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.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

NACDA Review

It has been a while since my last post, but believe me much has been happening. Below is but a taste:

  • Vanderbilt baseball won the SEC Tournament
  • Vanderbilt baseball garnered the No 1 overall seed in the Road to Omaha
  • VU hosts first ever NCAA Baseball Regional
  • Sold out all seats for Regional before Monday
  • Lost Track coach; resigned
  • Lost baseball regional in dramatic fashion Monday to Michigan
  • Lost very successful women's golf coach - went to Texas
  • My staff and I attended NACDA Convention
  • I spoke on our customer service program at NACDA
  • VU has begun our second Sales Academy
  • VU football season ticket sales are about 37% ahead of last year

A big part of the time recently was attending the NACDA Convention in Orlando, FL. While I will try to speak in more detail soon, below are the highlights.

  • Learned that ESPN 360 will soon become a major player in "television" rights game. ESPN 360 is's subscription service that has broadcasted some games so far, but will leverage their ESPN network rights agreements in the future to distribute many non-televised games but also could potentially supersede the RSN in the future. Stay tuned.
  • Of course, we made some more really good contacts in the business. It is funny, my first year I was wasting time in the exhibit area because I knew no one. But now, I barely even noticed the exhibitors because I am becoming more familiar with the people at the various institutions.
  • We talked more with CLC who will become our licensee in July. I am so excited at what possibilities exist as we move forward.
  • Saw the Space Shuttle take off! Freakin cool.
  • Learned that the college industry is VERY slow to adopt the pro sports sales model for selling tickets. While there is certainly momentum for hiring sales staffs, the movement is very slow. I don't get it. Everyone that has made the leap, reaps the rewards.
  • Gave my presentation on our Deputy Dores program which is a group of volunteers performing random acts of kindness. It is shocking how many people are interested in customer service, yet have no sort of plan. I thought I did well, but certainly tailed off on the third g0-around of a 45 minute presentation.
  • Listened to a pretty good speech by Head South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier. More on that later.
  • Coined a term - Networking Nitwit. I ave discovered there are some people that have an uncanny ability to network themselves extremely well with very little substance. However, these people do end up getting good jobs in this industry. Makes me wonder ... who exactly is the Nitwit?
  • Definitely wonder why some departments and schools choose not to send their staffs on a professional development trip like this. It just offers too much.

That's a good recap, and I will get back in the saddle with my posts now. Things I am paying attention to these days include:

Take care.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Predator Possibilities?

By possibilities, I am referring to those possibilities that might exist for Vanderbilt. Since 1998 when Nashville welcomed two professional franchises into the market, we (Vanderbilt) have struggled to keep up. (until recently)

But after the Predators were sold, and much of the speculation is that the team will be moving, we have begun having discussions about making sure those businesses that have supported the Predators fulfill their business needs with their friend who has never left and never will, the Commodores.

-- Allow me to speak as a Nashvillian for a minute. I love my city, and whether I am a Pred fan or not, the Predators are good for the city, even if it means making my job more difficult. The Predators provide a vibrant downtown nightlife that would be nonexistent in the winter months otherwise. Of course, I do not pretend to know the financial situations related to the city's deal with the Preds. --

Back to the topic. The love affair with pro sports has taken a hit recently. We at Vanderbilt have fielded many compliments from those that have defected from the Titans or Predators. After taking our lumps and being knocked down a few pegs in the Nashville sports community, we have attacked the corporate culture with creativity, work ethic, and superior service as related to the corporate community. And the results are showing. Our corporate revenue has taken a sharp increase recently int he sponsorship and hospitality categories.

Now, the opportunity has presented itself to go further on the offensive now that the Predators are facing extinction. We are excited, prepared, and eager to accept this new challenge.

But the challenge will not be easy. The Predator fans are rallying around the chance they could actually play a part in keeping the team in Nashville. They will have the help from local media (who have an obvious vested interest in the team staying), and the target of 14,000 average attendance is an attainable goal. It will be very interesting to see the response of Nashville to the very public 'NEED of ticket sales or lose the team' messages.

For me, I will be happy either way. I just love having the opportunity to learn ... either what to do or what not to do if I am every faced with a similar issue in my professional life.

Take care.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Identity Discovery

Marketing guru.

Biggest Titan fan I know.

Money bags.

Wall Street Journal evangelist.


A Mac is the way to go.

Huge "24" fan

The above phrases are but a few descriptions of people I have heard just in the last 24 hours. Some sound negative. Some are hard to measure. But all are part of a little secret in marketing successfully ... discover a way for your customer to use you in their identity.

People love labels. Labels stick. Bad part is, when you get an identity, it is only as strong as the amount of dilution. In Nashville, it is very hard to be the "biggest Titan fan". Pretty soon, you are just a fan like everyone else.

So what can an organization do to allow customers to identify themselves with your product, yet not make is so diluted they become bored with it?

I do not have an answer, but I am thinking on it. Maybe in the near future I will write more on the subject. This fascinates me.

Take care.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Campaign Copycat

I am not a terribly political person. However, I love a presidential campaign as I tend to learn an awful lot about PR, spin, crisis management, positioning, communication, and most of all marketing.

After surfing a few presidential hopefuls' websites, it dawned on me that college athletic departments can learn a lot from the way a presidential campaign can be complemented online.

