Viewing entries tagged
NFL

Next Generation NikeID Goes Beyond Colors: Patterns & Logos

I spend a lot of time writing about next generation commerce... and we invest in compelling companies and models like ShoeDazzle and Wantful (as examples). For years, people have pointed towards NikeID as an example of true product customization atop a great web interface. I believe I bought my first pair of custom Nike's in 2003 (Nike Air Max 95's). You can even create, buy and share your sneakers from their iPhone app.

It continues to evolve and the newest iteration is interesting for two reasons:

1. It goes beyond 5-10 color choices. You can now choose different patterns (like the one below) and then customize each component of the pattern with various colors... meaning that shoes can look entirely different from one another (beyond colorways). A single shoe model has endless looks.

2. Nike just won the NFL contract from Reebok. The obvious launch was the release of their NFL jerseys. But notice in the bottom screenshots that you can now apply NFL logos and colorways to Nike sneakers.... this is a brilliant extension line as there is no cost to Nike, it increases the shoe's value / price, it allows Nike to sell packaged outfits, and Reebok didn't do it.... so it's unique and special.

11 Ways to Usher the NFL, NBA, MLB into the New Web

I am a sports nut. That shouldn't be news if you follow me here or on Twitter / Facebook. I also spend my professional life on the web and looking at new technologies. In part because it is fun to think about - and in part due to personal frustrations - I'll put those two together and brainstorm how the major leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB) should improve their online product. Note: obviously there are significant issues: content rights, ownership, players unions, etc. Let's make the (ridiculous!) assumption those don't come into play or that everyone wakes up and agrees these are important for leagues' future health (NBA and MLB more so than the NFL).

1. Get an online identity.

Sounds simple and the below ideas are clearly focused on helping drive an identity. But look at these screenshots from NBA.com and NFL.com. I have no idea why I would visit these sites as opposed to ESPN.com or Twitter. They are mixtures of ads, promotions, stores, and news.

These sites are highly trafficked (see August list here) - but in August (when interest is at its max) NFL.com still represents just 40% of Yahoo's traffic and 50% of ESPN's. The brand is obviously there but the sites are not much more than navigational hubs.

The below ideas hopefully help create an identity and a reason for fans to visit and engage with their online properties.

2. That identity should be social.

I believe these websites should have four primary goals - probably in this order:

A. Promote the league, teams, players and partners. B. Engage the fans. C. Covert visitors to new properties / touch points: Twitter Followers, Facebook Fans, mobile users, etc.... recognize that fan activity is far broader than on your site. D. Drive revenue (store, ads, etc)

The best way to directly drive points 'B' and 'C' and to indirectly impact 'A' and 'D' is by fully integrating social. More on the next point. But at the highest level, this means that the league sites should look more like a robust, branded Facebook Fan Page and less like your local newspaper site. Content should be dynamic, personalized and interact-able... not flat like your a local news article.

3. View me as an individual fan. Not a pageview.

Step 1 in making the sites more social is to view users as individuals... not as pageviews. How? Lets reimagine what NFL.com could be:

- via Facebook Connect, it recognizes my identity and prompts me to Like the NFL on FB - it then asks me to like my favorite team(s) - by 'liking', I automatically subscribe to team's Facebook page (already subscribed to NFL) - now NFL.com can feature content specifically crafted to my preferences and to my Facebook friends - And they can quickly translate this from league to team to players

Those 20M uniques in August are suddenly *much* more valuable as connected users. And those 20M uniques are just the tip of the traffic iceberg... why? Those users are now:

- They are viral (hello Facebook Ticker!)

- They are shareable: instantly the NFL can have massive followings on Facebook & Twitter and can share that traffic with their teams.

- They are engageable: once you have users become fans / followers, the league can more effectively / efficiently engage with fans (and market / promote).

And now content flow can go both ways: on and off NFL.com. Just look at the Washington Post Social Reader as a good example.

4. Welcome social media. Don't fear it. In fact, mandate it.

Encourage teams and players to use social media. Hell, mandate it. In the above example, you could have a Facebook page with 10M Dallas Cowboys fans. That's as powerful as the team makes it.

Each team should have an official Facebook Page and Twitter account that is consistently named, branded, etc. The page should aggregate / promote the Facebook / Twitter pages of its players.

Fans should be able to subscribe to entire teams through a single follow button (ie a Dallas Cowboys officially curated Twitter list).

The league and its teams will clearly worry about player etiquette on Facebook & Twitter. But: they are going to use the platforms whether or not the league likes it... and the players will listen (and behave) if they appreciate the power of building a following & brand via social media. Bring in industry leaders to give crash courses in social. Make it a mandatory part of the rookie symposiums.

