SportsBiz Madness: 2021 Case Study Tournament (Final Four Edition)

We continue to be very impressed with the work from our competing students for our fifth annual SportsBiz Madness case study tournament. 

In the “Elite Eight” round, students were asked to build a social media campaign in a ticket sales push for their favorite professional sports team. The effort all eight remaining teams put forth was evident, and selecting which schools would advance was very tough.

Unfortunately, just four teams will move on in the tournament for the chance to be crowned 2021 case study champs. Here is a recap of the elite eight round results and a look at who will be moving on to the Final Four!

HONORABLE MENTION:

Carle Place High School, New York

Students at Carle Place HS chose to create a social media ticket marketing strategy for the San Diego Padres. Some really cool ideas here from a content perspective. In particular, the utilizing the story feature on Instagram to host fan votes like what event will happen first in today’s game, a Tatis home run or a Snell strikeout. That’s a great way to keep fans engaged. “Favorite moments” in a bracket style fan vote is a fun idea as well, and perhaps there could even be some interesting opportunity to monetize some of those moments to help the club generate some revenue. Great job Carle Place High!

Flower Mound High School, Texas

Perhaps not surprisingly, Flower Mound students chose to develop a social sales plan for the Dallas Cowboys. One idea that really stood out was the inclusion of “experiences” with certain ticket packages. These experience packages would be promoted on Facebook and would command a higher price point. Featured experiences featured as part of Flower Mound’s “interactive” ticket packages would include things like access for fans to an exclusive tailgate outside the stadium, reservations at the iconic restaurant that the Cowboys players run through before games, and opportunities to watch pre-game on the sidelines for an up-close experience with the players. Excellent job by Flower Mound students as well from a research perspective, determining which social media platform would be most appropriate for the different types of ticket packages they plan to offer. Outstanding effort from FMHS!

Fruitport High School, Michigan

Fruitport High School students created a social sales plan for the Detroit Tigers. They did a nice job identifying which social platforms would be most effective in reaching their target audience, and building ticket promotions accordingly. Love the idea of tapping into the concept of fandom and creating a “superfan” promotion. From the Fruitport student report: “The Superfan Contest:  Like, Post, Share and Win!: Win a Superfan merchandise pack that includes  Detroit Tiger merchandise (t-shirt, drawstring bag, masks, water bottle, lanyard) and 20% off a Detroit Tigers baseball game ticket. Spectators will participate on social media and post their Superfan Selfies on Instagram with the hashtag “#TigerSuperfan.” Really nice job Fruitport High School!

Ellicottville Central, New York

Students at Ellicottville Central School chose to build a social media ticket sales plan for the Buffalo Bills. It was clear that these students did a lot of research re: covid protocols (which was one of the requirements for this case study), and determined a ticket sales strategy accordingly. Given the limitations with fewer fans being allowed to attend games, there were some great ideas here…it really shows how in tune Ellicottville students are with what teams have actually had to manage throughout this pandemic from a ticketing perspective. For example, providing tickets to healthcare workers was something a lot of teams did this year, including at the Super Bowl. Promoting everything through social media was well executed. Nice job Ellicottville Central!

THE FINAL FOUR:

Pinelands Regional High School, New Jersey

Two-time champion Pinelands Regional just continues to bring it in this competition. Some REALLY good ideas here from PRHS students to help boost ticket sales for the Tampa Bay Rays with a social media marketing campaign, along with a great plan for fan safety in addressing how the team will handle covid protocols.

Some highlights from PRHS fan safety plan:

  • Implementation of staggered seating pods on game days to ensure fans are social distancing
  • Fans and stadium workers will be required to wear face coverings to enter the stadium, and temperature checks for fans as they enter using special thermal cameras and sensors
  • Contactless stadium entry, cashless concessions & team shops
  • Customers will need to use credit or debit cards or cash apps (those patrons without access to those options will be directed to kiosks that allow cash to be converted into preloaded “RAYS PAYS” card)
  • QR codes be placed on the seat backs throughout the stadium so that fans can access concession menus and gift shop items, pay for their purchases at their seat and then have food runners bring the items to the patrons. This will help keep people socially distant and limit people gathering on lines and wandering around the concourse.

Some highlights from PRHS ticket marketing plan:

  • Via social media, offering live streams, behind the scenes looks and Q&A sessions with Rays players and staff with ticket sales promotions being offered during these sessions
  • “Inside Pitch” program exclusively for fans who buy a full or half season ticket package which includes monthly exclusive live stream Q&A sessions, with Rays’ General Manager
  • Ramping up a content strategy to feature one of the team’s most popular players, Ji-Man-Choi, and the team mascot to keep fans engaged and aware of game day promotions and “shoppable” opportunities to purchase tickets at a discount through social media platforms

Also, great idea to connect the promotions strategy to sponsors, recognizing the importance of generating revenue with fewer fans at the stadium during a pandemic year. Recognizing the impact the pandemic would have on ticket renewals was next-level thinking, appreciated seeing a plan in place for addressing that concern as well.

