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The pro and amateur sports and live entertainment worlds and their tangents that sell tickets (primary and secondary markets), merchandise and travel/hospitality are sitting atop data bases that are puritanically protected, single-mindedly commercialized and inattentively allowed to go fallow.
Enter a platform that respects the core sales priorities of the data base owner . . . but motivates increased engagement 24 x 7, reducing defection/ratcheting retention, and creates incremental earnings opportunities for the data base owner through both transaction commissions stemming from the day-to-day buying and non-buying activities of people in the data base and increased value for sponsors through new, measurable activation benefits. And all of this can be accomplished without adding staff or marketing expense.
Enter our client which has built a powerful technology platform and attracted a universe of partners that reads like a VIP invitation list to a regency rally for the nation’s leading traffic engines, e.g., Amazon.com, Apple iTunes, Best Buy, DirecTV, Disney Stores, Macy’s, Nordstroms, Safeway, Target and others
We will be the business development bridge between our client, companies like these examples above and the sports/entertainment worlds.
“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
Art Savage retained me five months before the National Hockey League granted Bay Area expansion rights to George and Gordon Gund(shown here). The first CEO of the new club, initially dubbed “Bay Area Hockey ’91”, Savage asked me to craft the new franchise’s overall business plan, organization/ staffing plan, marketing/sales plan (including naming the team and designing its logo family) and week-by-week launch countdown for what became the San Jose Sharks.
Upon completion, he hired me as employee #2 to become the EVP Business Operations, overseeing all revenue streams (tickets, premium seating/suites, sponsorships and merchandise), TV and radio production, community development, advertising/ promotion and media development.
The role also included defining the culture and values of the young entity, ensuring they were synchronized with those of ownership and the marketplace.
We gained an in-depth understanding of the market and its segmentation over a 15-week period with a comprehensive mix of marketing research activity that included 32 focus groups that I moderated, “crowd group” concept testing, executive interviews with corporate and affinity group targets by phone and a global team naming sweepstakes, carrying out $350,000 worth of work for $45,000 out-of-pocket.
Having to launch the franchise twice, once in 1991 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, 40 miles north of San Jose, and two years later in San Jose when the city’s new downtown arena was completed, understanding attitudes influenced by geography and distance as well as familiarity with and interest in hockey was paramount.
Commissioned by NBA Commissioner David Stern, Bob Brand and I conceived a way for the NBA to engage its teen age fans in their mid-80s idiom, the music video.
Irving Azoff, then president of MCA Records, now Executive Chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, agreed to provide 85% of the funding for the unprecedented collaboration, featuring their hot new group sensation, The New Edition.
Stern, who had signed off on the concept for the NBA and agreed to pick up the 15% balance if we found the partner and the appropriate talent then ensured our access to an NBA arena, in-game and post game, and paved the way to CBS Sports who produced a “making of the video” for halftime of one of its NBA finals telecasts.
From an organization point-of-view, this is a good example of how imaginative league leadership, an individual franchise owner (in this case, Dr. Jerry Buss), an entertainment industry partner and a firm like ours playing a producer/director/creator role can can introduce successful innovation.
Jackie Autry (Owner – California (now “Los Angeles”) Angels) . . . Not satisfied with having attendance stalled, win or lose, at the 2.5 million level, Autry retained us to understand the decision making dynamics of light and heavy attending Angels fans, including focused attention on Hispanic communities, in order to increase marketing and ticket sales effectiveness and productivity. Her customer service consciousness, bred of her experience in banking, was among the highest in the entire pro sports industry.
The structure of the Hispanic community, reinforcing what we had learned when working with the Houston Astros, highlighted the importance of engaging community leaders, informal and formal, including religious, political and small business principals. A key hurdle we discovered that had to be overcome was the issue of “trust” and “commitment to diversity” reflected in the team’s and playing facility’s hiring practices.
On March 17, 1995 the San Jose Sharks, with my guidance, the programming assistance of a St. John’s University junior and the encouragement of franchise owner George Gund, became the second pro sports team in the world to mount a web site.
We beat the major pro sport leagues to the internet, including the National Hockey League, and followed only the Seattle Mariners, who had launched their site to connect with disenfranchised fans during the Major League Baseball stoppage late in the 1994 season. This was a decade before the blogosphere and social media explosions. An early home page appears here.
