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Managers on a Mission Helped a Basketball Manager Find Her Next Calling

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Photo credit: Managers on a Mission

(*MOAM is a Proud Partner of FOS)

It often takes a single transformative experience to find what the next step is in a person’s professional journey. For Kate Wilkins, this experience was a three-week mission trip in Uganda with Managers on a Mission (MOAM).

Formerly a manager with the University of Nebraska’s women’s basketball team, Wilkins learned of MOAM shortly after the organization’s inception.

“When I was an undergrad at Nebraska,” Wilkins remembers, “I was forwarded this email about MOAM right around the time that they started. I immediately loved that so much of their vision statement aligned with what I was interested in.”

Wilkins made the trip with MOAM in 2015, where they taught Ugandan children a variety of sports and led Bible studies most mornings.

“The biggest reason that I wanted to get into athletics in the first place is that I believe that it’s one of the greatest platforms for influencing and developing young people,” Wilkins states.

“We wanted the older kids especially to think about how the lessons they learned through sport can be applied to life off the court. So I loved the aspect of service and I love the aspect of being able to develop my leadership skills as well as the children’s. This was an awesome opportunity for me to network and build relationships with other people in the industry.”

Wilkins admits that the trip also made her fall in love with the continent of Africa. About a year later, she returned to Africa as an athletic director with the Rafiki Foundation in the country of Zambia.

She stayed in Zambia for two years before moving to Atlanta to work with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

“MOAM prepared me for the jobs I’ve had since in not only knowing how to plan and execute these camps on a large scale, but also being able to do that cross-culturally by communicating effectively. The network has also been incredible.

“They end up getting the cream of the crop of super-talented people that are interested in serving and giving back to the sport and are invested in what they’re doing. So, getting to network with and know those people have been hugely beneficial to me.”

Applications for the 2019 summer mission trip are due March 1. For any aspiring athletic professionals looking for new insight into athlete development, Wilkins believes you have nothing to lose. In the end, Wilkins’ service with the organization turned out to be a bigger assist than any she’d seen on a basketball court.

“You get the opportunity to grow and be developed as a leader. You have the opportunity to serve and to see new things and do new things and be stretched. Nothing great that we do is ever within our comfort zone. All of the greatest things that we accomplish come when we step outside of it. This trip will be one of the greatest opportunities you’ll ever have in your life.”

Applications for the 2019 summer mission trip can be submitted here. Potential applicants should contact MOAM Director of Discipleship Seth Ralston at sralston@managersonamission.org with any further questions.

Joe is currently a freelance marketing professional, writer, and podcaster. His work can also be found on the SB Nation network. Joe earned his bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Louisville in 2014 and a master's degree in sport administration from Seattle University in 2017. He can be reached via email at joe@frntofficesport.com.

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Examining The Future of Sports Sponsorships

GumGum Sports’ latest report, “The Future of Sponsorships”, details several key trends that sponsorship professionals should be keenly aware of.

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(GumGum Sports is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Since the dawn of professional sports, sponsorships have been a critical part of the space. Sponsorships draw massive numbers of eyes to a sponsor’s logo or product and supply teams/organizations with a significant portion of their revenue. GumGum Sports estimates that the combination of TV and social media team sponsorships drives $3 billion alone in media value back to the league’s sponsors, nearly a 5x return on investment.

And that’s not even factoring in value from digital streaming or the viewers that are able to watch via an illegal streaming service. In GumGum Sports’ latest report, The Future of Sponsorships, details several key trends that sponsorship professionals should be keenly aware of:

  • Artificial intelligence will quickly become an even bigger part of measuring the success of sponsorships by providing deterministic insights like sales uplift among rights holder fans vs. the general population.
  • Somewhere between 40-60 percent of every leagues’ inventory is missing a significant portion of its overall value.
  • The key to more accurate media value measurement is the ability to track data against a goal or industry standard. This gives those staff members involved in carrying out the actual campaign something to strive for.

