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.

" 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
All Adults


Pro football
African Americans
Those aged 18-24
Those aged 40-49
College grads
Those aged 25-29
Those aged 50-64
Income $34.9K or less
College Football
Those aged 18-24
Post grads
African Americans
Auto Racing
Those living in rural areas
African Americans
Those aged 65+
Those aged 30-39
Education of HS or less
Post grads
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?