Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat: Extending the Event

In TSMWIF on May 27, 2008 at 9:36 pm

This was a big sports weekend in the United States, with NHL playoffs, NBA playoffs and of course Major League Baseball. There were also a couple of other events more singular in nature, but ones that also draw (or have drawn) attention.

On Monday the college lacrosse championship was held (Syracuse beat Johns Hopkins 13-10). The game was held at Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots of the NFL play. Nearly 50,000 people were in attendance. That’s a pretty strong number for a ‘niche’ sport.

On Sunday we had the Indianapolis 500, one of the truly inconic sporting events. It has lost some of its lustre in recent years for reasons I won’t go into here, because what I want to talk about was an issue even when the Indy 500 was in its heyday.

College lacrosse has made it on the sports map – but only for the championship game. The Indy 500 will always get press, but what about the other 15 races each year when the same drivers are racing the same cars?

How can you extend the event beyond just the day or week that it is happening?  I think you have to really change the game and break out of the mold to capture the attention of sports fans who have so many choices. Here’s an example:

Outside of the major golf tournaments, there is still a lot of golf being played by the pros. I’m not a big golf fan, but I know this – The International, held in Colorado, used the Modified Stableford Scoring System. I’m not sure I could explain it, but I remember it because it was the only tournament to be played under this format.

Now, it so happens the tournament has been cancelled, but I think that was due more to scheduling conflicts than the scoring system they used. So, if you are an event organizer, what is your Modified Stableford Scoring System? Is it playing an indoor event outside? Is it using a different colored field? How are you standing out and making your event/league/tournament memorable so people are talking about it even when it isn’t going on? In a flat sports marketing world, you’re event is always on and the competition is every event in every sport.


The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat: Soccer and Basketball

In TSMWIF on May 21, 2008 at 10:57 am

So, earlier I wrote about and linked to an article showing NBA players of foreign extraction using soccer as a training tool, or at least crediting their soccer upbringing with helping them (see post here).

Well, now of course we have this article about members of the German national team using basketball to get ready for the upcoming European Championships.








That’s German footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger making like Dirk Nowitzki.

Eyecube Interview: Rob Walker, author of Buying In

In Ideas, Innovation, Insight on May 20, 2008 at 9:48 pm

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Rob Walker. He’s written for Slate; has his own blog, Murketing, which is a daily must read; writes a weekly column called Consumed for the New York Times Magazine; and his new book, Buying In, will be available June 3. Sure, Rob is ubiquitous, but that’s not why I read him. I read him because he’s crazy with the smarts, has his finger on the pulse of what people are buying and why, and presents his ideas in a clever, original way. I was fortunate enough to grab an advance copy of Buying In and devoured it over the weekend. Rob was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to answer a couple of questions. Hopefully this will give you an idea of the sorts of things Rob covers:

Rick Liebling: I love your term, ‘murketing.’ I think there is an equally murky side-effect of this sort of practice though – the inability to measure the success of the tactics. I’d argue Red Bull’s unique can had as much to do with its success as a kiteboard or other extreme sport stunt. How do these brands measure what’s working?

Rob Walker: I guess this gets at the eternal question of whether marketing is an art or a science. As you know, I’m not in the business, and so kind of ambivalent about that debate, but my outsider’s view is as follows:

In the book I talk about the difference between rational thinking, and rationale thinking. The latter refers, basically, to decisions made for some borderline instinctual reason, and sort of rationalized, non-consciously, with a reason that sounds more rational. A lot of “metrics” that I read about in the trade press, for any medium, strike me as closer to rationales than anything else. One of the reasons I have a hard time following the debate is that any given marketer always seems to be able to come up with some kind of number that demonstrates how what he or she is proposing “works.”

And since I take the position that non-conscious factors guide an awful lot more of our buying decisions than most of us care to admit, it has to follow that such things are very difficult to track and measure.

