#TeacherAppreciationDay

It is Teacher Appreciation Day!  Hopefully your students all gave you standing ovations in class to pay tribute.  :)  Of course, it’s only fitting that a day celebrating one of our nation’s most underappreciated professions (also “underpaid…and never given enough credit” according to NFL star JJ Watt) would be overshadowed on social media by “Star Wars Day” with the hashtag #MayThe4thBeWithYou.  Go figure.

That said, it has been awesome to see an outpouring of support from the sports and entertainment industry for our educators.  It has to feel great seeing NFL stars like Larry Fitzgerald and JJ Watt and pro sports teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Redskins, Charlotte Hornets, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Bruins (among many others) recognize your efforts.  You certainly deserve it!

I read a really interesting piece written by a long time sports industry PR exec over the weekend reflecting on his transition from the New York Knicks to his role as a consultant and instructor at Columbia University.  I first met Joe about ten years ago and have enjoyed following his career and appreciated what he has done (and continues to do) for the industry ever since.  Many of the sentiments and insights shared in that piece definitely struck a chord as his path mirrors my own in a number of ways, most notably jumping from the sports business world headfirst into education.  I don’t know how many of you might be interested in the story, but if you have a few minutes, I definitely think it is worth the read.  You can see it on joefavorito.com or by clicking here.

It is hard to believe, but Sports Career Consulting is quickly approaching a 13 year anniversary (later this month in fact).  It seems like just yesterday that I made the decision to part ways with the Portland Trail Blazers and give this entrepreneurship thing a shot.  Despite turning my back on the lifelong dream of working in the NBA after just five short years, I’ve never had any regrets and consider myself to be extraordinarily lucky.  Why?

IT IS ALL THANKS TO YOU.  

Without you, there is no sports marketing education at the high school level.  There isn’t anybody there to “coach” our students through the fundamental principles that drive the business of sports and entertainment.

There isn’t anybody there pushing for more resources; better resources.

There isn’t anybody there to connect your students with the professionals who can help to kick start their careers or to encourage participation in student leadership programs like DECA, FBLA and BPA.

Nobody would be there to create those unique experiences with field trips and sports marketing events or bring in the guest speakers that provide invaluable educational opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom.

Simply put, you all are the ones going the extra mile to shape the future of the sports and entertainment industry.  So thank you.  Thank you for your passion.  Thank you for your commitment.  Thank you for caring.  You are appreciated more than you know.

It has been such an honor and privilege to provide you all with the tools to help you succeed over the years and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us all… It’s an exciting time to be a sports and entertainment business teacher!  :)

Thank you!

Business Blitz: The 2016 NFL Draft

You have to give credit to ESPN and the NFL.  Over thirty five years ago (the original plan to broadcast the draft was hatched in Bristol back in 1980), most people thought televising the draft was a crazy idea.  Critics suggested the draft was unwatchable, especially as an all-day event.  Even those who supported the idea did so with little confidence.  Fast forward to today.  This year, ESPN will spend three days covering the draft, all during prime time. The NFL Network also broadcast the event live.  Coverage has even expanded to the combine.

How far has the event come?  Check out this footage from the 1981 NFL draft by clicking here.

As the event grows, so do the marketing opportunities for brands to connect with fans. Here are some news and notes from a business perspective surrounding this year’s NFL Draft.

ENDORSEMENT DEALS

Imagine paying hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions in some cases) to an athlete who has yet to play a single NFL snap. That’s precisely the position many brands are in leading up to the NFL Draft. Which athletes might best represent their values while helping to sell more products and services? Is the investment worth the risk? Two years ago, Nike shelled out a significant amount of money to sign Johnny Manziel. The company recently parted ways with the embattled former A&M star after repeated off the field incidents and a lack of productivity on it.

Here is a quick look at a few deals that were inked prior to the draft.

New Era’s “Risky” Pick

New Era signed a deal a few years back to become the “official hat” of the NFL, a shrewd move, particularly on draft day when their product is given to EVERY player picked in the first round of the draft, particularly when you consider how much coverage the event now attracts. This year the brand signed a couple of individual players to endorsement deals leading up to the draft. One presents a sizable risk.

Click here to read the story from forbes.com.

MET-Rx

MET-Rx, the sports supplement company, signed Ohio State defensive star Joey Bosa (who was selected ). What makes this deal unique is the brand’s strategy for how they will leverage the relationship as they plan to go “all in” on Bosa as he becomes the face of the company when they “re-launch” the brand and unveil new products.

