Friday, October 10, 2014

Sports Industry 101: Breaking Into The Business Of Sports

So you want to work in the sports industry? Like many students and young professionals pursuing an education in sports management and looking to make their big break into the business of sports, long gone are the days when working in industry is limited to selling tickets or running coverage of the local professional team for your hometown paper.

Projected to grow $145.3 billion between 2010-2015, the sports industry is flourishing with opportunities in all areas including: sports marketing and sponsorship, sports media (traditional and social media), sports facilities and even higher education institutions which are growing at faster than average projected rate of 15%. However, although there are numerous opportunities to work in sports these days, the competition to land one of them is also higher than ever.

Still up for the challenge? If so, here is a closer step-by-step look at how to break into the sports industry today.

Sports Management Education Programs
Over the past 30 years, there has been a significant amount of growth in sports management education programs. From undergraduate and master’s-level courses to MBAs with a sports management concentration, they are continuing to gain ground in colleges and universities. Between 1980-2010, the number of undergraduate sports management programs grew from just three in the U.S. to over 300, however, there were only 25-35 available in graduate programs by 2010.

Making it more accessible for students and aspiring sports business professionals to better find the right university and program for them, now online with is a database of all the U.S sports management programs available for both undergraduate and post graduate degrees.
For those looking to further build upon their undergraduate degree and give themselves a competitive edge for future sports business employers, some of the MVPs in sports management graduate programs today include Ohio University, the University of Central Florida and University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Established over forty years ago, Ohio University’s Center for Sports Administration is arguably the most hailed program of its kind and boasts 1,200 alumni in leadership positions within intercollegiate athletics, professional sports teams and leagues, sports management and marketing agencies, sports media, and the entertainment industries. This alumni network is considered amongst the strongest of any university program in the country, and provides a wide variety of excellent internship and employment opportunities for graduates of Ohio.

Recognized as a world-wide leader in its field, The Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management belongs in the top echelon of sports business programs.  Created in 1972, it is the second-oldest program of its kind in the world and widely respected for the breadth and quality of its curriculum and research.

A somewhat newer sports management masters program launching just over 10 years ago is The DeVos Sport Business Management Program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida.  The vision of Rich & Helen DeVos, owners of RDV Sports and the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association, it is the first of its kind in the area of sport management graduate studies.

Consistently ranked amongst the top sports business graduate programs, University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center allows students to receive a sports centric MBA from one of the top business schools in the country. With deep ties to Nike and Oregon alumni Phil Knight, Warsaw gives student’s unprecedented access to the business of sporting goods and apparel, as well as a deep dive into the international sports marketing scene.
Rapper Jay-Z's creation of sports agency RocNation is testament to the allure of working in the sports industry.
Rapper Jay-Z’s creation of sports agency RocNation is further testament to the allure of working in the sports industry, even for entertainment megastars.

Seeking Internships & Job Opportunities
The number of agencies, organizations and institutions small and large in the U.S. sports industry today are seemingly endless.  Each of these entities hires a number of interns each semester to help support their operations. While obtaining an internship in sports is extremely competitive, it is also a necessity for anyone that want’s to eventually work in the business.

According to Carolyne Savini, SVP of Recruiting at Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, ”For anyone trying to break into the sports industry at the entry level, internship experience is critical. Short of an inside connection, I rarely, if ever, see someone get hired into a job without previous internship experience. The reason is the sports industry is a small, tight-knit community. One can’t hide from a reference. If an employer sees the resume of someone who worked for a team or agency property down the street, a call will be made prior to an interview ever being scheduled to confirm how hard and smart of a worker the applicant is.”

While one can spend countless hours online googling all of the ideal places they would like to work at to see if they have any internship and entry-level job opportunities available, instead there are a growing number of affordable, student-run and organized conferences and job fairs with career launching opportunities that are worth-while to attend.
A handful of recommended conferences for those actively looking and pursuing a career in the sports industry include:
The National Sports Forum:  The largest annual cross gathering of the top team sports marketing, sales, promotions and event entertainment executives – from throughout the broad spectrum of teams and leagues, (i.e. NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Minor Leagues, Racing, Colleges, etc.), in North America.
Sports Industry Networking And Career Conference (SINC): Similar to the National Sports Forum, SINC offers students and young professionals networking and on the spot interview breakout sessions.

Ivy Sports Symposium: The 9 year old conference that rotates among Ivy League schools has 100+ leading sports industry executive guest speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions geared towards students.  In May 2014, the first Global Ivy Sports Symposium conference will be held in London.

University of Michigan Sports Business Conference: A student-ran conference, it has 25+ leading sports industry executive guest speakers along with the BIG Initiative that recognizes 10 outstanding student leaders who have achieved an exceptional level of success in their undergraduate courses.

