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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.
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.
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.
Edward DeBartolo Sr. Owner – Thistledown/Louisiana Downs/Balmoral (subsequently sold before opening of Remington in Oklahoma City) race tracks . . . Hired our firm to develop a factual understanding of patron attitudes, behavior, satisfaction levels and geographic dispersion so that marketing efforts could more effectively address how to increase the visitation frequency of light attenders and profitable high spenders, affectionately called “degenerates”. He immediately grasped the parallel between building shopping mall traffic (the foundation of his business interests) and attracting/serving race track patron
Dan Finnane/Jim Fitzgerald (Owners – Golden State Warriors) . . . Upon acquiring the franchise from Franklin Mieuli, this hard-nosed business partnership who had recently sold the Milwaukee Bucks, retained us to help them reinvigorate waning interest in the Warriors and to recruit a new Director of Marketing. The national search led us to an upcoming marketing talent in his mid-20s making heartland waves in indoor soccer , Tod Leiweke, now CEO and co-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Armed with the fresh market and fan insights that we provided him, Leiweke deftly orchestrated a staff reorganization and reinvention of the Warriors franchise.
Was retained by the National Hockey League and Paul Tagliabue (NFL/NHL Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP then subsequently NFL Commissioner) and his colleague, Bing Leverich, out of their Washington D.C. office to carry out litigation support work in behalf of the NHL in its case against Ralston Purina, then owners of the St. Louis Blues, who were seeking to move the club to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
My work entailed documenting all of the pro sports world’s multi-team ownerships from the 1940s through the 1980s to demonstrate that there were plausible owners that had not been considered. The NHL prevailed. Indirectly, the case served to protect the National Hockey League brand and to ensure that the collective interests of the league took precedent over the agenda of an individual owner.
Tagliabue then supported, in his role as NFL Commissioner, my being retained as an expert witness in late 90s/early 2000s IP/licensing/best marketing practices litigation with the Oakland Raiders. The NFL prevailed, a previously infrequent outcome when confronted in the courts by the Raiders.
Tal Smith (President – Houston Astros) . . . one of the most highly regarded Major League Baseball assessors of on-field talent and a long-time salary arbitration preparation expert , Smith also knew how to communicate a team building philosophy that the media and fans accepted when the team was in a re-building mode on the field. His “strong arms/tight defense” served the Astros well during my work with the club, my first MLB client, an engagement which at Smith’s request included helping convert a recently retired successful pitcher into an effective ticket sales manager . . . Larry Dierker, later a color broadcaster and Manager of the Astros.
Growth potential, disruptive technology and profit economics top the list of factors influencing an emerging company’s value.
But without perceived brand value embodied in its image/reputation/marketplace validation, customer excitement/buying traction, a multi-layered “story” that piques imagination and a prominent scent of innovation and leadership, investors will never even get to the due diligence process, let alone ask for the financial statements.
We have exerted an important impact on building high order company value that was embraced by investors, subsequently measurably enhancing the purchase price of four companies and their assets.
Boards of cultural institutions from coast-to-coast have asked for insights to help drive attendance, subscriptions/plans and contributions, leading to having assisted museums, theatre/repertory groups, opera companies and symphonies.
Usually, the learning highway runs from sports & live entertainment to the arts groups. But the art of arts marketing is becoming increasingly sophisticated.
We helped one long-standing musical theatre organization better understand its own market segmentation so that it could increase the appeal of its show offerings and the effectiveness of its marketing programming/message persuasiveness and get more pop for its always constrained resources.
Drawing on a battery of focus groups and audience surveys we conducted, the following segmentation was developed and embraced.
Heydays . . . These were patrons introduced to musical theatre during the 40s through 60s. They enjoy seeing the great shows of that Golden Age. These might include Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady.
Experientials . . . These patrons were drawn to the downtown, enjoying the 360º experience – “dinner and a show” at an affordable price. They look for quality, appreciate convenience and reasonable pricing. Their interest is not tied to a particular show but respond to valued added experiences.
Escapists . . . These patrons seek relief from day-to-day demands. They like memorable music, high energy dance, shows that fill the theatre and predictable plots. Shows they enjoy include 42nd Street, A Chorus Line, Evita, Les Misrables and West Side Story.
There are two sub-segments that flow from the first three . . .
Melodics . . . This group is comprised of a broad range of individuals whose love for musical theatre stems from a positive, early life experience with music. Many were introduced to musical theatre by their parents.
Loyalists . . . This group is very supportive of the theatre company and its long term audience growth challenges, even though they may not like the “risky” shows periodically produced to attract a new audience. It always finds something to like about each show.
Capitalizing on insights like these increases productivity and results. Count on it.
“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