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