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: This conference offers a job board along with a research paper contest and has 35+ panel discussions. Many high level sports industry executives attend the conference, although its sheer size can be overwhelming and somewhat unwelcoming to those not used to networking.

Breakthrough Leadership Programs:
Along with the various conferences accessible to those looking for work in the sports industry, a new breakthrough program emerged during the summer of 2012 – Manhattan Sports Business Academy (MSBA). With a mission to identify, prepare and connect the next generation of sports business leaders, MSBA is a summer leadership program based in New York City.  Designed for college students and young professionals seeking career acceleration, MSBA takes a 360° approach to immersing participants in today’s professional world.

Following a competitive selection process, MSBA delivers a unique and comprehensive learning experience to an intimate group of members through internship placement, a weekly speaker series, office field trips, mentorship, career workshops, weekend group outings and professional development curriculum.
Providing unparalleled access and experience is at the core of the program, and this starts with MSBA’s personal internship placement service.  In conjunction with world-class partner organizations, these internships offer each student their own platform for real exposure, hands-on learning and opportunity through customized arrangements.

“By offering aspiring young professionals the opportunity to live, learn and play in the epicenter of global sports business, MSBA aims to help members uncover their passion points within our diverse industry.  A love for sports will only take talented individuals so far.  MSBA students are pushed to dig deeper and explore the actual roles and opportunities out there”, explains David Oestreicher, MSBA’s Co-Founder & Managing Director.
NFL Chief Marketing Officer Mark Waller addresses MSBA participants during a presentation in the league’s New York City headquarters.

Ensuring members understand the industry at every level while building relationships with established executives, participants also share the experience with like-minded peers from around the world. These students get to learn from some of the biggest names in sports business including office visits to leading organizations for a behind-the-scenes look at how they are shaping the sports landscape today.

MSBA also emphasizes mentorship as a key pillar and vital aspect of career development through its trademark dual mentorship program. For ongoing coaching and support, each member is paired with a young professional who still knows what it’s like to enter and thrive in the highly competitive industry. In turn, they also learn how to be high-impact mentors themselves through MSBA’s partnership with the High School of Sports Management in Brooklyn.

“So many want a career in sports but haven’t discovered exactly what makes them tick,” opines Ben Sturner, MSBA Co-Founder. “We accelerate this process and fuel both personal and professional growth. Coming away from MSBA, our members are equipped to make well-educated career decisions with the resources and network necessary to do so,” he adds.
By: Jason Belzer

Thursday, September 25, 2014

McDonald's Rolling Out Three Separate Promos To Mark Second Year As NFL Sponsor

McDonald’s is marking the second year of its NFL league sponsorship with a trio of promotions timed to coincide with the start of the football season. In its first year returning as a league sponsor after a 15-year hiatus, McDonald’s scored well in SportsBusiness Journal's annual NFL sponsor awareness survey. For the first time in five years, more NFL fans correctly identified McDonald’s as the league’s QSR rightsholder. Fans incorrectly identified Subway as the NFL's official QSR in the survey every year since '09. Accordingly, McDonald’s opening-month NFL blitz is larger and portends an expanded effort across a variety of core products, including Chicken McNuggets, French fries, soft drinks, Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Extra Value Meals and McCafe beverages. Last year’s NFL effort for the fast feeder focused on “Mighty Wings," a temporary menu offering. “We’re looking at this as a season-long opportunity, and a way to engage our customers for the entire season (McDonald’s sponsors balloting for the season-ending Pro Bowl) as opposed to last year, when it was more of an event," said McDonald's Global Marketing Officer Dean Barrett, who added that a return to the ranks of Super Bowl advertisers was uncertain as of yet. McDonald’s early-season NFL promo activity encompasses a photo contest, a tie-in with the latest "Madden" videogame, and packaging with QR codes that unlock exclusive NFL content. The trio of promos will see NFL indicia splashed across more than 180 million fry boxes and more than 120 million soft drink cups. Local team sponsorships have increased to 15, up from 11 last season.
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY: In the QSR’s Tailgate Photo sweepstakes, fans are being asked to post photos via Twitter or Instagram, or with a Vine video displaying “their passion for the NFL and McDonald’s food." Those doing so will be entered in a contest offering the grand prize of having a mobile McDonald's for up to 200 people in their hometown. Weekly prizes will include $100 gift cards to and subscriptions to NFL Now Plus. The "Madden" NFL tie-in is a "Pick The Play" sweepstakes, through which fans enter by QR code. They are taken to a "Madden" clip in which they can guess the play's outcome. The grand prize is a trip for two to Super Bowl XLIX and a tricked-out game room. A Happy Meal tie-in offers NFL figurines. McDonald's, which shares NFL QSR rights with Papa John's, is leveraging its lead sponsorship of NFL Now with QR codes on NFL-themed 21-ounce soft drink cups, which unlock exclusive content on the OTT network. Support for the promos include dedicated TV ads with a tailgating theme, along with radio, digital and POS. Looking to encourage purchase of McDonald's food for "tailgating anywhere," select markets will sell 20-piece McNugget packs for the discounted price of $5, along with various "bundle packs."
By Terry Lefton