Obama 08 was the first that caught my attention. (actually, the first was W's in '04 who apparently was the first to embrace the online medium effectively - I don't count Howard Dean)

Now before I go any further, let me reiterate I do not have a current opinion on any candidate, but I am merely analyzing their campaigns from the online community only. There, I don't want my conservative buddies lined up at the office when I get to work!

Some of the highlights I like that could easily translate to college athletics:
  • HUGE "Donate button" - duh
  • Answer Center
  • Blog - I personally think an athletic fundraising blog should share stories from around the program, coaches, etc
  • Well produced video pieces carefully illustrating the message
  • Grassroots initiatives online
  • Clear objectives - recruiting your vote (fan support) and raise funds
  • Calendar of events including volunteer opportunities

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I think this can begin the thinking that would lead to a more active solicitation of an online relationship with a large group of people.

By providing some easy points of entry or new ways for fans of your school to become active, a site can deepen the relationship and emotional bond for a donor or fan.

Take care.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My Playoff Plan

I really do not consider myself an NBA fan, however the past few Mays, I have found myself tuning in and thoroughly enjoying the Playoffs. But, this always makes me wonder why I watch ZERO regular season games.

This morning on the Sports Reporters, one the discussion points was on how insignificant the regular seasons are becoming for every major professional sport.

Almost half the teams make the playoffs for each of the major sports, thus the regular season is getting diluted. And I strongly agree.

But this is something that I have thought for a while, and I think I have a relatively decent solution.

Keep the number of teams in the playoffs, keep the seven game series (obviously this will not apply to NFL), but only play the games on the higher seed's home arena/stadium.

What? Yea, I'll say it again, all games played at the higher seed's home.

It really is not that difficult for a lower seed team to win a series nowadays. All they have to do is steal ONE game on the road and then the 82 game NBA regular season is nullified and the lower seed now has the advantage. It is happening more and more often. Lower seeded teams are winning.

Let's look a little deeper. It is a well known fact that some teams will rest players with nagging injuries, not give their maximum effort, and generally cruise through the regular season should they be good enough o be in the playoffs. Why? Because the seeding carries very little weight. If you had the top team in the NBA, and you had a one game lead on the second place team, but your star tweaked his ankle late in the regular season? Would you rather have your star 100% for the playoffs by resting him, or play him so you can hold on to the top seed? Everyone will do the former.

But, should that team potentially have to play the final series at the No 2 seed's home arena/stadium should they lose the final few games, I think more of them would play.

This plan will put significant emphasis on the regular season and the battle for the seeds.

Of course, you are probably thinking about the lost revenue for the lower seeded team? I have a plan for that too. Pretty simple really. All ticket, concessions, sponsorship, and ancillary revenue produced by the higher seeded team will be split right down the middle with the lower seeded team.

The few drawbacks include taking playoff home games away from half of your markets could jeopardize some of the fan avidity come postseason time. But I think this will be offset by the increase in attention and focus paid to the increased significance of the regular season.

My plan certainly has a few holes, but I think there is not enough on the line during the regular season, and having to play all games on the road of the higher seed's turf could make the regular season a bit more important.

Take care.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Prized Products

I thought I might pass along a couple of products that have blown me away recently. might be the most useful tool since the fork. Are you like me in that you call your own voicemail several times, leaving yourself a message for you to get when you get to work? (isn't that awkward at the end, I mean do you say bye? Or have a nice day? Or take care?) Anyway, makes this process a bit easier. After registering for the free service, you can call the Jott phone line (programmed into your phone of course), speak your message to yourself, then will email you your message. Cool huh? If you are like me, and utilize your inbox to be sort of a to-do list, this service is a must-have.

The second product is more of a service as well. Erica Erck, a lifestyle photographer, blew my wife and I away with her talent. We have a two year old girl, and were needing a springtime photo. We were debating between a relatively expensive hired gun (Erica) and the old faithful Sears photo studio. I mean Sears had a $10 special going on! Obviously I am not endorsing Sears, so needless to say we bit the bullet and went with Erica. We were very nervous as anytime you have a two year old you never know what will happen. But, Erica was able to turn the 7 total minutes of time out of the 2 hour shoot that our daughter was happy into 75 masterpieces. I mean seriously, these photos are amazing (Gracie in the park). Of course, I think my daughter is cute, I mean every father does, but these are far and above beyond anything I expected. I am happy with my fee to pay her for her time, and ecstatic with forking over the money needed to print the photos.

Take care.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Little Johnny

For those that don't know me, I am a freak about customer service. That being said, I am still not thrilled with the level of customer service we provide at Vanderbilt events. I think it is very good, however my expectations are closer to Disney than to a college football game.

Enter Johnny.

While incredibly cheesy, and closely resembling some sort of powerpoint chain email my Mom might send, the message should come through loud and clear.

Make a difference. Impact one of your customers in a special, unexpected way.

While we certainly are not quite the caliber of Johnny, we have a pretty good program called Deputy Dores where we provide "random acts of kindness" to our patrons. These 'random' acts are hardly random at all, only random in that they appear to be random to the fan who receives one of them. The experiences can range from a free golf cart ride from the parking lot, complimentary concessions for an entire family, a seat upgrade from the rafters of basketball to the 3rd row (but we do not make a big scene about it like some people's Best Seats in the House), or handing out free Kid Commodore hats and face tattoos.

We estimate that our 40 Deputy Dores "touch" or provide Magic Moments (yea, stolen from Disney) to about 500 fans per game or 3,000 people over the course of a 6 game football season. Obviously there is some possible overlap, but if 3,000 people tell 10 fiends about their "Magic Moment" we have imprinted a positive image of a Vanderbilt game on 30,000 potential VU fans. That is the kind of viral marketing we could be proud of.

