Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Social Media for Sport Venues


A quick post today, but wanted to make sure I shared this. Two months ago myself and a classmate compiled a lot of research and created a Best Practice Guide for Social Media usage by sports venues.

You can click here to download the guide.

We are very interested to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Review of "The Long Tail" and it's application in #SportsBiz

Editor's note: This post was part of an assignment for my Sports Marketing course. 

When reading “The (Longer) Long Tail” by Chris Anderson, my eyes were opened to a new way to view items that I touch daily; online music (iTunes, Spotify), online stores (Amazon.com – where I purchased his book), and even online event ticket sales. In the past I have looked at these sites as more of a convenience, not as a store with unlimited potential and inventory.  As I went deeper into the rabbit hole, I began to explore Anderson’s (Chris’, not mine) theory on my own. I looked to Spotify for recommendations on music that I may never have listened to or purchased using their new radio app. I also explored more on a secondary ticket sales aggregator, SeatGeek.com, to research how our NASCAR tickets were being priced on the secondary market.
In the book, Anderson lists the three main forces that make “the Tail” what it is, a never ending variety of niche items available to the consumer, thus additional revenue for businesses. His first theme, democratizing the tools of production, references one’s ability, mainly due to the advent of the modern PC and internet, to produce and post music, writing, photos, etc. Artists can now record their work in the format of their choosing and make it available to the world with a few clicks of the left-mouse button for free or for a fee. The second force is cutting costs of consumption by democratizing distribution. The internet gives sellers an unlimited and unparalleled format to distribute their material goods. Low overhead costs due to near-zero shelf space needs, significantly reduced staff and almost costless distribution help these businesses offer lower prices on goods while maximizing revenues. The third force isconnecting supply and demand; no longer does demand rise as supply falls. In the digital world, supply never falls; in fact supply is constantly on the rise. The perfect example of this, consistently used by Anderson, is with music. Sure, there are still hits in the traditional sense, Justin Bieber (gag) has plenty of them and they sell hundreds of thousands if not millions of digital copies. Lower Case Blues, a small local Delaware rock band that recently played Firefly Music Festival, on the other hand has released one 8 song album that before this weekend was enjoyed by its niche local following and potentially a few other fans that follow the same niche music scene.  Never-the-less, there is another musician or band out there with one song that ten people have taken the time to listen to and tomorrow there will be three more just like it. Bieber, unfortunately, will still be there to give his fans the hits they scream, cry and beg for while others will plug away at their craft, most likely never to see great success, but still finding that loyal group, or person, that follows their every move.
For the consumer, the ability to access personal favorites will always remain a constant driving force in the purchasing mind, however; today consumers seem to be more and more interested in finding or trying something new, something different. Folks want to be challenged to break the mold they have lived in and be different in some way. Conventional wisdom is not what it used to be; consumers are now consuming on reputation. What that means is that consumers are now consuming items based on what their friends share or like with them. First items were discussed around the water-cooler at the office, leading to slower adoption and sharing. With the advent of the PC, email and internet, sharing and liking has grown more quickly. First shares and likes occurred via email, then via blog posts and finally, when a little internet site started by a then-Harvard student called (The) Facebook was launched, likes and shares became instantaneous. Smart-phones have only increased the ability to like and share faster with their on-the-go, always connected web and mobile apps. One can only imagine what Google’s “Project Glass” will do to the consumer marketplace when the sheer site of an item and blink of an eye could trigger instantaneous liking, sharing and potentially purchasing.
Within the world of sport, the Tail presents some issues, yet still has merit. My initial reaction was to think in terms of ticket sales, suite sales and sponsorship signage sales. The problem is that inventory in these areas is not limitless, although new and more creative inventory is being created every day. In terms of ticket sales, I think the Tail can be seen in the secondary market, and more-so with dynamic pricing. While the issue of limited inventory still exists, the fact is that the price of inventory can be more flexible. Dynamic pricing is a philosophy that uses sophisticated algorithms (designed by someone much smarter than I) to determine the price of a seat based on a number of factors. Factors can include prices paid by other fans on the same seat at different games, match-ups (teams, players), weather, day of the week, current sales trends in the primary and secondary market and so on. Dynamic pricing means that there is rarely a specific number of seats set a $30 per game, $20 per game, etc. Some fans may be willing to pay a higher rate for the best seat in the house, in music industry terms this would be “the hit,” while many other fans want to attend but are price sensitive. Dynamically pricing a facility allows for fans to find a seat in their price range. For the team, one seat might sell for $30 on Monday, but a change in the factors looked at in the algorithm on Wednesday could lead to selling the seats next to those for $32. For a baseball team selling a seat at $2 extra per game for an entire season is $162 in incremental revenue. While that pales in comparison to the millions of dollars these teams earn in gate revenue each year, when that $162 is multiplied out over 1/3 of a 35,000 seat stadium (11,550 seats) a team can generate $1,871,100 in incremental revenue for a given season!
Now, throw in the dynamic of the secondary market, where seats that have been sold by the team are again available to consumers. The secondary market can be an avenue controlled by the team, (Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange), controlled by a third party (StubHub, eBay), or controlled by both (ScoreBig). A consumer now has the option to shop for the best seat at the best game at the best price. The ability to resell the same seat multiple times also increases the potential shelf-life and revenue generating possibility that one seat can possess.
Another area I believe the Tail exists for sport, and more notably, for Dover International Speedway, is the sharing of [digital] content. Leagues, teams and venues have all done a good job of adapting to today’s digital world with branded & league/team/venue driven websites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, yet this just touches the surface of channels of distribution that are available today. And hiding in these other, more niche avenues are consumers and potential fans of your league/sport/team that have yet to be touched because their world has been overlooked. While websites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages are “the hits” in today’s online world (I could argue that websites are fourth in that list), newcomers such as Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, SocialCam, and Viddy gain popularity and the niche fan followings of LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Digg and delicious continue to look for new and fresh content. By bringing a variety of content, driven by both the league/team/venue and by fans, across all of these platforms (and potentially more), you increase your ability to market to individuals that may be tuned out to your other messaging. In Dover, for example, we significantly dialed back our outdoor advertising in 2012 and focused that revenue on Facebook ads and other web-based advertisements and retargeting campaigns. I believe this will be a continuing trend for us as we become more aware and knowledgeable about our available advertising avenues.
Retargeting was an unbelievable concept that was presented to us in 2010. By placing a “cookie” a simple piece of code, on someone’s computer when they visited our website (everyone does it), our digital ads were able to “follow” that fan to other sites where Google owned ad space (they own it everywhere). The constant, yet subtle, reminder of our facility should have (ps, it did) led fans back to our site to make a purchase. This meant that we have advertisements on virtually every website imaginable and the impressions we were purchasing were meaningful to the individual we were impressing upon. For us, the Tail was more evident in where the ads appeared, “the hit” being NASCAR.com and the tail being a very long list of obscure websites that generated one or two impressions during the campaign.
Without question, Chris Anderson’s book has changed my opinion on how we as a venue need to view inventory and how we go to market to sell that inventory. While my thoughts are yet in the infantile stages, I believe that the concept of the Tail is one that will begin to be incorporated in businesses with limited inventory as well. Not every industry can be like the industries of music and literature. Some must have “store fronts” or “facilities,” so brick and mortar costs will be there. Limited inventory, however, does not mean limited inventory at a specific price or a limited form of communicating the availability of that inventory. It is my belief that the concepts expressed in this book can be used across all sales industries, to a varying degree, and these concepts will become the new foundation for which marketers can fulfill the needs and wants of the consumer.

