Archive for the ‘ Marketing ’ Category

Shelby American, Inc.: A Past and Present of the Legendary Modifier/Builder that Forever Changed the American Auto Industry

From left to right: The limited edition 2012 Shelby GT350 (only 350 are being made by Shelby American), which was unveiled at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show in coupe and convertible form, and the 1965 Shelby GT350 (which was a Shelby-tuned and modified version of Ford's all-new Mustang). Originally seen as a "secretary's car" in spite of its immediate popularity, the factory 1965 Ford Mustang needed an edgier soul, so Ford management asked Shelby and his outfit to liven it up. The Mustang and GT350's instant success resulted in the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Ford and Shelby that changed the industry and international auto racing forever.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Covering the 2011 Chicago Auto Show

 

A sign from the 2007 Chicago Auto Show. This year's event will feature new designs from some of the world's greatest manufacturers. Some of these new machines will be plug-in electrics.

Dear Readers,

It is an honor to announce that Communications on Sports Business will be present at Media Day (9 February) for the 2011 Chicago Auto Show.  Wednesday, I will write an article on the show and publish it either that same night or Thursday.  For any of you who are wondering how relevant a car show could be to sports, I encourage you to recall that as automotive technology goes, so does auto racing and vice-versa.  I will include pictures and material from interviews and announcements made by industry professionals in my upcoming article.

Thanks, as always, for your readership and support.  I hope you enjoy my feature on the 2011 Chicago Auto Show.  Remember to tune in Wednesday evening or Thursday for the latest from the nation’s largest auto show.

Best regards,

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

 

A picture from the 2009 Chicago Auto Show I found on Google. Imagine driving one of these guys!

ACC, ESPN, and Raycom Deal is Evidence of the Importance of Relationship Building in Business

Raycom Sports has covered ACC sporting events since 1979 and both entities have helped one another prosper over time.

In the 4-10 October 2010 issue of Sports Business Journal, an article by Michael Smith and John Ourand titled, “History with ACC secures future for Raycom,” covered how the long-term relationship between the ACC and Raycom saved the latter from possibly losing its biggest media contract and main revenue stream.  Their article is the basis of today’s post and a starting point for my conclusions.

Basically, North Carolina-based Raycom simply could not match bids with networks like ESPN and Fox – who were both vying for the conference’s rights – nor survived negotiations without CEO Ken Haines or his staff’s efforts to underscore the role Raycom has played in the ACC’s history over the past thirty years.  Nevertheless, talks between ESPN and the ACC would eventually end with a $1.86 billion contract that goes into effect at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, according to Smith and Ourand’s article.  Where does that leave Raycom?

I Remember the Time You Helped Me when I Needed it Most… Thank You (And You Have Been Here for Me all of these Years… Thanks)

When ESPN launched in 1979, it faced the challenges all start-ups face, not to mention the level of competition found in the sports industry.  Raycom sold the rights to some of its ACC basketball games to ESPN in the early 80s, giving ESPN a chance to establish itself.  Later, in 1993, Raycom sold the rights to a Duke-North Carolina basketball game that allowed ESPN2 (the network’s new channel) to enter the scene with a fair degree of credibility, according to Smith and Ourand.  As the decades came and went, ESPN grew and became the premier sports network in the US.  As for Raycom, it remained in its market and built on its relationship with the ACC.

Raycom CEO Ken Haines (right, with Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tim Newman) says, “We really are the marketing and corporate relationship arm of the conference.” (caption taken from 4-10 October issue of Sports Business Journal)

Through the Summer of 2010, Raycom was in the fight of its life to secure a deal with the ACC that would guarantee its survival.  “Everyone involved in the negotiations cited Raycom’s 31-year history as the main reason it was able to strike a deal,” wrote Smith and Ourand of the negotiations between the ACC, ESPN, and eventually Raycom.  According to Smith and Ourand’s article, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said, “It tugged at me… We wanted to keep Raycom as a partner, but we had to do what was in the ACC’s best interests.  That we got the deal we got and kept Raycom involved was icing on the cake.”  Indeed, Haines used Raycom’s history with both the ACC and ESPN as a major talking point during negotiations.  The product: a $50 million a year sub-licensing contract between ESPN and Raycom that secured at least 50 North Carolina jobs for the next twelve years.  If you look in either Smith and Ourand’s article or Raycom’s website, you will find some of the particulars of that deal.  Essentially, Raycom keeps “ACC football and basketball, [remains as] holder of regional cable rights, administration of ACC Properties and management of all ACC digital platforms including operation of theacc.com, and the official conference web site,” according the Raycom.com.

