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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

It's not always just about the Sport

Having spent a July 4th in New York for the first time, my eyes have been opened to some new cultures....  Independence Day sees a huge amount of activities undertaken to celebrate......  Not least the annual Hot Dog eating championships on Coney Island...
Now whilst over 80% of ESPN voters let us know that this ‘was not a sport’ (and I tend to agree) - there were still a few lessons to be learnt by sports marketeers.....
Joey Chestnut (the now 5 time champion) was billed as the star attraction, and certainly was presented in the right light (albeit set against the backdrop that his skill-set is a dubious one).....  The ‘pre match’ build up was perfectly pitched - with excitement rising through the introduction of the ‘combatants’....

The above mentioned voters (ESPN’s 80%) was over 70k in number - meaning there are a lot of people out there who cared enough - whilst the TV audience was close to 2m.  Whilst it is clear no one saw this as sport (save for the producers and the participants) - what is also clear is that the result was a well watched, well planned, well put together event that generated a good level of interest - both live, on TV and in general.
And that’s the key......
Any number of times - you will hear sports managers lamenting that without top level sport to give their punters - it is impossible to build a crowd / grow your club.  And this is something that has always irked at my own beliefs....
Yes, we want a good team to support (and it will make life easier indeed) - but the interest levels in the World Hot Dog eating championship was generated by variables that are within our control - 
  • Spectators want to be entertained, they want to have fun - sport helps, but so does the match day environment, the atmosphere, the ‘add ons’, the level of service, and yes - even the hot dogs provided on the day!!  So improve the event, improve the day out - make it so that people want to come even without a winning team...
  • Spectators will follow heroes - and whilst Joey Chestnut was not a sporting hero - the way his persona is built is that he can just about come across that way....  And our own teams can be populated by sporting heroes even if they never win the world title.  It’s what they do, rather than the results they get than can deliver this....  So build your player's profiles away from just the W and the L...
  • Proper Promotion - and this is the big one....  As Kevin Costner was once told - if you build it, they will come....  As Will Ferrell once noted - “It’s the frikkin’ Megabowl!!!”.....  If you don’t let people know something is going on, how they going to find out....  If you then tell them that what is going on, is actually amazing to watch - then people will often believe you....  You have to tell them, and you have to give the right message - and people will come....
Of course, spectators will watch a winning team more than one that does not - but all the other factors (of which they are undoubtedly more than I have listed above) will drive your crowd numbers, and build your club...
So stop worrying about how well the team is doing (that’s the coach’s job) and start worrying about how you are doing.....!!!
And if you want to see a real sportsman (the other 20% believe it) in action - check out Joey right here!!

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