SBG: U.S. Investors Line Up Tottenham Bid SBD: CBS Praised For Its Handling Of Pregame Show SBD: Wasserman Receives $100M Investment SBJ: Wasserman gets $100M investment SBD: Former Knicks Exec Warns Ousted Mets VP SBD: 49ers, Pac-12 Nets Ban Announcer For Rice Comments SBJ: A league under siege, again SBD: Coors Billboards With UConn Logos Removed SBJ: Game Changers 2014 SBD: Executive Transactions
June 11, 2014 04:29 PM
Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting sat for a 30-minute interview with SBJ's MLB writer, Eric Fisher, at the 2014 Veritix Sports Facilities and Franchises conference. Among the highlights:
On the Pirates' approach to building through the draft and investing in a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic: "I'm not a patient person, particularly. You can ask people who work with me. But we needed to do the right thing for the long haul. ... We began to see an impact about two years ago, when we saw a team that was playing better baseball with the right building blocks. Last year, we saw it develop in a big way, our first winning season in 21 years. To see the passion of Pittsburgh light up was a confirmation that some of the rocky travel we took was worth it."
On building upon last year's success: "The most important thing will be to earn the trust of this community and the fans. We need to reward their commitment with our own commitment that we are going to do everything we can to make the Pirates better. We need to earn their respect and trust."
On the revenue challenges facing some MLB franchises: "We will never use the landscape as an excuse, as a reason we can't succeed. We have a certain hand we are dealt and it includes market size and the way revenue is handled within the league. Our responsibility is to be realistic and be as efficient as possible in utilizing our assets. We need to use the resources we have as effectively as we can. We can't have a scapegoat mentality."
On establishing a master plan for PNC Park for the next decade: "We have been in PNC Park for 14 seasons, and we need to continue to invest in and improve the fan experience. We have had good incremental improvements in the ballpark. But the process we are going through now is really a 30,000-foot deep dive into what our vision for the ballpark is 15 years from now, trying to find what the best ballpark in 2030 is going to look like. It's not crystal clear to me what it's going to look like. It's going to be very different. I think PNC Park has sustaining legs as one of those iconic ballparks, like a Wrigley, like a Fenway, that has iconic sustainability."
On media criticism facing him in his early ownership of the Pirates and being the face of the franchise: "It doesn't do any good to complain about the reality of the setting. What I greatly worry about the perception - or misperception - about the opinion is the degree that it reflects on the franchise. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been a vibrant and critical part of the fabric of Pittsburgh, and I take it as a real responsibility to shepherd that organization. To the extent that criticisms were out there, it bothered me that it could paint the franchise in a negative brush. I believe we are doing the right thing for the franchise, for the organization and for the city every day. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be able to get up in the morning, and that makes it easier to sleep."
On being named to serve on the search committee to select the next MLB commissioner: "I won't say much about that, because the search process needs to be confidential. But I was really pleased to serve. The next commissioner will help steer the direction of the game for the next decade and it's a critical time for baseball. It's a critical time in how we engage youth, how we grow internationally and how we work with labor. What struck me is the diverse face of the committee. We have such a diverse group on the committee that is really working hard to run a real process, a broad process and an open process. We are going to make sure we're getting feedback from all teams and all stakeholders in the game. It will be a process that is robust and serious, and since Commissioner Selig selected the committee, he really has stepped back."
Whether Commissioner Selig will step down in January 2015: "Absolutely. He is committed to stepping down on a high note."
The biggest challenge facing baseball: "Now that we put some of the ethical issues and performance-enhancing drugs behind us, I think a main focus is engagement with youth and building that next generation of passionate fans. Part of that goes to young people playing the game and loving it. ... Not enough young people are playing the game."
On weighing character versus talent when deliberating whether to sign a player: "We will always overweigh character. I think culture is the single most important thing we can get right. There is no substitute for character."
