Friday, July 08, 2005

Hola, sports marketers...

...it's been awhile since my last post (I feel like I'm in confession, except that I'm Jewish and wouldn't know where to sit), and for that I apologize.

When most writers take sabbaticals, it's for writing a book or a play, or even a novella. I can top that. I was busy writing and editing the 2005 Major League Baseball Inside the Ownership CD-ROM (Available next week for $295 plus shipping and the always-ambiguous handling). It's a good product, chock full of information about all 30 MLB teams (31, if you count all of the Expos business). I must add a disclaimer, we eliminated the "penetration index" because quite frankly, we had no idea what the hell it meant.

Basketball will be out by summer's end (Man, can you believe it's already July 8!) and then an updated football and the triumphant return of the NHL.

*****

When you receive your July newsletter (which could be in August with the way our printer's been going), you'll notice a handful of stories dealing with the Latino market. In my editor's column, I mention how we purposely did this to illustrate the growing need to attract this growing market. I must admit to being a tad disingenious. We didn't go into June thinking this would be our July focus.

Becky Wallace and I found two of this stories simultaneously, and then we decided to run them on the front page on purpose. I had the Texas Rangers/Mexican consulate story on hold from a few months back, so we ran it this month.

We didn't realize that the newsletter would have this focus until our editorial meetings, but we ran with it, and personally, I think it is apropos to what TMR is all about.

There is no science or set way to market to one particular demographic. It's not brain surgery. Plenty of teams have Latino-themed promotions. So it's nothing ground-breaking.

The Milwaukee Brewers (top of page one) hired a Hispanic marketing agency to beef up their efforts at drawing some of the 100,000-plus Hispanics in the greater Milwaukee area. Every major league team, and a slew of minor league teams, should do the same.

After hearing about Bill Kulik and his Spanish Beisbol Network from the Philadelphia Phillies, I got in touch with Bill and heard about his life story and how he started his small, but growing, Spanish radio group.

Known as "El Gringo Malo," or as he translates it, "bad-ass white boy," Kulik has carved a niche for himself in the Boston market after nearly four years of covering the Red Sox. He moved to Philly this year to do games there, and he also started an agreement with Tampa Bay.

What he does is simple, he buys discounted rates from teams, finds small stations that hit Latino neighborhoods and either pays them for airtime or works out trades where they keep a share of local radio ad money. He sells national, network ads to companies like Ford and Western Union.

Kulik will add more teams next season, and according to news reports he has tried to add the Patriots and Celtics when based out of Beantown, but I think he could make some headway trying to add some minor league teams, especially those in Texas and California.

Kulik's e-mail was cut out of the article for spacing issues, but he can be reached at: wkulik@beisbol.net.

Other stories:
http://www.startupjournal.com/howto/minorityissues/20040917-millman.html

*****
This story was passed around ad nauseum yesterday, but for those who missed it, check out the ultimate Steelers fan. Not to be macabre, but the fact that this guy died a week after Myron Cope retired makes me think it wasn't a coincidence.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05187/533357.stm

Minor league baseball teams have already jumped on the "win a free funeral" bandwagon, why not plan a team-themed funeral. How long until team's have an official mortician on the roster? OK, that's enough. You've been a great audience. Try the veal.

Jon

Friday, May 20, 2005

It's Gold...

I must admit, I was skeptical of the Golden Baseball League when I first heard about it a year ago. I covered the old Western Baseball League in its swan song season, and needless to say, I wasn't impressed with what I saw.

But while researching my page 10 story in the May issue of TMR (on newsstands now!), I was enthralled with how much sense their business plan makes. I talked at length to the GBL's Chief Marketing Officer Jim Weyermann and league co-founder Dave Kaval.

The single-entity owned league has enough infrastructure behind it to succeed behind-the-scenes. They've made marketing their main focus, not falling into "the fans just want cheap family fun" trap. WBL teams were just happy to tread water, hoping to draw enough fans to meet their bottom line.

Thanks to Weyermann and Co.'s contacts, the league secured a multi-million dollar presenting sponsor deal with grocery chain Safeway, as well as smaller deals in league towns dubbed "founding partners." League officials took control of many of these deals, cementing them before anyone took the field.