Finally, I take the influence of culture seriously, and since culture is always changing, that makes it very hard to do what marketers want to do, which is look at how Brand X succeeded because of a certain campaign, and simply recreate that campaign for Brand Y. Meanwhile, the brands are culturally different, and culture has changed in the interim, and so on.

But the upshot is that marketers, in my view, are going to continue to find rationales for more and more aggressive forms of what I’m calling murketing. They’re not going to do it on the basis of empirical evidence that would convince a third party observer. They’re going to do it because everybody else is doing it, and they’re scared of missing out or they want to show that they “get it” or whatever.

RL: You site many academic/scientific studies that detail the hows and whys of consumer behaviour. I’m equally fascinated by instances when a product suddenly drops off the radar. An example is The Club car theft deterrent device. It seemed every car had them in the early-90s. Now, I can’t remember seeing one in the last 10 years. The product isn’t any less effective, so how does something like that happen?

RW: For years I’ve wanted to write a story about something like this, but the truth is I’ve never found the right convergence of a good case study, and someone willing to publish the story.

I don’t know anything about the Club in particular, so I can’t say much about what happened there. I actually use a Club, which I bought probably 15 years ago (and kept even during an eight-year stretch when I didn’t own a car, because I correctly guessed I might have one again some day), at which point I stopped thinking about the auto theft device market.

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The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat: Basketball & Soccer

In TSMWIF on May 20, 2008 at 9:06 am

The Sports Economist points to an article in the New York Times talking about foreign-born NBA players and their backgrounds growing up playing soccer in places like Canada, Brazil and Europe.

As a big fan of Arsenal, I’ve seen a lot of the basketball – soccer overlap. Spike Lee, a big hoops fan, has been wearing soccer jerseys for a while (I’ve seen or heard of him wearing Brazil, Arsenal & Inter Milan). The Arsenal team from several years ago were all big hoops fans, led by Patrick Vieira, Kanu and Thierry Henry, who is good friends with the Spurs’ Tony Parker.

With the global popularity of the two sports, it’s interesting that teams or leagues haven’t tried to work partnerships. Maybe we’ll see that in the future.

The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat – Hot sports trend: Cricket

In TSMWIF on May 17, 2008 at 11:33 pm

If you’ve checked out this blog more than once during the six weeks of existence, you know I have a thing (obsession?) for cricket. I’m not running around looking for it, but it just keeps popping up. The latest example? The NY Times ran a story in their Saturday Metro section ostensibly about author Joseph O’Neill, whose new book, Netherland, features the sport heavily. Really the article was about cricket in NYC.

Maybe it’s just a New York thing, but I’m starting to think that cricket is going to become a hot trend in the States. Not the sport necessarily, but the cricket lifestyle. I can see Phat Farm using the style cues of the cricket sweater; or maybe the cricket floppy hat for days at the park/beach/pool.

The game has all the right cool factors for U.S. trend-setters, with its elitist history, international flavor and general ‘unknown-ness.’

likemind NYC – Free Prize Inside

In Ideas on May 16, 2008 at 11:21 am

I attended my first likemind event this morning at ‘sNice in New York. Lot of really cool people, plus they had free (free!) copies of Rob Walker’s new book, Buying In. Here’s the scene:

 (That’s PSFK impresario Piers Fawkes in the foreground).

Rob will be glad to know that his book was enthusiastically snatched up by those in attendance (thanks Random House!).

There are a lot of really terrific books out there that fall into a similar category to Buying In, and it seems that get-togethers like likemind are popular. Is there a ‘salon’/book club that focuses on marketing/branding/advertising/PR/culture/etc. books? If so, I’d love to know about it.


Listening to music on the radio, VHS Tapes, Dinosaurs…

In Insight on May 16, 2008 at 6:00 am

All things of the past. I got a call last night from a telemarketer who wanted to know how often, in the last week, I had listened to music on the radio. FM, AM, satellite, any form of radio that was playing music.