We have not cured cancer or anything, but these types of programs are far underutilized when creating a solid marketing plan. So go put the 'ole phrase (it takes $7 more to attract a new customer as to retain a current one) to practical use. Yea, I said it, take your AD BUDGET to fund your Magic Moment program.

Take care.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Press is Pressing

I live in Nashville, Tennessee home of the Tennessee Titans. The Titans used to be the Houston Texans.

Why the brief history lesson? The focal point of this post is on John McClain, a sports columnist for the Houston Chronicle who is one of my favorite guests on our local radio talk show on WKDF The Zone.

McClain, even though I love his NFL insights, seems to be pressing a bit about access the media should receive from major sports organizations. In a conversation last week discussing the NFL and how some of their injury reports are very vague or purposefully "questionable", McClain made the point that NFL GMs owe it to the fans who pay for their tickets, buy their sponsorships, fill up their suites, and buy their merchandise to communicate with them ... (and here is the line in question) by utilizing the media.

McClain's point was pretty much on the money. Teams do owe it tot he fans to communicate info in a timely, accurate manner. However, I disagree that a power the likes of the NFL "needs" the media to communicate. The NFL knows that many fans get their news straight from the team's website more and more these days. McClain surely knows that too as it has been widely reported that mass media entities, such as a newspaper, are struggling to catch up to a world that appears to have passed them by.

But let's look a little closer. Who is right? The team will obviously skew its coverage towards the positive when the chance presents itself. But the media provides an unbiased look into the issue, thus letting the reader decide.

Right? Maybe, but maybe not. Every fan base has their conspiracy theories about columnists' intentions to undermine an organization. So, albeit that a team site might provide a very "homer" tone to its information, many fans actually want to hear that.

So where are we? Not sure. But I firmly believe there is room for both entities to coexist. But, it will be a work in progress.

Take care.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Great Expectations

No, this is not a post about the 1998 movie that starred Gwyneth Paltrow, but rather an important management lesson I am learning.

As I grow and evolve as a manager and leader, I am learning various successful (and too many unsuccessful) techniques. However, one I recently implemented with what appears to be a bit of success is that setting clear expectations are paramount.

I have sometimes taken for forget that those I lead have not had the same experiences, successes, failures, motivating events, or diverse happenings that shape who I am and who I aspire to be. For those reasons, it would be impossible for those I lead to just "know" what I define as successful.

So, I gotta tell 'em. Sounds pretty straightforward huh?

Well, my recent example was with an employee who has some real talent for entertaining a crowd and putting together a good show. However, this person just wasn't "getting it" as some people like to say. So, about two months ago, as a staff, we collaborated and established some very tangible, pass/fail, expectations.

Guess what? It worked. Not only did this person excel at the limited list of expectations, but the level of excitement and confidence is soaring through the roof.

It is ironic. What my 2 year old daughter can do pretty well, I sometimes have trouble with - communication.

Take care.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Maker's Mark's Word of Mouth Program

While planning our annual trip to Keeneland for the Bluegrass Stakes horse race, I was talking to a friend who used to live in Lexington for some advice. She informed me of a great little party on the Friday night put on by Maker's Mark, but it is "Invite Only". After visions of all the clips and photos from Millionaire's ow at the Derby, I immediately discounted what sounded like a great party - Thoroughbreds and Redheads.

Then the kicker - she said all you have to do is register at for their free Ambassadors program. Voila.

After logging on, registering myself as an Ambassador for Maker's Mark, researching the party a little bit, it hit me - this is brilliant buzz marketing. To take it a step further, I called the other couple who are making the trip with me about the program and more importantly the party.

Here's the highlights of the Ambassadors Program:
  • Free by simply filling out an online form
  • Access to a password protected website containing historical info, upcoming events, my barrel update, and tools
  • As an Ambassador I get my name (along with 17 others) as an owner of a whiskey barrel. Plus, I can purchase whiskey from my barrel in just 7 short years.
  • Exclusive access to free events like the after party of the Makers Mark Mile (the Friday horse race before the Bluegrass Stakes)
  • Tools - these are brilliant, availability to request (free) invitation cards to invite others to join the club
  • Free, unannounced gifts. Actually they do not promote this as it is intended to be a surprise. Apparently, at Christmas, and my barrel's birthday I will get gifts in the mail. Good gifts like a set of bourbon glasses with stirrers.

I know you are thinking, why in the world is Eric talking so glowingly about whiskey, is he an alcoholic? No, I don't even like whiskey. (first alcohol I ever got drunk on, now I cringe at the smell) But I am intrigued at this level of marketing.

They are obviously holding out the special parties as a carrot to get people talking, to get people to sign up, to begin the relationship with Maker's Mark. That is what got me. Once hooked, they have a very extensive program by which I should become more engaged in our new relationship.

Maker's Mark is capitalizing on everyone's desire to be an "insider".

My question is, how can we do that with Vanderbilt Athletics? I mean, I have absolutely no interest in drinking Maker's Mark, but I feel connected, almost obligated to purchase a bottle or two to have in my house when we entertain those that do like whiskey. Perhaps we can accomplish the same sort of connection with the hundreds of thousands of transplants to Nashville as it relates to VU? I mean, they are "true Michigan State fans" or "the biggest Nebraska fan", but perhaps by creating a program by which a connection can be made we can begin the acceptance of Vanderbilt as their "2nd" favorite team - or "my new home team".

