow more than one sport
    Sport
    All Adults
    Highest
    Lowest
    %

    %

    %
    Pro football
    34
    African Americans
    48
    Those aged 18-24
    23
    Those aged 40-49
    41
    College grads
    27
    Westerners
    40
    Southerners
    30
    Baseball
    16
    Midwesterners
    20
    Those aged 25-29
    8
    Those aged 50-64
    19
    Income $34.9K or less
    11
    Conservatives
    19
    Southerners
    12
    College Football
    11
    Those aged 18-24
    23
    Easterners
    3
    Post grads
    18
    African Americans
    4
    Southerners
    18
    Hispanics
    5
    Auto Racing
    8
    Those living in rural areas
    16
    African Americans
    *
    Those aged 65+
    12
    Those aged 30-39
    1
    Education of HS or less
    11
    Post grads
    2
    Source: "Football continues to be America's favorite sport; the gap with baseball narrows slightly this year" (2013), January 17, accessed September 17, 2013 at: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/1136/Default.aspx

    You Have Data- Now What?
    Data presented in the above table perhaps tells little that was not generally known already (e.g., baseball has a strong mid-Western fan base that skews toward older age groups; auto racing is popular among people living in rural areas and with a low level of education). But the data affirms the need to devise marketing strategies that strengthen relationships with key segments or reach out to build interest among segments in which less interest exists. What are the decisions in terms of platform, promotion, and people that will be made to act on findings from market research? Data are just that- data. They cannot tell a manager what to do; it is up to the skilled analyst to make sense of data, how it relates to the organization's objectives and capabilities, and how those insights can be transformed into action.

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Don't Strike Out with Your Lead-Off Communication when Networking

    If you ask sports business professionals for advice on how one can best position himself or herself to work in the industry, to a person their advice will include something about building a network of contacts. What you know is important because it will ultimately determine your performance, but who you know is crucial for providing "foot in the door" opportunities to launch your career. A valuable tool for networking today is LinkedIn.It is a valuable networking platform for professionals. LinkedIn expands our connectivity by removing geographic barriers to interacting with other people who have shared interests. LinkedIn extends the reach of our personal brands, increasing exposure in the marketplace and potentially leading to new opportunities.

    For students, practitioners, and scholars in sports business, social networking sites like LinkedIn provide opportunities to learn, share best practices, and position your personal brand to compete for jobs. Among the features of LinkedIn that activate these opportunities is LinkedIn Groups. For example, a search of the term "sports business" returned 711 results. The point is that if you want to network with others interested in some aspect of sports business, there is probably a group you can join. And, if there is not, you can start one!

    All of the benefits mentioned about LinkedIn are contingent on one thing: Applying common sense networking principles. Unfortunately, not everyone uses their common sense, and they fail to realize the full potential LinkedIn holds as a connector of people.

    What not to Say
    How do people fail with LinkedIn? The number one mistake can be summed up in the following phrase:

    I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

    Yuck! This phrase, the default networking language LinkedIn has crafted for its users, is disastrous for your personal brand when it is used as a stand-alone invitation to connect with someone. Yes, it seems innocent enough, and the statement does specify what you want. But, this "pick up line" can be interpreted in other ways:
    • You are lazy - It is too much trouble for you to write a personalized note explaining why you want to connect
    • You want something - The other person has no idea about your motives for reaching out because you have given no explanation for the invitation connection.
    • You are not really interested in adding to your contacts - Without showing some interest and effort, you seem to be going through the motions of networking.
    The only thing worse than getting this impersonal LinkedIn connection request is getting it from this person:

    Do you recognize him or her? Worse yet, is this you? I know you are much better looking than this silhouette. I don't want to network with graphics, I want to network with real people!

