SBJ/September 30 - October 6, 2002/MarketingsponsorshipPrint All
The U.S. Olympic Committee is taking an old concept off the shelf and giving it new life in an effort to strengthen public awareness of prospective future American Olympic stars.
Leading proponent and USOC Chief Executive Lloyd Ward is counting on the organization's executive committee, meeting Saturday and Sunday, to approve plans to stage the new "Titan Games" in February in San Jose. The event, in development much of this year and formerly known as the Gladiator Games, is rooted in a two-day competition format showcasing athletes in the less-than-mainstream sports of amateur boxing, fencing, judo, karate, tae kwon do, weightlifting and wrestling.
Although USOC senior spokesman Mike Moran declined to confirm details, people with knowledge of the event's evolution indicate the USOC hopes to maximize exposure for the Titan Games by making a deal to share ad inventory with a cable network such as ESPN. The working dates for the event are Feb. 14-15.
San Jose Sports Authority board member David Cortese, in an August interview with Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, said San Jose officials worked with the USOC over 18 months to develop a concept that will attract "the best athletes in their fields" to the 5,000-seat San Jose Events Center.
Whether it can also attract sponsors is not clear. Worldwide Olympics sponsor Visa, headquartered in San Francisco, is in discussions about a possible Titan Games sponsorship, said George Perry, director of event and sponsorship marketing.
It remains to be seen whether other existing or first-time sponsors will seek to underwrite part of the event, but one source said the Titan Games have been created to minimize reliance on sponsorship dollars, at least initially, and derive revenue from ticket sales. This approach is consistent with Ward's repeated public comments that the USOC should invest in "winning the hearts and minds" of an American public that does not routinely pay attention to Olympic sports.
Between 1978 and 1995, the USOC owned and operated U.S. Olympic Festivals, organized in years when no Olympic Games were contested. Eventually, they lost their appeal as a TV and advertising property. A downsized version of the festival, the Olympic Cup, was revived briefly in the late 1990s. In its heyday, the festival was a two-week, domestic mini-Olympics for which cities competed to be host. ESPN, starved for programming as a new cable venture, paid production costs and granted commercial units to local and national Olympic Festival sponsors.
BAY WATCH: The anticipated unveiling in late October of the Titan Games comes just ahead of the USOC's Nov. 2 vote (recently moved up one day from Nov. 3) to decide the candidate it will enter in the 2012 Summer Olympics race. The choice is between New York and San Francisco.
Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee spokesman Tony Winniker said San Jose's emergence as host of the new USOC event is "obviously a great boost for our  bid," but he characterized the San Jose group's pursuit of the Titan Games as "separate from our bid."
Nonetheless, the Bay Area group's chief executive officer, Anne Cribbs, was quoted in a published report as saying her organization has agreed to be a sponsor of the Titan Games. Cribbs is former chairwoman of the San Jose Sports Authority and remains on its board.
New York 2012 Executive Director Jay Kriegel said his organization does not view the new USOC-Bay Area event alliance as having any connection to the decision facing the USOC's board on its 2012 choice.
"We have events, they have events," Kriegel said. "Anything that strengthens the [Olympic] movement is terrific for everybody. But I think it would be a mistake to confuse the two."
FOX IN THE HUNT: Representatives of ABC, CBS, NBC and Turner presented their forecasts last week for converging television and new media technology during broadcasts of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It was the first of many dances in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the International Olympic Committee's TV and Internet Rights Commission, which has yet to decide when it will put the 2010 rights on the table for bidding. NBC holds summer and winter rights through 2008.
Fox did not send anyone to Lausanne, but Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said network chairman David Hill has made personal contact with IOC officials by telephone. D'Ermilio said Fox is interested in the 2010 Games. "We have a dialogue open," he said.
RING TOSSES: Former NCAA and USOC executive director Dick Schultz is assembling a consulting team to work with the Beijing mayor's office on development projects leading to the 2008 Summer Games in China. ... Berne, Switzerland, is expected to drop out of the 2010 Winter Olympics race after voters rejected a referendum to allocate government funds for Games preparation and a new stadium. Pyeongchang, South Korea; Salzburg, Austria; and Vancouver, British Columbia, will be the three finalists.
Steve Woodward can be reached at email@example.com.
Ford names NASCAR weekend
Ford will be the title sponsor of NASCAR's season finale weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the next four years, said the speedway and Ford. It also gets title sponsorship of the weekend's Winston Cup, Busch series and Craftsman truck races. Ford and the South Florida Ford Dealers acquire the official vehicle status at the speedway for the term of the agreement, including the pace cars for all three races. No terms were disclosed.
