SBD: FS1 Canceling "Fox Sports Live," Won't Keep Hosts SBJ: Turner’s soccer shocker SBD: Sources: FS1 Not Renewing "Garbage Time" SBD: Former Player Says WNBA Has "Harmful Culture" SBD: MLBAM Hires Michael Paull To Be BAMTech CEO SBD: Buss' Decision To Fire Her Brother Hits Home SBD: Dynamo Sign Roc Nation In Three-Tiered Deal SBD: Ravens Offering $200,000 Sponsorship Package SBD: Executive Transactions SBJ: Sports Media: NBCSN stays true
September 17, 2014 03:30 PM
Octagon chief strategy officer Simon Wardle presented new research at the 2014 Game Changers conference that focused on fan interactivity and how female fans consume and interact with sport through digital, social and mobile platforms. We caught up with Wardle to discuss misconceptions about female fans and how “interactive” is the new “avid.”
SBJ/SBD: There’s long been an emphasis on the loyalty of avid fans, but your research shows that interactive fans are even more loyal than avids. What does that tell us about the way that sports and brands should be marketing?
Wardle: The fact that the level of interactivity is more strongly correlated with predisposition to supporting sponsoring brands makes it very appealing to brands who are trying to change purchase behavior. Unlike self-reported ability, behavioral markers like level of interactivity means you can actually target those consumers who have a predisposition to supporting a brand and potentially feel more loyal than would trying or switching as a result of your brand’s investment in that sponsorship. From my perspective, a key takeaway is to make sure that brands are actually focusing on these digital and social platforms, not just as an add-on, but as a very important component of your communications plan, because it is a very target rich environment for consumers who are predisposed to supporting sponsors’ brands.
SBJ/SBD: Where do female fans fit in? Are they as avid and as interactive as male fans?Wardle: Across the board they are surprisingly interactive, and I think part of that has to do with the fact that they’ve embraced the digital and social platforms in the all the facets of their life, and that carries over into their fandom. One of the key takeaways from my perspective is the high level of interactivity we see amongst those female fans. So, again, when you’re thinking about the importance of interactive fans for brands, female fans are no exception. There’s a lot of interactivity there -- a lot of potential.
SBJ/SBD: What does your research show is the biggest misconception about female fans?
Wardle: That’s a tough one. I think there is this perception that a second screen and these alternate channels are the male domain. The research finds that female fans are just as interactive as the male fans. So, a lot of opportunity for, not only the rights-holders, but also athletes and personalities who are trying to build their own brands through these social media channels. It’s a great way for them to engage with female fans for the vast majority of product categories as the household business decision-makers. There’s a lot of opportunity for rights holders, teams, players and brands to connect with those interactive female fans.
SBJ/SBD: What has your research shown about the behavior of female fans, both at games and while watching at home?
Wardle: It’s not a minority activity anymore. When you look at TV viewers, now the majority – over 50 percent – of female fans are engaging in second screen activity, be it their mobile device or laptop. Likewise with in-stadium behavior, about three-quarters of fans are using their mobile devices to help supplement the fan experience and share it with family and friends. I think the days of the coach potato are numbered. We’ve done this segmentation where we’re going from, basically, coach potato to super fan. Nowadays there are only about 30 percent of fans who are in that couch potato fan mode. Everyone has gradually migrated down that continuum as technology and these social, digital platforms have become even more integrated into the fan experience. It really is a great way for fans to supplement the exposure that sports are getting through mainstream media and tailoring it to our own personal needs and desires.
SBJ/SBD: Your conclusion is that “interactive” is the new “avid.” What’s the most important thing to learn from that?
Wardle: Knowing that level of interactivity is a predictor of consumers who are going to be predisposed to sports-sponsoring brands, these social and digital platforms are a target-rich environment for brands to engage and connect with fans who are willing and able to support those sponsor bands. Because it’s behavioral-based, it’s easy to target consumers rather than rely on self-reported ability.
SBJ/SBD: Taking a broader look at all of your findings, what would you say is the biggest takeaway?