June 11, 2014 04:09 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers Co-Owner and President Art Rooney II was candid and direct in the first featured one-on-one interview this morning at the Sports Facilities and Franchises conference in Pittsburgh. Rooney was named Steelers president in 2003 when his father, Dan, passed the torch to him. He was principally responsible for the design, development and financing plan for Heinz Field, which opened in 2001.
Here is Rooney on a number of topics from his discussion today with Executive Editor Abe Madkour:
The NFL in Los Angeles: “It’s all about a stadium. If they build it, [a team] will come. Maybe more than one. I believe we will have one, maybe two teams there in the next ten years. The league just wants to make sure it works this time. LA is a great market. It’s just making sure there’s a great venue there.”
The NFL in London: “We’re still a little ways away from deciding whether we can locate a team there, but so far so good. I’m not necessarily sold on the idea that we need to have a team there to be successful.” Rooney said travel is a hurdle: “Unless someone brings back the Concorde.”
The Thursday night TV package: “It will be successful. The partnership with CBS is key to it. Thursday night is a great night for NFL football.” Asked what the coaches think, Rooney said. “Coaches like to play at 1 o’clock on Sunday. Everything else is a distraction.”
Other possible TV broadcast windows: “You never know. I wouldn’t say we’re done, but there won’t be many significant changes in the regular season.”
Cold weather Super Bowls: “Everyone was asking Roger Goodell (at Met Life Stadium) where he went to church that weekend. This winter was one of the coldest ever in New York, but not that day. We’ll see more cold weather Super Bowls. I hope we see one in my lifetime in Pittsburgh.”
NFL-NFLPA relationship: “’Strained’ might be one way to say it.”
Lack of agreement on HGH testing: “It’s been a thorn in everyone’s side. We feel very strongly about it. It’s not something we can compromise on. The Players Association has made it a bone of contention that they will not let go. It’s taken much longer than any of us would have liked.”
Expansion of playoffs: “We’re interested in looking at it. From the Pittsburgh perspective, we have an open mind about it. One more playoff game in the opening round would allow more fans to be alive in the competing cities.”
18-game regular season: “Not in the near future. The truth is, we haven’t had any meaningful discussion about expanding the regular season since the early days of negotiating the recent CBA.”
What’s next for the NFL: “You don’t want to be complacent, that’s for darn sure. The broadcasting landscape is changing dramatically. There are a lot more ways to reach fans, and that’s a good thing. It’s up to the league and the clubs to provide the kind of content fans want.”
A typical game day at Heinz Field for him: “I arrive about three hours before the game and meet with the staff. I walk the building with (stadium manager) Jimmy Sacco. I enjoy those hours before the game, speaking with fans, with people who work in the stadium, with people from the visiting team. After kickoff, I’m not much of a socializer. I focus on the game.” Rooney added that he watches home games with his father, Dan, and GM Kevin Colbert.
Balancing tradition with new things: “We consider our history our foundation – something we want to build on. But there’s a new generation of sports fan that expects different things. You’re constantly trying to improve your stadium, but not to the point where it’s a distraction from the game. We’re not trying to re-create someone’s living room at Heinz Field. We want a great in-stadium experience. The little things count – the convenient things, like access to the stadium and parking.”
June 11, 2014 09:00 AM
Training Sales Leaders of Tomorrow
Drew Cloud, Pittsburgh Pirates
Ben Milsom, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jake Reynolds, Philadelphia 76ers
Steve Swetoha, Tulsa Shock
STAFFING: Sales executives agreed that a first year sales rep will make, on average, $35,000 to $40,000 all in. The 76ers are budgeted to have 94 sales reps starting next month. “It has been dramatic growth,” Reynolds said of the sales group. “We have tripled the size of our sales staff in a short amount of time. Our entry level sales reps are paying for themselves, all in, within the first 90 days of their job. The ROI and analytics are there to actually support our decision.” The Bucs have 52 sales and service people, and Milsom said that returns justify those employee numbers: “If you show a 10-to-1 return on investment to your ownership group, they take to that pretty well.” A first-year sales rep will sell on average $150,000 in ticket inventory, while a second year rep will average roughly $277,000. Most pointed to that figure as key to keeping a sales staff intact. “There is a huge platform to keep those reps on for a second year,” said Reynolds, who added that for strong second-year sales reps, the team will give them “a title bump and raise and added responsibility. It’s vital to retain them for a second year.”
