by Matthew Lowe, Film Production, 2013
As the NBA and NHL seasons are coming to a close, the pro sports industry will be afforded a breather before the next NFL season kicks off in early September. With baseball as the only member of the “big four” major professional sports leagues currently active this summer, the summer months are, as per tradition, a time of decreased activity in American professional sports.
Most relieved of all professionals in the industry is the changeover crew of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. If you blinked, you might have missed it, but mid May was the busiest time in American history for a sports arena. The Staples Center, which plays host to four pro sports teams (the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks), experienced the highest frequency changeover ever, at one point hosting six games in a period of four days.
Although the arena has been the home to these teams for decades, this situation has never arisen before, as the Kings and Clippers have not been serious playoff contenders until the past two seasons. This year, with the Kings in the Stanley Cup, and the Lakers and Clippers reaching the NBA Playoffs, the Staples Center changeover crew was charged with the monumental task of converting the one million square foot arena from hockey ice to basketball hardwood… on the same day. According to the Associated Press, the changeover crew at the Staples Center needs a minimum of 2 hours and 15 minutes to convert the stadium floor; this doesn’t include cleaning the hundreds of boxes (168) and tens of thousands of seats (18,118).
One might think it would make more sense to just build a separate arena to house one of the teams and avoid the potential for these headache-inducing situations for the Staples Center management team. However, when you consider the cost of a modern stadium for a major sports market like Los Angeles, you are looking at a minimum of $500 million to replicate a building like the Staples Center. And even for a city like Los Angeles, that’s not pocket change.
Despite the high cost of changeovers, the sports industry, with the exception of MLB, is leaning toward the trend of shared venues. Major League Soccer, the nation’s fastest growing professional sports league, has been able to support its explosive growth with a business model that places new teams in previously constructed stadiums (leaving it up to the individual organization and host city to determine if constructing an MLS designated stadium is financially beneficial for the team). Of the six teams that have joined the MLS in the past five years, only the Philadelphia Union has constructed its own stadium. Many teams share or have found a preexisting venue to host their matches.
by Courtney Swift, Broadcast Journalism, 2013
The possibility of a Triple Crown Winner for the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes has captured the attention of the world after I’ll Have Another staged two come-from-behind wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. National and international media outlets have been giving increasing attention to the sport of horseracing across the globe.
I’ll Have Another’s surprise run has peaked the interest of not just the casual horse racing fan, but the casual sports fan. The business of horse racing is now better positioned to take advantage of marketing the Triple Crown.
America’s Best Racing, the Jockey Club, has maximized its marketing campaign for the Belmont Stakes in the weeks before the race. It created t-shirts saying “Uno Mas Mario” to market I’ll Have Another’s jockey, Mario Guttierez, which will be distributed to celebrities and personalities as well as fans and select casino’s hosting viewing parties in Las Vegas and Reno. Other marketing plans included a food truck that will drive around Manhattan the week of the Belmont giving out “Uno Mas Mario” cookies, and offering Racing 101 wagering tutorials.
After winning the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, I’ll Have Another has the chance to be the first horse in 34 years to take all three. The horse is training a bit differently than most. Trainer Doug O’Neill is using a series of strong gallops instead of formal workouts to prepare for the Belmont Stakes in June. The last three Triple Crown Champions; Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978) all drilled at least one mile to prepare for the one and a half mile Belmont Race, the longest of the Triple Crown races.
Mario Gutierrez, 25, I’ll Have Another’s jockey, is also receiving a little extra training. He has been paired with hall-of-famer Jerry Bailey, who has won the Belmont twice. Bailey will go around the track with Gutierrez, so the young jockey can gain a better understanding of the course.
I’ll Have Another’s talent is sure to be scrutinized as trainer O’Neill will soon face a 45-day suspension and $15,000 fine after being accused of “milkshaking” another horse in 2010. O’Neill was eventually found not guilty of the charge, and his suspension was reduced. Milkshaking is the attempt to fight horse fatigue by giving the animal a bicarbonate of soda, sugar, and electrolytes, a tactic which is banned in horse racing. O’Neill’s history is sure to be looked at as I’ll Have Another attempts to become the 12th Triple Crown Champion, but the first since 1978.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association is using this opportunity of a Triple Crown champion to boost marketing for the Belmont and horseracing in general. It has already hosted one national media teleconference and will host another with special guests including jockeys, trainers, and others. It is also assisting the New York Racing Association with pitch different story angles around the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown.
Twitter has also helped to promote the horseracing industry and races. The top events and contestants dominate trending topics on twitter. Even smaller races leading up to the Belmont have trended nationally and internationally. Horse related topics dominated eight of nine national trending topics on Twitter during the Preakness.