Wardle: Life is complicated. Back in the day it was very easy to be a fan. You could watch, read about, attend [or] play [a sport]. Now the opportunities for fans to engage and feed their passion for sport is almost limitless. That’s part of the reason why we set out to do the research. It is so complicated, and you really do have to understand all the different dynamics to figure out, how are fans fans in the modern world? We set out to map out behavior and along the way we found out some interesting facts about these interactive fans that make them so appealing to brands based on that level of predisposition to support them.
September 17, 2014 09:10 AM
September 17, 2014 08:57 AM
What is the best/most memorable sporting event you’ve attended?
Here are their responses.
Alex Baldwin: 1994 World Cup.
Renee Baumgartner: Syracuse vs. Duke overtime basketball game in the Carrier Dome (2014). Syracuse broke the attendance record, with 35,446.
Kim Bohuny: 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Christine Brown: For me, it’s so family oriented. I’ve been to Super Bowls and Final Fours, and they’ve all been awesome. But the story I tell the most is that when Villanova won the championship in ’85, my uncle pulled me out of school to go to the parade in Philadelphia.
Mary Byrne: The Pine Tar Game (1983). We were about to go back to Spain (where we were living) and we went to that game.
Texas' Vince Young scores the winning TD in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Sandy Cross: The FEI World Equestrian Games with our friends and partners at Lexmark International.
Stephanie Druley: BCS national championship when Texas defeated USC at the Rose Bowl (2006).
Donna Fiedorowicz: Wimbledon.
Kelly Flanagan: Easy: Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. I remember standing on the field the day that the ownership of the NFL selected it to be the host facility. To be in the stands years later as the event took place was the perfect full circle.
Dan Jansen prepares for a race at the Lillehammer Games.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Erleen Hatfield: 2014 World Cup games.
Sue Hunt: My first trip to the U.S. Open in 1984, when three of us were able to sneak in with just one ticket.
Gail Hunter: 1995 American League Division Series Game 5: Yankees vs. Mariners.
Beth Hutter: 2000 World Series: “The Subway Series.” I grew up with season tickets to the New York Mets, and getting a chance to see them in the World Series at Shea Stadium was incredible.
Julie Kikla: I was a collegiate gymnast, so when the Summer Olympics come around, I am glued to the broadcast. I had the incredible opportunity to be in London and witness the Fierce Five compete and win gold at the 2012 London Olympics. On screen, it looked like an easy win, but in reality, Aly Reisman had a pretty bad fall during the open warm-up and was up first to compete. Incredible moment for sports when she and her teammates pulled through for a huge win over the Russians, and being in the arena with the parents of the gymnasts in the same row was truly electric and inspiring.
Heidi Massey-Bong: 2007 Daytona 500: Victory lane with Kevin Harvick.
Bernadette McGlade: I could go all the way back to the very beginning. Back in the ’70s, my brother took me to the Palestra to see Immaculata College play Delta State; I still remember the excitement. The 1996 Olympic Games were pretty memorable. I have been fortunate I have attended many memorable sporting events.
Michelle McKenna-Doyle: Super Bowl XLVII: my first at the NFL.
Kimberly Meesters: 1998 Big 12 championship football game in St. Louis: Kansas State vs. Texas A&M. Texas A&M won 36-33 in double overtime.
Seahawks celebrate Super Bowl victory.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Anne Occi: The inaugural World Baseball Classic final: Cuba vs. Japan (2006). They were playing the Cuban national anthem at the beginning. For someone who grew up during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that was a unique moment.
Jay Parry: My dad and I hosted Joe Namath at Super Bowl XXX here in Arizona. My dad loved football, and to spend a weekend with him and Joe Namath was a dream come true.
Kristen Rose: Being a guest in the Steinbrenner suite for a game during the inaugural season at new Yankee Stadium.
Jennifer Sabatelle: My two most memorable events working were: My first Super Bowl in Atlanta in 2000. It was my first major event, and being a member of the NFL broadcasting department I was assigned to work alongside Mike North on the field for the whole game working with the TV and radio sideline reporters. It was such a rush to be on the field for the Super Bowl and be in the middle of the celebration on the field trying to get the reporters inside the ropes. And, my first Masters in 2011. I grew up watching the Masters with my family every year, so to be able to experience it for the first time in person was special.