I literally laughed out loud when he asked the question. I would guesstimate that I listened to about 10 albums worth of music this week. Of that, exactly 0% was sourced from the radio.  Part of the reason is that I live in New York and commute  by train (though I would probably listen to talk radio if I was in my car), but it doesn’t even occur to me to listen to music on the radio. I listen to music on my MP3 player or via iTunes from my computer. Works out great – no commercials, music I actually want to listen to, and I have total control of the playlist.

Here’s a list of other activities that were ‘must dos’ not that long ago that would have also elicited a chuckle from me:

1. Reading a printed newspaper more than twice a week.

2. Watching network nightly news

3. Sourcing my political news from the Sunday morning shows

4. Rushing home to watch any TV show (heck, even when I’m home I don’t rush to watch a show when it starts)

5. Reading a boxscore the next morning

6. Watching SportsCenter at 11pm (or the next morning) to find out who won a non-televised game

There are just so many better, faster, more convenient ways of doing all those things. If you are producing information content that isn’t mobile or time-agnostic, go find something else to do, you’re wasting your time.

PSFK – What the new culture of creative business looks like

In Ideas, Innovation, Insight on May 13, 2008 at 10:55 am

I’m a big fan of PSFK. Yes, Piers and his posse are undeniably smart, but a lot of groups and organizations have smart people. I like PSFK because they don’t just sit around and ruminate, they do stuff. Lots of stuff:

Like Peep, and The Purple List, Conferences and if!, marktd and trend reports and likemind. They just keep cranking out juicy, crunchy, chewy goodness. They’ve now just released a book on San Francisco, using the tools that I’ve written about previously.

I really like PSFK’s approach to business. It’s seems less formal, though no less professionally done, than what you might see from traditional agencies and I think that is the way our industry (marketing, PR, advertising, branding, etc.) is headed. They’ve completely embraced the available technologies and are more interested in pushing out usable, engaging and interactive material than telling you how great they are.

If you haven’t checked them out, definitely click on some of the links above, I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.

The (Sports Marketing) World Is Flat – Baseball, Japan and America

In TSMWIF on May 13, 2008 at 7:35 am

America = Baseball, Apple pie and Chevrolet, right? Baseball, America’s pastime. If you want to make it big in the sport, then you come to America to play for the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers. That’s what players from Asia have been doing for the last decade. Chan Ho Park, Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, the list goes on.

But in the new, flat (sports marketing) world, you don’t have to be in the U.S. to be on the map. A new movie, The Zen of Bobby V, had its premiere at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. Bobby Valentine had a pretty successful baseball career in the States, moreso as a manager (he took the Mets to the World Series in 2000) than a player, but he was also a respected analyst. But he became a legend in his second stint in Japan, leading the Chiba Lotte Marines to the title in 2005.

Check out this behind the scenes look at the film.

As a result, three NYU film students travelled to Japan and followed Valentine for the course of the 2007 season. Their inside look became the movie.  Twenty years ago an American would go to Japan because he was no longer wanted in the Major Leagues. Valentine may be seen as the guy who changed that perception.

You can catch The Zen of Bobby Z Tuesday, May 13 on ESPN 2. Check local listings for times in your area.


Ideas, Insight & Innovation

In Ideas, Innovation, Insight on May 12, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Two recent articles that are worth tracking down:

In Sunday’s NYT Business Section there is an article that highlights the delicate dance between inventor and investor. Doug Hall, CEO of Eureka Ranch Technology, is developing a database, to be launched in 2009, that will help connect inventors with businesses looking for innovations.

You might also want to check out the May 12 issue of The New Yorker. Gladwell takes one of his trademark looks, this time into how conventional wisdom assumes ideas are generated. It’s become fashionable in 2008 to bash Gladwell a bit; first there was the Fast Company story about Duncan Watts and his challenge to Gladwell’s “Influentials.” Then, Slate gave Gladwell a poke for some truthiness regarding tales of his time at the Washington Post. But when Gladwell is on his game, as he is with this piece, he really is a pleasure to read. He can make seemingly dry topics come to life and provide a human insight that is truly illuminating.