Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #25

Pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training is a more encouraging sign of warmer weather ahead than any signal from a groundhog. In the meantime, what is going on in sports business as we wait for the great thaw to occur?

1. A Creative Way to Link Pricing and Weather

Minor League Baseball has a long history of creative promotions to build fan interest. The latest example is the Wilmington Blue Rocks 4-cent tickets promotion for its home opener on April 16. Why did the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers offer fans the chance to buy up to eight tickets for such a ridiculously low price? It matched the ridiculously low temperature on the thermometer (4 degrees Fahrenheit) in Wilmington, Delaware on February 16th, the date of the promotion. The team pegged ticket prices for the promotion to the temperature that day.

The possibilities for promotions are limited largely by the imagination of those in charge of marketing. In this case, the Wilmington Blue Rocks sold over 3,000 tickets for its home opener on a day that customers would otherwise would not likely to be thinking about baseball. And, the Blue Rocks now have assured that they will have over 3,000 customers to whom they can sell merchandise, food and beverage (hot chocolate anyone?), and future game tickets. 

2. MiLB Delivers on Game Day Experience

"Take me out to the ball game" is more than just a saying for Minor League Baseball. MiLB is proud of its franchises' ability to deliver a pleasing experience for game attendees. One indicator of marketing effectiveness is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This measure of customer loyalty compares how likely customers are to recommend a brand to others (promoters) to customers who would not be likely to recommend the brand (detractors). MiLB's most recent NPS of 58 puts it in the company of brands like the NFL, Westin Hotels, and Pandora Internet Radio.

The simplicity of NPS (it is a single-item measure) and the importance of what it measures (loyalty as demonstrated by referring others to the brand) makes it a metric that many executives monitor closely. Despite the strengths of NPS as an indicator of loyalty and simplicity of measurement, many marketers see limitations of what a single-item scale can reveal, particularly why customers are inclined to recommend or not.

MiLB Fans Enjoying the Gameday Experience, According to National Study, by MiLB, 

3. MLB Team Fan Fests Turn Up Heat in Off-Season

The start of baseball season may be over a month away, but let's face it- fan interest does not end even when a season does. Many sports teams have found one way to feed fans' insatiable appetite is by having fan conventions during the off-season. These events are an excellent way to maintain brand relevance during a time when teams historically went silent. Fan conventions can be used to create social media conversation, help sponsors get in front of fans, raise money for team charities, and yes, even sell tickets. 

4. On Deck: Faster MLB Games?

A criticism often leveled about Major League Baseball is the slow pace of play and length of time it takes to play a game compared to other sports. In contrast to football, basketball, hockey, and soccer, baseball has no game clock, and the time needed to complete an MLB game is thought to be a turn-off for some fans, particularly younger consumers. MLB is addressing this issue by implementing some changes to speed up pace of play. Among the innovations are a clock limiting time between pitching changes and innings as well as requiring batters to keep one foot in the batter's box at all times.

While MLB can be credited for taking steps to speed up games to make them more fan friendly (although baseball purists might argue that claim), some observers think MLB has not done enough to bring its product into the sound-bite, highlight era. Should MLB do more to speed up games, or would too much emphasis on increasing pace of play do more harm than good?

Discuss here

5. NASCAR Goes to School to Build Next Generation Fan Base

Brands are constantly looking to cultivate their next generation of customers. NASCAR is partnering with schools to connect students to the sport through study of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) concepts. Acceleration Nation is an initiative that provides instructional materials for teachers to use in STEM courses. The program has dual benefits of demonstrating social responsibility by offering schools instructional tools while promoting NASCAR to a demographic crucial to the long-term success of the sport. 

6. Got Stats? NHL Ramps Up Statistical Offerings to Fans

The National Hockey League has taken its stats game to the next level. A new statistics portal developed with partner SAP is an ambitious four-stage project that adds more game data, will bring more data visualization to users, and eventually have statistical data for every NHL game ever played. Data-hungry fans represent a highly involved segment for the NHL and other sports properties. Look for more initiatives like the new and improved stats portal at to meet the information desires of highly involved fans.

Video of the Week

University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith made the four-corner offense popular (and at the same time despised). The Tar Heels paid tribute to Smith by running the four-corner set to open the game versus Georgia Tech in memory of the late coach- a touching moment.