Heidi Sandreuter: When Jim Abbott threw a no-hitter in Yankee Stadium (1993). I still get chills thinking about it.
Meredith Starkey: As a Seahawks fan, being present for last season’s Super Bowl win was pretty sweet.
Maribeth Towers: 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game in Portland. It was great seeing so many of our national team players newly back from Brazil. Plus, we beat Bayern Munich; what’s not to like about that!
Ali Towle: The 49ers vs. Saints divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park (Jan. 14, 2012).
Ronnie Tucker: My son Sam’s 2011 Mid-Fairfield Blues bantam major AAA hockey team’s defeat of the L.I. Gulls. Sam was in net and stood on his head to steal the game and rob the Gulls of a perfect season. I was literally shaking the entire game. It was a turning point for him and opened many doors.
Alyson Walker: Gold-medal hockey men and women in Sochi; closing ceremony at the London Olympics; Joannie Rochette’s heartfelt skate for bronze at the Vancouver Olympics; and many more.
Alison Weber: Compass Group, Levy’s parent company, was the official food provider for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. I was a “snow boots on the ground” internal reporter traveling from Olympic venue to Olympic venue, sharing the perspective of our team members. Up close and personal, I got to see many of the events and athletes and get a behind-the-scenes look at sports history in the making.
Pamela Wheeler: 2014 WNBA All-Star Game. It was amazing.
Andrea Williams: Michigan State vs. North Carolina on the aircraft carrier in San Diego (2011). It was an amazing experience capped off by an address by President Obama.
September 17, 2014 08:56 AM
Turnkey Search Senior Vice President Carolyne Savini and Turnkey Intelligence Senior Vice President Steve Seiferheld co-presented the results of a study titled “Gender In Sports Business: Industry Perspectives on Where Women Stand in Hiring and Career Advancement,” at the 2014 Game Changers conference in New York. One of the results of the study centered on the question of happiness in the workplace and career.
“Over the past few decades, there has been a lot of discourse about women in business,” Savini said. “As years have progressed, so have the demographics of women in the business office. As an executive recruiter, I see the dichotomy of men and women as they progress through their careers all the time. This is a topic worth time and discussion.”
The study collected information from more than 400 sports industry professionals of different ages, positions and tenure, a list that was relatively split, in terms of gender. The study’s questions about happiness in the workplace revealed that 70 percent of men and 57 percent of women were happy in their careers. On questions about success and performance evaluation, 36 percent of men understood how their work performance would be evaluated, while only 24 percent of women did. Savini: “How can you measure your own success in your job if you do not know how your performance is evaluated? And, taking it a step further in your careers, how can you articulate to your boss why you deserve a promotion or a potential employer all the things you’ve done in your career and why you’re qualified for a job if you don’t understand how your own performance is evaluated? Over 75 percent of women in our industry do not know this, and this is a real problem.”
September 17, 2014 08:14 AM
When lawmakers enacted Title IX into law in 1972, most people did not consider the effect it would have on athletics. “This was done on purpose,” said Sheila Johnson, owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, during a keynote address at the 2014 Game Changers conference in New York. “It was done by design. The bill’s champions knew that if word got out about how it would impact sports so dramatically, it would be a lot harder to get congressional support.”
Johnson, who is also CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, said it was not until the new law was implemented that the country realized its significance for women and girls. “For some people, this was great news,” Johnson said. “But for others, mostly people with Y chromosomes, it was reason to worry.” After discussing the fears that schools and universities had at the time over giving equal funding to women’s athletics, Johnson added, “But, guess what? Today, four decades later, civilization still stands, and men’s sports are still doing just fine.”Despite the changes in the last 40 years, Johnson added, “We’ve come a long way, but it’s also true that we haven’t moved as far or as fast as we would like.” Johnson said that one of the biggest challenges is making sure that women’s sports have adequate resources. After buying the Washington Mystics and stepping foot in the locker room for the first time, Johnson said she was disappointed with its poor condition and the message that it sent. “It said women are not valued or taken serious,” she said. “You’re going to have to work just as hard for half as much. That basic disparity is true for the team outside the locker room, too, especially when it comes to corporate sponsorships. I have to work twice as hard to get the sponsorship and I have to work even harder to keep it.”