Maybe the carrot could be an exclusive tailgate party in Vandyville. Or a pregame exclusive credential granting field level access before kickoff. Maybe exclusive gear.

The issue I am running in my head is how to generate revenue. Or how to enable them to spread the word. Or how to spread the word while keeping it exclusive.

Thoughts? Email me.

Take care.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Like reaching in your pocket and finding $20,000

Well, not quite. But we have uncovered a little revenue nugget at Vanderbilt that all athletic departments should actively pursue.

Facility rental for non-traditional purposes. We all receive requests for basketball games, Special Olympic events, or maybe even concerts. But unless you have a promoter on your staff, relying on those sorts of opportunities could be a daunting task.

At VU, we have discovered a market for our premium basketball donor rooms for non-traditional events. A list of the events we are pursuing/booking are below:
  • Wedding rehearsal dinner
  • Corporate sales meeting
  • March Madness viewing parties
  • Wedding receptions
  • Birthday parties
  • Sales presentations
  • Holiday parties

After we began promoting our venue for holiday parties this winter, we have had several inquiries for renting the facility. Those inquiries led to us researching how we might fit into the wedding market by meeting with a wedding planner. Low an behold, she stated that there was a shortage of spaces our size, and coupled with the unique environment around Memorial Gym we should do very well.

After some intial evaluations, we estimate we can generate at least $20k in revenue this year, withthe number escalating in years to come.

In the never-ending search for more revenue, sometime you should look around you to find your answers.

Take care.

I get no respect!

I began this post by Googling those schools in the hoops tourney that used the no respect tag as motivation.

I had intended on linking a few of them, but there were so many I choose not to link to any of them. This is getting ridiculous.

If everyone is getting 'no respect', then who is?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

One Shining Moment

So we are one of the best 16 men's basketball teams in America. The Vanderbilt Commodores. It is a fun time to be a Commodore. It IS Good to be Gold!

It is kind of funny the kinds of questions and requests you get when a school reaches the Sweet 16. We spend hours upon hours, scratching, clawing, begging for coverage from our local media who are all so enamoured by the local pro sports teams to give us as much time as we feel we deserve. (of course, yes, we all think we could use more coverage. Actually I think we are treated closer to fair than unfair)

But, now we are fielding media requests from national sources and potential hospitality from places I would never have dreamed. You see, because of the tight turnaround, many parties have to begin contingency planning for all 16 teams that are left for Final Four plans.

Below is a brief list of the calls/requests we did not get a week ago:
  • Approve artwork for the National Championship Wheaties cereal box
  • Provide number of people interested in taking a charter bus from Atlanta to Augusta during the off day of the Final Four
  • Jim Rome media request
  • Cold Pizza media request
  • Mike and Mike in the Morning
  • NY Times
  • USA Today
  • Around the Horn
  • Atlanta Journal Constitution
This is all very fun, and very hectic. We have a great staff that is working their tails off right now and should be commended.

But all this makes me wonder, is this what it is like all the time at UNC, Texas, USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Florida? Probably.

PS - Of course, from my perspective we are plugging our Band Together campaign that has the Commodore Nation wearing white and headbands to all events. Should we make the Final Four, they could become "cult-like" and be in high demand.

Take care.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Local Media Gone Loco

We at Vanderbilt are smack in the middle of a great amount of success, but you wouldn't know it by watching the local TV media.

But, I do not blame the media. It's not their fault ... at least not entirely. Yes, there could be a little less Pacman Jones stories, and yes we are in the shadow of the Tennessee Vols to a certain extent, but the real problem lies in the era we are in. The internet era. (maybe we are past it, but for my purposes, let's call it that)

Here's the rub, we recently were at the SEC men's basketball tournament, and had a student send-off of our team to the NCAA tournament and one local station was noticeably absent at both. To some this may not be shocking, but the network absent has always been one our better partners.

When pressed, you would not believe the answer ... THE videographer was on vacation and the news department would not lend one of their video guys. Yea, the sports department of a major local TV media station in an NFL town has ONE video guy. Amazing.

This is just the nature of the beast. Those who know me have heard me preach for a while about the inability of mass media to accomplish my goals. (nothing new there, everyone sees that trend) Therefore, the media outlets' ad revenue is plummeting. With no ad sales, no budget. No budget, no video guy.

But this blog is not to whine and complain, but rather to propose a solution to what will be a problem to everyone. I think there are a few things that can be done to stem the tide, and perhaps allow for more coverage.
  1. Provide video footage for media - create a system by which the media could be able to pull video clips from a server as needed. Perhaps they could even request questions to be asked thereby keeping the reporter in the station or another assignment
  2. Enhance your website - your own website should be the leader in ALL content related to your entity. This includes press releases, opinion columns, video, audio, message boards, etc
  3. Develop the infrastructure now so you will not need the media in the future - even as poorly as I perceive the ad value of the media, they still push info to a broader audience than our website can currently reach. However, our website is more targeted to those interested in VU. Therefore while in this transition period, your site should leverage every opportunity and every new technology to push info to those not necessarily interested in you. I wish I could say right now what that is, but I am sure it will be developing soon.

We are in a transitional period relating to local media. Those that embrace it, enhance it, and address it will be the winner in this race.