It's been a while...

So, I've been away for a while and for that I apologize. For the past year (and continuing until May 2013) I have been working on my Professional Masters of Sports Administration from Ohio University. That's right, the program that started it all and is still recognized, worldwide, as The One when it comes to Sports Administration.

The first year has been terrific and I expect much of the same as our cohort heads down the final stretch towards graduation.

I feel now is as good a time as any to jump back into the mix and share some of the insights I have gained through the program and it's variety of courses. I hope you find it helpful and educational.

As always, I am open to questions, comments and thoughts regarding the posts.


Monday, August 15, 2011

When Does the Learning Stop... Never!

The past few weeks, I've done a lot of thinking (and learning) about learning.  The subject of Graduate School was brought back to my attention.  With my increased usage of Google+, Google Reader and Pulse Reader I have a new found respect and yearning to understand how to utilize today's social media to further enhance our companies sales & marketing reach.  I've read more in the past five weeks than I have in the past five years (sadly) and now that I am a member of the Ohio University Online Masters of Sports Administration Class of 2013 I'll surely be doing plenty more over the next 21 months.  

My knowledge base is starting to expand, and I can't get enough.  I have always heard the adage, you can never stop learning, and truth be told, I never have.  I have learned more through my daily business interactions than I can image.  All of this has made me wonder, will the learning ever stop?

The answer is, quite simply, no.  With the new technology of today the next big thing is always just around the corner, while yesterday's big thing is making tweaks and getting better and better.  If you aren't keeping up, by tomorrow you'll be five steps behind.  The information is readily available, you just need to know where to look.

The same can be said with regular "classroom" knowledge.  While it is not changing as rapidly as social media and other tech-related products, you have to continually refresh what you know and add some additional items to the tool-chest.  I'm taking the opportunity to expand my knowledge base from more than just ticket sales.  That's what my professional-learning has been focused on for the past ten years.  Now I can start to expand and hopefully start to become valuable in other areas of our business.

