Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It has been announced that Ryerson University (alma matter of yours truly) has partnered with Loblaw Inc. and unveiled a new 60 million dollar plan that will retrofit Maple Leaf Gardens and turn it into a state of the art recreation facility for Ryerson students as well as retail space for a "Joe Fresh Style Loblaws".
Included in the plan is:
-A NHL-sized rink
-A four-lane, 200-metre running track
-Basketball and volleyball courts
-A fitness centre
-A high-performance gym
Loblaw Inc. is the current owner of the vacant building. As a result, this deal could not have gotten done without their involvement and a store being featured on its main floor. This is more than a victory for Ryerson University--it is a victory for Toronto as a landmark of this city and the surrounding area will be restored and brought back to life. This is better than a retrofitted condominium, a boutique hotel, or a Wal-Mart. This space will be used for students to maintain healthy active lifestyles, improve school spirit and be a place of learning. Anytime you can turn a vacant, dilapadated building and turn it into a place of learning is a win for the good guys.
For Ryerson University, the benefits are huge. Here's a plan which outlines what I encourage Ryerson University to from this point forward and what this announcement could mean for Ryerson in the years ahead:
Athletics departments do not turn around over night and unlike the NCAA, Canadian universities cannot give out scholarships for top high school athletes. As a result, there is extra importance placed on facilities and personnel. Adding a state-of-the-art facility to Ryerson's resume will make it that much more of a destination for high school athletes and Ryerson is encouraged to ensure that coaching staffs, trainers and management are well experienced, respected executives of interuniversity sport. This began with the hiring of coach Roy Rana for the varsity men's basketball teams and must continue to make Ryerson an ideal destination for athletic talent. Broadening recruitment staff will only help reach the best athletes available and help make sure every pitch is customized to the student's needs.
With a hockey arena on campus with seating structures designed to seat (I estimate) a couple thousand spectators, Ryerson must acknowledge a potential to capitalize on the novelty of a new arena and keep students interested in interuniversity sports. This involves making available full-time positions with the goal of generating revenue for varsity athletic events through ticket sales, concessions, and sponsorships and partnerships.
The new facility must:
-feature individual seats
-concession options as well as a liqour license
-offer an entertaining in-game experience
-be comfortable, inviting and professional
-simulate comparable sporting entertainment
-have competitively priced tickets
If they can manage to accomplish these requirements in designing both the basketball and hockey arena, they will be able to maximize revenue and attract the student population to games. An average attendance of 800 fans per game could generate significant revenue. If tickets are competitively priced at $3 and the average fan spends $5 on concessions, $6400 per game is not unrealistic. The money could then be added towards broadening sports programs. Combined with an added increased in student enthusiasm towards athletics, there could be strong support to fund other interuniversity athletics. Ryerson students voting in support of an increase in tuition to fund this facility is proof of a desire for improved athletic spirit.
Maple Leaf Gardens is located on the Northwest corner of Carlton Street and Church Street, two city blocks from the north end of Ryerson University's main campus. While the recreation facilities will promote student traffic between the two locations, Ryerson's next step must be to connect the main campus to Maple Leaf Gardens with further university infrastructure. This will encourage traffic of the new facility and make the in between area controllable, nevermind the potential university buildings that could occupy this space.
On the space is three private residential highrise buildings (yellow) which are used by many students and a series of early 19th century homes (green). The blue indicates Ryerson buildings and the Red is Maple Leaf Gardens. It should be noted that the block is generally unpleasing to the eye.
Ryerson does not own this land, so they would need to acquire it house by house by highrise which is an expensive option. This is probably unavoidable but obtaining the land is crucial to create more space for students, improve the surrounding area (which Ryerson must see as a responsibility), and connect it to the athletics centre.
The best way that Ryerson University can leverage this space is through student housing. It represents an extraordinary potential to increase varisity athletics attendance and general use of the facility. Western University in London, Ontario accomodates just over 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students on campus while having less students enrolled than RU, which features living space for just over 800 students. And while Ryerson attracts a significant ratio of commuting students within the Greater Toronto Area, perhaps this is a function of its lack of living quarters. In any case, Ryerson needs more student housing for an ever increasing undergraduate and graduate student population. Retrofitting these high rise residential towers and 19th century homes could be an option to consider without having to build entirely new buildings.
