SBJ/July 28-Aug. 3, 2014/Opinion

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  • Expert who ‘speaks sponsorship’ vital to brands new to the game

    Most of us move to a new city at some point in life. It’s an event we normally don’t take on alone. Instead, we seek advice from experts such as real estate agents, moving companies, friends, and friends of friends. Corporations even hire relocation companies.

    We need people who can help us learn about the uniqueness of the new area, understand home and rental pricing, know the neighborhoods that will best fit our desired lifestyle, or simply help us protect and store our furniture in the move. 

    It’s knowledge and guidance that saves us time and money and keeps us from making a costly error. In some situations, it protects us from ourselves. 

    In the absence of this type of assistance, there is generally more risk — so it’s logical to get help, and it’s not unreasonable to pay for it. In the long run, it almost always pays for itself.

    But for some reason, this same logic often doesn’t transfer to brands that decide to “move” into sponsorships. Over my career, I’ve seen too many brands, most with little or no experience in sponsorships, decide to negotiate their own deal(s). 

    Given the majority of big brands in today’s sponsorship industry depend on an agency or highly experienced employee to negotiate sponsorship deals, it’s puzzling why brands that are new to sponsorships choose not to invest in this expert assistance. The end result is predictable for those who don’t leverage this specialized knowledge. It usually runs something like, “We’re not renewing the sponsorship because we just didn’t see a benefit or return.”

    There are five key reasons brands moving into sponsorships should engage a consultant or agency to negotiate a new deal and avoid the above end result:

    1. It’s advantageous to have someone who “speaks sponsorship”: The industry has a unique nomenclature, with terms such as exclusivity, rights fees and rights to marks. Although they have fairly straightforward definitions, the dynamics of how these elements interact can significantly affect price. Having an expert who understands these terms and their effects is critical to saving money and achieving sponsorship success.

    2. Sponsorship deals are complex: Media, events, Web, social media, mobile, branded content, CRM, hospitality, etc. … Sponsorships are years beyond providing primarily brand impressions. It’s now about fan engagement and experience. Expert guidance is critical to understanding which negotiable assets are most valuable in creating an integrated approach that enhances the fan’s experience.

    3. It’s critical to know the right question(s) to ask: Less-than-fully informed buyers rarely negotiate the best deal possible. Just ask anyone in sales. No amount of research or reading can compensate for simply knowing the right question to ask at the right time in a sponsorship negotiation. Knowing where there is flexibility in negotiating assets is an ability that comes with sponsorship experience and usually translates to cost savings or added value.

    4. It’s about maximizing value and cost: This is a challenging issue to prove, but I’m confident that many sponsorship industry vets, including myself, would tell you that not using expert advice to negotiate a sponsorship deal can cost you as much as 10 percent to 15 percent in price and value, possibly more. That’s not to suggest that properties take advantage of brands new to sponsorship. It’s simply an estimate as to the value that sponsorship knowledge can represent in a negotiation.

    5. It’s about achieving a positive return: Successful sponsorships depend on an optimal mix of negotiated sponsorship assets, which fuel positive results against brand objectives. The key word is “optimal.” Sponsorships are not a “one size fits all” tool. Expert advice helps you determine critical versus expendable assets in creating a customized, optimal deal that’s specific to your brand and leads to a positive return. 

    So, if you’re moving into sponsorships, I highly recommend teaming up with a sponsorship expert. It’s a smart way to protect yourself from unknown risk(s).

    Come to think of it, it’s the same reason I use bubble wrap when I move. 

    Bill Glenn ( is president of The Breakout Group, a marketing and sales consulting firm. Follow him on Twitter @Sponczar.

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  • Sports can be the leader for sustainable initiative

    The sports green movement holds the potential to be the most influential initiative in the history of the environmental movement,” Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, tells me in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara.

    It’s the first afternoon of the Green Sports Alliance Summit, and the longtime advocate of sustainability is in his wheelhouse, reciting facts, figures and anecdotes of how sports is taking the lead in this important movement. “If the sports industry wants it and promotes it, the world can change. Sports has led to change in race relations, inclusion and in so many areas, it will now change the world in the environmental sphere. We are seeing a culture shift in sports. There is no turning back.”