    Make it Personal
    When reaching out to someone with a connection request on LinkedIn, approach it as you would a face-to-face encounter. A personalized message is essential to making a positive first impression. Give the person on the other end a reason to want to connect with you. Among the critical elements of a connection request are:
    • Delete LinkedIn's connection template and replace with a message in your own words
    • Introduce yourself
    • State a common interest or common connections such as you are both members of a particular LinkedIn group
    • Briefly explain why you wish to connect
    Let's face it, you would not initiate communication with someone you do not know in the following ways:
    • Hi, I'm Sharon- will you hire me?
    • This is Joe here- will you marry me?
    • My name is Steve- can you lend me $10,000?
    A very simple definition of networking is "building good relationships." Commit to using LinkedIn as a channel to do just that. In order to build relationships, focus on communication quality. Make your interactions personal and show genuine interest in others. Online networking might be relatively new, but it is built on timeless principles of human relationships. Take an interest in others, make your personal brand personal, and enjoy the process of building good relationships.

    Note: This post is adapted from a post on the Marketing DR Blog from September 11, 2013.

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    The Next Star for IndyCar is...

    IndyCar is the number one open-wheel racing league in the United States. The league's history can be traced back to the formation of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) in 1978. Between the late 1970s and early 1990s, open-wheel racing overshadowed NASCAR in national appeal. However, a series of disastrous decisions by different factions in open-wheel racing, most notably splitting into two rival leagues, nearly destroyed the sport in the U.S. by the mid-2000s. The leagues reunited as IndyCar in 2008, but damage done in terms of splitting fans' allegiances and sponsors' investments is still being repaired today.

    Star Power as a Relationship Builder
    In Chapter 2 of Sports Marketing, five different connection points in which people develop relationships with a sports brand are identified:
    • Family
    • Socialization
    • Community
    • Participation
    • Star Power
    For IndyCar to regain relevance among not just auto racing fans but American sports fans in general, many sports marketing experts point to developing star power as an essential task. Star power is created when an identifiable personality becomes strongly connected with a brand. Athletes, coaches, retired athletes, executives, and venues are potential sources of star power. One reason NASCAR passed open-wheel racing in popularity is the emergence of strong driver personalities including Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Could IndyCar develop its own stars to be the face of the sport? 

    Can IndyCar Find Star Power?
    The answer to IndyCar's star power deficiency came in the form of Danica Patrick. She competed in IndyCar from 2005 to 2011. Patrick's physical attractiveness and marketing savvy made her a fan favorite and sponsor's dream. Unfortunately for IndyCar, she departed to drive in NASCAR, thus taking IndyCar back to the drawing board to determine how it could use star power to attract new fans. The cupboard is not bare in terms of potential star power. Driver Helio Castroneves gained notoriety for winning "Dancing with the Stars," and Marco Andretti is a "young gun" third-generation driver from one of the most famous families in American motorsports. Celebrities have been involved in team ownership including David Letterman and Patrick Dempsey. Can they attract new fans to IndyCar? Or, is there another Danica Patrick out there that could come into IndyCar and captivate audiences while gaining media attention? What should IndyCar do to use star power to its advantage?

    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    Pursue a Master(y) of Sports Business

    If I had a dollar for every student that came to my office over the past 15 years to express their desire to work in sports business, I am pretty sure I would have a lot of dollars. Many students are attracted to sports business as a career opportunity given their affinity for sports as a fan and/or participant. If I were a student today, I would be one of those persons showing up at my professor's door to profess my desire to work in sports, too. Thousands of students across the country have those feelings, too. In other words, there is a great deal of competition to land the "dream job" that you want.

    Don't Rely on Your Dream
    It has been said that a dream without a plan is just a wish. You cannot wish your way into working in the sports industry (or any industry, for that matter). So how do you avoid making sure the emotions that guided you to consider a career in sports business are supported with action. Within you resides the potential to bring your dream to life. One way that you can do this is described in the book Drive by Daniel Pink. A significant intrinsic motivator is mastery. Pink defines mastery as the desire to get better at something that matters. A commitment to continuous improvement nudges us to move closer to the top of whatever field in which we are competing. Pink shares a quote from Olympic distance runner gold medal winner Sebastian Coe in which he describes how he practiced mastery:

    "Throughout my athletics career, the overall goal was always to be a better athlete than I was at that moment- whether next week, next month or next year. The improvement was the goal."

