College Football Season Recap: By the numbers…

With Alabama’s exciting win in a shootout over Clemson to win the 2016 College Football Championship, yet another college football season is in the books.

Here are a few sports business stories and statistics from this season that might be fun to discuss in class. Use this information to reinforce concepts like the size and scope of the industry, the impact of supply and demand on ticket prices, how sponsors connect their brands with fans and the critical role broadcast rights play in the business sports.

$3 Million

As in the expense for Alabama Football…just for their “support staff” payroll. According to cbssports.com, Alabama’s strength and conditioning coach was paid over $500,000 in compensation for the 2015 season.

$810,000

According to a report from USA Today, Auburn spent $810,000 to “brand” their practice facility with graphics that “tell the story of the Tigers’ success”, a trend being followed by football programs all over the country

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Evolution of the T-Shirt Toss

Fans love free stuff.  Especially t-shirts that are launched into the crowd.  That’s probably why a “t-shirt toss” has always been one of the most popular promos at sporting events.

However, at the Army vs. Navy college football Bowl game today, Army took things to a whole new level. Before we share that, however, let’s look at the evolution of the t-shirt toss promo.  Originally, we had your basic t-shirt “toss” where tees were thrown to the crowd.

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Holiday Kicks

Looks like a lot of holiday cheer this year as sneaker brands outfit some of their athletes with holiday themed kicks.  In fairness, a few of athletes appear to have gone rogue with their over the top ensembles (yes, you Odell Beckham Jr. and Cam Newton) but kind of fun either way to see them celebrating the holidays…

Odell Beckham Jr. and his Nike “Christmas” cleats

Cam Newton’s Under Armour cleats on game day

Kyrie Irving’s “Abominable Snowman” themed Nikes

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Action Sports on Tour…

I saw this upcoming show being promoted on a recent trip to Las Vegas and thought it was interesting and could present a good teaching opportunity:

Travis Pastrana is one of the most recognizable names in action sports so it makes total sense for him to headline an action sports tour like this.  Structured as a “touring” event, the benefits are twofold as this will certainly help extend his personal brand while helping to grow the popularity of the sport.  Taking the event on tour is a great way to bring the excitement of action sports to markets that haven’t had an opportunity to see events like the X Games or Dew Tour live and in person.

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR CLASS DISCUSSION:

1) What is a brand?  Is action sports a brand?  Is Travis Pastrana a brand?

2) Why do you think they are touring rather than hosting one main event in one location?

3) What demographics might define the typical action sports fan?

4) What type of sponsors might be interested in reaching action sports fans?

 

The Art of the Concert Poster…In Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets have enjoyed a TON of buzz from a new initiative this year.  It looks like they enlisted the talents of graphic designer Anthony Zych (follow him on Twitter @anthonyzych) to create game-day prints promoting Blue Jackets games, each customized based on opponent.

They have been wildly popular among fans, many who apparently are disappointed they cannot purchase them as of yet.  They are, however, available as digital downloads for free.  Based on the reception Anthony’s designs thus far, one would expect the team to continue releasing the graphics. My guess is that Anthony’s services will soon be in high demand…my only question is, why isn’t every team doing this?

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

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“Hoosiers” & Pacers Team Up

I love what the Indiana Pacers are doing to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the classic basketball movie, ‘Hoosiers’.  In a comprehensive cross promotion campaign, the team is doing everything from donning replica “throwback” uniforms from the film to engaging in a fun mobile marketing effort.

Through the team’s social media, the team used the hashtag #HickoryPacers in a nod to the high school team which was the focal point of the film.

The Pacers also engaged in a unique mobile marketing strategy in the traditional sense by touring the city in the team bus used in the film.  They also made a stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Check out the team’s tweet with members of the mobile team (including the team’s mascot) participating in the storied tradition of “kissing the bricks.”

Nice work on a fun cross promotion by all parties involved!

