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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Roll of dice on Vegas comes up a big winner

NBA summer league grows into 'July Madness' for fans, budding young prospects

LAS VEGAS — It all started simply enough.
The year was 2004, and summer league basketball leagues for NBA players and prospects were spread around at number of locations, including Salt Lake City and Long Beach, Calif.
“A couple of them were looking to have more of an anchor place,” says Warren LeGarie, a San Francisco-based sports agent who represents a number of NBA coaches and management types. “They challenged me, ‘Why don’t we find a place with better proximity to more players?’ Vegas was the place that made a lot of sense.”
LeGarie secured financing and a sponsor (Reebok) and organized a six-team summer league at UNLV, each of the teams playing three to five games.
“In the beginning, it really was a little simpler,” says LeGarie, 61, who represents general manager Neil Olshey, coach Terry Stotts among others from the Trail Blazers organization.
Though only a few thousand fans turned out to watch the low-key affair in 2004, NBA coaches and executives liked what they experienced. The next year, the Las Vegas Summer League expanded to 16 teams, including Portland.
A decade later, the LVSL has partnered with the NBA and expanded to 24 teams, crowns a champion and dwarfs the only other existing summer league for NBA teams in Orlando in both size and eminence. Games from both leagues are carried live on NBA-TV, but the 10-team league in Orlando is closed to the public and staged at the Magic’s training facility.
In Las Vegas, games are held at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, side-by-side sites five minutes from the famed Las Vegas Strip. A $25 daily ticket allows the fan to watch as many as eight games between the two arenas. Each NBA team is guaranteed to play at least five games through the 10-day schedule that covers two weekends. About 430 media credentials have been issued.
“Call us ‘July Madness,’ ” laughs LeGarie, 61, who acts as a combination maitre d’/public relations man, greeting officials, coaches and players while taking care of their needs. “We had 9,500 for our championship game last year. People set their vacations up so they can attend the event now.
“We never expected this to become a happening. I’d be lying if I said we did. We had no idea.”
A good portion of today’s NBA stars — including Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Blake Griffin and John Wall — have showed their talents in the LVSL. Blazers Jarryd Bayless and Damian Lillard have won most valuable player honors.
“It’s been a ‘Walk of Fame’ type of thing,” LeGarie says. “The thing that resonates most is that the fan has incredible access. It’s as close to an NBA game-like experience as you’ll get next to a regular-season game. And we don’t even charge for air conditioning.”
It has become a time and place where plenty of NBA off-the-court business is covered, too.
“Most of the NBA executives are here,” Olshey says. “It’s almost become like a convention, with agents, executives and team officials. You can conduct a lot of business. You can interview for positions.”
Olshey did just that soon after he became Portland’s GM two years ago, hiring then-Dallas assistant Stotts as his coach.
The LVSV provides a service to many on a variety of levels.
“It’s of great value in terms of coaching development, player development, the ability to see a lot of people in the same place,” says San Antonio GM R.C. Buford, the NBA’s executive of the year in 2013-14.
“This setting is as representative of an NBA game-like atmosphere as you can get,” says Cleveland GM David Griffin, who signed LeBron James to a free-agent contract last week. “They’ve done such a good job of building the league into something where there’s a great deal of attention brought to bear on it. That puts kids in a situation where there’s a heightened sense of urgency. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”
“It raises the bar for the players,” Olshey says. “You can’t simulate a real NBA game, but it’s as close as you get for the five to six months of our offseason.”
The players are predominately young — rookies or second- or third-year players, though veterans such as Josh Howard, Shannon Brown and ex-Blazer Jeff Ayers dot the rosters, looking for another chance to prove themselves.
Some of the summer league players are draft picks. Many of them are free agents, looking to earn a contract or an invitation to training camp.
“It’s a great venue for players to develop and be seen,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks says.
“I wouldn’t call it a tryout camp, but it’s definitely a proving ground, especially for your rookies and younger players,” Denver coach Brian Shaw says.
If there are no available spots on one team’s roster, a player enhances his chances of landing elsewhere by playing well enough to get noticed by the dozens of officials representing all 30 NBA teams — and international pro teams as well — who are watching from the stands.
Says Nuggets assistant coach Lester Conner: “Brian told our guys, ‘We have 13 players with guaranteed contracts, so two of you might make the team. But you’ll be showcasing yourself for other teams and teams in Europe.’ The NBA is not for everybody, but there are other places to play. And all the big shots are here — Phil Jackson and his (New York) staff, Gregg Popovich and his (San Antonio) staff. If you want to get seen, this is the place to come.”
Each of the games is 40 minutes long, with 10-minute quarters. Referees are provided by the NBA — budding NBA officials, many of them who work in the Development League. The LVSL is a proving ground for them, too.
“They do a great job in terms of trying to grow officials,” Griffin says. “And part of it is our kids learning to adapt to that part of the game.”
Coaches use the league to evaluate their players in an organized setting without the pressures of a regular-season game.
“You get a chance to develop your younger players and to see some veterans trying to make the team,” Brooks says. “You can implement your system and evaluate everything without worrying about wins and losses.”
The majority of the players in the LVSL never play a game in the NBA. Those who shine aren’t necessarily destined for an NBA roster.
“It’s a chance for coaches to get to know them, to start getting a hands-on impression,” says P.J. Carlesimo, the former Blazers coach who is an analyst for ESPN. “I’ve always said, you may not find out who can play (in the NBA) in summer league, but sometimes you can find out who cannot play.”
Coaches generally allow their younger assistants to run the LVSL team. Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool are sharing that responsibility with the Blazers.
“It’s a great opportunity to put the game plan together, draw up plays, handle end-of-game situations, talk during timeouts and before and after the games,” Tibbetts says. “It’s easy as an assistant. You just make suggestions. As a head coach, you have to make decisions.”
Jefferson High and Portland State grad Ime Udoka, who earned a championship ring as an assistant with San Antonio this spring, is coach of the Spurs’ LVSL team for the second straight year.
“To a young, up-and-coming coach, the experience is invaluable,” Udoka says. “It’s great to get a chance to run practice, look at some of our guys in a different environment, expand their roles and add my own wrinkles to our offense.”
“Attendance has increased through the years, and we’re looking at being 10 to 25 percent up this year — somewhere in the high 80 (thousands) to the low 90’s,” LeGarie says. “We had 9,500 for our championship game last year.”
Though the bright lights of the Vegas Strip can be alluring to players, most of the coaches says they’ve had little trouble with incidents here over the years.
“There’s temptation everywhere,” Shaw says. “We remind the players all the time what they’re here for. I went to UC Santa Barbara, one of the biggest party schools in the country. It taught me discipline. You have your time to play, but the guys who take it seriously and understand the responsibility that comes with being here have a better chance to make it. You either sink, or you swim.”
By: Kerry Eggers

