Friday, October 12, 2007

PGA Needs more exposure

Hard to believe huh? To even suggest that a sport with an icon like Tiger Woods needs more exposure seem ridiculous.

Or does it? The PGA with Tiger is a machine. The PGA without Tiger is the local State Am.

In my opinion one of the reasons is because the public has not been communicated who else is out there. There can not be a less endorsed group of high profile athletes as the PGA tour - sans Tiger. To give you a strong parallel, they are NASCAR in the late eighties.

In NASCAR in the late eighties, the major corporate sponsors were Valvoline, STP, Shell, Skoal, and maybe Holley (carburetors). Now, let's look around at some of the NASCAR title sponsors - M&Ms, Tide, Kellogg's, US Army, Home Depot, and Budweiser. Most of the major team sponsors of NASCAR in the past were centered around "cars". Today they center around the top consumer products on earth.

Now, fast forward to the PGA. The major sponsors are either tied to golf in some sort of way or some obscure financial advising company. Those sponsors are certainly worthwhile and have provided a significant source of revenue for the PGA players, but I believe the tour needs to figure out ways to break into the consumer product categories. Hell, they copied NASCAR's playoff system in their FedEx Cup, why not follow their business model pertaining to sponsors?

Let's take someone close to Vanderbilt, Brandt Snedeker. All American at Vanderbilt, soon-to-be PGA Rookie of the Year, and top ten on the money list for 2007. Not bad. What would be a perfect product for him to endorse that might fit the above mentioned challenges? (look at him) See that damn million dollar smile? How about Crest? Brandt may or may not continue to have outstanding success on the golf course, but his smile is going nowhere. By Brandt leveraging Crest, and assuming Crest activates around him, he could truly become a household name - at least every time you go to brush your teeth. A mom might bump into his stand up cutout at the grocery store and wonder who is this floppy-haired guy?

NASCAR also does a phenomenal job of getting their drivers to interact with their respective sponsor's clients/fans, thus enhancing the relationship tenfold. In our Brandt example, all those with a Crest toothbrush are allowed entry into an exclusive event with Brandt, or private golf demonstration, etc.

One final brilliant NASCAR strategy that the PGA should copy was the ABC primetime reality series inside the lives of four NASCAR families. Like The Contender meets the Bachelor. As much of a non-NASCAR fan as I am, if I am stuck watching a race I am definitely pulling for Pablo Montoya who apparently is despised by everyone for his aggressiveness. I would say I am a casual PGA fan, but how much do I really know about Jim Furyk? Or Vijay Singh? Zero.

Bottom line, for the PGA to better "Tiger proof" its tour, some creative awareness might need to be discussed in order to create the NASCAR version of the links.

Take care.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Team Effort Escapes Me

At Vanderbilt we recently put together fundraising promotion with our children's hospital. We hoped to sell additional tickets to a conference game that would otherwise not be sold, make a sizable donation to to a worthy cause, and garner the benefit of a local/national celebrity (Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn) endorsing our team and program.

I would rate the promotion at about a B. While we sold some more tickets, and made a decent donation to the children's hospital, we made great strides in branding our department and University as one that cares about our community and a very fine Nashville partner. Many people in the community commented on the generosity in a day and age of college athletics where money and spending is getting out of control. (see $100+M budget at Ohio State).

But this post is to talk about some of the things I learned along the way and the importance of building a consensus in support of a project.

I had the notion that because my fellow employees shared many of the same passions and interests, that the promotion alone would sell itself to them (my fellow employees). I had the thought that they would just blindly follow whatever lead I took in generating support for this cause. However, I think I was mistaken.

I sent an email to the staff of 100+ with some emotional case studies of children in the hospital and three specific bullets o how they could help. One of those options included simply forwarding the email along to their friends and family with a personal note of endorsement at the top. While I do not have data to support this, I have a pretty good hunch that less than 25% of the staff even forwarded the email! Shocking to me.

However, I learned something.

I put myself in their shoes. While I had lived and breathed this promotion for over 6 months, to many this email was probably their first exposure. (even though there was a significant media campaign and press coverage). So, it may have been "just another promotion or University initiative that they are asking me to help" ... delete.

To put it in another example, I asked myself how much I really paid attention to/assisted in communicating our new No Smoking policy. Not much. Why, because it just did not interest me. That is my fault.

In future such big ideas or projects I think I would try a few of the following:
  • Over communicate the launch of the idea to the staff
  • Communicate using varying mediums - email, voicemail, flyer in their mailbox
  • Personally distribute plan including the benefits and opportunity
  • Follow up with in person staff meeting visits
  • And for this type of event, maybe take as many staffmembers as possible on a tour of the hospital.

I had the thought if I put together a decent idea, the staff would simply do whatever I asked just because we work in the same place. That was wrong. And I will be better for it next time.

Take care.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Who's the boss?

First and foremost, I must apologize for the long ... long ... long delay in posts. I made a commitment to this blog, and I have not made it enough of a priority.

However ...

That changes today! (for now)

The question to ponder is "Who is the boss?"

To ask the question differently, who should be the target of a marketing staff in regards to game entertainment? I have operated for years with the mindset that everything I do should be to "Make money and make fans." It is even on the bottom of every staff meeting agenda. Everything we do is aimed at those paying the bills.

However, I recently have been involved in some eye-opening conversations with our coaches. While I still maintain my current opinion of where our attention should be, I see a little bit more of the other side.

For example: our basketball game entertainment has carefully been crafted to create our own niche in the Nashville market while creating and deepening our brand with a distinctly collegiate feeling. That is what is selling tickets, that is what entertains our fans, and that is what differentiates us from the pro sports around town.