STAFF EVALUATION AND LOW PERFORMERS: The executives talked about how they deal with the challenge of coaching up under-performers. “We evaluate all of our staff on a monthly basis,” Milsom said. “We look at deep data points of an ROI on each sales person, from what they’ve brought in, to what we’ve invested in them. That sounds harsh, but it’s important. So we do a dive deep into that data and compare it to the sales reps’ time, effort and appointments. Then we sit down and have a open conversation, asking them, ‘What are we missing? What can we help you with?’ If, after 30 days, you haven’t see their number grow, it’s going to be hard to make that work.” Cloud: “We look at some hustle stats -- the calls, appointments, emails. The red flags go up if you look at results, and then go back to those hustle stats. Then it’s back to coaching, ‘How can we help you? How can we get you more face-to-face meetings?’ All of our stats show face-to-face is far more effective. It’s about developing relationships.”
NEW SALES TECHNIQUES: Cloud noted the new methods of selling outside the traditional mechanism of 100 phone calls to sales prospects. “The question is, what’s the new 100 calls?” he said. “Now there are so many more platforms, so sales reps can do some great presentations from LinkedIn, our sales reps are much more ambitious and they want a presence on Twitter and Facebook and so that’s a new role. There is email now. It is not just phone calls. There are so many metrics we have to be aware of as sales managers.” The 76ers’ Reynolds agreed, and used an example of how one of his sales reps attributed $91,000 of her sales revenue to her connections on LinkedIn. “Our reps are using social so much: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. How can that shorten the sales cycle with many of the tools they are using?” But he added that it may be a challenge to sales managers who are new to seeing sales reps use social platforms during work. “With social selling, they may be on Twitter during the day at work,” he said. “And you’re asking yourself, ‘Are they really prospecting?’ There has to be a level of trust within the organization during this process.”
MANAGING A CAREER PATH: Motivating and managing a staffer’s career was a central topic. Swetoha: “It starts in the interview process. How they think. What their goals are. Engagement – getting their input on our process. It really has worked when we have engaged them, so they feel part of the team and building that culture.” Milsom: “You have to be transparent from the very beginning. You should have the process to see the traits of a leader. … We try to identify the leaders early and bring in management in training, and do leadership training. We hope that if we lose someone outside to another organization, we can have the next person step up, and we think we have the internal process down and it works.” Cloud: “Someone has coached us to be sales leaders and managers. We’ve created opportunities within our sales programs to give people who think they want to be managers exposure to what it takes to be responsible for other people. It’s not for everyone. After some of that training, some say, ‘Hold on, hold on. I just want to sell.’ And then you go down that path with them to selling at a higher level. It may be premium or corporate sales, rather than leading and managing others.”
SALES FORCE OF THE FUTURE: In looking at the sales force and environment of the future, all agreed that there will be a “season ticket” in future sales. Most of the focus was on increased use of technology. Reynolds: “We have it now, but it’s only going to get better. We have reps today who are going around the arena showing inventory on FaceTime and closing thousands of dollars of deals.” Milsom stressed more diversity in the sales force: “Sports business needs to do a better job of growing diversity.” Cloud added: “We’re going to be a lot more nimble. I don’t think anything replaces the phone, whether it’s the wristwatch or a cell phone, but we can’t forget the power in the ability to sell face-to-face. Combine that where we use tablets where I can show you great views of the inventory, and I’ll know inventory available, I’ll know pricing. So, I think we will get a lot more nimble. I think we will have a lot better feel for our numbers and performance metrics real-time on smart phones and tablets versus spreadsheets and weekly reports.” Swetoha agreed: “Technology will enhance how we market and sell our product, and that will help how our sales teams sell our product. It’s always going to be a relationship driven.”