    This is the theme from the fourth annual summit over three days last week. Attended by more than 600, it serves as an incubator for ideas and professional networking, all with designs on helping teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performance. From Hershkowitz, to Levi’s brand President James Curleigh to San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, the message is clear: Sports can serve as a driver for environmental efficiency.

    York impresses with his understanding of and commitment to the efforts, and he is thrilled to announce that Levi’s Stadium was certified for LEED Gold for new construction last week. He stresses the efforts were not cosmetic or simply green-washing, but instead rooted in business. “We are functionally green because it makes business sense,” he says. He also sounds a cautionary note to organizations that aren’t as progressive. “You’re not going to be relevant to consumers if you’re not sustainable.” One common denominator throughout is of “little wins.” York declares, “It’s not that difficult to do these efforts. Take little wins and build from that.”

    Levi’s Curleigh stresses simplicity in his company’s messages to consumers, such as touting line-drying blue jeans, fewer washes and washing in cold water. But he also declares the role sports can play in changing the landscape. “The sports industry has the most powerful platform on earth to influence the future. It will be felt for generations to come.”

    You can’t help but feel and appreciate the same type of passion after only a few minutes with Hershkowitz, as he encourages, implores and pushes behind a likable demeanor. Over his 26 years consulting on such issues, he’s worked with various industries, but sees sports as the group most willing to lead change in a space that can be marred by partisanship and politics. “The most responsible organizations I have dealt with when it comes to environmental efficiency are sports leagues,” he says. “They are embracing it. Walking the walk. Now, it’s a long river to row. This stuff takes years. We need environmentally intelligent behavior; sports are leading that. It’s not going to be the politicians that save us from this. It will be the sports industry, because it will change the way people view the planet.”

    Omar Mitchell, the NHL’s director of sustainability, Hershkowitz and I sit at a small round table, as they walk me through the results of a four-year study that resulted in the release of the NHL Sustainability Report last week. The study offers data and details of the energy and environmental issues affecting hockey. “Major environmental challenges, such as climate change and freshwater scarcity, affect opportunities for hockey players of all ages to learn and play the game outdoors,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says in the report.

    Mitchell and Hershkowitz hope the findings can have lasting impact. “No other sports league has ever produced a sustainability report,” Hershkowitz says. “This report and others like it will serve as a wake-up call. It will move through the supply chain of hockey and its global marketplace. The biggest industries — food, auto, paper, telecom, plastics, and others — all of these industries are vendors and sponsors of the NHL. Hopefully, they will see this as an issue, and will try to address it in their businesses as well. The NHL is showing the business case that will lead the way.”

    Mitchell, who has spent years visiting with NHL teams and facilities sharing best practices and ideas, says many clubs are still ambivalent about how to introduce sustainability programs. His advice, similar to York’s, was to not worry about size, but to start it and watch it grow. “Clubs are sometimes apprehensive to come out with any type of program because they are afraid they will be perceived that they aren’t doing enough, that they could be doing more. But you have to convince them that it’s a start and then build off that.” He relays example after example of teams building off initial programs. “Once it starts, it can really snowball. We are trying to stress to organizations how they can save money and grow revenue.” Hershkowitz nods, “It’s not a moral or ethical play. It can be a revenue builder. Environmental measurement is smart business.”

    > WHERE IT WORKS: A discussion of team presidents confirms to me that successful sustainability efforts are directly related to organizational leadership and creating a culture of sustainability within that organization. After that, each says that fans in their respective markets are expecting some form of environmental efficiency. Trail Blazers President Chris McGowan says such advocacy runs throughout the city of Portland. “Our employees live it. We have a lot of our people who bike to work, and we have around 300 fans who bike to games. They are passionate about it, and they expect it from us,” he says.

    Panelists implore the audience to think of authentic and organic efforts tied into community. Kings CEO Chris Granger notes that the organization is reaching out to Sacramento’s vibrant farming community and plans to source 90 percent of the team’s concessions at their new venue from food within 90 miles from the team’s arena. “We’re trying to showcase sustainability in the arena and in the community,” he says. “We’re looking to be authentic and really making a difference, not just checking a box.”

    Panelists throughout the event suggest sustainability programs targeted to children, using a stadium as a laboratory, for example, to showcase effective gardening, water conservation or food programs.