Take care.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Failing to plan is planning to fail

That is one phrase I can not get out of my head. I am not even sure where I heard it first. But, me and my staff work very hard to be prepared to capitalize on any sliver of success.

March 2007 provides such an opportunity.

While I will not talk about the full plan (I believe in jinxes), we will launch the second phase tonight on our website,

What a good March Madness plan should include:
  1. Buzz -the plan should be something creative, that is easy to spread around a group of fans who are eager to share in some fandom
  2. Media Friendly - a new campaign/plan should be easy to implement and grasp and capture via the print/TV/radio media.
  3. Scalable - a solid plan should have the ability to scale up depending on the level of enthusiasm and success.
  4. Revenue - you really do not have a plan if there is no provision for revenue generation
  5. Interactivity - a good campaign in the Internet era (can we still say that?) should allow for fans to share in their excitement whether it be in photos, videos, or written pieces.

Many of our plans of which we are most proud never see the light of day. Let's hope we get to phase II of the campaign. Stay tuned as I will discuss each phase as they happen and provide some critique of how well we did.

Take care.

Monday, February 26, 2007

No, You Suck!

I recently had the pleasure to attend a "big time" hockey game when the Nashville Predators hosted the Detroit Red Wings. Aside from wanting to see the best atmosphere in Nashville hockey, I wanted to see if the best of what pro hockey has to offer compared with the best that college basketball has in terms of excitement.

Well, I was not surprised. While the hockey game was thrilling, it did not even come close to matching the energy and enthusiasm of either the Vanderbilt - Florida game or the VU - Kentucky game this past Sunday.

I may post more on some other pro vs. college business questions, but I will wait for another time.

I want to address the eroding language at sporting events.

Maybe I am getting old. Maybe I was always sort of a fuddy-duddy. But the off-color chants are getting very tired. I sat through a three period hockey game where the only thing the crowd would get into (other than goals) was a "you suck" or "Chelios is a sissy" or something to that effect. This language is not unique to pro sports as I constantly have to listen to VU students chant "bullshit" any time there is a bad call.

Why? Why is this cool? It clearly is, because everyone loves to do it. They love to do it, then brag to a buddy about starting the bullshit chant. I can sort of see back in the day, you know when you did not hear shit, hell, and damn every day on free TV, but is it still cool to say bullshit when it is not really prohibited anywhere? I mean if Leave it to Beaver premiered this season, Wally and the Beav would be telling Ward that "thes damn chores are bullshit!"

Yes, I am being a bit of a hypocrite again, as I am sure I have chanted things like this before, but I am older now. My career is different now. Every time a chant like that starts at VU, my face gets a little red when I am out there selling the family entertainment. "Hey, bring your kid, we are the clean sports team in town." Except when 2,000 people are chanting bullshit and you have to tell your 5 year old a) what they are saying, and b) that even though all these people look like they are enjoying it, it is not a good thing to do.

Sorry for the rant, but I am just wondering if maybe we can get a little more creative. I am clearly in the wrong, as everyone enjoys it.

I guess I will sit quietly, and figure out how to channel that energy into something less embarrassing.

Take care.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Courting a catastrophy

To storm, or not to storm, that is the question.

What do you think? Do college kids deserve to storm the court after an impressive upset?

I think not.

Yea, I am a bit of a hypocrite in that my alma mater Tennessee-Martin defeated Southern California (yea that one) and I was among those who stormed.

However, I see things differently now. I am not going to get into all the dangers as those have been covered so many times. But, I want to get into how to stop it.

This is not as easy it may seem. At least, it is not easy at VU. Our court is raised such that there is no physical barrier keeping the student section in their seats.

But the question really is whether to use force or not. No one wants to have video of a few cops clubbing kids that refused to obey the law and rush the court thereby challenging the officer's manhood. but, no one wants to see the star player that hit the winning shot "Teddy Ginned" in the celebration.

Me, I choose to protect my student-athletes. I use force. I train my officers on several option other than force, but give them full authority to do whatever it takes to protect my student-athletes.

But, what really needs to happen is for the networks to stop glorifying the event. Why not cut away like they do when there is a streaker or fight or anything else that is unethical to promote.

Until that does, here's to "We must protect this house!"

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ROI Gone Wrong

Call me a "flip-flopper".

Call me "John Kerry wannabe".

Wave your hands from side to side emphatically to illustrate I can not stand by my own philosophies.

That's OK, I'm man enough to take it. I have recently reconsidered my position on ROI as it relates to marketing.

My longtime belief was that it was absolutely stupid to spend any money if you did not expect a significant return on the investment. The theory came from Jon Spoelstra. I am a disciple, and I usually follow his models religiously. However, I find myself in a baseball mess where I can almost guarantee a 0 ROI, but I am spending anyway.

Let's get one thing straight though, I am still not spending cash on the antiquated idea of mass media marketing. Every dollar will go into direct mail, email, or database phone messaging.

Our situation at VU could not be better. Our baseball team is currently ranked No 3, we have an All American pitcher in David Price (above) and an All American 3rd baseman in Pedro Alvarez who are both considered the top overall picks in their respective MLB drafts (o7, 08). We have a lot of equity in a very likable, intense head coach in Tim Corbin. We have a great atmosphere, but it could improve. We are sold out of season tickets before we throw the first pitch.

What's wrong? No shows.

I know, I know a pro team would NEVER do what I am doing. But I think college sports might be a slightly different animal in that we count on the collegiate energy generated from a good crowd to be a big part of our entertainment. When they are not there, we do not have the entertainment to assist in a poor performance we lose a little equity.