Monday, August 18, 2014

The power of live content: World Cup 2014 social media winners and losers

It’s official. The 2014 World Cup has become social media’s biggest ever sporting event, with a staggering 35.6 million tweets about the game sent during the Brazil vs. Germany match alone. 
Sports coverage is evolving all the time and seems to move at a faster rate every year that goes by. Smart phone ownership and usage, plus the popularity of social platforms, has created a huge new playing field where anyone can have a voice. The fact that 72.4 percent of fans were actively discussing the World Cup on social networks whilst watching the games on TV is testament to this evolution.
As click through rates and display become less effective, brands have been quick to identify the huge potential for engagement that creative, reactive content can have during a live sporting event.
However, reactive content marketing isn’t without its risks. Exposing your brand to an audience of millions of engaged twitter users means that if the tone and execution isn’t perfectly balanced, it can have a negative and potentially damaging effect on your brand.
With audience engagement the name of the game, which brands and sponsors managed to effectively embrace live content as a strategy during the #WorldCup2014 and which failed?


Adidas: #allin? Or Nothing?
Adidas had a point to prove at this year’s tournament having been whooped by Nike at the 2010 World Cup. Its response was the #allin or nothing campaign anchored by a star studded video featuring the likes of Messi, Alves, Suárez, Özil and RVP and supported by the company’s biggest ever media spend.
At the end of the video, viewers are given the option to be #allin and guided to a hub of Adidas’s social output or to be nothing and subsequently left alone. Through a vivid dichotomy, the campaign placed a bold emphasis on quality of social audience over quantity.
A key element to the Adidas campaign is athlete activation, with sponsored  athletes pushing out live content at key moments before crunch matches.
Here are a couple of examples from Arsenal/Germany star Per Mertesacker, and Real Madrid/Brazil’s Marcelo Vieira.
 The campaign resulted in Adidas being the most talked-about brand on Twitter during the World Cup, with over 1.6 million tweets, retweets and replies mentioning the brand, according to Rob Hughes, Adidas’ senior global football PR manager.
#allin was the most-used brand hashtag on Twitter, with 570,000 mentions since the Cup began June 12. The company’s YouTube audience has also doubled, with more than 200,000 new subscribers since play started. Not bad at all.
Nike: Risk Everything
With the debate around the long term value of sponsoring the World Cup raging on, Nike once again demonstrated how innovative marketing can deliver huge cut through.
That, alongside ensuring that 10 out of the 35 teams at the World Cup were wearing its famous swoosh logo.
To-date the Risk Everything campaign, built around “The Last Game” video on YouTube, has generated 6 billion impressions, with more than 2 billion of these via mobile devices. “The Last Game” video alone has generated nearly 65 million views.

Nike: #AskZlalan
Combining video content with social is obviously a key area for Nike and with the #AskZlatan campaign on Twitter and Facebook, they combined the two to great effect: 
The ‘Ask Zlatan’ series, invites fans to ask questions to the animated version of Swedish great Zlatan Ibrahimović, who gives third-person, megalomaniacal answers. The best part – Ibrahimovic isn’t even at the World Cup.
Nike report that the #AskZlatan series has received 18.4 million views and 1.3 million social engagements.

Nandos/Snickers/Spec Savers:The Suarez bite
Moments after Luis Suarez sank his teeth into Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, Twitter exploded with brands looking to take advantage with some witty, reactive content.  


McDonalds: #FryFutbol
Unlike Adidas, McDonalds was one of the official sponsors which didn’t quite marry-up that real-time content/football strategy as well.   McDonalds waded into this year’s brand war at the World Cup with some pretty decent firepower. It had the first ever Global Promoted Twitter Trend with #FryFutbol, appearing in 57 markets.
But unlike Adidas, McDonalds failed to really connect with the football audience:
Despite getting 17,000 mentions on the day, it was a classic case of a # not being simple and effective enough to get the brand message across.

