Saturday, February 22, 2014

Don't Ask "What If..."

The Gold medal women's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics was an epic battle between Canada and the United States. The Americans built a 2-0 lead and clung to a 2-1 advantage in the last two minutes. Canada pulled their goalie for an extra skater, and a shot from center ice toward the empty net slide harmlessly into the left goalpost with 1:26 remaining. Just 31 seconds later,Canada scored the game-tying goal and went on to win 3-2 in overtime. The photo above shows the puck just after making contact with the post. Mere inches meant the difference between what would have been a surely insurmountable 3-1 USA lead and Canada staying alive with a chance to tie.

What if...

The heartbreaking outcome for the USA women's hockey team brought on the inevitable questions- What if the puck had been a couple of inches to the right? An empty net goal would have sealed the game. Or, what if the USA had tried to skate it farther down ice before shooting? Or, what if... let's stop here- but you get the point- missed opportunities bring out the what if questions. The exercise can be part learning experience, part pity party, and part self destruction. Although we must hold ourselves accountable and assess our performance in all aspects of our lives, we must be careful  when asking ourselves what if questions.

Ask "Why Not?" Instead

If you want to pursue a career in sports business, it will be beneficial to shift the questions you are asking yourself from "what if" to "why not." The what if questions like those coming after the USA's fall in the Gold medal game are natural, but do not let them have too much influence on how your career unfolds. They are reflective in nature and although they are useful for improving performance they can also create regret over missed opportunities. 

I have talked to many students over the years that expressed an interest in working in sports business. Yet, a very small percentage of them follow through on their desires. Often, there are practical reasons such as inability to secure an internship or feeling that a steady income was needed following graduation to pay bills. We can logically defend any decision we make, but we can also find ourselves looking back and asking "What if I had..." 

Breaking into the sports industry is not easy- you have heard stories about hundreds of applicants for a single internship or job. That mountain should not be as much a concern as what you are doing to prepare to compete. When a question like "Why not believe I can be the person chosen for an internship or job?" guides your career preparation, you are more likely to engage in activities that will develop knowledge, skills, and relationships that will help you reach your goal. Yes, sometimes you will hit the post and miss, but at least you are in the game shooting for the goal you aspire to reach.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Technology and Sporting Event Attendance: Innovation or Inhibitor?

Marketers of live sporting events are at crossroads. Cable TV networks bringing us unprecedented numbers of games to watch at home also brought predictions that televising games would pose a threat to fans buying tickets and showing up to watch in person. That trend never fully materialized. In fact, it could be argued that more access to sports has fueled fans' appetites for consuming more, including attending games in person. A point of comparison might be the music industry. One opinion is that the rise of digital music and less control over distribution actually stimulated interest in music, although maybe not increasing music sales overall. The decision point facing sport marketers is how maximize reach of televised live events while at the same time enhancing the experience of attendees. 

Second Screen = Second Threat?

Sports have not only survived the Television Era, but they thrived during it. Today, sports marketers are figuring out how to co-exist with a different force: mobile digital technologies. People have become attached to their digital devices; one recent study estimates American adults spend 60 hours a week consuming digital content including TV and online video. When we consume sports, the devices are not being put down. Fans use mobile devices while watching live sporting events to gather information, share content, or interact with others.

Our digital appetites at sporting events are not being satisfied for the most part. Wi-Fi access at a stadium or arena is often hit or miss, with miss being the status in many instances. The threat arising from fans using smartphones at sporting events is not that they will pay less attention to the game; the threat is that frustration with connectivity could detract from the total consumption experience. Just as inconvenient parking options and miserable traffic patterns can discourage sporting event attendance (particularly when the same event can be consumed indirectly via TV or online), failure to meet fans' technology expectations could negatively impact satisfaction as well as the decision to return for future events.