You might be saying "People do not like your product?". That is not entirely true. We have a great turnout, but with only 2,000 seats a missing 150 really is noticed. Word from our fans is that committing to three straight days of baseball in this town with so much to do is quite the tall task.

Therefore, my challenge is to get people who have already paid for their tickets to show up to all three games. Therefore, every ounce of money we spend, will get 0 return. (obviously there are ancillary revenue sources such as concessions) So I will concede and put together a database marketing plan to fill the seats at Hawkins Field. Below are a few of the ideas I am thinking of:

  1. ad - part of an existing deal, we plan on creating a flash video preview of the next homestand.
  2. Voicemail - We have worked very hard on a very clean database. We will send the audio of the flash presentation via a broadcast voicemail
  3. Email - We will send our flash presentation via email to our qualified database
  4. Gameday promotions - We will begin Fireworks Fridays, and bring our tailgate party from football, Vandyville, to baseball Saturdays filled with kids activities and inflatables.
  5. Direct mail - We plan on sending a letter that would be in homes the Saturday before a home weekend series which would include self addressed envelopes and encouraging season ticket holders to send in their tickets if they do not plan on attending.

We'll see how it will work. I am crossing my fingers. It helps that we are good, and I mean very good.

Take care.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Wilted. That is how I felt earlier today.

In a Management Team meeting, the discussion centered around our Valentine's Day game next Wednesday against South Carolina. While we have known about the game on Cupid's favorite day for a while, we subscribe to the ROI decision making which means we try to only spend money when there is a likely chance we will get some in return. Therefore, we have been downplaying the Valentine's day game and do not have much planned.

Well, our boss had some really good ideas - no really they were, I am not just saying that. One of the ideas was to give every woman at the game a free long stemmed red rose.

I love it. It is buzzworthy. It works for me. But my budget can't afford it, so my boss is taking on the costs.

That leads me o the point of this post. I called around town asking for the possibility to get 3,000 roses by Valentine's Day. All three of the local florists I called laughed and said it was impossible. Sorry. Too late. Rose shortage. Buh by.

Really. Is that true? Well in five minutes of Googling, I found three that could take my order. My point is that somewhere, somehow those local florists were not trained to try and solve the customer's problem. If they were, perhaps they would have Googled, found the same things I found, upcharged a bit, made a profit, and more importantly made a customer fr life.

The moral is to take the time to think for a moment if you can help the customer solve their problem. Perhaps you can solve them with your product, but maybe not. Either way, you have to try.

Take care.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hoo Knew

Part of the fun of my profession is that you are actually encouraged to visit other Universities and observe how they might operate their athletic departments.

I chose to attend the Virginia - Duke game February 1st. What a choice as the Hoos upset No 8 Duke on a fall-away show on the baseline in the closing seconds of overtime. But aside from the game, I was also very excited to see brand spankin new John Paul Jones Arena which has been described as one of college basketball's finest venues.

Instead of a traditional, paragraph style blog, I thought I would just put into bullets the more interesting things I observed/learned from my trip.

First and foremost, the Charlottesville, VA area is simply breathtaking. Being my first time in the area, I had heard great things but the reality exceeded what I had heard. Beautiful rolling hills in front of even more amazing Blue Ridge mountains.

JPJ, as the locals call it, is not only the finest college venue I have seen, but would rival any facility on earth. The closest arena I could compare it to might be Conseco Fieldhouse - home of the Indiana Pacers.

  1. Outside architecture - Blends very well into the Jeffersonian feeling throughout the campus (or "grounds" as they call campus)
  2. Entry video boards - As soon as you enter the arena you are greeted by two very large video boards in the lobby. Now granted, I only was exposed to them for a few moments, but Ithought they were underutilized. I thought they might could be posting team stat information, highlighting student-athletes, upcoming promotions, high level donors, or perhaps a secondary intro video to begin the hype machine as soon as the fan enters the building.
  3. Orientation to street level - I love when arenas dig deep and make the court level well below the street level . When you do this, no one in the arena has to climb 50,000 steps as we have in Memorial Gym at Vanderbilt. The lobby at JPJ pours our into the first row of the upper level.
  4. Seats - May be my favorite part, as many people overlook such a small element. But UVA had the presence of mind to make the seats leather, or at least pseudo-leather. Very comfortable.
  5. Center hung scoreboard - Easily the most thought out element of the arena. I heard they spent $7M on the scoreboard alone, well over double what most people spend. You can see it int he photo above, but what I love the most is the flexibility ti be able to display three different messages (or complementary messages) at the same time. Such as a replay, plus the player's bio including real time game stats, and the game's current stats like FG% etc.
  6. Intro video - A little weak. They have their "thing" which includes an in-house animator that creates a new video every game. Quite respectable. The videos typically include the Cavman slaying the opponent, the Blue Devil. Pretty cool, but would get old real quick.
  7. Video screen - forgot to mention the enormity and clarity of the main video screen. HD screen that had to be at least 30 feet wide.
  8. Suites - Very clean, new as to be expected, but nothing earth shattering.
  9. Student sections - I love that they put most of the students behind the visitor's second half basket, and a small strip of them behind the benches. Very well thought-out. All clad in orange mind you.
  10. Lexus Lounge - Very cool, but one slight problem. The sightlines are a bit obstructed from this donor area which resides at the ground level, behind the basket. When seated in the lounge, the last row of the lower level blocks your view.
  11. Restrooms - Whoa, clearly this was a sore spot. At least on my level, no way close to enough restrooms. Very long lines.
  12. Concessions - I did not eat anything, but the lines here were long too. . However, it is a nice feature that the stands are sort of in an alcove off the concourse so the lines do not clog the concourse.
  13. Sound system - Very good. Especially when compared to our home. However, they might be taking the sound a bit too far. I heard a few people already complaining about the sound level. Nothing new there though.

