SBJ/September 5-11, 2011/Opinion

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  • Cartoon: Aggies on the move

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  • Can teams, venues meet fans’ technology expectations?

    As regular readers of this publication, you know that our industry is in the early adoption phase of leveraging new telecommunication technologies. If history is a reasonable guide, these changes will manifest themselves with remarkable immediacy. When applied properly, these new technologies provide a wealth of benefits to facilities and help clubs elevate their fan experience, increase revenue and improve building operations.

    Whether it’s social media trends among fans, mobile applications to help spectators find their way around facilities or handheld devices that offer event highlights, we are moving faster and faster toward a new electronic reality in sports venues of all types. Teams and sponsors recognize there is value in leveraging these emerging technologies.

    A growing and more youthful fan base relies on their smartphones, and now tablets, at a frequency of use we never could have imagined three years ago. Today, fans expect to be able to complete standard voice calls, texts, sharing of pictures and enjoy high-speed Internet access everywhere — including stadiums, arenas and racetracks. The legacy cellular and IT systems installed in existing facilities are no longer sufficient to support this demand.

    GETTY IMAGES
    Daytona’s smartphone app, which was tested this summer, helped fans navigate the speedway.
    However, with upgraded Wi-Fi and cellular networks in place, venues will be able to serve fan bases with an infinite amount of new, targeted experiences. Proprietary closed-venue applications (venue-specific apps), similar to the one currently being tested at Daytona International Speedway, will be downloaded by fans and installed on their personal devices. This will allow facility operators to efficiently stream video and data directly to each fan’s device. Opportunities that become possible if using a closed-venue app include:

    • Video streaming of unique program content.

    • A direct pipeline to interact with team and sponsor marketing objectives.

    • Fan ability to view out-of-market or highlights from other games.

    • Greater viewing of replays.

    • Views from specialty cameras, including in-car and cable cams.

    • Direct link to food concessions with pick up at the selected stand.

    • Ability to order from the team store for delivery to seat.

    • Facility navigation tools for way-finding and egress.

    • Direct messaging to fans by operations staff in case of an emergency.

    Obviously, these opportunities aren’t realized without a substantial investment in infrastructure. In a struggling economy, no organization welcomes significant capital expenditure. Realistically though, teams and sponsors will discover this is a reasonable investment given the potential return, particularly considering heightened fan expectations.

    The newest venues, including Cowboys Stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park, MetLife Stadium and Amway Center, were constructed with these systems already in place. Given the explosive speed at which new technologies are embraced once proven, we anticipate retrofits to existing arenas and stadiums will become commonplace at a remarkable pace.

    Cellular carriers, all of which have significant investments in sports facility partnerships, are highly motivated to assist teams in this implementation. Equipment providers, too, have advanced the state of the art and have already completed installations online.

    Changes to existing facilities include installation of cellular distributed antenna systems (DAS), high-density Wi-Fi, optical carrier class connectivity to the Internet along with the necessary upgrade of network switches, and a backbone of fiber optic cabling to join it all together. Finally, a skilled team consisting of the facilities media director, IT director, team and ownership representatives, marketing personnel, and consultants working in a collaborative manner is critical to the success of the project.

    Many other returns will come from making these investments; almost every electronic system in a facility will benefit from upgrades of a building’s shared telecommunications and data systems. This will enable facilities for the future, allowing them to embrace new technologies including electronic wallets, Internet protocol TV distributed television, IP-based security, energy controls and many others without having to constantly upgrade the respective system’s infrastructure.

    A variety of revenue-generating scenarios is available to organizations that embrace these improvements. By creating new ad inventory, teams can extend existing traditional sponsorships, create new ones within the fan social networking framework, and even create revenue by leasing a portion of the installed infrastructure to the non-sponsoring carriers.

    Many industry professionals believe leagues will embrace these improvements and may soon mandate them. This will create demands for most venues to be current in as little as three years. Teams and facilities will have to immediately begin the strategic planning to prepare for these technologies and their effective management.