KLM: Adios AmigosKLM Royal Dutch Airline’s now infamous ‘Adios Amigos’ tweet, which the company quickly deleted, is an good example of where reactive content can have a potentially negative effect. 
As an international brand, KLM’s use of geographic stereotyping within this tweet certainly didn’t chime with everyone and provoked a sweary rebuke from Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal – broadcast straight to his 1.95m followers.
The fact that the airline quickly deleted the tweet was evidence that its in-house team knew it made a blunder. The quickness with which a post can be picked up and critiqued demonstrates that real-time marketing is fraught with complications.
Brands have to have the strength to stand by their social posts, and perhaps KLM could have responded with a witty apology tweet rather than delete it and pretend it didn’t happen. You can see why real time marketing is a dicey game to play, as it often requires a cultural change within a business. Otherwise you can risk stifling creativity.
By: Sarah Groarke

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tiger Woods withdraws from consideration for 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Team

By The PGA of America Tiger Woods has informed the PGA of America and United States Captain Tom Watson that due to his current health situation, he has taken himself out of consideration to serve as a Captain’s Pick for the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Team.  “While I greatly appreciate Tom thinking about me for a possible Captain’s Pick, I must take myself out of consideration,” Woods said. “I’ve been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed. They’ve advised me not to play or practice now. I’m extremely disappointed that I won’t be ready for the competition. The U.S. Team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best. I’ll be cheering for the U.S. Team. I think we have an outstanding squad going into the matches.”   “My primary wish is for Tiger to be healthy and competitive, and I hope that he’ll return to the game very soon,” said Watson. “Of course, I’m disappointed that Tiger Woods has asked not to be considered for the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, and that his health is not where he would like it to be. However, I think we can all agree that we need Tiger Woods in this great sport, and he has taken the high road by informing me early on in the selection process. My focus will remain on identifying three players to join the U.S. team and give us the best chance for success at Gleneagles.”  Woods has appeared on seven U.S. Ryder Cup Teams between 1997 and 2012. He did not compete in 2008, due to injury.   “By making this decision, Tiger has put the U.S. Ryder Cup Team and his health first,” said PGA President Ted Bishop. “And although we’re disappointed that he will not be part of this year’s Team, we respect Tiger’s decision, and wish him all the best for a speedy and successful recovery. This is a classy and respectful move by Tiger that allows Captain Watson plenty of time to formulate his team plans accordingly.”  Nine automatic berths on the U.S. Ryder Cup Team were secured following the conclusion of the 96th PGA Championship. The Americans clinching a spot on the team are: Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson, 2003 U.S. Open Champion Jim Furyk, 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson, and PGA Tour stars Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed.  Watson will announce his three Captain’s Picks during a news conference from New York on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m., which will be broadcast live on Golf Channel.  The 40th Ryder Cup between the United States and Europe will be held at Gleneagles on the Jack Nicklaus designed-Centenary Course in Perthshire, Scotland, Sept. 26-28, 2014. NBC and Golf Channel will combine to broadcast the event live in its entirety in the U.S. for the first time ever from European soil.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FC Bayern Munich Plots American Invasion After World Cup Success

Six of Germany's 11 starters in the World Cup final on July 13 play together for the powerhouse Bundesliga club Bayern Munich. A seventh Bayern player, Mario Götze, came off the bench to score Germany's game-winning goal in extra time and power Die Mannschaft to the most coveted trophy in team sports.
Now, after many of its stars helped Germany conquer the soccer world, Bayern Munich has its sights set on another goal: America.
Bayern Munich on Thursday launched a USA-specific website — what it says is the first of its kind in global soccer to offer specific content for American fans, as opposed to simple English translations of more general content. The site launch comes after Bayern opened its first overseas office, in New York City, earlier this year. And later this month, the club launches a brief American tour highlighted by a match against Chivas Guadalajara in New Jersey on July 31 and a showcase against Major League Soccer all-stars in Portland, Oregon.
"There are 60 million soccer fans in the U.S., 15 million of those are fans have shown interest in FC Bayern. For us it is about fan engagement and staying in close touch with our supporters," Rudolf Vidal, Bayern's managing director in the States, told Mashable in an email. "But we also want to reach out to the other 45 million who have set viewership records in the U.S. during the World Cup to start a dialogue."

Much of that dialogue will begin with the new U.S. site, which will include articles about Bayern's iconic senior men's team, as well as unrelated soccer content geared toward American fans of the sport and information on Bayern's basketball and women's soccer teams.
Vidal says Bayern "absolutely" sees the U.S. as a more of a soccer market now than it was five years ago and that "global engagement and a global presence is part of the club's natural progression."
Bayern also has an ace in the hole that will make many American soccer fans pay it special attention in the coming months and years: Nineteen-year-old Julian Green, a highly touted German-American prospect who plays for Bayern, famously committed his international future to the U.S. over Germany this spring and two weeks ago scored a stellar goal for the USMNT against Belgium on the very first touch of his World Cup career.
As soccer continues to grow in popularity Stateside — at the same times as MLS still has quite a ways to go to rival Europe's best leagues — Bayern's strategy is one other top clubs would be wise to replicate.
Just how well Bayern's plan for an increased American footprint works remains to be seen. But it's already proof of one thing: As soccer's profile continues to grow Stateside, the sport's top global brands will be looking to cash in on that increased interest.

