Archive for the ‘Promotions’ Category

Oh No, Lolo: U.S. Track Star Lolo Jones Caught Between Marketing and Medaling

If Lolo Jones had been just one-tenth of a second faster Tuesday, she would have been able to outrun her critics.

The 30-year-old Jones, a striking track & field beauty who once posed nude for ESPN The Magazine (don’t worry, link is safe for work), has been the most recognizable U.S. Olympic track athlete of these games. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Jones was favored to win the 100-meter hurdles and looked primed to capture gold until she clipped the ninth hurdle with her foot, dropping her to seventh place. The devastating defeat had been brewing for four years until Tuesday, when Jones had a shot at redemption in the 100-meter hurdles in London.

Lolo Jones never hid from the spotlight, but Olympic defeat has only intensified the bright lights on her.

Alas, heartbreak again for Jones, who finished in fourth place with a time of 12.58 seconds, only one-tenth behind the bronze medalist Kellie Wells and two-tenths of a second behind silver medalist Dawn Harper, both American teammates.

Falling short once again seemed to agonize Jones, who told the L.A. Times, “I guess all the people who were talking about me, they can have their night and laugh about me.” Later on Twitter, Jones didn’t hide her pain or her problems.

On Wednesday morning, Jones appeared on NBC’s Today Show to discuss her narrow defeat, as well as to address criticism she received from the media. The frustration of being ridiculed led Jones to tears in the interview.

“I laid it out there,” Jones said while choking up. “I fought hard for my country, and I think it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”

The backlash came courtesy of the New York Times, in which writer Jere Longman dished a scathing commentary on Jones, seeming to implicate she was more interested in marketing herself than winning a medal. The article, published three days before the Olympic finals, compared Jones to Anna Kournikova, a former tennis player who got more attention for her looks than her play on the court.

To be fair, Jones has not exactly shied away from the media attention. In addition to the ESPN The Magazine shoot, Jones appeared on the cover of Outside Magazine wearing only a ribbon bikini and has not been afraid of flashing some skin on the red carpet.

Though her attractive looks brought her attention, Jones shocked all in May when she said she was a virgin, and called maintaining her celibacy harder than training for the Olympics.

Jones even name dropped Tim Tebow as a potential future partner, a move that doesn’t exactly promise a quiet reaction.

Her looks, her virginity and her quest for Olympic redemption made her the big name in women’s track this Olympics, which apparently didn’t sit well with teammates Harper and Wells. The medalists appeared on NBC Sports Wednesday morning and did not hesitate to call out Jones.

“I think that, on the podium tonight, the three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed,” Wells said. “And that’s all that really needs to be said.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the fourth place finisher, their teammate Jones.

The sad Jones saga demonstrates the unfortunate problem with Olympic athletes on the cusp of greatness: They must balance their quest for glory with their quest for fame. The Olympics comes around only every four years, so athletes would be wise to cash in on their popularity while they can. Jones received media attention for her looks and her back story, and didn’t hide from the spotlight. For this, she earned added publicity and nabbed sponsorship deals with McDonald’s, Oakley and Red Bull. In short, she marketed herself to make money.

But as a result of her marketing, Jones was seen as being less dedicated than the other athletes competing. She maintains she trained six days a week for four years in the hopes of standing on the winner’s podium. Whether this is true or not, her failure will undoubtedly make onlookers wonder what she could have accomplished had she stayed out of the limelight.

The only way Jones could have come out ahead in all of this would have been to win the hurdles, which is easier said than done. The fact is only one person in the world every four years can say they’ve done that, and only two others get medals for second and third place. With this in mind, it’s hard to fault an athlete looking to cash in on his or her fame, knowing that winning is a long shot anyways. If the window of opportunity was there to make money, most people would seize it like Jones did.

Today, Jones is again the center of focus for the media and the public. Right now, though, she isn’t inviting the attention.

Photo (cc) by Ragnar Singsaas and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.


Not Buying In: Manchester United Fans Boycott Sponsors, Send Message to Ownership

Sports fans are among the most loyal and intense people you can find.  How else to explain people showing up to support a team that hasn’t won a championship in over a century? (Looking at you, Cubs fans)

But just because sports fans are loyal doesn’t mean they always agree with every decision their favorite team makes. Case in point: Manchester United fans calling for a boycott of sponsors’ products to persuade ownership to rethink its plans of a shirt sponsorship deal with General Motors. United fans are reportedly unhappy about the British club’s association with an American company, preferring to keep the Red Devils in ties with local companies only.

