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.

Planning For A $7 Billion Market Spike In 3 Years

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A recent survey from McKinsey, a global consulting firm, claims frugal is the new normal. The survey found four in ten Americans trimmed their spending in the past 12 months, while 55% are searching for ways to cut back.

When it comes to entertainment, particularly sports, people are not pinching pennies. According to the 2014 edition of the PwC Sports Outlook, the market is expected to grow by $7.2 million from 2015 to 2018.

There are four key segments within the North American revenue stream: gate receipts, media rights, sponsorship, and merchandising.

Media rights are projected to continue growing at the highest rate: 26.06% of total revenue in 2015 to 27.36% in 2018. Sponsorship will also see an increase from 24.08% to 24.85%, while the shares of gates revenues and merchandise are expected to fall.

Notice the give-and-take relationship between gate revenues (-.77%) and media rights (+1.3%) from 2015 to 2018. Fans are not going to just give up and stop consuming sports. They will either watch in person or on a broadcast.

Disposable incomes are limited. Organizations are constantly struggling to find ways to sell tickets and fill stadiums/arenas. Consumers want more of an experience than just watching a ball get passed around while they sit and get a sunburn or frostbite.

The Tennessee Titans heard the gripes, so Comcast is installing WiFi at LP Field before the upcoming season. AT&T installed two new 4G LTE antennas in 2012 near the Bridgestone Arena to accommodate an increase in mobile use. The Jacksonville Jaguars recently put up cabanas with a fully serviced, premium tailgate/seating experience. EverBank Field also offers two swimming pools where fans can watch games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a life-size pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium. Other facilities are making changes to their seating, concessions, and parking lots.

As fans decide to stay home and watch a game, leagues realize media rights will increase $2.6 million in 2018. The National Football League just renewed its contract with CBS to broadcast eight games on Thursday nights for more than $275-$300 million. Several current deals are expected to expire by 2018, and the media companies already know it’ll be costly to renew. Organizations are also striking up conversations about online streaming, OnDemand, and mobile apps.

Keep in mind that nothing beats the live atmosphere on game day, which explains why gate revenues still make up the biggest piece of the pie in 2015 and 2018.

Sponsorship is dependent on the economy (+$2.2 million and +.77%). PwC lowered its five-year growth rate from six-percent per year to just under five-percent per year. The reason:

A slower roll-out and slightly less optimistic outlook for the potential net impact of new sponsorship inventory resulting from digital media platforms, uniform rights, and in-venue signage/naming rights, as well as further brand category rights segmentation.”

Local facility naming rights will continue to increase revenue as a lot of contracts are expected to expire soon.

Merchandise will see very little growth in terms of dollar amount (+$580 million) and the biggest drop in percentage (-1.29%). If someone has a team jersey or hat, they probably won’t buy another one. One way organizations can increase this segment is by changing logos or color schemes. There is also a need to focus more on women, children, and electronics. Dooney & Bourke, a leading handbag company, is now offering Major League Baseball and collegiate products.

Helping the Worst NFL Team Become a Success

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The Jacksonville Jaguars are consistently ranked toward the bottom on lists comparing National Football League franchises. Fans are finding it difficult to support a losing team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2007. It’s not easy trying to build morale when there’s also a lot of buzz that owner Shahid Khan is considering relocating the organization to London. If the franchise wants to be successful in this cut-throat industry, the perfect time to transition the Jaguars into a powerful squad deeply rooted in the Jacksonville community is now. This is a guide to rebrand the Jaguars for the upcoming 2015 season. It is a blueprint to offer guidance and will need to be adjusted to feedback.

Read the Brand Blueprint for the Jacksonville Jaguars

Hard at Work Recruiting British Fans

The National Football League is currently in the offseason, but that’s not stopping the Jacksonville Jaguars from trying to recruit United Kingdom fans. The latest technique is quite clever, too!

Letter-Sign

Jaxson de Ville

Mascot Jaxson de Ville wrote a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. He requested all Jags fans in England be given a day off to recognize America’s Independence Day.

The special relationship that the US and UK share should absolutely be extended to the Jaguars’ UK fans.”

He suggested it go by a different name, though. As the Daily Mail pointed out, it would have been called an “EverBank Holiday.”

A variation on Britain’s traditional Bank Holidays and including the name of Jacksonville’s home stadium, EverBank Field.”

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Letter sent to PM David Cameron

Who wouldn’t want an extra day off? I’d become a Jaguars fan if that meant I could get a three-day weekend! It shows the team cares about its supporters, and folks think highly of organizations that help others. As Jaxson said:

The NFL games in London bring a huge amount of revenue into the British economy so surely one day off for our incredible fans in the UK can’t hurt, right?”

Cameron didn’t give anyone a day off, but the letter certainly generated a buzz about the Jaguars in the middle of the summer.

@woz1967 tweeted:

Hell Yeah I’m on board. #GoJags #BeJaguars #StandUnited #CypSquadUK #Wembley #USMNT”

@Ten_TitansUK tweeted:

I’d be a jags fan for a day, for a bit of that action!!”

But Jessica Marie disagreed on the team’s Facebook:

While funny I kind of feel like this “letter” is a little disrespectful and condescending  considering history between countries and all especially.”

