Welcome to Sports Biz Advisor

The NBA just signed a nine-year deal with ESPN worth $24 billion. Not to be outdone, the NFL signed an even larger deal with multiple networks, netting some $7 billion per year in total TV rights. This is fantastic news for network executives, team owners, agents, and players.

But what does all of this money changing hands mean for the sports-centric cable consumer? Here are seven truths about the sports/television relationship that should be important to the consumer:

  1. Sports networks account for around half of the three-digit balance on your cable bill monthly. On the flip side, TV accounts for an equal amount of revenue to professional sports teams and leagues. Without each other, sports would not be the bullish business it is today and television would unbundle, literally and figuratively.
  1. Pro leagues put a premium on their products because it is the only programming the television consumer prefers to watch live. As the leagues charge more for the rights to their games, the networks pay more. As the networks pay more, they in turn recoup their costs by up charging the service providers for the right to carry their network. Ultimately, the service providers try to cover their costs by raising your cable bill.
  1. The number of cable subscribers has decreased at the same rate that high-speed internet subscribers has increased but the cable subscription prices have increased even faster than the subscriptions have decreased, keeping television profitable.
  1. Live sports driving up the cost of cable is the most likely root of losing subscribers to the alternative internet based “a la carte” marketplace but live sports are also the only way to keep subscribers. Mainstream sports programming offered exclusively online is almost non-existent and this keeps sports fans from cutting the cord, even though 45% of millennials are exploring the idea.
  1. This business model could lead to bad sports decisions. The Big Ten adding Rutgers and Maryland dilutes the brand but earns them a potential 15 million east-coast cable subscribers that would pay their network “sports tax”. Even more common, a team might sign an aging superstar or a GM might build a volatile team to secure a lucrative television contract, preferring the money to wins. Expect more conference juggling and bad player contracts as networks fight over rights and territory.
  1. Understand the bundle. Disney owns ESPN. When Disney sells their network rights to your provider, they bundle their networks together so consumers who want one but not the other don’t have a choice in the matter. You get both and you pay for both. Bundling.
  1. Fans prefer the freedom of choice and lower costs associated with Internet television. Providers prefer the low cost and high returns of providing Internet subscriptions. But don’t expect ESPN to follow HBO’s lead by selling online network subscriptions any time soon. ESPN brings in $6.5 billion in cable affiliate fees, $3.5 billion from TV advertising and less than $1 billion in digital ad sales.

When Tiger Woods was whacked upside the head with a nine-iron, it was the top sports story of the day. After all, this was Tiger Woods, the second coming of the golfer destined to save golf, and more importantly, golf TV ratings. And through plastic surgery, lingering injuries, and countless missed tournaments – yes, Tiger hasn’t won a major since that nine-iron heard ‘round the world – the closest we’re getting to an “eye of the tiger” is inside a Katy Perry record, or Survivor’s hit in 1982! Woods hasn’t hit a golf ball since missing the cut at the PGA Championship on August 8th, and according to Woods, he’s not sure when he will. In 20-years, Woods has undergone surgery five times – the latest on his back – and, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the back an integral component to the golf swing?

Several years ago, I was standing in the sports department at WVLT-TV in Knoxville, where I boastfully predicted that Woods, who just underwent knee surgery, would not catch Jack Nicklaus with 18 major championships, nor surpass him at 19. Am I a soothsayer? A golf injury savant? A Tiger Woods hater?

None of the above. But correct me if I’m wrong. Aren’t the knees integral components to the golf swing?

We’ve seen athletes make amazing come backs from devastating injures – in football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, thanks to superhuman efforts turned in by sports surgeons.

But that pesky golf swing. So many things need to go right. Don’t believe me? Head to your local golf pro and have him slo-mo your swing.

Brutal.

Yes, Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open basically on one leg. And yes, when the greatest golfers of all time are mentioned, TW will be in the mix. But you have to wonder how many times Woods can undergo surgeries, rehab, and expect to be the Tiger of old, especially as he’s getting older. After all, Father Time is sports’ great equalizer.

Which takes us back to that fateful night in November 2009. Because, think about it. Has Tiger Woods been the same since?

When all is said and done, what might become the most historical golf swing in Tiger Wood’s career might be the one made by his ex-wife Elin Nordegren, when she teed- off on Tiger’s head.

