Sports Business

Sports Business '15 to Watch': Top sports issues


Sports Business '15 to Watch': Top sports issues

1. NFL camps open. Packers numbers offer a rare glimpse of NFL economics through public records. As originally reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but in an article found and accessed from the Sportsmanias app, the site that provides fans with real-time information on their favorite teams, the Green Bay Packers posted record revenues of $375.5 million for the 12 months ended March 31, 2015. The Packers reported $226 million of national revenues, up 20.6%, meaning the league distributed $7.2 billion to its 32 teams. Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said that the team ranks ninth in total revenues. The 20 percent increase in revenues is consistent with the new marketing deals, international development, television payments, and the like. Roger Goodell never sleeps, challenging his staff to reach $25 billion in total annual revenues by the end of the labor deal.

2. College football kickoff only one month away! The NCAA will distribute $18.9 million to D-I schools this year to help them pay for cost-of-attendance scholarships, additional food for athletes, or various academic projects. Each of the nearly 350 D-I schools will get an equal share of the money, meaning the schools will receive about $55,000 apiece. Athletic directors, conferences, and school presidents all grappling with the new economic realities: “bidding” for high school superstars while generating enough revenue to support other sports. This helps!

3. NHL in Vegas? After receiving fewer bids than expected, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said league expansion isn’t guaranteed. Sixteen expansion applications were requested from the league, but only bids from Las Vegas and Quebec City were actually submitted. Bidders were required to submit a $10 million deposit, $2 million of which was non-refundable. There are many possible reasons for this: Vegas appearing the clear winner, others in line for potential Arizona Coyotes relocation, arena problems in applicant cities, etc.

4. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson: U.S. Conference of Mayors Chairman, former Phoenix Suns All-Star, Sacramento cheerleader, now arena developer. A Sacramento judge handed Sacramento a resounding victory by rejecting a lawsuit challenging the city’s 2014 deal with the Kings to subsidize a new downtown arena. City officials said that they plan to move forward in the next few weeks on their stalled plans to finance their share of arena construction. As in all sports, leagues are no stronger than their respective weakest arena links. NBA on its way to resolving all problems. Kudos again to Adam Silver.

5. Heading to Whistling Straits and golf’s final Major – two weeks away. While it may come as a surprise that golf superstar and Lagardere Unlimited client Jordan Spieth has not yet cracked the London School of Marketing rankings of the most marketable athletes, don't shed too many tears for the Texas born golfer. In just four events on the PGA Tour this year — the Masters he won in April, the U.S. Open he won in June, the John Deere Classic he won in July, and the British Open - Spieth had winnings of $4,906,377, sending his prize money for the year to $9,170,215. London School of Marketing top five: Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, LeBron James, Kevin Durant. Lagardere’s strategy has been to selectively choose long-term corporate partners – and it is clearly paying off. Spieth will be a marketing and endorsement force in sports and entertainment for decades to come!

6. MLB diversity and creativity: Boston Red Sox. Fenway Park next year will host a big air snowboarding and freeskiing U.S. Grand Prix tour stop. The event is the culmination of a two-year effort by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association to attempt a large-scale urban event. Fenway Sports and the USSA will split the costs and revenue from the event. Key for new or renovated stadiums these days is diversity and creativity – football, concerts, soccer, etc. But skiing?? Kudos to the Red Sox.

7. Protecting the Wildcat image? The University of Kentucky issued Drake a cease-and-desist letter after the rapper’s appearance at the school's Big Blue Madness event because of illegal contact with recruits. Kentucky's compliance office self-reported to the NCAA the impermissible communication between Drake and three potential student-athletes. Coach John Calipari always is the center of attention (if not controversy). His methods are usually successful, but his “one and done” generates some ire and suspicion (though mostly respect). An example of bending over backwards to be extremely careful to protect and cultivate a positive image inside and outside the NCAA.

