Boxing’s Fight to Stay Relevant

With one of the greatest match-ups in boxing history… is the sport thriving or dying?

16788413705_1fc9d28e9c_oAs Floyd Mayweather Jr. continues to celebrate his victory against Manny Pacquiao, astronomical sales figures for the “Fight of the Century” are still being calculated. It’s estimated at least 5.23 million people ordered the $100 event through pay-per-view. Tickets to watch the fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas were selling for $1,500 to $500,000. Astronauts onboard the International Space Station even got a chance to view the match.

It’s going to be a once in a lifetime type of fight, and I’m going to be there just for the event of it all. Growing up loving sports, to be in a position where I can go to this type of event… it’s just wonderful.” -Tony Buzbee, an attorney who paid $74,000 for a pair of 12th-row seats

There has been a strong demand for Mayweather and Pacquiao to face off for years, but did they fulfill those wishes for the right reasons?

Mayweather didn’t waste any time showing off his first check worth $100 million. The fight also didn’t live Floyd_Mayweather,_Jr._vs._Juan_Manuel_Márquezup to the hype. Some say it was boring. It lasted less than an hour, and there were only a combined 229 punches. It doesn’t help that it was later revealed that Pacquiao was fighting with an injured shoulder.

Although the “Super Bowl” of fighting is over and it’s difficult to pinpoint what to look forward to next, boxing is certainly not dead. It’s a niche sport. Adam Wells with Bleacher Report points out the fight was only dull to people who occasionally jump on the bandwagon:

But this wasn’t so much a boring fight as a Floyd Mayweather fight, and you can label it dull if you wish, rail that he just doesn’t excite the masses with the offense everyone craves, but this is exactly what was likely to happen.”

Boxing will never be as appealing as the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. Despite Mike Tyson telling aspiring boxers to “Go to MMA,” boxing continues to show signs of growth.

Darren Rovell with EPSN points out boxing has delivered from both a revenue and time-filling standpoint as sports rights fees skyrocket. Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president of Showtime Sports and Event Programming, has this philosophy:

Millions of people in this country watch one fight a year. But if they have a really good experience, we believe they’ll watch two or three.”

Earlier this year, NBC and SpikeTV agreed to carry certain matches in primetime and on Saturday afternoons over the next several years. CBS also signed a multi-year contract to air at least eight Saturday events between April and September.

Boxing is thriving. The sport is just not on everyone’s radar until big matches pop up, like Mayweather vs.  Pacquiao, which help make up for lost time when they generate a projected record $400 million.

Will the NFL Exploit Its First Female Referee?

Congratulations, Sarah Thomas! The National Football League hired Thomas in early April, making thomas_Sarah_practice71her the first full-time female referee in the NFL’s 95-year history.

Thomas has a pretty impressive resume: working high school games in 1999, the first woman to officiate an NCAA game in 2007, the first female official to work a college bowl game in 2009, and the first woman to officiate in a Big Ten stadium in 2011. She has also done sideline work for the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, and Indianapolis Colts during minicamp practices.

Although the married mother of three who also works in pharmaceutical sales told USA Today she’s “ecstatic” and “blessed,” not everyone is joining the celebration.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks told TMZ that he wondered if the NFL was “more interested in scoring publicity points than placing quality officials on the field.”

“It’s just like the Michael Sam situation – if he wasn’t gay, he would have gone undrafted. Instead, the league drafts him because I think they are trying to monopolize every aspect of the world. The same thing with a female ref. For the league, it’s great publicity. The NFL is all about monopolizing every opportunity.”

 
As exciting as the announcement can be, Marks makes a good point. Just one year ago, the league was dealing with a public relations nightmare: multiple players accused of domestic violence. The NFL is now trying to get back in good graces with women. A 30-second PSA aired during the first quarter of the Super Bowl to encourage viewers to pledge an end to domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Drew Harwell with The Washington Post points out women are pro football’s most valuable players, making up an estimated 45% of the the NFL’s more than 150 American fans. Harwell cites C. Keith Harrison, a University of Central Florida associate professor, with finding women make or influence 85% of disposable-income purchasing decisions.

Female fans, a group beloved by advertisers, represent the league’s biggest opportunity for growth. Keeping these women spending has become a chief goal of the NFL.”

Thomas told USA Today she doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer. She says she plans to “wear her hair tucked up into her hat,” but will the NFL let her “blend in with the rest of her crew?” It may be too early to tell.

Do you know the name of other referees? Probably not. I’m going to put money on the idea that Thomas will be a household name by the end of the upcoming season for more than just her line judging during games.