June 11, 2014 08:50 AM
Next Gen Premium Products
Brian Basloe, Brooklyn Nets/Barclays Center
Mike Burch, Speedway Motorsports
Todd Lambert, Detroit Lions
Mike Ondrejko, Legends Global Sales
SLUMPING SUITES: There was one area in which the four-person panel was in complete agreement: large, 30-seat suites are becoming more difficult to sell and manage in this era. “People are concerned about the sense of waste,” said Basloe. “The other issue is the work to distribute 30 tickets for every game and event.” As a result, many organizations are moving to smaller models for premium seating products. At Ford Field, where there are 132 suites (115 of them on the south side of the stadium), the Detroit Lions will repurpose some suites so that there is a total of 90. That leaves room to develop theater boxes or mini-suites, 4- to 8-seat spaces with access to deluxe eating spaces and other fan-friendly opportunities. “Coming to a Lions game or one of the big events at Ford Field is more than a three-hour experience,” said Todd Lambert, vice president of ticketing for the Detroit Lions. “A lot of teams have the concept of providing a club or bar for fans to get to early, then a lunch or dinner pre-game at a common dining space before going to your suite for the game. That’s where we’re hoping to go to now.” For the Jacksonville Jaguars, Legends is developing 20 poolside cabanas, with a lounge area, cushioned furniture and TVs. “We took input from the marketplace,” said Mike Ondrejko, COO of Legends Global Sales. “We’re confident the cabana concept is going to be an absolute home run.”
ON PIT ROAD: You cannot get closer to the action than the premium experience that Speedway Motorsports is providing at its eight race tracks. Speedway Motorsports venues have “Pit Road” suites. “You’re literally looking over the show of the pit crew manager,” said Mike Burch, vice president of national sales and marketing for Speedway Motorsports. Speedway Motorsports also sells passes to Victory Lane. It’s a $99 add-on to the price of the ticket so fans can be near the celebration and award ceremony. Burch praised the accessibility of NASCAR drivers such as Kevin Harvick, who conducts Q-and-A sessions hours before some races and greets fans who have paid for the experience. “It’s not like LeBron James is going to be willing to sign autographs minutes before a big game,” said Burch.
Lambert, on Ford Field: “The stadium is 12 years old, so it’s time for a refresh. Three key areas for us: expand the fan experience, diversify the product line, and improve aesthetics.”
Basloe, on cooperation from team operations: “The buy-in from team ops is very important. Pat Riley spoke at an NBA TMBO event recently. When Pat Riley is heading panels on how team ops can help new business, we’ve entered a new frontier.”
Ondrejko, on a vital market for premium services: “There is a market for young, successful professionals to have a more social environment. Premium buyers love those opportunities.”
Burch, on venue evaluations: “One of the biggest challenges is, how do you look at your building in a new way? Especially if it’s a building that has been around for a while. I like bringing in people to have a new set of eyes and tell me what can be different.”
June 10, 2014 05:17 PM
June 10, 2014 03:02 PM
Using Fan Profiles and Analytics
Josh Brickman, Monumental Sports
Kenny Farrell, Arizona Diamondbacks
Kevin O'Toole, Cleveland Cavaliers
Anthony Perez, Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic have been a first-mover in this space, and VP/Business Strategy Antony Perez said, “We are focused a lot on trying to personalize predictive analytics. We are looking at likely renewals, new buyers or lapsed buyers. Then we think about how do we turn those into campaigns that are streamlined, so that once a person takes an action, it turns into an individualized message from us. In terms of using all our data and being smart and targeted, we always call it being more like Amazon.com. They have specific data and we want to be like that.” Diamondbacks Senior Director, Business Strategy and Operations, Kenny Farrell outlined the size and the scope of his group. “If you go back three years, I was overseeing a CRM department,” he said. “But now we’ve turned into an analytics team, adding staff and skill sets, and so that’s been a transformation.” His analytics staff has grown to four, with, in addition to him, one person serving as manager of business strategy, a CRM analyst with a Sequel background and a statistician with a math background.