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

College Football’s New Home

The planning and construction are done. Now can the new College Football Hall of Fame reach its lofty attendance goals?

John Stephenson’s day on this humid August morning started much like every other day, with Stephenson standing in front of a group of well-heeled Atlanta executives explaining why they should visit the new College Football Hall of Fame.

The questions that came back from this group of Duke alums at the Buckhead Club ran the gamut. Some wanted to know if the hall could make money — halls of fame are notoriously bad businesses. Others asked how many Blue Devils are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

The $68.5 million project opens this Saturday in Atlanta.
Photo by: Byron Small

Stephenson is happy to detail the business model. He doesn’t have the first clue how many Dukies are in the hall.

“People tell me all the time how lucky I am to work in college football,” Stephenson, the hall’s CEO and president, said with a smile. “What I’ve been doing the last 2 1/2 years literally has nothing to do with college football. I’m trying to get a building built.”

Stephenson is almost able to see the final results on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta, just across from Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.

The college hall spent the past 17 years in South Bend, Ind., but the National Football Foundation, which owns the rights to the hall, decided four years ago to accept an offer from Atlanta organizers. That group, led by Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl President Gary Stokan and Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, helped secure the commitment, providing the NFF with a greater platform for its hall and more visibility for the foundation’s scholarship and charitable causes.

Stephenson, formerly an attorney for Atlanta firm Troutman Sanders and a native of the city, took the baton in 2012.

The new $68.5 million building will open on Saturday — on schedule and on budget.

He’s especially proud that only $1 million of public money was used. The rest of the building’s cost has been raised through sponsorship dollars and private donations.

“That’s unusual for an attraction like this,” he said, having already ditched the tie from his morning speaking engagement in favor of an open-collar blue shirt and navy jacket.

The hall is down to its last two major pieces of sponsorship inventory, and when those are sold, the attraction will have the commitments it needs to pay off the 94,256-square-foot building.

Now all the hall needs to do is get people inside of it.

Wow factor

Visitors entering the College Football Hall of Fame will encounter a wall of helmets that’s visually overwhelming. The eyes don’t know where to focus. A touch-screen board enables visitors to find a school, touch an image and light up the helmet.

Visitors are greeted by a massive wall of helmets from every college football program.
Photo by: Byron Small

The 768 helmets on the 55-foot-by-30-foot wall represent every school that plays college football, no matter the division. It’s an equal-opportunity display, with the helmets hung randomly. A handful of helmets are generics, placeholders waiting for the next college to start a team.

The hall has worked with helmet-maker Schutt to secure all of the helmets. Two hardworking interns had the chore of putting decals on the side of the helmets.

There’s little question that the wall delivers the wow factor that any attraction hopes for.

“This breaks the mold for sports halls of fame,” said Patrick Gallagher, president and founder of Gallagher & Associates, the Washington, D.C.-based firm that serves as the exhibition designer. Gallagher’s work can be found in any number of museums and exhibits, from the Baseball Hall of Fame to the University of North Carolina’s basketball museum.

The College Football Hall of Fame projects 500,000 visitors a year, an ambitious number compared to the halls for other sports, where 200,000 to 300,000 a year is the norm.

Stephenson looks across Marietta Street and sees more than 2 million people a year visiting the Georgia Aquarium and more than 1 million going to the World of Coca-Cola, so he believes his goal is within reach. The College Football Hall of Fame is right in the middle of all that traffic and the building is literally attached to the Georgia World Congress Center, meaning fans could walk indoors from the hall to the Georgia Dome.

Ticket sales are projected to account for 60 percent to 70 percent of the hall’s estimated $10 million in annual
revenue. The hall is pushing all of the sponsorship revenue toward paying for the building, so none of that money is included in the annual budget. If the hall hits its visitor goals — adult tickets run $19.99 each — it will make a tidy profit. The break-even point is around 380,000 annual visitors.

The hall also receives a share of gross revenue from room rentals, catering, retail sales and parking in the adjacent deck.