Conclusions

While the bottom line influences all smart business deals, it is not the only path to follow during negotiations.  There is a popular misconception that business is simply cold and harsh, and defined by cliches in popular culture such as the great “Wall Street” villain Gordon Gekko when he famously states that “greed is good.”  Indeed, management and leadership must act with the company’s/stakeholders’ interests in mind, but managers who lead both prosperous and honorable careers and leaders who earn the respect of their peers do not forget those who helped them along the way.

Without Raycom’s willingness to sell rights to some of its hottest properties to a new competitor also struggling for credibility (ESPN and ESPN2) so long ago, or its loyalty to the ACC over 31 years, ESPN and the ACC would have spent more time and resources searching elsewhere for rights to quality programming and securing media service for its properties and events.  Whether in business or life itself, one always appreciates another’s efforts to make life a little bit easier.  Sure, one cannot dismiss the fact that Raycom has profited from these relationships over the past thirty years in one way or another, but so have ESPN and the ACC.  In fact, all parties must benefit if a relationship is expected to function well and last a long time (Raycom, ESPN, and the ACC prove this concept).

A long time ago, I learned an important lesson from the greatest people I have ever known (my parents, grandmother, and brother – and am reminded of it every day by theirs and my fiancee’s unyielding example) and would like to emphasize today.  Remember that as long as one dutifully conducts oneself with honor, integrity, and can walk in and out of an establishment with his or her head held high, there is no failure to fret about nor any outcome to fear.  In fact, it is one of the best methods of achieving success and fueling confidence in any endeavor.  This is an irrefutable truth that we must exemplify throughout our lives in order to be truly successful and thoroughly satisfied at the end of the day.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

Thanks, as always, for your readership.  This article is a tribute to all of who have played a positive role in my life.  From friends and instructors who have provided both wisdom and support, to my family and future wife who have not only helped make me the man I am today, but indeed make this world a better place through their words, actions, and love.

Gatorade G Series: Is it a Potential Marketing Blunder in the Supremely Competitive Sports Drink Industry?

By relaunching its main product and apparently not maximizing shelf placement at supermarkets, Gatorade (owned by PepsiCo) may have actually given the ever-expanding competition a chance to capitalize on an opportunity to compete against the all-new Gatorade G Series.

In 2009, PepsiCo’s Gatorade brand suffered heavy losses including a 10.2% decrease in revenue and a 12% drop in operating revenue from July 2008 to July 2009 according to a 22 July 2009 article in the online magazine Marketing Daily (http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=110269).  As complicated as the reasons explaining Gatorade’s recent struggles may be, the thirst-quenching sports drink company’s solution seems even more complex (and confusing).

Thirst Quencher or Energy Drink?

“Gatorade is first aid for that deep-down body thirst,” or so the American market once thought thanks to Gatorade’s popular marketing slogan.  One bottle equaled one solution a long time ago.  Instead, in an effort to market to teen athletes (according to a 23 March 2010 online Businessweek article found at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-23/pepsico-s-g-game-plan-targets-higher-prices-teen-athletes.html) and remain competitive in the sports drink business, Gatorade launched its three-pronged attack on the Powerades and Vitamin Waters of the world.  Unfortunately, the Gatorade G Series (G1, G2, and G3) was launched after high school football seasons ended (usually by December in Florida, which is home to some of the best high school football talent in the nation and only rivaled by states like Texas and Ohio) and missed an opportunity to engage student-athletes at what Gatorade calls “point of sweat.”  The Gatorade G Series involves a more academic approach and less of an instinctual, or even emotional, buying experience for the consumer since the product is now more of a “system” and less of an all-in-one solution.  In effect, the task of positioning the Gatorade G Series in the teen athlete market will be even more challenging than simply enhancing the existing “thirst quencher.”

Will Someone Please Explain Exactly How This Works?