McIlroy captures fourth career major after winning dramatic shootout at Valhalla

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The challenge finally arrived for Rory McIlroy, and he was better than ever Sunday to win the PGA Championship.

On a back nine filled with clutch shots and as much tension as a major can provide, McIlroy emerged from a four-man race to outlast Phil Mickelson and the darkness at Valhalla to capture his second straight major.
McIlroy closed with a 3-under 68 and became only the fourth player in the past century of golf to win four majors at 25 or younger. The others were Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones, three of the game's greatest players.
Boy Wonder appears on his way to belonging in that group.
"I didn't think in my wildest dreams I'd have a summer like this," said McIlroy, only the seventh player to win the last two majors of the year. "I played the best golf of my life. I really gutted it out today."
But one of the greatest shows on soggy turf came with a most peculiar ending.
Three shots behind going to the back nine, McIlroy rallied to take the lead and then hit a 9-iron from the fairway bunker to 10 feet for birdie on the 17th hole for a two-shot lead going to the par-5 18th. Because of a two-hour rain delay earlier, darkness was falling quickly and it wasn't certain McIlroy would be able to finish.
McIlroy was allowed to hit his tee shot before Mickelson and Rickie Fowler had reached their drives. Both were only two shots behind, still in the game. McIlroy came within a yard of hitting in a hazard right of the fairway.
Then, the PGA of America allowed McIlroy to hit his second shot. Mickelson and Fowler had to stand to the side of the green.
"We were cool with hitting the tee shot," Fowler said. "We weren't expecting the approach shots."
Fowler had a 50-foot eagle attempt to tie for the lead. He was well off the mark, and missed the short birdie putt attempt that cost him his third straight runner-up finish in a major. Mickelson was short of the green, and his chip came within inches of dropping for an eagle that would have tied him for the lead.
Mickelson appeared upset that they had to wait to finish the hole -- not standard procedure in a PGA Tour event -- and he made two references in a TV interview that this is the only championship the PGA of America runs all year.
"It didn't affect the outcome of the championship at all, I don't think," Mickelson said. "It's not what we normally do. It's not a big deal either way."
Mickelson closed with a 66 and was runner-up for the ninth time in a major.
Fowler became the first player in history to finish in the top five at all four majors without winning one. He closed with a 68 and tied for third with Henrik Stenson, who fell out of a share of the lead by missing a 3-foot par putt on the 14th hole. Stenson shot a 66.
PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy holds off the field in dramatic final day at Valhalla. Thru rain delays and darkness at the end of the day, McIlroy made all the clutch shots needed to win his second career PGA Championship and 4th career major.
McIlroy hit his second shot into a bunker, and he had to two-putt from 35 feet for the win. He lagged the first one to tap-in range, and the major was his. McIlroy repeatedly pumped his fist before letting out a scream above the gallery that had been treated to one of the best shows ever in a major.
He won his first two majors by eight shots at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship. Only a month ago, McIlroy took a six-shot lead into the final round of the British Open and completed a wire-to-wire win with only a brief scare.
This was his first big test, and it took some of his best golf to come through.
"I think I showed a lot of guts out there to get the job done," he said.
The winning shot turned out to be that 9-iron from the bunker and the birdie putt on the 17th hole that gave him a two-shot lead, the largest margin for anyone on a day when as many as five players claimed a share of the lead.
It might not have been possible without a 3-wood on the par-5 10th hole.
Standing in the fairway, McIlroy watched Fowler drain a 30-foot birdie putt to take the outright lead. McIlroy was 281 yards away, slightly uphill, and his short caught the left side of the fairway and rolled onto the green before stopping 7 feet away for an eagle that got him back in the game.
Mickelson holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole to tie Fowler, and it looked to be his day when he rolled in a 30-foot par putt on the 12th. Stenson hit a bold shot to the island-green 13th for a short birdie to tie for the lead, only to fall back.
McIlroy caught the leaders with a birdie on the 13th.
None of the other contenders made another birdie the rest of the way until it was too late.
All that was left after an exhausting day of raw emotions was the coronation. Not since Woods in 2008 has anyone won three straight tournaments, and they were big ones for McIlroy -- the British Open, a World Golf Championship and the PGA Championship. He played them in a combined 48-under par.
"He's better than everyone else right now," Mickelson said.
By Paul Newberry