Good thing he didn’t lose an eye.

IMG_1762Events are my thing. I love attending them, planning them, reading about them. All of it. So in light of this, I’d like to share some very #basic tips to make your event feel bigger, better and more enjoyable for attendees and planners (you!) alike.

1) Plan an event you’d enjoy yourself. Easier said than done, but when working through client events, I try to incorporate elements that I would find enjoyable. Whether it’s making sure the agenda includes an icebreaker or networking activity, booking a great speaker or serving locally-grown, organic lunch, these details will make invitees not only perk up but register! This gives you the ability to show a little personality as well.

2) Visit Hashtag City! Listen people, social media isn’t going away. A recent study reports that nearly 1.7 BILLION people worldwide are using social media. So as you can imagine, this phenomenon has to be included in your planning. What better way to do that than develop an event hashtag that when used, will store all content in one place, for everyone to see! Make it straightforward or a little quirky, but do your research to ensure that your hashtag is unique to your event. And the shorter the better! #GetIt

3) Encourage engagement. Phones are IN, ALL THE TIME. And as a frequent event goer and social media-er, I want to share what’s going on. So inform, encourage and engage your guests – allow them to do the work for you by sharing pictures, sound bites (that great speaker you booked will assist with this!) and key takeaways.

4) Follow Up. The struggle after a great event is being able to continue the momentum. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple “thanks for attending” email accompanied with a quick summary of the event. This is also a way to begin registration for your next event (that you teased at your last event, no doubt)!

These tips can help events of all sizes. Implore them and watch your events go from good to great!

I’m approaching my 30th birthday – terrifying right? – and wrapping up my eighth year in the sports business. I’m living the dream and am blessed to be doing what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I’ve recently spent some time reflecting on my life and career I came up with 30 things I’ve learned (some firsthand, some by observing):

  1. The money stinks early on. I made $8.50/hour plus commission at one of my first jobs. Your friends may make more than you early on, but plenty of them hate their jobs, but you don’t.
  2. There’s more to success in this business than just “being a big sports fan.” Find a way to differentiate yourself because every intern or entry-level candidate loves sports, too.
  3. Minor league sports and small athletic departments are great places to learn while trying a lot of different things so you can figure out what you like.
  4. Ticket sales are everything.
  5. You’re always pitching/selling – tickets, partnerships, story ideas, clients, new business, etc.
  6. Everyone is in customer service.
  7. You rarely get to watch the games/races you spend so much time working to promote.
  8. Read a lot – Sports Business Journal, The Fields of Green, Partnership Activation, The Business of Sports, Sport Techie and others are filled with great information, current news and excellent ideas.
  9. Find a mentor. Someone who is further along in his or her career than you and you don’t work directly with/for.
  10. It never gets old pointing to a huge stadium and telling your friends, “That’s my office.”
  11. You’ll never watch sports the same again – you’ll be thinking about promotions, revenue streams, contracts.
  12. Don’t focus on one sport. I’ve loved baseball my whole life and never worked in it. You’ll learn to love the sport(s) you’re working in naturally.
  13. Don’t limit yourself to pro teams or team sports in general. I’ve worked at four places – one amateur team, one pro team, one venue and now, an agency. Beyond that, there are apparel and equipment companies, promoters, media, sanctioning bodies, leagues/series, sponsors, manufacturers, digital companies/app developers, colleges, high schools, conferences, unions and so much more.
  14. The hours are long, but you’ll get used to them. Where you used to worry about 80-hour-week you pulled during a homestand or a race weekend, now you’re proud of those efforts.
  15. Be prepared to move – either to start your career or advance it. I’ve lived in three states and been lucky to have been in major markets (Dallas, Columbus, Indianapolis). Our industry has opportunities across the world in places like Laredo, Cedar Rapids, Mankato, Wheeling, Fairfax, Tulsa, Shreveport, Evansville, Pocatello, Midland, Soldotna, Billings, Santa Fe, Winston-Salem, Lakewood, Florence…get the point?
  16. Make time for your family and friends. Don’t forget who else is dealing with the consequences of your long days, business trips and moves. Your significant other, friends and kids may love sports, so throwing them a couple suite passes is nice when you’re working the game, but some quality time away from the field/ice/track/court is even nicer.
  17. Always have a fresh résumé. You could be presented with a dream opportunity on a deadline – or lose your job due to something unforeseen – at any time. Be ready either way.
  18. Don’t make stupid comments on social media directed at/@ athletes/properties you may work with/for someday.
  19. Pro athletes are regular people. Fawning over them is an easy way to lose respect.
  20. The athletes you work with/for should not be romantic interests. Another easy way to lose respect is trying to date one.
  21. And the third part of this random short series on “ways to lose respect” is asking for autographs. Don’t do that.
  22. Be able to explain what you do in normal words, not agency speak or some complex #brand language, i.e. “I navigate the business landscape, searching for partners who want to elevate their footprint by activating in the athletic space in a unique way.” You can just say you sell partnerships.
  23. Wins don’t fill seats or make money. Sure, winning helps, but it’s not a surefire way to get in the black.
  24. Breaking into sports isn’t easy. And when you get that first job, there’s no security or tenure. After my first three years in sports, I tallied the number of people I worked with and about two-thirds of them were already out of the industry.
  25. You’ll be vigilant about consuming your sponsors’ products. Even if you may prefer their competitor.
  26. After a rough week, a random person at a party asking you about your job will remind you how much you love it.
  27. Always be networking. Earlier this year, I was at a bar during Homecoming weekend at my alma mater, having a casual conversation with a student. The subject turned to my job and she mentioned she was a sports business major and asked me for a business card and some advice.
  28. When you network, stay in touch with some regularity so you’re not just hitting up that mentor or colleague when you need a favor. Provide value and take interest in their lives and businesses.
  29. People spend money and take days off to come to your job! Never forget that and always appreciate it.
  30. In the words of Dave Chappelle’s Rick James, “Enjoy yo’self,” because as Jay-Z says at the end of Ignorant S*, “It’s only entertainment!”