My challenge to my staff, my colleagues and to you - learn something new or expand on something you "kind-of" know about daily.  It's the only way we can grow as individuals and as productive individuals in a consistently changing, ever evolving world.

Top reads:
Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story - by Jerry Weissman
UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging - by Scott Stratten
Delivering Happiness:  A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose - by Tony Hsieh

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Daily Deal Sites: Good or Bad for Sports Franchises?

Daily Deal sites such as Groupon & LivingSocial have taken the consumer marketplace by storm the last few years, esp. during this economic downturn.  People, now more than ever, are looking for a deal and looking for value.  As a consumer offers on these Daily Deal sites do typically have value and I have taken advantage of a few.  I recently worked on landscaping in my front yard and took advantage of a Groupon offered by the nursery in my neighborhood.

As a Sales Manager, I have mixed feelings on Daily Deals.  There are positives and negatives (at least in my mind) to these sites, and below I will offer my thoughts.

1. Revenue Model:  The revenue model of these daily deal sites typically is the biggest deterrent for any business, and sport franchises are no different.  The standard Groupon model (in short) is that you have to offer a 50% discount to the consumer.  From there, it is a 60%/40% revenue split (or so) with Groupon.  What does that mean to your business - you receive 30% of the market value for your product.  Let's look at it in hard numbers.  If you sell a ticket for $50 normally, you then must offer it on Groupon for $25.  In return, you receive $15 for that ticket (if it is purchased).  Now as a business you have to ask yourself the following questions:

     a. Is it better to get $15 for that seat better than getting $0 (or not selling it)?
     b. Will the ancillary revenue from parking, concessions, merchandise make up the difference?
     c. Are you devaluing your product?
     d. Are you creating true "fans"?

2. Creating "fans":  The answer to question "d" above is another determining factor as to whether or not a Daily Deal offering is truly valuable.  The goal, one would hope, of offering a Daily Deal is to attract new customers to your team/venue and turn them into long-term fans.  How are you making that happen?  Yes, they may have a top-notch experience; they may see the greatest game all year or greatest event ever at your facility.  But is that enough to get them to pay full price for that same seat next time?  Was their experience more valuable then the $25 savings they received for admittance?  

Can you convert this Daily Dealer into a return or renewal customer?  That is the goal behind these Daily Deal offerings, is it not?  

For some, Daily Deals managed in an organized and structured way can have positive results.  For others, Daily Deals could be a disaster.  Unfortunately, you and only you know your business and it's priorities.  Only you can create the plan that best works for your franchise.  Hopefully the few questions above help lead you down the right path.  

I'm not knocking Groupon, LivingSocial or other Daily Deal companies.  I do feel that they have merit, to the consumer.  Professionally, I'm not sure that the view is worth the climb - but my jury is still out.

Have you had success using a Daily Deal site?  What do you consider "success" and how did you measure your ROI?  Leave a comment here or on my Google+ page (+Jason Anderson or http://gplus.to/AndersonJason81).  

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Month of Insights...

It's been a long month since I've been away and a lot has happened.

1. Google+ release (at least to beta) - well Google has taken yet another stab at the social side of the world-wide-web and this time, I think they have gotten it right.  I was lucky enough to gain access to G+ over the weekend and have had some time to play around.  While a lot of the functionality reminds me of Facebook (which is a great idea), the major enhancement that I feel is key is the addition of "circles".  It's Google's way of grouping your contacts together so you can message, huddle (text chat) or hangout (video chat) with a more targeted group of friends or contacts.  What does this mean?  You can keep your business friends and contacts separate, message them separate, share info separate, all from the same page (I have two Twitter @'s for just that reason).  The major negative so far (I was lucky enough to not be included in their SPAM issue on Saturday) is that it is only in beta and there aren't too many people (only 4.5 million) on the platform.  What does this mean?  It is difficult to find friends/contacts.  Over time, this will undoubtedly be corrected, and with a few minor enhancements, this could be a true player in the social space.  (I can be found at gplus.to/AndersonJason81 - gplus.to is a great vanity URL site already created for the platform).

