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The NFL Lockout is Almost Over… Advertisers Please Return

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The end of the NFL lockout will drive fans to the NFL sections of leading sports websites.  Fans want to know what the new CBA means for their team, and will consume massive amounts of content that focuses on the start on free agency.  However – to my surprise –  I could not find one advertising campaign that was targeted to the NFL sections of ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, NBCsports.com or CBSsports.com.

The What

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* ESPN and Yahoo delivered value to their Fantasy League sponsors by promoting their game with fixed placements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* NBCsports.com’s, Pro Football Talk had RON and house ads on its site, while CBS promoted its non-sponsored fantasy leagues.

The Opportunity

Premium inventory at a non-premium price.

Visitors to these sites this week are avid fans.  They are looking for details on the final days of negotiations, and how the new CBA will affect their team’s ability to retain their star players and address their needs in free agency.  These are the types of fans that NFL league sponsors should be using their IP rights to target.

To make my suggested media buy, a sponsor would have needed a strong inclination that the lockout would be approaching its end.  To think that a well connected marketing executive would have this knowledge is not unfathomable (see: Ponturo, Tony). According to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, it was all but a given that the lockout would be over in time to a guarantee a full training camp.  If you had this knowledge as a league sponsor, why would you not risk buying media around the last two weeks of July and into August at a discounted price?

We are about to enter one of the most talked about free agency periods of our lifetime.  It would have been fun to see how a brand could have used original creative and a targeted message to connect with the excitement surronding the return of the National Football League.

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Written by Peter Amador

July 21, 2011 at 1:00 AM

A Vision for Univision

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Hispanic male consumers age 18-49 –  A targeted demographic for marketers, and an emerging consumer base for properties.  The interests of both intersect with Univision.

Univision has positioned itself as the preeminent network for Spanish language sports.  The large audiences which the network attracted for its World Cup broadcasts thrust the network into the forefront of sports media stories throughout the summer; however, its acquisition of the United States broadcast rights to  Mexican National Team matches leading up to the 2014 World Cup may have been the network’s most significant achievement of 2010. 

The Mexico vs. Ecuador match on September 4th attracted 2.7 million viewers, helping the network become the most viewed channel amongst 18-49 year-olds for the week.  This was the first time a Spanish language network had beat out its English counterparts in this significant demographic.  The match broadcast may have not been the primary reason for the network winning the ratings battle; however, the ratings bump which the network received on a Saturday night was of critical importance.    Furthermore, Univision’s exclusive rights to MNT matches enables the channel to drive its business interests with multi-platform content.

Prior to the Ecuador match, Univision announced a partnership with AT&T to deliver MNT matches to AT&T Mobile TV subscribers.  This deal was made possible due to AT&T’s existing relationship with the MNT through Soccer United Marketing, and Univision’s broadcast agreement with the MNT, highlighting the complexity of the digital sports landscape.  Additionally, the AT&T deal is a manifestation of the adept leadership at the network. 

Univision was able to secure the Mobile TV rights in addition to its broadcast rights.  Mobile TV rights have been the providence of governing bodies in the United States.   The network’s ability to procure these rights from the FMF was not only a coup for the network’s bottom line, but I believe its reputation amongst the three major sports leagues in the United States.   Univision’s partnership with the NFL to launch NFL.com/espanol demonstrates the increasing importance the network will have on the future domestic growth of the NFL, NBA and MLB. 

Whether you are considered to be a general market property (NFL) or a Hispanic focused property (MNT/MLS), Univision’s hegemony of the Spanish-speaking audience in the United States is a necessity.    The networks youthful audience (55.2% 18-49 compared to CBS’ 31.5%) is in concert with the Hispanic population’s demographic (49.5% between 18-49 compared to the non-Hispanics 44.8%), providing properties a forum to generate sustainable domestic growth. 

We continue to wait for Versus to evolve into a legitimate challenger to ESPN’s crown – which may very well happen if Congress ever approves the Comcast / NBC Universal merger – and continue to neglect an over-the-air network that delivers a premium audience to advertisers.  Don’t keep the blinders on too long, because there’s a horse gaining ground down the stretch.

It’s the fans, stupid

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“It’s the economy, stupid”  

A phrase that allegedly won Bill Clinton the presidential election of 1992, and catapulted James Carville into American history books.  It was intended to keep then Gov. Clinton on message “President Bush has lead the economy into a recession”.  As a tribute to Mr. Carville, I would like to tell Web site developers for professional sport teams “It’s the fans, stupid”. 