Technology and Strategic Planning

Where does technology management fall in marketing strategy? When evaluating the impact of technology on an organization in the context of a situation analysis, technology resources are an internal issue that could be a strength or weakness. Considerations include current technology resources deployed, customer usage of and satisfaction with technology, and extent to which technology adds value for customers as well as the internal market (employees). Technology is also an external issue, with the rate of change of technology platforms or emergence of new technologies that could affect the organization should be evaluated to determine if they represent opportunities or threats.

Based on findings of a complete situation analysis (e.g., the popular SWOT technique), marketers can respond to technology-related issues by following the MAC approach to transform SWOT analysis findings into marketing strategy:
  • Match strengths with opportunities
  • Avoid exposure to weaknesses or threats 
  • Convert weaknesses into strengths
Match represents the low hanging fruit that can be picked and ideal starting point, coupling internal capabilities with market opportunities. A case of how matching might play out for a sport property is to pair a strength of "outstanding customer service" with a market opportunity of "increase in e-commerce transactions completed on mobile devices." For example, a team might leverage its customer service orientation to offer fans options to order food and beverage or merchandise from their seats using their mobile devices and have orders delivered to them. 

What is your take on the influence of technology on live sporting events? Can sport properties figure out how to better serve customers' mobile needs while they are in their venues? Or, will technology play a role in encouraging people to stay home and consume indirectly... while engaging in consumption on a second screen? In your view, what technology enhancements are most needed to make attending live sporting events a more enjoyable experience?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

National Signing Day: The Consumption of What Might Be

I heard a proclamation today by a college football recruiting expert on a sports talk radio show: "Today is Christmas Day for college football fans." The gifts being unwrapped by football programs across the country are signees that make up their 2014 football recruiting classes. Fans who have closely followed recruiting news for the past several months anxiously await to find out how their favorite team's crop of new players stack up against rivals and other schools. There are no guarantees that a five-star signee today will lead his team to glory. Out of curiosity, a look back in time five years reveals that named Duron Carter one of the top five Impact Freshmen for 2009. Carter spent time at Ohio State, Alabama, and Florida Atlantic, never realizing the promise many Buckeyes fans held for him.

Why the Fascination?

Rampant interest in college football recruiting is nothing new; it predates social media. Online message boards and sports talk radio shows have been prime channels for highly involved fans to ask, learn, brag, and gripe about recruits their favorite team won or lost. The deep interest in college football recruiting (and similar events like the NFL and NBA drafts) comes under a category of what can be called The Consumption of What Might Be. Think about the behaviors in terms of time spent consuming (e.g., listening to, reading, or talking about recruiting) and personal investment fans have with the process- what other consumption rituals do we have for which we are so highly involved? Chances are you do not go to similar lengths when deciding which model of automobile or brand of jeans to buy.The difference can be traced back to a concept discussed in Chapter 1 of Sports Marketing: Sports brands enjoy an affinity advantage over other types of products. Highly involved fans have an emotionally-based connection with their favorite team that adds meaning to their fandom and can be a source of personal pride.

Feed the Appetite

As National Signing Day 2014 comes and goes, how should sports marketers prepare for 2015 (strange to say given that it is a year away, but discussions will start soon)? Highly involved fans interested in college football recruiting represent a market segment that should be tapped to leverage their affinity. Teams are restricted by NCAA regulations about what can be said about recruits and prospects, so the appetite for recruiting information must be fed by media. Traditional media outlets as well as sports media companies specializing in college sports such as and 247Sports are fans' lifelines for consuming the recruiting process. And, the fervent interest in college recruiting begs the question of whether there are entrepreneurial ventures on the horizon that will bring new value to the recruiting space? If there is it is because there is a market opportunity to provide information and services in ways that better serve college recruiting fans than present offerings can deliver.

The Future of Recruiting Consumption?

What do you think is the future of college recruiting consumption? Will it grow in fan interest and media coverage, or is it destined to be a pastime enjoyed by a niche of college sports fans?