Johnson discussed the “vicious cycle” of corporate sponsors’ demands for a larger fan base while struggling to draw an audience with limited sponsorship funding, a problem she says is found all across the WNBA.
“We need more people to rally behind this league if we want it to flourish and grow,” she said. “We’ve seen countless women athletes’ dreams deferred and destroyed because even though they’re willing to invest their lives in the sport, society is not willing to invest in them.”
Johnson called on the audience to channel their ideas “into a PR campaign for women’s sports unlike anything the world has ever seen.”
“Let’s get the world talking about women’s sports,” she said. “Let’s make sure everyone understands why it should have a place on the agenda and why it should be a priority. Let’s make this different. Let’s expand the conversation.”
September 16, 2014 04:44 PM
Mentorship, sponsorship and career development were the central theme discussed by five leaders in sports, who all agreed that mentorship can take on many forms and sizes.
Developing the Next Generation
Moderator Sam Ryan, MLB Network
Kathy Behrens, NBA
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, USOC
Kathryn Olson, Women's Sports Foundation
Donna Orender, Orender Unlimited
Molly Solomon, Golf Channel
Orender Unlimited CEO Donna Orender said women need to help each other more and support each other. “Mentoring is across all generations,” she said. “Giving back is incredibly important that we all need to do. But, as executives, we need to have the time to mentor each other. We need to change from this whole idea of turning on each other, but turn toward each other. For all of us to really care about each other enough to help each other is critical.”
Behrens: “More people are thinking about sports as a career. They think they have to get that first job in sports right after school. The truth is, there is no straight path. Other experiences could prepare you better than that first initial job in sports. You can build on your career regardless of where you are doing it. It doesn’t always have to be, ‘Oh, now I’m working in sports, so I’m good.’”
Mosley: “You have to be present to win. Listening and taking advantage of your opportunities.”
Orender: “We have to be willing to take the leap and believe in yourself. The whole idea of having encouragement and listening to your voice and make a leap and believing in yourself is vital.”
Solomon suggested people become “uncomfortable” as there is a penchant for finding comfort: “I’m starting to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable I am, the more grateful I am after getting through a tough situation. So, I’m becoming more comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Women’s Sports Foundation’s Kathryn Olson: “Sit and learn from people different from yourself. Make an effort to spend time with people who are different. [People you don’t know well or don’t work for] can give you different and very honest advice.”
On what's next for women in sports:
Behrens: “What’s next is success [for women]. I think we are poised for a new wave of women leaders. It’s a good time to be a woman.”
Orender: “I agree. It’s a good time to be us.”
Olson said she would like to see more men attend the Game Changers conference next year: “If we’re talking to ourselves, we’re not getting anywhere. We have to engage men in the conversation.”
Solomon: “I think it’s really important to see women in power. It’s all about seeing people in power. I think that is going to change for the next generation, because if they can see it, they can do it.”
Behrens: “You can be a leader who treats people with respect. It’s possible for everyone to be responsible for how you treat people. Don’t be a jerk is a pretty good way to go to work in the morning.”
Solomon: “I can’t be someone other than myself. I’m choosing to be nice and relentlessly pleasant – that’s who I am.” She recalled her initial experience at Golf Channel and meeting some new colleagues. “I sat down and I barked at them, and I said to myself, 'Who is this person?’ I told myself, ‘I need to be myself.’ You have to believe in yourself because the people who put you in the job believe in you.”
Solomon: “Women are grinders. We stay late and we want to get the job done, so we probably don’t network as well as we should. We need to get out more and walk the office floor and get to other events, but so often we’re just trying to get our check list done.”
Quote of the day:
Behrens drew a big laugh when asked how to balance young children and her work life: “You have no choice. They are there when you get home. There is no great advice. You just do it.”
September 16, 2014 04:03 PM
Fan experience, interactivity and advertising on jerseys were among the topics covered by Onexim Sports & Entertainment President Irina Pavlova during a wide-ranging one-on-one interview at the 2014 Game Changers conference in New York City.
