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Red Sox & Fenway take on risk of alcohol sales

Posted by ZA on April 7, 2011

The Boston Red Sox are close to an agreement that will allow them to sell hard liquor to all fans at Fenway Park.  While I generally support freedom of choice, I don’t agree with this decision.  As much as I like the option of a mixed drink, I think they should be limited to suite holders or private club areas (which is typical for most venue and/or sporting events).  I think offering beer & wine in main grandstands is sufficient and adding alcohol will only promote additional over-consumption by certain fans.  I’m not trying to be elitist in my opinion, but I think there are many fans who won’t show good judgment.  I don’t want that guy/gal sitting by me and my kids at the game.  The Red Sox & Fenway will profit from this decision, but it could be at the expense of the gameday experience.

Article from Boston.com here.

Posted in MLB, Stadium Pouring Rights | Leave a Comment »

Checking in at a major league ballpark

Posted by ZA on November 3, 2010

Located based services are becoming part of our every day lives, so it is only natural that those services connect to professional sports.  Now we even have stats to back them up, since AdAge compiled data on Foursquare check-ins at Major League Baseball ballparks in 2010.

If I ran the marketing department for any at the bottom of the list below, I would be working my butt off to make sure more fans were checking in at my part in 2011.  Check ins are a free, natural and sometimes viral way to spread the word about your team.  So why not take advantage of this opportunity?

Top 10 Foursquare Check-ins at MLB ballparks (2010)
1. AT&T Park (36,263 check-ins)
2. Yankee Stadium (35,373)
3. Wrigley Field (25,203)
4. Fenway Park (19,956)
5. Citizens Bank Park (19,889)
6. Citi Field (17,661)
7. Dodger Stadium (15,461)
8. Nationals Field (13,420)
9. Turner Field (13,383)
10.  Miller Park (11,647)

Click here to see the complete list at AdAge.

Posted in Internet, MLB | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Will the NBA learn crisis management from MLB?

Posted by ZA on October 29, 2009

The steroid era in Major League Baseball has forever tainted the game.  Most fans cannot watch an MLB game without wondering who is using performance enhancing drugs.  Some of the best players in the game have been linked to PEDs; Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Manny Ramirez.  And baseball’s biggest stars in this era have had the steroid rumors swirl around them, including; Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  What has MLB done to help this situation?  What has the commissioner done to restore confidence that his players are clean?  Not much.  It seems their official stance is similar to AIG’s; just shut up and hope all of the negative attention goes away.

Now it is the NBA’s turn to defend itself against the rumors that their league is tainted.  These rumors come from a familiar source, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.  In his new book, Blowing the Whistle, Donaghy tells tales of the NBA refs working on behalf of the league to make games close.  He asserts that he and fellow refs would make side bets that affected how they called the game.  Worse he says that the league would instruct their officials to assist certain teams when a certain team winning was important to the league (sorry Sacramento Kings fans).  Donaghy says a lot of damning stuff in the book; here are some more excerpts posted by Deadspin.

If any of the allegations by Donaghy are true, then the NBA has a huge problem they need to correct.  The question now is how seriously will NBA Commissioner David Stern take these assertions from Donaghy?  Will the league investigate further to see if these stories are true?  Will they address this head-on or just hide and hope it goes away?  A conspiracy theorist might already wonder if the league is punishing their referees by locking them out and using replacement refs to start the 2009-2010 season.  Maybe there is more going on there than the two sides not being able to come to an agreement on a deal.

Back to reality, the NBA has to handle this situation carefully in my opinion.  They don’t want to overreact because there is no proof any of the allegations are true.  Remember that Donaghy is a convicted felon, who ratted out the mobsters he was helping to gamble on games and that Tim is likely broke.  Which are all reasons he might not be the most reliable source and could very easily have embellished details in his book to make some extra cash.