    But all admit to challenges, such as the various ways an organization can approach sustainability, and the difficulties of figuring out exactly what the focus should be. In addition, it generally comes down to spending more money. More than one executive notes the pressure to sign off on a greater upfront expenditure that is projected to pay off in the long term, all under the pressure of current budgets.

    McGowan notes that more successful case studies and data points would help bolster funding and resources. 

    “There needs to be more examples and data on successful programs,” he says. “At the team level, maybe some owners that are on the sidelines need a story to help them provide resources.” He also wants more internal fan data and says that the organization would start surveying fans on what type of sustainability programs they’d like to see the organization stress. “We ask them about everything else we do,” he says. “Why not ask fans more about these efforts?”

    Finding like-minded, similar-valued partners will only increase efforts around environmental efficiency. There’s a strong belief system among attendees that sports can and should lead here, but there are still big pockets of inertia and resistance. 

    Curleigh takes the stage citing The Beatles’ “Revolution.” The people who filled these halls may not be looking for a revolution, but they are clearly doing what they can. It was impressive to see the progress so far.

    Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at

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  • Univision speaks ‘futbol’ via tech, talent, logistics and programming

    A few months ago I received some media attention for a little outburst I made about the power of live sports during our upfront presentation. It was nothing controversial … I was just overcome and shouted, “I freaking love sports!”

    After 31 days of live World Cup action, including heart-stopping matches like U.S. vs. Belgium and Mexico vs. Netherlands, most Americans know better than ever what I meant: Nothing beats the communal, unifying experience of live, big-time sports.

    U.S. soccer viewership has grown steadily but exploded over the last month. In cubicle-lined office suites, fast-food joints and upscale restaurants, big-screen TVs were rolled in to allow patrons and staff to watch. I’m told the employees of less-understanding bosses secretly watched our free live streams on the job. At one Midwestern couple’s 50th anniversary party, I heard there was a TV tent with the World Cup playing. And, of course, pubs everywhere were packed with men and women enjoying matches.

    Many of these fans watched on Univision and Univision Deportes Network, perhaps tuning into our networks and digital platforms for the first time.

    As a result, Univision’s coverage broke viewership records: Nearly 81 million in America watched the World Cup with us, up 34 percent from 2010. Our non-Hispanic World Cup viewership increased two-thirds from 2010 and viewership was up 53 percent among those 12 to 17. 

    Months in advance, we launched a promotional campaign to attract women and it worked: The number of female viewers rose 38 percent. June-July on UDN was the most-watched month ever for a Spanish-language sports network and advertisers took note. Madison Avenue spent nearly as much on World Cup social media campaigns as on Super Bowl ads.

    We know many Univision viewers tuned in despite the fact that they don’t speak a word of Spanish. And they didn’t tune in just because we were shouting “goooal” louder and longer. They tuned in because we had the right strategy — our “white glove approach” to covering soccer.

    Our logistics, talent, on-air technology and programming strategy all aligned to provide a winning balance between sports, news and entertainment. 

    In the end, UDN delivered live coverage around the clock. As a result, we averaged 1.2 million digital live streams per match, a 244 percent increase from 2010.

    Even if you didn’t speak Univision’s native language, our coverage translated the drama and emotion of this beautiful game to millions of new viewers. As Spencer Hall from SB Nation put it, we were “the network where you don’t understand every word with your brain, but feel every syllable with your heart.” For a month we all spoke the same language, the one we have spoken for 44 years — “futbol.”

    And here’s the headline: We have a plan to keep as many of those new viewers as possible. As I have said, “Beware our competitors, because I know exactly what we’re going to do.”

    We’re going to take the model we used during the 2014 World Cup — complete integration of digital and social media, the best soccer app, the augmented reality graphics never before seen on soccer coverage in the U.S. and the passionate call by our announcers — and ride the new American futbol wave. We’ll apply this approach to the more than 500 Mexican national team, U.S. men’s national team, Liga MX, Major League Soccer and CONCACAF matches we’ll air over the next two years and to the Copa America Centenario in 2016.

    We’ll also partner with our competitors to broaden the soccer landscape in America and increase the value proposition of the MLS and the U.S. and Mexico national teams. We hope to surprise the soccer world in the near future with details, so stay tuned.

