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Volume 20 No. 41


I find it interesting to follow ticketing and marketing trends, tracking their progress and watching them evolve over time. We are reaching a tipping point where changes in technology and consumer behavior are coming together to allow teams to personalize fan communications with unmatched one-to-one marketing opportunities on a massive scale. Teams with the ability to adopt new marketing strategies and create innovative CRM, social media and e-commerce programs that are all aligned will be in a great position to drive more revenue and increase fan loyalty.

The foundation for one-to-one marketing is a powerful CRM system that captures every interaction between a fan and the team. This creates a deeper understanding of each fan by tracking not only past purchases, attendance patterns and ticket usage, but also personal preferences like merchandise, food and beverage consumption, the fan’s favorite player, and more. Adding layers of information into their database, and extracting it with a CRM system, enables teams to define how to communicate with each fan through a unique, tailored message and therefore opens unmatched new revenue opportunities.

Social media is a rapidly evolving technology that is ripe with opportunity for teams to engage on a personal level with fans and leverage the power of Facebook to connect with fans and sell tickets. Advanced applications such as fan-gating, which requires a fan to “like” a Facebook page to unlock a ticket presale or unique content, are proving the power of social commerce. A great example of a thought-leading institution using this technology is the University of Michigan. It created a Michigan Football fan-gate offer that required its fans to “like” a certain page to unlock a ticket presale code, which tracked more than $74,000 in ticket sales in a single day.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg reveals changes to Facebook that can affect how fans interact with teams.
Recently, at the Facebook f8 developers conference, changes were unveiled that will dramatically affect fan interaction with teams and how they share their passion with their friends. The biggest change was the switch from “profile” to “timeline.” Now, fans will use Facebook to create an online scrapbook of their lives, and teams have the opportunity to be a page in their book by developing customized applications fans can opt-in to. The benefit for teams is that these applications can be leveraged to mine more detailed fan information than has ever been available before to create personalized campaigns. Imagine creating unique ticket offers based on fans who tailgated at a game or who watched last week’s game on television. These interactions will create new segments for teams to build social commerce campaigns to sell more tickets and merchandise. This also allows for teams to tap into the viral marketing power of Facebook to reach more potential future fans via these postings. This is just one of many ideas I discussed with Facebook recently at their headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

Retargeting, combined with social media and mobile, can help sell more tickets.
As more personalized marketing strategies arise, it will also become increasingly important to have a cohesive multichannel marketing message. Combining social media, e-commerce and mobile campaigns into a consistent multichannel message will yield untapped opportunities. To give an example, let’s look at a trend that is gaining significant traction with many sports teams, called retargeting. Essentially, retargeting is the ability to target online ads to fans who browsed the team’s website, segmented out by the event viewed or purchase behavior. The Ottawa Senators, for example, leveraged a retargeting campaign last year that generated more than $280,000 in gross sales and yielded $48 in revenue for every $1 spent by targeting fans who viewed specific games but did not buy initially.

Now imagine combining retargeting campaigns with social media and mobile marketing to extend your message and sell more tickets. For example, a team might create a social media offer, which drives fans to the team’s website to purchase tickets. Subsequently, if some fans visit the page but do not purchase tickets, they would be retargeted with an offer to buy tickets to the next game. Conversely, if the fan makes a purchase, that person is then able to share the event with friends via a Facebook Connect module on the order confirmation page. Friends who purchase tickets then attend the event together and “check in” on Facebook via smartphone, which has the team’s Facebook app on it, and the event is recorded on each person’s timeline.

I also think there is a meaningful opportunity to leverage one-to-one marketing with season-ticket holders at the time they are renewing their seats. Innovative teams are now customizing their renewal experience with PURLs, or personalized URLs, during the season-ticket renewal process. This is a powerful way to convert season-ticket holders and tailor messaging to each fan. The Philadelphia Flyers this past season created a personalized 3-D video tailored for each season-ticket holder that highlights the benefits of renewing their tickets. To complement the personalized website, the team delivered automated, personalized email campaigns based on action or inaction with the season-ticket campaign. The Flyers campaign achieved a 93 percent conversion rate from season-ticket holders who viewed their personalized website.