Omni, the hotel next door, is the catering partner, while California-based Event Network Inc. will operate the hall’s retail store. Event Network also runs the store inside the Georgia Aquarium.

ESPN, while not officially a partner, worked with the hall on connectivity throughout the building.

“Where does the fiber need to run? Where should the camera plug-ins be? Those are the areas where ESPN really helped us,” Stephenson said.

Integrating sponsors

As visitors advance up the stairs to the second floor, they are greeted by a 52-foot-long touch-screen display, where fans can find their favorite teams, players and moments.

A staff of 35 full-time fan ambassadors and 35 more part-timers will browse through the exhibits, looking for opportunities to show guests how certain interactive displays work.

The galleries are a blend of historical artifacts, like the trombone from the Stanford band that was trampled during “The Play,” mixed with the latest in interactives.

The hall brought in Cortina Productions to create a variety of interactives, enabling visitors to virtually paint their face, diagram Xs and Os, sing the fight song or call the play for memorable moments. Photos and other keepsakes can be accessed through the hall’s official website,

Southwest Airlines sponsors a tunnel that leads to a 45-yard playing field.
Photo by: Byron Small

It’s “items and imagery,” as Brad Olecki, vice president of business development, likes to say.

Olecki primarily has been responsible for integrating the hall’s sponsors into the displays, either through branding or product placement, without it becoming too overwhelming. Founding partners AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Coca-Cola and Kia have their brands tastefully etched in brushed stainless steel around the second floor.

Coke sponsors a gallery on game-day traditions. Kia brought in a specially designed car with a drop-down TV and built-in grill for tailgating. Chick-fil-A, the hall’s presenting sponsor, has its name on multiple elements.

The two major spaces remaining without a sponsor are the 150-seat theater and the 45-yard field with a goalpost.

Stephenson and Olecki spearhead sales, with an assist from Fishbait Marketing’s Rick Jones.

The hall wouldn’t comment on the value of specific deals, but the 15 sponsorships sold so far went for a wide range, starting in the mid-to-high six figures for official partners to more than seven figures a year.

Founding partners have significant integration and product placement throughout. Other official partners had the opportunity to put their name on pieces of the building, like the Southwest Airlines Touchstone Tunnel, which leads from the lobby to the 45-yard playing field.

“The designers really let the partners have a voice as they were going through the process, which I think is unique,” Olecki said.

‘Our building is a big show’

The final flight of stairs ascends to the third floor, which is reserved for the actual hall of fame. The stone floors,wood walls and light hum of white noise send the message that this floor is different from the other two.

Rather than the busts that are so often associated with halls of fame, this one lists each class year-by-year.

Huge 6-foot-tall video displays show images, highlights and stats for the hall of famer selected, and the display swivels, enabling the visitor to see multiple angles as images of the player come to life.

Hall organizers thought the more contemporary displays fit the theme of the building more so than the traditional busts.

“This is the nicest room in the building,” Stephenson said as he proudly walked the hall of fame room.

The hall of fame is the room of reverence for the game’s greats, but it is, after all, just a segment of the overall project.

Hall of Fame CEO and President John Stephenson is eager to get down to business.
Photo by: AP Images

Organizers named it the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience for a reason. They want to send the message that there’s a lot more inside than the ring of honorees.

“I’m building a big stage for the hall, which is the NFF’s deal,” Stephenson said. “My job is to build this building and start this business.

“We’re not just in the hall of fame business, we’re in the attraction business. We’re in the entertainment business.
Our building is a big show. We’re going to sell you a ticket to see something you can’t see anywhere else. Yes, the hall of fame is in our building, but most of the building is an attraction on par with what is around us.”

By Michael Smith

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sports Paradox: America's Regulated Economy vs. Europe's Free Market

In the States, fairness rules allow underdog teams to lure superstars like LeBron James. Across the Atlantic, powerful franchises are only getting more powerful.