That about covers it. I love it. It certainly helped that the home team won. That always makes the event fun.

Take care

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Driven to success

A coat drive. Simple huh?

Most people think so. I did. We have done many cause related "drives" related to an athletic event.

None have worked. Sure, we get some, but not enough to make a difference.

So when we were approached about coordinating a coat drive around one of our football players, I was a bit skeptical of the outcome. I thought success would be defined as possibly getting a story in the local paper.

Boy was I wrong.

We collected coats at two basketball games last week, and while I do not have the exact total yet, I am sure we far exceeded our goal of 500 coats.

So now I am wondering why this worked.

Here are my thoughts.
  1. First and foremost we had a chairman, Cassen Jackson-Garrison, who had quite a story himself and could identify with the beneficiaries of these coats. Click here for his story.
  2. We also had a very specific recipient, the counties near Nashville that are on a plateau which creates about a 10 degree difference in weather, not to mention the area is very rural and poor.
  3. The chairman was an identifiable player on our football team. I do not think it would have worked had it been a women's soccer player.

All in all, the drive was a success and we look forward to more like it.

Take care.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

All eyes on you ...

Have you ever heard of some small towns with a small police staff who just park empty police cars on the side of the road to hopefully deter speeding?

When a cop pulls beside you at a stop light, don't you make sure your seat belt is on?

Or if you are a politician don't you speak a bit differently when the media is around?

Me too. So does everyone else.

Well, what if there were so many people watching you that you could not away with anything. Nothing. Not even a sly joke about your friend's bad haircut without it getting back to him.

Well that is what I see as the biggest benefit of the internet, or as some are calling it web 2.0.

Everyone is a blogger. Or knows someone who is. You are a reader, which makes me write. Now, I am not trying to break news, but many use blogging as a hobby and fulfilling their childhood ambition of being a sports writer.

And it is only getting worse, or better depending on how you look at it. The way I see it, if someone is watching my move 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I might not tell that little white lie.

By having thousands of people see you everyday, with the ability to distribute info on you to millions, a simple mistake could prove very costly.

What if there were networks of people to tip off the police about drunk drivers. Might save someone's life?

What if there were a network of citizens who reported anonymously about corrupt police officers?

Or what if people started blogging about paid players in college athlete recruiting? Could you imagine if every dollar paid to a prospect was reported? I guess everyone would be on probation if the rumors are true. The NCAA basketball tournament may only have a field of four!

You may still be wondering why Tupac is on this blog? One of his biggest hits was "All eyes on you".

Maybe he was on to something.

Take care.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Carpe customer

Interesting day.

I had to run a few errands which included finally mailing my sister's Christmas present. (yea, not my strong suit) So I dropped by the local UPS store to mail the package.

As I enter I am greeted with a warm "hello" and "how may I help you." The young gun behind the counter then helped me to complete the slip detailing where my package was to be sent.

"Fill in this, that, that, and your phone number, but no email. You don't have to fill in your email."

So I thought that was a little odd. Then another customer came along and he went through the same drill of overly communicating the unnecessary box labeled Email.

After observing this guy a little while (I was there way too long) I came to the following conclusion. He was attempting to avoid having to explain their email policy, or hear a customer complain about privacy. I am guessing he had a bad experience before with a customer and thinks the best way to handle the situation is to just come right out and say we don't need your email thus avoiding conflict and eliminating any chance of collecting ANY email.

OK, then I go across the street to pay a bill at Fifth Third Bank - not my bank, they just have our mortgage. While there, I got a very friendly hello when I walked in, another hello when I got to the counter, then the unthinkable happened.

A seemingly young (same age as the UPS guy) woman looked at my check I was paying with and said "will there be anything else Mr. Nichols"? (which I love when people use my name, don't we all) But that is not it. She noticed my check was from Union Planters/Regions/AmSouth and immediately went into a sales pitch. Telling me all about their savings rate, yada yada yada.

The point is that Mrs. 5/3 was trained to utilize every encounter to turn a customer into an opportunity. However, Mr. UPS almost insisted not putting down my email address when this could clearly be utilized for future marketing or just plain old customer service.

The real shame is that I am sure UPS counts on collecting email addresses, otherwise why would they print it on the form? But due to a poorly trained guy, future revenue may have been lost.

As for Mrs. 5/3, I was looking to change banks anyway, maybe they have room for my $2.15.

Take care.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

In review ...

You ever heard the phrase "you can't see the forest for the trees?" I think this happens more often than not in the world of athletics, particularly in marketing.

A commonly troublesome relationship is one with a marketing department and an outsourced multimedia rightsholder. Ours is ISP. Now, let me say, ISP is as good as they get and very profitable for VU. However, their job is to push the envelope and one of mine is to protect the integrity of the game.

Recently we had a huge blowup over the apparent lack of respect their department was showing ours. They pretty much appeared to put on a show as though they cared about what we wanted, but yet did exactly what we asked them not to do. Taken in isolation the incident shouldn't have been a big deal. But since there is the unspoken assumption that we are getting screwed, these things seem to pile up.

