A blizzard blanketed the Northeastern United States (kudos to The Weather Channel folks by the way, who took a lot of heat from The National Weather Service when they started naming winter storms like hurricanes but struck gold with Nemo!) this weekend, leaving millions with nothing to do but dig out and turn on the TV and fire up the computer. With the Super Bowl buzz a distant memory, and the NBA All-Star game a week away, there is a surprising gaping hole in the sports calendar this weekend that teams and brands may look to exploit in future years. The NHL for example, would have had its All-Star weekend the week before the Super Bowl (in Columbus, Ohio, helping a franchise…the Blue Jackets... that may be the least known of any team amongst the five major North American sports leagues), but that weekend still had the rise to Super Bowl and even the Pro Bowl. This weekend? Other than regular season NBA and NHL and college hoops? Nothing. USA Hockey has made NEXT weekend Hockey Weekend Across America, but it butts against the NBA All-Star Weekend…why not this weekend?
Now next year will be a bit different, as we will slide into the first weekend of the Sochi Olympics. But even the Winter Olympics will be six hours away from the States, and usually the first few days do not bring the major events. Can the NHL take advantage and drop some elite early round pool matchups into those days, and in turn make the weekend in the States all about brand hockey? Peewee, minor league and college? Would be a great play. Could NASCAR move Daytona back into the quiet week? How about a sport like lacrosse, with its indoor pro game, finding a place in the crowded schedule? Gold is tied to warm weather, tennis is indoors in Europe, but how about Davis Cup, which somehow decided to play a US-Brazil tie LAST WEEKEND in Jacksonville, Florida. Going up against the Super Bowl, even for a sport that says it is more global and doesn’t concern itself with local events, did not help the USTA or the sport, and a very exciting 3-2 result was lost amidst commercials for Super Bowl and mega pre game shows.
How about amateur and fitness sports? This past Wednesday was National Girls and Women in Sports Day…yet it garnered little coverage and was lost in the post-Super Bowl hangover, the one year to Sochi campaigns and other mid-week happenings. How could such an important demo…from moms who are decision makers to young women who need to be active as part of a healthy lifestyle to elite and telegenic female athletes…be lost in the mix by brands and Madison Avenue. This week Sports Illustrated will unveil its swimsuit issue as part of Fashion Week in New York, and that well marketed “tribute ” to beauty and sport for sure will not get lost in the shuffle. Baseball? Pitchers and catchers have started to report and some teams will hold fan fests, but the logistic transition of most teams make this a difficult weekend to convene in most major markets, unless you are a warm weather club lie the Marlins or DBacks who don’t have to go far.
Now maybe the psyche needs a respite from the Super Bowl, and we needed a weekend of nothing. However if you are a league, a sport, a brand looking to engage and carve a niche, this weekend seems to be a good annual one. The NFL has found a great spot opening their season the Thursday after Labor Day unencumbered. The Kentucky Derby has its spot. The Masters has its own place on the calendar. The weekend after Super Bowl seems ripe for someone to claim and build upon, lets see if someone grabs it.