But that’s a dangerous game of chicken to play if the NBA is going to simply say that Donaghy is a liar and not look into this matter further.  Because it would take very little for this situation to escalate.  What would it take to corroborate the stories told by Donaghy in his book?  Just one other referee or player to step forward and validate Donaghy’s stories; then the NBA would have a sh*tstorm of negative media.  This is likely what keeps David Stern up at night; someone coming forward to validate the claims of the NBA’s disgraced former referee.

If I’m Commissioner Stern, I would get on top of this situation now and find out if any of this is true.  That would allow them to quickly correct any wrongdoing they discover and refute anything they find out is not true.  If there is any wrongdoing by the league office or their refs, then they need to apologize to the fans and insure this never happens again.  People will still love the NBA and they’ll respect the game more if they know it’s clean.

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Posted in MLB, NBA | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Does Scott Boras hurt his clients endorsements?

Posted by ZA on August 24, 2009

A thought occurred to me as I watched the recent Stephen Strasburg contract negotiations with the Washington Nationals; does Scott Boras’ hard negotiating style hurt his players endorsement opportunities?  Boras is known as a super tough negotiator who has even been called the “most evil man in baseball”.  This is not a reputation unfairly bestowed upon Boras, he has known throughout baseball circles for his abrasive negotiating style.  Teams like the Nationals clearly do not relish dealing with Boras because he always demands huge contracts for his clients.  With Strasburg, the #1 pick in the 2009 amateur baseball draft, Boras was initially seeking an “absurd” contract that would rewrite the MLB draft record books.  The Nationals and Boras finally hammered out a not quite absurd, but still record deal at the 11th hour.  That deal happened after months of tense negotiations that clearly did not endear the Nationals executives to Boras.

Which makes me wonder; is Boras an equally tough negotiator when it comes to endorsement deals?  Do corporations like Nike and Pepsico try to avoid dealing with Boras clients because for fear they will be raked over the coals during the negotiations?  Strasburg has been called a once in a generation prospect, but has yet to sign any endorsement contracts.  Other Boras clients are some of the biggest names in Major League Baseball (Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramierez, Prince Fielder) but seem to lack the mainstream endorsement deals of their peers in the game (e.g.- Ryan Howard for Subway, Derek Jeter for Gatorade).  Is this just a coincidence or do Boras clients not have the same endorsement prospects as non-Boras clients?  Difficult to say, but you have to believe corporations prefer to work with clients who have agents less aggressive than Boras.  If that is the case, then Boras’ style might actually be costing his clients endorsement money.

Scott Boras’ top clients and their top endorsement deal:
Johnny Damon – Puma
Manny Ramirez – EA Sports
Alex Rodriguez – Nike & Pepsico
Barry Zito – True Religion jeans

Posted in Endorsement Deals, MLB | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who are the most popular athletes in America?

Posted by ZA on July 30, 2009

Americans love sports, so naturally we love the athletes who play the games.  But which athletes are our favorites?  Who are the top 10 most popular athletes in sports today? The Harris Poll recently released the results of their 2009 survey that asked 2,177 U.S. adults to tell who were their favorite sports stars.

America’s Favorite Male Athletes (2009):
1. Tiger Woods (Golfer)
2. Michael Jordan (Retired, NBA star)
3. LeBron James (Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers)
4. Kobe Bryant (Guard, Los Angeles Lakers)
5. Derek Jeter (Shortstop, New York Yankees)
6. Jeff Gordon (Driver, Nascar)
7. Peyton Manning (Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts)
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Driver, Nascar)
9. Brett Favre (Retired, NFL star)
10. Albert Pujols (Baseball player, St. Louis Cardinals)

America’s Favorite Female Athletes (2009):

1. Serena Williams (Tennis player)
2. Venus Williams (Tennis player)
3. Danica Patrick (Driver, Indy Racing)
4. Candace Parker (Forward, WNBA)
5. Mia Hamm (Soccer star)
6. Maria Sharapova (Tennis player)
7. Annika Sorenstam (Golfer)
8. Chris Everett Lloyd (Retired, Tennis star)
9. Anna Kournikova (Retired, Tennis player & model)
10. Michelle Kwan (Figure skater)