Once again, an amazing job by Pinelands Regional High School!

Green Run High School, Virginia

One of two “rookies” in this year’s competition to advance to the Final Four, Green Run HS students chose to develop a social sales plan for the Washington Nationals. Just as Major League Baseball officials navigate the pandemic and its impact on attendance, Green Run students were required to face the same challenge with this case study. GRHS stepped up with a masterful plan for creating the best possible experience at the park while maximizing revenue through ticket sales.

The key to the success of Green Run’s plan? Consistency. Regular posts featuring engaging content. A Snapchat post on every single game day featuring whatever promotion they were running. A TikTok challenge to start the season, starring one of the team’s best and most popular players. Game day tweets encouraging fans to post their favorite plays from the day’s action with offers for discounts on tickets to an upcoming game for the best tweets. All excellent ways to not only engage the fan base but also to increase ticket sales.

Some great promotion ideas here too! A few favorites:

  • THE VAC PACK: The Washington Nationals want to encourage all members of our community to get vaccinated against COVID 19. Season ticket holders : Show a vaccination card and receive 1 Free ticket for a friend to use at any home game this season.Though 1 is FREE, it encourages another game to come to and bringing more people.
  • The “You’re vOUTcher!” Meal Plan:This plan allows you to sit together with your family and all family members(up to 5) will receive a free meal “vOUTcher”.
  • Fans will have the opportunity for unique fan experiences and access to limited edition items. Fans who purchase season tickets, or  22,42, or 82 classic ticket plans and group sale tickets will get a VIP exclusive deal. They will be able to access a VIP area in the Clubhouse Team Store to shop and purchase exclusive souvenirs not sold anywhere else.
  • Mask giveaway: Team-branded masks will be given out to the first 2500 fans entering the game. Fans can follow us on twitter to view the mask for each home game.There will be daily tweets promoting the importance of public mask wearing, social distancing and regular handwashing. 
  • NATScination baseball card promotion involves our free vaccination pop up event at 1 designated game. Fans can show a vaccination card and get an exclusive signed baseball card. Fans can visit the NATScination tent up to 2 hours prior to game time. The first 3,000 fans showing their vaccination card will gain free entrance for the game. For all future games, fans who are NATScinated can use a special line for earlier entry into the games by showing their NATScination card along with their purchased ticket.

Fantastic job Green Run High School, really loved the creativity!

Grant High School, Oregon

The other “rookie” in this year’s competition is Grant High School who created a social ticket sales strategy for the Portland Trail Blazers. Grant High School students did an excellent job weaving promotions and ticket sales efforts with fan safety and covid protocols in a fun yet effective manner. Because the team is limited to just 25% of capacity at the stadium, GHS students built the entire campaign around that theme. A couple of highlights:

  • Playing off of the theme of 25% Capacity and 25% Off tickets, fans who buy tickets with a special social media link to purchase game tickets will be entered into a raffle with a chance to win a #25 classic Jerome Kersey jersey (one of the most popular players in franchise history).
  • The “social distancing special” campaign on the team’s Instagram and Twitter feeds promotes social distancing, but ties in with a ticket sales effort by asking fans to post a photo on their social feeds and tag the team anytime a Blazers play crosses up a defender. Fans who post and tag as part of the promotion are then eligible for a 25% discount on tickets.

Overall, great ideas from Grant High School. Really well done!

Downers Grove High School, Illinois

Students at Downers Grove High School chose the Chicago White Sox for this case study. Their social sales plan was LOADED with creative ideas and sound strategies for boosting sales, all while keeping fans safe during the ongoing pandemic.

One thing that really stood out in the DGNHS campaign was the team’s effort to market to a younger audience, something MLB teams have been struggling with in recent years. DGNHS students chose to embrace personality, promoting things like bat flips and on-field celebrations. The social media strategy aligns well with the target audience, as does the campaign slogans of “The Time Is Now” and “Change the Game.” Students chose to really push “The Time Is Now” narrative to encourage fans not to wait before purchasing their ticket packages for the year. Very smart! “The Time Is Now” will also serve the franchise well as a rallying cry for the team’s social justice plan with a social media campaign “The Time Is Now For Equality.”