    With fans expecting to use their phones in high-density environments like those found at sports venues, teams and facility personnel will find themselves addressing the infrastructure question sooner rather than later. Fortunately, many revenue-generating opportunities and operational benefits accompany these improvements once implemented, in addition to addressing critical fan expectations.

    Daniel Abelson (abelsond@igscompany.com) is a consultant who provided design management and coordination of the technology during construction of the newly renamed MetLife Stadium.

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  • From NFL ratings to IMG College and other stories to watch

    When will the NFL’s TV ratings peak? With year after year of viewership growth, is a dip coming?

    It’s conceivable that ratings drop this season, but any dip will be small and says nothing about the league’s strength as a TV property. There is a healthy, pent-up amount of interest after the lockout, a renaissance of the “dream teams,” renewed appeal in markets like New York and Dallas, and strength in the traditional powerhouses of Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Despite suggestions that fantasy football could take a hit this year, we haven’t seen it in the numbers, and we know how that propels TV viewership across age groups and gender — and don’t underestimate the role women have in driving TV viewership. So I see a very strong year, viewership-wise.

    But watch ticket sales closely. I count nearly half of the league’s teams having challenges at the gate, and when franchises like the Dolphins are facing blackouts, you realize the day-to-day grind teams are facing. Now that labor peace is guaranteed for the next decade, owners and league officials stress growing the game and increasing revenue. The main revenue stream remains tickets, so they must reinvest in a vibrant and safe live game experience, with sound ticketing tactics, strategies and sales.

    PYNE SEES IDEA COME TO LIFE: Shortly after becoming IMG Sports & Entertainment president in 2006, George Pyne told me about his vision for expanding the company’s business through college sports. He firmly believed the space was an untapped and under-utilized sponsorship and media asset. Coming from an America East college, and one with no football, I was terribly naïve to the strength of college sports — especially college football — as a media and marketing platform. But being in Charlotte for the last 13 years, I’ve experienced the passion and mindshare these programs and conferences hold. They offer engaged students on campus and loyal and demographically desirable alumni. I understood where Pyne was going, and over the years, we’ve seen how he has methodically built that business: first by securing marketing and media rights to major programs, then through acquisitions of Collegiate Licensing Co. and ISP Sports, and the formation of IMG College.

    I’ve heard many points of view on this strategy — trust me. Critics point out that Pyne built this through paying (many argue overpaying) for such assets. Skeptics note the major guarantees for which IMG College is on the hook and question the sustainability of that business. All are fair points. But Pyne sees value in developing a network of major college programs that sponsors can utilize regionally
    or with national programs. His team was able to secure recent lucrative deals with MillerCoors and UPS, and outside of the NCAA’s Corporate Champion and Corporate Partner programs, these deals strike me as the largest national deals at the collegiate level, offering a strong mix of on- and off-campus and media assets.

    “In the Studio” videos, featuring SBJ/SBD editors, reporters and visitors (including GMR’s Mike Boykin, bottom right), highlight the top news stories.
    Pyne and company are going to need many more such deals to get a return on their initial investments, so the activation around these first few deals will be critical to the program’s success. Will brands be able to successfully deliver programs across such a wide swath of schools? That’s a key question, but with these first big deals in hand, Pyne’s vision has now become reality.

    WHY NBA LOCKOUT HAS BEEN MET WITH A SHRUG: It’s easily lockout fatigue, but it’s also telling: the different level of press coverage of the NFL and NBA lockouts. Because the NFL’s labor issue came first, and because of football’s status in the U.S., the NFL easily had more intense and comprehensive coverage. There also were more angles to the coverage by the mainstream media. For many sports editors, it’s not just the popularity of NFL, but also a feeling of “Do our readers want more of this?” The other aspect is, there’s little news and few are talking. But time is ticking, and a look at the calendar shows little chance for an uninterrupted NBA season.