Now the teams need to draw fans. Opening Day is this week and Weyermann said teams need to draw about 1,800 fans per game, no small order in old WBL markets like Long Beach and Yuma.

Here are some reasons on why the GBL should prosper:

Location, location, location: The GBL has a good mix of old WBL towns and new markets. Arizona Spring Training outposts Mesa and Surprise . Mesa has been a baseball hotspot for years and has a strong, built-in core baseball audience. Suburban Surprise, spring home of Kansas City and Texas, has a $42 million new stadium. Not a bad home for the Fightin' Falcons. (League investor Pat Sajak is throwing out the first pitch in Surprise, and will coach first base.)

Chico was one of the only success stories in the WBL and Yuma (my old stomping grounds) has supposedly been selling sponsorships like gangbusters, according to the league. Fullerton is playing in the home of NCAA powerhouse Cal St.-Fullerton. San Diego could be a stretch, but they're playing at Tony Gwynn Stadium and trying to latch on to San Diego State's fan base. Plus they've signed Rickey Henderson.

"It's fun to get on the phone every week and hearing about success stories from other locations," said Chico GM Bob Linscheid. "It's all sounding really positive."

Banzai!: The league's eighth team is the barnstorming Japan Samurai Bears. The team is made up of young Japan League players who should impress crowds with their fundamentals.

The league has secured several sponsorships in different markets for Japanese-themed businesses, as the team is expected to bring out Japanese fans in droves, especially in markets like Long Beach and Fullerton. Benihana has signed on in San Diego.

"We think the Samurai Bears will draw a home team crowd everywhere they go," Weyermann said.

Investing in the future: The GBL has poured money into the stadiums, redoing the field in Fullerton, replacing seats in San Diego, and purchasing a used video scoreboard for Yuma.

Towns and businesses that were burned by leagues like the WBL are being wooed back by Kaval and his crew, who are making conscious efforts to become part of the community.

In Chico, Linscheid, a former WBL and Chico Heat exec, was brought back because he knows what the fan base wants.

"We have people in place who have been on the job before," he said. "Our strength is our familiarity with the business. We were very successful here."

In Surprise, the stadium sits in the center of a community-oriented neighborhood and in Yuma, the team is enlisting locals to paint a mural in the stadium to represent its history.

The guys are smart: Weyermann has big-time marketing experience (the ABL and the Experience Music Project in Seattle) and Kaval and co-founder Amit Patel met at Stanford's graduate school of business. Commish Kevin Outcalt left Cisco Systems to join up full-time.

They did their homework and they know why leagues fail and why they succeed. They're young and bright, and they know their business.

And finally...
The two M's, Money and Marketing: The league has several big-pocketed investors who have ponied up about $5 million for the first season. That allowed them to hire team executives with requisite marketing and business experience.

Now instead of pulling all their resources to sell tickets and sponsorships, people have the freedom to do their specific jobs and do them well.
The league has made a conscious push to promote itself nationally, a la the Northern League, which only helps build credibility to the average fan locally.

Needless to say, I'll be following this story all summer.

Here are some links of recent stories, culled from the GBL's Press Room:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/18/sports/baseball/18japan.html?
http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/leagues/independent/050518golden
http://www.forbes.com/business/forbes/2005/0523/096.html

Win City

The AHL Chicago Wolves have been more than successful at drumming up publicity in Chicago and beyond.

Some of their advertising has "accidentally" poked fun at their NHL neighbors, the Blackhawks, including their recent "guarantee" of playing this season and next.

But the Wolves should be applauded for their continual advertising presence in the city.

On the back page of today's Movie section in the Chicago Tribune, the team ran a bright, full-page color ad focusing on its Western Conference final series with Manitoba.

The ad is a takeoff of the "Sin City" movie, with enforcer Kip Brennan standing over a cartoonish skyline of Chicago, underneath which is the tagline, "Chicago Wolves' Win City."

The credits include players' and coaches' names, as well as info on how to order playoff ticket packages.

The bottom of the ad has a straight ticket offer, which gives fans' 35 percent of day-of-game pricing if you bring it to the ticket office.

