Monday, July 28, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #7

Here are a few of the sports business happenings reported in the last week:

1. Brands Continue Pursuit of Engagement via Apps

Sports related brands continue to try to figure out how to get consumers to connect with their brands via mobile apps. Players such as Nike and The North Face are rolling out new apps that strive to deliver useful content.

2. Adidas, Champs Sports Serve Their Own Take on Short Stories

Who said videos have to be long to be good? Adidas and Champs Sports hope they don't as the two brands have partnered to create four online shows that will be delivered via the Champs Sports's Instagram page. The campaign is an acknowledgement that consumers prefer watching short videos, and it is safe to classify 15 seconds as a short video.

3. Olympians Show Entrepreneurial Flair

The Olympics are a spectator sport spectacle, but often lost in the drama and excitement of a two-week Olympic Games is the reality that athletes train for years for the chance to compete for a few minutes. This commitment comes at a cost, not only of time but a financial cost, too. And, not every Olympic athlete has the luxury of rich endorsement deals to support them. Thus, some athletes have adopted the same channel that aspiring entrepreneurs use- crowdfunding. 

Crowdunding for Athletes Shows Potential, by Michael Ibberson, CrowdClan

4. CrossFit's Disciplined Approach to Brand Growth

CrossFit has emerged as a significant player in the fitness market. One of the key's to CrossFit's success has been a steady commitment to fulfilling the brand's promise, even forsaking financial gain at times in the process. An "excellence over money" mindset is one piece of evidence that CrossFit's top priority is a consistent brand. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman says the company could be a $100 million brand if it ventured into logical extensions like branded supplements or protein shakes. But don't look for those products anytime soon- they are incongruent with the brand's commitment to be a high quality training program.

How CrossFit Built a Passion Brand, by Maureen Morrison, Ad Age 

5. Nike: Official Ambush Marketer of FIFA World Cup?

Nike has done it again; it succeeded in creating associations with a major sporting event that it did not sponsor. A survey of Brazilian, US, and UK consumers included 30% who incorrectly identified Nike as an official World Cup sponsor. The level of unearned association was not too much less than the 36% of consumers who correctly identified rival Adidas as a sponsor. Given Nike's ambush marketing accomplishments, should it ever buy official sponsor rights to any property ever again?

6. Under Armour's Football Season Marketing Plans Include Women

Football season represents a major selling opportunity for apparel marketers like Under Armour, so what is up with its plans for a marketing campaign aimed at women during the same time period? The answer is simple- sales of women's products are hot for Under Armour. The women's market represents huge opportunity to meet the needs of customers ranging from "female athletes" to "athletic females."

Why Under Armour is Targeting Women during Football Season, by Sarah Meehan, Baltimore Business Journal

Monday, July 21, 2014

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

FIFA World Cup Championship, MLB All-Star Game, and The Open Championship- Other than that, not much happening in sports this week. Here are six stories that fell just outside the list of big sporting events:

1. Marketing Takeaways from FIFA World Cup

The World Cup was more than a soccer tournament; it was a global water cooler around which people gathered to support their country and follow events in Brazil in real time. Three observations from the World Cup pertain to the influence of Millennials, the lingering specter of racism, and the lives and loves of Latinos. 

2. Adidas Replaces Nike as Manchester United as Kit Supplier

One does not often think of Nike walking away from a partnership because it is too expensive, but that is exactly what it did when deciding not to continue pursuit of a new deal to be Manchester United's kit supplier. The price had become too high, in Nike's estimation. Enter Adidas, which agreed to a 10 year, $`.3 billion agreement with the club that begins next year. What are the motivations for Adidas to enter into such a huge agreement? How will Adidas earn back return on this investment?

Manchester United and Adidas Agree to Richest Uniform Deal Ever, by Mike Ozanian, Forbes

3. Yet More Advice on Pursuing a Career in Sports Business

Advice on how to break into sports and pursue a career seems to be as abundant as grass. Everyone has opinions about what it takes to stand out and succeed. Often, aspiring sports business professionals get mixed signals about what it is important, what they should do to prepare, and so on. Brian Clapp, a sports media veteran, discusses six myths about sports business careers. 

