• TV Timeout: Action Jackson

    The buzz created by the Knicks’ hiring Phil Jackson as team President continued as he was at MSG last night. ESPN’s Avery Johnson said, “I give James Dolan, their owner, a lot of credit. He went out and hired, what I call, ‘The best sports algorithm in basketball.’ He solves problems.” ESPN’s Jalen Rose added, “The Knicks did a very good thing. They spent up to $60 million for basically $250 million worth of press” (“NBA Countdown,” ESPN, 3/19). 

    LEADER OF MEN: ProFootball Talk’s Mike Florio, on new NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent: “Vincent is only 43. He could be on the commissioner’s track. He’s a guy, who at one point, was going to be the Executive Director of the players’ union” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/19).

    X MARKS THE SPOT: ESPN’s Jorge Sedano, on corporate logos on NBA uniforms: “I love it. Make the money. Maybe that will help teams or help the NBA, who has had an issue with the salary cap because teams have more revenue” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 3/20).

    HITTING THE BOOKS: President Obama appeared on ESPNU’s "The Herd" this morning to discuss various topics, including the NBA age limit and NCAA Tournament. He said, “When I see low graduation rates in the programs, when you get a sense that the kids are not getting the education they should, it’s not a priority for them to graduate. Often times if they get cut or hurt, the scholarships may not be sustained. That is when I think the schools need to reexamine what they are doing” ("The Herd," ESPNU, 3/20).

    GROUND FLOOR: ESPN's Bomani Jones said of the NFL suing rapper M.I.A. for $16.6M for her giving the middle finger during halftime of Super Bowl XLVI, "This is the thing about rich people, when they really want to bring the hammer to you they don't cuss you out. They try to sue you into the ground” ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 3/19).

  • Sports 2025: Technology, millennials and the in-venue experience

    The future of sports business was the focus of the opening panel on day two of the IMG World Congress of Sports, with topics that included attracting millennials, improving the at-venue experience, evolving technology and foreign ownership. Panelists included Yahoo VP/Sports & Games Ken Fuchs, Twitter Head of Sports Geoff Reiss, IMG College President Ben Sutton, WMG CEO Casey Wasserman and 76ers, Devils and Prudential Center CEO Scott O’Neil.

    O’Neil on millennials: “I love this group. I love working with them. I love them as players. They do have a distrust and a distaste for institutions and authority. And I have some of that myself. But they’re driven. They’re entitled. They think they should be the CEO on their second day. Or as a player, the coach or the GM. But despite thinking there is an entitled path, they have a tremendous work ethic. They’re very smart and very connected.”

    Sutton on ways to make a better fan experience: “In the college space, we start with a competitive advantage. There is a predisposition for a college student and alumni to carry that sense of community with them in all that they do the rest of their lives. That loyalty exists. People spend more time immersed in media today than they do sleeping. And something like three hours of that time for the average American is around sports. We need to do a better job bringing that experience to college stadiums and arenas. We just haven’t adjusted quickly enough to the world as it is.”

    O’Neil on technologies that have been tried and failed: “I love 3D sports. Hockey, basketball. It’s just spectacular. You can actually feel the speed and power. The camera angles are lower. You have a much better look at the puck. The basketball experience is as if you’re sitting in the front row, which is the best seat in sports. I’m disappointed that companies cannot figure out a way to get around the glasses. I know something will come back, whether it’s a 4D or 5D, that has a great immersive experience. I’m really disappointed that it didn’t catch on because it could transform the sports experience.”


    Wasserman on resistance to change: “It’s like with the NFL extra point. People are upset about possibly getting rid of a play that has no value? The NBA talks about changing how the draft works and it’s like Armageddon. Really stable revenue streams over a long period of time, combined with a product that fundamentally never changes, creates an industry that is not used to having to change to sustain itself. Whereas if Twitter doesn’t evolve, it won’t exist in five years. As crazy as that may sound. In a tech-based world, you have to change or you die. That’s not the case with sports. It’s an industry that has lived on in much the same form it has for 100 years.”

    Reiss on length of games: “Look at baseball. It took 30 years for the conversation on replay on the field. If that took 30 years, how long is the conversation going to be on getting games done in under four hours? Another 30 years? I think this ties into the question of how you maintain relevance. The reality is, and baseball is the perfect sport to pick on, people don’t have four hours to watch 162 games. And one of two things has to change. We know it isn’t going to be the 162 games because of the economic models. So being able to push that game into a more consumable form becomes essential.”