Manchester United fans are loyal, but a boycott shows they have a mind of their own.

This isn’t the first time ManU fans have voiced displeasure with ownership over the club’s business. Malcolm Glazer, an American businessman who also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has owned United for almost 10 years but fell into $1.6 billion debt in 2010 stemming from loans related to their shopping mall businesses in the U.S. The Glazer family has not been popular with Manchester United fans, who have pressured Glazer to sell the team to a more interested and trustworthy owner.

Co-sponsorship deals often put fans in unusual situations. On the one hand, supporting a product or sponsor associated with a team generally means you are helping the business interest of your team. More money typically leads to more success. But some owners only care about the bottom line rather than results. So just because you put your money into sponsors doesn’t mean your favorite team will win more. In fact, it could send the wrong message to ownership that wins and losses don’t have an impact on revenue and income.

That’s what makes the boycott by ManU fans interesting. The message has been sent to ownership that club supporters will not be blind sheep and will not buy into everything the ownership tries to sell to them. Not seeing fans open their wallets is sure to get the attention of ownership and prompt change.

A similar scenario is unfolding in Boston. The Red Sox were purchased in 2003 by John Henry, a trading advisor who had previously held partial ownership of the Yankees and Marlins. Since Henry took over the club, the Sox have enjoyed remarkable success, winning two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 and enjoying the longest consecutive home sellout streak in U.S. sports history.

But all is not well in Red Sox Nation. Henry, since buying the Sox, has also obtained ownership of NESN, NASCAR teams, and most notably Liverpool FC, a major European soccer club. With multiple business interests, Henry’s time devoted to the Red Sox seems to have waned, as has on-field performance. The Sox have not won a playoff game since 2008, and last season endured a 7-20 month of September to miss the playoffs, one of the worst collapses in sports history. This season Boston is hovering at .500 but doesn’t have the look of a playoff team. All the while, the front office has remained quiet, save for an open letter of confidence sent to Sox fans by team president Larry Lucchino.

So what is a Sox fan to do? It seems clear the dual-ownership experiment is not working out at the moment, and many are calling for Henry and company to make a change. But the best way for Sox fans to get the attention of ownership is to do what United fans did and boycott the product. That means stop going to games (and break the sellout streak), stop watching games, stop buying merchandise, etc. When ownership sees numbers dipping, they know they will need a change. Asking this is a tough thing for Red Sox fans to do, however. Fans were rewarded for 86 years of faith with the 2004 championship, and even though the current club is treading water it remains within striking distance of a wild card spot. Besides, stopping support aimed at management change creates a negative impact on players, who have no say in ownership decisions.

Manchester United fans have made it clear they want change and have put their money where their mouths are. Unless things change quickly at Fenway Park, restless Red Sox fans may be taking a cue from restless Red Devils fans across the pond.

Photo (cc) by Paolo Camera and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Think Outside the Diamond: Move Off Campus Benefits University of Arizona Baseball

The Arizona Wildcats are one game away from winning the College World Series. On Monday night, the club faces South Carolina in Game 2 of the best-of-three series in Omaha, Neb. One more win gives the Wildcats their first national championship since 1986.

The University of Arizona saw an opportunity to generate interest in downtown Tucson. The move has been a home run for Wildcats baseball.

It has been a great year for Arizona baseball, both on the field and in the bank. Alicia Jessop of Business of College Sports profiles how the team has seen an increase in revenue thanks to a move to an off-campus stadium.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem to make any sense. If anything, schools typically look to move into facilities that are closer to campus. Why would Arizona move farther away? It turns out Athletic Director Greg Byrne saw an opportunity for his team to connect with the downtown Tucson community. From Jessop’s story:

“We felt that if we could re-engage Tucson with our baseball program, it would have a tremendous impact for us this year and many years to come,” Byrne said.

The team moved off-campus from Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium to Hi Corbett Field, which previously served as the spring training homes of the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies. The school invested $350,000 to update the stadium and brand it in university colors.