Student Athletes Better Off As A Union?

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The jury is still out – so to speak – when it comes to whether college athletes should be able to join a union and “change the landscape of American amateur sports.”

The debate started grabbing national news headlines when the National Labor Relations Board ruled last March that Northwestern University athletes should be able to form a union because they are legally considered employees.

Northwestern is in the midst of appealing that decision.

Do you believe student athletes should be able to join a union? Click here to read a brief summary to get caught up and then vote in the poll below.

What Happened to “Learning” at College?

The future is looking bright for the Class of 2015… or is it?!?

CareerBuilder, the largest online career site in the U.S., released a survey Thursday stating 65% of companies plan to hire more college graduates this year. That is up 57% last year and the highest outlook since 2007. One third will also offer to pay more than last year.

“They still face challenges, however. One in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including soft skills and real-world experience that might be gained through things like internships.” -Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s Chief Human Resources Officer

9788045101_014c87ce66_bRewind. You can’t place all the blame on colleges for not preparing students for the “real-world.” Many universities are helping students play catch-up because they didn’t learn valuable skills in high school.

The documentary Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk highlights several reasons colleges may partly be at fault for hindering development between admission and graduation.

Bigger isn’t always better. Keith Caywood was one of 37,000 students at Arizona State University before dropping out. He says, “I got swallowed up. I didn’t know where any of my classes were. It was such a large campus.” When he did manage to find his classes, they were often packed with 200 students and, “no one knew if I was there or not.” Smaller classes would allow instructors to provide the interpersonal or people skills 52% of employers say graduates lack.

Lectures are no longer effective. CareerBuilder’s survey found 46% of companies say there is too much emphasis on book learning. Tom Fleming, a UA professor, found his teaching to be more effective if he met students halfway. By incorporating technology, interactive responses, and real-world situations, he was able to make astronomy engaging to individuals taking the class to fulfill a requirement. Western Kentucky University offered a specific Spanish class that allowed journalism/broadcasting students to learn the foreign language by producing newscasts, designing magazine covers, and writing scripts.

The documentary also touched on how instructors are more focused on research because it’s the only way they’re rewarded by administrators,  how college isn’t demanding enough for some people, the stress students face trying to pay for tuition, and how universities have tunnel-vision on building impressive amenities and sports programs.

Every student’s college experience is unique. It’s really up to each individual student to do their research to ensure they’re going to get the best education. After all, you get out what you put in.

Safely Playing the Social Media Game

Social media is a difficult game to play. There are very little rules, the boundaries are barely visible, and you rarely know your opponents. It doesn’t matter how fast they run, athletes can’t get away from social media.

It’s a dialogue, not a monologue, and some people don’t understand that. Social media is more like a telephone than a television.” -Amy Jo Martin

7910370882_e2d8bfd3b4_oIt’s an unspoken requirement for athletes to manage a presence on multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. According to Kevin DeShazo with Fieldhouse Media, the goal is to be yourself, engaging, and interactive.

Social media can allow fans to build personal connections with their idols, which leads to better ticket sales, sponsorships, and fundraising. According to a 2011 study, sport spectators are 55% more likely to purchase a product if it has been tweeted or written about on social media by one of their favorite athletes.

Athletes have to stay at the top of their game. Social media can be very rewarding, but it can also ruin a career with just one post going viral in a matter of seconds. DeShazo told student reporters at Oklahoma State University that says most professionals don’t understand social media’s power and reach. He suggests they keep in mind that each post resembles holding a news conference. The golden rule: think before hitting send.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel accidentally tweeted his cell phone number to Johnny_Manziel_in_Kyle_Fieldmore than a million followers last October. He claims he thought he was sending his digits in a direct message.

Former San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 in August 2009 for blaming “nasty food” from keeping the Bolts from the making it to the Super Bowl.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall sent out a series of tweets after American troops killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. After scolding users for celebrating the terrorist leader’s death, Champion dropped its sponsorship deal with Mendenhall.

Location, location, location. Athletes will unknowingly give out their location because the location services on their phone is enabled. A word from the wise: don’t tweet until the event is over and you’ve left.

It’s crucial for a sport organization to closely monitor all social media accounts affiliated with its brand. Educating athletes is the first step in preventing a mistake that could come with harsh repercussions. Darren Rovell’s “100 Twitter Rules to Live By” is a great launching pad.

Drive Fan Engagement with Marketing Automation

The formula is simple: engagement equals sales. Think you’re just a face in a crowd of 82,500 at MetLife Stadium while watching a New York Giants game? Think again! You may be surprised at the lengthy amount of information an organization is gathering about you. Are you proactive or a procrastinator when it comes to buying tickets for a game? Do you wait until the end of the second quarter to grab a beer? Do you consistently leave before a game is over?