The skyline can be seen on the Wolves' Web site:
http://www.chicagowolves.com/

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

From Tatooine to you

...Well, I bet you're wondering why there's been a lull in blogging. Here's the ugly truth: I've been waiting in line for Star Wars Epsiode 3 for the past month. It's been a long wait, huddled next to some guy in a Greedo mask and a really out-of-shape Wookie, but the day is almost here!

I'm actually typing this on a stolen laptop I bought at the makeshift Mos Eisley cantina they built yesterday.

Apparently I'm not the only one excited about "Revenge of the Sith." Just ask Exec. Editor, Becky Wallace:

No one can get far, far away from Star Wars this week.

At least three teams I’ve spoken with today have mentioned some promotion or giveaway focused on the opening of “Revenge of the Sith.”

Activities range from dizzy light saber races to appearances by Star Wars characters.

The Class A Swing of the Quad City has partnered with a group of local theaters to guarantee tonight’s game attendees a seat at the movie’s midnight showing.


“We approached Showcase Cinemas about sponsoring our Star Wars-themed game,” explained Mike Weindruch, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the team. “Besides providing the seat guarantee to our fans, they also provide 10 pairs of tickets for us to give away at contests throughout the night.”


Wednesdays also happen to be discounted beverage night for the Swing. The team hopes that cheap beer and Star Wars promotion will help bump ticket sales on a traditionally slow night.

Swing of the Quad Cities (swingbaseball.com) 563-324-3000

(an added note: check out the Swing's Web site today to find a picture NOT to put on your front page.)

May the Force be with you,
Jon & Becky

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Links, TMB style

If something's hip, the New York Times is bound to come calling. The old Gray Lady, whose worst attempt at tapping the core of pop culture came in the early 90s when someone bungled a story on grunge rock, sounded off on sports blogs recently:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/18/technology/18kos.html?

For a team, blogs like the ones mentioned in this story can be extremely valuable. While the overall "blogosphere" has been known for its volatile, story-cracking nature, most of these sites are suped-up fan forums that are highly trafficked and open to team participation.

One way to gauge and perhaps even improve fan support is to support these bloggers, and if one isn't around, especially in the minors, create your own.

Athletics Nation, which is mentioned heavily in this article, for instance, sells gear with the phrase: "In Billy We Trust," for A's GM (and now part-owner Billy Beane). Not exactly neutral, is it?

In all, there are currently 17 members of the SportsBlogs family that is mentioned in this article, including one solely focused on Minor League baseball.

http://www.athleticsnation.com/
http://www.minorleagueball.com/
(A brief on the 1992 N.Y. Times grunge rock article)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grunge_speak

*****

Yes, you can have sox in the theatre: The Boston Red Sox, along with New England Sports Network, Showcase Cinemas, and cable television providers Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, today announced plans to expand the popular "Game Night" showings of select Red Sox games at Showcase Cinemas in five New England cities.

The in-theater telecasts will kick off Tuesday, April 19, when the Red Sox face the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. All games will be presented in digitally projected widescreen high-definition with Digital Dolby stereo sound and feature comfortable theater seating in Randolph, Revere, Worcester and Springfield, Mass., and in Providence, RI. Cable partners Comcast, Cox Communications, and Charter Communications are delivering NESN's high definition production to the respective theatres.

Advance tickets for "Game Night," which are just $7, are available through at www.showcasecinemas.com or at participating Showcase Cinemas' box offices. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Red Sox Foundation, the team's charitable organization that helps children and families in need across New England.

The first­live in-theatre showing of a regularly scheduled Major League Baseball game occurred Friday, September 5, 2003, at the Showcase Cinema in Randolph where a sold out audience cheered the Red Sox to a victory over the New York Yankees. The Red Sox received more than 25,000 ticket requests for the 400 available seats for that one game. (verbatim from RedSox.com)

*****

OK, what next: Sandy Alderson introduced as CEO of the San Diego Padres and given immediate marching orders by owner John Moores: "I want him to turn this into the best baseball franchise in America."