    When you adopt a mastery mindset, the goal of improvement is a moving target. You reset improvement benchmarks as they are reached.

    Striving for Mastery in Sports Business
    For college students on the cusp of launching their professional careers, now is the time to commit to a mastery mindset. What can you do to earn a master(y) of sports business? Three priorities are:

    1. Read - See yourself as a sponge that wants to develop as much knowledge about the sports industry as possible. Books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, tweets- consume information on sports business from all available resources.
    2. Share - Participate on social networking sites by sharing some of the insights you obtain through your continuous learning efforts. Share links to articles, interesting infographics, or inspirational quotes, whatever you find interesting and valuable others will, too.
    3. Meet - Continuous learning cannot occur in a vacuum. Your commitment to mastery will benefit by putting yourself in front of other people, both in face-to-face and online environments. Remember that Charles "Tremendous" Jones said "you will be the same person in five years that you are today except for the people you meet and books you read." 
    Sign up today to pursue a mastery of sports business. The potential benefits for your professional development are immeasurable yet undeniable.

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    Our Love Affair with College Football

    Did you happen to notice more people than usual wearing shirts, jerseys, or caps of their favorite college or university last Friday? If yes, it was not a coincidence. August 30 was College Colors Day, an annual event that coincides with the debut of a new college football season. The event, which began in 2005, is a celebration of the traditions and spirit of the college experience. It goes without saying that college football is a contributor to traditions and spirit that are kindled at institutions across the country. The timing of College Colors Day to be observed at the beginning of a new football season is an acknowledgement of the love affair American sports fans have with college football. College football trails only the NFL and baseball as America's favorite sport, according to Harris Interactive.

    How College Football Stirs Consumption Motivations
    College football is unique in its power to attract fans through a variety of motivations. Perhaps most unique about the appeal of college football compared to other products is its ability connect with people using the past, present and future. An explanation of how this happens follows.

    Past - College football is steeped in traditions that help form an interesting story that attracts fans. Rivalries with other schools, heroes from one's younger days, and historic victories are three examples of how the past builds brand relevance today. An example of a tradition that received great fanfare recently was the entrance of the Clemson football team into its home stadium. Few other sports can match rituals like Clemson's entrance for stoking passion among fans.


    Another influence of the past on college football consumption is family. At the first class meeting of a sports marketing class, I ask students to share information about their favorite teams or athletes and why they like or admire them. One student said her favorite team was Vanderbilt because she was "raised that way." Family members' affinity for a team is often passed down like this; sometimes family members make it interesting by choosing rival schools to follow. Either way, many of today's college football fans can trace their identification with a team back to family influences.

    Present - Socialization opportunities have transformed the experience of attending a college football game. The game itself is one of several events that take place. Class reunions, tours of academic facilities, other sporting events, music, and of course, tailgating are elements that are complementary pieces to a football game. Whether it is spending time with family, visiting with old friends, or making new friends, college football gives fans a common bond with other people. Sense of community is a characteristic of sports consumption in general, but community in the form of alumni or geographic proximity can be particularly powerful in attracting college football fans.

    Future - The reach of college football on influencing sports consumption can extend into the future, too. Success on the field can translate into behaviors that strengthen one's connection to a university. Increases in new student applications or donations to a university's athletic programs are often observed when notable on-field success occurs such as a conference championship or bowl game victory. Another way in which the future motivates consumption among some college football fans is discussion of recruiting classes. Before opening kickoff for the 2013 season, some fans were already talking about the freshman class of 2014- which schools would land prize recruits?

    College Football Not Unique
    The discussion of consumption motivations for college football relates closely with last week's post about the characteristic of affinity advantage and how sports brands enjoy emotion-based relationships with many of its customers (fans). College football is hardly the only sport that evokes emotions from customers in ways that non-sports products long to experience. But, connections to the past, present, and future put college football in a unique position to cast a wide net and attract people with varying reasons for wanting to consume. Could brands outside of sports learn from our love affair with college football to become more effective at appealing to consumption motivations of potential customers?