Without incentives to visit the G Series website, it would take a significant degree of curiosity for a consumer to not only view the marketing pitch, but also read the both lengthy and jargon-rich FAQs describing exactly how the Gatorade G Series works (found at: http://www.gatorade.com/frequently_asked_questions/default.aspx).  None of that information can be fairly summed up in a 30-second TV spot and one wonders – now that the Gatorade brand has diluted itself – if Gatorade G2 (number 2 of 3 in the product line representing Gatorade products consumed before, during, and after competition, respectively) can deliver on the promises of the original so-called “thirst quencher” the American public has known for decades.

Poor shelf placement and a lack of interactive displays at supermarkets handicap the new Gatorade’s visibility at point-of-sale.

Here it is: the Gatorade G Series. Could this common display really be an example of how Gatorade has "evolved?"

At a large chain supermarket in one of Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods on the North Side, one finds a missed opportunity for the brand to engage its customers and introduce the new product.  On Gatorade’s website (http://www.gatorade.com/default.aspx#gseries?s=gseries), the company claims to have “evolved” its product.  If it has truly evolved, then a short explanation near the product display would help early adopters decide on “G” before moving on to otherwise more familiar items.  An exciting display could help increase consumer interest.  If Gatorade complemented its shelf space with interactive end-cap displays touting its official sponsorship of the NFL and sold the pass-thru rights to the host supermarket, the brand would not only augment its efforts to sell G Series products as a real “evolutionary” step ahead of its competition, but it would help the supermarket increase its sales figures as well.  Also, the end-cap displays could include brief descriptions of all three components of the Gatorade G Series and educate consumers at point of sale in order to be more present at “point of sweat.”

Essentially, Gatorade could be taking market share away from itself with the new G Series by discontinuing its “Gatorade Thirst Quencher” as a simple, standalone product.  Were it not because I read the long online documents, I would still think 1) that buying Gatorade G2 meant buying only 1/3 of the entire Gatorade product and 2) you get the final product in just one bottle of Powerade or Vitamin Water costing about $2-$3 as opposed to the entire Gatorade G Series which almost reaches a $10 price point for just one full “before, during, and after” treatment of G1, G2, and G3.  It appears a bit audacious to position a brand/product this way, especially while the latest unemployment figures in America (August 2010) hover just under 10%.

Conclusions

Product displays and shelf position are only two of the most hotly negotiated items in contracts between vendors and suppliers.

It appears that Gatorade has not maximized its presence in supermarkets in the Chicago area, nor has it adequately introduced the G Series to consumers.  Or has it?  Powerade and Vitamin Water are sold in one bottle costing roughly $2, yet Gatorade is now available as a set of three items that cost nearly $10 when purchased as a set.  If consumers read the seemingly unintelligible writing on a G2 bottle, they will find the phrase “thirst quencher.”  Aside from that, there is no indication that G2 is actually an enhanced form of Gatorade the market has always known.

By ridding itself of “Gatorade Thirst Quencher” – an all-in-one concept that Powerade, Vitamin Water, and others still appear to provide and imitate – Gatorade eliminated the product that started the sports drink industry and must now reinvent itself.  Sure, the Gatorade name is still the most recognizable sports drink brand in the world, but it appears that the company took several steps back by not simply positioning the G Series as an addition to its product line that would always include an item known for roughly thirty years simply as “Gatorade Thirst Quencher.”

Market share is now more up for grabs than ever before in the sports drink market.  Hopefully, for Gatorade’s sake, its positioning the G Series to compete directly with its opponents.  I have no doubt that Gatorade will find a way to make the G Series a success; after all, it created the industry over thirty years ago.  It will be interesting to see how the G Series performs over the next year or so.  It takes courage to try something completely new in an industry that has not appeared to change much in three decades.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

Plain and simple... different flavors and different vitamins/minerals. Make your choice.

Powerade still sells its original product even as it launches different lines aimed at athletes who use a variety of training methods.


