The Changing Landscape of College Sports Media

The Changing Landscape of College Sports Media

Chris Bevilacqua, CEO, Bevilacqua Media Company
John Litner, Group President, NBC Sports Group
Jack Swarbrick, VP and Athletic Director, University of Notre Dame
Chris Plonsky, Director of Men’s/Women’s External Services, University of Texas
National television rights are a driving force in Division I football, and Notre Dame and the University of Texas are two schools pushing the boundary of the business. With its partnership with NBC, Notre Dame enjoys a national footprint across television and web channels for its games. And with its new Longhorn Network, the University of Texas is the first school with a 24-hour channel devoted to its sports programs.
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In the Spotlight: Under Armour

In the Spotlight: Under Armour

Matt Mirchin talked about Under Armour's development of football uniforms for Maryland.
Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
Under Armour Senior VP/Sports Marketing Matt Mirchin was featured during a session examining the business of Under Armour. Among the issues Mirchin covered was the popularity of the football uniforms that the company provided to the University of Maryland. “We’ve received 565 million brand impressions to date,” he said. “We were the number one trending topic on Twitter. The University of Maryland and Maryland football was the top search on Google and YouTube.” Mirchin said the concept of the school’s Pride Uniform came from new AD Kevin Anderson, who wanted to use the uniforms to rebrand the program. Mirchin said that the mission was to build pride, passion and energy. Mirchin: “I actually like doing one game uniforms and special uniforms, because I think you can make a big splash with it and you can take the history and the tradition of the school and you can keep that with the standard uniform.” Mirchin noted that recruits today are very conscious of fashion, and said having the 32-uniform option with Maryland was a success. 

On whether the company would add more schools to their portfolio, Mirchin said it would, “if you’re a school we don’t currently do business with and are interested in doing business with Under Armour.” Mirchin: “Our goal, quite frankly, isn’t to service hundreds of schools. We could not service hundreds of schools. We like to add one or two schools every year. We want to pick the right schools and we’re big into servicing our schools. We pride ourselves on innovation and service.”

Crisis Management and Mitigating Risk

Crisis Management and Mitigating Risk

Ari Fleischer, President, Ari Fleischer Sports Communications
Vada Manager, SVP, APCO Worldwide

During a wide-ranging discussion on crisis management, Fleischer and Manager discussed Penn State’s effectiveness at handling its continuing scandal. “If you have an investigation going for two years,” said Manager, “you would [like] to have been ready when the time came.” Fleischer added, “When you see something coming, the right move is to get out ahead of it.” Fleischer said that planning is crucial in crisis management: “It’s too late if it’s already hit the news.” And he stressed the importance of having someone internally to protect the organization and prepare for the media. Manager said that schools and companies need to have an “issue management” orientation. “I can’t reemphasize Ari’s point enough,” he said, “and you’re really asking the wrong question if it’s about crisis management after the fact. Because once the horse is out of the barn and into downtown, it doesn’t help you. … It’s human nature to ignore bad things, not to want to embrace them and deal with those things. Almost 85% of those things could have been avoided if you followed the warning signs. Many things can be foreseen.” Fleischer added of Penn State, “You can easily know something is coming, even if it seems like it’s hidden. If people on your staff are getting called for grand juries, get ready.”

Discussing whether deniability can protect upper management if they really do not know anything, Fleischer said, “If it’s serious, the answer is no. Responsibility always goes to the very top, and it doesn’t matter where the failings are below. The pressure is always on the person at the pinnacle.”

Conference Commissioners Speak Out on Expansion and Realignment

Conference Commissioners Speak out on Expansion and Realignment

Britton Banowsky, Conference USA
Jim Delany, Big Ten Conference
John Swofford, Atlantic Coast Conference
Craig Thompson, Mountain West Conference

Conference realignment has become a buzzword in collegiate sports in the last two years as colleges look to align themselves based on economic and cultural factors. Banowky said realignment is not necessarily a bad thing, as collegiate board members have a fiduciary responsibility to their institutions to seek out the best possible situations. “I think it’s healthy for institutions to think about bettering themselves and putting themselves in a better association,” Banowsky said. “It’s not a sign of disloyalty.”

