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What happens when you combine patient product development, patented technology across multiple sports uses, national B2B sales traction with B2C follow-on extensions emerging from R&D, archived testimonials of satisfied customers, exploratory partnership talks with Fortune 500-sized companies and the high likelihood of positive cash flow by the end of 2011?
You have my client. If you have never seen the thread among basketball, golf, football and three others, my client’s product line will make it abundantly clear.
In the wings is accelerating the product development process, national expansion of its sales force and ratcheting of its universal brand awareness and reputation among consumers and in B2B channels.
George/Gordon Gund (Owners: Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Barons/Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks) . . . introduced to me by my former employer, McKinsey & Co., asked for assistance to determine the success prospects and risks at the Richfield Coliseum near Cleveland for their newly acquired, struggling Barons NHL club (formerly the California Seals); they took my assessment and conclusions to the NHL Board of Governors to help make the case for the unprecedented action, relocating the Barons franchise and merging it with the Minnesota North Stars.
See SI feature for in-depth insight into the principals.
To gain these insights, we can carried out in-depth qualitative and quantitative marketing research with the region’s pro hockey followers, event attenders and those who had defected, followers who had stopped attending. In this case, we found that the Barons attending fan base was heavily segmented by seat location preferences, patrons with the deepest hockey knowledge preferring to sit in the corners and behind the goals in mid-range to high locations, while basketball crossovers, newly introduced or lightly wed to hockey, were drawn to the red line at center ice.
The spate of interim league takeovers and new owners acquiring existing franchises (frequently with facilities assets) in Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL is inevitably accompanied by dramatic alterations to operating and debt service economics and fan base uncertainty or malaise. Incoming owners always want to put a personal stamp of added value on their new investments during the first 6-12 months after their assumption of the reins, preferring to take time to assess beyond their due diligence processes what exactly they have bought. . . in other cases, as anyone familiar with Machiavelli will understand, the new owners make their first moves within hours or days.
This has reignited interest (and need) for fresh, objective introspection which is an important segment of our practice.
Rick White (Executive – Major League Baseball Properties, now a sports apparel industry principal), with support from his boss, Joe Podesta, anticipated the emergence of league headquarters-provided hands-on, localized marketing guidance to member clubs when he retained me to carry out market and organization studies of the struggling Seattle Mariners and New York Mets.
Our latter work was completed just as the franchise was sold to Doubleday Publishing and minority investor, Fred Wilpon, so we presented the implications of our findings separately to Nelson Doubleday in his Doubleday Publishing offices and to the latter in his Long Island-situated Sterling Equities offices, his colleagues in attendance. Eventually, Doubleday and Wilpon purchased the club from the publishing house and, later, Wilpon bought out Doubleday.
Since then, when Paul Allen, owner of the Portland Trailblazers, asked the NBA to investigate how he could streamline his business organization and decision making processes, the league created a task force (which retained me to assist), headed by Bernie Mullin, to help bring the organization into alignment with its newly expressed straight forward mission of effectively running an NBA franchise and its venue as opposed to a once-broader vision of becoming a multifaceted media company.
“Find What You Love,” by Steve Jobs at Stanford University 2005 Commencement
I have never met Steve Jobs, but he has had an important impact on my life and career. Elsewhere in this blog you can read about my affinity for the nexus of technology and sport which was bred of the open hand Apple extended to me and my associates 30 years ago when we had the then crazy notion of gathering pitch-by-pitch details of Major League Baseball games to provide broadcasters with enriched commentary texture and baseball operations decision makers with insights to improve game tactics planning and player performance analysis.(ML)
Jobs, who stepped down as CEO of Apple yesterday, Wednesday, August 24, 2011, after having been on medical leave, reflected on his life, career and mortality in this commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. Read it. Breathe it. And hold it close. . .
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots. Read more
One of the image-building programs we conceived and implemented for Strikeforce entailed outfitting our Bagram and Kandahar air bases in Afghanistan with a trove of Strikeforce-branded mixed martial arts training equipment. The military is a major segment of MMA tv/web-based viewership and participation.
Not a traditional function of the Strikeforce organization, thinking globally in this manner, our interim operating role and outside experience-based perspective played a critical role bring this effort about without taxing the lean operating staff.
Working with military intermediaries at Langley AFB near Washington D.C., an extension of Pentagon, and with the enthusiasm of Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, I worked for ten months to deliver MMA gear into the war zone bases to strengthen troop battle readiness and build their morale.
Produced for us in Bangkok, Thailand by Fairtex, where the summer 2010 unrest delayed production, the equipment was deployed directly to the bases by . . . FedEx! MMA training sessions there, as frequently as three times a week, had been limited to grappling absent the benefit of protective and workout gear.
The palletized shipments included Muaythai banana bags, mitts, Thai curve pads, training and combat gloves, sparring head guards, shin pads and a supply of EA Sports “MMA” video games.