Last week in America, LeBron James went back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. A lot of people saw it as a victory for American values, a victory for the little guy and for old-fashioned fairness. LeBron is going back to play for his hometown! No more of this teaming-up-with-other-stars-to-make-a-superteam nonsense! Finally, finally, small-market Cleveland might win a title!
This week in Europe, Premier League soccer giants Manchester United signed a jersey deal with Adidas worth around 75 million pounds ($128 million) per year. That money—which is separate, by the way, from the 53 million pounds per year Chevrolet has agreed to pay to plaster its logo across the jersey’s chest—is more than double the size of the next nearest “kit deal,” Arsenal’s with Puma. And it’s more than the total revenue of nine of the Premier League’s 20 clubs in the year 2011-2012. In short, some soccer teams in Europe are relatively poor, and some are very, very rich.
While the Germans were celebrating their nation’s World Cup triumph, some of those very rich clubs were busy figuring out which poorer ones were unfortunate enough to have a player perform well at the tournament. Can little Real Sociedad afford to keep the promising French winger Antoine Griezmann? Has Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev gotten bored with his new plaything Monaco FC yet? Real Madrid would be happy to take Colombia wonderkid James Rodriguez off his hands. Premier League overachievers Southampton had three English stars snapped up by Liverpool and Manchester United before a ball was even kicked in Brazil.
The Lebron signing and the Adidas deal took place days apart by coincidence, but I could have picked nearly any week and found clear illustrations of the counterintuitive gap between the sporting rules and cultures in Europe and America. In wild, wild, Western Europe, anything goes. Unregulated capitalism is matched by unfettered competition. In the U.S., the major team sports are highly redistributive, or even socialistic.
For example:
  • American teams share a great deal of their revenue in the name of competitive balance. Unprofitable teams are propped up by the big guys. European soccer’s nascent Financial Fair Play regulatory system is largely toothless, and clubs can spend what they please on their players—pushing many a small club that tries to keep up into bankruptcy.
  • Most European soccer leagues operate on a promotion/relegation system, meaning at the end of the season the three last-placed teams are sent to a lower division and replaced by the three top teams from the division below. Contrarily, American teams are rewarded for a poor season by getting the best chance to select college’s top player. The NBA is even contemplating a new draft system to discourage teams from intentionally losing games.
  • The NFL, NHL, and NBA all use a salary cap in the name of competitive balance; MLB has implemented a luxury tax with the same goal in mind. European clubs largely eschew trades in favor or buying and selling stars for up to nine-figure fees. Wealthy clubs, like oligarch Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea FC, buy and stash dozens of young players in the lower leagues, recalling them if the players prove themselves talented or salable.
  • Every American league has more parity than the big soccer leagues of Spain, Italy, and England. Small-time clubs have no chance of winning the league title. They don’t even pay lip-service to the impossible dream; fans can hope only for an upset or two and the right to do it all again next year—that is, if they can avoid relegation. The top finishers from each country play in a money-spinning competition called the Champions League.
Of course, calling an entire sporting culture socialist or capitalist oversimplifies things. There’s a case to be made that salary caps exist merely to hold down player salaries to the benefit of team owners. They certainly don’t seem to have a significant effect on competitive balance. Moreover, the European Union’s requirement that sports leagues follow the same labor laws as other industries actually increases sporting inequality. In Europe, as Aaron Gordon writes for Sports on Earth, “You can't own the rights to a worker before he signs a contract, you can't collude to determine how much money you will spend on employee salaries in order to artificially lower their value, and you can't penalize each other for spending too much money on employees.” So the causal lines from national political identity to sports organizational structure aren’t very clear.
Still, the configuration seems incongruous, considering that socialism is a dirty word for many Americans, and how much more robust Europe’s welfare state is. And sports inequality has virtues that would seem to appeal to Americans. The continued dominance of the few ensures the best rivalries rage on for years, much like the UNC vs. Duke and Michigan vs. Ohio State battles that liven up college sports. Relegation scraps mean every team can celebrate something, and the combination of the hierarchical system and free-spending owners allows improbable rises up the division ladder—the aforementioned overachievers at Southampton were languishing in English football’s third tier just a few years ago. Imagine the AA Wichita Wingnuts making a deep MLB playoff run! And Americans love watching the improbable. European tournaments like England’s FA Cup throw hundreds of teams of all sizes into one knockout tournament. It’s March Madness, Texas-sized.
But the charms of America’s more-egalitarian system are clear enough. Every major region gets a major sports team, and those teams are given a legitimate chance to win a title. The football team from Green Bay has as many Super Bowl titles as the Giants of New York. That’s impossible in Europe, where the powerhouses from Barcelona and Madrid have won 64 of 83 Spanish league titles. The players here are spread out pretty fairly as well. Only in America can LeBron James go back home to the country’s 45th largest city and make just as much as the salary-capped Los Angeles Lakers could afford to pay him.
This state of affairs came about long ago, and isn’t likely to change soon. The NFL got an anti-trust waiver from Congress to establish its revenue-sharing system in 1961, while the English Premier League’s predecessor, The Football League, has been around in various unregulated guises since 1888.
Which system is “better?” It’s probably not worth arguing about. While inequality and player-poaching evoke some Jacobin outrage in Europe, much like some wealthy American football owners don’t like sharing, all of these sports are broadly profitable and widely popular. Which system is more “American?” Well, America’s spirit is famously two-sided. The answer depends whether you ask Eugene Debs or Joseph McCarthy, Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson, Dan Gilbert or Pat Riley. It’s all good sports. Let’s just keep watching.
By: Noah Gordon

