It has been another interesting few weeks of attending events learning and listening between all the day to day activity. Through all that there were some great tidbits to share from the bigger successful minds that wandered in and out of meetings, media events and get togethers…Here’s some of the best to ponder on the first weekend of the fall.
“Work back from the customer.” Our colleague Jim DeLorenzo has been drinking from the proverbial fire hose at Amazon Sports, and their next big step will come with the launch of their NFL streaming deal next week. Amazon continues to make disruptive noise in all spaces, and has done some great work with edited shows and documentaries in sports, especially around teams like the Arizona Cardinals and the LA Rams. Now they make the massive move to show how they will change the game with live sport. Why such a big leap? If you want to be in the game in the US you need to find the entry point with a major league, and there is none bigger than the NFL. Twitter used the NFL as their point to make noise, but Amazon will do it in a different way, not just delivering an existing feed, but trying to change the ways brands will engage and how the consumer will watch with their customized needs first. The NFL is what their audience said they wanted, and Jim and his team found the way, and the cash, to get it.
“I went to Google, asked ‘how do u start a soccer team from scratch?’ There was nothing, so we made it up.” Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, readily admits he takes on big ideas and then figures it out as he goes along. Assemble the right people, research the marketplace, find the money and see where it goes. He has done it with several startups, and now Stockade FC, a Division 4 semi-pro soccer club in Kingston, NY, is his latest project, and one which is trying to rearrange the furniture in soccer in the United States. Crowley has been part of the petition to challenge the model Major League Soccer has been a part of and US Soccer has created in the US, which is counter to most other countries but is the norm in the U.S. The elite league has the most dollars and owners buy in for life, without fear of relegation. It also keeps smaller, growing teams from moving up through success, only through financial windfall, and many times, Crowley pointed out, if a small market or an emerging club on limited funds is successful in the US, an owner with deeper pockets can come along, work with MLS, and take the space that has been built.
Even if the relegation issue is not settled, Crowley has built a community model for success; a team run by locals, who have found ways to give back and enhance a community and build civic pride. He admits it has been both fun and exhausting but most importantly, he and others have learned that soccer as a game can unify groups and build community, even if you are doing it on a wire without a net below you, and changing things as you go along. Most importantly though? Like his other businesses Stockade FC is a learning experience; some good, some not so good, but so far it has been pretty successful and one to watch.
Successful brands now will have to tie great experience with ultimate convenience. I haven’t’ heard Shake Shack’s Randy Garutti speak in person, but I did catch him on Wharton Business Radio this week talking about the ethos and the power behind what Shake Shack has built. While he talked a lot about the community the brand has, the association with quality food and reasonable prices and the pride people get from being associated with SS vs other fast food brands, he also had an eye on the future. That is where he said, brands like Starbucks and and Shake Shack win out; they know the consumer now wants things in a timely manner, and if that means a three hour mobile delivery then so be it. However there is also the need of making sure the places of congregation; coffee bars, book stores, restaurants, parks, are festive, clean, have amenities and make people want to interact socially, not just come in and out. Destinations for meetings that are not loud and dirty are key because we can’t always live in a mobile first solitary world; we need to see and feel and act together in a social environment, and that’s what Shake Shack aspires to do. Like good sports franchises, they are part of the fabric of a community, not a building where people just come in to eat.
No trombone oil. The great people at the Cornell ILR School hosted a daylong event on Monday in New York, with a staggering lineup of bold face sports business names, from Gary Bettman and Rob Manfred to Jeremy Schaap. Another one was Jimmy Pitaro, longtime sports and entertainment executive who now is Chairman, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. Pitaro talked a lot about the sense of community and value that Bob Iger brings to Disney. However one key deliverable that came away? Even the best ideas have to be scalable and have to fit into the long term goals of the business. Trombones are a great instrument, for example, but how many are there? So if you are making trombone oil, the market is very limited, and it will slow down both the business and the creative process with little scale. Now can you make that oil into a better product with multiple uses? That’s where the vision comes in. Look wide, find great ideas, and see where they can go.
Over reward the assist. Another from the Cornell lineup was CAA Sports co-head Mike Levine. He was asked by Sports Business Journal editor Abe Madkour about how he keeps his eye on all that goes on in the vast CAA universe. One of the answers was to make sure when someone does something right, or a small idea becomes a big one, that you take care of those in the chain who built the thought, or the concept. Giving more for the little things is sometimes forgotten, but those little things show that you are heard, and makes you brand loyal. Kindness and opportunity take form at the grassroots, and by taking care of those who take care of you, you keep your core together and show people the way to grow going forward.
We Are In A World of Multi-hyphenates: This came from IMG’s Ed Horne at the Portada Sports Marketing Conference. What did the longtime sports business executive mean? Be diverse, handle many things and look to those who can juggle. Singer-songwriter; blogger-influencer, marketer-personality, head coach-general manager. You can’t live in a silo now, and to grow you have to be able to listen learn and adapt to a changing marketplace. Yes you can conquer and lead a niche, but you also need to be well versed in many areas. The need to be able to sing and dance is greater today than it ever has been, and that creates great opportunity s well as its own set of challenges. Bottom line; never stop learning.
Measure brand awareness first, revenue second. Also at Portada we listened to Rahul Kadavakolu Director of Global Marketing and Branding for Rakutan, the Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company. Rakutan made a big splash recently with their patch deal with the Golden State Warriors, on the heels of a mega sponsorship with FC Barcelona. How will those things help grow a company that is not really consumer facing, especially in the United States yet? You have to find ways to cut through the clutter and associate with brands that have the same vision as you do. Rakutan needed to be in conversations with the world’s biggest companies and by going big, they immediately injected themselves into discussions they may have had to fight their way into before. A big association changes perception and opens doors, and can also lead to other partnerships. Being in the global internet game can be tedious, but by creating buzz through a daily platform like sport and sports business, opportunities can arise faster, so long as you have the scratch to take that leap. The Warriors may not help sell widgets, but they can help a brand get to a higher level of business conversation that cannot be measured in one click or transaction. Careful homework, and seizing the right opportunity made the deal go.
That was just a smattering of all of the listening and learning recently. Great times catching up with some of the smartest in the space, and the fall learning season is just beginning.