Adidas Activates its New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team Sponsorship (or, The Power of Symbolism in Non-Traditional Marketing)

Marketing has grown and evolved over the past 50 years at an exponential rate.  Increased investments in sponsorships – primarily in sports – led to a paradigm shift in how marketing departments approach issues regarding brand loyalty, differentiation, and brand awareness (among others).  As companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi trade blows in their exhausting efforts to take market share from one another, they are faced with challenges involving how they will tailor their yearly budgets to their advertising and marketing needs, and benefit from allegiances with other organizations (Coca Cola and its “Coca Cola Family of Drivers” in NASCAR and Pepsi’s sponsorship of England’s FA Cup) to appeal to key target audiences.  Their advertisements do not offer insights on the actual technical peculiarities unique to each product since, except for a few minor differences, Coke and Pepsi really do taste the same.  Advertising’s greatest functions are: the ability to communicate specific traits of the product in question, reinforce product quality claims, and special sales, promotions, and the sort.  The next time you actually watch that interruptive – though still relatively useful – approach to marketing between segments of your favorite TV show, feel free to test my assertion.  It interrupts and viewers are not very tolerant.

In America, we are quite familiar with Nike’s approach to sports marketing: say hardly anything at all regarding the product’s quality itself and align the featured item with symbols of excellence.  Entertaining and sometimes even inspirational, Nike’s ads are regarded among the best in sports marketing.

Adidas also exhibits a true expertise in sports marketing.  After earning the right to outfit New Zealand’s stellar All Blacks Rugby Team, Adidas aired a series of commercials that demonstrated their appreciation and respect for Kiwi (colloquial term used for a person native to New Zealand) rugby culture and its history.  In this commercial (which aired not long after both organizations formed their relationship)…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfKoz0l8ifo&feature=related

… Adidas did exactly that.  It is not enough to make the relationship between sponsor and sponsee equallybeneficial for both parties; indeed, there must be a mutual appreciation for one another.  Here, Adidas borrowed brand equity from the New Zealand All Blacks by aligning itself with the proud history of one of the world’s greatest rugby teams.  Adidas did not interrupt the viewing experience by stating loud and clear, “Buy our jerseys!  Look, we support your favorite team!  See?  SEE???”  Rather, with elegant subtlety, you see the team captain donning an Adidas jersey in much the same fashion as those who came before him.

In Adidas’ case – after replacing Canterbury of New Zealand as the team’s official outfitter – the German company understood that it was an “outsider” and new in Kiwi sports in its official role.  Therefore, the onus was on Adidas to connect with the culture it entered and even welcome cultural assimilation.  With the following commercial…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcN-fKEWzFQ

… Adidas showed Kiwi and All Blacks Rugby fans that it understands its role as a member of the All Blacks team.

As seen on Wikipedia: "The haka is a traditional genre of Māori dance. This picture dates from ca. 1845."

Above all, Adidas featured the team’s Haka – a traditional Maori dance the All Blacks perform before every game at the center of the field.  The outfitter aligns its corporate image with the All Blacks and their unique ritual aimed at intimidating their competitors and preparing the black-shirted players for the hard battle ahead.

Today, it is not enough to set a fair price point or aggressively push the quality of your product.  It certainly helps to do so and such direct and interruptive means will always be needed in marketing.  However, today’s is not push (sell! sell! sell! and push the product onto the consumer) market anymore.  It is a pull (the consumer has unprecedented control over the market since there are so many options available, products resemble each other more and more as time goes by, and the economy continues to motivate consumers to get more value for their money) market since the consumer either wants to be a part of something larger or asks “What else does this company do for me?  Do they care about what I care about?” at one point or another.  The former consumer issue more often deals with cause-related marketing, which I will save for another article.

A sincere appreciation, understanding, and respect for symbols is a key part of sports marketing and their very subtle use in non-traditional commercials and advertisements help a sponsor or sponsee maximize their ROI (return on investment) in their efforts to borrow brand equity from each other.  Sponsors must understand not only the market they enter, but the beliefs, needs, and values endemic to the culture with whom they are forming a mutually beneficial relationship.  A sound marketing strategy aims to achieve a broad milieu of objectives, among which Adidas successfully reinforced or gained brand loyalty, increased brand awareness, and differentiated itself from competitors (Adidas surely set itself apart from Nike in New Zealand here).  In the end, it is not enough to obtain the sponsorship – you must activate it correctly, and Adidas’ ad campaign was an expertly executed tactic.

Sponsorship – sports marketing’s most efficient fuel – is rife with the power of symbols.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

Thanks to Chairman and cofounder of IEG, Lesa Ukman, for her lessons in sponsorships.  Professor Ukman currently teaches a course titled Sponsorships 2.0 at Northwestern University’s Masters of Sports Administration program.  She provided me with the New Zealand All Blacks/Adidas sponsorship relationship, which served as the basis of this analysis of sponsorship in sports marketing.  Also, as always, thank you for your readership and to God for the opportunity to write this article and learn from my research.