Click here to read more from cleveland.com.

“Historic” Signing for Zappos

Zappos, the online shoe retailer, made headlines earlier this month when it was announced that they signed Notre Dame star Ronnie Stanley. Because Stanley chose to sign with a retailer and not endorse one specific brand, he will have the option to wear whichever shoe he favors next season.

Click here to read more from dailydot.com.

Nike’s Aggressive Approach

Nike was extremely aggressive in their efforts to ink NFL prospects this year, signing FIFTEEN players before the first name was called on Thursday. Eight of those players were selected in the first round. By comparison, rival Under Armour had only inked one endorsement deal with a draft prospect.

Nike welcomed several players with brief commercials (click here to see some examples from news.nike.com).

Click here to read the entire story on bloomberg.com.

Gone but not Forgotten

Gatorade rolled out a tribute campaign to Peyton Manning on draft day (good timing). In a clever commercial that features everyone from Derek Jeter to Manning fans, his brother and his father, the brand is likely strategically reinforcing Manning’s “good guy” image to maximize the value of their relationship with the now-retired star QB.

Click here to view the spot.

Is Jared Goff the “new” Peyton Manning?

While Denver may have drafted Paxton Lynch as Peyton Manning’s replacement at QB, former Cal QB Jared Goff played the part of pitchman extraordinaire in a series of tweets on draft day with shout outs to a number of brands including Gillette, Tide, Pantene, Red Bull and Microsoft.

 

 

While Jared Goff was cashing in on social media, one prospect’s Twitter account was allegedly hacked just prior to the draft and a picture was posted with him using marijuana. As a result, Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil watched his stock tumble, eventually being selected 5-10 places later than where he was projected. The difference in contract values from being picked #6 overall from #13 where he was picked? Nearly $8 MILLION. That doesn’t even factor in any national or local sponsors who are unlikely to consider him for endorsement deals.

Click here to read more from cnbc.com.

“DRAFT TOWN” IN CHICAGO

Chicago rolled out the red carpet for the NFL as this year’s host city, turning Grant Park into “Draft Town” for three days of events for fans. According to the Chicago Tribune, the “Draft Town” area will cover the equivalent of 20 football fields with attractions, displays and hands-on activities.

Click here for some visuals from chicagobusiness.com and here for a “Draft Town” slideshow from wgnradio.com.

Sponsors

Everything from a new NFL-themed Ferris wheel to Selection Square will be branded by sponsors at the draft in Chicago. A total of 38 brands will have a vested interest in seeing this year’s draft-related events be a success, including Skittles, Dannon, McDonald’s, Visa & Hyundai.

Click here to read more from chicagotribune.com.

Economic Impact

Last year over 200,000 NFL fans visited Chicago for draft related festivities. According to a report from Temple University’s Sports Industry Research Institute (via foxbusiness.com). The result? An estimated $81.6 million in total economic impact for the area.

The report also suggested that last year’s event created more than 2,000 temporary jobs and more than 800 permanent jobs.

NFL DRAFT TV AUDIENCE

ESPN’s day one coverage of the NFL Draft saw a double digit drop in viewership with a 10% decline. It was, however, still the highest ratest program on cable television for the night.

Some speculated the ratings might enjoy an increase with the boost in draft day interest within the LA market as the re-located Rams held the #1 overall pick. However, LA wasn’t even a top ten market in terms of TV ratings. Here are the highest metered markets for Thursday’s coverage:

1. Cleveland (13.3)
2. Columbus (13.1)
3. New Orleans (7.8)
4. Dayton (7.7)
5. Birmingham (7.5)

OVERALL, ESPN and ESPN2 actually enjoyed a slight bump in overall audience from last year with an average of nearly 3 million viewers across three days of coverage making the 2016 NFL Draft the 7th most-viewed draft since 1994.

BEHIND THE SCENES W/ ESPN

Coverage this year also brought an interesting twist with the situation involving prospect Laremy Tunsil’s “hacked” Twitter account.  Much has been made of how ESPN handled the situation during the broadcast.  Sports Illustrated shares a “behind the scenes” look at exactly how things transpired…

Click here for the “Behind the Scenes of NFL Draft Coverage” story from si.com.

INFOGRAPHIC

NFL players make a ton of money coming into the league, but when you’re a top draft pick, the amount of money to be made is unimaginable.Often, one of the first major purchases a highly paid athlete will make coming out of college is a home. In many cases, NFL players relocate from where they went to college to their team’s city or state.