Download ‘The Future of Sponsorships‘ to learn the various ways in which technology will build greater trust and performance between sponsors and rights holder

As the world around the sports industry continues to change, so does the overall sponsorship space. Those organizations who chose not to change with it run the risk of not fulfilling their potential or achieving maximum revenue.  Therefore, it behooves most professional sports organizations to understand how much room for improvement they actually have when it comes to securing and executing their various sponsorships.

To download the full report from GumGum, click here.

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Strategies For Building A Winning Ticket Sales Strategy

It is vital for ticket sales executives within sports to understand what goes into filling a stadium and the analytics used in building that strategy.

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(*StellarAlgo is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

A strong ticket sales strategy is an important key to success for any professional sports team, especially those looking to grow rapidly.

“When we look at building a strong ticket sales strategy, our first focus is understanding our audience: how our fans engage with the club, their preferences and purchasing behaviors and their experience with our guest services,” says Allison Yee-Garcia, VP of Marketing at Sacramento Republic FC. “We seek to understand these key metrics through genuine interactions and strong data collection and analysis, which then shape how we move forward with new initiatives.”

A strong understanding of the audience gives a team a head start on preparing for the future.

“As we look toward a potential MLS stadium, we are already planning to implement technologies that will enable a robust understanding of our fans, including a cashless environment, beacon technology and data-enabled fan activations,” Yee-Garcia says. “We also recently launched an official mobile app that’s helping us with fan profile development and surveying as well as setting the groundwork for a move to an all-digital ticketing environment in 2020.”

Building a strong sales strategy can be a difficult process. In the opinion of many professionals within the sports industry, however, it comes down to a few critical factors.

READ MORE: The Kansas City Royals Partner With StellarAlgo To Learn More About Their Fans

Get Personal

In an age where everyone carries a screen in their pocket at all times, consumers are being sold products at every possible second. Teams need to find ways to make fans care about their messaging in order to stand out. This is one philosophy that StellarAlgo imparts to the more than 30 professional sports teams they work with.

“Your fans are busier than they’ve ever been in history. They get more marketing messaging than they ever have,” says StellarAlgo Founder and CEO Vince Ircandia. “There’s more demand on their attention than there ever has been in the past. While you have these really, really passionate people that love your brand, teams need to innovate and think hard about how well they understand their fans, and message to them on a more personal basis.”

Personal messaging can help build the lifetime value of that customer. For that reason, teams that develop a strong community around their brand will see better results than using a more generic marketing strategy.

After recently beginning a partnership with the Kansas City Royals, StellarAlgo is working with the team to go through audience analytics including survey data, marketing automation, primary and secondary ticket purchase history, and other datasets to find commonalities amongst their most engaged fans. This helps the team realize the best ways to cut through the clutter and reach new fans.

Know The Important Analytics

It is expensive to find new fans. If teams can better understand the fans within their current databases, they can find ways to bring them back more and more frequently.

“Segmenting those fans starts with having a really good dataset,” Ircandia says. “So we are using pretty strong machine learning techniques in order to really let our algorithms determine how fans cluster and which of those attributes are really important in terms of the messaging around the fans.”

For example, StellarAlgo helps teams pay attention to the size of frequent transactions. This can often be some of the most predictive data. Understanding where a customer is in their customer life cycle can help teams tailor their messaging.

“If there’s someone that’s just made a whole bunch of purchases with you, you’re going to deal with that a little bit differently than you would deal with somebody that maybe hasn’t engaged with you in a while or if they’ve engaged with you in a really specific way as of recently,” says Ircandia.

Behavioral and demographic data also makes a difference. Certain groups of people may like to purchase tickets far in advance, some may prefer to purchase day of game. Others value cheap tickets over premium experiences or family events over other themes. Understanding how those fans cluster helps prepare ticket reps for the sales process.

Know Why Something Was Successful

Engagement, clicks and revenue all factor into whether or not a sales campaign was as effective as it could have been. But why did the customers respond the way they did to the different elements of the campaign? Understanding this is important to replicating success in the future.

READ MORE: StellarAlgo Turns to Machine Learning to Help Solve Ticketing Challenges

Be Able To Change Course Quickly, If Needed

Many organizations don’t have the time to evaluate the success of a campaign until after it is over. Machine-learning and automation can help solve some of these issues.

