Monday, December 3, 2007

Technology Will Change Sports Marketing

When people ask me to describe myself, I always hit them with this oxymoron: I'm the girliest tomboy you'll ever meet. New friends are always shocked when I tune them out because the Red Sox game is on, or when I'm standing on my soap box, vehemently preaching for a college football playoff system (don't even get me started on the BCS bowl selections right now).

I've grown up around the sports industry, and working in it has always appealed to me. I think it might be the challenges that women in the male-dominated industry face, or that no two days are exactly the same for practitioners in the field. They deal with crises regularly-- coaches' tirades, law suits, drug scandals, injuries, murders. But as a whole, the sports industry, especially in terms of communications, has been making immense strides in the past few months as it addresses and overcomes these challenges.

As a sports enthusiast, I usually log onto ESPN's website ten times a day. It's not that I pride myself on staying up-to-date on every minute sports statistic, but I've discovered that some of the best journalists in today's market write for ESPN. One of my favorite columnists, Bill Simmons, published a column this week called "A Letter to the Junior High Sports Guy." If you're a sports fan, I highly recommend reading this article. If you're a mass media fan, I highly recommend reading this article. It's an entertaining, informative piece that discusses how spoiled our culture has become in an age characterized by constant advancement in technology.

The fact that Simmons is a huge Red Sox fan is not the only reason why I agree with him. Getting together with a group of friends to catch the big game at a bar used to be the norm, but now people crowd around their Plasma TVs to watch expensive sports' packages that entitle them to hours of nonstop games. But, if a game is blacked out, people will whine and complain about the inefficiency of the broadcasting system. I can't lie—my friends and I are guilty of this, and I have to give Simmons a lot of kudos for calling us all out.

Another interesting point that Simmons makes is that "nobody has to leave their house to follow sports anymore." This includes actually going to a sporting event at the team's stadium. Small market teams in the NFL, like the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars, are having a difficult time filling their stadiums to a capacity that prevents television blackouts.

Is this because the fan base is waning, or because fans would rather watch the game from their own living rooms, hoping enough other fans purchase tickets? Sure, this is a long shot—going to NFL games is getting pretty expensive, which could play a huge factor in fan turnout, but you have to wonder what the effect of cable packages will be on the sports industry in the long run.

From a communications standpoint, this could prove to be a demanding challenge for those in sports PR and advertising. How will the communicators market sporting events if fans are perfectly content cheering on their favorite teams from their sofas? This is something I look forward to following in the upcoming months, but until then, I have to commend Simmons for putting this avid sports fan in her place.


Les Potter said...

Meg, you have a great blog going here. Keep it up, It is refreshing.

About sports, I believe there is so much happening from a PR perspective that affects attendence vs. home television:
-- high prices for tickets, parking, beers, food, souvenirs, etc.
-- scandals, crime, etc.
-- the hassle factor of devoting so much time getting there.
-- the comfort and ease of watching from a large flat screen TV in a climate-controlled environment.

Give the sports consumer more choice on TV and he/she will opt for staying in.

It is hard to beat staying home and watching. It is as hard to beat as, well, Tom Brady and the New England Pats.

Meg Roberts said...


Thank you for your comment! I enjoy reading your blog, and I appreciate your insight. The factors you listed are exactly why I'm interested in following this trend and see the new ways communicators work in this field.

Take care,

Daniel said...

Your remarks about small market NFL teams(i.e.Bills) remember that the economic factors can play more of a role than PR can overcome.
A fan is a prospective customer - to enable the prospect to become an actual customer ( eventually a client and then finally an Ambassador)takes more than prompting and dedication. Buffalo, NY. for instance has a very low COLA and an even lower salary median. I would like to believe the family that cannot afford to purchase the material items and tickets will not be left behind.
Balancing profits with realistic expectations of what your audience is capable of affording is tricky and often overlooked.
What do you think the answer is - discounted tickets, other motivational marketing?
Empowerment is already present in the fan base - the economic ability is not.

Meg Roberts said...


This is another point I was trying to make. I think it will be interesting to see how communicators, especially those in advertising and PR, will overcome the steadily increasing prices associated with the sports industry.

The varying nature of sports markets across the world constantly presents new challenges. One market is not as financially stable as the other, yet ticket prices and food costs are pretty constant across the board.

So you're right-- what should marketing focus on?

Thanks for your comments and for reading!

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