Click here to view a larger image on SCC’s Pinterest page.

 

Five Keys to the Game

In all my interaction over the years with students, whether it was during my time with the Portland Trail Blazers or events hosted by Sports Career Consulting (SCC), the question I get asked most frequently is focused on what steps are necessary for pursuing a career in sports. It is a great question to be sure, and obviously one that many students would like to see answered. It is not, however, one that is answered easily, nor is it one with any “correct” answer or a magical solution. The good news is that there are several key pieces of advice anyone interested in a career in sports should be aware of and we’ll share them in today’s blog post. Rest assured that this is not any complex formula by any stretch, but one that I can assure you is paramount to breaking into the industry. Here are our five keys to the game…

Five Keys to the Game

Key #1: Be Passionate

Regardless of which career path you choose (sports, entertainment or otherwise), find something you can be passionate about. Passion is one of the primary, underlying characteristics shared by the majority of people who find success in their chosen field. Take Kobe Bryant for example…one could argue that very few have played the game of basketball with more passion. It is that passion that drives Kobe to be one of the best (if not the best) basketball player in the world today.

Do not think for a second, however, that you need to be a professional athlete to be passionate about something. Consider Phil Knight, founder of Nike, who used his passion for running to fuel a passion for developing (and later selling) the perfect running shoe. His passion turned into a multi-billion dollar global brand. Knight’s passion was one of the key ingredients in the recipe for Nike’s success.  In fact, it was recently announced that Phil Knight will be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame!

SCC has managed a number of events focused on careers in sports and entertainment which afforded me the luxury of hearing from many prominent industry professionals. One pearl of wisdom that was repeated over and over again is this: Find a job doing something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! In other words, find a way to channel your passions and funnel them into an energy that will translate to success in whatever career path you choose.

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The Best Grilled Cheese In Sports

In honor of today’s celebration of #NationalGrilledCheeseDay, we thought it would be fun to look at which teams offer a grilled cheese item on their concessions menu.  The task was surprisingly challenging as grilled cheese apparently isn’t considered much of a ballpark staple, despite the current trend of creating eclectic food items at sports venues.  It should also be noted that we haven’t actually tried any of these, so the ranking is rather arbitrary.

That said, here are the top five best grilled cheese sandwiches in sports…

Honorable Mentions:

Montgomery Biscuits – “The Gump”

While the  Biscuits actually offer FOUR variations of grilled cheese sandwiches, our vote goes to “The Gump” which incorporates pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, coleslaw, “candied red onions” with pepper jack cheese to provide some zip on sourdough bread.

Chicago White Sox – “Avocado Bacon Grilled Cheese”

Thanks Night Train Veeck for the heads up…avocado and bacon added to a grilled cheese sandwich?  Sounds delicious!

Round Rock Express – “Grilled Cheese Dog”

What says baseball more than hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks?  While The Express’ unique spin on a grilled cheese might not contain the peanuts or cracker jacks, but it has successfully combined the hot dog with a traditional, down home comfort food.  According to Minor League Baseball’s website, the “Grilled Cheese Dog” is made with a quarter-pound of Nolan Ryan’s 100-percent hand-selected All Natural Grass Fed Beef wrapped in a grilled cheese sandwich then skewered.  A true Texas delight.

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For Comparison’s Sake

Obviously a lot has been made of Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe’s critical comments of the UConn Huskies women’s basketball program.  The suggestion that their dominance was actually “bad” for the women’s game stirred quite a bit of controversy.  Not that it bothered the UConn women as they steamrolled their way to a historic 4th consecutive championship.

While comparing Husky women’s program to some of the blue blood men’s programs like Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina may prove to be unfair, comparing their impact to a rising power in the men’s ranks might provide a little perspective as to how valuable the UConn brand is to the women’s game.

In a totally unscientific, random but fun exercise, let’s use the Oregon Ducks as an example.  The Ducks earned a #1 seed in the men’s tournament while the Huskies were awarded a #1 seed in the women’s tournament.  Seems like a good place to start, no?

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Everything is Bigger in Texas (Infographic)

Everything is bigger in Texas. Take for example Texas Motor Speedway, site of next weekend’s Duck Commander 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend.