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/padres/2005-04-19-alderson-ceo_x.htm?csp=34

What, no Nick and Jessica concert?: The Cleveland Cavaliers offer discounts to newlyweds.

http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/sports/1113825318302510.xml

Gimme some latkes with a tamale on the side: Miami is a virtual smorgasboard of ethnicities and the Florida Marlins are celebrating every damn one this season: Dominican Heritage Night, will take place on April 22. It will be followed by nights celebrating Paraguayan (May 11), Cuban (May 20), Jewish (May 29), Asian-American (June 7), Venezuelan (July 5), Argentinean (July 9), Colombian (July 10), Peruvian (July 28), Bolivian (Aug. 9), Ecuadorian (Aug. 10), Brazilian (Sept. 4) and Mexican (Sept. 16) heritage. (FloridaMarlins.com)

Reelin' em in: Don't think the Marlins are skimping on the giveaways either. My favorite is Josh Beckett fishing lure night in May 7.

Get me Castro on the horn:
Curdmudgeonly Marlins skipper Jack McKeon visited the Pentagon on Monday before the Marlins faced the Nationals at RFK Stadium, according to the team's Web site.

"I'll see what kind of strategy they are using," McKeon joked. "Maybe I'll see if they need any help."

The bell tolls for thee: "To celebrate Fan Appreciation Night, the Nets will pay the tolls for all motorists exiting 16W on the Turnpike from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday for the home finale against the Wizards. The Nets also will give out a variety of prizes, including a 2005 Ford Focus." (Bergen County-Record, Monday, April 18)

Good luck, ya hosers: The National Hockey League hires a PR firm. Good move. You know, I was just thinking, I haven't heard about any games this season.

http://www.torontosun.com/Sports/Columnists/Al_Strachan/2005/04/18/1002173-sun.html

Oh Canada!: U.S. papers just don't do this. Why, I don't know.

http://www.torontosun.com/SUNshineGirl/home.html

Friday, April 15, 2005

Inside the Ownership files: New York Football Giants

TMR's 2004 Inside the Ownership of Pro Football is currently available in PDF format. While we update the IO annually, or at least we plan to now that the publication is up and running after a long hiatus, we thought this site would be a good place to update team entries periodically. Or at the very least, provide links to new information that deals with IO topics.

The N.Y. Giants, occasional scourge of the NFC East, are getting ready to finalize their eventual departure from their long-time home at the Meadowlands for brand-new digs just across the parking lot.

The deal isn't actually signed yet, but it looks like a slam dunk. Or to use football vernacular, a slam dunk through the goalposts.

While the Giants' current stadium, also home to the J-E-T-S and the M-E-T-R-O-S-T-A-R-S (just doesn't have the same ring) was built for about $78 million in 1976, the new one will cost about, say, 10 times more. The current tab is $750 million. But with honest New Jersey guys building this, I'm sure the estimates won't go up...

The Giants plan to move in "mid-2009," according to a story in the Bergen County Record. That leaves them plenty of time, "to do some digging, to see what's under there - or who's under there," John Mara quipped in the Record, referring to the legend that former Teamster Jimmy Hoffa is buried somewhere on the stadium grounds.

The Giants are currently valued at $692 million, according to Forbes' NFL study, found here:

http://www.forbes.com/sport/2004/09/01/04nfland.html


In a sign of the times, or the the Giants' long-time deal with the state of New Jersey, they are the 20th most valuable franchise in the NFL, below such relative toddlers as Carolina (12th at $760 million) and Tennessee (15th at $736). The difference? A new stadium of course.

A new Jersey stadium should skyrocket the team into the upper third of the league in value, which is where New York's pre-eminent team, and one of the NFL founding franchises, should be.

Check out some details, including a nifty chart, here (no registration required):

http://www.bergenrecord.com


The (mostly) privately-funded stadium will be roomier, with more luxury suites (Obviously. I want to find the owner or team who wants less luxury seating.) as well as acres of premium and club seating.

Once this deal is final, the Giants will gain more control over their revenues, as opposed to their previous deal with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The New York Times breaks it down like this:

The Giants will own and manage the stadium, while paying the state $5 million a year in rent for the land and giving it $1.3 million annually in payments in lieu of taxes. The state will pay the $125 million in existing debt on the current stadium, and the infrastructure costs for the new stadium, estimated at $30 million.