4. SEC Network Signs Important Distribution Agreement

The SEC Network is scheduled to launch in less than one month (August 14th). While most ingredients are present for a successful product (avid fans, wide market reach, and a tremendous amount of content, to name three), one key variable for which work remains to be done is distribution. Fans, reach, and content do a product little good if it cannot get into the hands of the audience who values it. The SEC Network took a major step toward removing the distribution barrier by reaching agreement with Comcast Xfinity to carry the new channel. Two significant distribution points remain to be sold- DirecTV (20 million subscribers) and Time Warner Cable (11 million subscribers). At this point, does the SEC Network have market penetration via its carriage agreements that it can do just fine without DirecTV and Time Warner Cable?

5. Professional Bull Riders Exports to China

The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) has established itself as a solid sports entertainment property over the past twenty years. It branched out from its US base to have a presence in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico. Now, it is planning to extend its reach farther with a venture into China. The large population of China makes it an attractive prospect, but it may not even be the market with greatest potential (Brazil is considered to be very lucrative for PBR). How will PBR prioritize its growth pursuit beyond the US?

6. SEC Takes Page from MLS Playbook

Given the passion for college football and the struggle for soccer to gain acceptance in this country, you may think it is a typo when you read that the Southeastern Conference has looked to Major League Soccer for ideas on how to spark attendance. Some SEC programs have found it challenging to get students to attend games. One MLS club, Sporting Kansas City, has shared with some SEC schools practices on layout of the physical space and how to use data to more effectively market to fans. The article brings out the issue of exploring other ways a sports property can learn from other organizations, either within the industry or outside of sports.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #5

Here is the latest installment of six articles on sports business topics that are suitable for self-development, classroom discussion, or mere entertainment. 

1. Timing is Everything

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has shattered all records for exposure and interest as measured by social media conversations and shares, digital streaming, and TV ratings. How can American soccer capitalize on the heightened interest in soccer after the World Cup concludes? Even MLS clubs with the most fervent fan followings stand to gain by building on World Cup frenzy. What are ways to parlay World Cup interest into MLS interest? 

2. NASCAR Competitors Form Alliance

The racing on the track may be intense, but nine NASCAR teams have come together off the track to form a business alliance. Known as the Race Team Alliance, the teams will be pooling knowledge and resources on business best practices and creating greater buying power than possible on their own. Is this a model that other sports leagues should consider adopting? Can they come together in an "all for one, one for all" alliance given that most of the time their objective is to defeat and be superior to competition?

3. DirecTV adds Fantasy Football Channel to Lineup

If you are a fantasy football player and looking for one more reason to stay home instead of going to NFL games, DirecTV is a adding a fantasy football channel. The channel, dubbed Fantasy Zone, will offer fantasy-related content and updates. Will the introduction of DirectTV's Fantasy Zone be more effective at enhancing the fan experience of indirect consumption or dissuading fans from attending games in person?

4. Michelle Wie- Finally a Golf Superstar?

Michelle Wie has been in the spotlight as a golfer and product endorser for over a decade. Her professional accomplishments left a little to be desired, namely tournament championships. This year, the now 24-year-old Wie has won two tourneys including the U.S. Women's Open. Her stock as a product endorser appears to be on the rise again. More importantly, could Wie become the face of the LPGA that it so needs for raising the brand's profile? 

Michelle Wie's Star Power Rising, by Mechelle Voepel, ESPNW

5. Russell Westbrook Framing Success as Product Designer

It is not unusual for professional athletes to have a hand in designing products. However, most of these ventures are closely related to their source of celebrity such as sneaker brands. NBA star Russell Westbrook is the latest in a growing list of pro athletes branching out into design of lifestyle products. He is behind Westbrook Frames, a line of fashion sunglasses retailing for $95-145. Is this the beginning of a broader collection of lifestyle products from Westbrook? Does he have the personal brand equity and image to propel his products to success?