What stands out to me about the lists, particularly among the guys, is the influence that Nike has among the list.  7 of the 10 guys on the list endorse Nike, you could count Brett Favre as an 8th since he endorsed Nike brand, Starter.  The only 2 guys who do not have endorsement deals with Nike are the two Nascar drivers, who wouldn’t be a target for a shoe/apparel endorsement deal.  So you could say that Nike has a clean sweep of the eligible males.  Among female favorite athletes Nike’s percentage drops down a bit, but they still have four of the top 10 and the #1 overall.  Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, Maria Sharapova and Chris Everett Lloyd all cash endorsement checks signed by Phil Knight.

Other brands are well represented; Gatorade has deals more than half of the two lists.  That number is even greater if you factor in all of the Pepsico clients, Gatorade’s parent company, on the two lists.  Nike’s chief competitor, Adidas, also has a couple of current (Parker) or former endorsers (Kournikova) on the list.

But no brand is as well represented on the two lists as Nike.  The question it brings up is whether Nike’s marketing is helping to make these stars more popular or whether Nike has just picked the most popular athletes?  My thought is that it’s a bit of both.  Nike has always been one of the innovative marketers in sports.  They’ve revolutionized the game of sports marketing with campaigns they built around athletes, starting with Michael Jordan and continuing today through Tiger Woods.

Consider that Nike did not even make golf shoes or clubs prior to signing Tiger in 1996.  Nike’s original endorsement contract with Tiger Woods was $40 million dollars over five-years, which was then followed by a five year, $100 million dollar extension.  But their spending did not stop there, Nike has spent tens of millions more to promote their association with Tiger Woods.  And for their efforts, it’s estimated that Nike Golf pulled in $725 million in sales in 2008.  Through their endorsement deal and promotion, Nike essentially created a new billion dollar revenue stream for the company.  That type of innovative marketing will generate the cash to pay for a lot of endorsement deals.

And Nike has never been shy about spending for top talent.  They signed quasi lifetime endorsement deals with a few of the top names (Jordan, Woods & Serena Williams) to make sure they locked up their stars.  Other deals might as well be lifetime contracts because you won’t see Jeter or Sharapova pitching anyone else’s shoe brand anytime soon.  And Nike jumps at the chance whenever their has been an opportunity to add a big, new star to their roster.  Just recently they solidified long-term agreements with two members of the top 10 list above who happen to be the most popular players in the NBA; LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

All of the athletes above are some of the biggest stars in sports; a feat they achieved because of their superior talent and lots of hard work.  But to ascend to the top of the list of America’s favorite athletes also requires a little help from sponsors.  And from their dominance on the two lists, it appears that Nike is a really good sponsor to have.

Posted in Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Gatorade, Golf, MLB, Nascar, NBA, NFL, Nike, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Citi Field is gorgeous, but has too many advertisements

Posted by ZA on July 1, 2009

I was in New York City last week for work and took the opportunity to visit the new home of the New York Mets, Citi Field.  I was a guest of our work partners, NBC Sports, so I was treated to fantastic seats in row 1 behind the visitor dugout.  The seats not only afforded a great view of the action on the field, they also provided access to the array of clubs in the stadium.  So I feel like I got a complete look at what Citi Field has to offer, and I came away extremely impressed.

I had heard from friends who have been to both new baseball stadiums in New York, that the aesthetics of Citi Field blow away those of new Yankee Stadium.  And after visiting the new stadium in Queens, I can see why people have been impressed with the Mets new home field.  The architecture is impressive, the views from the seats are all great and the amentities are all first-class.  But there was one thing I didn’t like; Citi Field has too much signage on the outfield walls.