Pavlova said she would like to see jersey patch advertising become a regular sponsorship feature in the NBA. “I personally think we’re missing out on the huge revenue stream on the jersey patch advertising,” said Pavlova, whose Onexim Sports & Entertainment holds a 45 percent interest in the Barclays Center. “I’m hopeful that that is something that will come up in the near future for a new discussion. The problem is, there are 30 teams in the league, everyone has a different financial situation, market, different willingness to spend and it’s just hard to get everyone to agree on the same thing.”
Pavlova says she pays close attention to what fans focus on during Brooklyn Nets home games. “I try to pay attention to what all the fans are doing and how they perceive our game-day experience and entertainment,” Pavlova said. “(Dallas Mavericks Owner) Mark Cuban has a different perspective. He thinks fans should be focused on the game and not texting. I think you have to go with what your customers want. I see our customers wanting to share pictures and videos with their friends and check in and let everyone know where they are. If they have to hit that send button 15 times because Wi-Fi isn’t working at Mark Cuban’s arena, I don’t think we’re providing the full experience.”
Pavlova, who was Google’s first employee in Russia before joining Onexim, talked about the differences in doing business in Russia and the United States. “I think the U.S. business culture is a lot more structured (than Moscow),” she said. “It probably has to do with having over 100 people in the same office every day, trying to do their jobs. I find that I am the translator between Brooklyn and Moscow in terms of how things are done and how the league works.”
Regarding diversity in the workplace, Pavlova said, “Women bring a very different perspective to the table, especially people coming in from different industries. I think hiring the right people and keeping an open mind takes care of diversity for itself.” She also commented on the tendency for assertive women to be branded as abrasive and said that there often needs to be a delicate balance between the two. “I found, personally, that if I’m nice, it’s often mistaken for weakness, and people try to walk all over me and take advantage of me being nice,” Pavlov said. “When you become a little more firm, you are branded bossy. I probably am branded bossy more than I am branded nice. But that’s the price of getting things done sometimes.”
On the Ray Rice scandal: “I think that we all know the right thing to say, but the big question is, Do we have the guts to actually do the right thing? I would like to think that we would do the right thing. There’s no place for something like that in sports. There’s no place for that in society. There should be no tolerance for that. I fully support the decision to suspend him indefinitely.”
On new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “David Stern was commissioner for 30 years and there was a certain way of doing business and certain entrenched relationships that went along with that. I think Adam brought a freshness to the league. It’s a lot more engaging for the owners, and I think they’re a lot more open for discussion.”
September 16, 2014 03:42 PM
Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, on the criticism being heaped on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: "All this discussion around Roger Goodell, you can't blame Roger Goodell for this messy conduct. But at the same time he's the leader of the league and he's got to act" ("Opening Bell," Fox Business, 9/15). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said the NFL "didn’t want to be at the head of a domestic abuse conversation and now it finds itself at the head of a parenting conversation” ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 9/15). National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill said the hiring of women to help address the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal is an "effort by Mr. Goodell to shift this issue off the front pages so that he can get back to business as usual. It is too late for business as usual" ("Nightly News," NBC, 9/15).
FEELING MINNESOTA: ESPN's Michael Smith said of the Vikings playing RB Adrian Peterson next weekend, "I wonder how much this decision had to with their performance against the Patriots" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 9/15). ESPN's Jackie MacMullan said of the Vikings reinstating Peterson, "What has changed about your star running back between Friday and today, other than that you got smacked around by the New England Patriots" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/15). ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "I don’t think that every sin … in the NFL or any other sports league for that matter is solved by sitting somebody forever" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/15). ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said of Vikings GM Rick Spielman’s statement, “That was one of the worst jobs I’ve seen in my entire life by a significant organization … and to have that guy standing up there as ill-equipped to answer questions as he was, was an embarrassment to the entire National Football League” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 9/16). ESPN’s Skip Bayless said of Vikings reinstating Peterson, “There's no way the National Football League can allow Adrian Peterson to step onto the football field this Sunday. It's just such a bad look in light of this second allegation that just came to light” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 9/16). CBSSN's Jim Rome said of charges of child abuse against Peterson, “That’s not discipline to your child, that’s just beating him and switching him. Call it what you want, but the police call this a felony" (“Rome,” CBSSN, 9/15).