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Rapid-Fire Roundtable: Headlines of the Day

Rapid-Fire Roundtable: College Sports Leaders and Personalities Discuss the Headlines of the Day

Oliver Luck, Director of Athletics, West Virginia University
Donald McPherson, College Football Hall of Famer, Sportscaster and Community Activist
George Pyne, President, IMG Sports and Entertainment
Jimmy Sexton, President, CAA Football
Greg Shaheen, Interim Executive Vice President of Championships and Alliances, NCAA

Leaders from collegiate sports in the final Day 1 panel at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, "Rapid Fire Roundtable," said a 16-team college football playoff would concentrate revenue in the sport to a select few, to the detriment of the overall sport. "Right now, you've got 70 teams playing bowl games, and half of them will go home as bowl champions," said George Pyne, IMG Sports president. "You know the regular season games all mean more. If you went to a 16-team playoff ... what do you get? What is the end product? You go from 70 teams in a postseason to 16. It's further consolidation of revenue." College HOFer and activist Don McPherson agreed, calling himself a "traditionalist" with regard to college football.

The panel agreed that women's sports, in particular, represents a major growth opportunity for the industry. "Women's sports are a significant part of the future of college sports," said Greg Shaheen of the NCAA.

Revenue Generation: Ticketing

Revenue Generation: Ticketing

Mark Dyer, Senior VP & Chief Innovation Officer, IMG College
Chris Fuller, Senior Associate AD of External Operations, University of Tennessee
Hunter Lochmann, CMO, University of Michigan
Danielle Maged, Dir of Business Development & Partnerships, StubHub
Jared Smith, COO, Ticketmaster North America

Rapid changes in ticketing technology have helped universities dig deeper into both existing and untapped markets, panelists said. Fuller talked about how Tennessee has handled recent changes: “We moved forward with an integration with StubHub, so we got into the secondary market in a measured way. It was really designed to make things more convenient for our customers, with the ability to move and exchange tickets on their own.” On Stubhub getting more involved in college athletics, Maged said, “Where there is a school that is willing in the NCAA space to participate in that revenue stream, get sponsorship dollars, get data … people are out there transacting. It’s happening, so you can either choose to participate in it or it’s just going to happen without you. So we like to include everyone.”

Lochmann talked about using social media for selling tickets for non-revenue sports: “It’s been a great channel for us. We’ve sold about 120,000 through social media. The smartest thing I did was hire a director of digital marketing.” Smith added, “From a sales channel standpoint … we saw a 400 percent increase year on year in the percentage of our online sales that came from a mobile device.” As for how realignment could affect ticket sales, Dyer said, “I think it could be troublesome to lose regional rivalries. As a matter of fact you almost can’t use regional and conferences in the same sentence now, with some of the moves.”

Revenue Generation: Digital Platforms

Revenue Generation: Digital Platforms

Michael Calderon, VP of digital and interactive media, Big Ten Network
Patty Hirsch, SVP and GM, College Network
Eric Nichols, marketing director, University of South Carolina
Ed O‚Brien, VP, NeuLion
Kevin Schaff, CEO, Thought Equity Motion

Digital platforms are earning revenue for license holders and broadcasters, and five specialists from this world took the stage to discuss how the digital industry has matured around college sports. Calderon talked about how the Big Ten Network produces web broadcasts for non-revenue-generating sports such as volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey and wrestling using student labor and inexpensive high definition cameras. Subscribers pay $9.99 a month to watch all of these sports for a specific school. “The decreased production cost and the additional platforms makes the distribution more available,” Calderon said. “This industry has taken off for us.”

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Revenue Generation: Facilities

Revenue Generation: Facilities

Gene Arantowicz, director of business development, Cisco Sports and Entertainment
Mike Holleman, VP and director of sports facilities, Heery International
Scott Marshall, SVP, retail merchandise and fan innovation, Centerplate
Darryl Dunn, CEO and general manager, Rose Bowl Operating Company

Taking an old building and making it appear young is the preferred means for stadium upgrades at the collegiate level, as colleges hope to maintain a visual aesthetic with surrounding buildings. “We’ve been seeing more colleges opting to renovate instead of build new,” said Arantowicz. “They want to maintain the history and mystique.”

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Snapshots from Day One

Here are snapshots from Day One of the 2011 Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

Revenue Generation: Social Media

Revenue Generation: Social Media

Jason Cook, VP/Marketing & Communications, Texas A&M
Jamie DiLoreto, Associate AD/External Operations, Boston College
Mark Drosos, President, Lodestone Social Media
Matt Kautz, Dir of Social Media & Consumer Marketing, Paciolan
Cory Moss, SVP and Managing Director, The Collegiate Licensing Co.

