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.

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.

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.”

8 Ideas for Winning with Sports

Attention. Select. Recall. Reoccur. Not every sponsorship is a home run or touchdown. It takes an incredible amount of brainstorming, crafting, and evaluating to walk away with a win.

What is the key to success? IEG, a leading organization in sponsorship analysis, insight, valuation, and measurement, says it’s pairing innovation and sport.

Sport offers a substantial and sustainable opportunity to out- innovate competitors by connecting audiences to the things they love on an immeasurable scale. And in ways they never knew were possible.”

mml-logo-flatIEG has developed eight ways to successfully turn sports assets into value-enhancing, consumer- focused ideas. It starts with finding emotion by viewing audiences as people, not demographics, and developing a relationship. NCAA realizes even die-hard basketball fans cannot sit around for two weeks watching continuous March Madness coverage. But they can watch almost every game through the March Madness Live streaming service or apps for iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows devices. The accessibility allows fans to carry on with their lives, like going to the mall with family, without missing a play.

Values now count as much as value, according to IEG. Purpose is one of the new 4Ps of marketing; build race+against+cancer+web+logoservice into every sponsorship. Subway has signed on as the new title sponsor of Covenant Health’s “Race Against Cancer” in Knoxville. John Dell, a local franchise owner and development agent for East Tennessee explains:

All Subway restaurants are locally owned and operated, so it’s important to us to support organizations that are working to improve the quality of life for members of our community.”

Create great content; bring something new and better to the fan experience. More than 80 teams are engaging fans with in-stadium interactive displays. The feature allows them to use their phone to “have a deeper conversation with their favorite teams, athletes, sponsors, and fellow fans” with “access to exclusive content, promotions, and giveaways,” according to Chantal Tode with Mobile Marketer.


Participation in a sponsorship can promote brands and magnify the marketing value. Southwest Airlines used a Doritos commercial that aired during the Super Bowl to its advantage with this tweet:

Consumers are human. Great stories draw them in and keep their attention. As IEG says, “Every touch point is an opportunity to prove who you are.” Consider the Budweiser commercials that air each year during the Super Bowl featuring the clydesdales and Golden Retriever. The storyline is relatable and emotional, which captivates millions of viewers. This year’s theme was titled “Lost Dog” with an emphasis on #BestBuds.

 

Companies must stay one step ahead: be relevant, be agile, be fast. Launch small ideas and quickly move on. It’s easy to be pushed out of mind, so create memorable moments that give the world something they can’t stop talking about. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Nike tweeted a staged photo of a coin toss that that went viral during the CFP National Championship in January.

Measure what matters, not what’s easy to count. According to IEG, reach and media equivalencies “fail to reveal whether or not a partnership is building market share, brand value, or shareholder value.” Remember to concentrate on outcomes over outputs.

Balance the portfolio to “reveal both conflicting images that dilute brand impact, as well as overlapping strengths and weaknesses.” Visa uses its sponsorships to communicate its credit/debit card payment service is “everywhere you want to be.” From the FIFA World Cup to the Olympics Games, each event plays a different role in the pursuit of fulfilling objectives.

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