Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #17

Somehow, fall  has ended about five weeks early and winter weather has been ushered in to many parts of the US this week. Here are six stories about what is going on in sports business to get your mind off the cold temperatures.

1. University of Tennessee Rebrands Women's All Athletics Teams... Well, Almost All

A branding decision rather unique to college athletics is whether to differentiate the women's athletic teams from their male counterparts by incorporating gender reference (e.g., the Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders basketball team). Some people object to this tactic on equality grounds- why call the women's team "lady" when a similar gender reference is not included in branding men's teams. The University of Tennessee revisited this issue last week when it announced a rebranding of its women's Lady Vols teams by dropping the term "Lady" from all sports with one exception: Women's basketball. The Lady Vols brand name is synonymous with success and national championships in the Pat Summitt era. The argument for rebranding the other teams was to project a consistent identity for all UT athletic teams. Was the decision to make women's basketball an exception the right call?

2. Short-Term Fantasy Games- Who Wins?

A shift in the fantasy sports industry is occurring as daily and other short-term games are complementing traditional season-long games in the offerings of fantasy games. Fans do not have to make a significant time commitment to play these games, and sites like DraftKings and FanDuel entice players with chances to win prizes or cash. The growth of short-term games is not lost on leagues. The NBA has partnered with FanDuel to promote daily games as a means of attracting and engaging fans. Is this partnership a sign of things to come? Have shortened attention spans and the desire for immediate gratification set the stage for sustained growth in short-term games? If yes, who is poised to take advantage- leagues, fantasy game providers, or will there be some other disruption to the fantasy category?

3. Adam Silver's Bet

Gambling has been taboo in American team sports. History tells us that corruption occurring inside the sport industry, whether it is the Black Sox scandal in MLB or college athletes engaged in point shaving, suggests that the integrity of athletic competition can be compromised by participants with financial incentives to misbehave. This long held notion about the impropriety of gambling on sports makes NBA Adam Silver's op-ed piece in The New York Times all the more surprising. Is Silver right when he says the time has come to legalize and regulate betting on sports in the United States? His counterparts do not seem to share his views. Is legalized gambling on sports an inevitable development, or is this little more than an industry leader floating a trial balloon?

Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting, Adam Silver, The New York Times

4. Serving Up a Vision for the Future of ATP

Professional tennis seeks vision for the future, and to that end the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is forming two advisory boards to mold strategic direction. One group will be a Business Advisory Board made up of experts from the branding and media worlds. The second group will be a Legends Advisory Board that includes Boris Becker and John McEnroe. I don't know about you, but I feel there is one other group that should have a seat at the table, say fans? Surely, the input of fans will occur somewhere along the way as the ATP sets a 10-year plan.

5. Dre Beats Bose in NFL

It is clear that Beats by Dre is the headphone product of choice for NFL players. Unfortunately, it is a competitor of an official NFL partner, Bose. In an effort to protect the value of Bose's sponsorship, the NFL told players do not be seen wearing Beats on camera or face fines. Players have been fined, but that is not stopping them from using their preferred brand. Beats by Dre has gotten significantly more mileage from being associated with the NFL than Bose even though it has not paid the league a penny for sponsorship. The heavy-handed tactic of the NFL fining players has not worked. How could Bose make its brand more relevant to players?

6. IOC Changes too Little, too Late for Host Cities and Fans?

The exorbitant cost of hosting Olympic Games has reached a tipping point. Four out of six cities that had planned to bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics have backed out, citing the high cost to host. This development is a threat to the Olympic movement. If countries lose interest in hosting games, the International Olympic Committee will be challenged to sustain sponsor and public interest in the Olympics. The pushback on Olympic costs is not limited to host cities; attendees and sponsors are also questioning the rising costs to partake of the Olympic experience. The IOC is considering lessening the financial burden host cities must incur, and it is looking to shorten the length of time required to approve new events be added. Are these changes enough to rekindle interest in the Olympics?