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pitbull: Get Rich or Die Shilling

Pitbull, born Armando Pérez, self-titled Mr. Worldwide, and often known simply as Pit, slides into his seat at a hotel restaurant about 25 minutes inland from South Beach. The place is well outside the Miami party scene and its paparazzi, and is either purposefully retro—deco chairs, white tablecloths, a waitress who must be 80 wearing bright coral lipstick—or hasn’t been updated in 50 years. It’s empty save for one of the biggest pop stars in the world and a group of his associates, all wearing suits, and clustered at two tables. Pitbull taps his water glass, and the waitress hurries over to fill it. His lawyer, Leslie Zigel, hands him an agenda, which offers topics like “Endorsement Deal Matters,” “Investments,” and, in capital letters, “DISRUPTION.”
Zigel and Pitbull started working together in 2010, after Pitbull closed his first major sponsorship deal, with Dr Pepper, which Zigel was representing at the time. “He told me he appreciated my approach to dealmaking and asked if I would consider joining his team,” says Zigel. “I’m a jazz bass player, and he liked that I thought like a musician, not a typical lawyer.” Zigel looks like Stanley Tucci and speaks to Pitbull encouragingly, like a cheerful high school gym teacher.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Volvo Ocean Race: A $20 Million Test Of Sailing Endurance

At some point next year, Charlie Enright will be seriously rethinking his mission in life. He’ll be at the helm of a 65-foot carbon-fiber sailboat hurtling through the violent seas between Antarctica and Cape Horn, instinctively ducking his head as waves fly toward his face with the strength of a fire hose. At 40 knots, or close to 50 m.p.h., there’ll be no room for error as the boat charges forward, hour after hour.
“In parts of the Southern Ocean we’ll be doing everything we can to slow these things down,” said Enright, skipper of the 9-man crew sailing Team Alvemedica around the world in the latest edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The Volvo has long been a dream for Enright, 29, a champion sailor at Brown University who had a role in Roy Disney’s 2008 documentary “Morning Light.” He also happens to be the grandson of famed boat builder Clint Pearson, who introduced thousands of people to sailing in the 1960s and 1970s with then-newfangled fiberglass yachts. Along with fellow Brown alumnus Mark Towill, 25, Enright put together a crew and got funding from a Turkish medical-device manufacturer to mount a challenge in the race that Alvimedica Chief Cem Bozkurt calls “the Everest of sports.”
“In 2011 we decided this was an idea we wanted to commit to making a reality, and now here we are with a boat and a team,” Enright told me on the docks in Newport, shortly before he set off on a shakedown cruise across the Atlantic.
Charlie Enright at the helm of Team Alvimedica
Charlie Enright at the helm of Team Alvimedica (Photo credit: Sam Greenfield/Team Alvimedica)
On October 11, the fleet of identical 65-foot ocean racers will set off from Alicante, Spain on the first leg of the 40,000-mile race, which has been held every three years since 1973. For Enright and his young crew, it’s a chance to prove themselves in one of the toughest endurance contests in sailing. For Alvimedica, it’s an opportunity to raise the worldwide profile of its growing business selling drug-coated stents, catheters and other cardiac devices.
The boats will race from  Alicante to Cape Town and from there to Abu Dhabi; Sanya, China; Aukland, New Zealand and around Cape Horn to Brazil and Newport before finishing in Gothenburg, Sweden. The race is expected to take 10 months and will cost the average team about $20 million, including the cost of shore crews who will move a pair of shipping containers full of supplies in leapfrog fashion in front of the boats.
“The boats actually move faster than the containers,” Enright explained.
To drive down costs from previous years, the 65-foot, carbon-fiber boats are all the same – “down to the toothbrush and sunglass holders” Enright said – so teams have few opportunities to compete by spending more money on better technology.
The dart-shaped boats have broad, flat surfaces underwater so they can quickly rise to the surface and plane. The cabin tops have been redesigned to throw waves up and over the helmsmen standing on raised platforms near the stern of the boat, although Enright says the water now tends to hit right about forehead level.
Traditional sailboats have a solid keel with lead weight to hold them upright. Volvo 65s have canting keels, hinged arms with a lead bulb that can be swung 40 degrees from side to side to provide more stability at the cost of a complex system of hydraulic rams to move the keel. After years of tinkering, the hydraulic rams and swing joints  appear to be durable enough to survive a circumnavigation of the globe.
Accommodations are sparse; sailors sleep in narrow berths when they can, eat prepared meals, and the head, or toilet, is a simple carbon-fiber bowl just ahead of the mast with a handheld spray nozzle to flush it.
Teams share a single repair crew to cut down on costs and are limited in the number of sails they can buy. Each team must make it around the world using a single mainsail, a huge, computer-shaped slab of synthetic  fabric covering 1,700 square feet, or the floor area of a modest suburban home.
Since the equipment’s the same and the crew members are evenly matched in muscle power and endurance, one of the key differentiators will be navigation. The oldest crew member on Team Alvimedica is Will Oxley, 49, an Australian marine scientist who’s competed in four round-the-world races including guiding Camper to a second-place finish in the last Volvo Ocean Race in 2011-12.
Oxley will spend most of his time in the navigator’s station belowdecks, a dark space directly beneath the cockpit equipped with laptops and communications gear streaming in constantly updated weather forecasts he will use to chart the best course to make it to the next port.
(Credit: dan Forster/Team Alvimedica)
(Photo credit: Dan Forster/Team Alvimedica)
Ocean navigation is a lot like financial management. Navigators rely on weather forecasts much like investment managers rely on earnings projections. In both cases those forecasts start out highly inaccurate and get more precise as they move closer to real time. Within a few hours, they’re spot-on, but by then it’s too late for a boat moving at 20 knots to exploit a fast-moving weather system 200 miles away. So much like a commodities trader or a bond manager, Oxley must develop a point of view long in advance about where the best winds will lie, then position the boat to take advantage of them as they develop.