PROGRAM SUCCESS: In talking about successful programs this year, Josh Brickman, Directory, Strategy and Analytics for Monumential Sports and Entertainment, said, “One of the new programs we did this year was using Google AdWords, and 80 percent of the buyers that came through that were new buyers. They were searching for tickets. We had different ad types and different ad copy that we tested and we found very good success from people who were looking for our games. It wasn’t as successful for the Capitals as it was for the Wizards. The Caps were more established, but the Wizards had some new fans, and it was very successful for us to reach new fans.” Perez noted that one effective measure of name capturing was the team’s wifi portal in the venue. Fans are asked to sign up voluntarily on the portal, and the organization added almost 60,000 names to its database from people voluntarily adding their personal information. Perez said they will do soft outreach to this group, but “it’s been a really rich data set for new people.” The D’Backs’ Farrell believes the team’s mobile app is also a strong product to data capture names in the venue, where fans are signing in. Meanwhile, asked about investments into such research, Perez noted the advantage he has in handling analytics for the business and the basketball side. “It’s helped that investments have been enterprise wide,” he said. “It hasn’t just been focused on one area, but it benefits across the entire organization. That’s helped us make a more significant investment.”
June 10, 2014 02:36 PM
As the news broke that the Knicks would name Derek Fisher coach, many in the media weighed in on what the hiring means for not only Phil Jackson and the rest of the organization, but also for the future of coaching in the NBA. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said, "All the old-school coaches out there, their days are numbered. You’re seeing young coaches get hired, people moving in a different direction, bringing on guys who have limited experience, relatively younger. It’s a new day, a new age in the world of the NBA” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 6/10). Kings G Jason Terry said there is a "trend" in the NBA now with "guys that have finished playing go right to the bench" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 6/9). ESPN’s Mike Golic said, “He’s like a pawn in this one, is he not? He’s coming in as a head coach, but he’s going to take his direction from Phil Jackson. … Most coaches that go in, they get to do their thing. Derek Fisher is not going to get in to do his thing" (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 6/10).
MOMENT OF ZEN: NBA TV’s Sam Mitchell said of Jackson, “It’s not that he didn’t want a guy with experience. He wants a guy that knows him, that knows his system, that’s played for him, that he’s comfortable with. That’s going to be comfortable for Phil to come down or call him up to his office and go over certain situations with him" (“NBA Gametime,” NBA TV, 6/9). ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy said it is "going to be different when you're transitioning from being the teammate to being a head coach" but Fisher is "going to fall back a lot onto how Phil Jackson sees the game and he'll teach it as such." Van Gundy added, "I think Phil Jackson will be wise enough to allow him room to develop and grow" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/9). CBS Sports Network’s Seth Davis: “I don’t think anybody expects Derek Fisher to rescue the franchise. If they do, let me be the spoiler for you, it isn’t going to happen” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 6/9).
IT'S A HARD KNOCKS LIFE: CBS Sports Network’s Doug Gottlieb said, “I wish ‘Hard Knocks’ would let us in Cleveland.” But the net’s Tony Luftman called Browns coach Mike Pettine’s "approach" to not appear on the series "a wise and pragmatic one” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 6/9).
BUT I REALLY LIKE RADIO CITY: NFL Network’s Damon Amendolara, on the NFL Draft switching locations: “I think there’s a split here. A lot of people love the idea of it coming to their town, but others say, ‘It works so well in New York. There’s a real sizzle there. Do we really want to see this go?’” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 6/10).
