Monday, June 30, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #3

Here are six news bites (had to work in a Luis Suarez reference somehow) from sports business:

1. Mike Trout Gets New Shoes... His Own

A pro athlete getting his own model or brand of sport shoe is not a novelty, but Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout's new Nike Lunar Vapor Trout is noteworthy. Trout is the first MLB player since Ken Griffey, Jr. to get his own shoe. At age 22, Mike Trout seems to be at the beginning of an illustrious career, both as a baseball player and product marketer. Will Mike Trout reach the athlete endorsement stratosphere occupied by a select few such as Tiger Woods, LeBron James, and Peyton Manning? Or, will he be a superstar endorser from a sport not generating as many top tier marketers?

2. WNBA Shows Its Pride

The WNBA has embarked on a campaign to embrace the LGBT community. The league held its first Pride Game during a recent televised game between Phoenix and Chicago. Messages of equality and tolerance from WNBA players such as Phoenix's Brittney Greiner articulated the league's stance on rights for same-sex relationships. Will other leagues follow the WNBA's lead to explore ways to be more inclusive in their target marketing? 

3. Connecting Fans for a Better Game Day Experience

Technology has been a blessing and curse for sports properties. Innovations like HDTV, online streaming, and social media have improved the quality of the digital sports consumption experience for fans and keeps us connected to our favorite sports in ways that we could only dream about previously. The curse is that technology innovations have changed our expectations of how we consume sports at live events, too. The frustration of spotty Wi-Fi availability at sports venues detracts from the experience fans are accustomed to in other places where they consume media and sports. The result might be a decision to stay away from venues and consume where technology access is assured. To that end, college athletic departments are stepping up investments in digital media and infrastructure to complement the pageantry of their games.

4. San Francisco Giants Go Green with Edible Garden

The San Francisco Giants have built a reputation as one of the most progressive MLB franchises, and its latest initiative falls in line with their cutting edge image. An edible garden will soon be open to fans at AT&T Park. Visitors will be able to pick greens from the garden and use to dress their food purchases at the ballpark. The Giants enlisted outfielder Hunter Pence to participate in the garden's unveiling. Professing to be environmentally conscious is one thing; taking steps to go green and demonstrate that commitment is a larger undertaking. 

5. 120 Sports: ESPN for Cord Cutters

An estimated 7.6 million households have "cut the cord," opting not to subscribe to cable or satellite services. One of the greatest content voids cord cutters experience is lack of sports entertainment. A new venture, 120 Sports, aims to fill that void with a blend of classic sports and original programming delivered via streaming video. MLB and NHL are among the equity partners in 120 Sports, signaling a desire for this innovation in the sports media space to succeed. Will 120 Sports become the next ESPN?

6. Sports Media Beats Aereo... Now What?

One of the most anticipated decisions from the current session of the Supreme Court involved broadcast television companies efforts to stop Aereo, an upstart company that offers consumers an alternative to traditional TV reception. At the heart of the litigation was Aereo's service model, which is based on subscribers receiving signals from local over-the-air stations via tiny antennas that enable them to watch on TV, computer, or other web connected device. Sports properties such as the NFL were vehemently opposed to Aereo, believing its users were getting access to content by bypassing the broadcasters that pay billions for TV rights. The Supreme Court ruled against Aereo, and the company has suspended operations for now. Will sports properties and their media partners use this "close call" as motivation to explore options that give sports fans more access to sports content?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #2

Just like the summer weather, sports business has heated up as the NBA and NHL have crowned champions, and FIFA World Cup is in full swing. Here are six links to content touching on what's happening in the sports industry:

1. A Name Change for the Washington Redskins?

The Washington Redskins nickname controversy resurfaced again last week when the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office revoked six trademarks held by the NFL franchise. Is a name change for the Washington Redskins a matter of when, not if? Marketing experts weigh in on four issues to consider in a rebranding effort.

2. Sponsor Reaction to Latest Chapter of Redskins Name Controversy

Another aspect of the Washington Redskins ongoing name controversy is how sponsors are affected. They partnered with the Redskins for the association benefits, but they are also associated if the brand is viewed in a negative light. Sponsors must walk the line between not offending the very audience to which they are appealing and tapping the affinity of football fans. In contrast to the swift and clear positions taken by most sponsors against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racially offensive remarks, Washington Redskins sponsors have largely been silent as the issue is debated in the court of public opinion.

3. Coldwell Banker Goes Home with MLB Players

Most sponsors long for more than brand exposure at sports venues; they want to create deeper connections with fans. To that end, Coldwell Banker is targeting MLB fans through a video series called Home Field Advantage. The 12-installment campaign features a new video weekly in which viewers get a glimpse into the home life of current players including CC Sabathia, Neil Walker, and Adam Jones as well as former players such as Johnny Damon and Steve Garvey. Home Field Advantage is a good example of how marketing content can be created that entertains while at the same time making connections between a sponsor's brand and its target market.