Continuing with the social media strategy, America’s Best Racing has implemented a means for fans who failed to initially secure a seat to walk up the day of the Belmont Stakes and gain general admission. The marketing strategy is called “I’ll have Another chance to get to the Belmont.” Hashtags include #BeAtBelmont and #HaveAnotherTicket.
If I’ll Have Another wins the Belmont, it opens up numerous marketing opportunities for the industry and its professionals. Jockey “Super” Mario Guttierez’s celebrity has grown since May including the week of May 15-21 where he ranked number on the ESPN Cross-Sport Power Rankings only behind Kevin Durant, but ahead of Lebron James, Henrik Lundqvist and others. His story is true to the rags to riches archetype which also adds to the allure of I’ll Have Another and its story. Guttierez was days away from returning to Mexico after not getting enough rides to compete in the California circuit, but was given a chance when I’ll Have Another’s owner followed a hunch he should ride the horse.
The sport has seen improvements from multiple marketing efforts. NBC Sports Group will broadcast summer racing for the second year in a row beginning at one of the sport’s premiere venues, Saratoga, in July. America’s Best Racing plans to continue providing an insider’s view to Thoroughbred racing in hopes of continued attraction to the sport. Even if I’ll Have Another doesn’t win the Triple Crown, Thoroughbred racing has shown its made strides.
by Kelsey Doherty, Marketing Communications, 2014
This week PepsiCo signed a deal with the NHL, making it the official drink and snack supplier of hockey. This includes soft drinks and bottled water in venues and arenas as well as the official sports drink for athletes. Therefore, Gatorade will be the drink of choice for all NHL players as they take some time to quench their thirst on the bench. Now, when the goalie reaches for his water bottle it will be made from the familiar green and orange plastic with the Gatorade logo prominently displayed.
Of course, Pepsi is trying to catch up to its Fortune 500 competitors at Coca-Cola, but when it comes to sports sponsorships both drink giants have a very prominent presence. These two companies both see revenue in the billions, however, Coca-Cola is worth several billion more than PepsiCo, but still both companies actively seek a comfortable place with sports sponsorships.
Sponsorships in professional sports work a lot like signing an athlete to a team. Teams or leagues negotiate contracts with companies, looking for the best deal. The companies put their best foot forward and offer as much money and as many years they dare to spare. The teams and leagues then settle on the contract that will offer them the most money. It is really very basic but it is integral to the business model of major companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.
Pepsi tends to sponsor sporting events and contests such as the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams Game and is in the midst of a five-year contract with the majors as the official snack of the league. On the other hand, Coca-Cola uses their separate brands to maintain a presence in sports with Sprite serving as the official soft drink of the NBA, and the official sparkling beverage of NASCAR. Where Coca-Cola clearly demonstrates the greatest advantage is in the Olympics which they have consistently sponsored since 1928.
Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola have sponsored NASCAR races, events, parts of stadiums, and much more. In racing, drivers participate in the Pepsi 400. On another weekend drivers race in the Coca-Cola 600. For every move that Pepsi makes Coca-Cola makes a move to match, and vice-versa. The sports world has embraced this idea, because in the end all it means for teams and leagues is more money in the bank.
Many ballparks offer something like the Pepsi Picnic Porch at Detroit’s Comerica Park or the Coca-Cola Deck at Fenway Park. Announcers regularly refer to the area of seating with the branded name and tickets even read “Coca-Cola Deck” or “Pepsi Picnic Porch” for those who are lucky enough to get the premium seats. Fans cannot forget what beverage is sponsoring their favorite team and their favorite seats while at the ballpark. There’s also no shortage of flashy signage for either soft drink company at stadiums around the majors. At this point, it is almost an expected part of baseball today. After all, what can be more American than baseball and soda?
The NFL may have taken it even one step further, allowing Pepsi to sponsor its rookie of the year award, calling it the “Pepsi Rookie of the Year.” Pepsi and Coca-Cola are not afraid to simply put their names wherever they may fit, and teams and leagues are more than happy to allow them to do so for a particular price tag that is very rarely revealed to the public.
What is known is that Coca-Cola spends about $2.5 billion in advertising each year, and although they certainly spend millions in sponsorships, it is only a small part of their advertising budget. Pepsi on the other hand spends a mere $1.1 billion on advertising each season but seemingly is able to keep up with its rival when it comes to sponsorships in the sports realm.