Now let’s take this concept a step further. In the future, I imagine teams will leverage one-to-one marketing strategies to create personalized landing pages for all fans based on their profiles, preferences or interactions with the team. The page could include customized offers to renew, buy a package, or purchase single tickets bundled with merchandise. These offers would be based on purchase history, preferences and engagement with the team’s Facebook application. Subsequent dynamic multichannel marketing messages could also then be delivered via email, social media, mobile, or online advertising, tailored specifically to fit the fan’s profile.

It’s an exciting time for those in sports business. Organizations able to leverage new technologies to communicate on a one-to-one basis with their fans will increase customer satisfaction and, by virtue of that, earn more revenue per fan. When fans win, teams win.

Dave Butler ( is CEO of Paciolan.

Here’s a look at our “greatest hits” — the top-five, most-read stories on and through Oct. 17. These 10 stories show a clear trend on media, college deal-making and personalities. So here’s the list, and one person’s take on why each story clicked:

1. Fox and Big 12 near deal worth more than $60 million a year (03/14/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: Just months earlier, many were writing the Big 12’s obituary. This story reported that the conference was days away from signing a deal that would triple its revenue.

2. For rivals, it was unite or lose (05/09/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: An inside look at how two media rivals, ESPN and Fox, teamed to win media rights to the then-Pac-10. The deal came in the early stages of the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger, and people were looking to see if the newly merged company would put a sports stake in the ground. Instead, the deal represented a rare partnership designed to keep the newcomers at bay.

3. NHL viewership trends tied to hockey tradition, Northern exposure (02/07/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: Local TV ratings always resonate.

4. Forty Under 40: Class of 2011 (03/21/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: The annual feature showcasing some of the brightest young talent in sports business is consistently one of the most popular features of the year.

5. U.S. sports executives who run Arsenal see slow gains, intense scrutiny (08/15/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: Names you know — Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis and Tom Fox — drove readers to this rare, in-depth look at how one of the EPL’s elite clubs is faring under the stewardship of owners and executives groomed in the U.S. sports industry.

1. ESPN’s Bill Simmons Unveils Details Of New Sports/Pop Culture Site (02/18/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: Virtually anything on ESPN, and especially anything on Simmons, gets major eyeballs. This was no doubt fueled by Simmons retweeting this open story to his 1 million-plus Twitter followers.

2. UFC Agrees To Deal With Fox That Will See Up To Four Events Per Year On Broadcast TV (08/16/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: News of this significant deal pushing UFC into the sports media mainstream broke in SBD and represented a tipping point for the MMA series.

3. Pro Football Continues Popularity Among U.S. Sports Fans (01/25/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: This Harris Interactive survey showcased a 25-year trend on sports popularity and showed nearly three in 10 Americans who follow at least one sport said that pro football was their favorite sport. Baseball, while trending down over that same period, was second. This story was a massive hit in the social media sphere.

4. Pac-10 Set To Announce Whopping Media Deal Valued At $3B (05/03/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: As noted above with the SBJ follow, this story, which broke in SBD, showcased a major coup for Larry Scott and the conference with the unique combination of rights for rivals Fox and ESPN.

5. UT To Unveil 20-Year, $300M Deal With ESPN For Longhorn Network (01/19/11)
WHY IT CLICKED: It’s been consistently among the most-read topics of the year — from ideation to formation — and this story outlined the financial details of Longhorn Network for the first time.

Look for our listing of 2011’s most-viewed stories over the full, 12-month period at the end of the year.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at

Steve Jobs, a world-class innovator and one of the most ingenious CEOs of our time, had an impact on more than the business world. His digital devices have changed the way we live.

Jobs invented or transformed entire industries, including personal computers, mobile telephony, film animation and music retailing. It’s telling that hundreds of millions of people around the world learned of his passing on a device he invented and sold to them.