Friday, August 8, 2014

How Sports Venues Should Use Disney’s Magic Bands

Want to open your hotel room door? Just wave your wrist.
If you haven’t been to Disney lately, you probably haven’t seen the newest technology from the entertainment and hospitality industry giant. MyMagic+ is a $1 billion technology experiment in crowd control, data collection and wearable technology that could change the way Disney guests experience their beloved them parks.
Disney has inserted the MyMagic+ technology into bracelets called “Magic Bands” which link electronically to an encrypted database of visitor information. Once activated, these bands serve as admission tickets, hotel keys and credit or debit cards which help create quick and easy payments at restaurants and shops. Additionally, the bands help keep track of FastPass+ reservations, which allow visitors to pre-book popular rides and attractions and sync the photos Disney takes of guests at their parks.  The bands have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, which gives Disney the ability to monitor people and things.
While some may claim this technology is intrusive and a violation of privacy, the theme park reminds critics and visitors alike that the use of the bands is voluntary and serve to help Disney determine when to add more cast members at rides, what restaurants should serve, which souvenirs should be stocked and how many cast members should roam around the parks at any given time.  The data collected also enables Disney to craft more personalized messages to their guests based on their customer preferences like sending a text message to let a guest know about wait time at Magic Kingdom favorite, Space Mountain.
In activating these bands Disney has made it not only  easier to plan how you spend your time on your trip but also how you spend your money and amazingly, all it takes is a swipe of the MagicBand.
"When you make (the logistics) easier, people tend to spend more time on entertainment and more time on consumables -- be that food and beverage, merchandise, etc.," Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said in a November investor call. "We do expect this to be a . . . growingly positive impact on our business in the years to come."
Many Disney fans are already sold on the new technology and why not?  Once visitors were noted that the band was water proof and took the worry away about carrying identification, room keys or credit cards and/or cash it was a no brainer. Gone are the worries of valuables getting lost or wet in Blizzard Beach’s lazy river. A Disney World spokeswoman says 80 percent of the comments on social media about MyMagic+ have been positive, and just 2 percent have been negative; however, not all of Disney’s enthusiasts are excited about the bands.
Most of the negative press concerning the bands centers around the fact that they are confusing to set up and may be intrusive in a “big brother” way.  There are reports of visitors having difficulty in setting up the bands through the average phones lines and over the Internet. To accommodate this, Disney has provided additional customer service. Guests can even have their bands set up in-person at one of Disney’s theme parks.
Disney is still in the testing and tweaking phase; however, if the system works, it could be copied and used in a variety of venues such as other theme parks, museums, zoos, airports and malls.  Even more intriguing is the concept of using these bands at sporting events and arenas.
Think about it…
Similar bands would offer arenas and teams the ability to sell them for merchandise purchases, track buying trends and collect other data to give their fans a better in-game experience. Similarly to Disney, the bands could expedite ticketing and concession lines and increase sponsorship activation opportunities. A great way to validate this theory would be to start with season ticket members – a smaller, consistent group of fans rather than the occasional, less dedicated ticket buyer.
There are many advantages to implementing the band during sporting events not only for the organization but the fans as well. First and foremost, there would be opportunity for sponsorship activation. This would be accomplished when a company pays to sponsor and distribute the bands to fans for free while marketing their product. Additionally, they can use the bands to set up special giveaways and contests. There is also room for the teams to make money from the bands as well.
Disney provides the bands in basic colors but makes allowances for guests to customize their bands through their selection of a favorite character. Teams can also do this by allowing fans to purchase different bands or customized bands outside of the “free or basic” bands given out by sponsors. Similarly, fans are more likely to spend more on merchandise and concessions like visitors at the Walt Disney World because they enjoy using the technology.
The bands could even expedite the entrance process. Fans would simply swipe their wrists to enter the stadium and assist facility and security managers with maintaining crowds in regards to entrances and exits, along the concourse and when fans need to use the restrooms.
Bands could also alleviate the long lines for concessions as they would alleviate the need to fumble around in your pocket for cash or credit card. With a band, fans could just swipe their wrist against the technology and collect their food. This would make it easier for arena food services providers to gather data about providing the right amount of food, measuring the success of a stand and shortening the lines at stands.
By Alana Shlifer

Louis Oosthuizen takes long drive title; Rory McIlroy steals show

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The buzz surrounded Rory McIlroy, but by the end of the day, it belonged to Louis Oosthuizen.

Well after fan-favorite McIlroy hit his tee shot, and as Jason Day’s mark of 338 yards looked like it would be enough to win the title, Oosthuizen hit one to 340 yards to claim the 2014 PGA Long Drive Competition.         

With the practice round winding down around 5:45 p.m., Oosthuizen took aim at Day’s distance and beat it by two yards. For his drive, Oosthuizen will receive a gold money clip inspired by the one Jack Nicklaus won in 1963 and still uses to this day. There will also be a $25,000 donation split between two charities in Oosthuizen’s name.

While McIlroy’s may not have walked away with the title, the day belonged to him. For hours, people were wondering when McIlroy would tee it off at Valhalla’s 590-yard, par-5 10th hole. That anticipation only grew as arrived at the first hole around 1 p.m. EST. By the time the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland reached the contest, the crowd had grown to line the fairway in anticipation of seeing the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer swing – not that they were entirely ready. McIlroy quickly got to the tee and pretended to tee off as the walkway across the fairway was still open, and people were still crossing it. When McIlroy did take his swing, the ball sailed wide of the fairways and therefore McIlroy was credited with a distance of 0. He didn’t need much encouragement from the fans to take another one, and this one sailed even though its distance wasn’t counted.

After the second shot, McIlroy headed to the clubhouse, having finished his day by participating in the competition. It was that type of loose atmosphere and eagerness to compete that was consent on No. 10. For most of the morning, golfers took aim at Adam Scott’s mark of 320 yards, which was hit on the first swing of the day. Some did so in a laid-back manner, like Keegan Bradley, who was the first to overtake Scott with a 326-yard drive.