THE FIRST OF MANY? ESPN's Darren Rovell said of Radisson suspending its sponsorship with the Vikings, “It's really the first sign where there's a power move in the business world to go alongside with what's been happening” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/15). CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin said there is a “clear problem inside the NFL and it would not surprise me if sponsors decided" to terminate their deals with the league” ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 9/16).
September 16, 2014 02:47 PM
The role of colleges in shaping young adults was a driving theme at a panel discussion on women’s collegiate sports at today’s Game Changers Conference at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square.
The Intercollegiate Challenge
Val Ackerman, Big East Conference
Anucha Browne, NCAA
Rosalyn Durant, ESPN
Chris Plonsky, University of Texas
Considering the continuing storylines of domestic violence and the NFL, Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman noted how the subject spans beyond sports, adding that several conferences have been asked to help promote a forthcoming White House initiative addressing campus sexual violence.
“We have to get to the students, because they are the actors here,” she said. “It’s not just sports. It could be in a fraternity house. It could be at some place other than involving an athlete, but when it happens to athletes, the attention gets blown out.”
Added Anucha Browne, NCAA vice president of women's basketball championships: “It’s much larger than [the NFL]. It is a deep societal issue that has no color lines, no social boundaries. It is global when you think about the treatment of women around the world.”
The subject of exposure for women’s sports was also discussed, considering scheduling among other touch points. Ackerman praised women’s hockey but noted the conflict of the Women’s Frozen Four with the start of the college basketball tournaments, and how that hurts the visibility of that event.
That led to talk about the Final Four and the women’s event relative to the men’s event. Ackerman drew applause when suggesting that the two events should be in the same city, playing on alternate nights, instead of being on the same weekend in different sites as they are now. She said a consolidation would prevent sponsor and media resources from being divided, and she pointed to the WTA having events in conjunction with the ATP as an example of where pairings can work.
“I think women’s sports do need to think big, think broadly,” she said. “The things that have worked for many years may not be the things that will work going forward.”
The panel, titled “The Intercollegiate Challenge: Examining the Growth Prospects of Women’s Collegiate Sports,” was moderated by Emmy Award-winner Andrea Kremer, chief correspondent for NFL Network and correspondent for HBO Sports.
On the development of the Big Five conferences:
Rosalyn Durant, ESPN vice president of college sports programming: “However this plays out, our desire is to continue to show more women’s sports, not less women’s sports.”
On the importance of women in leadership in college sports:
Browne: “A lot of this speaks to strong male leadership that is willing to hire women who are strong minded or forward-thinking or who are outspoken. It’s also that much more important for women to surround each other with support.
On getting more women to watch women’s sports:
Browne: We’ve got to engage women, and challenge women, to consume women’s sports. We can’t rely on our corporate sponsors to do this for us. These are businesses.”
On the role of women’s sports in today’s shifting college landscape:
Plonsky, referencing the No. 2-ranked Texas women’s volleyball team: “Those young women believe what they’re doing is every bit as difficult, rewarding and significant as their male counterparts.”
On the potential changes facing all college sports:
Plonsky: “If sports are professionalized at the college level, I don’t want to see the day where our [Olympic sport athletes] don’t have a place to train and get an education at the same time.”
On the continuing effects of Title IX:
Ackerman: “In the college space, we’re starting to see how the participation and the business sides are coming together.”
The panel, titled “The Intercollegiate Challenge: Examining the Growth Prospects of Women’s Collegiate Sports,” was moderated by Emmy Award-winner Andrea Kremer, chief correspondent for NFL Network and correspondent for HBO Sports.
September 16, 2014 01:11 PM
The opportunity to present their sports and stories to a digital, millennial age while also focusing on business diversification was a prevalent theme from leaders of women’s sports during a panel at the 2014 Game Changers conference in New York. WTA CEO Stacey Allaster led the charge by repeatedly imploring leagues and properties to rethink how they tell their stories and present their game. She said the WTA Tour was on a “journey of sport-entertainment,” combining the sensibilities of those two industries. “As we tell our players, you are athletes, but you are entertainers.,” she said. “We need to do more for fans. We must provide unique experiences to fans and sponsors that fans can’t buy, for us to be able to win.”