Overall, fantastic job breaking down what content will be shared through each platform to maximize reach and fan engagement. Perhaps the most unique idea in this round of the competition, however, was the inclusion of Spotify as part of the campaign. Using Spotify to bring “Sounds of the Stadium” to the homes of fans is a really fun idea, and connecting the platform to game day walk-up music could be a great way to engage fans. Tying those in with game day ticket sales promotions could help to give sales a boost.

Loved the Twitter MEMES, TikToks and YouTube content as well. Stoking the flames in the Cubs’ rivalry will certainly boost levels of fan engagement. Pairing a ticket to the Cubs’ series with another game that would typically be harder to sell could be a strategy that pays off as well. Also, NEXT LEVEL stuff from DGNHS students to have actual, real-life posts for all your social platforms…clearly students put a lot of time and effort into this case study!

Overall, a very comprehensive plan…super impressive work from Downers Grove North High School!

UPDATED BRACKET:

SportsBiz Madness 2021: Case Study Tournament (Opening Round Results)

OPENING ROUND RECAP

We were extremely impressed with the opening round results for our fifth annual SportsBiz Madness case study tournament.  Tasked with rebranding a Minor League Baseball franchise with a long history of sellouts and financial success (and fan support) but with a controversial team nickname.  Students put a lot of research into establishing a new brand that would connect with the community, generating support with an already loyal fan base.  Overall, this was the most competitive opening round field in the history of this tournament!

HONORABLE MENTION:

Selecting just eight groups from all of this year’s entries to advance to the bracket round of the competition was incredibly difficult.  Here are a few highlights from the “bubble” teams that were so close to advancing but didn’t quite get over the hump. 

Indianapolis Speedsters (Tappan Zee High School, New York)

What stood out with the Tappan Zee group’s “Speedsters” rebrand was the attention to detail in the branding effort itself.  Not only did they create a new brand identity for the franchise, but also offered a strategy for building brand awareness and maximizing opportunities to sell Speedsters branded merchandise.  Placing the new logo on a race car for the Indy 500 would most certainly attract some attention, and keeping a model of that car in front of the stadium would result in thousands of selfies on game day.  Also loved some of the promotions ideas to extend the branding.  Fantastic job Tappan Zee High School!

Indianapolis Woodrats (Grant High School, Oregon)

As they say, you learn something new every day! Thanks to the research done by Grant High School students, we know a species known as the “Allegheny Woodrats” are commonly found in the state of Indiana. Grant HS students rebranded as the ‘Woodrats’, in part, because the species is experiencing a decline in population, even facing extinction in some areas outside of Indianapolis, and the franchise would bring awareness to the threat. Pretty cool idea. Love the face mask idea (interesting to see at least HALF the entries in round one featured face masks as part of the merchandise collections), thought with the logo that there could be some really fun and and creative ways to design Woodrats branded face coverings that would be a hit with fans. Nice job Grant High School!

Indianapolis Slicers (Capital High School, Washington)

It is always interesting to see what students find when doing some research in our competitions. Case in point, a group of students from Capital HS in Washington who discovered that the first sliced bread company, Wonder Bread, was established in the city of Indianapolis.  Rebranding as the “Slicers” creates a connection to the city’s history and will no doubt offer some very fun and unique opportunities for creative brand extensions, including on the concessions menu at the ballpark and will no doubt help position the team as an innovative franchise.  As the Slicers’ reminded us in their case study response, “without sliced bread you can’t have things like sandwiches or toast.”  Nice job Capital High School!

Indianapolis Veterans (Green Run High School, Virginia)

Some good ideas here from students at Green Run, really liked the rebranding strategy paying tribute to veterans, and this group did an excellent job weaving together several themes that will create a connection with community. 

Perhaps best summed up by the explanation behind the new logo:  “The flags of Indianapolis and the U.S.A. for Veterans and for connection to winning and the checkered flag. Baseball bats and baseball for the sport in the shape of a V for Victory in wars and on the field. It also connects to Victory Stadium.”

Also, how great is this Corvette themed (aptly named “Vet”) mascot? Impressive work from Green Run High School!

Indianapolis Speed Demons (Superior High School, Wisconsin)

There were a lot of really great rebranding strategies tied to the theme of racing, understandably, given the area’s motor sports heritage.  We liked the way Superior HS students managed to incorporate the type of branding and imagery consistent with sports teams (like a “demon”) with a racing theme (like “speed”).  Clever name, cool logo and fun mascot.  Overall, really nice job by Superior High School!

