SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Opinion

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  • Cartoon: Naming rights

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  • Our thinking on SBAs; Forty Under 40 at 14

    A couple of points as you debate the merits of the 74 nominees for the sixth annual Sports Business Awards, who will be honored in New York City on May 22. First, the process. The selections were made by members of the SBJ/SBD editorial staff who met over a six-week period to study and research various companies and executives while debating who stood out and why. It’s an unenviable task. What’s next? Final winners in 13 of the 15 categories will be decided by a panel of sports industry executives who will deliberate in early May in New York.

    And what about the NHL? Like last year with the NBA, we didn’t nominate the NHL in either the League or Team of the Year categories considering the 113-day lockout that affected the 2012-13 season. Yes, the NHL has returned strong, but we couldn’t overlook the fact that the NHL lost more than five months of its season because of labor turmoil. That was how we handled the NBA. We understand the outcome of the lockout may put the NHL in a better position going forward; just look at the NBA, which has a presence in both categories. Next year, after an uninterrupted schedule, we wouldn’t be surprised if the NHL did too.

    > A NEW CLASS: After 14 years, rolling out a new class of Forty Under 40 winners never gets old. To hear how much this means to the recipients and the feedback we get is gratifying, especially after the task of selecting 40 individuals from more than 500 nominations. Overall, you’re seeing more first-time winners and fewer repeats as the years progress. Editorially, the standards are very high to win more than once, especially in back-to-back years, and one element of the program that has evolved over the years is to have more new names and fewer repeat honorees. A special thanks to Assistant Managing Editor Mark Mensheha, who oversaw the process and presentation, and introduced new features this year, such as hearing from previous recipients. This year’s class will be celebrated at a black-tie dinner that is one of our most enjoyable events all year. The ceremony will be held Thursday, April 4, at The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla. Interested in attending? If so, reach out for more information.

    > OUTSIDE OF SPORTS …: I’ve been following the decline of NBC’s “Today” show. It’s a story that has so many angles — loss of market share; questions over news judgment and placement; workplace morale; and big, strong personalities. I have watched the show religiously at our Charlotte offices for years — I won’t say I’m a “fan” of morning TV, but find it provides a glimpse of mainstream news and what’s trending. And like him or not, I believe Matt Lauer is one of the top TV hosts and personalities around. So I’ve been watching the backlash he’s received on the departure of Ann Curry, the chemistry with new co-host Savannah Guthrie and the tone of a show now looking up at the competition for the first time in years. How this show recaptures its audience will be fascinating to follow. Read Howard Kurtz’s look at the state of “Today” on The Daily Beast, which includes what role longtime NBC Olympics producer Jim Bell had in the recent moves. … I love food and worked in restaurants growing up and in college. I’m a total JV cook but have long been a fan of The Food Network for its expertise, its celebration of great, fun food and its smart personalities (Bobby Flay is about as good as they come). But the network has taken its eye off the ball and lost its direction. Enough of “Worst Cooks in America,” “Restaurant Stakeout,” and “Mystery Diners.” If I want the “Worst Cooks in America,” I’d go to most of the restaurants down my street. Maybe these are rating with viewers, but here’s one longtime watcher who’s turned off by these programming decisions.

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

    Editor's Note: This story has been edited since its original publication.

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  • NRA sponsorship a mistake for NASCAR

    It seems so simple: Do not engage in strategies that upset a substantial part of a coveted fan base that you have long been struggling to tap into as you try to grow beyond your traditional roots. So how is it that the powers that be at NASCAR could violate this tenet of Sports Marketing 101?

    This young season has seen NASCAR take one big step forward — the performance of Danica Patrick in the Daytona 500 qualifying and race — and one big step back — the decision to allow Texas Motor Speedway to have the NRA title sponsor next month’s Sprint Cup race despite possessing the ability to disapprove of the title sponsorship deal.

    Full disclosure: I am a Democrat, have never owned a gun or hunted, support sensible gun control legislation, live 75 miles from Newtown, Conn., and have a child in the second grade.

    But as TMS president (and seemingly my ideological opposite) Eddie Gossage told ESPN.com, “This is a sports marketing proposition. It’s not a political platform, and none of us intend for it to be. It’s a sponsor.” I agree. But what it really is, is a severely misguided business decision that sacrifices long-term development of the fan base for short-term revenue.

    As a business school professor who frequently consults with some of the biggest sports properties in the world — typically on projects that involve creating strategies to drive long-term revenue growth — I fully grasp the short-term revenue pressures that all sports properties feel.

    The incremental revenue that TMS will generate from the NRA deal is hardly inconsequential, especially since its parent company SMI reported a 3 percent decrease in revenue last year and needed to replace Samsung as the title sponsor of the April race.

    The asset needs to be monetized, of course. To quote the gangster Don Barzini in “The Godfather,” “After all, we are not Communists.” But we also cannot afford to make the kind of mistake that NASCAR has just made in allowing this type of title sponsorship deal between the track and the sponsor.

    You see, I am also a casual NASCAR fan who watched nearly the entirety of the aforementioned Daytona 500 with my wife and children, who were particularly interested in watching “the girl driver.” As a family, we seem to fit the description of the fan that NASCAR has unsuccessfully sought out for the past decade. With a compelling reason to tune in, we are viable candidates to increase our affinity for the product — and for NASCAR to begin to monetize us via increased viewership and race attendance. Based on this year’s Daytona 500 viewership increase, presumably there are many others like us.

    With half of NASCAR’s television deals expiring in the coming months and flagging attendance in recent years, this is an important period for NASCAR. So why would you risk alienating those you have been trying so hard to reach at the exact time that you finally have a chance to reach them? And why put your television partner in a no-win position as well?

    By engaging a sponsor that reinforces the stereotype that many potential fans have of NASCAR at such a sensitive time due to the Newtown shootings, the sport has polarized the community at the least opportune moment. The revenue pressure cannot be denied but this seems like a situation where some long-term strategic thinking would have been appropriate.

    Scott Rosner (srosner@wharton.upenn.edu) is a practice assistant professor in the legal studies and business ethics department at the Wharton School and the acting faculty director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative.

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