Jobs once observed his and Apple’s DNA were intertwined. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit a profound connection to that sentiment. I felt the same way about the company I founded 20 years ago, and feel the same way about IMG College today.

No human being is perfect. Jobs and I would probably differ in quite a few areas, personally and professionally. However, whether or not you’re a fan of him or Apple products, Steve Jobs the leader leaves us valuable lessons. Let me share a few that apply to our business:

Relentlessly pursue excellence: Jobs’ single-minded drive was legendary, as he spent every waking moment in a quest to create beautiful products that work beautifully. Apple never cut corners, no matter the cost. (MoMA — the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art — has 25 Apple products in its personal design collection!) As Jobs once said, “The only way to be satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” We, too, can focus our inner drive, and ask, Is there sufficient rigor in our standards? Do we settle for mediocrity? What are we passionate about professionally? How can we channel our enthusiasm and passion more effectively?

Customer retention is the end game in all sales relationships: Apple customers are famously loyal. How many have bought an iPod, then switched to another MP3 player? We should prize the quality of each customer interaction, raising our own expectations of what we’ll provide, then delivering the goods. Let’s give customers no reason to do business with anyone else!

Never underestimate the power of personal experience: Jobs had incredible empathy for how customers experienced Apple — from masterfully orchestrated product unveilings to the moment customers entered the store to buy the newest device, to when they flipped on the iPad or downloaded that first song from iTunes. While not every presentation can be grand theater, take nothing for granted in each customer interaction. Treat them artfully. Aspire to over-deliver, sparking some magic in doing so.

Facts always win: Jobs’ product presentations featured impressive showmanship, but beneath the sizzle was a juicy fact-filled steak. As an editor of Wired once said, “Steve wasn’t waving his arms and mystifying you with something that wasn’t true. He was mystifying you with reality!” Keep facts in the forefront.

Success doesn’t always come instantly: Apple began a torrid run of product breakthroughs after unveiling the iPod a decade ago. It’s easy to forget that a few years earlier, Apple nearly folded, and Jobs was exiled from the company he co-founded. Instead of quitting, Jobs continued to follow his inner voice. When invited back to run Apple, he forged a comeback for the ages. The company that nearly failed has a current market capitalization of $350 billion — bigger than Microsoft and Intel combined.

In the race to excellence, there’s no finish line: Every Apple product improves markedly from one generation to the next. New features are added while, paradoxically, the gizmos become smaller and simpler. Sure, Apple had its share of failures, but the enduring memory will be Jobs on stage, sliding another miracle from his pocket. Remember, no one’s work is ever fully complete. We can always improve, creating version 2.0 and beyond.

Think big … and small: While others viewed computers as giant machines strictly for corporations, Jobs saw a personal electronic appliance for every American. Even while dreaming big to create entire categories, Jobs was also concerned with the smallest details — tinkering with the buttons on the iMac keyboard and the wires inside. (He’s a patent holder on the architectural glass used in Apple store stairways.) In our professional lives, both grand ideas and the smallest details matter. We should think big … and take pride in the small stuff.

Steve Jobs may have been secular in many of his viewpoints, but even he’d have probably admitted, God is in the details!

Ben Sutton is president of IMG College and founder of ISP Sports.

You know how sports magazines usually wait until December to do a Year in Review or make Swami-like prognostications for the coming year? Well, we couldn’t wait. Given what’s going on with the NBA and NCAA, these are, as the Chinese proverb portends, “interesting times” … especially when you look at our industry as a whole.

The NBA: As the late Dennis Hopper once said in his infamous Nike ad (the one where he played a deranged referee pawing through Bruce Smith’s locker): “Bad things, man. Bad things.” And, wow, Dennis wasn’t kidding. Looking at the NBA’s ugly lockout, which led to an Oct. 10 announcement that regular-season games would be canceled, we now see empty arenas stretching out until at least early 2012. Beyond that, we can only repeat what NBA Commissioner David Stern has said all along: The NBA’s business model (its system) is broken and this labor stoppage must fix it.