IOC Will Unveil Major Olympic Changes Next Week, Karlos Ghohmann, Universal Sports

Video of the Week

The Bakersfield Condors of the East Coast Hockey League had a Seinfeld -themed promotion last Saturday when they played the Idaho Steelheads. Players wore jerseys with the Seinfeld logo and graphics that gave the jerseys the look of a "puffy shirt." Players had Seinfeld character names in place of their own last names including The Wiz, Keith Hernandez, and Kramer. The jerseys were auctioned off following the game, with money raised going to charity... hopefully not The Human Fund.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #16

What's new in sports business, you ask? Here are six stories we ran across in the past week:

1. Innovation is not just for Growth but for Survival, Too

Sports is no different than any other industry in that it must be innovative to keep products relevant and interesting to customers. Spectator sports in particular must consider how innovation could be applied to speed up the pace of play. Games can stretch out to 3 1/2 to 4 hours depending on the sport. Fans connected to screens or with other interests may be reluctant to invest that much time to attend in person or watch at home. The issue raised in the article could make for lively discussion on how to strike a balance between maintaining traditions and improving the consumption experience through innovations that either speed up games or pack greater entertainment value into an event.

Adapt or Die, John Rowady, MediaPost Marketing: Sports

2. Elevating Formula 1 in the US Sports Landscape

Formula 1 recently held its third U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Despite the popularity of this event, Formula 1 has a long road ahead if it wants to reach top tier status in American sports. Access to drivers is cited as a key success factor, whether at the track or on social media. How can Formula 1 strengthen its brand in America given that it competes in this market just one weekend a year?

3. Can Issacson Call Audible on NFL's Image?

The NFL's response to domestic assault incidents involving some of its players has been puzzling, to say the least. However, one response that has gained attention is naming a Vice President to take the lead on domestic violence policy. That task falls on the shoulders of Anna Isaacson. Although skeptics view her role as little more than a PR ploy, Isaacson is being counted on to play a pivotal role in restoring the NFL's image. The question remaining to be answered is how that task will be accomplished.

Can Issacson Save the NFL? Wayne Drehs, ESPN.com

4. App-urtunity? Fans Spending More Time on Sports Apps

Sports fans are increasingly fulfilling their appetite to consume sports news, scores, and highlights through mobile apps. In the period August 2013 to August 2014, time spent on sports apps rose 210% compared to a 65% rise in overall app usage. These stats leave little doubt that sports fans crave mobile experiences. Given the consumption rates for sports apps, a question begging to be answered is what opportunities exist for sports properties and app developers to turn this trend into a revenue stream.

5. Emirates Drops FIFA Sponsorship: Who's Next?

FIFA has been mired in dealing with allegations of corruption surrounding the decision to award the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar. The negative baggage associated with the scandal is one reason why Emirates Airlines has decided not renew its partnership with FIFA. No other corporate partners have bailed. In fact, most sponsors have had little to say about the corruption scandal. Will Emirates Airlines be an outlier, or will its decision trigger other sponsors to reconsider their continued association with FIFA?

Emirates Drops FIFA Sponsorship over Corruption Allegations, Tariq Panja and Dannielle Rossingh, National Post

6. Taco Bell's Recipe for College Football Playoff Sponsorship Success

The initial College Football Playoff is whipping fans into a frenzy as teams jockey for position to be among the four teams playing for the national championship. On the corporate sponsor side, one brand has reserved its seats already- literally. Taco Bell will have the Live Mas student section at all three playoff games, reserving 500 tickets per school. The activation is aimed squarely at the young male audience that is key to its business. The sponsorship has a social media component, too, that will surely add to the buzz around Taco Bell's association with the CFP.