June 10, 2014 01:48 PM
Look Ahead: The Ticketing Biz
Susan Cohig, NHL
Cole Gahagan, Ticketmaster
Samuel Gerace, Veritix
Bryan Perez, AEG
Mark Plutzer, MLB Advanced Media
TIGHTENING THE TICKET WINDOW: When asked what he’s focused on, Ticketmaster EVP Cole Gahagan stressed the changing dynamic of the ticket sales calendar, and reducing the amount of time between when schedules are released and tickets subsequently go on sale, thereby providing more opportunity to capitalize on pent-up fan demand. “The conversations we are having right now are around time,” he said, “and are more related to what the on-sale looks like in the future, with the respect of schedule releases. What we are finding is, the on-sale is a complete misnomer. You are always on-sale. We see, in looking at data, a massive sales spike around certain events year after year, right when leagues publish their schedule. We are starting to challenge the teams and leagues to close the gap of when you go on sale and when the schedule is released, and I think you will see a change in that practice, with more teams taking advantage of that opportunity.”
Veritix CEO Sam Gerace said that all the information consumers provide should help strategy. “Fans are busy expressing their preference every day on your device,” he said. “Consumers can express their preferences even before inventory goes on sale, and that can impact our pricing and strategy. On-sale has been transformed. Instead of using a limited set of information to establish your plans, we can have fans express their preferences, do advance reservations or hold their place in line, and so teams can be armed with all this information before it’s introduced. There is great opportunity in advance of the on-sale.”
NHL SVP/Business Affiars and Marketing Susan Cohig added, “You can have a continual conversation with the consumer. What about parking? What about merchandise? So one can cycle through all these opportunities to increase revenue, and so there are a thousand different ways we can connect with fans before they even enter the door.”
BULLISH ON IBEACONS: Panelists all believe in the value and the promise of iBeacon technology, but each stressed that the next step is making the data more actionable, and more specifically targeted to individual fans. Perez said AEG is “very bullish” on beaconing, that it has invested in a beacon technology and will be conducting a trial of it next month in the Staples Center. Perez did stress that the offers conveyed through beacons have to become more sophisticated. “Right now there is a very generic messaging to beacon-ing,” he said. “‘There’s a concession stand. There’s a beer stand.’ But you have to get more granular than that. If the phone is buzzing in your pocket, it has to be something good.” MLBAM VP/Ticketing Mark Plutzer added, “It’s about getting the right message to the right customer at the right time. We are making sure it’s working and getting the information flow going. But we can really build on this to get really rich messaging, and some great opportunities. You want to understand where the customer is moving throughout the ballpark and having them raise their hand to say, ‘I’m here,’ and you can service that. You really need to deliver a message that’s appropriate to them.”
Perez and others were very bullish on taking the iBeacon information outside the ballpark to create more year-round fan engagement. Perez: “This could be a huge sales opportunity. You could go to an advertiser and talk about all the fan behaviors in and out of the ballpark. … But we have to get it right. It starts slowly, but we’re going to be back here in two years and we’re going to be blown away by the information we’re going to be getting from these customers.” Gerace stressed that sponsors will be out front with beacon networks related to teams that they work with, so that a person walking by a bank could get a message of a special ticket or merchandise offer they could take advantage of just by walking in the door. Gerace: “It’s an immense opportunity that is selling itself.”
Asked what type of CRM technology they are still seeking, Perez said, “It’s, Who are you with? Who is in your group? I don’t know whether the person who purchases tickets is the one who went, or was it someone else. The more that we can drive electronic and mobile ticketing, the better, because that transfer really tells us who is in the building. … Any technology that could triple my database overnight is going to be pretty interesting.”
Gerace, on what he’s spending a lot of time on: “What experience a fan wants. Getting a fan to express what experience the fan wants so we can address that.”
On trends in youth consumption, Cole said, “Friction is a massive deterrent to engagement and purchase with the younger generation. So the goal is to remove as much friction as you possibly can. It’s going to happen predominately on the mobile channel, so what we’re trying to do is get them in, show them what they want as quickly as you can, allow them to transact very quickly, and then get them out. That’s what they want.”
June 10, 2014 12:36 PM
June 10, 2014 09:00 AM
■ Pittsburgh hiring Jim Rutherford as general manager.
■ NBC's ratings success with the Stanley Cup Finals.
■ Reviving the World Cup of Hockey and what that means for the Olympics.
■ And the NHL is on the way to adding $1 billion in revenue by 2015.