Every business must satisfy a need or a want of its consumer (thanks Professor Choi); therefore, let’s examine the needs fulfilled by professional sports: vicarious participation (Basking In Reflected Glory), communal bonding (otherwise how could municipalities explain spending millions of dollars on new stadiums, ask Cincinnati), and diversion from reality (the only explanation for baseball, and I like baseball).  Now consider your favorite team’s Web site.  What comes to mind; your team’s star player, season ticket links, highlights from the most recent game (unless your team is the Chargers)?  Does the Web site make you anymore likely to buy tickets to next week’s game, purchase a jersey, or call friends over to watch the game?  No, it doesn’t. 

Most teams Web sites are exercises of vanity.  They are built on the foundation of, “fans are our subjects, they will do as we say.”  I did not have this belief until I read two superbly written articles, “Development of the Motivational Scale for Sport Online Consumption” by Won Jae Seo and B. Christine Green (2008), and “The Role of Web Site Content on Motive and Attitude for Sport Events” by Kevin Filo, Daniel C. Funk and Glen Hornby (2009).

Seo and Green (2008) found ten dimensions for a fan’s consumption of a team’s Web site: technical knowledge of the game, interpersonal communication, information, fanship, entertainment, economic, pass time, escape, team support, and fan expression.  Seo and Green go to great lengths to describe the emergence of fan expression as a motive for consumption of sports online.  They describe the motive of fan expression as being, “… consistent with the concepts of community, belongingness, and subcultural expression, which are important sought-after benefits of sport participants and spectators, sports tourists, volunteers, and other communities of consumption.”  Seo and Green then go on to describe the unexpected result of their research.  Content (motive to read articles, look at photos and download media) is not a motivating factor for fans to visit their team’s websites, but rather a support mechanism for the motives of: information gathering, passing-time or the need to express oneself.  While I do agree with most of their work, I would argue that dismissing content as a motive for a fan’s consumption of a team’s website is negligent to a fans expectations in 2008. 

Fans did not expect teams to provide them with quality content in 2008.  However, I believe that some franchises have been able to change their fans expectations; thereby, changing motives for consumption of a team’s online material.  The trend of teams hiring former beat writers as columnists for their Web site, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Kings to name two, has increased their site’s credibility amongst fans.

Seo and Green’s oversight of this possibility does not negate from their outstanding work.  It should be noted that their uncovering of the motive of fan expression in 2008, preceded the explosion of social media.  They correctly identified the ever-increasing need for individuals to share themselves with their community.

Filo, Funk, and Hornby’s (2009) work focused on “…evaluating the impact of Web site marketing communication on consumers’ motivation and attitudes toward a sporting event.”  They found that a sport organization must include 15 things on its Web site to satisfy the consumers need: event ticket procurement, venue site, shopping locations, accommodations, event schedule, local attractions, entertainment opportunities, travel costs, public transport, food and concessions, location of event, parking, safety and security measures, weather forecasts and conditions, and traffic conditions.  Admittedly, a limitation of their research is its focus on an annual event, the Indy 300 in Southern Queensland, Australia, that attracts tourists from outside Southern Queensland; therefore, the material needed on the Indy 300 Web site would differ from a professional sports franchise’s.  However, the research demonstrated that,there was a significant increase in a fans motive to attend, or consume the event, if their needs were met by the organization’s website.”  Once again demonstrating the focus of a professional sports franchise’s Web site should be on the consumer.

The research supports the hypothesis that a professional sports franchise should take a customer centric approach to the development of its web site.  We have entered an age where people expect to be heard, seen, and respected.  Fans devote a great amount of energy to their team. Franchises should respect the fans’ commitment by catering to their needs.  It’s not an argument, it’s a reality.

Written by Peter Amador

March 4, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Lights Out on the Bolts, but for how long

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Acrimonious.  That is the best way to describe the relationship between the Chargers and their star outside linebacker.

It was only a few years ago that we thought Shawne Merriman was going to surpass Junior Seau’s as the franchise’s most dominant defensive player.  He had 39.5 sacks in his first three years in the league, and was becoming the most feared player in the NFL.  His play conjured up comparisons to Lawerence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and Ray Lewis.  The steroid allegations of 2006 seemed like a distant memory after he recorded 12.5 sacks in 2007, but then came the off-season.