 

Note: Athlete marketing principles, when stripped to the core, are universal. This is part 1 of a four-part series about executives can and should be utilizing these practices.


 Part 1. MONITOR THE CONVERSATION.

For our athlete clients, it’s essential to have a firm grasp on how they are viewed by the public. And it’s easier to do now than ever. With constant digital access, there is plenty being said and research has shown that people are more honest on social media. Perhaps because it’s a “safer” environment than say a focus group or survey solely dedicated to getting opinions about a specific athlete. Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” sketch series is a great example of the brutal honesty out there.

These opinions can help athletes shape their brands, choose partnerships and endorsements that align with their fan base, and find relevant community service opportunities they are passionate about. Even more, it can let us know if and when we need to do some damage control with fans, media or influencers.

How you can apply it: While you may not have the budget (or the need) for robust monitoring, there are a number of free and low-cost tools you can employ to track digital mentions of you, your company, your employees and your competition. What are people saying about your company’s services? Are they pointing out areas where you could improve? Is there a group out there that’s using a competitor’s service, but seems to be unsatisfied with it? Knowing the opinions, wants and needs of these groups will allow you to shape and customize proposals, pitches and employee communication.

  • Google Alerts: At the very least, set up Google Alerts to keep tabs of your mentions in online news articles, blogs, discussion boards and shared videos and have them sent directly to your email. It likely won’t catch everything, but it’s a good start and will save you time.
  • TweetDeck: With roughly 500 million tweets sent each day, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll have the time or even be able to sort through the clutter and find relevant content without a little help. TweetDeck’s two initial draws were allowing users to schedule tweets and combining multiple accounts into one place, allowing you to view your personal and your company accounts simultaneously.But the app’s customizable column format is what will keep you coming back. In addition to viewing your standard timeline with tweets from everyone you follow, add columns solely dedicated to direct messages, specific search terms, hashtags, lists and trends. I also recommend the interaction column, which populates your mentions, retweets, replies and new followers. Create custom lists of users who share the most relevant content for you, whether it’s industry tips, local media or customers. You can also add a column dedicated to your competitor’s tweets or even those of a top tier company with an established, robust social presence that you hope to emulate.
  • RSS Feeds: Create a custom RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) to populate timely content you don’t want to miss — the latest trends in your field, what your customer demographic cares about, even add in some game scores for fun. You can customize the format to your preferences, but you’ll likely see the title, author, source and the first few sentences of each article. It will also provide a link to the original source so you can read up on your favorites. View it on your desktop or through the RSS app on your smart phone or tablet.