But, for a coach, what matters most is "pumping up" their own players for the game at hand and also entertaining their recruits in the stands. Those two objectives are usually mutually exclusive to what our department has tried to create. A 55 year old woman in the bleachers would really rather not hear the latest from Jay Z played at deafening decibels. She could have got that at a Predators game down the road.

My opinion is unchanged, but surely there is a way to marry the two together.

Take care.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lessons learned

If you didn't know, Vanderbilt's outspoken maverick, also Chancellor, accepted the same position back at Ohio State where he was President from 1990-97.

Many friends and colleagues have been asking the obvious question related to athletic ... "will you be getting an AD again?"

Of course, I have no idea. Anyone who has an idea is a fool unless they are position on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust or the search committee.

I still am not sure whether or not the restructuring is the right way to go for VU, but there have definitely been some lessons learned throughout the process.

The much ballyhooed integration of the athletic department focused on student-athlete integration. But perhaps, in my opinion, the most important lesson learned through Gee was entire University integration.

I routinely have interaction with colleagues from the VU Hospital, Children's Hospital, University Public Affairs, and University donor relations. In most Universities, the tail many times wags the dog - Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, etc By working hand in hand, not only did the University community develop some new found respect for each other, we also realized the value in leveraging our assets and relationships.

So if I had one request from Chancellor (Fill in the blank), please allow/encourage cross departmental organization. It is for the good of the University and the employee.

Take care.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Naming Not Nonsense

What do the following have in common:
Which Wich
Venti Caramel Mocchiato
Cherry Garcia

Not only are the above very successful products or brands, but they are also incredibly fun to say. Are they not?

I mean, two weeks ago I probably had 30 people asking other folks what the heck a Flugtag was. I didn't know either, but after asking and discovering, I felt I had some sort of weird, event-name currency because not everyone knew what it was. It is this type of "currency" that is the foundation of Buzzmarketing.

Clearly the Flugtag was a pretty good event, but the more interesting thing was that not once did I see one mass media ad. Not one. Yet I wanted to go, many people I knew went. Why? I think a lot goes back to having a fun name.

So what in the world might this have to do with college marketing? That is what I trying to determine. Since I can't rename our University, let's look at some opportunities we may have.

Concessions, parking lots, ticket packages, seating sections, game personnel, etc. With our branding efforts centered around true student-athlete, social affair, Nashville tradition, collegiality, family entertainment, and the underdog below are some random attempts:
  • Buttonhook Burger (might allow a Dad to explain what the heck a buttonhook is to his son)
  • Hot Diggity Dog (stolen)
  • Me, Mom, and Pop Pack (family ticket package)
  • Yippi Di Do Da Dollar Days ($1 ticket games)
  • Tickle Me Tater Tots

You see where this is going. Join in, and send me your samples.

Take care.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Shaq Attack

You ever been asked to play the "If you had five people you could have dinner with, who would they be?" game?

Me too, as recent as last week.

Weird though, only one name had a definite seat at the table ... Shaquille O'Neal. Not exactly President Bush, or Ghandi, or the Pope, or even Michael Jordan (although he would probably be there though). The folks in the car kind of laughed, but I sincerely would enjoy spending time with Shaq.

Yes, a big part of it is his humor. I think he is the funniest cat out there. He would certainly have me in stitches before the night was over. But he is more.

I have heard numerous stories that paint the picture of him being the perfect star athlete. From him being Shaq-a Claus, to Shaqs-giving, to his life long passion to be a police officer after his NBA career is over he just genuinely wants to help. He is leveraging his star status to make a difference in this world. And I appreciate that.

The most recent illustration of him using his stature for common good is his newest TV show on ABC called Shaq's Big Challenge. He takes 6 obese children and will teach and train them on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

But he does it only as Shaq can. He is simply hilarious. His show is great ... so far. Hopefully, with the humor woven into the reality show, maybe parents and children can learn something. We as Americans are getting ridiculously fat. No, not heavy, not overweight, but FAT. If calling our children fat is going to motivate them into a healthy lifestyle, then by all means.

We have a program at Vanderbilt called Building Dores where we challenge elementary aged kids to keep an activity log for 2 weeks in exchange for a free ticket. I am very proud of this program and it has proven to be a great success as it relates to selling tickets. However, this show has me rethinking how we can make a real difference in these kids' lives.

Check out the show. If you have children, TiVO the show and watch them all.

I have used the following label for Shaq in the past and I feel even more strongly that he is my generation's Ali.

Take care.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Guarding Angel

So, I am feeling kind of sad. No, not sad about Angel Cabrera winning the US Open. But rather, sad because an American failed to win "our" golf tournament ... again.

Is that wrong? Is that racism? I am clearly cheering against every race other than American in the US Open. And I think this makes four straight that foreigners have won. Hmm. It was just very weird to have to have an interpreter do the interview following the US Open trophy presentation.

This is further evidence that this world is really shrinking. And really, I like it. I like a smaller world. I like the NBA champions having a nationality pot-luck style roster.

Kind of ironic that I am having these thoughts after the SI article I read last night on Omar Minaya. He has realized the true benefit at the big league level of having a multicultural roster on and off the field. And better yet, how to motivate and inspire them. The managers of tomorrow in the business world, where diversity management will be paramount, might take the time to learn the lessons people like Omar are teaching.

We Americans might have some humble pie to scarf down before we can take another step forward as a nation. But, there is still not other place I would want to be, good 'ole US of A.

Take care.