8. Arizona Coyotes Band-Aid. As originally reported by the Arizona Republic, but in an article found and accessed from the Sportsmanias app, the site that provides fans with real-time information on their favorite teams, the Arizona Coyotes and the city of Glendale agreed to a new lease deal that will keep the team at Gila River Arena through the 2017 season. The deal trims the management fee the city pays annually to the Coyotes from $15 million to $6.5 million and shifts all hockey-related revenue to the team instead of Glendale. Short-term solution may be another reason for only two expansion applications this time around. Word may have been sent that relocating the Coyotes is possible in the near future. Stay tuned.

9. NBA logo and the retired superstar. NBA officials are in discussions with Nike over how the company’s Jordan Brand Jumpman logo will be folded into the league’s new apparel deal, according to John Lombardo of SportsBusiness Journal. The eight-year, $1 billion deal between Nike and the NBA takes effect with the 2017-18 season. The Jerry West silhouette gives way to the Jordan NBA logo – how much is it worth at the league level? I think we will see.

10. Giants and Cubs marketing superstars. San Francisco Giants P Madison Bumgarner tops the list of MLB jersey sales at the league's official online shop from Opening Day to the All-Star Game. Last season's World Series MVP appears on the list for the first time, as does Chicago Cubs 3B Kris Bryant, whose second-place ranking is the highest of any rookie since the league and MLBPA began releasing jersey sales rankings in 2010. Giants attendance at 99.4 percent capacity and Cubs at 89.2 percent capacity, an ongoing testament to the value of the young and rookie superstar.

11. Jaguars and NFL look to the young fan and Internet future. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the first team in the NFL to launch their own fully functional emoji keyboard. Several players, including QB Blake Bortles and RB Denard Robinson, signed off on the emoji characters in their image. The initiative is part of the team’s #MOREJAX marketing and digital campaign. Hopefully, the emoji keycard can reflect more happy faces than negative faces this year!

12. NHL preparing for international games and corresponding revenue. The NHL and NHLPA reportedly are seeking $8 million for on-jersey ads for all eight teams participating in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. Advertisers said that the league and the union also are selling virtual advertising on rink dasher boards for the first time. Everyone thought the World Cup would be a success for all; as the league and NFLPA receive a revenue bonanza, this process should begin to validate Bettman’s vision on this issue.

13. The demise of the “pigeon game?” The Sun Belt Conference wants the league's football programs to cut back on the number of big money, non-conference games against Power Five schools. The combined schedules this season of the 11 Sun Belt teams include 35 non-conference games against other FBS conferences, with 19 of them against Power Five teams. The huge payday for smaller schools against overmatching Power Five opponents may be coming to an end – even though it meant more visibility, exposure, and revenue for emerging schools.

14. NFL training camps open Part 2: Vikings on the hot seat. Radisson hotels is ending its sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings after suspending its partnership with the team in September following RB Adrian Peterson’s child abuse arrest. Radisson had a one-year deal to put its logo on the Vikings' press conference backdrop, and is letting the deal expire without renegotiation talks. The remaking of Peterson’s image will be a work in progress through the season – nothing that contrition and 1,500 yards can’t fix!

15. Media increasingly careful about image. Colin Cowherd has been pulled from the air by ESPN for offensive comments he made about Dominican baseball players on his radio show. THE MLBPA reportedly considered withholding support from ESPN if the network didn't take action against Cowherd. Radio and television superstar “musical chairs” has actually given way to a careful retrospective on image among the major media moguls and networks.

Why Cirque du Soleil, NFL experience could come to Chicago

Why Cirque du Soleil, NFL experience could come to Chicago

With the success of the NFL Draft going mobile, the league may eventually decide to take another NFL experience on the road.

The NFL has partnered up with Cirque du Soleil to launch an interactive exhibit in New York City this fall.

The attraction, titled NFL Experience Times Square, will include interactive screens, an auditorium for 4D shows, coaches clinics, autograph sessions and much more.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

CSN Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow explains why taking the experience on the move could be a good thing for the franchise value of the Bears.

