No Predictions, Just Some Thoughts For 2012

First of all for all those who read or follow the blog, bought my book, or even signup for the newsletter every week, thank you. I have probably gotten more positive feedback and comments in 2011 than ever before, and it is greatly appreciated. The goal is pretty simple…as my grandfather told me, you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice more than you speak and always keep learning.

While many look back on the best of 2011 and throw together wish lists for 2012 on who to follow and what to read, I’d like to list out a few things that I hope will continue to percolate, and in the end make our business more fun, more innovative, more interesting and will hopefully generate more jobs for those still looking and for those entering the marketplace.

As always you thoughts and ideas are welcomed. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter on Sundays (we are over 26,000 members now) and haven’t, just email me at fatherknickerbocker1@yahoo.com or join our LinkedIn Group “Sports Marketing and PR Pros.” It’s simple, I hope it’s interesting and informative, and I hope you can contribute.

Some Thoughts and Hopes For 2012:

More Manager and Coordinator Jobs In Social and Digital Media: I had heard a figure in December that there were less than a dozen professional teams of the five major team sports in North America that have a fulltime person managing, creating and finding ways to improve and engage in the digital and social media space. Some of those teams have added spots recently, like the Nets and the Sixers. Hopefully it is a trend that teams invest in more in 2012 as the return may not be yet in hard dollars, but it will be in engagement and responsibility.

More Interest In Athletes and Teams Doing Good: Sport became a punching bag again for problems in 2011, from college and high school abuse issues through the professional scandals around the world. The stories are great copy and get tremendous buzz, but there is also a great deal of good going on with athletes, brands and leagues, especially going into London 2012. Every person can be an advocate for positive change and a sharer of great stories, here’s to telling more positive tales than negative ones. Here’s also to brand doing more to combine their marketing dollars in sport with philanthropy. Good will sends products and builds brands as well.

Global Growth And Understanding In Sport Business: We are all just a text message away from each other, yet the world of sport business still operates in silos. It is coming closer as brands look for more ways to engage across societies and technology, but sport is still very much a business of different cultures. The way we access and follow teams, engage with brands or play games is vastly different, and those who find the way to take the time to understand locally and act globally are the ones who will have a leg up, especially in an Olympic year.

Handles and Hashtags: Mississippi State dropped a hashtag in their end zone, the Celtics an @ sign on their parquet floor and there surely will be more to come, just like a url is standard at every event. The symbols lead to information, and can lead to some great promotional opportunities for the brands with mass carriage. We don’t need twitter symbols replacing names on jerseys or wasteful information sites popping up without an ROI. However for those brands who have a powerful and well planned message to tell, feel free to share the best way to get that info. Maybe twitter handles for athletes should be listed in press releases next to hometowns and high schools. It would be a great way for immediate engagement. However it is not for everyone. Like public speaking and endorsements, social media is a choice not a requirement. It is useful but should not be white noise.

Colleges Empower Communications People More And Give Them The Tools To Succeed: My friends at CoSIDA have done an amazing job of waking up the sports communicators at colleges to show the business world that they bring great value to a University. However many schools still see the SID position as an add on not an essential voice with real dollar value. The college crisis situations that arose this year pointed that out directly. Many schools do not invest in adequate training or planning for their officials in advance of a crisis, and when a crisis arises they throw thousands at firms with experience in “crisis” overall but not with the nuances of the community. Sometimes it is great, sometimes it creates more problems. Colleges and Universities need to invest in the people who tell their stories through the media…social, digital, traditional, word of mouth…and make sure they are adequately trained professionals who can help keep the strong University brand even stronger.

Fun Promotions: The sports marketing and publicity business should be all about fun and innovative engagement. It would be great to see more innovative Heisman trophy campaigns, more unique promotions for team awards, better sharing of ideas and even more creative campaigns to get casual fans engaged. Maybe a mailing here and there to media will not get a direct ROI or influence a vote, but it will be taken notice of and create some additional buzz.