More details from the Record:

* No PSLs. Yet.

"Our present financing plans do not call for PSLs," John Mara told the media. "We would like to be able to finance this thing without them, but now we're up to $750 million in costs, and every time I hear it, it makes me shudder."

*The deal's not final. Yet.

The memorandum of understanding signed Thursday by the Giants and the state is expected to be approved by the sports authority board Tuesday, but the Giants still will have additional details to work out.

Chief among them is figuring out how to coexist with the $1.3 billion Xanadu entertainment and retail project that has been under construction for several weeks at the Continental Arena site.

The Giants, family-owned since Tim Mara bought them in 1925 for $500, are enamored with what the Packers did in renovating Lambeau Field, bottling up that gushy "family" vibe... and making some money off it.

Now the Giants plan to join the trend by utilizing 75 acres for the new stadium, a Giants Hall of Fame, a large steakhouse-style restaurant, endless aisles of Giants knicknacks in a team store and possibly a private 50-room conference center. The current facility, slightly southwest of the likely new site, takes up a mere 27 acres.

Of course the local pols, specifically the acting Governor Richard Codey, who has cajoled this deal while his predecessor did not, have to make this sound like it's the best deal since Manhattan was bought for a some baubles and a sack of rocks:

But Codey produced a report by UBS Financial Services that he said demonstrated the new deal was "as good or better" for taxpayers than the current scenario, in large part due to the additional tax revenues raised by the more lucrative facility. The report concluded that the $700 million or more to be spent by the Giants, compared with up to $30 million from the state for infrastructure improvements, "represents the largest disparity of private-to-public initial capital investment for any existing stadium within the entire NFL."

Of course, that's not entirely true. But it's not too far off either.

The rest of the story from the Gray Lady (registration is required):
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/15/nyregion/15giants.html?

But Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College who has written extensively on public spending on sports franchises, said Mr. Codey was "blatantly incorrect" in calling the stadium deal the best in the league for taxpayers.

Mr. Zimbalist noted that the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins play in stadiums built entirely with their owners' money, and he said that the Patriots are reimbursing the state for its $71 million in infrastructure costs.

Still, Mr. Zimbalist said the New Jersey deal was, among N.F.L. stadiums, "very close to the top end of taxpayer advantage, or lack of disadvantage," since the average public subsidy for an N.F.L. stadium is 60 percent.

A better deal for the state, Mr. Zimbalist said, would be losing the team altogether. But Mr. Codey made it clear from the day he took office in November that that was not an option. And after negotiations collapsed last month, Mr. Codey worked to revive them.

The Giants could have a familiar tenant, as the Times notes the Jets could stay in Jersey now, instead of moving to a hotly contested site in Manhattan, the other teams at the sports complex are planning to leave, the New Jersey Devils hockey team for a new arena in Newark, the New Jersey Nets for a new arena in Brooklyn and the MetroStars soccer team to a planned stadium in Harrison, N.J.

In short, expect a new Giants stadium in the Swamp just about the time the next Sopranos season begins. More details as they come...
-Jon

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Park It!

When the Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons moved into Lackawanna County Stadium in 1986, traffic wasn’t a problem.

In the nearly two decades since, a movie theater, a handful of businesses and a bevy of restaurants have been constructed and made getting to the stadium difficult.

“Montage Mountain Road was not built for high traffic. It’s only three lanes, ” said Mike Cummings, Director of Media Relations for the Red Barons. “It was getting quite congested around game time.”


To help reduce the amount of time it took patrons to get into the stadium, the team waived the parking fee and increased ticket prices by $1 to help buffer the lost revenue.


When I spoke with the team yesterday, I also suggested they might want to follow the example of the Atlanta Braves. Last season, the Braves sold a sponsorship to Lexus for an all-Lexus lot. Fans who drive the specific brand can park for free in the designated lot.


It’s possible the Red Barons can use the same concept and reward drivers of a specific make of vehicle with a coupon for a free drink, discounted ticket or whatever the sponsor deems reasonable. I’m sure a dealership would jump at the chance to thank its customers for loyalty to the brand.