During a breakout session on generating revenue through social media, panelists covered everything from ticketing and merchandise to sponsorships, donor giving and concessions. DiLoreto said, “I don’t think one is jumping out [ahead of the others] right now. Ticket sales is immediate -- you can see that response -- but there’s other opportunities in retention and satisfaction that provide an opportunity to engage your fans.” Cook added that the main goal in all of those areas is gaining and retaining relationships: “It’s our job to look at how can we [develop] relationships that we have … and then how do we develop new relationships through this social media space.” Kautz added that data is crucial in creating and maintaining the relationships: “The more data you have, you can get the right product to the right person at the right time, so that’s the real opportunity with social media, long term.”


College Sports Media Power Brokers: Fox Sports' Randy Freer and ESPN's John Skipper

College Sports Media Power Brokers

Randy Freer, Fox Sports
John Skipper, ESPN

The changing face of the college sports media marketplace was examined during a 30-minute session with Fox Sports’ Randy Freer and ESPN’s John Skipper. The unlikely union of two rival media companies to combine on a Pac-12 media rights package was an early topic. “The credit here goes to the Pac 12 and Larry [Scott], for his ability to see there was a different model rather than the ‘all in’ model,” Freer said. Asked whether ESPN/Fox getting together was an attempt to keep the newly merged Comcast-NBC out of the college marketplace, Freer quipped, “Does NBC want to be in the college space?” Skipper added: “It played into it very little. If they don’t get any Pac-10 because of this, that’s fine with me, but it wasn’t why we created this deal.” Skipper did not think that these new deals signaled a trend that college sports was previously under-valued. “The market is a really simple principle. It’s whatever anyone will pay for the rights. Right now, I think people see that college football has been on a spectacular roll … and that is reflected in the market. There is no question that another bidder in the market raises the value of everything. We don’t buy this notion that things were under or over (valued).”


Skipper defends ESPN on Bernie Fine story

ESPN's John Skipper had strong comments today for people who question the net's use of a recording from '03 of Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine’s wife. Speaking at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in N.Y., Skipper said, “There were significant credibility issues with Bobby Davis. … We did not believe we could go forward with a story. We also made a decision not to go to the police. In light of the Penn State situation, it feels bad, and we’re cognizant of that. But we believe the guys who made the decisions … made the right decisions and that was the end of our obligation. I do not agree we acted inappropriately.”

Skipper said he wasn’t aware of the tape at the time. “It was never elevated above the journalists,” he said. Skipper also chafed at comments that ESPN was just as at fault as Penn State for allegedly “covering up” information. Skipper: “Penn State had a problem with their institution within their chain of command. This is not about something that happened at ESPN, this is not about someone at our end in our chain of command that was alleged of anything. … The perception that our actions are similar to Penn State’s is irresponsible."

Catching up: Ben Sutton

During a break at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, Ben Sutton, president of IMG College, stopped by to talk about what's attracting new sponsors to the college space, why realignment will likely work itself out and who is going to win the Heisman.

Athletic Directors Speak Out

Athletic Directors Speak Out

Bob Bowlsby, Stanford University
John Currie, Kansas State
Daryl Gross, Syracuse
Dan Guerrero, UCLA
Cheryl Levick, Georgia State
Scott Woodward, University of Washington

Six college athletic directors took to the stage to discuss the state of intercollegiate athletics on Wednesday in New York, with the panel touching on the future of the major conferences, athletics being integrated into universities and working with big-name coaches.

All of the panelists pointed to the reforms of the last year as major progress, with Woodward saying, “Besides churches, we are the oldest institutions in America. We move slowly. Change will be incremental and will take time, but the progress over the last year is a big step from where I thought we would be.”

The crises at Penn State and Syracuse were a major theme during the discussion, and each of the panelists stressed the need for preparation and learning. Gross: “I have learned a lot. Our university and our coaches have learned a lot and our community has learned a lot. All of what we’ve learned can help going forward. If there is any positive coming out of this, it’s lessons that we learn coming out of it.”

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In the Spotlight: Verne Lundquist

Veteran sports broadcaster Verne Lundquist sat down for a one-on-one interview to discuss the issues affecting college sports and to recall a few favorite moments from his 40-plus year history in calling sports. Lundquist said he does not support the current BCS model, and favors a playoff format devised by fellow CBS broadcaster Gary Danielson. The plan calls for a six-team playoff system, overseen by the NCAA, which is decided by winners from the major conferences. “I’m really uncomfortable that coaches have to beg for a spot,” Lundquist said. “Virginia Tech going to the [Sugar] Bowl bothers me -- they’re going because they sell tickets.”