The good news, though, is that with games officially called off, both owners and players have “real” skin in the game to the tune of a reported first-hand ante of $325 million. That’s a lot of poker chips shoved toward the middle of the table, especially when both sides say they aren’t bluffing. We expect more games will get canceled and more fans will migrate to other arenas of interest.

The NCAA: This one is simply mind-blowing. With TCU’s move to the Big 12, we see five super conferences emerging in the very near future (the ACC, Pac-12, SEC, Big Southwest and the curiously named Big Ten). When those 64 teams are tidily aggregated, they will pull away from the NCAA in order to create a massive football-basketball product managed by IMG College and televised exclusively by ESPN.

More canceled games appear on the horizon for David Stern (center) and the labor-troubled NBA.
There will still be much wailing and gnashing of teeth by numerous college presidents (not in the 64) and by NCAA executives as they lose control of the golden goose. What’s going to be even more interesting to watch, though, is the final, frenzied courtship of West Virginia, Missouri, Boise State, Kansas and Notre Dame.

The Olympics in North America: What’s to write? There will be no Games in America before 2024.

Or as U.S. Olympic Committee chief communications officer Patrick Sandusky told us: “The USOC has said for quite some time that until the revenue sharing discussions with the IOC are completed, we will not consider bidding for any future Games. This applies to the 2020 bid but also any future bids. We cannot in good faith have another city [like Chicago] spend the nearly $100 million that it takes to bid these days, while we still have this outstanding issue with the IOC. The original discussions with the IOC were not scheduled to start until 2013. Hopefully, the fact that we have accelerated these talks more than two years ahead of schedule demonstrates how serious we are taking them.”

Economically speaking, that means the traditional billion dollars or so generated by a major international sporting event (discounting Toronto’s hosting of the 2015 Pan American Games) will not materialize and pro sports leagues will fill the sports vacuum for the next 13 years. Since the USOC won’t bid for 2022’s Winter Games (leaving Quebec City to win the bid in 2015), we’re left predicting the USOC will bring Chicago back for another run in 2017 (for the 2024 Games).

The NHL: Unlike some of the other properties, the NHL’s future keeps getting brighter. The league has been bolstered in Canada by the successful return of the Jets to Winnipeg, in Europe where the KHL is struggling (while watching the NHL play games in Stockholm and Helsinki), by impressive improvements in leaguewide sponsorship, by the return of league star and Olympic Games hero Sidney Crosby and the eventual return of the Nordiques to Quebec City.

These positives will be, however, tempered by a few key challenges. First, hits to the head (and the resulting concussions) remain a major media topic thanks to the Crosby injury. Accordingly, Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and various youth associations are now putting in strict measures to protect players. Second, a number of U.S.-based franchises, thanks to ongoing economic realities, will keep facing worsening financial challenges that will threaten teams like Phoenix, Dallas and the New Jersey Devils. For them, the NBA lockout may be a godsend.

The NFL and CFL: Despite the challenges faced by the other sports, American football continues to chug along, virtually recession-proof. The NFL and its players smartly avoided any missed time due to labor negotiations and the NFL season started with a bang: competitive games, Monday night double headers, more protection for QBs and a bright outlook for the future. Similarly (but on a smaller scale), north of the border, the CFL is enjoying a very good season heading toward its 99th Grey Cup in November and an even better one for its centennial year.

Although pro football keeps throwing off a warm glow, a few dark clouds are evident off in the distance; namely the CFL’s challenge to establish itself in Canada’s largest city and one of North America’s top media markets (Toronto) and the ongoing issue of player safety. The NFL will, however, have a team in Los Angeles soon but no team in San Diego. And stop worrying about Buffalo without the Bills. Trust us, they’re staying put.

We imagine continued good tidings for Ironman triathlons, MMA, professional lacrosse and, of all things, cricket. But stay tuned, our little industry never lacks for mayhem and disruption.

Rick Burton( is the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University. Norm O’Reilly ( is an associate professor of sport business at Ottawa University.