    FROM THE SBD/SBJ FEEDS: Lisa Leslie’s investment in the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks was good news for the league. For the “W” to grow, it needs to continue to diversify its ownership group, and while it needs owners with deep pockets, it also needs leaders with a passion for basketball, preferably women’s basketball. Leslie has that and will continue to be an asset to the sport. … I love the move by Fox to show several EPL broadcasts on over-the-air TV in the U.S. this season, with one game live on Super Bowl Sunday. I’m on record now: It will generate very strong ratings on Super Sunday and will not be the last live EPL game to appear on broadcast TV. ESPN, in particular, has done a lot to market the EPL in the States. This kind of love from broadcast television suggests a regular broadcast package could be in the offing. … Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is a fun follow on Twitter, but besides this music lover, is there a leading NFL team executive active on Twitter? SBD is doing a study, so look for it this week. … Thanks for the feedback on our “SBJ/SBD In The Studio” video sessions that are on www.sportsbusinessdaily.com. If you haven’t seen them, check them out — or follow us on Twitter, where we’re posting them.

    Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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  • Understanding why, how and when to begin that job search

    Traditionally, Jan. 1 marks the start of the New Year, but for me, it’s always been Labor Day: back to school, Jerry Lewis telethon, last days of summer and fantasy draft night kicking off another NFL season.

    Whatever the year’s turning date, it often triggers a period of reflection centering on the search for a balance of life and career satisfaction. The sports industry is event-anchored and a vacuum of home and family time. Often we manage the conflict of professional demands and a satisfying personal life.

    My father was correct when he declared, “Life doesn’t get easier as we get older.” When life-needs and career-wants converge (especially in a depressed economy), our stress levels heighten, leading to a constant job evaluation as seen through the prism of:

    • Employment status — fully utilized and/or in a secure position

    • Career fulfillment — satisfaction in responsibility and influence

    • State of business — confidence in company’s prospects

    • Compensation — meeting lifestyle status

    • Work environment — relationship with boss and organization

    • Time away from home — manageable work hours, travel and commuting

    Whatever your career status, there are considerations to make when job discontent creeps in.

    Understand the need to search

    Before investing time in forwarding résumés and informing your network of your interest to move on, conduct a self-assessment and ask:

    Who are you?
    Determine how compatible your career aspirations are with past job experiences and recognized talents. For example, let’s say you know someone pursuing a property sales job. Are they really a sponsorship sales talent? If so, why? Do they have tangible sales results and a developed network of buyers?

    Where are you?
    The more we earn, the greater our responsibilities, and the more life tests us. We frequently adapt to how our lives and careers teeter between rewards and challenges. No matter what your sports industry goals, there are general life stages that highlight career status and personal challenges that influence job motivation and performance.

    LIFE STAGES ON THE CAREER LADDER

    FOUNDATION (mid-to-late 20s)
    • Searching for career orientation

    • Manageable responsibilities, building social network, starting to save

    ASPIRING (late-20s to mid-30s)
    • Have aggregated work experience, but getting impatient for new challenges and rewards

    • Reaching life-changing milestones — marriage, home ownership, family, etc. — and adjusting on how to support them

    GROUNDED (mid-30s to mid-40s)
    • Have significant work experience and want more meaningful benefits (i.e., responsibilities, compensation, recognition)

    • Often pulled in many directions — work, family, community, parent care, lifestyle needs, etc. — and time is a valuable commodity

    PINNACLE (mid-40s to mid-50s)
    • Reaching the peak of corporate ladder and earning potential

    • Facing period of maximum expenses (e.g., college tuition, mortgage, lifestyle)

    TRANSITION (mid-50s on)
    • Winding down full-time commitment, but still need income and feeling of self-worth

    • Facing “empty nesting” and postcareer withdrawal

    What are you ready to do?
    Confirm how you’re positioned in your company and industry as a means to greater self-confidence with a potential search. Imagine if you went to SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference on your own. Would you feel comfortable in that environment? Invest time in understanding your search needs, saving time and positioning you as a thoughtful candidate.