    Thursday, August 29, 2013

    Do Sponsorship and Politics Mix?

    Companies partner with sports properties through sponsorship for a “transfer effect” in which associations held for the property influence associations people have with a sponsor. In general, image transfer can be effective for shaping a sponsor’s brand image. For example, Mountain Dew is often held up as an example of how sponsorship can benefit image. Its long-running association with action sports established Mountain Dew as a brand that is “young,” “cool” and “edgy.” Image transfer is a response to sponsorship that is often sought by sponsors as brand image-related objectives tend to be a frequently cited objective by sponsors.

    The Good and Bad of Image Transfer
    Unfortunately for sponsors, image transfer has no filter that only allows the “good stuff” to flow to the audience’s minds. All associations with a sports property, good and bad, are fair game to make their way into how people perceive a brand’s partnership with a sports property. We are reminded of this characteristic of sponsorship occasionally when an athlete’s endorsers feel the sting of a player’s misdeeds such as Ryan Braun’s PED suspension and subsequent termination of endorsements by Nike, Wilson Sporting Goods, and Muscle Milk. The latest situation in which negative associations with a sports property are transferring to sponsors associated with it is the Sochi Winter Olympics. Russia's recently passed law banning gay "propaganda" has led to advocacy groups calling on Olympic sponsors to make a statement against the law by rescinding their sponsorship of the Sochi Games. Sponsors find themselves entangled in an emotionally charged political issue, not exactly what they had in mind when signing on as sponsors. One Olympics partner, Coca-Cola, was singled out in a protest in New York's Times Square yesterday. LGBT activists poured Coke down sewer drains to denounce what they consider Coca-Cola's "sponsorship of hate" by virtue of its association with the Sochi Games.

    Can Sponsors Make a Difference?
    Sponsors associate with sports properties for potential marketing benefits. Should they be expected to tackle political and social issues, too? Some observers say that Coca-Cola and other corporations heavily vested in the business of Olympics including McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, and NBC Universal knew of the possibility that an anti-gay law would be passed yet did not exert any influence on Russian leaders to rethink the situation. A historical precedent exists- the 1988 Seoul Olympics were instrumental in creating change in South Korea's government from a military dictatorship to a democratic government. Behind-the-scenes pressure from the IOC was said to play a role in the change. It appears no such pressure was put on Russian officials. The situation facing Coca-Cola and other Olympic sponsors illustrates the need for a company to evaluate the political climate in the country of a potential sponsorship just as it would any global business opportunity. The political environment is beyond the control of a firm in the U.S., let alone being able to exert influence in foreign lands. 

    Associating with sporting events in countries in which some instability exists means that sponsors should be prepared to face questions about their involvement. Instead of merely enjoying image transfer benefits, sponsors may be forced to weigh in on political and social issues. Ignoring them or pretending they do not exist comes at the risk of harming brand image, ironically the opposite of why a firm undertakes a sponsorship in the first place.

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    What is the Affinity Advantage?

    Editorial Note: Beginning this week, the editorial content for Sports Biz U shifts back into classroom mode. The first post each week will relate to the study of sports marketing from topics in the Fetchko, Roy, and Clow Sports Marketing textbook. Other posts during the week will deal with current events in sports business and career issues.

     Brand loyalty is not an unusual behavior to exhibit- you probably have brands of beverages, clothing, and electronics that you like, prefer, and tend to buy that brand only when given a choice. But often brand loyalty is just a behavior, a repeated pattern of action based on past experience. What might be missing? An emotional connection to the brand. Yes, I am loyal to Crest toothpaste but I have no feelings of excitement or passion for Crest. My "loyalty" could be vulnerable if another toothpaste brand came along and persuaded me that its value is superior to Crest and was worthy of me switching brands.

