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FishBait's Jones Says Fans Often Forgotten In Sports Ecosystem

Rick Jones, founder and CEO FishBait Marketing, an agency with a sharp focus on college athletics, stopped by the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily offices in Charlotte on Tuesday to share his thoughts on present-day sports marketing and some of the issues facing college athletics.

Rick Jones formed FishBait Marketing in 2003.
Among his discussion points, Jones said fans have been left behind in the triangular relationship between consumers, sponsors and sports properties. He cited rising ticket prices and the ability of TV to control game times as being developments that have been detrimental to fans.

“The property depends on the fan for television revenue, for ticketing revenues, for licensing revenues — and the sponsor depends on the fan to buy their products,” Jones said. “I say all boats rise with the tide. Don’t worry about how big your boat is. Create a tide, and I think that’s what properties and sponsors have to collectively do: constantly talk about ‘How do we enhance fans?’ And if we do that, we’re going to grow the ecosystem.”

Jones, an Atlanta native, began his career as a high school and college basketball coach before earning his master’s degree in sports administration and entering the world of sports business. In the time since, he has started several sports marketing groups, including The Strategic Group, CMA and now FishBait.

He works with the American Football Coaches Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, as well as a range of other entities that include the NCAA, Turner Sports and ESPN.

Jones said he prefers a glass-half-full mentality when it comes to the future of college sports. While he notes that the consolidation of rights holders can hurt local and alumni business deals, he also emphasizes positive developments in the space, such as the games each year getting a new crop of fans — a freshman class — and college sports having significant female fan support.

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