Indianapolis Cardinals (Wichita East High School, Kansas)

Because both the state animal AND state bird is the Cardinal, students from Wichita East High School opted to rebrand the franchise as the Cardinals.  The franchise hopes to gain support of fans throughout the entire state rather than just the Indianapolis area, expanding the brand’s footprint. Traditionally, that can be a real challenge for a minor league franchise but appreciate seeing students “thinking big” in this competition.   

ADVANCING TO THE BRACKET ROUND OF THE COMPETITION:

Indianapolis Speedsters (Carle Place High School, New York)

Important to develop a brand that will resonate with your target audience, so it was great to see a family-friendly vibe with the Speedsters brand development strategy as a way to appeal to a minor league baseball fan base.  Fantastic promotion idea as well to maintain a loyal following by offering discounts on the NEW merchandise to any fans that have gear featuring the former team name. Nice job Carle Place HS students!

Indianapolis Baby Blues (Pinelands Regional High School, New Jersey)

Defending case study tournament champs Pinelands Regional is no stranger to this competition, and if the response to the first case study challenge is any indication, they are ready to bring it again this year!

By the looks of the description of the new nickname (Baby Blues), it would appear PRHS students did some serious research. The rebrand offers a nod to the history of the franchise, with a fresh new look.

Overall, lots of great branding ideas and we loved the uniforms too! Another brilliant effort from Pinelands Regional HS…

Indianapolis Gearheads (Green Run High School, Virginia)

Another newcomer to this year’s competition, another fantastic case study response. Impressive work from Green Run High School with the development of the rebranding effort and crafting a very unique new nickname.

REALLY loved seeing this group of students relying on data from some market research to help shape not only the rebranding strategy, but also the merchandising plan. After identifying 57 year-old-olds as the average age of fans, it makes sense to offer merchandise that would appeal to that demographic. Great idea to partner with a popular local vendor with Hubbard and Craven (nice job researching that!) to give sales of team-branded merchandise an added lifted, expanding your distribution beyond the ballpark and team store online. Great to see a focus on figuring out ways to increase revenue.

Overall, the attention to detail was very impressive, from the colorways and design scheme for the brand, the logo, the mascot and merchandise. Well done!

Indianapolis Bones (Grant High School, Oregon)

So much to love here. The research in determining a new nickname. The creativity behind some of the merchandise the franchise will offer its fans (LOVING the “T-Rex Teeth” face coverings and “Bone Bat” replicas that the mascot, Buddy, carries around at games), and the unique brand partnerships. Grant High School students rocked this first case study, very impressive!

Indianapolis Centurions (Flower Mound High School, Texas)

From a merchandising perspective, the Centurions branding strategy really stood out from the rest. LOVE the brand extensions throughout the stadium, no doubt helping to boost sales of everything from food and beverage to tickets and merchandise. Given the family friendly nature of minor league baseball, the creative branding around the stadium to give it a theme park feel will most certainly draw a crowd and make it easy to transition from the old team name to the Centurions. Great idea to offer a secondary logo as well. Lots of excellent ideas here from students at Flower Mound High School!

Indy Stretch (Downers Grove North, Illinois)

So we saved the most unique rebrands for last…beginning with the “Indy Stretch”, imagined by students from Downers Grove North in Illinois. The clever nickname is tied to the city’s roots in many ways, as described by Downers Grove North students: “The new nickname, the Indy Stretch, has multiple tie-ins to the history of Indianapolis, and nods to many things that Hoosiers are proud of.

  • Stretch pays homage to the legendary motor racing scene in Indianapolis, and was derived from the “Homestretch” of a racetrack
  • Stretch also honors Indianapolis native Albert von Tilzer, writer of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, an American ballad most commonly associated with the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game
  • Stretch, in addition to the homestretch of a race track and the 7th inning stretch of a baseball game, also refers to the role that the state of Indiana played during the Underground Railroad, as it was the homestretch in the path to freedom for escaped slaves venturing north.

The group also came up with a pretty cool way to raise brand awareness through cross promotion by partnering with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to play a weekend series, the “Crossroads Classic”, on the infield at the iconic motor sports venue, including specially checkered flag branded promotional uniforms. Awesome.

But what’s up with the Giraffe? According to the students, the mascot “Armstrong the Giraffe” was born in partnership with the Indianapolis City Zoo, as well as one with Hasbro, and the team will create custom “Stretch Armstrong” dolls modeled after Armstrong to boost merchandise sales with bobbleheads as game day giveaways to boost attendance. Such great ideas…congrats Downers Grove North, you’re moving on to the bracket round!

Indianapolis Tenderloins (Ellicottville Central School, New York)

One of the most popular marketing trends in Minor League Baseball in recent memory features teams rebranding with food themes.  One student from Ellicottville HS in New York tapped into that strategy and introduced a food-themed rebrand of their own, introducing the Indianapolis Tenderloins. Whacky as it may seem, we think this could really work.