Land of Opportunity: College Sports Sponsorship and Marketing

Lawton Logan, SVP, US Business Development, IMG
Steve Robinson, SVP & CMO, Chick-fil-A
Ron Rogowski, VP, Global Sponsorships and Events, UPS
Jackie Woodward, VP, Marketing Services, MillerCoors

Though college presidents in the first panel of the day worried about that realignment could hurt the regional loyalties that go along with college sports, the brand managers in the second panel said they weren’t too worried. Rogowski: “People are mobile, so at the end of the day, as long as there is that passion for the school there and there’s some attention … I don’t know that we’ll lose it.” Logan: “I don’t think you’re going to have that passion go away. When you look at the natural passion of these rivalries, I think that college is now on par … with any of the professional organizations.”

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Woodward said it is important for companies to “take a look at all of the drivers of passion and then figure out how to arrange your selling story and your proposition to alumni based on all of those components of passion.” Robinson: “College football has become more of a national passion (and) brand, but with this realignment and more national platforms for exposure, there may be an opportunity for smaller, regional brands to affiliate with specific universities.”

ECONOMIC PRESSURE: The panel talked about how the economy has affected their budgets and marketing plans. Rogowski: “We’ve been financially conservative through our whole 105 years. Over the last five years, we’ve expanded our sponsorship programs globally, and I think next year we’ll focus on a domestic program in college that is a relatively new program for us.” Robinson: “On a national platform all of our marketing is in college football. That is our niche. It is the one we think we can afford and afford to do well. We are not a write-a-check marketer.”


On marketing beer in college sports:
Woodward: "It's very important to do this the right way. I have a 15-year-old daughter. It matters a lot to me that we market toward the right age consumers."
Logan: "It is a sensitive category. I think most universities realize what MillerCoors is doing. They are not interested in the student and the student athletes. What they want is the connectivity with the alumni and the passion points of the community."

From the Office of the President/Chancellor: Perspectives on the State of Intercollegiate Athletics

Mark Emmert, president, NCAA
Robert Holub, chancellor, University of Massachusetts
John Lahey, president, Quinnipiac University
Bill Powers, president, University of Texas

The problems affecting Penn State and Syracuse provided the dominant theme on the opening panel at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York. Emmert said that if, a year ago, you had predicted football-coaching changes, and the causes behind them, at Penn State, Ohio State, North Carolina and Tennessee, no one would have believed you. Emmert said the NCAA is in the process of rewriting its rulebook, getting rid of what he called “silly rules.” The new rules will “deal more aggressively with the adults in the room,” Emmert said, and hold people accountable for their actions. Emmert also took a shot at conference realignment. Without mentioning a specific conference, he described college sports as a regional opportunity, not a national one. “It wasn’t a pretty moment,” he said. “We hope it flattens out right away. There’s a domino affect.”

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Quick Hits:

On the Penn State scandal:
Emmert: Everything that’s going on at Penn State are allegations. We don’t know what all the facts are yet. It’s premature and not particularly helpful to speculate. Penn State’s been fantastic in working with us.
Lahey: If it can happen at Penn State and Syracuse, it can happen anywhere. This was not about student athletes. When any part of the university becomes so important to the university, it can cloud the better judgment of people of high intelligence or high integrity. If a faculty member [had been caught], I don’t think that it would have been a close call. It would have been turned over to the police.

On lessons learned from Penn State:
Powers: The moment something goes wrong, have a press conference, get it out and deal with it. Almost all problems were exacerbated by Penn State not getting it out and dealing with it.
Holub: All of us have to hope that we would have the courage and integrity to deal with those kinds of situations. I hope I would act in a manner I’d be proud of.

On Longhorn Network’s role in realignment:
Powers: Longhorn Network was discussed 18 months ago. It was fully disclosed. Schools talked about leaving 18 months ago before the network ever came into play. If you say the network is the reason for realignment, I would say that is flat-out false.

On Longhorn Network providing an unfair advantage to the University:
Powers: It may give us an advantage in exposure. [But we already] have an advantage when we take recruits into a 100,000 stadium. Every program makes its program an attractive place to go. It doesn’t take a dime out of anyone else’s program. We see this as a great entrepreneurial opportunity.

On whether Longhorn Network will lead to other college university-specific channels:
Emmert: You can’t turn the tide back on. I don’t know if we should.

On the biggest change in college sports in the next year:
Lahey: The focus needs to be on where the problems really are: Division-1 football and, to a lesser degree, basketball.
Holub: We need to restore integrity to collegiate sports. There’s no doubt it’s been damaged.

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