More Personal Contact: In the past year I have found at least a half dozen MEDIA outlets and personalities who refuse to give out a phone number when asked. Too busy, just send an email and we will get back to you. Sports is still a people business and it’s a personal business. Don’t hide behind mass emails and notes. If someone reaches out to you, reach back out, we can all get along and we all can learn from one another. Take a writer to lunch, buy a league publicist a cup of coffee, use a pen now and then and pick up the phone. A little kindness goes a long way.

Quality As Much As Quantity: The phrase “size matters” has never been evoked more than in the social media space. Properties, athletes, brands rush to get thousands or millions of followers in a medium where the interest was supposed to be direct conversation, not spam. Ask many brands or athletes who follow them, or who they follow, and often you get empty stares or silence back. The most effective online properties are the ones that take the time to see who is following them, when they are following and why and most importantly how they are reacting to what they are saying. It is great to speak to millions or thousands and to have that platform to use smartly. It is even better to make sure that you are speaking to the right few, rather than the disinterested many.

No more gurus, evangelists, experts, messiahs, or icons: If you have to tell someone you are any of these, you are probably not. As for the digital world, the smartest people are the ones who listen and learn and grow and adapt. Those people, no matter what their age, usually spend little time looking for the spotlight or telling people how great they are. If it’s true the spotlight will find them.

“Getting” Gaming: For some reason there still is a wall between the largest and most engaged audience of young online first adopters…the gamers…and traditional sport. It’s almost like the two groups don’t have a common ground, or one refuses to understand the other. Gaming online and traditional sport have a huge common ground…both are competitive, skilled, innovative and social and the interactive space of sport and social in a digital format (online and in mobile) will help grow the gaming interest and the traditional sport following. Hopefully the two worlds will continue to mesh without fear.

Embrace The Bloggers: Some say blogging is past its prime, I think it is evolving. Like every other “medium” in sport and entertainment before it, there is a weeding out process. Bloggers in other areas…parenting, politics, etc are growing and thriving…good sports bloggers, ones with innovative opinions, deep dives on content and a passion for their subject…can be just as effective. Hopefully teams, leagues and especially the NCAA, see the opportunity and continue to embrace bloggers of all ages who do good work. Now will the rogue problem pop up? Yes. But hopefully it is a one off issue that is not reflective of the overall state of the blogosphere, but the chance to have a dialogue with bloggers and use them as allies in promoting brands, teams, athletes and properties is still wide open, and usually nets positive results.

College and High School Media Growth: The sports business is growing still and it is getting younger as well. The use of digital and social media has created endless opportunities for young people who understand the culture and can help those established in the space to grow. Using that space positively, and finding new outlets and ambassadors to tell ones story, is very important in an environment where traditional media is budget and time challenged. High Schools, colleges and universities are looking more and more to using sport, from fantasy sports to explain a math curriculum to marketing and business programs, as a way to communicate and educate. That curriculum is showing young people a new career path that didn’t exist before and in turn they are becoming more passionate and engaged about the business of sport than ever before. Out of that core has come more media platforms, online, text, podcasts etc. that are assets for growth.

Writing: The shrinking of traditional media outlets has cost us many of the best writers of a generation, many of whom are trying to adapt to a different world order. Even with that change, the ability to express in the printed word has never been greater. New sites like Grantland, The PostGame and The Classical, along with hyper local sites created by media companies like ESPN (as well as the coming Sports In America Series by SI and HBO) have given long form a new place, and with it some great stories are being told in the digital space. Hopefully the writing of sentences, not tweets, is what young people will aspire to and evolve into as professionals. There is no substitute for good storytelling, and those stories are best told by good writers with good writing skills. There are many, many teachers of the craft now available, and hopefully sites look to continue to embrace those veterans t show the next generation not just what to write, but how to tell that story.

Again, just my opinion, and Lord knows I am guilty of many things as well, but hopefully we are all moving forward in this business, with the best yet to come. As Jimmy Buffet says, “We need more fruitcakes, less bakers.”

Have a great New Year and stay in touch.

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