Around the Horn: April 6th

Remember the two-foot-long hotdogs being sold at Rangers stadium this year (aka the “boomstick”)?  ESPN reports they sold 191 of those monsters on opening day.

Brewers fans will see a familiar face in many of the team’s TV spots this season.  Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the Brew Crew will feature Packers’ star QB Aaron Rodgers in several of the ads…interesting decision to bring a sports hero from a different local professional team into the team’s marketing plans.

From the Twitterverse (via @TVSportsratings): “Swamp People (4.5 mil viewers) had a larger audience than The Masters, both NBA games on TNT, 2 MLB games on ESPN2, NHL on NBCS.“  Am I the only one surprised by this?

First it was Tebow Mania, then Linsanity…now apparently three Giants fans are competing for the trademark rights to “Tim-Sanity.”  Sure seems like overkill to me but not sure Tim-Sanity will catch on anyway…wishful thinking perhaps?

Vanilla Ice performed at half-time of a recent Minnesota Timberwolves game…still trying to figure out if the game sold out but love the effort from the Wolves’ staff to attract a crowd.  Attendance at the Target Center is up over 13% on the season, best in the NBA.

Around the Horn: March 20th

Anyone else notice the product placement at Peyton Manning‘s introductory press conference today?  Manning, who endorses Gatorade, managed to carefully place an orange bottle of Gatorade (Broncos‘ team color) on the corner of an adjacent table throughout the press conference, no doubt a gesture appreciated by the brand (tip of that hat to Katelyn Sellers for pointing that out)…

Consider this:  If Peyton would have signed with Miami, the Dolphins would have sold a LOT of tickets.  Instead, the secondary ticket market comes out as a big winner because the Broncos, thanks to a rabid fan base, have limited ticket inventory available for sale.

Two months ago a poll conducted by SportsBusinessDaily revealed  Peyton Manning as the NFL’s third most marketable quarterback.  Tim Tebow was fifth. One can only wonder how Manning’s decision to sign with Denver, leaving Tebow’s fate unclear, might shift those results.  In the end, Manning’s decision deals a crushing blow to brands like Jockey who have a vested interest in Tebow as a product endorser.

Two quick observations on the NCAA Tournament:

I’m not sure which NCAA men’s basketball fan base travels best, but I’d have to guess the Kansas Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats are at the top of that list.

There is definitely no shortage of NCAA branding during telecasts: the logo is prominently featured on jerseys, several places on the court, game balls, consistent on-screen graphics, courtside signage, seat backs on team benches, the baskets…even the towels players use on the bench…

Around the Horn: March 7th

A few observations about the press conference announcing the end of the Peyton Manning era that just wrapped up:

  • After the ugly divorce between Brett Favre and the Packers a few years ago and LeBron‘s contentious departure from Cleveland two summers ago, Colts owner Jim Irsay and Manning just showed that difficult, emotional situations like this can indeed be handled with class.
  • Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance received a ton of exposure during the press conference (the company name was featured on the backdrop).  At the start of the press conference, they had less than 50 followers on Twitter…twenty minutes later (and at the time of this post), they had over 200.
  • From a PR perspective, Jim Irsay managed to effectively spin the decision as doing “what was best for Peyton.”  Coupled with the announcement that no Colts player would ever wear Manning’s #18 again, the franchise is clearly motivated to begin the damage control process in an effort to appease a fan base that seems largely disappointed in the decision to release the iconic QB.

Interesting sponsorship news coming out of NASCARMatt Kenseth wins Daytona 500, yet a report on nascar.com suggests he and his team are still seeking sponsors for over 40% of their remaining races.  Apparently 15 of the 36 races that Kenseth will compete in are still not sponsored.

From the Twitterverse, via @FanCostX: “Who’s the team to beat in the #MLB? #Angels definitely reloaded this year. Their tix avg last yr was only $34. MLB Avg was $46. #SportsBiz“  Not sure how much prices will increase this year, but can only imagine the combination of more potential wins and addition of star power of Pujols will drive prices upward.

Minor league baseball’s Lakewood BlueClaws announced that, in an effort to improve the overall fan experience, the team will cap attendance at 8,000 fans per game this year.  The strategy, aimed at shortening lines at concessions stands and bathrooms, is an interesting one but could also provide an effective means for driving demand for tickets.

In an effort to generate publicity and drive traffic to the Yahoo! Sports website, the popular search engine is offering $5 million to any fan who correctly picks a perfect March Madness bracket. With so many options for fans to fill out brackets online, this is a great way for Yahoo! to separate themselves from competitors like ESPN.com and CBSsportsline.com.  For those of you curious about the odds, there are about 9.2 quintillion possible combinations (according to a tweet from CNBC’s Darren Rovell).