I should start by saying that I’m an advocate of teams & stadiums doing sponsorship deals.  I believe they are an essential ingredient for teams/venues to make money today.  But I also think there is a fine line between effective stadium sponsorship deals and overkill.  The Mets and Citi Field have sold too many sponsor positions on their outfield wall.  It doesn’t detract from the game, but I don’t feel that having that many brands listed is doing their sponsors any favors.  Corporations buy these ad placements to promote their their brand, but few probably enjoy being squeezed in between dozens of other sponsor logos.  The clutter kills a lot of the effectiveness that could have been garnered from the sponsorship deals.  Overselling the space also puts name brand sponsors like Budweiser and Pepsi next to off-beat ads for Spongetech.com, Buy US Gold Coins.com, FreeCreditReports.com and the NYC union represented the construction workers who built Citi Field.  I’m sure execs from Anaheiser-Busch and Pepsico are not thrilled with their placements.

Below are photos of the abundant stadium signage at Citi Field in New York.  During a quick count of the sponsors on the outfield wall I counted over 30 different brands, including; Budweiser, Chevrolet, Dunkin Donuts, FoxBusiness, Geico, Pepsi, Planters, Subway & Verizon.

Citi Field has over 30 sponsors on outfield walls

Citi Field has over 30 sponsors on outfield walls

Too many ads are one of the only drawbacks of Citi Field

Too many ads are one of the only drawbacks of Citi Field

It was a great experience at Citi Field, but Mets executives should consider thinning out the number of sponsors they display so prominently on the outfield walls.

Posted in MLB, Sponsorship Deals, Stadium Signage, Venue Information | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Wrigley Field expansion on the horizon

Posted by ZA on May 26, 2009

Wrigley Field has been the home of the Chicago Cubs since 1916.  The park was build in 1914 at a cost of $250,000.  It currently seats just over 40,000 people.  It is the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, just behind Fenway Park which opened in 1912.  Wrigley Field is one of the most iconic sports venues in the World.  So naturally it is constantly at the center of debates of how to change it for the better.

Andrew Ziola who runs a website devoted to building a public park in Wrigleyville across from the famous ballpark.  Andrew’s idea goes in contrast to what the Cubs and City of Chicago have agreed upon, a project called the Triangle building.  The purpose of the Triangle building is to provide to more revenue generation opportunities for the ball club, by building restaurants and other stores that would be accessible by fans throughout the year.

I think we know which concept has won; the writing is already on the wall that the Cubs will build the Triangle building.  It’s just a matter of when the new Cubs ownership kicks in the money to start the project.  Something the Tribune’s architecture critic, Blair Kamin, has said the Cubs need to do right away.  Someone just needs to break the bad news to Mr. Ziola.

I applaud Ziola for pushing forward a different concept, one that is more earth friendly and therefore greener than the alternative.  One that will obviously do more for the residents of Wrigleyville, who could get year round use out of a park.  But the problem with his ideas is that the Cubs and city are most interested in is the green that comes on dollar bills.  They need to develop the land across from Wrigley into the Triangle in order to house some of the amenities that many other modern stadiums can incorporate into their building.  Wrigley Field is a historic monument, so that limits the scope of changes that can be made to the structure.  There is no way to have the restaurants and shops unless the Cubs convert the parking lot across the street.  So it truly is the right decision for the Cubs to build the Triangle.  A park would be great, but unfortunately it cannot generate the revenue that a retail development can.  That’s just the world we live in and money helps make the world go round.

You can follow Andrew Ziola’s quest on Twitter (@wrigleyfield4u).   Follow BrandDunk on Twitter (@BrandDunk).

Posted in MLB, Stadium Construction, Venue Information | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

When are things going to turn around for Yankees?

Posted by ZA on May 15, 2009

It’s been a tough start for the new era of the New York Yankees.  Before training camp even started they had to deal with the Alex Rodriguez steroids controversy.  Since then they’ve struggled on the field, handing out home runs like the dentist hands out free toothpaste samples.  They’ve been blasted by fans and media for their overpriced premium tickets.  And they’ve discovered potential flaws in the design of their stadium that are the cause of all of the home runs.  If they could take a mulligan on 2009, I think George Steinbrenner definitely would.

