Images from the 2010 IMG World Congress of Sports Labor concerns widespread Stories from the 2010 IMG World Congress of Sports Tennis: The challenge of bridging divisions in a growing global game Social Media: New tools help reach fans, also hear what they’re saying Consumer Insights: Effects of economy push brands to more activation Sports Emmys: NBC’s work in Beijing leads nominations Joe Gibbs: Owner of race team reveals an early lesson in NFL Globalization: China, and the NBA’s efforts there, top the discussion Sports Emmys: NBC’s work in Beijing leads nominations
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Stories from the 2010 IMG World Congress of Sports
Published March 22, 2010
Yahoo! Chief Executive Carol Bartz delivered the keynote address at last week’s IMG World Congress of Sports, using the forum to formally announce the portal’s acquisition of Citizen Sports Network and touching on several prevailing online trends, including the dominance of free content, social media and new means to foster deeper personalization of the Internet experience.
Staff writer Eric Fisher spoke with Bartz after her address.
You mentioned you’re seeing continued
improvement in the national economy at large and in online advertising
specifically. What kinds of things are your advertisers seeking from you now?
BARTZ: Everybody wants something new. They’re all saying, “Give me a new concept.” Whether it’s embedded content, entitlements or something else, they’re all after a better way to reach consumers. They’re all looking for something special. And so what we’re after is creating better tools to understand our audience better so we can deliver.
There’s an emerging debate among many sports
properties and media entities on wired video versus wireless and how they
should be allocating resources. What is your take on how that should be
BARTZ: You simply need to be in both places. Sports is becoming very big on mobile, though that’s obviously still developing. But to ignore the PC is wrong.
Yahoo! Sports in particular, has struck a very different mind-set from many of
its competitors in which collaboration and partnerships with major sports
properties, rather than simply competing with them, is a big operational focus.
But does that ultimately threaten to dilute the Yahoo! brand?
BARTZ: That is our brand. Our brand is to aggregate content and provide the best possible experience for our users, wherever it comes from. If we don’t do that, we don’t have a brand.
What new technological developments are you most
excited about these days?
BARTZ: All of our sites are getting significantly more social and have much more of an individualized feel. Anything that is happening that furthers that is definitely something that interests me.
In the weeks since the Vancouver Olympics, Visa has determined that three of the 10 most-remembered and well-liked ads during the Games were part of the credit card company’s “Go World” campaign.
Visa’s strategy and how creative partner TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles, executed that strategy was the focus of a case study presented by Visa’s Michael Lynch and TBWA’s Rob Schwartz.
Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Visa filmed a commercial featuring Michael Phelps’ achievement of 10 gold medals although he entered the Games with just six. After Phelps won his 10th gold, Visa ran the spot during the ensuing commercial break. It was the first manifestation of what Lynch called “advertising at the speed of culture,” and it became a staple of Visa’s Vancouver strategy. Lynch said the Phelps moment also led to the notion of “Let’s not make ads; let’s try to make news.”
Heading into Vancouver, Visa already had prepared a slew of
time-sensitive ads, including a memorable pre-opening ceremony spot that
professed “at this moment, everyone is tied” and another ad congratulating
Lynch said that 40 percent of Visa’s total Vancouver spend was dedicated to digital media, and he expressed confidence in this digital direction. “We were making a special connection with consumers at the time. They were giving us real-time feedback,” Lynch said. “It was a valuable lesson for us from a marketing standpoint — this whole social-media phenomenon continues to explode.”
Schwartz, whose team worked on both the Beijing and Vancouver campaigns for Visa, said that connecting to the brand is among TBWA’s cornerstones to advertising campaign success. TBWA colored all Beijing commercials gold and all Vancouver commercials blue — the two tones used in Visa’s logo. The fact that those colors also correspond to the seasons during which the Games took place was a welcomed benefit.
“We must connect Visa,” Schwartz said. “What’s the use of doing a great ad if people don’t remember the brand’s name at the end of it?”