Around the Horn: March 5th

Making headlines in Dallas this week is news that Sharon Simmons, a 55 year old grandmother of 2, will be auditioning to become a Cowboys Cheerleader.  The Cowboys Cheerleaders have long-established themselves as a brand, one that is as synonymous with game entertainment as the Laker Girls and the San Diego Chicken.  While Simmons is a nutritionist and personal trainer who is no doubt in excellent physical condition, the oldest member of the squad in team history was 37.  Ultimately, whether she makes it or not, the team will generate a lot of publicity as the tryouts continue… The question is, how will the publicity surrounding her efforts impact the team…will fans view the story in a positive or negative light?

In Major League Baseball news, the Detroit Tigers sold out of Opening Day tickets in just 45 minutes.  Dare we say the Prince Fielder signing is already beginning to pay dividends?

From the Twitterverse:  via @EricFisherSBJ – “Ticketmaster data: 50M sports tickets unsold last year, translating to $900M in lost/uncaptured revenue.”  It will be interesting to see what kind of solution the ticketing giant comes up with to minimize excess inventory in the future…

News from the upcoming Olympic Games in London:  Reuters recently published a story suggesting that, despite the organizing committee’s significant efforts to thwart ambush marketing, many non-sponsoring companies will attempt to align themselves with the Games in some way, shape or form.  While organizers of mega events continue to find ways to combat ambush marketing, it seems marketers have become more innovative in creating new opportunities to connect their brand without investing significant sums as an official event sponsor…certainly an interesting side story to watch develop as the Olympics draw near.

 

Around the Horn: March 2nd

Some troubling news out of the NFL today when it was revealed that the New Orleans Saints have engaged in the practice of offering financial rewards to defensive players who knocked opposing players out of the game.  I wonder how “BountyGate” will impact the league’s image moving forward.  Surely the Saints aren’t the only team fostering a culture of aggressiveness toward opposing players…

Interesting note from the Twitterverse… Jeff ‏ @mindforsports reports: “Even more Oregon Football ticket shock for families: A 2 adult, 3 children “Family Pack” cost $729 in 2011… For the 2012 season: $1647!”

Not many wonder why Major League Baseball opted to expand the number of teams competing in the post-season…no sports league, collegiate or professional, makes decisions without a high probability of significant monetary gains.  Clearly the new format will please MLB television partners, adding bargaining power when rights fee renewal discussions come around.  How else will the decision benefit the league and its teams from an economic standpoint?  How much will it boost ticket sales with more teams in the playoff hunt?  Does it help drive sponsorship revenue at a local level when more teams have a legitimate shot at the post-season?

Around the Horn: Feb 23rd

Seems Ryan Braun could potentially be setting a new standard for how MLB athletes accused of using performance enhancing drugs will be perceived by fans and media.  The Milwaukee Brewers‘ slugger who allegedly failed a drug test received a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball (shortly after winning the league MVP award).  That suspension was overturned today yet the reason behind the decision has yet to come to light.  Perhaps the biggest question now for Braun, off the field anyway, will be how the news of a “clean slate” will be received by sponsors…does the news make him any more marketable now than yesterday or his reputation damaged beyond repair in the eyes of the sports marketing community? Will the circumstances behind the decision to overturn the suspension influence a brand’s willingness to align products/services with Braun?

It has been a busy week at Nike‘s HQ… What was the biggest announcement from the Beaverton, OR company this week?  Introduction of FlyKnit technology?  Launch of Nike+ basketball?  Upping the ante with their relationship with Knicks star Jeremy Lin?  Previewing the Team USA basketball jerseys?  Announcing a “greener” product line?  Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the original “Dream Team” with a new “retro” Dream Team product line?  Like we said, busy week at Nike’s HQ…

Seems fans in Miami are keeping a watchful eye on the progression of the Peyton Manning situation in Indy.  A group of rabid Dolphins fans are confident Manning provides a slight upgrade at the QB position over Chad Henne and Matt Moore, so much so they were willing to buy a billboard to draw attention to their ManningToMiami campaign.  The billboard encouraged fans to visit their website, www.manningtomiami.com.  The move drew so much attention that the website crashed and was down most of the day Thursday.

While Oakland A‘s General Manager Billy Beane is attending the Academy Awards in hopes of capturing an Oscar for the film adaptation of his book “Moneyball“, baseball analysts will likely be busy picking apart his latest personnel move.  On Monday, it was reported that the team had signed aging slugger Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal worth $500,000.  While many baseball purists have been critical of the decision, it makes sense to take a gamble from a business perspective.  Last year the team ranked last in MLB attendance.  Worst case scenario, Ramirez (who must first serve a 50 game suspension for testing positive for banned substances) will help the ballclub sell some tickets.  Best case scenario, Ramirez helps give the A’s a boost on the field, likely resulting in a significant bump at the turnstiles, a boost in concessions, parking and potentially creating new sponsorship sales opportunities…