    O’Neil on making changes to improve game experiences: “Length of games is not as much an issue locally as it is nationally. Nationally, to clear the TV windows, it’s more important. But all politics are local. Different teams have different agendas. But looking at leagues, I think the NHL used the lockout as a way to move the game forward. They really made some dramatic changes. The NBA also has moved the game from a hand checking, physical league that you saw in the ‘90s to one where it is a lot more fluid and lets the guys be athletic.”

    Fuchs on younger fans adopting soccer: “We look at soccer and it’s the second biggest fan sport, not participatory, among 12-24 year-olds. It’s just behind the NFL and ahead of NBA and MLB. Here is a game that is about as simplistic as you can get. I have an 8-year-old son and I sit there having to explain all the rules of baseball and technical rules of football. Soccer is so simple. You can play it on EA FIFA. You can access the best players in the world through Yahoo games or watching the World Cup or EPL. The simplicity of that is a draw.”

    Wasserman on foreign ownership in the future: “At these levels of prices, there are only so many people who can buy. Groups of people in a community coming together to buy a team continues to be important. But even MLS teams are selling at over $100 million. These are big assets that require a lot of attention, a lot of focus. Foreign investors see franchises as valuable assets and opportunities for diversification, both geographically and financially. These assets have shown an ability to sustain themselves through all sorts of economic environments over a long period of time.”

  • The Best of Burst from World Congress Day 1

    Here's a compilation of some of the best Burst videos from Day 1 of the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports.

  • Panel: Despite problems, opportunities abound in Brazil

    Sponsorship executives from Adidas, Visa, McDonald’s and The Coca Cola Co. said they view both the this summer’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil as a huge marketing opportunity and are not overly concerned about the prospect of protests surrounding the events.

    “For every major global event there are issues,” said Ricardo Fort, senior vice president of global sports marketing for Visa. “There are issues in Sochi. There are issues in London. I would like to change the dialogue and don’t look at what can go wrong, [but] look at how great the games are going to be.”

    The Coca-Cola Co. views Brazil as a huge market and has big plans for both the Rio 2016 Olympics and this summer’s World Cup, said Emmanuel Seuge, Coke vice president of global alliances and ventures.

    “We see this as one of the largest opportunities we have had for a long time from a business perspective,” Seuge said. “Brazil is one of our most important markets. It’s the fourth [largest] Coca-Cola market around the world. And this [World Cup] campaign will be the largest campaign we have implemented globally. We will have 170 markets that will be activating the World Cup.”

    Meanwhile, executives were not overly concerned about reports that construction and preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics were not on schedule. McDonald’s Head of Global Alliances John Lewicki said he remembers going to Sochi a year before the Games, then not recognizing the place when he went back this year for the actual event.
    Lewicki and others said that while protests in Brazil are getting a lot of media attention, the World Cup and the Olympics will bring many jobs to the country, and Brazilians have been lining up to buy tickets to the World Cup.

    “There is no doubt there .. are some issues that they are having,” Lewicki said. “[But] go back to the two initial public requests they’ve had for tickets. They are short tickets. They are short, a hundredfold, of the tickets they could sell—to Brazilians. So there is a vast population that is incredibly supportive of this.”

    The marketers said they were proceeding with their plans but could change them based on unanticipated events. Adidas had to do just that in February.

    “For the U.S. marketplace, we created some T-shirts that had a girl with a bikini that said, ‘I love Brazil,’” said Ernesto Bruce, Adidas North America director of soccer. “It was taken the wrong way. We immediately pulled it off the market. The idea was, let’s celebrate Brazil and the fun and the beach.  It was an image of a girl in a bikini. Harmless for us in the U.S. Very damaging to the image Brazil is trying to portray. As a company we didn’t even think twice. Out of respect and out of our long term partnership, we pulled those products off the marketplace in the blink of an eye.”

  • Marketing leaders on new ideas and opportunities

    A panel of marketing experts looked showcased some of their work and looked at what’s next in the industry during an afternoon session at the first day of the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. Panelists included MetLife CMO and Exec VP/Global Brand, Marketing & Communication Beth Hirschhorn; United Airlines President of MileagePlus and Senior VP/Marketing & Loyalty Thomas O’Toole; and Diageo VP/PR & Entertainment Marketing Dan Sanborn.