How big is the venue? While Texas is home to a number of huge sports facilities (like AT&T Stadium with a capacity of over 100,000), Texas Motor Speedway is large enough to fit ALL of the “Big Four” (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) stadiums inside. And for good measure, it could still squeeze Texas A&M’s Kyle Field in (the state’s largest college football stadium).

Check out the infographic they just released for a visual.

Click here to see the news release or download the infographic in PDF form from texasmotorspeedway.com.

 

Social Sixteen: Which Remaining Teams Have Biggest Twitter Following? (Infographic)

The fact that Syracuse basketball, ranked by Forbes last year as the sixth most valuable NCAA basketball program in the country, has just  25,000 Twitter followers could be the upset of the tournament.  An unexpected Final Four run could change all that.  Case in point?  4,000 new followers this week alone.

But where do the rest of the teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament stack up?  This infographic, created by sports marketing students from Helena High School and Capital High School in Montana, provides a nice summary as we gear up for the Sweet Sixteen!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Twitter (and other social media platforms) have a unique ability to manufacture “holidays”, finding reasons to celebrate something just about every day.  With today being Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it is only fitting that “DrSeussDay” is currently trending on Twitter.  Perhaps not coincidentally, #WednesdayWisdom” is also trending.

I love this.  If you think about it, Dr. Seuss should be credited with the creation of the first “motivational poster” through his illustrations and wisdom shared in his books.  Today provides a seamless and fun opportunity for teams to create motivational messaging to share with their fan base.  An inspirational post is more powerful than traditional content in the sense that it creates an emotional connection to the brand.  Tying a message to something as simple as #DrSeussDay and #WednesdayWisdom creates an authentic and organic means for reaching fans of all ages.

Surprisingly, few teams have jumped on the opportunity thus far.  A quick scan of my timeline shows a limited number of posts with #DrSeuss hashtags.  Considering how many teams participate in anything from #NationalToastDay to #LEAPDAY, it seems a bit surprising that more teams haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity today’s “holiday” provides.

That said, here are a few examples of how the sports business business world is taking a moment to pay tribute to the great Dr. Seuss.  If you think about it, Dr. Seuss is actually the originator of the “motivational poster” we see so often in sports through the illustrations and wisdom shared through his books.

The Carolina Panthers’ mascot is all in on #DrSeussDay!

Dartmouth Hockey took a moment to recognize Dr. Seuss as one of the school’s most influential alumni.

The Houston Astros posted a motivational image for fans.  This seems like a slam dunk idea for any team today.

The Houston Texans posted a vine with a player hopping out of the tunnel to start a game with a reference to a Seuss classic, “Hop on Pop.”  Adding visuals like vines and gifs can create an even stronger emotional connection with fans.

This image was posted on NBA on TNT’s Twitter account with the caption “Starring Splash 1 and Splash 2″ in tribute to the Golden State Warriors’ “Splash Brothers.” Pretty clever.
Creating content worth sharing through social channels is always a challenge.  Creativity can be key when trying to capture the attention of fans so kudos to those who have jumped on the #DrSeussDay train today.

Infographic: How are sports marketers targeting the female demographic?

Lately sports marketers have not been shy in their efforts to target female fans and for good reason.  Women now constitute at least 30% of the fan base for all of the “big four” professional sports leagues in the U.S. and 46% of Super Bowl viewers were female.

To provide a closer look, the fine folks at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Business School put together a fantastic infographic offering a quick look at ways brands are working to engage female fans.  For more analysis, check out this story on forbes.com from Kristi Dosh (and follow her on Twitter @sportsbizmiss).

Super Bowl 50 Student Competition Winner!

Congrats to Kirk Helferich’s sports marketing class at Kent Career & Technical Center in Grand Rapids for winning our POP display competition!

Students were tasked with developing a point of purchase display representing a consumer goods brand with a Super Bowl 50 theme. We received a number of really impressive ideas but the students at KCTC stole the show.

Here’s how the students tackled this project (pun intended) via Mr. Helferich:

They started trying to use resources in the room. I told them I could buy some pop, but not enough to make it look great. One of the students called Coke and a store had just returned a few football related signs. So I drove down and they threw in a few shirts for students. They made a SB trophy but thought it looked like a massive baked potato (see pic at end of video) so they kept searching. A few watched some videos on photoshop to learn background removal, and then they went crazy on finding backgrounds they liked. They impressed me with how they solved problems when conflict arose, and with teamwork. It was a great time for this project as things start to drag between Xmas break and spring break.

Way to go guys.  We are sending some prizes your way!