Instinet ends Senior deal
Instinet, a New York-based electronic securities broker, has decided not to renew its contract with the Senior PGA Tour as title sponsor of the Instinet Classic. The tournament is held at the Tournament Players Club at Jasna Polana in Princeton, N.J.
Sovereign boosts Eagles tie
Sovereign Bank reached an agreement on a new 10-year partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles. The partnership goes into effect in 2003 and gives Sovereign expanded sponsorship benefits. That includes designation as the sole partner in a new "interactive zone" inside the new Lincoln Financial Field. Sovereign is the official bank of the Eagles under a previous three-year deal. Terms were not revealed.
Coke named Pack's drink
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Wisconsin and the Green Bay Packers agreed to a five-year partnership to make Coca-Cola the official soft drink of the Packers. The deal gives Coca-Cola exclusive rights to sell its products in the newly remodeled Lambeau Field. The agreement covers carbonated soft drinks, juices, juice drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Crunch opener has sponsor
The Syracuse (N.Y.) Crunch of the American Hockey League came to an agreement that will make Express Mart the title sponsor of the team's home opener Oct. 19.
From August 2001 through July 2002, ESPN Sports Poll, a service of TNS Intersearch asked 1,183 avid NHL fans who they thought was the top sponsor or advertiser of the league. Here are the responses broken down by select demographics. To read: 3 percent of avid male NHL fans cited Labatt as the top sponsor or advertiser of the league. In Canada, Labatt Brewing Co. has been the official malt beverage of the NHL since 1998.
Declining attendance. Unused tickets. Lower renewal rates.
These are just a few items on a growing list of headaches for team marketing executives as ticketing issues continue to plague teams of all levels.
What, many team executives ask, is the aspirin that will cure this ever-sharpening pain?
An Internet ticketing strategy.
Before this prescription becomes more bad medicine, the remedy calls for a simple three-step process.
1. Know your audience.
2. Get fans to take a test drive online.
3. Use in-game experience to sell tickets online.
The first challenge is to understand which consumers buy online and when they buy. Reaching consumers when they are likely to be online can also create incremental sales.
Two minor league baseball teams, the Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades and Reading (Pa.) Phillies, used late-night-television buys to promote online sales and make money while they slept. Each team implemented this marketing strategy as a more cost-effective way to sell advertising while catching consumers at a time when they were more likely to be focused on just one activity.
"Selling tickets on the Web is all about convenience," said Steve Gliner, vice president and general manager of the Renegades. "It makes sense to do this at night when there's no distractions and they can do it from their computer."
The strategy paid immediate dividends for both teams in 2002. The Renegades sold 33 percent of all online tickets between midnight and 6 a.m. The Phillies were equally successful. The team sold 14,000 tickets online during the same time frame.
"Time of day is not something that a lot of marketers think of," said John Myers, vice president of eTix, the online ticketing company that handles the Renegades' online ticketing software. "It's very savvy and intelligent marketing to try to grow sales overnight."
After understanding when and whom to market to, it is essential to decide how to market online ticketing to consumers. The first philosophy is to duplicate how a restaurant markets itself. The goal of a restaurant's marketing efforts is to influence a consumer to try the restaurant once. Ideally, the customer will have an enjoyable experience, share that experience with others and return again and again.
One major league team that has effectively implemented this philosophy is the Philadelphia Phillies.
Individual game tickets for the Phillies (as for most MLB teams) go on sale on a specific date prior to spring training and after several months of dedicated season-ticket sales. To help fuel online sales from consumers sitting on the fence, the Phillies make individual tickets available online a week before tickets are available through traditional off-line channels like telephone and box-office orders.
The incentive is enough to drive fans of all technical abilities looking to buy specific game tickets while eliminating many Internet phobias for future purchases. These fans might share tales of ease and convenience with other fans.
The final trait is to build a relationship with fans already attending a game. One of the most effective techniques is to use in-game promotions to drive attendees to the Web site for future ticket purchases.
The Sacramento River Cats put a new twist on an old promotion. Instead of announcing a lucky seat number at the stadium for a winning fan, the team uses its public-address announcements to drive fans to its Web site to see if their ticket stub matches the ticket posted online.
These ideas have proved to relieve headaches created by the ticketing problems cited at the beginning of this column. The hope is that they will create the happier problem of trying to service an increase in orders.
Dan Migala (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of "Interactive Sports Strategies."