    Hirschhorn joked with the crowd early on: “First of all, I’m going to hit everyone up in the audience to buy insurance later since they’re hitting me up for their sponsorships. So we’ve got the reciprocity down.”

    Hirshhorn on attracting consumers to MetLife: “In the context of media fragmentation, when you have a company with 90 million customers, some of your properties need to do the heavy lifting. The others can be really laser targeted. There’s no programming left in the U.S. anymore like ‘I Love Lucy’ that would get 70 percent of the viewing audience. That doesn’t exist anymore. So if you’ve got 90 million people you need to touch and reach, then, for me and our company, all roads lead to the NFL.”

    O’Toole on United’s investment around the U.S. Olympic team: “The Olympics were an unequivocal success for us. But there were two challenges looking at strictly the advertising element. The first is that we were coming off of a highly successful brand campaign in the fall, the largest United had done in at least a decade or two. So we had the high-class problem of what to do for an encore. The second challenge was that we are investing quite a bit in our product, and a key message of our marketing activities communicating our product features. I was troubled by the prospect of taking a hiatus from this message and spending tens of millions of dollars to focus on what is essentially good will marketing during the Olympics and disrupting the product message. So the challenge was to maintain the level of brand awareness that we established in the fourth quarter and not simply take a hiatus from the product message. And, frankly, our agency came through.”

    O’Toole on using United employees on in-flight Olympic videos: “What came across to me is that the employees we used in those videos really enjoyed being involved with the Olympics. You see the way that they talk about the Olympics and the passion in the video. It was probably the most effective program we’ve done integrating social channels, digital channels, on-board, in the airport and conventional media channels.”

    Sanborn on the effects of the brand’s league-wide deal with the NBA: “When you think about the convergence of that sport with fashion, music and lifestyle, it is one of the most dynamic sports we have in this country. … When we looked at the NBA, we saw the possibility of bringing to life the flavor and lifestyle of our brands. As part of the NBA, we’re taking moments in the game that demonstrate ‘Reigning On.’ There were clearly the business metrics that matched up, but we also saw the opportunity for things that were disruptive at a cultural passion point that matters to our consumer.”

    Tags: ING
  • Secretary of Education wants the sports industry to get more involved

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is calling on the sports industry to take a more active role in helping to reduce the country's high-school dropout rate. Speaking at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports in Dana Point, Calif., Duncan said that athletes, teams and leagues should play a bigger part, given their influence on popular culture.

    "What I frankly am going to challenge people to do is to get beyond the one-offs to get beyond the photo ops and to get beyond the few tickets for a few kids and the autograph sessions," Duncan said. "Those are all nice. But for me, that's not meaningful change."

    Duncan said the Education Department is prepared to partner with sports groups to help the country's worst performing schools, adding that the education department is investing $500 million each year in these schools. He said he is looking for help with after-school programs and community groups that help schools. He highlighted the Miami Heat's Juwan Howard’s work in Chicago, where Howard runs a summer basketball camp that combines basketball with academics. "If you look at all the young boys of color — whether it's the NFL, NBA, soccer – these are their heroes,” said Duncan. “These are their role models. These are the teams that they spend all their time thinking about. I want us to be much more strategic, much more proactive and much more focused telling our young boys that they cannot drop out of high school."

    During his talk, Duncan acknowledged industry veteran Derrick Heggans in the crowd. The Education Department supports an education initiative that Heggans heads called Team Turnaround, which is supported by the 49ers, Heat, Lions and Celtics.


    Quick hits:

    On being named MVP of the NBA's All-Star celebrity game during All Star Weekend last month: "This was not real basketball. This was against Snoop Dogg."

    On NCAA reforms: "I thought the idea that some of the teams were going to postseason tournaments with graduation rates that were horrendous was absolutely irresponsible. We got the NCAA to raise the bar for participation in NCAA tournaments and we felt very, very good about that."

    On NCAA penalties: "The idea that penalties don't get attached to coaches instead of institutions makes no sense to me. The fact that a coach can run a program in the ground, and then leave and double his salary at the next
    institution -- and the university he left is decimated and loses scholarships… If I commit a crime, my wife shouldn't pay for it and the person next to me shouldn't pay for it. I should pay for it."

    On Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: "He was my assistant coach in college [at Harvard]. I strongly encouraged Jerry Reinsdorf to hire him. I hope Jerry is [happy with the hire]."