Long story short, we all had a come-to-Jesus and things are great again. The one thing that came out of the meeting was the number of suggestions from us that they did do.

Looking at the long list of things that would be categorized as "good partner", I really feel naive for getting so upset. But as I try to do as often as possible, I look for what I can learn.

The learning lesson for me is that fellow employees cannot be counted on as knowing all of your successes. And in the face of ignorance, people will assume the worst.

Therefore I will try to provide an annual/semi-annual report for marketing that shows our successes over the past couple of years. It is not meant to be a brag session, but rather to make sure fellow colleagues are not clouded by a few isolated poor incidents.

In short, continue to remind clients, fans, and colleagues what the forest looks like.

Take care.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Best of the best

I have started a new routine where several of us from work without direct gameday duties for basketball will grab a few brews between work and the game on weekdays. It is quite a fun time and I feel it goes miles to being a good leader ... knowing your people on a different level.

Anyway, we were discussing how a former marketing employee of mine was promoted to Director of CHAMPS Lifeskills. This was a very good promotion for her and fit well within here interests.

The question being discussed was where does she go from there?

Will she be in CHAMPS for the rest of her career?

Hell no I say.

I will pass along some good advice I got from my old AD, Todd Turner when I was having similar thoughts. He said, "Big E",(that is what he called me, funny because I am 5'5") all you need to worry about is how to be the absolute best at what you are doing now.

Of course I thought, yea, that is what will help Vanderbilt and Todd Turner, but what does that do for me?

How naive. Low and behold, I have been promoted three times with all three being in different departments completely. From facilities, to event operations, to web manager, to marketing. In addition, at Vanderbilt right now our very talented Game Operations/Facilities guy is leaving us to work in development.

The point is, no matter what you do, be the best. Or at least strive to be the best, and the fruits of your labor will reveal themselves in time.

Success in this business is hinged on passion and innovation.

Take care.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Preds Dead?

In an article yesterday, I got some good news ... selfishly.

It appears the slow adoption of the Predators as a Nashville team is catching up to them. To summarize the article, lagging attendance, especially for an NHL league leader, could cost Nashville it's pro hockey franchise. Not only is the issue the direct revenue associated with paid attendance, but it is also the complicated formula based on home attendance that pays out league revenue sharing. Without the revenue sharing, the Preds would be dead.

Why would this make me happy? Because I think they have significantly cut into Vanderbilt's revenue both in ticket revenue and corporate sponsorships. Without question, the Predators leaving would be profitable for the Commodores.

Let me just go on record, I admire the Predators' marketing staff. I think they do a really good job of creating awareness, interest, and excitement once someone takes in a game.

But why is it not working? Many point to Tampa Bay, or Raleigh as southern towns that support hockey very well. Is it because they do not have NFL sucking the life out of them the entire year?

The talk radio crowd has been discussing this religiously and have been harping on what do do. The focus is on the business community not supporting the Preds through ticket sales. I think their corporate sponsorship levels are satisfactory, but the large blocks of tickets that are bought by local businesses in other markets are just not happening.

As I sit back, as I usually do in situations like this, I am thinking to myself what would I do? Right now, I do not know. I think something very radical has to be considered that is directly targeted at the Nashville business community.

By radical, I do not mean in the sales process, but radical in the product. What else could a hockey team do to encourage Nashville businesses to consider blocks of tickets to support their business efforts?

Business only Happy Hour prior to the game? Maybe like a Chamber event exclusive to ticketholders bought in a business' name? Or perhaps take some of the trends in club seating to all tickets in the lower bowl such as waiter service, wireless ordering of concessions, or exclusive entrance?

Just a little brainstorming. In my opinion, the issue lies in the product. Not the game presentation or the team performance, but rather creating more value for the business to meet their goals.

Take care.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Revelling in rivalries

So last night, I had one of those "this is why I am in this business" nights.

A little background ... Vanderbilt's signature sport is men's basketball. We play in a strange gym called Memorial Gym whose distinctive characteristic is the fact that the benches are under the hoops. I digress ... we have had a number of last minute victories that have earned Memorial Gym to elicit "Memorial Magic". However, our team this year has not been very good. Losses to Furman and App State can do that to you.

Enter Tennessee. Enter cross-town rivalry. Enter a head coach in Bruce Pearl, whom I greatly respect from a purely PR perspective, but who is greatly hated by our fan base. Tennessee is ranked. I made the prediction we would lose by 20+.

Tat was before I factored in the Memorial Magic moments. See below.

As we sat around the office today, talking about the game, the older folks started reflecting on what Vandy used to be ... the hottest thing in Nashville. That was before pro sports came in and sucked the life out of our program.

However, short of the Music City Miracle in a season where the Titans went to the Super Bowl, I would argue there was more emotion and enthusiasm in that gym last night than any pro team could care to generate. (at least in the south. I have the theory that north of the mason dixon line the lens of sports fandom flips thus making pro sports have the same attributes as college sports in the south)

My point is that there is still something very pure about good college sporting entertainment. Most people want it. Most people enjoy it. Most people talk about it. But, in our relatively young pro sports town, until we are winning all the media wants to cover is pro sports.

They are still the cool, new kid in school ... maybe like Sunshine on Remember the Titans. But, I still feel I can penetrate the culture, and remind this community what sort of entertainment value there is in collegiate athletics.

Until the roller coaster begins the next flip, "We're number 1".

Take care.