A student housing population of 2,000 individuals makes a 10% success rate of varsity sports attendance at key home games a likely possibility with a giant coordinated effort (such as a one or two-off residence night) resulting in solid attendance numbers and increased revenue per game.
Trying to be as detailed as possible, here is what I suggest for Ryerson University's north expansion.
-Expanding marketing/sales staff with full-time employees with goals to generate revenue through ticket sales and sponsorships
-Expanding recruitment staff, hiring well respected CIS coaches
-New Recreation Facility to feature 2,000 individual seats for hockey, 1,200 for basketball
-Several concessions available
-Expansion of a second campus pub within recreation facility
-Purchasing buildings in adjoining area
-Buildings to be retrofitted for 2,000 new beds for undergraduate students including living spaces for 500 graduate students
-Improvements to surrounding infrastructure to continue university culture (greenspace, university banners, signage, etc)
-Explore opportunities to broaden interuniversity athletics (football, baseball)
Ryerson has a long way to go just to keep up with the pace of enrollment, but this is a golden opportunity to capitalize on the novelty of a new athletics facility and to build a sustainable spirited student culture proud of both their in class achievements and on field achievements. The university has been very agressive in their expansion and there is every reason to believe that this will continue in the future.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Likewise you also hear "The Isotopes, what a classless organization".
1)What does that mean?
2)What does classy mean to people, and why do people call some organizations classy and others not?
3)Does being classy translate into money?
I really don't know the answers to these questions but I think I will speculate a bit.
One, I think what people perceive about an organizations class rating depends alot on their own personal touchpoints with the organization and if there have been limited touch points (Let's say I'm a Manchester United fan living in Alaska) then it depends on what they've heard from other people (and if you're a Man U fan in Alaska chances are your no one you know in person has had all that many touchpoints either). After that, how the team does and the situation surrounding the team probably also have implications. By situation, I mean things like, is the organization corporately owned? Do they make a lot of money? Is the team any good? Are fans generally optimistic on the state of the team?
Ideally, I think your best situation is a privately owned team with visible ownership showing an interest to win and do win, and have stayed out of controversy. I think that this description more or less fits teams like the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Red Wings, Patriots, Celtics, and Manchester United. There's no doubt that the Yankees and Red Sox print money, but they really fit all other categories. Nobody [unbiased] says the Yankees don't have class. And by controversy, I'm not talking about steroids. I don't think individual player ethics factor into the organizations class ratings. I do think signing convicted criminals factors into an organization's perceived class.
But factors such as time are part of the equation. I thought about whether or not any NHL team would fit into this category. Eventually I realized that the Red Wings were the best bet but other than them, no other team is always really good, no team continually pleases their fans (like the Red Wings do anyways). So you have to build a track record of transparency, good ownership, winning, optimism. A positive space around the team.
Then once all of this has been accomplished, there may be one specific incident that can realyl take your organization from having class to being classy. A large scale tribute to someone who died aways seems to qualify. Not acknowledging appropriately someone who died could be class-rating suicide. A player leaving the team on a sour note might not turn a team around overnight but certainly contributes.
Lastly, I think that to be considered classy, you go through a whole bunch of steps that would cause you to make a lot of money to begin with. That having visible management would make you competitive and that winning makes you money in so many ways anyways. That said, if someone can find me an organization that is usually bad but is considered classy, I'm really all ears.
Friday, October 9, 2009
See the goal of any sports team, and company for that matter is to increase the distribution of a product as much as possible. This allows more people to have your product and more people to grow attached to it, use it. Radio is just as important as television (maybe more) because it is much more versatile. It can reach out to all sorts of people and isn't exclusive to location, income, or even time. Radios are welcome at workplaces, they're installed in cars and most personal listening devices are capable of tuning into stations. Radios are cheap, and radio feeds can be picked up through the internet anywhere in the world. The same cannot be said for television or live video feeds.
