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Why Winning Should No Longer Be a Strategy When it Comes to Driving Attendance

With a bevy of entertainment opportunities across the board, winning shouldn’t be considered a driving force when it comes to converting customers.

Adam White

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Winning - Strategy (*Old Hat is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

There is one thing that Zac Logsdon would like to see end: an emphasis on winning as a strategy when it comes to marketing, specifically in college athletics.

A 20-year vet of the industry, Logsdon has seen far too many programs and marketers depend on the silver bullet that is winning when it comes to delivering marketing KPIs.

Having been in the industry for a better part of two decades, Logsdon decided to take what he had learned and turn it into a book that was built for helping industry professionals adapt to the current market. Thus, ‘Winning is Not a Strategy’ was born.

With the new year right around the corner and more entertainment at our fingertips than ever before, winning may help get people in the gates, but it will never be the only thing that makes them stay.

“Twenty years ago was the first time I heard somebody say that ‘if we just start winning games, attendance will take care of itself.’ At that time I remember even wondering ‘why do we have jobs? Why are we in marketing, if we’re just relying on the team to do our jobs for us?’”

READ MORE: The Importance of Useable Data for Colorado State Athletics

The Nebraska Cornhuskers football team is arguably the best case study in driving attendance even when the product on the field is not as superior as it once was. From 1970 to 2004, the program only had one losing season (2004). Since then, the program has had four losing seasons with the last two years featuring identical records of 4-8. Yet, since 1962, Nebraska has sold out an NCAA-record 368 consecutive games at Memorial Stadium.

The teams that Logsdon sees as having the most promise are MLS teams as the league — and soccer in general — is about the experience and not just winning and losing.

“Major League Soccer defies all logic when it comes to the normal rules. They have teams that have bad records year over year and attendance increases. They have teams who get better every year and attendance decreases. It’s because the culture of soccer isn’t about winning and losing. It’s about being there.”

The “being there” culture is something that Logsdon believes all sports should champion and one that recent industry trends have suggested that the tide is beginning to turn.

“That’s what we have to figure out how to adapt to and transition to every other league. For years, athletics treated their product as if it was a privilege to consume and fans showed up no matter what.”

No longer a privilege, fans have been finding other ways to consume games whether it is on their mobile devices or on TV. In fact, in 2017, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) saw its largest year-over-year attendance drop in 35 years.

Logsdon points to the fact that games can be watched anywhere and at any time, no longer making them a commodity that had to be watched live.

How does one go about fixing the problem? Figuring out that like other brands, what sports teams and athletic programs are actually selling is a product before anything else.

“If we’re going to drive attendance and keep people coming back, we have to be far more strategic and treat our product as if it’s a product,” said Logsdon. “It has to be looked at the same way that a company like Mars treats products like Snickers. Sports is a product and we have to highlight the reasons that you should consume it and then we have to advertise those reasons.”

Why might this be difficult? Because for Logsdon, “sports has never had to do it before.”

Is there a solution to fixing what has been the norm for so long? While there are different roads to approaching some sort of fix, the biggest catalyst to change comes from the top, a place where Logsdon believes complacency has created a lack of innovation.

READ MORE: University of Florida Looks to Drive Engagement With On-Court Projection

“The problem with sports, especially collegiate athletics, is that we treat marketing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Stanford did it, so Syracuse should do it too. That’s not the case. You have to figure out what’s unique about your product, what’s unique about your audience, who your audience is, where they live, and how much money they make, rather than just saying, ‘here’s a video that shows a touchdown pass, and it’s exciting, and you should come.’”

From relying on social media and “fire” poster designs, resting on laurels has driven many to scratch their heads as to why even though they have the best poster in college athletics, attendance is down.

While he may not have all the answers, Logsdon knows one thing: winning is most definitely not a strategy.

You can buy Zac’s new book at WinningisNotaStrategy.com.

(*Old Hat is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

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Powerade Commits to Building Soccer Fields In New Campaign

As part of the brand’s new “Power Has No Gender” campaign, Powerade is building three mini-pitches with the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

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Photo Courtesy: U.S. Soccer Foundation

With a light on soccer with the Women’s World Cup, Powerade has made a commitment to help continue the growth of soccer in the U.S. by helping create better access to the sport.