The move was a huge success. The Wildcats earned $350,000 in ticket revenue, more than five times what they brought in during the 2011 season. The club also had the second-highest attendance in the Pac-12, averaging 2,628 per home game. With the team’s success, Arizona was also able to host the NCAA Regional and Super Regionals, which brought in more money to the program. All told, the Wildcats fared nearly $175,000 better than they did in 2011.

The lesson other schools can learn from Arizona is not to be afraid to leave home. Though having a stadium on campus typically means better student attendance rates, Byrne and Arizona recognized they would be able to capitalize on the local community’s interest by moving closer to downtown. Several other schools could undoubtedly benefit from a move off campus by generating interest in their community. The key is to think outside the box, or diamond.

Photo (cc) by Ken Lund and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Ticket Turmoil: Baseball Ticket Sales Show Customer Isn’t Always Right

I came cross a fascinating article by Forbes contributor Lee Igel on how dynamic ticket pricing is hurting attendance in Major League Baseball. The article points to how even a successful franchise like the New York Yankees has experienced difficulty in selling tickets. Of course the downturn in the economy and poor play on the field can contribute to a team’s struggles at the box office, but Igel points to another factor: the secondary ticket market.

Stubhub brings power to the fan, but is that a good thing?

Secondary ticket sites such as Stubhub have opened new windows for sports fans looking to attend games that have already been sold out or fans who have tickets but cannot attend certain games. But because the tickets are sold based on popularity and demand, they do not have to be sold based on face value. This means tickets can be sold for much higher or lower prices than they are listed by the team.

For example, if you want a ticket to see the San Diego Padres play against the Houston Astros on June 26, you can go to the Astros’ box office and pay $13 for a seat in Section 427. A quick search on Stubhub shows you can get that same ticket for as little as $5. Why such a change in pricing? Well the Padres and Astros are currently a combined 31 games under .500, and the game is on a Tuesday night. There isn’t much demand for the ticket, so the price has been lowered on the secondary market to sell.

That same night, the Oklahoma City Thunder could (if they can stave off elimination) be hosting the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Tickets in Section 328 are face valued at $200, but on Stubhub they are up to $936. Clearly these tickets are in demand.

This brings us back to the Yankees, who say they may drop their partnership with Stubhub at the end of the season because of difficulty in selling tickets and a drag in attendance. Such a claim has been ridiculed, but Igel points out that sites like Stubhub create two problems: 1) too many choices, and 2) shifting burdens.

Igel’s argument makes sense. If you were given a list of three TV channels to watch, you’d likely make your mind up pretty fast. If you were given 300, you would be more likely to sift through your options before making a selection. In other words, adding choices makes you more hesitant to purchase for fear of passing up a better deal.

His argument of shifting burden is spot on as well. If the team sets the price on a ticket, you know what it is and decide whether or not to pay it. But now that it is other fans setting the price — some much higher than face value — the fan now has difficulty determining what a fair price is.

Perhaps Stubhub and other sites are getting too much criticism for poor attendance. But a decade after the website launched, teams are finding out that giving fans more power isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Photo (cc) by teamstickergiant and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

West Coast Bias: Los Angeles Becomes Center of Sports World for One Weekend

The Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles has seen its fair share of activity since opening in 1999. The arena has hosted events such as the Grammy Awards, Democratic National Convention and concerts from the likes of Mariah Carey, John Mayer, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Jackson.

The Staples Center could have used an Easy Button during a busy sports weekend.

But nothing could have prepared the Staples Center for what it experienced this weekend: Six NHL and NBA playoff games over four days. The NHL’s Kings made a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals and hosted Games 3 and 4 at the arena on Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile the NBA’s Clippers and Lakers — who both play at Staples but use different courts and arena setups — played their respective Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals between Friday and Sunday night.

In order, the arena transformed from Kings to Lakers to Clippers to Lakers to Kings to Clippers, and each time roughly 20,000 fans filed in and out for each game. The changeover is grueling for the 45 arena workers in charge of making the switch between games. The change from basketball to hockey is considered the most difficult, taking roughly two hours and 15 minutes to complete.

The NBA and NHL weren’t the only attractions in town, however. The MLB’s Dodgers hosted a three-game series with the defending World Series champion Cardinals from Friday to Sunday at Dodger Stadium, just over four miles away from Staples Center. Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy hosted rival Chivas USA on Saturday at the Home Depot Center, only 20 minutes south of L.A. in Carson, Calif. Throw in the Amgen Tour of California Bicycle Race, which ran through the downtown area, and you have a sports fans’ dream weekend all in one location.