One of the most iconic dishes that hails from Hoosier State is the pork tenderloin sandwich, a dishly that is uniquely representative of the area. Fun and whimsical, the branding will certain resonate with fans of all ages, and opportunities to extend the brand at the concessions stand could give food and beverage sales a nice boost. Nice job Ellicottville High School!

Indianapolis Walruses (Fruitport High School, Michigan)

The Walruses? According to Fruitport High School students, the new nickname is based on the important role the Indianapolis Zoo plays as a fabric of the Indianapolis community. At the Indianapolis Zoo, they take the time and consideration of protecting and rehabilitating walruses as well as many other animals.

Because minor league baseball is such a family oriented entertainment platform, the branding (including the colorways, logo and mascot, “Whilbert the Walrus”) will certainly create a connection with the community and attract area families to the ballpark.

SCC’S 2021 SPORTSBIZ MADNESS TOURNAMENT BRACKET

The eight teams advancing in the tournament will compete in a head to head style format for the opportunity to be crowned champs of the 2021 case study tournament. Teams were not seeded, the bracket pairings are drawn at random. Good luck to our participating students in the “Elite Eight” round!

Read Across America Day: SportsBiz Book Suggestions

Looking for a good sports business book to add to your library?

In celebration of “Read Across America Day”, I thought I would share a few sports business book recommendations. I tried to limit the list to just ten, including some of my all-time favorite reads. Some of the books on this list are older, some are new. Some provide great sports business insight, others explore the industry’s history, while several offer some wisdom and inspiration.

1) Believe to Achieve

Written by friend and mentor, long-time Jordan Brand executive Howard “H” White, Believe to Achieve is packed with great advice to share with students, and the underlying message in his book is truly something we can all benefit from.

2) Ice to the Eskimos

One of the most creative and innovative sports marketers in history, Jon Spoelstra’s first book remains a classic. Jon is also recognized as an “industry pioneer” in our textbook, and Ice to the Eskimos is full of examples of his influence on the business of team sports.

3) Shoe Dog

Shoe Dog is the autobiography of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. It features great insight into the creation of one of the biggest brands in the world.

4) The Elusive Fan 

The Elusive Fan is a fantastic sports business book that examines the challenges facing marketers as they work to attract the attention of fans in today’s cluttered marketplace. 

5) Sneaker Wars

Well before Phil Knight was selling sneakers from the back of his car, two brothers built a shoe company in Germany. Nearly twenty years after the company was founded, the Dassler brothers had a major falling out. One brother started a company called Adidas, the other brother started a company just across the river called Puma. The two brands remain rivals to this day.  

6) Let Me Tell You A Story

This is an older book that I borrowed from a friend (and die-hard Celtics fan) a few years ago written by legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach. Much of the book is about basketball, but what struck me was how innovative Coach Auerbach was when it came to finding creative ways to get fans to come out to the arena for a game. Lots of anecdotes with historical relevance in this book.

7) The Red Rubber Ball

The Red Rubber Ball isn’t necessarily a sports or sports business book, but it was written by a former Nike executive. Kevin Carroll essentially took the spirit of recess and turned it into an influential message that has inspired millions of people around the world. I would strongly recommend this quick read for both teachers and students.

8) Go for the Magic!

A good friend gave me his copy of basketball Hall-of-Famer Pat Williams’ book, Go for the Magic, when I began my career working in professional sports. I have since read dozens of books written by Mr. Williams (all are excellent), but this remains my favorite. 

9) Mamba Mentality

In Mamba Mentality, the late Kobe Bryant shares fascinating insight into the determined mindset that fueled his legendary work ethic, and ultimately helped him to find success both on and off the court.

10) ESPN: Those Guys Have all the Fun

I love to read books that explore the beginnings of game-changing brands like Nike, adidas, Gatorade etc. Years ago, I read Creating an Empire: ESPN by Stuart Evey, one ESPN’s original investors and it was great. James Andrew Miller’s ESPN: Those Guys Have all the Fun takes readers from the company’s roots to the present day (well, 2011), even exposing some of ESPN’s past shortcomings from a corporate culture perspective.

Bonus: Veeck as in Wreck

Bill Veeck, otherwise known as the Godfather of sports marketing, is an absolute legend in our industry. Credited with creating some of the most famous (and infamous) promotional stunts, Veeck literally wrote the playbook for how sports teams would eventually craft marketing plans dedicated to attracting fans to stadiums all over the world.

Enjoy!

Chris