Bradley’s record was short-lived as maybe a minute later, Rickie Fowler bested his playing partner by two yards. No player exemplified those two attitudes in the contest better than Padraig Harrington. Harrington decided to do a ‘Happy Gilmore’ style hit that missed the fairway. Afterwards, he took another shot that traveled 335 yards and would have put him past Gary Woodland for the lead. Upon hearing his second shot would have put him in the lead, he was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t done so on the first try. This was the first time a long drive contest was held before the PGA Championship since 1984. The setting of the return was fitting, as the first one was in 1952 at Big Spring Country Club in Louisville. No one was able to top Nicklaus’ winning mark of 341 he set in 1963 – the first of his back-to-back wins – that he got using a persimmon driver and a wound ball. The day was not without some disappointment for fans as Bubba Watson only used a 3-iron and did not register a distance.

That did not stop others from having fun with the event, even if they were not in a position to win it. Rich Beem celebrated as if he set the standard when his ball traveled 289 yards after being mishit.

Fan-favorite John Daly and his multi-colored pants also made an appearance. Daly hit one to 314 yards that at the time put him in third, but dropped him outside of the top 10 by the end of the day.

Local favorite Kenny Perry gave his sizeable early-morning supporters something to cheer about when his drive went 291 yards. But by the end of the night, the bragging rights and the title of longest driver belonged to Oosthuizen.

By Andrew Prezioso

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why College Football Is Studying Major League Soccer

To Fix Its Mysterious Attendance Woes, the Sport Looks Far Afield—to Professional Soccer

No sports fans are as maniacal as the people who pack Southeastern Conference football stadiums on Saturdays. To call college football their religion may be generous to those who believe in a supreme being.
But not even Southern football fans are sure things to show up to games any more—and their increasingly unpredictable behavior has sent officials from SEC athletic departments searching for ways to win them back.
Their common destination this off-season was an unlikely location in Big 12 country. But they weren't scouting other colleges. They were chasing an experience so foreign that it doesn't currently exist in the Southeast: a Major League Soccer game.
In May, a group from Florida's athletic department became one of hundreds of sports teams to visit Sporting Kansas City, the reigning MLS champion, and Sporting Innovations, the team's spinoff consulting firm focused on fan engagement and technology.
The trip wasn't as unorthodox as it sounds. As colleges seek out ways to enhance their stadiums and entice a generation of absentee fans, they are looking at MLS teams as models, even though the average MLS crowd is about a quarter of the 75,674 that the SEC averaged last season, the top figure in college football.
"The word is out," said Portland Timbers president of business operations Mike Golub, "that it's a special game experience."
Pac-12 officials also took a trip to Kansas City. They were so impressed that they signed a deal with Sporting Innovations, which is quietly influencing the way college-football teams operate, to help them on fan-related issues. "They know what their soccer fans want," said Pac-12 chief marketing officer Danette Leighton.
This week at SEC Media Days—an event in Hoover, Ala., that unofficially kicked off the season—Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said that SEC football nuts and European soccer buffs were kindred spirits. But college-football fans and MLS fans have a lot in common, too. The average age of Sporting KC's 14,000 season-ticket holders is 29.7 years old, relatively close to a college-aged demographic, said Robb Heineman, chief executive of the team's parent organization.
At first glance, Florida doesn't look like the sort of school that would need to solicit tips from a soccer team. The Gators are the most popular college-football team in Florida, according to Public Policy Polling. They won national championships in the 1996, 2006 and 2008 seasons. School records show that 86% of students used tickets they bought as recently as 2009.
But the Gators failed to qualify for a bowl last season, and the rate of students showing up to games fell to 66%. For the stunning Nov. 23 home loss to Georgia Southern, the student section was only 45% full and more Florida students bought tickets and stayed home than bought tickets and actually used them.
Sporting KC is trending in the opposite direction. The team formerly known as the Wizards averaged 10,287 fans a game in 2010. Then it rebranded, moved from a minor-league baseball stadium to soccer-specific Sporting Park and saw attendance climb to 17,810 a game. That number has increased this year to a franchise-record 19,709 per MLS game.
How they pulled that off intrigues colleges that are struggling to fill their mammoth football stadiums. In addition to Florida, which sent a representative to Kansas City in the fall before a bigger team went in May, three other SEC schools have visited Sporting KC, Heineman said, while Oklahoma State announced a deal with Sporting Innovations in March.
"They're all dealing with the same issues: ticket sales going down and a difficulty getting students to come early and stay late," he said.
MLS executives believe their league's stature forced them to come up with creative solutions for attendance problems before they struck bigger sports like the NFL and college football. The Portland Timbers, for one, scored with fans by making the in-game experience reflect the city around them. Timbers Army members park their bikes outside the stadium, and the concession offerings inside include artisanal, small-batch chocolate. The result: Its 10,000-person waiting list for season tickets is longer than almost every college-football team's.
Sporting KC's approach to accommodating younger fans goes beyond giving them fast Wi-Fi so they can use their smartphones. At a time when some colleges don't keep records on student attendance, Sporting KC collects data on everyone from season-ticket holders to single-game buyers through Sporting Innovations technology, which they offer to college clients. They now have close to 250,000 profiles of fans who have attended games, Heineman said, with information as detailed as when, where and how they bought tickets, what time they arrived at games and who they sat near.
In exchange for that information—which they say allows them to understand their fans better—they offer perks. Sporting KC pays for their fans to attend road games and organizes social events for young professionals in Kansas City. They also strive for irreverence and to be transparent in their transactions, Heineman said, which separates Sporting KC from other teams in pro sports.
It is helping them reach the audience that has eluded colleges recently. One supporter group, the Mass St. Mob, formed in Lawrence, Kan., home of the University of Kansas. Many of the Mass St. Mob's members go out of their way to see Sporting KC's home matches, which are more interactive than any other sporting event, said Adam Crifasi, a 26-year-old electrical engineer.
"You feel like you're part of the game," he said.
By: Ben Cohen

Is Tim Howard the Perfect Brand Partner?

