In two recent editions of the SportsBusiness Journal, two articles have appeared chronicling the Big Ten’s and Pac-12 efforts to “centralize digital rights.” The front page article discussing Pac-12 Enterprises not only stated that “The [Pac-12] conference plans to gain control of its school websites once their deals with CBSSports.com and NeuLion expire over the next two years,” but Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is quoted as stating, “We want to roll up all of our schools’ websites into the first-ever college conference portal. That’s a big undertaking.”
With all due respect to Commissioner Scott, please know that our Council of Presidents at the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference voted to approve the first-ever NCAA conference-wide Web platform modeled after MLB Advanced Media nearly two years ago.
In view of this fact, and in the interest of journalistic accuracy and integrity, I believe it is critically important that your publication correct the record and recognize the SIAC, which also became the first NCAA Division II Conference to launch an Android application as well.
Although the major conferences seemingly have a monopoly with respect to SBJ’s coverage of college sports, it is clear that these conferences have not monopolized technological innovation and new ideas. However, this perception will be allowed to persist unless and until the SBJ accords credit where credit is due when a smaller conference such as the SIAC beats the bigger conferences to market with a new and innovative initiative.
Moore is commissioner of the SIAC (thesiac.com), which comprises 13 historically black colleges and universities.
What a difference the Rooney Rule, a new commissioner and a decade have made in the NFL.
In the 2011 NFL report card released at the beginning of the season, the NFL achieved its second consecutive A grade on racial hiring practices and its second consecutive C on gender hiring practices, for a combined B grade. Most of the improvement has been achieved since Roger Goodell became commissioner. And for the best news for the future: The biggest improvement came in the year-plus since Robert Gulliver was named executive vice president for human resources and chief diversity officer.
In spite of having to focus on labor issues, Goodell and Gulliver continued to emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion in the league office. I have been involved with diversity and inclusion issues for more than 40 years. Usually when the economy is weak or there are other big issues to deal with, most organizations allow diversity to be downplayed or disregarded. When there was change under those circumstances, it often took place in entry-level positions. Not the NFL in 2010-11.
Inside the league office, Gulliver used hirings and promotions to increase the percentage of women and people of color at the vice president level and above. The number of female employees at or above the vice president level increased by 36 percent, from 11 in 2010 to 15 in 2011. The number of people of color at or above the vice president level increased by 44 percent, from nine in 2010 to 13 in 2011. The total number of diverse employees at or above the vice president level increased by 30 percent, from 20 in 2010 to 26 in 2011. These are all remarkable one-year jumps.
The league continued to offer a substantial package of programs that have focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives, including new accountability measures and training. The NFL established the Women’s Interactive Network, which is its first women’s network open to all employees. Its purpose is to provide a forum for networking, best-practice sharing and active dialogue on strategies to drive career growth and development. Started in the spring, WIN has more than 130 members.
The dramatic increase for women augurs well and is considered to be an important sign that there will be more women hired into professional positions at the league level in the immediate future. The league office set a standard for the teams, which were far behind regarding both women and people of color.
In 2001, the NFL had a pro-sport low of two people of color as head coaches. Pressure helped lead to the adoption of the Rooney Rule, which mandates a diverse pool of candidates for head coaching positions. Ten years later, there were eight people of color as head coaches at the start of the 2011 NFL season, an all-time record for the NFL.
The NFL started the 2011 season with five African-American general managers for the fifth consecutive season. In 2001, there was one.
“Our core commitment to diversity and our strategic diversity initiatives are firm and under way,” Gulliver said. “As an organization, we are proud of the momentum we have in these areas and can promise that it will continue. With the continued support of the clubs, Commissioner Goodell and all of our staff, we are excited about the opportunities ahead.”
Aside from the league office pushing the needle by example, nothing helps more than what has happened in the coaching and general manager ranks. When Pittsburgh won the 2009 Super Bowl, Mike Tomlin became the second African-American head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship in three years. Tony Dungy coached the Indianapolis Colts to a victory in the 2007 Super Bowl. Furthermore, seven out of the last 10 Super Bowl teams have had either an African-American head coach or general manager.
A lot of very good things are happening regarding diversity at the NFL, yet there is significant room for improvement at the team level, where no person of color has ever held majority ownership of an NFL team or has been a team president. The Raiders’ Amy Trask remains the only female president of a team in the NFL.
People of color held 16 percent of senior administrator positions on NFL teams in 2010, compared with 17 percent in 2009. The percentage of the total senior administrator positions on NFL teams held by women increased to 21 percent in 2010 from 17 percent in 2009.
Teams always are behind the league office, but I believe the example of the league and the success of people of color as coaches and general managers will push them forward faster in the years immediately ahead.