He has 20 years of data to help narrow the odds of where high-velocity winds will show up on a particular leg of the race.
“We start off with what worked” in past races, he said, and then determine a corridor to maximize the chance of getting to the right winds first.  “I have to have a very good reason to move out of that corrider,” he said.
As the oldest man on the boat by far, Oxley won’t spend as much time “on the handles,” as sailors refer to the coffee-grinder winches in the center of the cockpit. But he will endure a grueling schedule that allows him only four-and-a-half hours sleep in every 24, “and if I’m lucky I get that in three lots,” he said. Every five or six days he gets to splurge on a 90-minute nap.
“If you sleep too long you lose track of the picture,” he said.

For Alvimedica Chief Bozkurt, the race is an opportunity to get his company’s name out there as he prepares to enter the U.S. market. Bozkurt, a medical doctor, has built the company by diving into markets that industry giants like Johnson & Johnson JNJ +0.25% have largely abandoned, like cardiac stents coated with drugs to inhibit clotting. Founded in 2007, it has already grown to the fourth-largest interventional cardiac device maker in Europe. Bozkurt said he expects to pour 27% of top-line revenue into research and development this year to develop devices in close consultation with the physicians who use them.
“Being a very young company, our brand awareness, brand recognition is quite low,” he said. And thanks to the threat of litigation and pesky U.S. regulations on medical-device manufacturers, “we cannot directly advertise, so that is why we decided to go on sports sponsorships.”
Sailing is an appropriate marketing vehicle since it appeals to all ages and has an international audience, he said. Bozkurt sought out Enright’s less experience team because he wanted the youngest sailors and claims, on camera anyway, that he doesn’t have any expectations other than returning safely home.
“The first target they have in this race is to finish the race in one piece, in a healthy position,” Bozkurt told FORBES. “We’re not looking to win.”

By: Daniel Fisher

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How sports leagues use iBeacons to complement in-stadium SMS

Apple’s iBeacon technology increasingly excites marketers, especially those who see the technology as a way to drive responsive mobile experiences that delight visitors in sports stadiums and keep them loyal, but SMS still has an important role to play. 

Fifteen months after its widely chronicled rollout, the platform’s early popularity also has called into question the need for SMS programs that have underpinned in-stadium marketing programs for years. However, the technologies’ differing strengths and weaknesses suggest iBeacons can be an extra tool that rounds out the fan experience.

“It’s not an either-or, it’s both,” said Mark Tack, vice president of marketing for Chicago-based Vibes, whose in-venue mobile marketing clients have included professional sports leagues. “IBeacons are the latest crave that’s captured a lot of fanfare and are getting a lot of publicity. 

“IBeacons are great for the on-the-move fan and can provide timely content in just the right location,” he said. “But you also have the fan who is in their seat and text-message marketing is great to help advertisers of marketers and sports venues engage with fans on their mobile devices while they’re seated at an event.”

Selling points
Launched in mid-2013, iBeacon caused a stir with its ability to provide retailers and other small to medium enterprises with a way to target offers with pinpoint accuracy, as well as to simplify payments and enable on-site offers. Its low energy demands and low cost – as of May, iBeacon third-party manufactured hardware could be purchased for as little as $5 – also were big selling points.