State of Women's Sports Properties
Moderator Chris McKendry, ESPN
Stacey Allaster, WTA
Swin Cash, 3-time WNBA champion
Kathy Milthorpe, LPGA
Bonnie Rothenstein, SAP
Laurel Richie, WNBA
BUILDING BRANDS: WNBA player Swin Cash noted how players are far more cognizant of their brand than ever before, and are using that to build interest in sports. “Each player is a brand, each to themselves,” she said. “A lot of us are thinking, ‘How am I growing my brand with the league?' It’s no longer separate. It is more working together with the league, to not only grow the league, but to grow the player’s brand. And we can’t just stay domestic, we have to grow globally.”
At times during the panel, Cash also expressed frustration with the media’s coverage of women’s sports. “We have to start holding accountable the people who are telling our story,” she said “We have this multitude of personalities, but if the public is not told the story, all you hear about is basketball. We, as players, and a league, have to do better talking to media. But the media needs to start telling better stories, better messages.” WNBA President Laurel Richie agreed, “Our players are very accessible before the game, after the game and in the community, and that makes a huge difference for us. Fans want to talk to our players, so they have been very generous giving fans a peak into their lives beyond the court, and that’s what makes them interesting. It humanizes our players and gives young girls many touch points to dream big.”
LPGA CFO Kathy Milthorpe noted the opportunities, as well as the challenges, of telling stories through digital media. “It’s not easy,” she admitted, “because as soon as you think of something, you probably are already out of date and need to try something new. So we are focused on social media, to connect fans to the players’ personalities and to their lives off the course. We are doing a lot on the tournament side for social media hangouts, to connect with people who are not at the course. Social media is interesting because it’s a blank piece of paper and you can do it with limited resources.”
SOCIAL MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES: Cash acknowledged that she’s in contract talks with a potential sponsor, and “they want to know how many Twitters followers I have and Facebook friends, and how I’m using Instragram. That’s where it’s at with players these days. As I tell players: You are the CEO of ‘me.’ That’s how businesses are looking at you as players. Now we can sit at the table with our organization and it’s not just about the game, but about corporate level, a community level, and those are the game changers.”
Cash touted a program she did with American Express that featured a two-minute video about her life off the court. “It showed where I’m over-packing my bag and figuring out how to put 70 pounds into a 50-pound bag,” she said. “Personal things like that, and that feedback on social media was amazing and people wanted to know about life off the court. As we move forward, we’re starting to drive these stories that fans can’t see on national television, but we can show on our own platforms and channels.”
Richie concurred: “The great part about that is, the cost of that effort is very minimal. I think back to my advertising days, and to think what we used to spend on a commercial is crazy to me now. Because now you’re able to effectively, affordably produce great content, leverage the players and their great stories and get this out quickly, and that form of production works on so many levels for us. It really shows what’s beautiful about the game.”
DRIVE TO DIVERSIFY: As the panel concluded, Allaster made a strong call to the audience and the industry. “Revenue is the oxygen which drives our business,” she said, “so we’ve worked on diversifying our revenue.” She noted the WTA’s new sponsorship deal with SAP, and said “they are helping us transfer the WTA to a true sport-entertainment enterprise using big data and engaging the fan.” She stressed how critical it is that businesses look at diversifying revenue streams, and pointed to the WTA Tour’s new event in Singapore, which will be held for the first time next month, as an example. “Thirty five percent of our net operating revenue now comes from one source – Singapore,” she said. “You have to transform. We need sponsors, yes. We need television, yes. Those need to grow and they are growing. But the reality is, to grow, we need new diverse revenue streams, and that’s where new events come in. We are thinking ahead, asking, Wouldn’t it be great to have another major asset that we could own?”
Allaster added, with a call to growing attention to and exposure of women’s sports: “We need leadership. We need companies like SAP to say we’ll invest in our sport. We need media leadership, like ESPN, that won’t just talk about it, but will do something. That’s what we need. We need people to dedicate themselves day in and day out. It’s time for people to invest time, energy and money to women’s sports.”