What’s incredible about all the deals that Pepsi and Coca-Cola have worked out with professional sports is that it is now ingrained into our culture, and how it has become an expected and ritualized part of the game. Both soft-drink companies are also each the exclusive suppliers of many minor league parks and stadiums and can be found sponsoring teams across the NCAA, high schools, and pee-wees or little leagues. There are no measurable numbers to tell us how these sponsorships effect the teams or the drink sales beyond the stadium or ballpark but it is clear that the correlation must be positive and helps to reinforce a brand image for both companies.
compiled by Mariesa Negosanti, Journalism, 2015
Happy Friday! Here are some interesting links and stories to keep you busy through the weekend, enjoy!
NBA Free Agency 2012: 10 Players Who Should Take a Pay Cut to Join Miami Heat, bleacherreport.com
Goodell: Wi-Fi Needed in Every NFL Stadium, mobilesportsreport.com
NHL Insider: Potential lockout looms after postseason ends, detroitnews.com
Fenway Sports Group exec scores key Liverpool biz role, bostonherald.com
It seems like news traveled so slowly before these social media advents became popular. Over the past few seasons, the internet has allowed news to travel faster than teams can organize a press conference, and baseball has taken every step to embrace social media and all it has to offer fans.
Possibly the most drastic measure the majors has taken is with the MLB Fan Cave, located right in the heart of New York City. Baseball has housed some of the nation’s biggest fans for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, where every single game during the season is watched intently while being talked about across several social media platforms by said fans. Throughout the season, players like Justin Verlander, Brian Wilson, and David Ortiz have made stops to the Fan Cave while posing for photos and all necessary promotions. When supporters visit the New York City location, they are prompted to post photos on Facebook, tweet, and check in on FourSquare. With an active twitter account that constantly reminds fans of who is stopping by the Fan Cave, and running contests and competitions based on retweets and responses to poll questions, this fun hangout serves to reinforce baseball’s social media presence.
Baseball has gone above and beyond to ensure it is not lost among all the social media clutter. Several teams have created a position just to manage social media and post constant updates regarding scores, injuries, and special events. Each team also has an active account with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Google+, making baseball the most accessible league in terms of social media.
compiled by Mariesa Negosanti, Journalism, 2015
Happy Friday! Here are some interesting links and stories to keep you busy through the weekend, enjoy!
Derrick Rose, Jeremy Lin top NBA jersey sales, marketwatch.com
Wes Welker: New England Patriots WR Signs Franchise Tender, bleacherreport.com
NHL approves sale of Blues, espn.com
Staples Center to host 6 playoff games in 4 days, utsandiago.com
After one of the most anticipated moves fro
m AAA to the majors, Harper, the Washington Nationals rookie outfielder, has a lot to live up to, and plenty of endorsement and business potential.
Fans that could care less about the Nationals were paying attention to Harper’s first major league at-bat when he grounded out. Then, the sports world went into a frenzy just a couple days ago when he hit his first major league homerun. It is difficult to not be excited about all the possibilities for a catcher-turned left fielder when he is so young, and possesses all the tools to be a successful baseball player. So naturally it is expected that with this fame and success should come plenty of endorsement deals and a marketing machine in the making.
Already with a spread in GQ and major networks like ESPN and the MLB Network cutting away from programming to show Harper’s at-bats, there is something special and dynamic about this young player and marketers have taken notice. Harper has agreed to paid speaking engagements with Athlete Promotions and has signed on for an endorsement deal with Under Armor.
It’s not that baseball has ever been short on celebrity status or endorsement deals and sponsorships, but according to experts in the marketing industry, Harper has all the makings of a superstar in terms of promotions and spokesperson value, surpassing that of athletes like Lebron James and leveling with greats like Michael Jordan.
Although these are bold predictions there is no reason why Harper should ever be limited in his endorsement and sponsorship opportunities. This could be what the baseball needs to draw in an even younger and wider demographic while boosting Harper to a greater celebrity status.
More important than the benefits baseball will see from the prominent image Harper brings is what the Nationals is going to gain. With excellent draft choices in back-to-back years with Stephen Strasburg and then Harper, Washington has established a young, dynamic core for what had previously been a lackluster ball club. A player like Harper could make all the difference in the game and in ticket sales for a small market team like the Nationals.
The Nationals have an opportunity to boost merchandise sales and increase profits simply by putting Harper out on the field. Another factor that comes into play here is the idea that Bryce Harper is fresh, and unlike many of the games’ recent greats, his numbers have not been tainted by steroids or human growth hormones. He is the face of a new generation in baseball that brands should and will embrace for his genuine and youthful all-American spirit.
Harper means so much more than exceptional talent to the Nationals, to the league, and to the game of baseball; he is a business tool. He may assist helping the Nationals to more wins, but after fewer than 100 at-bats, he has already become a brand and a beacon for marketers.