    Tags: IMG World Congress Of Sports, NFL, Miami Heat, Basketball, NBA
  • L.A. in the spotlight: The dynamics of the nation’s hottest sports market

    A panel discussion at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports the examined the unique qualities of the Los Angeles market picked up on a discussion from the day’s opening session about whether there’s any end in sight for rising rights fees.

    Chris Bevilacqua, co-founder of Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, said, “Since I’m aligned typically with the sellers, I have a selfish interest to say the rights are going to keep going up. But having said that, I believe that. Everybody can just go and look at the quarterly earnings reports to all of these big media companies. It’s record profitability, record shares. The business itself keeps growing and sports is a real driver.”

    He sees growth in the rights because sports is not just a “television ecosystem,” but a “mass media communications information delivery system.”

    Jeff Krolik, President, Fox Sports Regional Networks, responded with the quip, “My father used to always say, ‘Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.’” He thought never-ending rights growth was less likely. “There are many cautionary tales out there. Steve Greenberg was just quoted as saying he’s reminded about all the people who took out big mortgages because they were convinced that housing prices only had one way to go, and that was up, up, up. They do go up – until they don’t. There are cautionary tales aplenty out there. Before we go forth and say they have no way to go but up, they have other ways to go.”

    Bevilacqua wouldn’t point to a ceiling, but he conceded that “at some point, it doesn’t go up forever. Maybe it accelerates a little less.”

    The value of shoulder programming

    Panelists also debated the value of the shoulder programming that fills thousands of hours of air time, but, moderator John Ourand pointed out, doesn’t get ratings as high as the live games.

    “From our point of view … once you get your distribution you better be able to deliver a good product,” said L.A. Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss.

    “That’s what it’s really all about. Once you get on the air … make sure you’re delivering to your customers what they want. For us, when we were looking for a new broadcast partner, what was really important to us was the ability to have the shoulder programming, the ancillary programming. To have a partner that would understand how important it was for us to further our brand, not just the games, because the fans enjoy the games, but in our case our fans were letting us know that they wanted more.”

    And Buss added that the shoulder programming affected more than just the fans. “With a new collective bargaining agreement in the NBA, it’s really important that you can tell a story for your franchise that will attract free agents,” she said, “and having that kind of platform is attractive for the players.”

    Mark Shuken, senior vice president and general manager for TWC Sports Regional Networks, said, “This is an entirely different conceit around RSNs. This is no longer about games fitting in between poker and other team games and infomercials. I hate the term shoulder programming because it suggests a sort of good stuff and other stuff. Our programming beyond the games is measurably rated and rated very well. I think it’s relevant because people get a connection to the players and the front office that they’ve never had before and want. It all speaks to the consumers’ expectations around media and social media, and they’re used to getting behind the scenes. I think this shoulder programming notion is something we need to get over.”


    Over-the-top programming

    The end of the panel featured a spirited discussion about over-the-top programming, online programming that is available outside of a regular cable subscription package. Krolik said, “Over the top makes me nervous. I think over the top makes all of us nervous. Our number one objective is preserve, protect and defend the basic cable model against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I think over the top is a Trojan Horse that threatens our very business.”

    Bevilacqua: “I’m not sure I agree with Jeff. If you could get your RSN priced right … If you were able to able to deliver a subscription product, and you were getting paid for it, why would that be a bad thing?”

    Krolik talked about an la carte business, and Bevilacqua said, “I’m not saying a la carte, I’m saying a bundled package, over the top, that addresses a segment of the population that isn’t really buying pay TV now. Shouldn’t it be additive?”

    Krolik: “I don’t believe so.”

    Bevilacqua: “I obviously don’t agree with that. I actually think that there is some way to make it work in the ecosystem.”

    Shuken: “I think they’re not mutually exclusive. Jeff is right, if you’re Time Warner Cable, your evaluation of your entire product offering and your entire economic model is protecting that golden goose. … I didn’t say over the top is cool and it can all be great. I said if we protect the core rights, there is a way to cross promote and ultimately benefit the core rights. But I agree from Time Warner cable perspective, from a distribution perspective, we have to be very sensitive to how we protect that model.”

    Bevilacqua: “But Time Warner Cable is one of the biggest broadband providers in the world and if you’re carrying something over your network and we go usage-based pricing, why is that bad?

