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Volume 21 No. 1
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What's on their radar

Panelists for the World Congress of Sports describe the issues and trends they’re watching in the sports business

“Enhancing the value proposition of the live spectator experience at Reliant Stadium in the age of big screen/HDTV and amazing TV production quality. To address this, we have developed a ‘playbook’ to focus our efforts on what matters most to our patrons. We play ‘offense’ by executing with excellence the key items that truly differentiate the live spectator experience from home viewing (tailgating, stadium atmosphere, hospitality, etc). We play ‘defense’ by minimizing or eliminating the ‘hassle factors’ which could become an advantage for the at-home viewing experience (traffic/parking, price/value, fan behavior, etc.). And our ‘special teams’ effort includes the processes we use to facilitate excellence and the web of partnerships that impact the overall fan experience.”
— Jamey Rootes, President, Houston Texans

“Arena/stadium modernization. We run and manage a 7-year-old facility that up until last year was the newest building in the NBA. In some ways it has already become outdated. Keeping up with the latest customer amenities and technology advances are critical. Hosting the [Democratic National Convention] this upcoming summer has us evaluating potential upgrades in many areas of our building. We are trying to do our evaluations with an eye toward the future so that we are not right back in this position after making updates.”
— Fred Whitfield, President & COO, Bobcats Sports & Entertainment

“1. The Big East Tournament has been a staple on The Garden calendar for 30 years, so the conference realignment and how that changes the tournament is something we are watching closely. 2. The possible expansion of the Winter Classic to additional weekends is definitely on our radar. 3. We are constantly looking for the right opportunity to expand our tennis platform at MSG and beyond; the talk about a potential World Cup of tennis could be the right next move in the sport for us. 4. And of course we are watching NBA China and learning how the Jeremy Lin-sanity presents opportunity for growth for the Knicks brand and business abroad.”
— Scott O’Neil, President, MSG Sports

“The increased focus on the high-end customer experience on site at sports venues. The celebrity chef restaurants, custom seating and special viewing areas all create a wow factor that makes for a memorable fan experience regardless of the outcome on the field or court. My concern, however, is whether we are losing sight of the importance of enhancing the experience for all attendees. We need to be more cognizant of the younger demographics that today may be ‘300 and 400 level’ customers. Greater intimacy with this customer is key to success in the long term.”
— Bill Webster, VP, brand management, Sun Life Financial

“1) The emerging role of social media and how fans consume and share their passions for their favorite schools, teams and players. It is having a profound effect on how advertisers, like Capital One, have to approach sports marketing. Social media is unlocking a very effective channel to create engagement prior to an event, but more importantly, engagement beyond the event. 2) Clutter in sports marketing, game venues, etc. As a sponsor/marketer, we pay to not only showcase our brand but to have it stand out as well. But if stadiums, venues, networks and leagues don’t protect us from too much clutter and direct competitors’ advertising near our brand, we will be forced to find non-sports avenues to connect with consumers.”
— Marc Mentry, Senior VP, brand marketing, Capital One

“It’s always interesting to watch how media companies use sports rights to leap-frog other players. Fox did it with the NFL; DirecTV did it with Sunday Ticket. Which of the new media platforms will be the first one to dig deep and pay for top-tier live sports rights, and what impact will it have on cable and satellite?”
— Brian Bedol, Co-founder & CEO, Bedrocket Media Ventures

“How venues are updating their business practices so they can keep up with the world, particularly concerning technology. Specifically, how older stadiums are addressing the fan experience, as it’s clear that new facilities have the opportunity to provide the infrastructure necessary to be current, however older facilities may have challenges with the current infrastructure and/or financial ability to be prepared for the next generation of sports fans. … In addition, how the venue landscape in Southern California may be affected by the Dodgers ownership change and if/when the NFL moves to Los Angeles will have an effect on other venues throughout greater Los Angeles.”
— Darryl Dunn, CEO, general manager, Rose Bowl Operating Co.

“The in-game fan experience, focusing on the use of technology, food and the full day entertainment for fans.”
— Jed York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers

“Sports and entertainment fans are demanding, louder than ever, a rich mobile experience at live entertainment venues. ... However, mobile connections in high-density environments like stadiums have typically been spotty and weak, leaving devices less than effective, and fans frustrated. Live events must go mobile so fans can go social — or some fans may not go at all.”
— David Holland, Senior VP, sports and entertainment, solutions group, Cisco

“The dramatic escalation of regional cable rights fees are substantially increasing team values, especially in major markets, and also creates greater challenges to the efforts to achieve competitive balance.”
— Alan Rothenberg, Chairman, Premier Partnerships

“The trends that we are most focused on speak to revenue generation, customer experience, content and technology. As the last new building to open in New York, it is our intent to raise the bar and to differentiate ourselves. While we have aligned with Cisco to provide a seamless approach to sponsor activation and visualization, we can do more. While we intend to redefine the customer experience through our partnership with Disney Institute, we can do more. As we get ready to launch our content play with Barclays Center TV, we can do more. And lastly, as we bring a high density Wi-Fi solution coupled with the distributed antenna system, optimizing our arena connectivity, we can do more. And we will.”
— Brett Yormark, CEO, Barclays Center

“I’m anxious to see how teams will use technology to enhance the game-day experience. TV has made the experience at home so good in recent years, and teams must continue to improve the game-day experience or fans will stop coming to games. I will also follow with interest the changes that teams make in their premium products to ensure that they remain popular with fans.”
— Mark Murphy, President & CEO, Green Bay Packers

“How will new technologies, both hardware and software applications and the experiences they render, be integrated into the fan experience in and out of the live venue so they are exponentially additive rather than just being disruptive? Fan engagement must not merely be a technological novelty, but it must provide lasting value, shaping and deepening the audience experience that’s happening on the field, floor or ice. We must be careful not to kill the golden goose. All technology is a cold comfort unless it renders deep and resonant value to the core elements of our sports entertainment value proposition.”
— Peter Guber, Co-owner, Golden State Warriors; Chairman & CEO, Mandalay Entertainment Group

“Truly engaging digital sports experiences. As an industry, we’ve done a great job presenting live sporting events 10 different ways on TV and now we’re working to get this content onto 10 different platforms … but that’s not the end game. Sports by its very nature is engaging, drives community and plays off passions. The content we create and the digital experiences we wrap around it should do the same. The growing trend will be to develop content from the ground up that is begging to drive engagement, sharing and interaction. Additionally, the online experiences, the mobile/tablet applications, connected TV apps and everything we do needs to encourage this interaction — make it easy to share, watch together, taunt/brag … exploiting all the passion of sports.”
— John Burris, President, Silver Chalice

“Social media is one of the most exciting trends we are watching. This, as well as new digital and mobile technologies, have the potential to significantly impact sports fans’ experiences and increase their connection to teams, leagues and organizations.”
— Jeff Diskin, Senior VP, global customer marketing, Hilton Worldwide

“The trends I am watching the most are the role of big data in helping teams connect directly with their fans in new and different ways.”
— Nathan Hubbard, CEO, Ticketmaster