World Cup phenom already has deals with Nike, McDonald's—more on the way?  

  Following his gutsy performance for Team USA in the FIFA World Cup, goalkeeper Tim Howard is preparing for a big score.

The 35-year-old American, who also plays for Everton in England, became a media darling in the wake of America’s July 1 knockout-round loss to Belgium. Now, he’s looking to cash in on his newfound celebrity and break into the elite endorsement leagues. (He currently has six-figure deals with Nike and McDonald’s, making him a small fry in the rarified world of big-time sponsorships.)
“People’s perception of me may have changed in the past two weeks, but I haven’t changed a bit,” says Howard, who adds that he’s seeking the same kinds of deals as always: “blue-chip opportunities [with] really good companies with good reputations.”


Howard’s agent, Dan Segal of Wasserman Media Group, says his client has received dozens of offers in the past two weeks, and that he’s close—perhaps just days away—from inking deals with at least three national advertisers. “We’re looking for things consistent with his image,” which is down-to-earth and hardworking, rather than flashy or glitzy, Segal says. “We don’t feel in any way, shape or form a desperation to try and grab everything that comes along.”
Howard’s ascension stands in contrast to the fate that befell 22-year-old Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (universally known as Neymar), the Brazilian striker who also plays for FC Barcelona in Europe. The 2014 World Cup was billed as Neymar’s showcase, and some predicted that he would enhance his superstar status by leading Team Brazil to a title in front of its home-country fans. Instead, Neymar will spend several weeks immobilized in a back brace after suffering a broken vertebra in Brazil’s quarterfinal victory over Colombia. (His team was routed 7-1 by Germany in the following round.)
In March, Neymar was feted as “The Next Pelé” by Time magazine, in a nod to his countryman who reigned as the global face of soccer a generation ago. SportsPro Media ranked Neymar as the world’s most marketable athlete, and this year he’ll earn $16 million from endorsements alone, per Forbes. The injury, however, puts his future, both on and off the field, in jeopardy. Needless to say, Neymar’s brand-building value will plummet if he can’t regain his form. Luckily, he won’t require surgery, and as long as he comes back healthy, he should reclaim his stature as a top endorser, experts say.
As for Howard, “Tim can make some money in the U.S. I wouldn’t call it a big payday compared to other athletes,” says Paul Danforth, head of global sales at CAA Sports. Manish Tripathi, a marketing professor at Emory University who focuses on sports, advises Howard to “make deals as soon as possible. Once the World Cup ends, the enthusiasm will wane. Think Landon Donovan after he had the big goal against Algeria in the last World Cup.”
The disparate circumstances of Howard and Neymar underscore key issues for brands seeking to leverage sports. Sometimes bankable stars get injured or sullied by scandals, limiting their value. And while signing Howard might seem like a good idea right now, he’s no youngster, and his glow could soon fade.
“With risk comes reward,” says Danforth. “With elite athletes, their global reach far outweighs the downside.” The synthesis of athletes and brands is nothing new—and the scope of such relationships is more profound than ever, with huge player, team and league deals seemingly announced every week. Experts say that all signs point to increasingly lucrative contracts for the foreseeable future.

Bull Market
The elevation of sports within the marketing mix stems mainly from “the shift from a world of passive consumption, where fans primarily fed their passion for sports through traditional broadcast and print media, to the world of interactive new media,” says Simon Wardle, chief strategy officer at sports, music and entertainment marketing firm Octagon. “Time shifting, on-demand programming and other shifts in consumption of traditional entertainment content have made above-the-line media less effective. Sport is one entertainment medium still capable of consistently aggregating and delivering large audiences who share a passion for the content and will commit to watching it live.” 

That new reality has been brought into sharp focus by the explosion in digital devices, literally putting games—and sponsor messages—in the hands of fans everywhere. “The whole digital universe is available to one of the most highly consumable types of content—sports,” notes Octagon CEO Rick Dudley. Thanks to modern media analytics, “we can quantify how much value you can get, [and help you] reach a specific demo using a certain tone.”