6. Sneaker Deals 2.0

Adidas signed Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, to a multi-year deal with a guaranteed $2 million annually. Not a bad payday, but it is significantly less than deals star NBA players have received in the past. This fact is not a knock on Wiggins as much as it represents a shift in how sneaker companies view the role of star players today. The number of players that can ascend to the status of being "brandworthy" are few and far between. The next Michael Jordan or LeBron James will come, but who it is and long it will be are unknown. In the meantime, sneaker brands are scaling back the investments made in star players, particularly ones at the beginning of the professional careers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #4

July 4th has passed; the fireworks have all been shot and the grills have cooled. So what has been going on in sports business while we have been celebrating our nation's independence?

1. Showing Fan Identification... Literally

Minor league baseball has a rich tradition of offbeat promotions. The latest example comes from the Syracuse Chiefs, AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The Chiefs held a promotion, offering 36 fans free general admission for life if they would do just one thing: Get a tattoo of the team's 'C' logo. Turnout well exceeded the 36 max, and the Chiefs enjoyed national publicity from the promotion. Do the potential PR payoffs of such out-of-the-box promotions justify venturing into the unknown and executing such an unusual promotion?

2. A (Hundred) Million Reasons to Target Vine

World Cup fever is rampant, and fans have taken to social media to follow matches and share the allegiances unlike any sporting event in the social era. But when it comes to using social media sites like Vine for sharing video footage whose rights are owned by ESPN and Univision, users are being tackled. The rights holders have aggressively issued takedown notices and some media outlets have had their Vine accounts suspended for posting content for which they did not have rights. Does this traditional media mindset work in today's digital world? Can TV broadcast rights holders come up with ways to leverage their asset instead of resorting to policing social networking sites to protect their content?

3. US Soccer Merchandise Sales Soar- Now What?

The US team saw its World Cup run end in the Round of 16, but not before it also saw sales of team merchandise take off. US success in the last two World Cup tournaments and heightened interest fueled by social media are no doubt contributing factors to the sharp rise in merchandise sales. The question that begs to be answered is how can US Soccer sustain this interest so that the team and sport are on Americans' sport radar more than a couple of weeks every four years. The payoff goes far beyond merchandise sales, although that is nice, too!

4. Coke Takes Pole Position on Yahoo, NASCAR Websites

Coca-Cola was title sponsor for the July 5th NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway (run on July 6th due to rain). The Coke Zero 400 was more than a chance for Coca-Cola to splash the brand name via brand mentions throughout the weekend. A campaign that included a strong presence on the homepages of Yahoo and NASCAR tied to an ongoing Share a Coke program was part of Coke's marketing blitz tied to the race. Buying title rights to an event is the beginning- where the sponsor goes from there to activate its asset will ultimately determine ROI. 

5. Airbnb Sports NYC Marathon Despite Questions about its Model

Airbnb, the online accommodations service that lets people rent out their rooms and homes, has signed on as a sponsor of the New York City Marathon. Ordinarily, a sponsorship deal does not raise eyebrows. But in this case, Airbnb has come under scrutiny of state regulators in New York. Sponsors associate with sport properties to enjoy an image association, but sponsors bring their own images to the partnership. Was it wise of the NYC Marathon to partner with Airbnb given concerns about its business model? Is this an opportunity for Airbnb to deal with negative perceptions that exist about the brand?

Airbnb to sponsor New York Cit Marathon, by Eoin Connolly, SportsPro Media

6. Sports Illustrated Bets on Fantasy Sports

The demise of print media has been lamented for some time, but you won't find Sports Illustrated wallowing in self-pity. The magazine has embraced digital, with its latest product a mobile sports betting app called Fun Nation. The app targets the daily play segment of the fantasy sports market. Players pay an "entry fee" to compete against an opponent with the opportunity to win money. It will be interesting to see how the brand extension is received- will Sports Illustrated become a force in the fantasy sports category?