The sports drink company has launched its “Power Has No Gender” campaign as the official sports drink of the U.S. Women’s National Team and partnered with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build three small soccer fields in honor of current players: Alex Morgan in Los Angeles; Crystal Dunn in New York; and Kelley O’Hara in Atlanta.

The “Power Has No Gender” campaign is the first portion of a greater “Power Has No Limit” campaign to discuss the challenges athletes face in sports because of race, age, gender, ability, access or identity, said Jasmine Lipford, Powerade Senior Brand Manager. Lipford cited a Women’s Sports Foundation statistic that girls have 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play school sports than boys, a gap the company wants to help bridge with the pledge of support to the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup is a powerful time in women’s sports. It is the one time every four years that women have a dominant presence on the sports page, captivating the entire globe and sports fans everywhere,” Lipford said. “Because this is such a powerful time in women’s sports, and as the official sports drink of the U.S. Women’s National Team, the FIFA Women’s World Cup presented the opportune time to channel the excitement and vigor that surrounds the tournament to help Powerade shed light on the challenges that young female athletes face.”

The new campaign from Powerade is meant to harness the popularity of the Women’s World Cup and help propel women athletes to an equitable level of their male counterparts, Lipford said.

U.S. Soccer Foundation Executive Director Ed Foster-Simeon believes partnering with Powerade on the three mini-pitches is a show of commitment on the brand’s part to actually make a difference in communities.

READ MORE: Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

“It’s an opportunity to do something together that has a meaningful impact,” Foster-Simeon said. “Boys and girls face many barriers to safe places to play. Access is one of the major challenges we face to growing the game.”

The fields being built will be a small contribution to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal of building 1,000 mini-pitches by 2026 in its “Safe Places to Play” program, but each small step is powerful in helping bring soccer to more communities in the U.S., Foster-Simeon said. The foundation has already built nearly 300 fields and Foster-Simeon said plans are in place to reach 500 in the near future.

Foster-Simeon said the foundation shifted its focus about a decade ago to reach underserved communities where access to programming and fields are limited. Taking note of similar mini-pitches across Europe and Central and South America, the fields can be built in underutilized spaces not large enough for full-sized fields, often in urban environments.

“It transforms a dead space in a community and turns it into a vibrant, live and accessible space for the entire neighborhood,” Foster-Simeon said. “It creates a hub of activity.”

The U.S. Soccer Foundation does take some steps to help program the fields, but time is quickly filled by community-based programs. The foundation claims fields are programmed an average of five hours daily with 350 children using them regularly.

While the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal is to create better access for all children, Powerade’s current focus is on women athletes as it launches the greater “Power Has No Limit” campaign.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup 

“Sports are crucial for girls, girls who play sports are more confident about their abilities and competencies, and are 14% more likely to believe they are smart enough for their dream career,” Lipford said, referencing a study by Ruling Our eXperiences Inc. “Giving young female athletes access to the tools they need to practice their game – including access to fields – will help these girls not only achieve their soccer dreams but will also pave the way for the next generation of World Cup hopefuls.”

Powerade is currently only committed to the three fields with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, but there could be more in the future with its goal to push these campaigns for access forward.

“Our goal is to show them these three pitches and the impact they can have,” Foster-Simeon said. “Hopefully they’ll be excited.”

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NHL Keeps Running On Dunkin’ With New Deal

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership.

Ian Thomas

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NHL Dunkin' Deal
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Dunkin’ has signed a multi-year extension of its deal with the NHL, continuing its position as the official coffee, donut and breakfast sandwich of the league in the U.S.

The deal, expected to be announced tonight prior to game five of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston, marks the twelfth major partner that the NHL has signed or renewed its deal with in recent months.

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership. Over the course of the last two seasons, the partnership has seen Dunkin’ become one of the NHL’s most active corporate sponsors in terms of its presence at major NHL events, partnerships with local teams, marketing campaigns and other fan-facing efforts.

READ MORE: Following NBA’s Lead, NHL Taps Massive Chinese Market for Fans

NHL Group Vice President of Partnership Marketing Evin Dobson said that since becoming a sponsor, Dunkin’ has ranked at the top or in the top three of the league’s internal metrics regarding fan awareness or engagement of its partners.

Dunkin’ has been front and center this Stanley Cup Final as well, as its national advertising campaign starring Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been heavily featured during NBC’s television coverage of the playoffs. The campaign was created by BBDO Worldwide, which was named Dunkin’s new agency of record in April 2018.