— Peter Simones
While the science of return-on-investment measurement is important, the ability to develop effective ideas remains the cornerstone of sports marketing, brand experts said.
“At the risk of sounding heretical, the science is very important,” said MillerCoors’ Jackie Woodward, “but the reason all of us got into this business is because of the art. I don’t want to lose the creativity, the ideas and the inspiration that bring sports to life for consumers because at the end of the day the ideas create momentum and the momentum does create sales.”
Tom Fox of EPL club Arsenal added that every brand tries to quantify its sports investments against the objectives it sets, but that the only way to understand the full effect is to analyze the collective effects of an activation from corporate morale to distributors to retailers to consumers. “Results are what matter,” he said. “If you’ve got good marketers who know what drives their business, who know which set of the consumer market they’re talking to, who know exactly how they want to talk to them and what’s going to work, you can put a variety of tactics in there and find success.”
To achieve that, marketers must stay on task, said Callaway’s Nick Raffaele. “The thing we talk about always is, How does that line up against our ladder of objectives?” he said. “If it doesn’t fit … you just have to set it off in an idea box and … use it later.”
Looking at the recession’s effects, Red Bull’s Chris Mater said prices had dropped because the “marketplace has less money and there’s more inventory. Brands are wanting deeper experiences and the rights holders are creating more opportunities.”
— Tripp Mickle
Labor was the topic of choice Wednesday during the opening discussion at the IMG World Congress of Sports, where panelists said possible work stoppages in MLS, the NFL and NBA will change network television programming plans, influence corporate sponsorship spending and benefit sports properties that continue to operate.
With MLS having the potential to be the first league to suffer a work stoppage if players go through with a threatened strike, Dave Checketts of SCP Worldwide, which owns and operates the Real Salt Lake team, said a work stoppage to any league is devastating, and added, “Nobody wins. Everybody loses. The NBA and NFL have quite a road ahead.”
Fox’s Ed Goren said a potential NFL strike is his No. 1 concern. He said that he doesn’t expect much resolution on the league’s labor unrest until August 2011 and added that Fox would likely fill its Sunday sports window with other sports programming if the NFL shut down. IMG’s George Pyne said marketers will have to make tough decisions as they plan their sponsorship activations in 2011. “Obviously, it’s a risk for marketers,” he said. “You have to take that into consideration as you look forward.” But Pyne noted he will be watching what sports properties benefit from strikes in other leagues. “NASCAR clearly benefited in the 1990s when all the other sports had labor problems,” he said.
Checketts said the big issue is the amount of change in owners and players since recent work stoppages. He added, “These guys that are there now were not there in ’99 when [the NBA] lost half a season. They weren’t there in the ’80s when we were at the table with players. They don’t understand yet, in my view, how damaging [a work stoppage] can be.” MLB’s Tim Brosnan said that every labor agreement MLB ever made was about “people,” “relationships” and “getting the other side to trust you.” He believes that will be critical for the NFL as Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith negotiate their first deal together.
Ed Roski of Majestic Realty said that in the NFL there needs to be an appreciation for the costs owners have to pay to build the venues that create the revenue. “The costs of doing these things have skyrocketed,” Roski said. “There has to be some way the league and the players can come to an agreement. You can’t continue to raise the cost of club seats or suites.”
— Tripp Mickle
Fans expect enhancements to their in-arena experience beyond just watching the game, which has pushed teams to incorporate new technologies into their venues.
Tony Coba of the Miami Heat said fans are looking to “engage the players. Just so they can feel the experience in ways that they can’t in a one-dimensional aspect or in a bar.”
Greg Jamison of the San Jose Sharks said that providing better instant replays within the arena is one way teams are working to provide fans with a better experience.
“Sometimes you have to convince your league that it is OK to show a replay,” Jamison said. “Because the people at home are going to see it 37 different ways from Sunday and I just paid a whole lot of money for this ticket and I have this incredible video board and I can’t see the replay.”