“Organizations are so lean and people get so busy that the postmortems that they do for sales campaigns are not generally automated. That’s one of the things that we try to do at StellarAlgo with our machine-learning technology,” Ircandia says.

“With this instant insight, teams can pivot in the middle of campaigns and learn. Being able to  iterate on what kind of touchpoints or what types of creative might be resonating with different segments at different points in time is really important. It can make a difference when it comes to turning fans into repeat visitors.”

For more on how StellarAlgo delivers actionable data insights for Major League teams, visit stellaralgo.com/major-league.

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Professional Basketball Combine Prepares Overlooked Prospects For The Pros

The PBC provides a number of prospects not invited to the NBA Draft Combine with the opportunity to show their skills and prepare for the future.

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(*BFWD is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Every year, a handful of college and international basketball prospects are invited to the NBA Draft Combine, where their skills, fitness and physical measurements are evaluated by scouts. Prior to 2017, non-invitees missed a huge opportunity to market themselves for future playing opportunities.

Fortunately for these prospects, the Professional Basketball Combine (PBC) provides another opportunity to showcase themselves.

READ MORE: Jennifer Azzi Is Growing the Game of Basketball All Over the World

Two-way contracts between the NBA and G League were introduced in 2017 along with three new G League teams, effectively creating 105 new opportunities for professional basketball players in the United States. Jake Kelfer saw this as an opportunity to give a handful of prospects the additional exposure that could propel them to the next level.

In the two years since Kelfer founded the combine, the PBC has produced nine two-way contract players, 23 NBA Summer League invitees, and the 2017-18 G League Rookie of the Year Antonio Blakeney.

“The event was designed for players to turn their dreams of playing professional basketball at the highest level into their reality,” Kelfer says. “I think the proudest moment is being able to see that the event has created an incredible value to the NBA community and to these players.”

Thanks to an active web presence and quality auxiliary events like a Celebrity Influencer Game as well as a skills camp for those pursuing a career on the business side of basketball, the PBC has been able to create a strong name for themselves on the branding side of things. That’s easier said than done for an event that only takes place two days per year.

“It’s definitely been a process that takes time to build, but for us, the key is really making sure that we highlight our players accomplishments along with the value that we provide to players, agents, and teams,” he says. “Particularly we want our players to know that we’re with them, and we believe in them past the two days when the event takes place.”

Kelfer and team continued to make the combine a year-round brand by debuting scouting profiles and stat trackers for players on their channels.

As the event has grown, the PBC now prepares prospects for life off the court as well as on. This year, Kelfer and company are debuting the first-ever PBC Prospect Development Program in conjunction with BrandForward, PTD Business Management, and Urner, Lemos and Paul of Wells Fargo Advisors.

“We really wanted to create a program to help these guys have the maximum success on and off the court,” he says. “Specifically, we’re going to be working with them on creating a digital footprint. How do you brand yourself as an athlete? How do you use your influence for positive change? How do you generate revenue through your social media channels? In today’s environment, players are able to capitalize on more than just traditional endorsement deals.”

The program will consist of several workshops for the combine participants regarding topics like financial literacy and personal branding. Both are important concepts for young professional athletes to grasp.

READ MORE:  ‘Be Better’: Inside Good Men in Sport’s Hard-Hitting Message for Men

“In today’s hyper-connected world, athletes have tremendous power in their platforms,” says Stephanie Martin, co-founder and managing director of BrandForward. “Brands are eager to leverage the direct-to-consumer relationships that athletes have with their fans, so we help athletes to take the reins of their brand and build strategies that support their larger goals. We’re excited to be part of the PBC Prospect Development Program because we believe personal brand-building can be truly additive to a professional athlete’s career both on and off the court.” 

While the PBC began as a way for athletes to showcase what they can do physically, the event has quickly evolved into something much bigger and into a very important part of the global community surrounding the sport.

The third Professional Basketball Combine will take place on May 21 and 22, 2019 at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California. For more information on this year’s event, visit professionalbasketballcombine.com/about.

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