    To fans of live sports and live soccer, we say the excitement didn’t end with Germany’s dramatic win. The World Cup isn’t the Olympics: You don’t have to wait four years to see your favorite athletes in action again. You can see them again soon, on Univision, because we don’t do big-time soccer every four years — we do it every single week.

    In the meantime, pull up a bar stool or get under the tent with your family, because we freaking love live sports, and more great soccer is on the way at Univision — the real home of soccer in America.

    Juan Carlos Rodriguez is the president of Univision Deportes at Univision Communications Inc., the leading media company serving Hispanic America.

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  • Higher ‘soccer IQ’ helped ESPN produce immersive coverage

    As soccer continues to grow in the United States, the 2014 World Cup demonstrated how the sport continues to thrill avid fans and invite new fans to the world’s game. While the U.S. men’s team clearly drew impressive numbers, the audience remained strong even after the U.S. was eliminated. In all, coverage of the event reached 125 million people on ESPN networks.

    Unlike league play, the World Cup is an intense and immersive short story where every four years national pride and the world’s game meet on football’s largest stage to decide how the top 32 football-playing nations stack up. For ESPN, this event has provided the opportunity to demonstrate the power of sport and our ability to deliver on our mission to serve sports fans wherever and whenever.

    ESPN learned valuable lessons in our coverage of the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 Euro Championship that informed our approach to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. That experience provided a successful blueprint for our coverage this summer.

    We all know how Americans get up for big events, whether it’s the Super Bowl, Oscars or the World Cup. It’s the same with ESPN. With the 2010 and 2014 editions of the World Cup, we increased our internal “soccer IQ” and learned about two amazing countries, their national pride and love of the sport.

    In preparing for the 2014 World Cup, collaboration between our U.S. and Latin American businesses was a key goal and the difference-maker in our success. Our colleagues in Brazil were critical in helping secure our host location on Copacabana Beach and with helping inform various creative elements of the coverage seen in the U.S. market. Internally, the collaboration between business units around the World Cup has made us better and set a new standard going forward.

    In addition to all 64 matches, our production team produced more than 130 original hours of studio programming. This content featured world-class and diverse talent from 12 countries, including a roster of analysts who played in a combined 43 World Cup matches. This unique group of men and women were integral in providing “game around the game” context and insights throughout our coverage. Shows such as “World Cup Tonight,” the innovative “Last Call” segments and distinctive voices like Grantland’s “Men in Blazers,” assured authentic and engaging commentary throughout the tournament.

    In the run-up to the event, our marketing team produced promotional spots that conveyed the magnitude of the World Cup, and that the tournament was returning to soccer’s spiritual home. Our original content group also produced a slate of soccer films and shorts, including the “Inside” series which provided a rare up-close look at the U.S. team, all of which added another dimension to the anticipation of this global event.

    In terms of accessibility, having matches and surround programming available on a variety of platforms (TV, digital, audio, etc.) is a key component, so fans know where and when to tune in and can take the World Cup with them wherever they are. This World Cup was the most-streamed event in history thanks largely to our industry-leading WatchESPN product. Portability for all sporting events and especially for soccer will be even more crucial in the years ahead given the various time zones from which games will originate. This remains essential for helping soccer attract a more broad and consistent audience.

    ESPNFC was also a success coming out of the World Cup. This digital brand, which covers the world of soccer year-round, will be critical to our coverage of the sport going forward. During the World Cup, we successfully integrated FC into our TV coverage and both platforms played off each other to provide immersive coverage.

    As for the sport in the U.S., we understand the World Cup and soccer leagues remain far apart when considering audience levels and social buzz. The intense and immersive format of the World Cup, combined with national pride, make it a unique media property. That said, Brazil 2014 has clearly strengthened soccer’s position in the sports hierarchy in the U.S. We continue to believe that soccer is a growth sport in the U.S. and will continue to provide fans with live coverage of world-class league play as well as daily coverage of the sport via ESPNFC.

    ESPN has signed a new eight-year agreement with U.S. Soccer and MLS, and we are now just two years away from presenting the 2016 UEFA European Football Championships in France, the next major global soccer event on our networks.

    To paraphrase the American Outlaws, “We Believe” there is a bright future for soccer in this country and ESPN remains very committed to that bright future.

    Scott Guglielmino is senior vice president of programming and X Games at ESPN.

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