    Define your objective(s)

    Evaluate objectives against new opportunities to prevent short-term career stops. Carefully construct career objectives and visualize how possible jobs might play out. Here are some examples of career objectives:

    • Survival. “I am out of work/underemployed and need to pay bills, not find the perfect job. I know tickets sales is a short-term fix, but I don’t have the luxury of time at this point.”

    • Everyday comfort. “I have been running between properties and agencies. I need stability and a place to stay for a while. I want a collegial environment with manageable hours and with minimal commuting and travel requirements.”

    • Controlling my destiny. “I need a job where I’m directly responsible for my compensation and security. This could be an equity position in a startup agency or owning my own consulting shop. Either way, I want greater independence, and I’m willing to take the necessary risks.”

    • Intrinsic matters. “I need an opportunity where my contribution matters and there’s mutual respect with the people I work with.”

    • King of the hill. “I aspire to be a ‘Forty Under 40’ recipient and I’m willing to pay the price to accomplish that goal. It’s important that my colleagues and the industry recognize me by title, compensation level, management responsibility and/or privileges.”

    Prepare, Position, Pursue

    After defining your career objective, it’s time to “go to market” with your brand capabilities. This requires discipline and discretion on how and where to market yourself. Looking for new opportunities is a full-time job, whether you’re unemployed or not, and demands regularly scheduled attention. Set benchmarks to stay on plan. For example:

    • Prioritize outreach goals per week: quality (A-, B-, C-ranked opportunities) and quantity (number of outreaches per week)

    • Define objectives for job-search related meetings

    • Aim to have at least three job opportunities constantly in play

    • Develop an outreach tracking system

    • Target only opportunities that fit your objectives

    • Focus on industry sectors (e.g., sales, marketing, licensing) that match your predetermined parameters

    • Polish your story and presentation

    Search and Support

    As much as you need to practice discretion in your job search, secure a “search team” to optimize your efforts. Select three confidantes who know the sports industry and can regulate your highs and lows.

    With your outreach, identify individuals who are willing to spend political capital on your behalf. Many talk a good game, but be wary of those who don’t follow through in a meaningful way and/or on a timely basis.

    Waiting for feedback can be nerve-wracking. Keep your spirits up and your focus sharp when progress is minimal. Explore opportunities to give back to your community, such as volunteering, mentoring or coaching. In addition, stay active via physical exercise and/or mental stimulation (taking courses, attending seminars, speaking engagements, etc.).

    No matter when the New Year starts for you, it’s a valuable trigger date for personal and professional reflection. Life may not get easier as we get older, but a disciplined job search offers you the best chance to balance the work-life challenge in your favor.

    Glenn Horine (ghorine@handhconsulting.net) is the executive director of Iona College’s Center for Sports and Entertainment Studies, an entrepreneur, business development consultant and industry career counselor/lecturer.

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  • Have confidence: ‘Failure never crossed my mind’

    I enjoyed the opinion piece that ran in the issue for July 11-17 [“What is the most important thing to know if you are starting a business in the sports industry?”]. As a 16-year vet of the sports industry and almost five-year entrepreneur who left the NBA front-office life and started Hands On Sports & Entertainment, I would pass on these items to add to your list.

    1. Hope is not a strategy. You want to work at building your business and closing business every day, relentlessly. You are in control and ultimately responsible for your success.

    2. “Burn the ships at the shore.” My best friend asked me when I first started this company how long I would give it until I declared it a failure and quit. I looked at him and honestly told him the idea of failure never crossed my mind. When Greek armies landed on foreign shores to invade, one of the first orders the commanders gave was to burn their ships to tell the soldiers that there was no choice but to win. No surrender.

    3. Believe in your prices. Let your belief in your own self-worth dictate your prices, not the clients.
    I have more, but I also learned, Don’t give away for free what you can charge for or you will go broke!

    Rob Sine
    Seattle

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