The NFL is "offering a mea culpa for the fiasco that left about 475 paying customers without seats for Super Bowl XLV" last year, according to Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. NFL Senior VP/Events Frank Supovitz said that the league is "working with Walt Disney on a Fans First initiative to train 20,000 executives and employees who'll work Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis." The Disney Institute is "training workers in the customer-friendly ways of Disney parks." Consultant Tom Thomson said that the goal is to "make all fans feel like VIPs." The NFL will "use temporary seating but only seats previously installed, and approved, for past events." The league also is "putting 500 workers in parking lots to help people get in and out of the stadium" and is "hiring Lucas Oil Stadium ushers who can best direct fans to their seats or to the nearest restroom." Supovitz said, "It's no secret we didn't deliver last year on the promise of a great experience" (USA TODAY, 12/7).
Events and Attractions
The problems affecting Penn State and Syracuse provided the dominant theme on the opening panel at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in N.Y. NCAA President Mark Emmert said that if a year ago you had predicted football-coaching changes, and the causes behind them, at Penn State, Ohio State, North Carolina and Tennessee, no one would have believed you. Emmert said the NCAA is in the process of rewriting its rulebook, getting rid of what he called “silly rules.” The new rules will “deal more aggressively with the adults in the room,” and hold people accountable for their actions. Emmert also took a shot at conference realignment. Without mentioning a specific conference, he described college sports as a regional opportunity, not a national one. “It wasn’t a pretty moment,” he said. “We hope it flattens out right away. There’s a domino effect.”
Quick Hits on the Penn State scandal:
* Emmert: "Everything that’s going on at Penn State are allegations. We don’t know what all the facts are yet. It’s premature and not particularly helpful to speculate. Penn State’s been fantastic in working with us."
* Quinnipiac Univ. President John Lahey: "If it can happen at Penn State and Syracuse, it can happen anywhere. This was not about student athletes. When any part of the university becomes so important to the university, it can cloud the better judgment of people of high intelligence or high integrity. If a faculty member [had been caught], I don’t think that it would have been a close call. It would have been turned over to the police."
* Univ. of Texas President Bill Powers, on the lessons learned from Penn State: "The moment something goes wrong, have a press conference, get it out and deal with it. Almost all problems were exacerbated by Penn State not getting it out and dealing with it."
* Univ. of Massachusetts Chancellor Robert Holub: "All of us have to hope that we would have the courage and integrity to deal with those kinds of situations. I hope I would act in a manner I’d be proud of."
Quick Hits on the Longhorn Network:
* Powers, on its role in conference realignment: "Longhorn Network was discussed 18 months ago. It was fully disclosed. Schools talked about leaving 18 months ago before the network ever came into play. If you say the network is the reason for realignment, I would say that is flat-out false."
* Powers, on the net providing an unfair advantage to Texas: "It may give us an advantage in exposure. [But we already] have an advantage when we take recruits into a 100,000 stadium. Every program makes its program an attractive place to go. It doesn’t take a dime out of anyone else’s program. We see this as a great entrepreneurial opportunity."
* Emmert, on whether it will lead to other college university-specific channels: "You can’t turn the tide back on. I don’t know if we should."
Quick Hits on the biggest change in college sports in the next year:
* Lahey: "The focus needs to be on where the problems really are: Division-I football and, to a lesser degree, basketball."
* Holub: "We need to restore integrity to collegiate sports. There’s no doubt it’s been damaged."
Though college presidents in the first panel of the day of the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in N.Y. worried that realignment could hurt the regional loyalties that go along with college sports, the brand managers in the second panel said they are not too worried. UPS VP/Global Sponsorships & Events Ron Rogowski: “People are mobile, so at the end of the day, as long as there is that passion for the school there and there’s some attention … I don’t know that we’ll lose it.” IMG Senior VP/U.S. Business Development Lawton Logan: “I don’t think you’re going to have that passion go away. When you look at the natural passion of these rivalries, I think that college is now on par … with any of the professional organizations.” MillerCoors VP/Marketing Services Jackie Woodward said it is important for companies to “take a look at all of the drivers of passion and then figure out how to arrange your selling story and your proposition to alumni based on all of those components of passion.” Chick-fil-A Senior VP & CMO Steve Robinson: “College football has become more of a national passion (and) brand, but with this realignment and more national platforms for exposure, there may be an opportunity for smaller, regional brands to affiliate with specific universities.”
ECONOMIC PRESSURE: Panel participants talked about how the economy has affected their budgets and marketing plans. Rogowski: “We’ve been financially conservative through our whole 105 years. Over the last five years, we’ve expanded our sponsorship programs globally, and I think next year we’ll focus on a domestic program in college that is a relatively new program for us.” Robinson: “On a national platform all of our marketing is in college football. That is our niche. It is the one we think we can afford and afford to do well. We are not a write-a-check marketer.”
Quick Hits on marketing beer in college sports:
* Woodward: "It's very important to do this the right way. I have a 15-year-old daughter. It matters a lot to me that we market toward the right age consumers."
* Logan: "It is a sensitive category. I think most universities realize what MillerCoors is doing. They are not interested in the student and the student athletes. What they want is the connectivity with the alumni and the passion points of the community."