Taco Bell Brands Student Section for First College Football Playoff, Maureen Morrison, Ad Age

Video of the Week

We are often exhorted to go the extra mile to gain a competitive edge. Well, before you go the extra mile, make sure you go the required distance. Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay fell one yard short in going the required distance, casually dropping the ball just before crossing the goal line. The result was a touchdown... for Oregon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #15

It's Election Day in the U.S. Here are six votes for interesting happenings in sports business:

1. How MLB Should Innovate through Digital

Baseball is known as America's pastime, which for some people has connotations of "old." When it comes to currency in digital marketing, MLB may appear old or lagging compared to other pro sports leagues. Marketing expert Bill Kanarick identifies four areas in which MLB needs to step up its digital game: 1) the in-game experience at stadiums, 2) the second-screen experience, 3) social media engagement and storytelling, and 4) content aimed at the always-on fan.

2. Sponsorship: From Signage to Social

Remember when the plum asset of sponsorship was venue signage? Sponsors beamed when they saw their name and logo plastered on signage... along with all the other sponsors, of course. As the sponsorship landscape has become more crowded, signage no longer has the allure that it once had. Exposure must be complemented with activation, and increasingly sponsors are seeking social media integration in their sponsorship strategy. The shift toward more digital activation falls in line with marketing dollars being shifted from traditional mediums to digital channels. Properties must be thinking in terms of how they can collaborate with sponsors to create engaging social media activation programs to add value beyond traditional assets like signage.

3. Under Armour Experiments with Store Design

Everything a brand does communicates, both spoken words and unspoken actions. The latter category includes visual presentation of its products. Under Armour is addressing this characteristic of branding by creating a laboratory environment to test store design elements. Whether it is a small space within a larger store or a dedicated Under Armour "brand house," the company is using its lab to ensure that brand presentation is consistent regardless of store type or location. I guess you could say it is another way Under Armour lives its slogan "protect this house."

Under Armour is Building a Lab to Test Store Designs, Sarah Meehan, Baltimore Business Journal

4. Is Rugby an Up and Coming Sport in the U.S.?

Rugby possesses similarities to soccer as viewed through an American lens- wide popularity globally and an emerging interest in the U.S. Although rugby lacks a pro league like soccer's MLS, that is not stopping sponsors from taking an interest in associating their brands with rugby. What are the long-term prospects for rugby becoming a growth sport in the U.S.? Can it build a grassroots movement like soccer has done over the past three decades?

Is Rugby the New Soccer for U.S. Fans, Marketers? Barry Janoff, Media Post Marketing: Sports

5. RFID: Has the Future Finally Arrived?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has been a technology that seemed just a bit ahead of its time. Now, its time may have come, and sports properties are figuring out how to take advantage of effortless data collection that can occur from RFID chips embedded in wearables (e.g., a wristband). The benefits of RFID are not one-sided; event attendees stand to have a more seamless experience from entering a venue to buying concessions. Will RFID spur innovation that makes for a better fan experience, one that is compelling enough to get fans off the couch and into the arena?

RFID Can Change the Fan Experience for the Better, Preston McClellan, sportingnews.com

6. The Case for Selling a $25 Hot Dog

Would you buy a $25 hot dog? If you are the marketer, you are asking the wrong person. You may have no interest in handing over $25 for any food item at a ballpark, but what about your customers? The Arizona Diamondbacks were reminded of this fundamental marketing concept when it introduced its D-Back dog. It is an 18-inch stuffed corn dog served on a bed of french fries. The $25 price tag and the don't ask, don't tell calorie count this creation must have was a combination that tempered sales expectations. But, a sales forecast of 500 units was exceeded by 9,000 units. This outcome makes one wonder what other revenue opportunities might be going unrealized, not just for the Arizona Diamondbacks but all MLB clubs.

D-Backs Sell Nearly 10K D-Back Dogs, Darren Rovell, espn.com 

Picture of the Week

A tragic side story that occurred during the World Series was the death of Oscar Taveras, a promising 22-year-old outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals honored Taveras last Tuesday, the day of his funeral in the Dominican Republic, by shining lights in right field at Busch Stadium. The image is a silent, but powerful tribute to Taveras.