New Zealand vs. Australia

Technology is not the Only Way to Market Sports – Remember the Basics

If you listen to the radio, watch TV, use the internet, or actually listen to your friends who are sports fans ramble on about their favorite teams, you would be hard pressed to not hear something about teams spending millions of dollars on this or millions of dollars on that.  In fact, last week’s article touched on the new trend in sports: using technology to enhance the fan experience and increase revenue.  But as millions of dollars are invested in new technology – that will inevitably become obsolete just like the “latest model computer” you bought not too long ago – teams face the threats that an unstable economy will herald and when revenue suffers, among the first orders of the day is the directive to cut technology budgets.  Also, as we learned last week, your competition will eventually catch up to you even if you are a nautical mile or two ahead of them because one’s rivals all ride the same tide of big-ticket technology you do.  So, if there are reductions in the technology budget, how in the world do we differentiate ourselves?

Over the past 20 years or so, we have seen the cathode ray tube television (CRT TV) come and go along with Betamax, VHS, Laser Discs, and the arguably formidable computers of yesteryear. But a runner who falls down in the middle of a great track meet before thousands of onlookers and is hoisted up by his father who comes down from the stands and finally crosses the finish line and feels both the pain of defeat and the true love only a good father has for his son is irreplaceable in the definition of sports and the collective unconscious of all who witnessed or heard of the event.  Such beautiful raw emotion is innate in sport and properties must serve it on a silver platter to their fans by not losing sight of a sport’s emotional capital as they implement a complex technology strategy (among other seemingly more glamorous initiatives.)  While adding mammoth-sized television screens to a stadium in Texas and turning a corporate suite in the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field into a small sports bar and recreation room help enhance the fan experience at the respective venues, nothing comes close to replicating or rivaling the opportunity a fan may have to meet the athletes or even touch the field where the team’s greatest players won and lost.  That never becomes obsolete.

I watched a game from a corporate suite only a month ago and not once worried about running out food or drink or even the weather.  In spite of the top-quality hospitality and amenities (HD TVs, Wi-Fi, etc.), I was most thrilled at the prospect of watching the players warm-up down on the field and actually touching the grass.  My point is that while technology and preferences in technology change over time, the actual sport itself is the greatest attractor and always will be even as different innovations in media and broadcasting see their relative “fifteen minutes” of relevance expire as the new fad enters the fore.  So, as sports marketers embrace technology – and it is necessary to do so because of all of its benefits – they cannot forget the basics.  In the April 12-18 edition of The Sports Business Journal, Professor and Associate Director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida and principal of Bill Sutton and Associates, Bill Sutton, identified three of the most basic marketing techniques that the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League implemented to near-perfection in their inaugural season to make the fan experience absolutely unforgettable.

Sutton presented “Reciprocity,” “Active Participation,” and “Organizational Approach and Access” as three of the elements that comprise his definition of “emotional capital.”  In the context of emotional capital, reciprocity means that the property and its athletes truly and effectively recognize and show their appreciation for their fans.  Sutton cites the Notre Dame football team’s tradition of saluting its fans at the end of a game by walking over to the student section and raising their helmets high in the air.  The Red Claws players had their pictures taken with fans and even hugged and high-fived fans who arrived at the Maine Mall to enjoy the one-on-one experience with the players.  Teams do not set enough time aside to have their players actually interact with fans at autograph sessions and other related events.  Properties need to show their fans that they actually care about them.  When families are shelling out between $100 and $200 to enjoy a day at the ballpark just to spend some time together, share in the excitement of watching their favorite team take the field, and detach from the pressures of an unstable economy and the stress of school and work, properties need to show fans that they appreciate being the preferred choice.