    Immunity from Brand Switching
    In contrast to the toothpaste example given above, sports brands attract people to connect in emotion-based relationships. Sports brands enjoy an affinity advantage, which refers to the nature and intensity of the relationship many people have with their favorite sport, team, or athletes.You have probably heard stories about people planning their wedding day around their favorite team's schedule in order to not miss a game. How many other products would you consider scheduling such a special event around to accommodate your interests?  Identifying with a team or player often occurs at a young age, and the affinity strengthens over time and can last for the rest of one's life. When a bond between a person and brand is this strong, the chance of the relationship being broken in order to switch to another brand is slight. This characteristic of sports brands makes them the envy of marketers in other categories. If only they could get customers emotionally connected like sports brands can, they dream!

    Leverage the Affinity Advantage
    While sports brands enjoy an affinity advantage, they may not always use it effectively to strengthen relationships and create more revenue. Do event attendees have a memorable experience that leaves them longing for more? Do sponsors receive support that helps them activate their association to achieve marketing objectives? Are there new products or experiences that could be introduced to give loyal fans additional outlets for expressing identification with the brand? Answers to these questions are ways that a sports brand's affinity advantage can be leveraged. Marketers who can come up with creative responses to these questions add value to their organizations and position themselves for career advancement.



    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    NFL Sees the Realities of Fantasy

    Are you ready for some football? Check that- are you ready for some fantasy football? If you are like 25 million other Americans, the answer is likely "yes." Fantasy football brings together friends, family, co-workers, and strangers alike to compete for bragging rights and in many leagues, cash. Participation in fantasy sports is influenced by psychological motivations (competition or escape from daily life), social motivations (spend time with others or take part in a community of fans), or external motivations (respond to advertising for fantasy games or enticed to play to win prizes). Regardless of the influence that draws people into fantasy football, the fact is that they play and more importantly, it has created shifts in how football is consumed.
    Photo by Boz Bros/Flickr
    (under Creative Commons License)
    Impact of Fantasy Football on the NFL
    The shifts in how fans consume NFL news and games are not lost on the NFL. Fantasy football resources on NFL.com include information resources such as mock drafts and player research as well as hosting a destination where fantasy players can play in custom leagues, standard leagues, and prize leagues. And, the NFL RedZone cable channel is a fantasy football player's fantasy- providing league-wide coverage of scoring situations as they unfold. At the team level, fantasy football is recognized as part of the total consumption experience. The Jacksonville Jaguars have built a fantasy football lounge at EverBank Field. The idea is to create a comfortable physical space in which fantasy players attending Jaguars games can follow and manage their fantasy teams.

    These offerings reflect the NFL's understanding that the fantasy football consumer has different needs than the traditional football game viewer. Among the differences:
    • Team Fans vs. Players Fans - Traditional football consumption revolves largely around team performance and success. Fantasy football players may hold team allegiances, but they have a dual interest in the success of players on their fantasy team... even if their fantasy players are on teams playing against their favorite teams.
    • Story line vs. Highlights - Watching a three-hour football game is like watching a story unfold before you. Unexpected performances, turnovers, penalties, injuries, and controversies create some of the dramatic story elements that make the NFL so compelling for many fans. In contrast, fantasy football players are interested in short-form consumption- highlights, statistics, and scores. This contrast in consumption preferences made launching the NFL RedZone a no brainer. It is a market segmentation issue- not all fans want the rapid fire coverage that bounces from game to game on Sunday afternoon. But, for those who do, their needs are met.
    • Team Identification vs. Sport Identification - Building a fan base traditionally has been keyed by football fans identifying with one or more of the NFL's 32 teams. Fantasy football expands the scope of interest in the NFL. Highly involved fantasy football players are likely to be highly involved NFL fans, too. They are knowledgeable about and consume information on a wider range of teams and players than fans connected solely via team identification.
    Fantasy Football's Marketing Lessons
    The fantasy football phenomenon offers two lessons that marketers in any industry can apply:
    1. Understand why people buy - The differences between traditional football consumption and fantasy football consumption illustrate a marketing fundamental that is often taken forgotten: Different customers consume for different reasons. The NFL cannot market solely to football fans- it has team fans, player fans, NFL fans, and fantasy football fans, to name four of several segments that exist. Marketing strategies should reflect the understanding that customers have different motives and needs.
    2. Make consumption convenient - The NFL is all-in on the fantasy football craze, pushing content to fantasy football players to help them be more competitive while at the same time be more engaged with the league. When customers want to engage with a brand, encourage it by putting engagement opportunities at their fingertips- whether their fingertips are on the remote control, mouse, keypad, or in Section 327. 
    If you are one of the 25 million playing fantasy football- good luck this season!