"This is an example of a $25 billion NFL business joint-venturing with another pioneer in the entertainment industry Cirque du Soleil to make it better," Horrow explained. "Here's the case, because the NFL Draft has become mobile with Chicago leading the way, then Philadelphia, the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl, you can't believe it's not an opportunity for potentially doing this NFL experience along the streets of Madison Avenue, along State Street, as well as Michigan Avenue.

"How about downtown Chicago on the way to other places."

Watch the video above to see what else Horrow had to say about the NFL Experience possibly coming to Chicago.

Sports business: Using targeted promotions to earn more dollars

Sports business: Using targeted promotions to earn more dollars

In Monday's episode of National Public Radio’s (NPR) Fresh Air Joseph Turow, professor of communications and associate dean for graduate studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, ominously "Warns That Brick-And-Mortar Stores Are Watching You."

While this may seem a bit like the real-life equivalent of "Big Brother" from George Orwell's book 1984, Turow is describing the reality that the tracking companies do in e-commerce has moved more fully into the offline stores. Using technology including mobile applications, iBeacons, loyalty cards, geo-targeting, and geo-fencing companies have more information about customers in-store buying and behavioral patterns. This enables companies to design targeted adds and promotions specifically tailored to customers that can increase the likelihood of them making a purchase.

While the ethical implications of this activity would require and entirely separate blog post, Turow and host Terry Gross discussed an important idea that comes from having this technology. In the past, companies have focused on rewarding and retaining loyal customers. Those are the customers that keep coming back and buying a company's products or service offerings. Because the cost of keeping a customer has been much lower than attracting a customer it would seem to make sense that companies would want to focus on keeping the customer's they have.

However, this may no longer be the optimal strategy for maximizing revenue growth. Instead, companies should be focused on the marginal customer rather than the most loyal customer. A loyal customer is loyal for a reason – he / she likes the company's service offerings. Why spend money on advertising and promotions if that person is already likely going to buy the product anyway?

Instead, targeted promotions should be focused on customers that will only make a purchase if they are influenced in the right way. For example, let's say a customer is indecisive about buying a pair of jeans. In the past, this customer may have tried a pair of jeans on and then left the store without purchasing them. Now, a customer can download a company's app to access additional content, deals, and other helpful information. In return for delivering these benefits the company can receive information from the app that shows the location of the person while he/she is in a store. It can then use a geo-fence, a virtual fence that surrounds a geographic area, to determine when a customer leaves a specific geographic area. If this customer leaves the store without making purchase after spending a certain amount of time (i.e. the time to try on the jeans) then the company could send a targeted ad saying that the customer has 15 minutes to come back to purchase the jeans at a 15 percent discount. Essentially, companies now can identify "disloyal" customers and then attempt to bring them back to stores to make purchases.

Using technology to reward "disloyal" customers is something that sports organizations need to increasingly focus on given the demands of the business. More specifically, there are loyal fans that are going to buy tickets, watch games, and purchase merchandise even if they do not see any advertising from a team. These customers add significant value and should not be ignored. However, sports organizations want to focus on targeting the marginal customer using new technology to encourage ticket sales, in-venue purchases and increase game viewership.

The added benefit of using technology and customer outreach in this way is that it should increase sponsorship revenue as well. Not only can sports organizations use targeted promotions to help their current sponsors expand reach, but organizations can also show how these targeted marketing efforts cause lifts in purchasing. For sports teams, clearly communicating how sponsorship/marketing assets are used to create a lift in sales provides powerful evidence of how similar tactics can drive new revenue for partners. Rewarding "disloyalty" seems counter-intuitive, but there are many ways that targeting marginal customers should lead to substantial revenue growth.

Adam is the CEO and Founder of Block Six Analytics. He is also a lecturer for Northwestern University's Masters of Sports Administration and the co-author of The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders For A High-Performance Industry.