He was brash and dismissive of the notion that he needed surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his knee; he perpetrated an image of a rock star, and was condescending to team personnel that told him he needed to devote his mind, body and soul to football.  He upset many people in the organization that off-season, not the least of whom was AJ Smith.

He came into training camp and struggled.  It was evident to on lookers that this was not the same Lights Out.  He was abrupt with the media – a tendency he had not demonstrated in the past – and continued to defend his decision not to have off-season surgery.  Alas, a poor performance in the season opener made him admit to his error, and he underwent season ending surgery.

AJ blamed Shawne’s off-field endeavors for his failure to be ready for the 2008 season, and for his failure to return to form in 2009.  Shawne continues to contend his off-field pursuits have no effect on his on-field performance.

Shawne argues, when healthy this year, he was as disruptive as he has ever been.  The injuries that plagued his 2009 season, he attributes to his determination to return to the field for the season opener.  He believes had he waited a month, his season would have been dramatically different.  That is speculation, but what is fact, Shawne will be a Charger next season.

Last night, the Chargers made Shawne a restricted free agent by offering him a one-year contract of $7.5 million.  AJ knows that no other team is likely to offer a contract to Shawne, as it would cost them a first and a third round pick in this year’s draft.  A smart move, considering that the Chargers would not want to lose LT and Lights Out in the same season (we do not have to remind them about the fans uproar when they pushed aside Seau and Rodney Harrison in 2003). 

Both sides have made it known that they are looking for a long-term commitment, but the sides have substantially different ideas as to Shawne’s worth.

I personally would love for Lights Out to stay in San Diego the rest of his career – he makes my job a lot easier – but it appears that both sides will have to swallow some pride to make that happen.  Who knows, crazier things have happened… Like head butting an opponent in your own red zone.               

***I am currently in an Athlete Representation course, and I am “representing” Shawne Merriman.  This is my attempt to demonstrate how an agent can feed a story to the press to sway the court of public opinion.  The goal being to increase their leverage in negotiations.  This is my interpetation as to how Nick Canepa would write the story for the San Diego Union Tribune.  Please feel free to leave a comment..

Written by Peter Amador

February 16, 2010 at 9:53 AM

The Case for Transparency in the Super Bowl

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The debate over which commercials were good  (Bud Light and Doritos) and bad (Go Daddy and Denny’s) is a Super Bowl tradition, like guacamole and salsa.  USA Today’s ad meter scores have been the deciding factor in the success of ads in years past, but now engaging your audience prior to the Super Bowl Sunday is a key component of a successful Super Bowl appearance.  Budweiser allowed its fans “vote” in the Clydesdale spot, the Focus on the Family ad was a topic of conversation for over a week leading up to SB44 and numerous companies teased their spots on Facebook prior to the game.  The evolving landscape of B2C relationships necessitates that companies align themselves with their consumers’ perception.

Cunningham, Cornwell and Coote (2009) argued that an organization’s identity is not what it says it is, but what its consumers say it is; therefore, it is a dynamic entity controlled by the consumer, and molded by the organization.  The Super Bowl is a proven platform for companies to reinforce (Google), reinvent (Kia) or introduce (Flo TV) its brand to a mass audience.  These companies have attempted to shape an identity which they can attach their brand to; however if their product is incompatible with the image which they are perpetrating the ad will be ineffective.  Admittedly, I do not know anyone that owns a Kia, but would it really be the first choice for a Vegas road trip?  Meanwhile, critics derided Flo TV’s ads, but their message was true to what their product is, a toy for bored men.

Cunningham, Cornwell and Coote (2009) do assert that sponsoring a major sporting event can help a brand craft its image, if it aligns with the company’s core values and philosophies.  Accordingly, a company which aligns its message in a Super Bowl, with its core values stands to gain substantially from the Super Bowl’s mass appeal (monster.com).  A well executed Super Bowl campaign would then offer the viewer with insight into the ethos of a company (Volkswagen).  Brands should strive to integrate their traditional marketing strategies and new media endeavors, much as Coca-Cola did, to demonstrate transparency with their consumer.  By becoming transparent a brand exhibits faith in its product and truly molds its image.

Written by Peter Amador

February 9, 2010 at 6:03 PM

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