“When you have an advertising campaign that even the broadcast talent is talking about on-air, you know you’re creating great fan engagement with what you’re doing,” Dobson said.

Tom Manchester, Dunkin’ U.S. senior vice president of integrated marketing, said much of the deal with the league will be similar to how its current deal is structured – it will continue to hold exclusive rights in those U.S. categories, it will activate around the partnership at NHL league events and it will have a presence across broadcast, digital and social media channels throughout the season, which includes a multi-million dollar partnership with NBC Sports for custom in-game features during games. Dunkin’ will also activate alongside the NHL’s esports tournament, the NHL Gaming World Championship, which will hold its final in Las Vegas later this month.

However, the new deal will see Dunkin’ adding two new local team partnerships in the deal, with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Vegas Golden Knights. Dunkin’ now has 15 NHL team-level deals.

READ MORE: NHL Turns to Corner Ice Placements to Grow On-Ice Ad Revenue

Dunkin’ will also launch a new activation around the league deal ahead of next season, Manchester said, declining to comment further as those plans have only just started.

“Over these last two years, the idea that coffee and espresso is a big part of the hockey world and hockey family’s lives has only been reinforced for us,” Manchester said.

Dunkin’s NHL deal also serves as “the centerpiece” of that outreach to hockey families, Manchester said.

In addition to its league-level NHL deal in 2017, Dunkin’ has also made additional investments into hockey, signing a deal with USA Hockey in 2016 as well as the NWHL in 2015, becoming the women’s league first corporate sponsor.

While both of those deals have since lapsed, Manchester said that on the NWHL front, the company is in talks with the league about renewing it. He noted that Dunkin’ views “women’s hockey as just as important as men’s.”

However, Dunkin’ is not planning on more broadly renewing its partnership with the U.S. governing body. Manchester said that while Dunkin’ had activated heavily around the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team and players like Meghan Duggan during the 2018 Winter Olympics, it had nothing in place with USA Hockey at the moment – although he said Dunkin’ could potentially do something around the team or its players heading into the next Olympic cycle in 2022.

Both Dobson and Manchester declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, other to say the multi-year deal’s investment level is in line with the previous deal. Fenway Sports Management, who is Dunkin’s sports marketing agency of record, negotiated the deal on behalf of the company.

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Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

In August, Concacaf appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

Ian Thomas

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women's soccer
Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the start of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Concacaf has rolled out its first-ever strategic plan to grow and develop the game of women’s soccer.

In August, the confederation appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

LeBlanc, who presented the plan in Paris this week to all confederation’s 41 members that includes all of the soccer federations across North and Central America and the Caribbean, said that even with two of the top five ranked women’s soccer teams globally coming from this region in the U.S. and Canadian national teams, there is still an opportunity to do even better.

“The mission we’ve set out on is to improve the lives of women and girls throughout our region through the sport,” LeBlanc said. “We need to change perceptions, grow participation and build a sustainable foundation so that we can do just that.”

Concacaf has designed its strategy to grow the sport of women’s soccer around three main pillars – communicating the importance of women’s soccer and advocating for key issues affecting women, development of the sport and creating pathways to develop and empower players both on and off the field, and through commercial means that will build a self-sustainable growth model for the sport.

LeBlanc said Concacaf’s vision for growing the game somewhat mirrors FIFA’s, who launched its own first-ever global strategy for women’s soccer in October. FIFA is holding a two-day women’s soccer summit in Paris, featuring executives and federation officials from across the globe aiming to “make the most of this new era of women’s football,” which FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in his opening remarks at the summit on Wednesday morning.

Other goals for 2019 set by Concacaf include leveraging the hopeful success of the region’s national teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, creating a women’s coaching mentorship program and develop a commercial strategy around the confederation’s women’s soccer brand, which is called Concacaf W.

“We believe we can hit some of these targets very quickly, but it was important to create something like this plan so that everyone is on the same page,” LeBlanc said. “We all agree it is critical that we create growth and opportunity for women in the sport.”

LeBlanc said some of the long term goals include creating new women’s soccer competitions across the region, assisting in the creation of women’s soccer-specific digital and social channels for all the federations to help inspire fans, and encouraging the launch of more women’s clubs across the region.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup

“From our standpoint, we are looking at ways to influence clubs to take a leap of faith and if they already have a men’s team, to also have a women’s team,” LeBlanc said. “Our goal is to change the mindset that women’s football is just a cause.

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