Based on this dynamic, Wardle believes, “you will continue to see more brands investing in below-the-line, passion-based marketing assets. International events like the FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, Rugby World Cup and Wimbledon aggregate millions of global consumers at one time, which can be an attractive media buy if you’re a global or pan-regional brand.”
Data from IEG supports that analysis. The research and consulting firm projects $40.4 billion in global sports sponsorship spending in 2014, up $8.8 billion over the past five years, and more than double what it was a decade ago. Global marketers have increased overall sponsorship spending to 23 percent of their budgets (compared to 16 percent a decade ago), with approximately 70 percent of those dollars earmarked for sports. “We are bullish that the healthy growth we have been seeing should continue,” says IEG svp Jim Andrews. “There are no dark clouds on the horizon.”
The future looks especially bright for soccer, which ranks as the top team sport in most overseas markets, while its domestic popularity continues to rise. Team USA’s June 22 tie with Portugal and its July 1 loss to Belgium in the World Cup rank as ESPN’s most-watched soccer broadcasts ever, with audiences of 18.2 million and 16.5 million, respectively. On a global scale, IEG says FIFA will make $1.68 billion in sponsorships for the 2014 Cup cycle, almost half a billion more than it did in 2010.
Soccer Kicks A$$
“Soccer is helping sports marketing blow up globally,” says CAA’s Danforth. One salient example: General Motors’ Chevrolet is paying a mind-boggling $560 million to put its golden bow tie on Manchester United’s jerseys for seven years starting with the 2014-15 season.
“While there are opportunities for U.S.-based brands to market internationally using soccer—such as GM’s Manchester United kit sponsorship—there seems to be even more opportunity for global brands to connect with American customers via sponsorship of clubs finding appeal among U.S. fans,” says Donald Roy, a sports promotions expert and professor of management and marketing at Middle Tennessee State University.
FC Barcelona is a juggernaut, owing to its winning ways, star power (Neymar and Lionel Messi) and reach that includes weekly match broadcasts in 200 countries and 320 million fans and followers online. (The team claims that its social footprint is larger than any other sports franchise.) In recent months, FC Barcelona has, via CAA, inked arrangements with three very different marketers. Its three-year pact with Gatorade seems like a natural fit, as the electrolyte beverage is on the sidelines with many teams in various sports. Riffing on the famous “Intel Inside” positioning, FC Barcelona players in December began wearing jerseys with the tech titan’s emblem visible only when they pulled the garments over their heads, something soccer players have been known to do after they score. (The Intel deal is reportedly worth $25 million for five years.)
The team’s four-year program with Stanley Black & Decker covers signage, co-branded promotions (match tickets, merchandise, meet-and-greets with players) and live events like the 2015 Global Striker Challenge. “We’re barely one month into our partnership, and we already have 21 countries confirmed for Barcelona-related promotional activations,” says Earle Smola, director, corporate brand design and sponsorships at Stanley, which also has deals with MLB’s New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Nascar, among others. “Sports provide our brand teams with opportunities to connect with a diverse range of demographics through programs that consumers are truly passionate about.”
Thus, in our fickle, fragmented media age, teams, leagues and players can make desirable long-term promotional partners, says James Pallotta, the billionaire investor who serves as president of Italian soccer team AS Roma and holds a small stake in the NBA’s Boston Celtics. “Sports mean so much more than a movie or TV shows,” he says. “Star Wars is not your movie. Roma is your team—it’s your family’s team.” Pallotta believes he can leverage such ardor to “build out a brand and content company.” Its hub is a 52,000-seat stadium and entertainment complex, slated to open during the 2016-17 season. In addition to hosting home games, the facility—more like a small campus with year-round event potential—will include shops, restaurants, performance spaces, a boutique hotel and a video production studio.
Global Playbook
While soccer is in the lead, other sports are playing smart and hard to increase their global footprint. The National Basketball Association, National Football League and Major League Baseball are staging more games overseas to attract new fans and sponsors.
Basketball ranks as the No. 2 global team sport, and the NBA is running a full-court press, broadcasting games in 215 countries in 47 languages while maintaining international offices and social outreach efforts such as NBA Cares. This strategy appears to be paying off. New international partnerships from the 2013-14 season include Samsung (Mexico) and Kumho Tire (Korea). Plus, 30 percent of the NBA’s merchandise sales are from outside the U.S. “There’s still plenty of upside,” says NBA deputy commissioner and COO Mark Tatum. “We’re still growing.”
A global focus can yield sponsorships on the team level as well. MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers—long known for the international flavor of its roster, which currently features South Korean pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu—recently added sponsorships from Korean firms LG, Hankook and Nexen. In fact, the Dodgers kicked off the 2014 season with a pair of games in Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Such trips “expand our business and provide more touch points,” says Dodgers CMO Lon Rosen. (The Dodgers and Adweek are owned by affiliates of Guggenheim Partners.)
Non-team sports can also benefit. Nascar has been on a fast international growth track. “We have been successfully adapting our proven formula to suit local conditions and deliver value for sponsors,” says COO Brent Dewar. “Mexico is seeing rapid growth in Nascar interest—with sold-out venues and five new tracks that have been built since the introduction of the Nascar Mexico Toyota Series. We look to this series as a way to both develop international drivers and stoke the passions of our Mexican fans.”
Only a few stars will emerge as global brands (and branding platforms) unto themselves. Icons like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and David Beckham are in a league of their own. Nike’s Jordan Brand has become a $2 billion business that pays the long-retired M.J. an estimated $60 million per year. Tiger’s many endorsements, combined with his PGA winnings, made him the first professional athlete to top $1 billon in earnings. And Beckham is involved in everything from H&M’s David Beckham Bodywear to his own fragrance line and even Haig Club scotch from Diageo.
It remains to be seen whether the latest roster of sports stars joins the pantheon of those endorsement gods.