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    How Fox Sports 1 Can Use Positioning to Win

    When News Corp. announced plans to launch Fox Sports 1 earlier this year, the initial question  was whether the sports cable channel market needed or would benefit from more competition (see our blog post from March 6). Sports media companies already had fairly well saturated the channel lineup. More recently, sport properties have joined the fray as the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and Big Ten Conference are among those that have launched their own cable networks.

    Fast forward to August- the planned launch of Fox Sports 1 has occurred and now the question has become how the network will fare against the established category king, ESPN. NBC would like to have something to say about this question, too, as it invested heavily in rebranding Versus as the NBC Sports Network and paid handsomely for broadcast rights to the English Premier League and National Hockey League. Now that the question is no longer whether another sports channel is needed, attention turns to how Fox Sports 1 can successfully compete in the category.

    Differentiation Options
    When a new brand enters a well populated category as Fox Sports 1 has done, a marketing priority is to develop and leverage a point of difference. What is it that Fox Sports 1 does that is unique, better, or different from the existing choices consumers have for sports news, programs, and live sporting events? Without a distinctive point of difference Fox Sports 1 (or any brand in any category) faces challenges to convince people to change their consumption behaviors and begin watching Fox Sports 1. The significance of this challenge is perhaps summed up best in the title of a book by branding expert Jack Trout- Differentiate or Die. A strong and gloomy prediction for sure, but when you consider product failures in any industry, lack of differentiation is often a contributing factor.

    Given the importance of brand differentiation, observers who watched Fox Sports 1 programming during its debut weekend remarked on ways that the new network can differentiate:

    • The anti-ESPN - Sometimes, when a brand dominates a category like ESPN does in sports media, there is desire for a formidable competitor to come along to offer an alternative. 
    • Programming - Original formats that deliver sports content in a way that appeals to casual fans and gives highly involved fans their fix of sports information and entertainment.
    • Personalities - ESPN changed the role of sports news broadcasters, creating celebrities out of several ESPN anchors over the years. FS1 could take a similar route and attempt to build a following around their on-air talent.
    • Sports - Oh yes, let's not forget sports as a way to differentiate. Some observers have suggested FS1 could become the go to cable channel for international sporting events. Others believe FS1 should build around existing Fox assets such as UFC and NASCAR to build audiences.

    Why Positioning Matters
    Brand differentiation is important because it is at the heart of a key marketing strategy known as brand positioning, defined as the part of a brand's identity that is actively communicated and demonstrates an advantage over competition (i.e., differentiation). A brand must stake a position or run the risk of succumbing to the undesirable outcome in the "differentiate or die" mantra. Without a clear position, a brand may be viewed as a commodity that is interchangeable; alternatives on the market can be chosen that meet the same need.

    Will Fox Sports 1 succeed in the long run? That question will be answered largely by the positioning strategy used to connect the brand with its target market. A positive characteristic of brand positioning is that there is no "one right way" to position. Marketing managers make that determination based on a brand's strengths, customer needs, and standing of other brands in the marketplace. Fox Sports 1 can succeed if positioned effectively- that much is understood. What is not known is the best approach to transform FS1's differentiation into a distinctive brand position. Any ideas?