Kevin Tapee also didn’t like it:

Personally I think this lacks taste. To refer to the Prime Minister of England as Dave and not at the very least Mr. Cameron? Poor taste.”

The main point of the letter was to reminded spectators the team will play the Dallas Cowboys on November 9 at the sold-out Wembley Stadium. They’ll continue to play there in 2015 and 2016. A subtle reminder the organization is really testing the water to possibly become the “Jacksonville Jaguars of London.”

We love visiting our second home in London and our fans across the UK are awesome.”

The Jaguars seem to be the only team really putting forth an effort to recruit fans in London. By the way, I just realized the organization has a specific page on their website dedicated to “Jaguars UK.” They also have a specific Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Is this another sign?

“Jacksonville Jaguars of London”

Maybe the National Football League and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan aren’t ready to fully commit to England.

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British Airways

Why not have the team split its schedule between Florida and London? The Green Bay Packers used to do it in Green Bay and Milwaukee, and it seems like the Buffalo Bills are headed that way with games in Buffalo and Toronto. The Jaguars already have two employees stationed in the United Kingdom, and they already send cheerleaders, athletes, and managers there in the offseason.

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Reggie Williams

Jaguars fans may be a little upset, but wouldn’t they rather have a bi-contentintal team than lose the team entirely? There are a lot of positive aspects. As Khan has said, it would be beneficial to attract international visitors to “The Bold New City of the South:”

Jacksonville is an undiscovered gem, with key resources for tourism and the beaches. It is highly influenced by its maritime business and London is a logical point along the way. We need to take this and market Jacksonville overseas.”

Khan also wants European companies to spend millions of dollars in “J-ville” to entice “Jaxons” to fly across the pond. As ESPN found, the team’s domestic sponsorship revenue rose 14% in 2013, but jumped to 29% when London sponsorship money was included. Even tight end Marcedes Lewis seems to agree:

“It’s just good for the Jaguar brand. “It’s exciting to go over there and put ourselves on the map worldwide. When I got drafted in 2006, there were some of my family members who didn’t even know who the Jaguars were.”

The bi-continental team would make traveling easier than having the team fully based there. The players could spend a few weeks in London and more time in the U.S., and avoid flying back and forth so much. It would also make broadcasting the competitions easier.

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EverBank Field

The games played in the NFL International Series lower ticket prices by at least 10%. If the team had more games overseas, ticket prices would continue to become more affordable. There’s also supply and demand — fewer games in the U.S. would mean more seats sold at EverBank Field. The program would also allow the league to see how many people are truly interested in attending regular games in London, outside the special events from the International Series.

You can’t forget the team’s fan base would grow throughout the process — that’s more merchandise being sold.

Forget being bi-coastal. Bi-contenential is the way to go if the NFL wants to see if it can fully succeed in Europe without a full commitment.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Time to Get a Passport

Thirteen teams have played at Wembley Stadium since the NFL International Series started in 2007. The New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have each played there twice. The Jacksonville Jaguars played their first game in London last fall, and they will continue to play one game a year there through 2016.

If the NFL establishes a team in Europe, more than likely it is going to be the Jaguars.

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It’s no secret that Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jaguars owner Shad Khan are working together to test the water and build a fan base. Khan clearly showed his intentions in a 2012 interview:

In the course of the next four years we’ll see if the fans are ready for more than one game. Time will tell.”

“We want the Jaguars to develop fans over here and the Jaguars to be seen as London’s team but my feelings and aspirations are to make it work in Jacksonville.”

Goodwell also told Sports Journalists Association lunch last October:

But we want to create success here. It depends on fan support continuing to grow. [If] at some point in time it will become obvious a team here could be successful then we have to figure out other issues. Like which team, or teams.”

Goodell and Khan are making it so obvious, even The Onion wrote a spoof news story about the NFL announcing the team would play 16 games in London — eight as the home team and eight as the away team. The website even said the players would wear limited edition uniforms with special colors and logo.

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Shad Khan, Jacksonville Jaguars owner

All joking aside, here are a few reasons Khan and the NFL may use to justify moving the organization to the United Kingdom for a fresh start:

  1. The team is one of the least popular in the league, but its popularity is growing outside the United States.
  2. Jacksonville has 837,000 residents; London has 8.3 million.
  3. The team hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2007.
  4. The team’s regular season record is 144-160.
  5. The organization have a hard time filling the 70,000 seat EverBank Field. Wembley Stadium has 90,000 seats, and the Jaguars game there last year was attended by 83,559.
  6. The UK-based fan club, Union Jax, has 23,000 members.

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    Fulham F.C.

  7. Khan is familiar with the London-market since he owns the Fulham F.C. soccer team.

Even former quarterback Mark Brunell told First Coast News he believes it’ll happen:

We have an owner in Shad Khan that bought the soccer team over there and all indications are that we’re headed that way.  It’s not good for Jacksonville. You don’t hear a lot of that talk in Jacksonville right now, but everywhere else . . . someone mentioned the other day that it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars of London.”

A few other names have been thrown around as possibly heading across the pond, like the San Diego Chargers, but the Jaguars seem to be the “it team.” Khan continues to say he is dedicated to making the team succeed in Jacksonville.

Should the Jaguars further test the London-market by spending half their season in the U.S. and the other half in the UK? Stayed tuned — that’s next!