On top of this, financially, being able to claim that your radio network can reach an unlimited amount of people worldwide has significant implication on sponsorship/ad revenue on radio stations. Radio play-by-play also invited people to tune into pre and post game shows, daytime talk shows and other relevant discussion about the team being covered. Again, television does not always allow the type of coverage for a sports team that radio can provide.
In conclusion, when teams are committing to radio, they are committing to making their product as widely distributed and available as possible. They are allowing people to invest a small amount of time or commitment in the team and in a grassroots method allowing them to build on that commitment. The wide distribution creates fans and gives a competitive advantage over the competition.
In about 140 characters, I communicated my agreement at Chuck, who responded:
You can read Chuck's blog at http://blogs.bulls.com/ or find him on twitter @swirsk054. He continues to one of the most fresh and entertaining personalities in the world of sports and Chicago is lucky to have him.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"The Washington Redskins routinely works out payment plans and alternate arrangements with hundreds of ticket holders every year," Donovan [general counsel] said. "For every one we sue, I would guess we work out a deal with half a dozen."
The justification for suing these fans seems to be that they only sue one for every six. How about not suing them at all, cancelling their subscription or maybe relocating them to a less expensive seat and forgoing the cost due to the hard times? Why not appreciate the fan's dedication for years of time and money spent and pick them up for a season? I understand that giving tickets away for free is generally a bad idea but in this situation, there is a heckuvalot of good will to be gained from a program designed to help fans keep their seats, or keep them in the game.
Low employment rates and bad credit don't necessarily last forever. Good times happen again, and the Redskins will regret the day that they decided to take to court, the several hundred people who supported them through thick and thin.
It just reeks of coldness and greed.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
In my opinion, the home stadium of a team can act as the largest advertising tool for an organization. The key is for it to be as interactive with the local community as much as possible.
Billboard and transit advertising can both be pricey and ineffective. No marketing strategy should ever solely rely on this form, but as been said in previous posts, branding a team in a town is a multi-pronged effort and advertising certainly has its place in the marketing landscape. A stadium gives teams the means and place for advertising with maximum control and minimal costs. They can use the entire physical structure as a marketing tool, and the land it sits on as well.
Outdoor baseball, soccer, and football teams present an ideal environment for advertising. With placement near large traffic areas, near highways and major routes, nearby motorists are able to peer into the stadium and take in a few seconds of the action within. It's probably fair to say that people in general enjoy doing things that other people are doing, so if they pass by and see 30,000 flag waving, yelling fans, they'll probably find some way to inquire about what they saw, whether by visiting the teams website, or looking them up. If they are already fans, this may merely serve as a reminder that they better go catch a game. Even when nothing is going on, people are naturally drawn to the decks of seats, the green field, the scoreboard. It's an unusual sight in a city of concrete buildings. The stadium in its own way brands the team as part of the city. All of these commercial outlets add to the amount of people traffic as well, giving the area a very lively vibe on game days and not.
The local areas is also important as well. Stadiums naturally draw larger than normal crowds. Even a team that averages 10,000 fans a game is still quite a feat compared to other entertainment (cinemas, amusement parks). As a result, team officials should be concerned with the procurement of commercial outlets surrounding their home stadium. Restaurants, bars, memorabilia shops, merchandise shops, cafes, hotels, sport-related parks can all act to tie the team culture of the nearby stadium with the surrounding neighbourhood. And these neighbourhoods reinforce the image of the stadium as an advertising tool. If one walks on Yawkey Way in Boston and sees sports bar after sports bar, all handing Red Sox flags outside their window, that tells me that this neighbourhood is really an extension of the baseball stadium across the street--that I am in a Red Sox neighbourhood, and this may encourage my involvement in supporting the Red Sox.
The Air Canada Centre will feature a enormous video screen which will face down Bremnar Boulevard starting for the 2009/10 season. The screen may provide statistics for fans, gamescores, and highlights as well as live broadcasts for fans who weren't able to purchase tickets for the game. Near the ACC is a collection of many high rise condominiums with balconies that face this screen. Needless to say, this will be a major advertising tool for MLSE related teams and entertainment. Since hockey arenas cannot be seen from outside (though I think the proper architecture could make hockey arenas do this), a major video screen showing whats going on inside is the next best thing. And should the Raptors, Rock, or Leafs make the playoffs, fans can pull up a folding chair outside and live out the experience going on inside, outside.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
I wanted to make this next post about the positive effects Twitter has had on sports marketing, but then I was linked to an article titled "Twitter is a Threat to NFL".