If you are facing any specific issues with sponsorship, marketing or any aspect of your business, post your questions here. One of TMR’s editors, or one of your peers, may have a solution you can use.
-- Becky Wallace at becky@teammarketing.com
Links:
http://www.redbarons.com/redbarons/showsection.asp


http://braves.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/atl/ballpark/directions.jsp

And for those notoriously bad drivers that jam up the works on game days...
http://pbskids.org/rogers/R_house/trafficautomatic.htm

Monday, April 11, 2005

Welcome ...

... to Team Marketing Report's blog. Both of you. (Ba-dum-bump. I'm here all week. Try the fish.)

Anyway, back to the greetings, good tidings and such.

After 17 years of providing monthly and yearly products on the world of sports marketing and business, we at TMR figured there is no better time than now to get up to speed with the 21st century and start a blog.

For those not in the know about what a blog is...well, you're looking at it. It's an informal site that can be an original news source, a place to find links to the "news of the day" or an online community message board. Hopefully, this one will be all of the above.
*****
For our first official posting, I wanted to touch on the Major League Baseball Fan Cost Index. Compiling this information is an arduous task, and one, thankfully for me, that mostly falls on our executive editor Becky Wallace, the office FCI guru. There are numbers to be crunched, seats to be scaled, and most of all, follow-up phone calls and e-mails to be made.

Some teams do not want to participate in this study, as is their right, which can often make compiling this information a chore. But that's why we make the big bucks.

Becky perservered and came up with a strong survey that reflects the rising costs of watching sports outside of your living room:

http://www.teammarketing.com/fci.cfm

The FCI began in 1991 and has in time become a part of the sports lexicon (well, the part that deals with ticket prices anyway). Media sorts from all over call the office in anticipation for the numbers weeks before they go out. It's an easy story (Greedy teams gouge fans! News at 11!) and one that teams on the plus side of ticket increases tire of quickly.

I was at a game at Wrigley Field this past weekend. Since I got the tickets for free, I didn't worry about the $50 price tag per. But after my girlfriend and I got two slices of pizza and a drink for about $12, she made a comment to me, not knowing that TMR does this exact research: "How can any family afford to go to a baseball game?"

According to our formula, it would cost a family of four $210.01 to go to Wrigley, provided they paid for parking and bought a couple hats for the kids. That's about $56 more than the MLB "average." It cost us (had we paid for our tix) approximately $120, and we took the train there and walked home.

That's not to say I think, or we think, prices are "out of control," as some media members are wont to wag. Prices increase incrementally in every sport, much like they do in everyday life. This year's FCI reported more gains than ever, though. Seventeen teams raised ticket prices by 1 percent or more. Four teams dropped prices, three of which after bad seasons. Overall the FCI average went up 5.6 percent and the average ticket price rose 6.3 percent to a still-managable $21.17.

We're currently in the process of vetting information for our second annual Minor League FCI and we're curious on how your team, in whatever league, level and sport, deals with the rising costs of tickets and how, without the benefit of a championship team or a park with the mystique of a Fenway or Yankee Stadium, your team works on drawing families to your games more than once or twice a year.

You can e-mail me at jon@teammarketing or simply post a message down below.

Here are some good blogs that mention the baseball FCI. I chose to solely include blogs not to indoctrinate you into the world of unedited fan-boy chatter, but to highlight how prolific, and research-oriented these sites have become. These are your fans:

http://www.thecubdom.com/archives/2005/04/2005_fan_cost_i.html

http://www.thecubdom.com/Papers/FCI/fancostindex.html

http://www.azsnakepit.com/story/2005/4/7/145152/7153

http://havekost.blogspot.com/2005/03/economics-of-americas-past-time.html

Here are some other blog-related sites that I recommend:

http://clevelandcavs.blogspot.com/

http://www.nba.com/suns/news/shirley_blog.html

http://www.cmdr-scott.blogspot.com/

Well, it's quarter to 9 (at night; I don't get to the office that early in the morning!) and I'm gassed.

I hope you enjoyed the first entry and look forward to speaking with all of you. Well, both of you anyway.

-- Jon