Wilson Sporting Goods is putting at least $3 million behind the innovative marketing of its new Jack golf ball, starting around the new year. The company has high hopes that the lower-priced ball, at $15.99 a dozen, will win back some of the strong market share it had in that category as recently as a few years ago.
It's a cluttered category, with entries from well-known brands Pinnacle, Titleist and Top-Flite and more recent entrant Nike among the top sellers, according to Golf DataTech. Wilson has a single-digit market share, down from 13 percent or 14 percent a few years ago, the company said.
In this context, Wilson seeks to differentiate itself through an edgy campaign aimed at recreational golfers in non-golf settings — NCAA sports broadcasts, ESPN's "SportsCenter" and radio, Maxim magazine, etc. It's summed up in the tag line, "If you think there's a more exciting ball in golf, you don't know Jack."
"This is a major shift in strategy for us," said Tom Gruger, Wilson's business director for golf balls. "What we're trying to do is go back and recapture a portion of the ball business where Wilson should be the strongest, the recreational player market, the guy who loves to play golf but has a lot of other interests as well."
Gruger said the ad message goes out of its way to avoid the technical, high-brow approach of other brands. Euro RSCG Tatham worked with the company on a range of marketing materials that accentuate the irreverent. In one 30-second spot, a golfer with an average swing literally "hits the crap" out of the ball, to the dismay of one of his playing partners, who unwisely made noise during the golfer's address.
The thick Scottish brogue used in the voice-over just adds to the humor. "We're trying to push the envelope a little," Gruger said. "We want a message that resonates like it's your buddy talking to you."
Among the point-of-sale marketing materials is a clever, full-color 16-page brochure explaining "The Do's and Don't's of Throwing Your Clubs," "Safely Alerting the Beer Cart" and other on-course requisites. Gruger said grassroots promotional efforts will run to the nontraditional as well, with tie-ins being discussed with "Jack" brands such as Cracker Jack, Jack Daniel's and others.
There will be a strong push via a new site, wilson.com/jack, Gruger said, with sweepstakes and other efforts.
Gruger said most of the ad budget has not been spent, and early sales results this fall will dictate whether Wilson exceeds its $3 million minimum.
84 LUMBER SNAGS SPONSORSHIP: When the PGA Tour said it was hoping to fill out its tournament sponsor roster by targeting companies in tournament cities — not long-distance sponsors — that could take advantage of local marketing opportunities, it must have had 84 Lumber in mind.
The national lumber brand announced recently a four-year deal with the tour to sponsor the 84 Lumber Classic of Pennsylvania at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in Farmington, a stone's throw from company headquarters in the town of Eighty Four.
The geography makes sense. So does the fact that the privately and closely held company also owns the resort. The economies are clear: Part of the $2 million to $3 million sponsorship fee typically goes back to the host course, so 84 Lumber can save that expense. All the exposure given to the resort course during the ESPN-televised event is for the greater good of the company, headed by Joe Hardy and his daughter Maggie.
The company has always wanted to host a tournament, said Bud Martin, senior vice president at SFX Sports, which will manage and promote the tournament. "With the evolution of the course and the Nemacolin Resort, which doubled its room capacity, we always had a tournament on our radar screen, and with the changing economy making it more difficult [for the tour] to find sponsors, we felt it was the perfect model."
PGA Tour pro and SFX client John Daly has an endorsement deal with 84 Lumber. Martin said 84 Lumber has been very satisfied with that relationship.
The television ad commitment, which ranges from $2 million to $3 million for tour events, will be a departure for 84 Lumber, which has tended to spend its marketing money on relationships with contractors, Martin said. The company has 436 stores in 34 states, so the buy isn't unwise, he said.
The tournament replaces the SEI Pennsylvania Classic and will be played in mid-September.
AWARDS SHOW SIGNS NEXTEL: Producer Intersport has added Nextel as a sponsor of the annual "Arete Honors for Courage in Sports" show, to be broadcast Nov. 3 on CBS. The terms were not disclosed. Nextel joins returning sponsors State Farm Insurance and the U.S. Marine Corps.
FATHERS AND SONS: The Office Depot Father/Son Challenge has added Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros and their sons to its field this year. The mid-December event, televised on NBC, has traditionally attracted big names, such as Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Lee Trevino and Gary Player. Floyd has won the tournament five times in its seven years, three times with son Raymond Jr. and twice with son Robert. IMG produces the event; Senior Vice President Alastair Johnston calls it "the one event we do where players are more than anxious to play."
Noah Liberman can be reached at email@example.com.