Richard E. Lapchick (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program and director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. Lapchick authored the 2011 NFL Racial Gender and Report Card along with Wayne Clark, Demetrius Frazier, and Christopher D. Sarpy.
The same could be said of a company paying for a corporate sponsorship with a team and not following through with activation, integration and measurement of that investment.
Leave any one of these three steps out, and all those concerned are left with an incomplete program, and likely many missed opportunities.
In early June, I had the privilege of attending the New Orleans Hornets partners’ summit in Biloxi, Miss. For the second consecutive year, the Hornets built their summit around these three steps, highlighting “AIM: Activation, Integration, and Measurement.”
As part of the program, the NBA team business and operations division and Turnkey Intelligence shared results from a 2010-11 research study. The study, covering 15 NBA teams and 44 corporate partners, captured fan metrics related to sponsor affinity, attitude and usage of brands, and other key elements geared toward improving the dialogue between properties and corporate partners. The Hornets were one of the 15 teams that participated in the study.
One partner included in New Orleans’ portion of the project was Rouses, a Louisiana-based grocery store chain and official supermarket of the Hornets. Fan feedback on Rouses and this partnership exceeded expectations across the board.
Contracts between sports properties and partners typically include inventory that helps the brand activate from the start. But the league, the Hornets and Rouses see merit in incremental activation both inside and outside the arena. Doing so engages fans, builds community presence, and often allows for easier measurement.
Tom Ward, senior vice president with the Hornets, has seen many successful examples of activation outside the arena and knows the value it adds. “The Hornets vendor program with Rouses provided our sponsors with a 360-degree advertising and activation campaign that delivered in-arena advertising, on-air broadcast media, and in-store promotional displays and merchandising. When we combined the market research results and Rouses’ sales figures, we were able not only to demonstrate the positive fan perceptions and behaviors related to the Hornets sponsorship, but also to quantify the ROI for our sponsors.”
Partnership marketing inside and outside of sports succeeds because the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. But if the parts are not seen, heard and experienced together, this synergistic effect goes away. Rouses has a unique vendor program, geared at ensuring that its logo appears not only with Hornets branding and players, but also other consumer packaged goods that partner with the Hornets. For instance, a shopper will see a Dr Pepper Snapple Group end-cap display featuring Hornets imagery and Rouses’ logo. The displayed beverages receive tremendous lift, benefiting both the brand and retailer. And the Hornets benefit because their partners are seeing meaningful results from the alliance.
Displays like these give visibility to Hornets marks, Rouses’ logo and a partner brand.
“To measure what our sponsors care about, we must understand their business objectives and planned activations,” states Valerie Camillo, vice president of analytics with the NBA. Of course, teams and partners will have shared this information long before any measurement studies are designed. Rouses’ objectives in partnering with the Hornets relate to consumer perceptions and behavior. Rouses hoped to accomplish these goals throughout the 2010-11 NBA season:
• Drive positive feelings about Rouses among Hornets fans, above and beyond non-fans.
• Highlight locally grown perishables, such as meat and produce.
• Drive shopping frequency and spending in Rouses.
The great thing about those goals is they are measurable; that is, research and analytics can provide clarity on whether the goals have been achieved. As a result of the project, Rouses and the Hornets discovered: (All differences cited are statistically significant at a 95 percent confidence level.)
• Hornets fans have stronger feelings for Rouses, compared with non-fans. Seventy-five percent of Hornets fans either “like” or “love” Rouses — compared with 52 percent of non-fans.
• A sports partnership can be used to drive perceptions about specific brand/retailer attributes. Sixty-one percent of Hornets fans cited Rouses as having the “best locally grown produce, seafood and meats.” Forty-three percent of non-fans said the same.
• The positive perceptions from Hornets fans translate into the behaviors Rouses would hope to see. Forty-two percent of Hornets fans chose Rouses as their preferred grocery store, compared with 21 percent of non-fans. Seventy-eight percent of Hornets fans had shopped at Rouses during the three months prior, much higher than the 55 percent of non-fans who had done so. And this gap in shopping behavior grew as the season went along.
Of course, it helps when activation lends itself to being measured. “For example, we can measure the sales lift provided by coupon redemption or an out-of-arena retail activation. We can also measure the benefit of straight signage deals, especially when brand positioning or other messages are used to complement logos,” Camillo said.
The AIM philosophy requires a partnership where the parties act as willing partners. Communication must be constant and open. A brand’s objectives and a property’s status will change during the length of a five-year contract. It’s not realistic to think that activation can remain static for the duration, but without proper communication, marketing tactics related to the partnership will not evolve.
“Our teams take their responsibility as business partners very seriously,” said Chris Granger, executive vice president of the NBA’s team business and operations division. “By understanding goals, creatively activating in support of those goals, and fostering environments of ongoing collaboration and consistent communication, our teams are laser-focused on furthering the business objectives of their partners.”