The article shows the caution that the NFL takes towards players using twitter, the uncessary hoopla that can surround twitter updates and the potential for controversy to arise. Twitter is simply a much safer way of communicating information to fans and the media than in person interviews. Very often can sports personalities slip up in interviews, divuldging information that they shouldn't have, or being misquoted by a jaded sports writer. Twitter allows the individual to sit in front of a computer or phone, away from people, and think about what they're going to write. As long as you indicate the necessary rules and precautions that one would take with any sort of team to fan/media communication, I don't understand the reluctancy to employ twitter as a serious mode of communication. The NFL is no stranger to controversy, yet stories like Brett Favre, Terrell Owens and Michael Vick all bring attention and publicity to the league. And those three characters, like baseball with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire are perceived to the fans as acting individuals. The NFL in this case really gets a free ride of publicity without negative feelings towards themselves as a league or sport. Michael Vick has undoubtedly made them money through his generated publicity. Twitter at the very least is capable of that.
However, Twitter is more than capable of that. There is value in cutting out the middle man (sports writers) between athletes/management and fans. Fans appreciate the fact that they can reply to one of their favorite athletes, regardless of whether or not they do. And if that athlete does, all the better. Armchair GMs, and there are millions, like nothing but to offer their opinions and thoughts on the team: twitter is the means at which they can. And the time spent in this communication venue is time spent thinking about the team--it heightens their commitment level. That's money because fans who elevate their commitment levels, buy merchandise, expose themselves to advertisements, and become very attentive to the day-to-day operations will spend more money throughout the course of a season.
The NFL has an overall problem which is controlling player's ego and behaviour. But Twitter is not to blame for a sports culture gone awry. It may be the only device capable of mending relationships between players and fans.
In every league there are several teams whose fan base is so rabid and widespread that all of their games sellout or come close, television ratings are through the roof, and merchandise sales are astronomical. Usually these teams have years of success, years of tradition, and that tradition has been carried out through generations within families. The Toronto Maple Leafs. The New York Yankees. The Dallas Cowboys. The Los Angeles Lakers.
But it's not enough just to sell all the tickets and put the games on television. Marketing departments of these teams should be working more than any other team. You can't rely on the game experience to captivate fans, so yo have to find other ways and be more creative to satisfy your fans around the world. That means scheduling off-season caravans: having players and management tour throughout the region of fans, meeting those that can't afford to come to games, but who watch every game despite being miles away. Making merchandise available to these people: if all of New England is Red Sox nation (and likely more than that), the Sox must have merchandise stores in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine. Have a presence in every mall across the region.
Team practices and skills competitions are great ways to get fans out to the stadium or arena without it costing them very much. Schedule game viewings in local movie theatres, charity events in local communities. Even a "greatest [team] town" where fans in the community rally to show that they are the best town's fans of their team. These are all ways that you keep fans active and engaged in the team without being able to come to the stadium and show their support that way. Locating minor league operations in adjoining towns are also fantastic, bigger scale ways of keeping fans involved.
Being able to do that, and finding alternate ways of keeping fans interest in the game will help the truly dark ages of a franchise. The Cubs and Leafs have both fielded unsuccessful teams for decades, yet their fan commitment remains some of the highest in professional sports. Marketers have been able to capitalize on the tradition of the team and maintained their off field success. Imagine the outpouring of support when one of those teams eventually wins a championship.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Watching Larry Smith's presentation on the Montreal Alouettes at the John Molson Sports Marketing Conference at Concordia University in Montreal last summer reminded me of some of the most important rules that can never be stressed in the business of sports. The biggest rule is to never, ever give your product away. Unfortunately, it's one of the most common rules, a rule so abused that it has contributed to the collapse of major sports brands.