IBeacon became the centerpiece of an Apple venture with Major League Baseball to develop an upgraded version of the league’s At the Ballpark application. The platform displayed welcome messages, exclusive content, maps and coupons according to fans’ locations within a particular stadium and the positioning of the beacons. Up till then, such precision targeting was not possible.

Today, iBeacon use at United States stadiums is growing. “The sporting experience is one where you need to stay relevant and continue to introduce something that’s new and exciting,” Mr. Tack said. “Every time the fans comes to the ballpark, you want to keep the experience fresh. All of the sports organizations have been early adopters for most mobile technologies.” 

Warriors' app includes a raft of features to drive engagement.

The National Football League tested beacons during this year’s Super Bowl, and 20 baseball stadiums are adding them this year. In one of the first live rollouts of proximity beacon technology at a major sporting venue, in March, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors began to integrate proximity technology into their mobile application and the Oracle Arena, the club’s home since the mid-1960s.

“Beacon-supported proximity marketing is eclipsing geofence-based push companies because we can send a message when someone is in line for the men’s room, not just in the stadium,” said Alex Bell, co-founder of Sonic Notify, the Warrior’s proximity-technology partner. “We have proved with GSW [Golden State Warriors] that when done right, it does drive fan engagement.

“GSW saw a 69 percent increase in seat upgrade revenue via app after installing our proximity marketing solution,” he said. 

In one promotion, first-time visitors to the team’s store received a mobile message about a coupon offer. Interacting with the message led to a video of Warriors player Harrison Barnes speaking directly to the fan. 

When fans were asked “What are you looking at?” the answer was “a Harrison Barnes video, not a coupon, although the coupon was there,” per Mr. Bell.

Texting criticized as limiting
Mr. Bell is in the camp of those who criticize in-stadium texting programs at professional baseball, football and basketball games as too limited to drive fan engagement.

“Texting is too broad,” he said. “If there is no app to drive a consistent message then it is a one-time shot.” 

“There are two magic things about proximity marketing that make it special,” he said. “The right time and place delivery and the fact that the delivery mechanism is the user’s own phone. In-stadium texting satisfies the second criteria but misses on the important first criteria.”

Warriors' digital strategy showcases iBeacon technology.

Those who fail to recognize the differences between iBeacon and SMS are missing an opportunity to reach customers with two powerful technologies.

“IBeacon is actually triggering content based on location,” Mr. Tack said. “So when we think of SMS, there’s a lot of ways you can use SMS which is full of content. When you compare a content technology to a trigger technology, it’s kind of comparing apples to oranges.”

Clients’ use of SMS
Among the ways Mr. Tack’s clients use stadium SMS programs is the ever-popular text-to-win invitation. “You can do an onscreen call to action using SMS,” he said. “The fan is sitting in his seat and in between innings on the Jumbotron or a huge sponsorship sign he sees a Verizon commercial or a Pepsi commercial or a McDonald’s commercial that says: ‘Text Big Mac to 84237 for your chance to win.’ That’s creating engagement for fans in their seats. There’s no iBeacon technology related to that.”

Voting on in-game action also remains a fan favorite. Between innings, an onscreen text might ask: What was your favorite play so far? And invite fans to text A, B or C one of three video highlights, showing the tally on screen. 

“Text is also great for distributing mobile wallet content,” Mr. Tack said. “For example, ‘Text Pepsi to 84237 to receive a free Passbook or Google Wallet offer for the next inning only.’ Or ‘Only good for the next 20 minutes.’ The text message becomes the communication vehicle, the distribution vehicle of valuable content.”

Dynamic duo
Others see iBeacon playing a dynamic role alongside texting in mobile sports-marketing.

“There are great use cases for both,” said Blake Sirarch, vice president of design for Willow Tree Apps, which worked with the Barclays Center, home of basketball’s Brooklyn Nets, in developing the team’s app. In-stadium texting provides a one-to-one communication channel that makes it possible for venue operations personnel to respond to guest needs in real-time. 

Beacons’ ability to disseminate targeted messages to a greater number of fans in a controlled way allowed the Barclays Center to use the technology to spread the word about news and upcoming events by placing beacons at points throughout the arena, he said. Fans are instantly prompted to sign up for the Barclays Center newsletter when they walk through the doors.

“The concept of iBeacons is an exciting one but the trick is getting people to engage with the promotion,” said Alex Jarvis, UK sales manager with Britain’s Boost Communications, which worked on soccer club Manchester City’s mobile program. “The US market is more open to this. 

“In the UK we are less reluctant to participate in such engagements. I suppose like everything it depends on the details. If something is of interest you're going to engage with it.”
By Michael Barris