This is about sports. (And it’s my last day.)
Sports. We love them. We hate them. We get into arguments. We celebrate. We sit on a couch for hours to see how fast each future draft pick’s 40-yard dash is. We don’t get to play, coach, or dictate club decisions. We pour our hearts and souls into teams that we have no control over. We brave below-freezing temperatures – shirtless (well, some of us) – covered in body paint to scream at the field until we’re blue in the face. And for what?
Being a native of Cleveland, Ohio, I know all too well about heartache and despair when it comes to sports. Unfortunately, this trend of anguish didn’t start with me. My father has been to every unimaginable Cleveland loss including The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble, and Red Right 88. Most recently, the world witnessed another crushing blow to C-Town with the airing of “He who shall not be named’s,” The Decision. You know what it’s like as well as I do, Buffalo. Four Super Bowl appearances and zero wins? That’s rough. (As I finished typing the previous sentence, I received a scoring update on my phone letting me know the Indians just lost six to nothing. Cool.)
So why do we torture ourselves? Why do we care about any of it? Because it’s an insatiable passion that cannot be satisfied with Two And A Half Men reruns. We want to believe in something bigger than ourselves. There needs to be an escape from the bumps and bruises of daily life to watch someone else get those bumps and bruises while we hold a $9 beer.
You’re probably wondering by now just what this blog post is about. No, I’m not going to complain about how much Cleveland sports teams suck. Believe it or not, this one’s about a recent Advertising Club of Buffalo’s Lab on sports marketing. However, because this is my last blog for Crowley Webb and because Vic Carruci, the Cleveland Browns Dailysenior editor, was the guest speaker, it’s going to be a little biased toward the Rock ‘n’ Roll capital of the world.
Without sports marketing, teams couldn’t pay those outrageous multi-million dollar contracts, and we wouldn’t be able to experience the eternal roller coaster ride of emotions and entertainment. Nobody can be good forever (unless you’re the Lakers or the Yankees). One point that was continually brought up was the idea of selling hope. Carucci said you have to sell hope when you can’t sell wins. He obviously knows Cleveland and Buffalo pretty well. What he meant by this was that when the win column isn’t putting butts in the seats, you need the dream of a better tomorrow to inspire fans to support the team. This proves to be more difficult in some cities than others (cough, Philly, cough).
The Browns had four wins last year. Five the year before that. The team’s unofficial tagline is “There’s Always Next Year.” Yet the seats are always filled because the Browns organization sells the experience of a great team and the hope that this will be the year. Carucci noted that every single Sunday at six in the morning, fans are packed in the Muni Lot ready to watch their Browns duke it out with whatever team was unfortunate enough to get the Browns on its schedule. Organizations need to continue to reinforce this goodwill when the fans are there to keep current sponsors, attract new sponsors, and keep the fans as much a part of the game as the players.
The game day experience also needs to be managed and carefully monitored in the front office on a personal level, in addition to the macro level. We are living in a digital age where anybody, anywhere can say anything, anytime about your organization. Quick response times to any questions, comments, or concerns are essential to creating a good rapport with the fans. A successfully devoted fan base often comes back to the culture of the organization depending on how the fans are treated. Poor communication through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can sour relationships quickly. This is a two-way street. Organizations need to keep in contact with advertisers the same way by voicing their opinions and taking advertisers concerns into account.
An important point to remember is that there is a fine line between over-marketing and a good experience. Fans don’t want to be overloaded by the Louis Mercedes Sunoco Rays Music Mall Chocolate Delights Murphy’s Oil Soap halftime show. But at the same time, teams need those sponsorship dollars. Which begs the question, what comes first, the advertiser or the consumer? The best and simplest advice would be to judge the situation based on each sport and organization and find a happy medium. Each sport and fan base is different. However, in most cases, putting the fans and the experience a little ahead of the advertisers wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Having the sponsor add value to the experience is a win-win for all. Remember, you can’t have one without the other.
So let’s sum up. Cleveland has terrible sports, but we love them all the same. I wouldn’t have my last blog post at Crowley Webb end any other way. It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m so fortunate to have worked here. Thank you to everyone in the agency for making me feel so welcome. So good night and good luck, stay classy, Buffalo, and Seacrest out! Wait, that last one doesn’t really work.