    Shuken: “Like I said, they’re not mutually exclusive if there’s a way that protects the core economic model and then elevates it …”

    Bevilacqua: “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”

    Shuken: “I’m not disagreeing with either of you. I’m saying it’s all about the execution. Trojan horse? Could be. Opportunity? Could be. It’s somewhere in the middle if they do it right.”

    Quick hits:

    On the importance of a broad base:
    Bevilacqua: “One of the things we always try to do is put together a portfolio. Any team, even great teams, are going to have cycles where they are down. The broader your portfolio, the better the product that you can bring to the market.”
    Shuken: “Chris is right. Ultimately these multi-billion dollar evaluations and investments are predicated on long term successes.”

    On the appeal of the L.A. market: Bevilacqua: “The Los Angeles market is different than you might see in other markets around the U.S. in terms of how local sports is viewed and consumed here. There’s a lot of choice here … in terms of entertainment options. It’s a large geographical market, it’s dense and it’s got all the right ingredients to have a really robust RSN market. L.A., just because of all the other options you have, is much different that other markets where there is more specific passion around the local sports teams.”

    Tags: IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports
  • Video Bursts from World Congress of Sports

    We're using the Burst app to showcase attendees, speakers and exhibitors at this week's World Congress of Sports. 

  • BBDO’s Lubars on honest marketing and why sports is great for brands

    BBDO Worldwide Chief Creative Officer and BBDO North America Chair David Lubars sat down for a morning one-on-one session during the first day of the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. Lubars’ work has included sports-related creative for brands such as Snickers, Guinness, AT&T, Visa, Diet Mountain Dew and Foot Locker.

    Here are a few quick hits from the session:

    On how the consumer has changed: “The consumer used to be a victim. Creative was designed by brands behind a curtain. Now, consumers can flip away whatever they don’t want to see. They look at a lot of things at the same time. They also understand marketing incredibly well. They all talk in jargon. Very sophisticated. They just want marketing to be transparent and honest and authentic. … The truth was the only thing that ever worked. … Leaders are now becoming more comfortable where the consumer actually shapes the brand.”

    On why sports creative tells a good story for brands: “If you look at what makes the human animal go, it is competition and to be incentivized. That’s why communism was such a disaster. You need to be rewarded and recognized for accomplishment. Sports crystallizes that. It’s dramatic. It’s exciting. It’s entertaining. And it happens live and it’s visceral. So sports marketing is very important, as long as you do it right, which is with quality and creativity and not being a shill.”

    On the use of athletes in creative after Tiger Woods: “We have analytics and metrics that show beyond a doubt that people love athletes. Tiger’s problem was not what he did. A lot of athletes have done far worse. His problem is that he’s not fun. Today’s audience wants athletes to be able to make fun of themselves, and that’s just not his personality.”

    On making entertaining vs. effective creative: “It has to be rooted in a strategic idea that really is true to the brand. What we’ve found is that the same pieces that end up being entertaining are also effective. To do it right, it really takes both.”


    Tags: BBDO WorldWide, North America, IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports
  • Garber: Problems around Qatar World Cup could be ‘monumental disaster’ for soccer

    Garber hopes that "FIFA can resolve this in a way that's good for the sport."

    MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup and the potential that the event may have to move from summer to winter because of weather was a “monumental disaster” for soccer worldwide. He added that he hopes the event is moved.
     
    “We certainly would be happy to host it here and have a lot of big stadiums that could turn it around and host on very short notice,” said Garber, who spoke on the opening panel of 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. “But we’re going to be on the sidelines on this and hope that FIFA can resolve this in a way that’s good for the sport.”
     
    Garber’s comments followed a question about reports claiming that former FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner took $1.2 million in bribes from a Qatari group prior to FIFA’s vote to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup. FIFA is investigating the allegations.
     
    “That now is going to get a lot more legs,” Garber said. “If more comes out, who knows what happens. It’s very disappointing. It’s an unpleasant aspect of the global football business.”
     
    Garber said the uncertainty around when the 2022 Qatar World Cup would be held “is a very difficult situation for our sport.”  There’s talk that it could be in November of 2021 or January of 2022.
     
    “Their broadcast partners here might have a problem with it going up against (NFL) football,” Garber said. “It affects all of us for many, many years.” 

    Tags: Soccer, MLS, IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports, FIFA
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