Second, “active participation” refers to how fans can experience the team itself and how they can connect with the brand.  This includes access to tickets, merchandise, memorabilia, apparel, and “mascot, dancer, and player appearances for non-game related activities” among others, according to Sutton.  He also adds that the fact that the Red Claws consistently sold out their games and the team recognizes its fans as “Crustacean Nation” goes a long way to proving that the team is doing a good job of encouraging their fans to participate in the game experience itself.  I saw evidence of active participation at a Chicago Fire game I attended.  At one end of the field, the team had two “cheerleaders” who constantly banged on a set of hand drums and led the most rabid fan section’s chants throughout the entire game.  Even though they lost, nearly everyone in attendance (particularly those seated in that very loud section) were visibly excited upon exit.  The atmosphere at a Chicago Fire game is absolutely wonderful from a fan’s perspective.  That is a fine example of a team successfully implementing a plan to amplify active participation.

Finally, Sutton mentions “organizational approach and access.”  This point touches on the notion of “seeing a fan as a customer” in more detail.  According to Sutton, this approach was “pioneered by people like Walt Disney and Bill Veeck.”  As a former employee of the Walt Disney Company, I can attest to the fact that to this day the company still values this ideal and includes it in its core philosophy.  Essentially, marketers and the property’s brass must implement tactics in their overall strategy that will help their fans feel more welcome at their events.  I have always held that a salesperson’s job is not to sell the product, it is simply to have the customer feel welcome in the venue, talk easily and honestly about the goods/services offered, address any concerns the customer may have during their visit, and just enjoy being there.  This transfers to the customer who is there to interact with the product which, by the way, will practically sell itself.  The customer service team just facilitates the interaction with knowledge and grace.  Sutton affirms this by stating that “emotional capital translates [how you feel about something] into action and those actions into dollars.”

All in all, if sports marketers bear the importance of emotional capital in mind as they develop their technology strategy and general marketing strategy, they avoid losing sight of what we are in business for: delivering truly unforgettable experiences to our fans.  “Reciprocity,” “active participation,” and “organizational approach and access” are three basic tenets that – if observed – ensure that your strategy does not overlook the easier stuff while you coordinate a master plan geared at delivering a truly amazing and unforgettable experience that is sharpened by the finest state-of-the-art technology to your fans.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

You may have been wondering “what’s the deal with the ‘work in progress’ status reports I’m reading lately prior to the article actually being published?”  Well, it’s been a tough quarter and more than once I have “fallen asleep at the controls” as I type the article out.  It takes me a few hours to deliver a well-researched article with relevant information that is free of serious spelling and grammatical errors.  I usually type them on Monday evenings, so it is not hard to start dozing off while typing at the computer after a two-and-a-half hour statistics class that lasts until 9:30 PM and a one hour commute home on the train.  Essentially, if you are taking the time to read my work, I want to make sure you get the most out of your experience.  As always, thank you for your support.  The quarter will be over in mid-June… thank goodness.

Mark McCormack and Roone Arledge: Visionaries of Sport and Marketing

PART I: Mark McCormack and a Lesson in Negotiation

The father of sports marketing.  The man who sealed the greatest and arguably the most important deal in the history of sports with a simple handshake.  The man known for being one of the toughest negotiators and shrewdest businessmen in the industry.  The visionary who, in Cleveland in 1960, founded the largest sports marketing firm in the world that today extends its services to the management of artists, models (i.e. Kate Moss), expositions, speakers (i.e. Jack Welch)… the list is far too exhaustive and would prove much too exhausting to continue here.  Instead, in this section we will talk about how Mark McCormack (1930-2003) used his mastery of negotiation and boldness to change the world of sports forever.

____________________

Silence and Shrewdness

Silence.  It can be a time of reflection and tranquility or listening and planning.  For Mark McCormack, it was one of his greatest tools in the formal conversations held in boardrooms and casual talks with colleagues on the golf course.  He would let the person across from him do all the talking and give it all away by asking a few questions and listening intently.  Discreetly.  Silently.

His greatest rival for nearly 30 years, Donald Dell of ProServ, would later say that “[McCormack] did more to change the field of professional sports than anybody,” according to S.L. Price’s piece “The Visionary.”  With an athlete’s sheer determination and ferocious competitiveness, McCormack pushed himself and his employees to the limit in order to be the best.  His first deal was sealed over a game of golf with the great Arnold Palmer in 1960 that today is worth $200 million.  Over the decades following that fateful day and as the value of such deals became more apparent, negotiations have resembled the easy atmosphere of that afternoon at the links less and less and gradually become the usually long and drawn out affairs that involve excruciatingly complex discussions on ROI (Return On Investment) and careful attention to metrics and benefits we find in publications like the Sports Business Journal.  Because McCormack pretty much wrote the book on sports marketing and management, his firm, International Management Group (IMG), is worth well over $1.3 billion dollars as we begin the second decade of the new century.  Since those early days in Cleveland, McCormack’s IMG has represented talent and either owned or co-owned nine tennis tournaments and marketed/televised eight golf and tennis Grand Slams – IMG even contributed to the creation of China’s professional basketball league.  These are only a few of IMG’s assets.

