Sportsmanship. Don’t you love it? After watching most of the football games this weekend, I got to thinking about the meaning of sportsmanship in sports. Thinking about being a great opponent regardless of the score and congratulating your foe, being a great teammate regardless of yours or other’s mistakes, and being truly appreciative of the competitive spirit on the field.

Sportsmanship is great in all areas of life and the great thing about sports is the captive audience where society lives and exercises its values. Sport is entertainment. Sport is life. And sport is how many of us first learn about sportsmanship.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of sportsmanship is:

“fair play, respect for opponents, and polite behavior by someone who is competing in a sport or other competition.”

This is what I saw in many of the games I saw this past Thanksgiving weekend – fair play, respect for opponents and polite behavior. No, not happy or excited behavior on the side of those who lost, but certainly not fighting (although we did see some of that today unfortunately…). What do you think about sportsmanship? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

Go Forth!

Team versus Program – A Sports Marketing Approach

When it comes to figuring out the 50,000 foot view of sports marketing, there are two angles to take – do you sell the team? Or do you sell the program? Sometimes it is appropriate to do both. Sometimes its better to just pick one and run with that. If your program is doing outbound sales, it’s a good idea to make sure they are aware of both ways of approaching their conversations with potential clients.

The team is the group that plays right now. The current roster. Sometimes, these are the people that your fans are paying to see. If you don’t have anything else, maybe you’ve got a couple of superstars or a group of seniors that dominate or a new transfer or trade that makes your team worth watching. Maybe you’ve got a couple of one-and-done type of players that you just can’t miss or “see them while they’re still amateurs” kind of players. That’s the team angle of sports marketing – selling your current roster and the people playing right now.

The program is who you really are – what you and the people before you have worked to develop over the years and what you stand for as an organization. When you think of certain sport organizations from around the world, these are the ones that immediately come to mind; these are also the programs you have to stop and think about any famous players that may have come from their sidelines. These are the ones synonymous with greatness (or worse in some cases…). Sure, there are great players that rose to the occasion of playing for one of these teams and became famous, or better yet, legendary, but it’s really the program that comes first in this scenario. Regardless of your history, the essence of your program is worth being a part of – if you’ve taken the time to figure out your mission, vision, values and goals. If you have, you know what you stand for and what kind of “program” you are selling. In this case, the program angle of sports marketing is the bigger picture of getting people who want what you’re selling.

Team vs. Program – Figure out which angle your sports marketing is going to go and get everything lined up consistently.

Go Forth!

Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing for Seattle Mariners 2014 Fan Fest
Experiential marketing email from the Seattle Mariners for their 2014 Fan Fest. Yet another way to market your team and build connections with fans by selling experiences.

Experiential marketing is about selling experiences, rather than just stuff. Before I get into that though, sports business organizations generate revenue in only a few ways, while their expenses are numerous. Here are the types of revenue generated by colleges and universities, according to the NCAA’s 2012 Fulk’s Report(.pdf): ticket sales, NCAA and conference distributions, donations/cash contributions, concessions/programs/novelties, broadcast rights, sponsorships/advertising/royalties, sports camps, endowment/investment income, direct/indirect institutional sport, and misc. revenues.

Although some of the numbers for these areas can be quite large, the potential options for generating revenue are limited, while the list of expenses can go on for days – everything from the salary of the head coach of your most prominent to team on down to the type of cleaning products and paperclips you use. In terms of finding unique ways to do more with what you have, take a look at this YouTube video to see what the University of Arizona is doing this year with experiential marketing. I’m not entirely clear on how they find the people who get to be a part of this type of event, but it is very clear that the people who get to be a part of the gameday experience at Arizona Wildcat football home games are self-proclaimed fans for life.

It seems to me there are a few that get to be a part of the pre-game ritual, hanging out in the locker room with the team, being there for pre-game drills and warmups, being there for coach’s pre-game speech and finally running out onto the field in time for the game to begin. At that point, that person’s experience is over for that fan. After the game, sometime during the 4th quarter, it then seems that the next lucky fan gets to come on down to the field for the post-game activities – only this past weekend’s lucky fan got to be a part of an Arizona victory over the Oregon Ducks! What a game to be the lucky recipient of an experiential marketing experience for your favorite team! Obviously you can’t count on something like this happening, but what a great bonus! This lucky fan was able to rush the field with the team and the entire stadium as well as continue celebrating all the way into the locker room and coaches post-game press conference. Once the excitement mellowed out a little bit, he also had the opportunity to talk to and take pictures with all of his favorite players – a day he “will never forget as long as he lives.” Wow – what a great testimonial to have caught on video!

Now consider how you might implement something similar with your own organization and do experiential marketing. Perhaps you auction something like this at charity event or through your letter winner’s organization. Perhaps you do something like this as part of a sponsorship agreement or high-level donor activation. Or perhaps you hold a sweepstakes over the summer, generating buzz and some healthy PR during the traditional off-season for most colleges and universities. Or perhaps this is the premium reward you give to the top points earner in your fan rewards system (a system that rewards users with points for performing certain actions like making team purchases in addition to interacting on social media, among other things). Whatever the case, this is a fan reward that doesn’t cost much more than the time of your student videographer and an escort – in exchange for a lifetime fan made over a few hours spent with your team.

The next time you are looking to expand your long tail reach into the hearts and minds of your fans, consider experiential marketing and how you can do more with what you already have.

Go Forth!

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The Definition of Sport

According to Mirriam-Webster, the definition of sport is “a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.”

Pretty good right? Welp, my job is done here – we’ve successfully defined sport and can now end the debate on anything that isn’t football, baseball, hockey, or boxing. What you’re really thinking is probably wow, wow, wow! Slow down Bill – what about MMA, cheerleading, professional wrestling, white water rafting, skiing, NASCAR, running, or heck – marching band! Well, technically, and according to Mirriam-Webster, these are all sports. Yes, even marching band – “certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” Marching band is about moving into formations while playing music. Ever seen the movie Drumline (affiliate)? Yeah – it’s a sport.

There’s been a pretty good ongoing debate between a few of my colleagues and I about about what a sport really is, but in order to decide, we’ve got to all agree on a definition, so how about Mirriam-Webster’s definition? It’s just as good as any – except when someone has a strongly held belief that a certain activity is not a sport, even though it fits in this definition. And that’s probably why a few of us just keep going around and around and around about what we think the term “sport” should include.

Now, this situation is also a great sports business lesson – how do you define success and what’s working? First – you’ve got to come up with a definition of what is most important to you. What are your mission, vision, values, goals? By doing your work, are you advancing closer to these goals? How will you know? What steps should you take in order to achieve certain milestones on your way toward these goals?

Second, everyone has to agree on the definition. In many ways, this can be the most difficult task of any – getting everyone on the bus so we can get somewhere together. We all have a history, a background, bias, and other contributing factors that give us the mindset we do, but how firm are we in our beliefs that may limit our success as a group? In sport as well as life, you’ve got to be about more than just yourself if you’re going to succeed. There are a few sports that only require an individual, but even those athletes have teams that must work together – coaches, trainers, doctors, etc. Be a team player.

Start with a definition and help others in coming up with what that looks like for your organization. Define success and the individual metrics for what that looks like, both in your personal and professional development, as well as in your organization. If you’ve got small benchmarks along the way to measure your success by, the journey will be more calculated and less ambiguous.

Go Forth!

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