At the Rose Garden, Larry Miller said, the Portland Trail Blazers have the ability to provide personalized marketing messages. The team can offer advertising space to their sponsors on any of the 161 HD screens in the arena, and can use the same platform to broadcast a message from the team itself.
“We have been in the process of re-branding our team, re-branding our arena, re-branding our product,” Miller said. “Technology and things that we have done inside our arena have played a big part of that.”
At New Meadowlands Stadium, developers incorporated technology that allows the teams to capture data about fan behavior throughout every game, the stadium’s Robert Jordan said. “Every electronic device in the building has an IP address and it all feeds databases.”
The teams then can more accurately market to fans and find profit sources.
Jamison said teams must be careful not to put a desire to be technologically innovative above the quality of their sports product. He added, “We want it to coincide with and make a better experience, but not overshadow the (primary game) experience. If it is San Jose Sharks hockey, that still is the product, and technology just makes it better.”
— Melody Huskey
The first day of World Congress closed with a first-time panel of sports business legends who put aside industry terms like return on investment and rights fees in order to impart lessons about leadership and success. The panel was made up of recipients of a new SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Champions award that recognizes industry pioneers and innovators.
Believing in yourself and supporting good ideas with hard work are the cornerstone of success, the panelists agreed. Jim Host said, “I have always had immense faith in myself. I never questioned whether I could make it work. I never communicated defeat. I never communicated lack of faith in my own ability.”
Jerry Colangelo used an anecdotal example of leveraging opportunities to illustrate this point, saying, “In 1992, when we opened the America West Arena, Phoenix was the 19th market in the NBA, yet Phoenix led the NBA in total revenues that year.” While with Anheuser-Busch, Tony Ponturo said, his conviction that sports properties were valuable marketing vehicles was critical to creating partnerships. He added, “I am most proud of the fact that we stood up internally, believed in these properties.”
Both a motivator and a cause for sacrifice, passion played a critical role for panelists as they shaped their careers. For Neal Pilson, this meant that his wife raised their children largely without him. He said, “You manage expectations, not only of your boss and your staff but also your family. It’s not easy.” For Colangelo, passion was inherent to being a good leader. He said, “Be passionate about what you do, lead by example and what happens is that you earn respect. You can’t demand respect, you earn respect.”
Timing and networking were two common refrains echoed by each of the panelists. Ponturo said, “It is about hard work and having good people around you. I think if any of us thought that we did this all by ourselves, that would be stupid.” Donna Lopiano felt that in her case hard work was necessary in making it as a woman in sports business because there were no second chances. Ron Labinski said networking should be a practice because “knowing someone is probably the single most important thing that you could do.”
Additionally, many of the panelists felt that one important aspect of sports business that young people can overlook is the value of a first impression and how that can build an individual’s brand image. Pilson said, “It isn’t batting averages. It’s skill sets. The most important thing about getting a job in sports is not being interested in sports. We are all interested in sports.”
— Melody Huskey
The sports marketing industry is in much better shape than it was one year ago, but fans are demanding more value from the brands they interact with, executives said at the IMG World Congress of Sports.
More than ever, consumers are asking what exactly they are getting out of each purchase they make, demanding transparency and honesty from the brands they interact with most, panelists said.
“All consumers want more understanding — if I give you ‘X,’ whether that’s time, money, passion, love, viewership, I want to know what I’m getting in return,” said the NFL’s Mark Waller. “I think that’s a function of people feeling they got conned when (the economy) collapsed.”
Even brands known for low-cost positioning have had to rethink value through the consumer’s mind, and panelists agreed that sports was a vehicle to add extra value. “You had to respond to price depression. There was a lot of compression into that (low-cost) space,” said Phillips-Van Heusen’s Mike Kelly. He said the company’s “Fan’s Choice” campaign, which allowed fans to vote on Pro Football Hall of Fame selections, was one method the company used to become more attractive to department stores.
In an economy that has forced many fans to part ways with items and purchases not essential to everyday life, panelists agreed that sports maintains a unique position with consumers because of brand strength.
“In their lives, there are very few things that (consumers) fundamentally love,” Waller said. “Their sport or their team is one of the things they put on that list.”