Revenue numbers are still being tallied up, with the Staples Center events expected to net between $15 and $20 million for the six games. The biggest gain, however, could be seen on the gridiron. Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since the Raiders and Rams departed in 1994. Los Angeles city councilwoman Jan Perry called the busy weekend a “test case” to see how the city could handle major congestion and if a football stadium could co-exist downtown. Farmers Field, a roughly $1.25 billion football stadium and entertainment complex, has been proposed for construction downtown to be completed by 2016, but is awaiting city government and taxpayer approval. Michael Roth of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Staples Center, said the weekend’s activity was a “success on all levels.”

For one weekend at least, Randy Newman had sports fans singing along.

Photo (cc) by johanohrling and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Marathon Means Money: Boston Marathon Helps City Revenue in Big Way

Monday marks the 116th running of the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon. The event is one of the more popular events in Beantown, as it coincides with Patriots Day. With local schools closed and many residents given the day off from work, the race typically draws a big crowd along with the Red Sox annual 11 a.m. game at Fenway Park.

This year’s race looks like it will coincide with fantastic weather conditions, at least for the spectators. The temperature is expected to reach the high 80s, which has caused marathon organizers to caution inexperienced runners against participating for fear of heat-related complications. While the high heat isn’t the best thing for runners, it should help draw crowds along the street seeking sunshine.

In doing some quick research I was surprised to see just how much revenue the Marathon generates. According to the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, Monday’s race is expected to generate $137.5 million for the area. That is expected to be the second-largest revenue for the race behind only 1996 when the race field was expanded for the 100-year anniversary. This year, some 500,000 are expected to watch the roughly 27,000 participants navigate the 26.2-mile course.

The Visitors Bureau categorizes the revenue as follows: $92.4 million in money spent by athletes and guests, $16 million from fundraisers, $12 million by spectators, $10.1 million by sponsors and media and $7 million from the Boston Athletic Association. These figures have economists buzzing.

I always knew the race was big, however the $137.5 million tag really surprised me. Consider that this year’s NCAA Tournament Final Four in New Orleans drew $145 million for the Big Easy. The Final Four is undoubtedly a more popular sporting event, yet the numbers are very similar in the revenue column.

With all this business, it’s ready, set, go in Boston on Monday.

Breadwinners: How a College Basketball Team Can Make a School Millions in a Week or Less

For the second year in a row I was fortunate enough to attend the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship in Richmond, Va. The CAA Tournament crowns the champion of the Colonial Athletic Association, the conference for which Northeastern is a member of. Since I broadcast Husky basketball games for WRBB radio, I was there for the entire tournament, even after NU was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Players at the CAA Tournament looking to score for their team ... and their school.

The championship game is tonight between Drexel and VCU, with the winner going to the NCAA Tournament. Being at the tournament has only reinforced a belief I already had: athletics is a huge marketing tool for schools. I posted back in January about the “Flutie Effect” a school can go through via a big sports win, which helps attract prospective students.

One aspect of the “Flutie Effect” I failed to mention is the impact it has on alumni donations. I ran into a number of Northeastern alumni over the weekend. I got the sense from all of them that the team’s performance in the tournament would dictate how much money they were willing to donate back to the school.

One Drexel alum told me his school’s 19-game winning streak will equate to major donations this year, many in the five-digit category. VCU made the Final Four last year and raked in the donations. The Rams’ run was good for the rest of the conference, which was rewarded with $1.9 million for getting a team into the Final Four. Of course, this can lead to problems, as UConn found out with its football program.

What’s fascinating to me is this one tournament — with 12 teams playing 11 games over four days — can make or break a school’s financial revenue for the year. Take Towson for example. The Tigers are in turmoil and this season set the Division 1 record for most consecutive losses at 41. Back in December, the New York Times wrote a feature story on Towson’s struggles and the rebuilding work the program has gone through. The Tigers have won exactly one game in the past 15 months, yet if the team somehow pulled off an incredible run in this tournament, you can bet they’d make the school millions.

I will be at tonight’s sold out championship game where at the end of the night players and fans of the winning team will storm the court in celebration. Back at that school’s alumni office, there is sure to be celebration as well.