In fact, upon hearing that we had just gone live, Sun Microsystems President Scott McNealy looked at me incredulously one night at a game and exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding! The Sharks have a web site? The Sharks? . . . How can we help you?” Between periods, he introduced me to Ed Zander, who then introduced us to others and Sun became our first technology partner/sponsor. Before then, we had been unable to demonstrate to Silicon Valley companies the linkage and shared interests between technology and sports.
This type of partnership is now a prominent part of sports industry revenue streams and a highly effective way for technology companies to reach “C” level decision makers and tech savvy consumers.
Organizing across functions within sports entities to assess, embrace and effectively implement new technologies, however, remains a work in progress.
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.
Mascots can be leveraged to create stronger connections with young elementary school-aged children and their parents, conveying an engaging, new, unanticipated facet of the team brand. During the early development of the San Jose Sharks web site, we decided to translate graphic depictions of our popular mascot, S. J. Sharkie, into entertaining learning opportunities.
We took him out of context to create an exciting new type of link with young fans and their families.
One of these executions was an “S.J.Sharkie Does New York” coloring book (we also developed a companion treatment for San Jose). The booklet of 17 pictures of San Jose Sharkie in famous New York City settings was delivered through our web site for printing out and coloring or painting and as a sponsored premium hand-out at a game.
We had taken S.J.Sharkie to New York, shuttling him around Manhattan in a van and taking staged and impromptu photos of him, occasionally stopping traffic, frequently dealing with women of all ages who fell in love with him on first sight. Afterward, we cleaned the color out of the photos to generate the images you see here.
The thousands of nationwide and local downloads of the coloring book from the site suggest we hit an harmonic chord.
If any major sport has an attractive regional TV ratings upside independent of overall team performance, hockey does. . . And if any sport suffers from the gap between its live event electricity and its TV viewing experience, hockey does.
So “what’s new?” you ask.
There is a proven low tech way to move the needle that requires visionary management, hockey/marketing operations collaboration and a modest investment with significant ROI.
We accomplished that, having developed, tested and confirmed the impact of the Viewership Stimulation Lab(VSL) with an NHL club client. The result was a 178% increase in viewership frequency, a 2.3 regional share point gain with the test audience of 200+ households.
Should make an owner or CEO wonder, “How much is a local share point worth to us on the ad/sponsorship revenue/media rights line?” . . . $500,000, $1,000,000, more? “If it was my construction or technology company, there is certainly a sizable investment I would be willing to make to add $500k-$1MM+ annually to the bottom line.”
Efforts to boost viewership have usually been initiated by the national networks and local carriers, e.g., the “Peter Puck” animation used by NBC and CBC in the 70s, the Fox Trax glowing puck deployed in the 90s, more/ overhead cameras by many, more behind-the-scenes content by others.
With VSL, Clubs can individually and collectively drive the value of their rights and generate incremental revenues for all parties.
This is a kernel of what VSL promises the NHL, its clubs and its carriers.
Dick Vertlieb (General Manager – Golden State Warriors) . . . Weeks after taking this position, he became my first client in pro sports . Moving to the Bay Area from Seattle, he sought to understand his fans so that he could better direct his ticket sales, advertising, promotions, public/media relations, game staging and community development functions.
In response, I drew on insight from a meeting with Jack Kent Cooke, then owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings, who was introduced to me by Alan Rothenberg, subsequently major domo of the U.S.-staged FIFA World Cup soccer event in 1994, conceiving what became known as the Audience Audit™ , the first self-administered marketing research tool of its kind in the sports world. That season the Warriors won the NBA Championship and Vertlieb was selected NBA “Executive of the Year” by The Sporting News. Dame Fortune had smiled. And a career was born.
The tool provided us with quantitative insights into decision making behavior, attitudes and the seven mutually exclusive attender combinations that accounted for two-thirds of attendance, helping us concentrate resources, messaging and experiential changes at the arena on their preferences.
In subsequent years have applied the same tool to assist clients seeking to build live event audiences across a spectrum of sports, entertainment and arts industries.