4. Learfield Sports Adds to Portfolio of Services via Acquisition

Marketing agencies add value to their client by offering expertise and resources to perform certain functions more effectively than handling in-house. Learfield Sports, a leading agency serving intercollegiate athletic programs, recently expanded its portfolio of services by acquiring Licensing Resource Group, an agency specializing in brand management and licensing services. The move adds to Learfield's capabilities to meet clients' needs without the risk associated with building a business from the ground up.

Learfield Sports to Acquire Licensing Resource Group (LRG) by Jennifer Duncan, Learfield Sports

5. Los Angeles Kings Reap Marketing Benefits of 2nd Stanley Cup

Winning its second Stanley Cup in three seasons has given the Los Angeles Kings marketing flexibility that many other franchises would love to have. Winning has fueled fan interest for tickets, so the Kings have the luxury of shifting focus from attracting customers to creating deeper engagement with them. The LA Kings may not win the Stanley Cup every other season for years to come, but the franchise is taking steps to cement fan relationships that withstand fluctuations in on-ice results.

6. The Value of Sports Sponsorship

The high dollar rights fees paid by sponsors to associate with marquee events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cup lead to a very valid question: Are top tier sponsorships worth the cost? The answer is "it depends." Consultants from McKinsey & Company identify brand and financial metrics to assess when weighing the value that a sponsorship offers. They acknowledge that despite the popularity of sponsorship as a marketing vehicle, many companies have either overlooked or ignored measurement to determine sponsorship effectiveness.

"Is sports sponsorship worth it?" by Jeff Jacobs, Pallav Jain, and Kushan Surana,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pick 6 - Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business

Note: The summer format for the SBU blog will be a weekly collection of 6 articles/links pertaining to developments in sports business. Enjoy for your own consumption or use as a starting point for discussion.

1. MLBAM: Digital Marketing Powerhouse

Baseball might be America's pastime, but Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) is very much on the cutting edge as a digital media property. An article on profiles MLBAM and discusses how it can help MLB market to the next generation of fans:

2. Purdue Football Aims for Student Buy-In... Literally

Many football teams call their fans the 12th man. Purdue University is taking a different approach to enticing students to identify with the team. Students buying a VIP card that gives access to all football and basketball games will be invited to submit a photo that will be incorporated into the "P" that adorns the side of the football team's helmets. Is this a catchy publicity tactic, or has Purdue found a way to give students buy-in to the team that others might replicate?

"Purdue Football to Feature Superfan Images on Team Helmet" by Jessica Gioglio, Convince and Convert blog

3. Minnesota Vikings Want an MLS Club

The Minnesota Vikings would like to broaden its product portfolio by attracting a Major League Soccer franchise to the Twin Cities. The pursuit is more than a hobby or passing fancy; the Vikings see MLS as a strategic fit with its operations, complementing the fall NFL schedule with MLS's spring/summer calendar. And, the Vikings are about to have a shiny new stadium and are exploring options for generating revenue from that asset.

"Vikings announce partnership to pursue Major League Soccer team" by Nick Halter, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

4. Vancouver Back in the NBA?

Vancouver's first foray into the NBA between 1995 and 2001 was largely uneventful and unsuccessful. But, are the forecast demographic characteristics of Vancouver favorable for a return to the NBA in the future? Should the NBA expand, and if yes, is Vancouver a viable option?

5. Jacksonville Jaguars Innovative Seating Options

The Jacksonville Jaguars has been the butt of jokes among NFL observers in recent years for the team's inability to sell out games. New ownership is bringing with it a commitment to be innovative in how fans can experience Jaguars games. Two new seating options under development include luxury poolside cabanas at $250 per ticket per game and a limited number of field seats priced at $350 per game. Creating high-end experiences might not seem like a priority for a team challenged to sell tickets, but the plans have won praise from fans and sports marketing experts.

6. Winning the World Cup of Sponsorship

The long anticipated FIFA World Cup2014 Brasil has begun, as has official sponsors' marketing campaigns to connect their brands with this massive global event. While 32 clubs will compete for the World Cup on the pitch, sponsors will battle to win on social media. A study by Omnicom Media Group in the days leading up to the first match found mentions of Hyundai, Sony, and Emirates Airlines having the highest proportion of positive mentions on social media. Coca-Cola, Visa, and Kia were the sponsors with the lowest proportion of positive mentions, with positive and negative mentions nearly even. Given that FIFA sponsors invest millions to acquire marketing rights and spend millions more on activation, a less than glowing response from soccer fans is troubling.