There are several ways to not only manage data already collected, but innovative ways to gather even more. In this case, there’s nothing wrong with being greedy. In four phases and 12 steps, SimplyCast recommends the following methods to drive engagement and put more fans in seats:

Homeofthe12thManHow do you expect to communicate with fans if you don’t have the right contact information?! Make it a priority to regularly update the user databases. Focus on always maintaining the basics: names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Ask them their preferences. Do they prefer to get a message through text message over email? Ask them how many games they want to attend. A prize may have to be offered as an incentive to encourage fans to take the time to confirm their information.

When spectators visit a stadium/arena, take advantage of real-time data collection. Representatives can mingle with fans and gather basic and more detailed information, like “How often do you come to games?” and “Where do you usually buy tickets?”

Make fans feel welcomed and valued right from the start. It is as easy as sending a personalized welcome email. Nurture users by asking them to subscribe to a weekly digital newsletter for information about upcoming events, exclusives, fan clubs, how to purchase tickets, and links to news stories. Track the links they click and interact with them through social media.

When an order is placed, send a notification right away. Let consumers know you received their request and appreciate their business. In your emails, include information about parking, stadium rules, when gates will open, and frequently asked questions. This would also be a good time to integrate Facebook or Twitter and encourage fans to share that they are attending a particular game/event.

A few days before the game, send a reminder email. On game day, post informational and exciting messages on social media. Engage with fans by asking them to send pictures of themselves. The Nashville Predators use #PredsPride. Ask spectators to text in their votes for the player of the game.

Not all fans need to receive the same communications; there are different sales cycles. The Interested Phase is welcome messages and counting down the start of the new season or upcoming games. The Engaged Phase is a reminder for upcoming events and targeted content based on a user’s history. The Lapsed Phase includes surveys to gain insight, incentives to re-visit a website, and promotions to re-engage.

12245750054_5a3d3025e1_oMerchandise with a team logo or name is a free, walking billboard. Use mobile coupons and special email promotions to drive sales. Let the fans have some say in what information they wish to receive. Some people want details about parking, last-minute tickets, or a reminder to wear white for a White Out.

The possibilities of how to engage fans are endless. If you think you have a brilliant idea, give it a shot. Understand your fans and start engaging them today.

4 Sponsorship Trends to Never Forget

“The only thing that is constant is change.” A phrase published by Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, in 500 B.C. still holds true in 2015. Perhaps, no one understands that belief more than someone trying to sell a sport sponsorship in an increasingly competitive market.

Everyday is a new day, a fresh start. The people responsible for designing and activating sponsorships have to be at the top of their game. IEG, a leading organization in sponsorship analysis, insight, valuation, and measurement, proposes four trends to know and follow in hopes of leading a successful campaign.

Start by telling a story to the target audience, but don’t necessarily make it about your company. Take note of country singer Toby Keith’s song “I Wanna Talk About Me.” Potential buyers like talking about a brand, but what they really want is to talk about themselves: what they think, like, know, want, and see. A brand can nurture stories by asking people to participate and become advocates. Consider PepsiCo’s “Are You Fan Enough?” campaign with the National Football League in 2013.

The advertising creative captures the excitement of experiencing and connecting to the game by showcasing various fans, teams, players and coaches getting ready for kickoff.”

 

In an attempt to create the ultimate fan experience, the campaign used engagement. It’s crucial to make potential buyers feel like they belong, part of the community.

According to the official news release, a ten-city bus tour tailgate party that allowed fans to deliver a personal message to their favorite team in hopes of making it to the jumbo-tron. NFL rookies asked fans to show they are “fan enough” by voting online for Rookie of the Week. Fans also got a chance to win tickets, team merchandise, and participate in special moments by using #FanEnough.

A sponsorship is no longer just about the value for the company. Serving and value for the consumer should be a primary focus. This campaign wanted fans to express their passion, build morale, and stick together until the end. If a team makes it to the Super Bowl, fans will have bragging rights, the chance to see the game, and it can put their team/hometown in the national spotlight.

The “Are You Fan Enough?” campaign was the first to be activated across all of PepsiCo’s brands. For example, Diet Pepsi is targeted toward women. The company used that brand to communicate with women that they could share their fandom, like team-inspirted manicures, to win prizes. The campaign was also innovative with its different techniques and messages with fans to “bring them closer to the teams, players and ultimately the game they love.”