2. Kentucky Speedway parking debacle - anytime you can host an "Inaugural Event" with a potential 107,000 fans you are going to run into your share of hiccups and miscues.  This past weekend at Kentucky Speedway, however, was anything but a hiccup.  A 5-hour, 20 mile traffic jam marred a great NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.  Denny Hamlin almost didn't make the official Driver's Meeting due to the jam; many fans parked on the highway and pulled out the grill's, corn-hole boxes and law-chairs and set up shop for the day.  The problem?  It wasn't that there is one major in-road to the facility, although it is a problem; it was the fact that the track was allowing fans to park and use additional spaces to tailgate!  Fan experience is key at a NASCAR event, it's a long day followed by a long race, but Fan experience doesn't only include their ability to tailgate and party pre-race.  A major part of Fan experience is traffic flow, how long does it take to get in and out of a facility (and can they even get to the facility).  The facility that I work for knows all too well about the issues you can face with limited parking/in-roads... our facility only had one point of entry/exit until about 10 years ago.  Many fans missed the pre-race ceremonies, many fans missed the green flag, and most importantly, many fans missed the race all together; either turning around in frustration or being turned around by law enforcement officials.  The Speedway made it worse by not addressing the situation publicly until late Sunday night (it was a Saturday race) and will still wait another week to announce what they will do for those ticket holders that could not attend the event.  To make matters worse, this wasn't the first issue with parking (they have had many others at IRL events in past years) and it wasn't their first headline grabbing run-in with ticket holders.  Two weeks before the race, the track openly offered discounted tickets on their website, stating that they were acting like any other business (they mentioned Macy's specifically) trying to move it's final inventory.  Um, from every other ticket office in NASCAR, I want to say thanks Kentucky Speedway.  That is exactly THE OPPOSITE of what every facility is trying to do right now.  Why reward those that wait until the last minute to choose to attend your event?  Why hurt the fans that guaranteed that they would support you months, maybe even a year, in advance?  I hope Kentucky Speedway can get this figured out, they had a great race on the track, but the black eye(s) left by these incidents hurt everyone in the long run.  

3. Sales rep training - for the first time in a year, I had the opportunity to train five (5) new sales reps for our company.  We took a week and tried to install a "basic offense" and base knowledge of our facility.  I learned something this week, I love training new reps.  They want to learn, they want to become not just sales reps, but great sales reps.  They ask questions, they want to impress, they don't want to screw up (but they do...).  That got me going; I came into work every day ready to get to our meeting room.  While I'm not the end all-be all of sales training, and I don't know everything, I do enjoy imparting what knowledge I have to these eager new hires.  I look forward to seeing how well they produce for us over the next few months, and, with any luck, hope that they can become successful in their careers.  At the end of the day, that's the goal, to hire, train and produce qualified and successful sales representatives that can go on to become successful in this industry.

That's about all I've got right now, the MLB Home Run Derby is starting and my attention has officially be diverted.  I look forward to feedback on this, and any other blog posts.  Find me on Twitter (@JAndersonTix, Google+ http://gplus.to/andersonjason81 and on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonanderson81.  Follow/Friend/Request to connect with me and please send me feedback (or comment directly on this post).


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Do You Manage Stressful Situations?

Well it's been a crazy couple weeks since my last post.  My facility hosted yet another fun-filled NASCAR triple-header, and even with all of the rain it was a "successful" weekend.  Leading up to the weekend, however, was not as smooth as I would have liked it to have been; which leads me into this post.

We have experienced quite a bit of change internally this year, the largest being a conversion to a new ticketing platform.  As with any new toy/technology, you have to assume you will run into your share of hiccups.  Of course, you don't plan on those hiccups to be one of the major functions of the system (printing every single ticket, voucher and hospitality pass for your major event).  There was no system flaw, mind you, it was merely a combination of not fully understanding the way the system worked when the events were initially built.  Here we stood, four weeks from event weekend and we had yet to print a single ticket.  

The stress in our office was high, season ticket holders (rightfully slow) were blowing up the phones asking where their tickets were; ticket reps were worn down from the badgering and our managers were pulling their hair out because they could not get the program to work.  I, on the other hand, continued to navigate the situation, calmly looking into why things weren't printing and working with our support team to come up with workable solutions.  I carried myself as I always do in the office, laughing, smiling, even dancing on a desktop everyone once-in-a-while.

A week before the race I was out with a few co-workers and employees for a pre-event weekend drink when one of them asked me, "So you must be looking for a new job, right?"  I was floored; where did that comment come from?  I responded with, "Ummm, what?  No, I'm not looking.  Why would you think that?"

She went on to explain that I was in no way stressed by the printing situation or the face that it was event week, and a few people in the office felt as though I just didn't care because I had one foot out the door.  

It was an easy response from there.  I explained that if I were to ever appear truly nervous or stressed then the reps should know that there is a major problem.  As the leader in the department, I can't let my staff know that I have a worry or am upset, otherwise it just trickles down and creates more anxiety.  I knew we had an issue, but I also knew it was correctable and we had people that I highly trust (including myself) working to fix the situation.  

So now it's your turn to think, how do you manage through a stressful environment.  Do you wear your emotions on your sleeve?  Your employees feed off of your actions and negative ones will only foster a negative environment.

Lead the way you want to be led...