Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #30

This is the 30th and final installment of the Pick 6 format. We will be back for the summer term with a different format but will continue sharing stories that are shaping sports business. 

1. Boxing Gets Up off the Mat

Anticipation of the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquaio fight has cast the light of attention on boxing in a way it has not experienced in many years. The fight is not only generating interest, but it is also generating cash- and lots of it- for Mayweather in particular. Sports marketing expert Joe Favorito shares his take on the marketing angle taken by Mayweather to promote his brand. 

Is the ability to leverage social media to build a following the future for boxers to cash in for lucrative paydays? Or, does the star power of Floyd Mayweather make him an outlier and that boxing will not experience a sustained bump in interest among sports fans? 

"Boxing is Back and Mayweather is Money," by Joe Favorito, Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

2. IBM Brings Its Game to the Masters

IBM is a sponsor of the Masters golf tournament in more than brand name. The company provided laser technology that enhanced the fan experience of following play, giving viewers more insight into distance traveled, length to hole, and other aspects difficult to gauge without technology assistance. And, IBM used its capabilities to that enabled fans to enjoy a high quality live-streaming experience to follow the tournament.

Brand exposure is no longer the primary asset companies should seek to get out of deals with sports properties. Sponsors should seek opportunities to integrate products and services into event operations whenever feasible. IBM's involvement with the Masters presented opportunities to showcase IBM's capabilities to customers and prospects while giving golf fans a more enjoyable consumption experience. What other brands could adopt the IBM model and create tie-ins between their business and golf?

3. Dedicated Spaces to Fantasy Players a New Reality

One of the benefits of building a new sports venue is that designers can rethink how space is utilized to give patrons a more satisfactory experience. The Minnesota Vikings are spending $1 billion to build a new stadium and taking the opportunity to design a space to appeal to fantasy football participants. Club Purple will be a lounge-type area with sofas, TVs, and ticker displays that will let fans keep tabs on their fantasy teams. 

The Minnesota Vikings are not the first team to design spaces to appeal to fantasy football participants. Is this effort to serve fantasy football players a must for NFL clubs, or do you see the plan as more of an experiment to gauge fans' interest in such spaces? What are other ways fantasy sports consumption can be incorporated into the live sporting event experience? 

4. NBA and Betting: If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has become an advocate for legalizing sports betting. Silver acknowledges that bets will be placed on NBA games and other sporting events, legally or illegally. With that being the case, should sports properties like the NBA seek opportunities to build interest in their brands through sports betting? Are there risks to the image and reputation of a sports brand if legalized betting becomes the norm?

5. Verizon, ESPN and Customer Choice

Cable TV customers have longed to have more control over the channel lineup they pay to receive. Although the average U.S. home receives 189 channels, the average number watched is 17, according to a 2014 Nielsen study. Yet, customers pay for all channels. Verizon wants to give its customers a break, offering Verizon FiOS subscribers the opportunity to customize channel packages. Under the plan, sports networks like ESPN would be packaged together for an additional fee. 

ESPN does not share Verizon's view of choice being good. Instead, it has sued Verizon to block the customization plan, saying it violates agreements between ESPN and cable operators. Verizon is likely to win support from the public and lawmakers, but is that enough to overcome ESPN's opposition? Does ESPN stand to hurt its brand image in the court of public opinion if it opts to aggressively block Verizon and other cable companies from giving customers choice that did not exist previously?

6. Growing Soccer in the U.S. via International Competition

Although Major League Soccer is gaining momentum as it expands, it is still dwarfed by the popularity of professional clubs in Europe. American soccer seems poised to benefit from the International Champions Cup that will be held this summer across North America and Australia. The 10-team North American field includes three MLS clubs (San Jose, Los Angeles, and New York) with matches scheduled in nine different U.S. markets. The tournament also includes global soccer brand icons Manchester United, Chelsea, and FC Barcelona.

Many strategies have been advocated over the years for growing professional soccer in America. How can MLS maximize the benefits from three of its clubs participating in the International Champions Cup? Do the potential marketing benefits from this tournament compare to gains in popularity soccer might experience from FIFA World Cup?  

Video of the Week

Many college football teams have transformed their annual spring game from a final practice of the off-season to a marketing event. Alumni and fans flock to campus to enjoy watching their favorite team in a casual atmosphere. Some programs have used their spring game to garner publicity that they would not receive otherwise. For example, the University of Kansas invited a former player, Bryan Sperry, to participate in this year's alumni flag football game. Inviting former players is not uncommon; it is more unusual for the player to be 89 years-old, as is Mr. Sperry. Not only did he play in the alumni game, Mr. Sperry scored a touchdown. His romp to the end zone has been viewed almost 200,000 times on YouTube plus covered by media outlets around the country. Great story!