Bobbleheads with a twist

Bobblehead promotions have been around for more than sixteen years but they won’t be going away anytime soon.  Giveaways featuring the quirky nodding dolls are still the most popular promotion among sports teams everywhere.  In fact, ESPN reported that the 2015 Major League Baseball season included a whopping 121 different bobble giveaways, ranging from a “talking” Harry Doyle (Bob Eucker’s character from the film ‘Major League’) to a Jonathan Lucroy doll with a green light saber in his hand on “Star Wars” night in Milwaukee.

Speaking of bobblehead dolls and Milwaukee, a “Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum” is slated to open in 2016 in the downtown area.  According to its website, it will be a “high-quality museum with the world’s largest collection of bobbleheads and will feature dozens of exhibits related to the history of bobbleheads, making of bobbleheads and much more.”

One of my favorite variations of the popular giveaway is a bobblehead that commemorates a specific moment.  One that captures a moment and pays tribute in a fun and unique way.  A great example is an upcoming promotion hosted by Georgia State University when the men’s basketball team will distribute bobbleheads that replicate the moment the team’s head coach fell off his chair during one of the more memorable moments of last season’s March Madness.  Promotions like these go above and beyond the traditional bobblehead by connecting a promotional item to an event that invokes memories and connects fans to the emotions they felt “in the moment.”

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Now THIS is a “Theme Night”

This is great!  Georgetown Hoyas soccer will host a “Dumb & Dumber” theme night…pretty unique.  I love the idea of a spin-off from a popular comedy film like this, so much potential and fun way to generate some excitement for a home game.

Some of the film tie-ins as part of the promo include:

  • Salt shaker toss
  • Big Gulp giveaway
  • Announcing starting lineups in an Australian accent

Love it.  If only they were serving “shrimp on the barbie” as a concessions item…

Infographic: Business of College Sports

Umbel published a pretty cool infographic today that examines the top teams, sponsors and brands in college football today.

In addition to providing a nice snapshot of the big numbers that drive the business of college sports, the infographic provides some additional findings that might spark a fun and worthwhile conversation in class.

  • Eminem is the most popular musician on social media among college sports fans (and Katy Perry is most popular at UCLA and Arizona State University)
  • More than a third of college sports fans like eating at Subway
  • Auburn University in Alabama has the largest digital screen of any college sports stadium. At 190 feet x 57 feet (10,830 sq ft), their screen is two-thirds the size of a football field. Texas A&M had the second largest screen measuring 163 feet x 47 feet (7,661 sq ft) which is about half the size of a football field.
  • Nike will pay $169 million to sponsor the University of Michigan’s team uniforms – That’s what it costs to buy about 1 million college team’s football jerseys
  • Total college sports sponsorships for the 2014-15 season was $1.1 billion, an increase of 6% from the previous season. That’s almost equal to the GDP of small island nations like Antigua and the Solomon Islands.

The Gamblers

Fair to assume that both fantasy football and bracket “office” pools are forms of gambling, no?  And as the numbers illustrate every year, March Madness and the Super Bowl are two of the biggest sporting events in the World.

I’m not sure there is a real metric in place that could provide an accurate measure of the value both fantasy football and bracketology carry for each respective mega event, but there is no question they have helped fuel the explosive growth over the years.

The American Gaming Association estimates that 40 million Americans will fill out more than 70 million brackets, more than the number of ballots cast (nearly 66 million) for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.  According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 41.5 million Americans played fantasy football last year.

In the grand scheme of things, for as much as we love the cinderella story, the dominant brands continue to end up on the winning side.  In the NFL, the New York Giants and New England Patriots have appeared in the Super Bowl 9 times in the last 12 years.  Since 1992, only SIX teams have won the NCAA men’s bball championship that were not seeded number one.  Of those six, two teams were a two seed, two were three seeds, one was a six seed and last year’s UConn team was the real outlier as a seven.

So, that leaves us to wonder, would the Super Bowl or March Madness enjoy the same remarkable success without a little push from the gambling U.S. public?  Just food for thought as you fill out your brackets…