— Peter Simones
Is this the Golden Age of sports filmmaking? Some well-known sports filmmakers sat down together on the second morning of the conference to discuss the past and future of sports as a storytelling vehicle.
As sports filmmakers, the panelists were united in their sentiment regarding the hardships inherent to chasing the story, including negotiating with leagues and sports properties.
HBO Sports’ Ross Greenburg said, “It can be tough based on the content. If it is controversial and it is the kind of stuff that they just want to put under a rug, then the difficult negotiation begins.”
Ron Shelton, who is working on a documentary about a Yankees pitcher playing in the Mexican leagues, said MLB was the most difficult league to negotiate with because it even had requirements about cutting footage not related to MLB properties. MLB also charges more for its footage than other leagues, which makes the cost of a documentary on Michael Jordan’s time in minor league baseball prohibitively high, Shelton said. He added, “At the same time let me say that the NBA is very easy to work with. Never have they said to me, ‘You can’t use this.’ The NHL is the same way.”
Hancock had similar stories of league negotiations with the NFL while working on his Oscar-winning film “The Blind Side.” Hancock added, “It came down to cutting frames, can you speed this up, can you slow this down. What helped us a lot was the NFL Network and them wanting to brand the NFL Network.” Greenburg had a related point, saying the creation of league networks has contributed to each property’s reluctance to license footage of their games for movies and documentaries.
Hollywood studios see sports films as having little potential in foreign markets because of the tribal allegiances of sports fans, according to Hancock. Despite the lack of funding options, each of the filmmakers agreed that they are worth making as passion projects. Tollin said that he makes films about undiscovered stories because “you have a little more poetic license because people aren’t necessarily matching it up against their version of reality.” Greenburg disagreed with the view that the stories need to be unknown, referencing HBO’s recent Magic Johnson-Larry Bird documentary and how that film changed the public perception of that well-known relationship.
Shelton defined the sports film and documentary genres as being more about interpersonal communication than what happens on the field or court. “Sports drama is not about the play. ‘SportsCenter’ is about the play. I am about all the moments in between the play.” Greenburg and Tollin echoed this, saying that as filmmakers it was important to them to make sure they faithfully portrayed the character of the people portrayed in their films.
— Melody Huskey
ESPN emerged as the big winner last week, garnering 54 Sports Emmy nominations across four of its networks and ESPN.com. HBO pulled 22 nominations, Fox had 20 across four networks and FoxSports.com, and NBC picked up 17.
The winners will be announced April 26 in New York at a ceremony that is certain to be dominated by the legendary broadcaster John Madden, who will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The list of nominees has many surprises. But the most intriguing category could be “Outstanding Sports Documentary,” where two of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentaries (“Without Bias” and “The Legend of Jimmy the Greek”) face off against two HBO docs (“Assault in the Ring” and “Ted Williams”). ESPN executives have not been shy about using their “30 for 30” series to compete with HBO.
“Fox NFL Sunday” was the only NFL pregame show to be nominated as “Outstanding Studio Show,” along with ESPN’s “College GameDay,” TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and MLB Network’s “Studio 42 with Bob Costas.”
In its first year, MLB Network picked up 11 nominations. NFL Network has five.
“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” nearly swept “Outstanding Sports Journalism,” taking four of the nominations. ESPN’s “E:60” took the other.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler was a surprise nomination as “Outstanding Studio Host,” joining hosts that have made the list for many years: CBS’s James Brown, NBC’s Costas, HBO’s Gumbel and Turner’s Ernie Johnson.
New analysts Tony Dungy (NBC) and Al Leiter (MLB Network) were nominated as studio analyst, alongside TNT’s Charles Barkley, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and Fox’s Howie Long.
Similarly, new analysts ESPN’s Jon Gruden and MLB Network’s Jim Kaat were nominated as sports event analyst alongside NBC’s CrisCollinsworth, Fox’s Tim McCarver, CBS’s Phil Simms and ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy.
— John Ourand