Advocates of free ticket giveaways will argue that it puts people in the seats, giving the impression that there is a demand. That the people who have free tickets will spend money on food, programs, and merchandise. This is all true, but there are long term consequences for these irresponsible, short sighted decisions.
If people are given enough tickets, their value perception of those seats will be zero. Even if the team is doing well and competing for a playoff spot, these people will be sitting at home, waiting for their annual or monthly pair to arrive in the mail. If the team is doing poorly, they will apathetically make decisions about whether or not to attend the game at all, causing their value perception of the game to be negative--that their time at the game is not worth their time doing everything else. And when people get things for free, or believe that something is worth it, they don't keep it within themselves: they tell everybody about it. They tell them about how they always get free Wizards, Rays, or Blue Jackets tickets. And the next time that friend considers going to a game, they will also wait, because they might get those tickets for free. Or worse, they'll feel stupid that they ever paid money for their ticket when their neighbour got them for free, and will resent the team entirely.
When the Steelers and Dolphins visited Rogers Centre last winter to play the Buffalo Bills in the first year of a 5 year, 7 game Bills in Toronto series, officials priced themselves way beyond what the market was willing to pay for the tickets. With the least expensive seat well over $100, officials realized in the days before the game that attendance would not reach anywhere close to capacity. In doing so, they gave free tickets away: 15,000 free tickets for the Steelers game alone. Tickets went to promoters, who handed them right to their clients. In one case, my friend Jason was given a pair of upper bowl seats for purchasing a pizza. At the game, the guy sitting next to him was lamenting his purchase of $200. Then Jason told him how much he paid for his ticket. You think that fan will ever come back? Not a chance. It didn't help that the papers ran this free ticket giveaway story on their sports section front pages the very next day.
Giving away free tickets is the drug of sport marketers. Short term high, long term consequences and enough abuse will put your brand at risk of losing all its value.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
When the Jays take on the Seattle Mariners this weekend, officials expect around 10,000 fans from the north side of the border to travel down to Safeco Field and watch their Jays play. That's 10,000 fans buying tickets, 10,000 fans buying merchandise, and 10,000 fans whose trips would be elevated to a euphoric feeling level if they actually got the chance to meet the members of their favorite team. So it would seem like a natural decision for the Jays to capitalize on this west coast passion, financially, if only to help solidify the Jays relationship with their fans.
In a year where attendance is down and several major sponsorship deals have fallen through, it is prudent for sports teams to discover alternate sources of revenue, to help minimize the impact felt by their losses. For the Jays, they have been offered a gift by the fans of the west: they must capitalize on their passionate fan base.
Paul Beeston's philosophy on the Blue Jays has always been to brand them as Canada's Team, and with the Expos gone, can truly market themselves all over Canada. In terms of British Colombia, the Jays could very easily start up a Blue Jays Tour division, that organizes and schedules Blue Jays related trips to Seattle and maybe even other places, depending on demand. BC Place has previously held baseball games and could very easily book a Exhibition Series against the Mariners before the regular season begins. If the average ticket price is $20, and attendance for a two game series is 70,000, gate revenues alone would be 1.4 million and could easily top 2 million dollars once box sales, merchandise sales, VIP packages with player signings, and other areas of revenue are factored in. A three game series could increase this number to 2.5 million. For an organization that has lost key sponsors in the past year, that money is not chump change.
Lost in the finances is also the goodwill gained from providing fans with an opportunity to exclusively watch their team in an unusual place at an unusual time, and the positive relationships made with fans and the brand during that series. After the series, installing a Jays Shop in a popular centrally located Vancouver mall will help gauge interest in the team over the season but provide additional revenue, now and for the future.
These ideas are not exclusive to British Colombia either. Winnipeg is in fair proximity to Minnesota. There are currently bus trips that run to Minnesota designed for Jays fans in Winnipeg to take. Since the organization itself is scheduling these trips, there is potential to include special rallies, signings, or player meet-and-greets that not only build relatinoships with the fans who participate but act as a competitive device over alternate bus tour groups. Admittedly, this is a different, unsusual business for a sports organization to be in, but is something that the Red Sox do with DestiNations, who are blessed with an endless road of money have started and continue to do.