As an extension of the initiative, Strikeforce invited attendees, competitors and exhibitors at the 23rd Arnold Fitness Expo between March 4-6, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio to visit its booth and sign onto “Messages from Home” placards to demonstrate support of the United States troops. They were expedited to Bagram, Kandahar and Langley and staged in high visibility locations. Feedback from the troops at all levels inspired and humbled us.
There are now Strikeforce-equipped and comprehensive MMA-based programs in place at the two primary Afghanistan bases benefiting air, marine and army personnel.
John McMullen (Owner – New Jersey Devils) . . . Then also the owner of another client, the Houston Astros, McMullen retained us (including colleague Douglas K. Nelson) to (a) help re-launch his newly born New Jersey Devils National Hockey League club (formerly the Colorado Rockies) 60 days before its opening puck-drop, (b) restructure its pricing and season plan packaging 30 days after the original plan had been announced and (c) recapture his personal credibility with the New York media. Top tier season plan buyers were given access to the nearby Pegasus Club in return for a front-end long term loan to the club, inadvertently foreshadowing seat licenses.
How the first 30-60 days of a new ownership are managed can have lasting implications for the marketing of a sports franchise and how fans, media and prospects view not only owner intentions but the brand personality. Faltering first impressions are costly to reverse.
During the the launch of the San Jose Sharks in the early 90s, graphics excellence was highly valued, from the design of the original logos and uniforms, collateral materials and game staging production values (including the iconic Shark Head Tunnel) to commissioned art employed on game magazine covers and retained as part of the franchise’s private collection and heritage. Among the stable of almost 20 graphic artists and illustrators recruited to execute this commitment, five stand out. Read more
Since 2003, magnified by our presence in Silicon Valley, my partners and I have been retained by Boards, venture capital and angel investors, founders and CEOs of early stage tech companies seeking our guidance and assistance to gain footholds in the sports industry or with sports fans/consumers.
They have run the gamut from mobile, tablet and/or web apps to game and software development companies as well as WiFi and online loyalty/retention platform ventures.
Also, because of my experience as the CMO of an online K-8 education and professional development company, organizations developing hardware and software for the digital classroom and home schooling have also sought us out.
Our roles have been both strategic and operating in nature, being engaged as interim operating executives spearheading business development, product development, sales and brand building/public relations functions. We have also augmented the credibility and depth of senior management teams in their capital raising efforts.
Because of our wide reaching understanding of the inner workings of sports entities and sports fans (we have interviewed more than 850,000 of the latter), we assist our clients by helping them understand and capitalize on
Roy Eisenhardt (President/CEO – Oakland A’s) . . . In 1980, leading Major League Baseball into a new technology-enabled age, hired my company’s STATS, Inc. subsidiary (Sports Team Analysis & Tracking Systems), co-owned with Dr. Richard Cramer, noted Sabermetrician, to develop EDGE 1.000 ™. Eisenhardt made it clear from the outset that he wanted to increase radio and TV ratings, the enjoyment of fans and the value of the broadcasts to advertisers.
This was the first computerized pitch-by-pitch and pitcher/batter/fielder tendencies information gathered in real time for the purpose of player performance evaluation, game tactics planning and the statistical enrichment of play-by-play radio and TV broadcasts (Apple, provided the development hardware which also included Hayes modems, a DEC mainframe and a Corvus hard drive) . Jay Alves, now an executive with the Colorado Rockies, was recruited to be the first system operator.
We also worked closely with the broadcasters, Bill King and Lon Simmons, to increase their comfort levels with the rapidly updating statistical and trends texture they now had displayed in front of them.
Our EDGE 1.000 provided the initial analytical underpinnings of the A’s amateur player evaluation and drafting process fostered by Sandy Alderson, then Billy Beane and since popularized in the book, Moneyball, by Michael Lewis. The movie version of Moneyball, with Brad Pitt, opens in late 2011.
For the subsequent two decades, the brand image and reputation of the Oakland A’s as well as the confidence instilled in fans would be influenced and shaped by the innovative bent of the Haas family ownership.
Sandy Alderson (President, above)/ Andy Dolich (Executive, left) – Oakland A’s . . . The former (now General Manager of the New York Mets) and latter (most recently COO of the San Francisco 49ers) demonstrated bold business vision in the mid 1980s when they commissioned me and colleague Bob Hallam to evaluate the relationship among ticket demand, pricing and perceived value, an engagement that led to the dramatic upward rescaling of “box” and “reserved” seats, ushering in the concept of premium seating throughout Major League Baseball.
The notion of pricing tickets relative to demand, a long-standing practice of the airline industry, had spread across Major League Baseball within three years of the A’s taking action. The neighboring San Francisco Giants were the first to follow suit. The precursor of flex or dynamic pricing , tailored to day-by-day demand, weather, day-of-week, opponent and other variables, was a courageous move.
An important part of its effective execution was the messaging to fans most directly affected by the changes and communication of the reasoning behind the changes. Not all fans were pleased, but the appropriateness of the philosophy was born out by the sustained results and overall economic benefits. Ironically, the Giants have been at the head of the flex-pricing class.
Lessons learned here have implications far beyond the live sports and entertainment business into the realms of tiered TV/cable and web-based subscriber services.