Today’s latest Yankee bashing comes from the Wall Street Journal.  The WSJ chronicles some of the problems that are plaguing new Yankee Stadium and what the team can do to overcome them.  There are some good quotes in the article from John McHale Jr. who was an executive with the Detroit Tigers when they opened Comerica Park in 2000.  McHale Jr says a team must, “…sit and watch and determine whether something unusual is built in.”  Doing that with the Tigers convinced them to shorten their outfield fences, which made the park more friendly to home run hitters.  That move is part of what helped the Tigers win a World Series in 2006.

Will the Yankees brass have the balls to make changes to their $1.5B baseball palace? It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong, hopefully the Steinbrenners won’t be afraid to make changes.  They already lowered prices on their premium seats, which is a good start.  But there are other changes they probably need to make to get the Yankees back at the top of the heap.

For the record, my prediction is that the Yankees will make the playoffs this season.  I even think they have a good shot at making a run to the World Series if their pitching comes together.  Of course I’m the same guy that picked a Yankees versus Chicago Cubs World Series in 2008, so maybe my biases are overshadowing my good judgement.

Posted in MLB | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Yankees caught with performance enhancing substance?

Posted by ZA on April 20, 2009

The New York Yankees have been caught red handed providing a performance enhancing substance to members of their team.  The result has been an overabundance of home runs at new Yankee Stadium.  Yankee home games are averaging 4.5 home runs per game, which translates to approximately 350 home runs over the course of a season.  The current rate of home runs is more than 3x greater than the 1.35 home runs per game average at Camden Yards and US Cellular Field, which shared the top two spots in 2008.

The performance enhancing substance being provided by Yankees brass?  Wind.  The design of new Yankee Stadium is causing a wind tunnel that has caused the rash of home runs.  Darren Rovell at CNBC was first to report on the story and said the Yankees are examining the “wind tunnel” effect causing all of the home runs.  Then a Accuweather story said that the angle of the seating in the new stadium “could have an effect on wind speed across the field”.  Accuweather went on to say that the “wind tunnel” conditions are most prevalent now and in late Fall, so the homers presumably would not keep up at this pace.

I’m sure this story will continue to evolve as it is investigated by the team, league and media.  But there is one thing that I’m already sure, that the Yankees are not happy at the thought that their $1.5 billion dollar stadium has a flawed design.  And if that turns out to be true, then I expect Populous, the architects who designed new Yankee Stadium, might be looking to change their name back to HOK Sport to hide from this embarrassment.

Posted in MLB, Stadium Construction, Venue Information | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Budweiser gives up rooftop overlooking Wrigley

Posted by ZA on April 19, 2009

If you ask someone to name the brands most associated with Wrigley Field, that person would undoubtedly include Budweiser on their list.  That is because for years the King of Beers has been positioned in a prime location just across the street from Wrigley.  The iconic, red Budweiser sign was visible in the background of many photographs of the bleachers at Wrigley.  It has become part of the experience of attending a Cubbies home game.  Until now…

Anheuser-Busch decided to not renew the sign for the 2009 season.  A-B says they have sufficient signage within Wrigley Field that they no longer need the rooftop sign.  The Budweiser rooftop has been replaced with an advertising for Horseshoe Casino.  Me thinks this probably has something to “bitter contract dispute” that occurred between A-B and the building’s owner last fall.  Which needed a temporary restraining order from a Chicago judge to prevent the building owner from covering the Budweiser billboard during the Cubs playoffs run.

Advertising comes and goes.  Billboards are constantly being replaced.  So what is the big deal about this story?  I feel like the Budweiser rooftop belonged in the brand hall of fame.  It was an original idea that stood above the rest for decades.  It wasn’t so much an advertisement for beer as it was a part of the game day experience.  It will always rank as one of the top sports related branding vehicles in the history of advertising.

Posted in MLB, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing, Stadium Signage, Venue Information | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »