Publish or Perish!

This is probably one of the most common phrases heard around people who make a living writing or by publishing research.  Having just recently graduated from graduate school, the phrase is an everyday reminder to assistant or associate professors trying to make tenure – keep plugging along and cranking out the research papers or you’ll never get to enjoy the title and prestige of being a university Professor!

But of course, this is a sports blog. And you may be asking me to get on with it already…what does this have to do with sports? We could go off in numerous ways here, including things I’ve mentioned before, most notably, breaking the news yourself, instead of letting someone else do that.  Or if you’re inexperienced or too busy or have a great relationship with them, allow your media partners to assist you with this.

All that aside, what I really want to talk about is podcasting.  How many people actually know what that is?  Well, quite frankly you’d be surprised.  There are some great statistics out there about how podcasting is on the rise.  For those of you know don’t know what a podcast is, according to Wikipedia, a podcast is “a type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of audio, video, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device.”

So let’s start thinking in terms of sports…how can we tap into this growing market to grow our team/sport/university brand? Use the resources that you already have – head coaches’ shows, AD’s shows, weekly radio interviews of coaches, players, etc.  Of course, obey all the rules enforced by your contracts, conferences, leagues, or associations and don’t put your coaches, athletes, or teams in jeopardy of legal action. However, do look at what your people are already doing and go from there.  If your team or coaches aren’t already doing this, what a great way to get some great content out on the web, growing your brand and increasing your value to sponsors!

Now-a-days its pretty easy to get free podcasts up on iTunes, so that’s one option.  You can also tap into the RSS feed on your website and put your podcasts on there as a web-based audio file plugin.  Another option is YouTube or Vimeo – record  your interviews and split them up into HD videos and HQ audio podcasts.  With a little training at audio and video editing anyone can do this, though an experienced technician can get these files online in little or no time at all, depending on the content.

So, Bill, what’s the point? Well, a good sports executive is always looking for a way to monetize and market their team or organization and this is another great way to do that, in some cases with little extra effort. As more sports fans are looking for more original and high-quality content, audio, photos, and video are all great ways for teams to engage with fans on a very personal level with the people they want to see. So take some time to think about what assets your team already has and think critically about how you might be able to capitalize on this potentially untapped and growing market.

If anyone has any recommendations for sports podcasts, I’d love to hear about it.  Send me a tweet with hashtag #sportspodcast. Please also click the subscribe button on the bottom right of your screen if you want to read more sports business tips and information!

Go Forth!

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Here is the link to the Wikipedia article referenced above: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast

Sports Law

Technically speaking, there is no such thing as sports law.  There is only the law applied to sports.  The term sports law is perfectly acceptable in casual conversation or in a newspaper article, however the term can be misleading.

There  are only three types of law: constitutional, statutory, and administrative.  There is also something referred to as common law, which is the interpretation of the other three types. Sports law, therefore, is the application of the law to the various areas of sport.

A few of the most common areas the law can be applied to sport are in regards to contracts, negligence cases, or application of certain laws to sports-specific venues, such as the ADAAA. The Americans with Disabilities Act was actually revised from its original form in 2008 and re-titled the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. Anyone who works in ticketing, facilities or event management probably is or at least ought to be very familiar with this legislation.

On the other hand, contract law is heard about most often on the news with personnel hirings. Contracts are very prevalent in professional sports with players and coaches being “signed” or recruited nearly every day, as we have all read about online or heard about during our favorite sports news broadcasts. Contracts are also very important for recruiting business partners in other areas of sport. These can include concessionaires who sell food and drinks at games, retail partners that assist in selling merchandise, agreements to use facilities that are not necessarily owned by the organization using them, sponsors who advertise with sport organizations, and many other examples, too numerous to mention here. One specific example of contracts in sport worth mentioning are waiver forms. You see these all the time in youth sports and recreational sports – if you’ve every played on a team of any level, you or your guardian has probably signed one of these waivers – a contract. Contracts are probably one of the most critical elements to operating a sport organization, are implemented to protect the interests of all parties involved and provide a basis for legal action, in the case that such a proceeding would be necessary.

Finally, negligence is another very interesting application of the law to sports because there are such an incredible number of ways an organization can be found negligent. It order to be sued for damages, however, negligence claims require four elements to be met, explained below: duty, breach, causation and harm.

  • Duty: The obligation by one to another.
  • Breach: Failure to meet the standard of care required by a reasonably prudent person’s standard.
  • Causation: Two elements.
    • First – Proximate Cause: The defendant is liable for all harms reasonably foreseeable at the time of the act.
    • Second – Cause-in-Fact: But for the breach, the harm would not occur.
  • Harm: Loss of interest in bodily integrity or in property interest.

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove the negligence of the defendant and, of course, there are many technicalities that come into play in a sports law case of negligence. This is a basic explanation of what goes in these cases and in order for such a claim to move forward, all elements of negligence must be present.

So what does this mean for sport executives or administrators? Well, you first ought to have a good legal department or consultant to help you understand these issues. Second, it is the responsibility of the leaders of sport organizations to be cognizant of their organizations’ liabilities…where are we at risk? What do we do if something happens? How do our contracts look and are we at risk there?

Perhaps once a year, if not more often, it might be a good idea for sport executives and administrators to review their current contracts and meet with their employees about these issues. Only with an understanding of basic legal issues by all employees will an organization be best protected against legal claims against their organization. It is the responsibility of the organization to understand the law and their responsibilities to the law; regardless of a person’s understanding or awareness, all are still held to the same standards. Just because you didn’t know what the speed limit was, doesn’t mean you’re going to get out of a speeding ticket.  You still broke the law, even though you “didn’t know you were going 50 in a 35.” The same thing applies to sport.

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Communications

When the term sports communications comes up, a few things come to mind: ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, other sport-centric websites, or even the stuff SIDs (sports information directors) do.  These though are not what I’m referring to…I am referring to all the other communication that has to happen for an organization to operate efficiently.  Emails, meetings, bulletin boards, water cooler chatter – all different forms of communication that, together, all make up the network of information flow in an organization.  So, what is my point you might ask?  Well, my question today is how well are you communicating?  Do your peers know what you have going on so that in the case of a personal emergency, they could cover your duties?  Do your other departments understand what constraints you are under, what goals you have and what other initiatives you’re working on?  Does your boss know what you’re really doing over there behind your desk or is everyone pretty much on an island, left to fend for themselves?

Perhaps these examples are elementary, but seriously…think about it.  How many times a week or a month do you find yourself frustrated because it looks like someone else isn’t doing their job?  Don’t judge!  How many times in the last however many days have you been irritated because someone didn’t reply to your email or didn’t let you know about the new promos that were going out?  Communication is a two-way street that requires consistency from both parties.  Even if the other people you feel like you need information from aren’t forthcoming, you’ve got an equal responsibility to reach out to them with good intentions.  I understand this can be difficult, but good intentions are what will save that interaction.

Another way to look at sport communications is through a PR lens.  Does your organization have a crisis management plan in place?  Are all the people that would need to make a decision or provide guidance prepped for such an event?  Have you drafted out a list of all the channels you could use to “put out the fire?”  Nobody really wants to talk about that stuff, but it is critically important that those things get worked out in advance, that way you are at least prepared to deal with it when something comes up or goes down.

In sports, we’re under constant surveillance and must be prepared at all times for no matter what happens.  One benefit to being on top of what is going on in your department, is that you have the very small window of opportunity to break the news yourself and put as positive a spin on what happens as possible – BEFORE someone else starts talking first and totally breaks you down.  At that point, you’ve got no choice but to react and try to cover up something that possibly could have been prevented.  Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the digital society we live in where nearly everyone you see has got a camera out waiting to get a juicy story posted online.  My suggestion is that we renew our commitment to constant, quality contact and get moving in the same direction, at the same time, and at the same pace.  Communication is the lubrication for superior results.

Apply this to your team, your department, your personal interactions and practice, practice, practice!  Go Forth!
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Sports Social Media

So everyone you know of is talking about social media and you’re just trying to figure it out like everyone else.  Twitter and Facebook are the big two, Google+ has has some neat features.  Pinterest is growing in popularity and what happened to MySpace?  The very nature of social media is suggested in the name, social.  As a result, no one should expect any one service to remain for any significant amount of time.  As the social conversation changes, so do personal preferences.  As we are given and presented with more and more options on how to share our lives online, fans will migrate to the networks that fit what they are looking for the most.  Right now, there are clear leaders in several categories and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.  Facebook started strongly in photo and status sharing (probably why they bought Instagram).  Twitter seems to be the news feed of just constantly running updates on a multitude of interests.  Pinterest is also photo-heavy, but the demographics (mostly female) and photo types (recipes and fashion) are unique (though this has been changing slightly, more men are engaging on a regular basis, with different types of content being consumed across the boards, yes, that was a pun!).

So what does this all mean for a sport organization with revenue goals?  Well, that depends on how you want to quantify it and how you articulate your goals.  Sure you could spend a few hundred dollars on ads and get a few hundred more followers, but what’s the point?  Organizations should focus on providing great content that the fans of their teams want.  That’s marketing.  If the content is good, it will be shared.  That’s viral marketing.  Sport organizations are in the entertainment business; we’re a unique type of entertainment that encourages more than just a passive audience.  Give them what they want!  When you get to a certain threshold, perhaps you will have the power to tell your fans what they want, but most organizations probably aren’t at that point of saturation.

Social media ought to be a part of an overall marketing plan with the intention of driving fan engagement at your fields, courts, arenas, and stadiums where the magic happens.  Drive digital traffic to your own website that only YOU own.  When you rely on other media to develop and convert leads, you’re going down an awfully slippery slope and giving someone else your data.  Take control of that information while you can and customize  your digital brand with content people want – photos, videos, and behind-the-scenes information.  Engage fans where they are right now and cultivate those relationships to the point where you learn what they want and how often.  Then drive that traffic back to your own website and convert them to paid customers – tickets, merch, concessions, etc.  If you’ve got a digital plan, your website should be your home base.  As we learned with MySpace, no matter how strong you believe a 3rd party social media hub to be, you really never know what goes on behind closed doors at those companies.

So, start internally and work on your digital home base.  Following that, setup a presence on the networks that you can reasonably manage on a regular basis with the staff you have.  If you’re able to hire someone or already have staff just for social media, even better.  Meet fans where they are already engaged and drive traffic back to your own website.

In terms of generating revenue, how you define success will make all the difference.  Is success just putting up ticket links with the same prices you have and converting sales from various other media sites?  What are your minimums for success?  Is success doing some sort of contest with a minimum amount registrants in order for it to happen?  Is success just getting to a certain number of followers on certain networks?  One way to justify spending for followers is when discussing corporate sponsorships.  Perhaps the business you work with is interested in reaching out to your fans in the digital space.  The more followers you have, the more leverage you’ll have in negotiations and the more likely your fans will convert on your sponsor’s branded team messaging. Revenue goals really just depend on where you are as an organization and what kind of budget you have.

In the end, digital marketing is the wave of the future, so get your board and flippers and ride that wave in to the bank!  Go Forth!

PS.  If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you will probably have noticed that much of what I discuss involves inward reflection, both of self and of work teams.  In order to be better for others, one must be comfortable in their own skin, knowing who they are and aware of their capabilities. Take the time to get to know yourself.  Test yourself. Re-discover your co-workers and colleagues. Great teams work together and spend a great deal of time getting to know one another, especially their strengths and weaknesses.