All of this did not come haphazardly.  McCormack’s silence helped him gain the advantage in negotiations as his counterparts talked too much and unwittingly revealed their plans.  It also made it easy for his clients to communicate their needs.  Regarding the former point, though, it was known throughout the entire industry that this was his greatest negotiating tool and Dick Ebersol, just after beginning his stint as head of NBC Sports in 1989 and on his way to a meeting with McCormack, reminded himself: “Don’t babble, and for God’s sake don’t give anything away.”  Price’s article describes this occasion in detail and how Ebersol eventually gave away his plan to merge NBC with IMG.  (FYI, Ebersol’s plan never came to fruition)

_______________________________________________________________________________

PART II: Roone Arledge and His Imagination

The father of Monday Night Football.  In 1970, just 10 years after Mark McCormack’s IMG started signing athletes and hosting sporting events all over the world, Roone Arledge (1931-2002) made pro football America’s new pastime.  Surely, Johnny Unitas led football into the mainstream in the 1950s through his heroics on the field and artistry as the leader of a Baltimore Colts team that defeated the New York Giants in the nationally televised 1958 NFL Championship Game, which was also dubbed the “Greatest Football Game Ever Played.”  The stage was set and televisions all over America were tuned to the game of the week.  However, it was after Joe Namath shocked the world when he delivered on his guarantee that the New York Jets would defeat Unitas’ Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969 that the NFL had its perennial superstar.  Men followed his exploits on the field and women everywhere swooned; consequently, it was ABC Sports’ Roone Arledge who realized that the league was ready for prime time.  It was 1970: it was time the world watched football from Arledge’s eyes.

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His Vision Becomes Ours (and Thank You, too, Mr. Namath)

In the late 60s, Arledge quickly realized that sporting events televised in the evening, such as the Olympics,drew large numbers of viewers.  Essentially, Arledge developed/created Slo-Mo replays, Instant Replay, up-close camera angles, ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” Monday Night Football and the first commentator team for the weekly spectacle that came on the heels of Namath’s spectacular rise to fame in the NFL, and according to an article by Ed Sherman in Professor Jeff Bail’s “Principles of Sports Marketing” course reader (exact source unknown), Arledge also took television coverage of the Olympics beyond just a series of sporting events by changing the production format.

In his article, Sherman refers to NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol’s take on Arledge’s success.  Ebersol said of his colleague and teacher: “Roone saw two things… sports was ready for prime time and the athletes should be portrayed as personalities, not just sports figures.  It’s amazing TV didn’t see this.  Before, it was just between-the-lines coverage… He turned the way sports are done inside out.”  Arledge certainly had the right guy for that in Joe Namath… what a personality he was and still is!!!  I would argue that two of the four greatest things to ever happen to the NFL – in no particular order – were Roone Arledge’s creation of Monday Night Football and Joe Namath’s talent and personality (the third is Johnny Unitas and the fourth is the merger with the AFL.)  With Namath launching the football through the night sky and the team of Howard Cosell and Don Meredith doing the commentary upstairs, viewers had the complete package of spectacular performances on the field and storytelling in the booth.

Joe Namath gave women a reason to watch football and helped make the NFL more popular to more people and groups around the world.  However, it was Roone Arledge who, with all of his great contributions to TV and sports, gave Americans a reason to not be so sorry to see the sun set on Sundays and look forward to Monday evenings.  He gave a day back to everyone who bemoaned the return to work and always longed for just one more night of leisure.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

As always, thank you for your readership and all thanks go to God for giving me the opportunity and good health to do my work.  If you have any comments, please feel free to share.

Lastly, I hope that, like me, you take from this article that in order succeed, one must use silence wisely, follow the athlete’s example of how to pursue a goal and attain it, and how true boldness and a commitment to one’s vision and faith in one’s imagination are essential elements of success.

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