The end result:

- dynamic content that is unique to each league / team (unlike their news clippings) - bigger followings for the league, team and players - real-time connections with fans who are now more deeply engaged - more control by the league and team

5. View the league as a set of teams. And teams as a set of players.

Connected to the two points above, think of the league sites as a collection of teams. And while it is the league's duty to deliver league-wide news and promotions, it is also beneficial to promote each team. The above examples accomplished: - building a social following for the league itself - using that to promote individual teams - and then using each team to promote its own brand and players

ESPN is beginning to figure this out with their personalities. See example here.

And just as the league should promote horizontally - the teams should also be asked to connect to others. Lightweight ways include:

- making sure all mentions are linkable (seems simple but so rarely done) - official pages include links to other teams (on Facebook via favorite pages, Twitter via Lists)

6. Every league & team should hire a czar.

See the above screenshot. Enough said.

7. Go mobile.

The leagues are getting quite good at standalone apps (particularly MLB). But the same approach to social should be applied to mobile:

- There should be league apps. - There should be standardized team apps.

Note: why team apps? for starters, the experience is better within a single app and the team can more proactively tailor content and brand. Secondly, traffic will be better (app store findability, promotion through team fan pages, etc).

- Those team apps should feature dynamic content beyond the box score (everyone has that). - Leverage the above points to showcase team and player content - Allow users to engage directly: follow, post, like, Q&A, etc. - Deliver push notifications: alerts from favorite player. Scores. Injuries. Etc.

Those stand-alone apps should also pertain to in-stadium experiences / promotions. That obviously requires 3G and/or wifi to work in stadiums... which is a leap of faith today.

8. Make content available.

Figure out how to get around the rights issues and make as much content available as possible. Leverage the league website, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Full game coverage: allow me to subscribe to a team or league as I can with MLB At Bat (a perennial top grossing application.

Clips: make clips available and let users remix & share them. It's a viral dream. You can even protect branding by controlling the experience either onsite or as a Facebook app.

Highlights: The NBA is great at releasing Top 10 Plays from Yesterday on their Facebook page. This becomes more powerful as their presence grows... and even more powerful as the team presences grow. My willingness to share a specific clip from my favorite team / player is far greater than from across the entire league.

9. Engage. Don't just push.

Content is now a two-way street. Build experiences that encourage interaction by fans. And encourage personalities to be interactive. Learn from CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell - who really phenomenal on Twitter.

10. Welcome ESPN and the new media. 11. Similarly, concede what you won't win.

Figure out strategically where it makes sense to leverage other properties and brands. In many cases, collaboration / aggregation will create a better product (again, see Washington Post's Social Reader which incorporates content beyond WashingtonPost.com).

In other cases, it will allow the leagues to redeploy resources, focus elsewhere and still roll out better products. For instance, is the NFL really going to win fantasy sports? That's ESPN's domain. Work together and build ancillary products that support the experience and league.

More reading:

- ESPN Brings Twitter into Fantasy Football App. Getting Closer. - Much to Learn from the NBA’s Facebook Fan Page - My Response to Mark Cuban’s: Does ESPN.com Have a Twitter Problem? - ESPN’s Mobile Application Strategy (and Ad Campaign to Match)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Tech takes to Super Bowl XLV Ads... & Takes them to Web before the Game

Tonight you'll likely see a handful of tech companies advertising during the Super Bowl (a 30-second spot runs $3,000,000). Techmeme - which is usually filled with tech and gadget news - is headlined by forthcoming ads by Groupon, Living Social, and The Daily. And there will be others... But what is equally interesting is how many of these ads are now being showcased on the web before they hit the television. Crafted for the Super Bowl ad blitz, Volkswagon's Darth Vader commercial is already a viral hit with nearly 13m views... which means they may well have already won the ad wars:

And then there is Facebook who, according to InsideFacebook, aims to make the commercials social. users will be able to watch, comment, share and rate commercials within Facebook... and advertisers will hope that their spots become viral the way that VW's already has. The page will become available at 2pm pst and be available on Facebook's sports page.

NBA Borrows $175M for 15 Teams ($11.66M Each)

Professional sports are not immune to the economic downturn.We saw the Arena Football League close indefinitely. MLB free agents are signing shorter, smaller deals (except for Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia). And several NBA teams are shopping star players to save money (ie the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets.

Now word comes out that the NBA has secured $175,000,000 to help support 15 teams who apparently need the assistance. It will be interesting to see how this affects the trade deadline (expect lots of major contracts to move) and this summer's free agency. The financing comes at over 8% interest - so it is clear that this was a needed move... and considering the NBA's health as compared to Major League Baseball - I wonder what will happen when (not if) MLB attendance and advertising falls... big names and contracts will move quickly and at pennies on the dollar.

The NBA is set to borrow $175 million Feb. 26, marking one of the first league financings since the implosion of the credit markets last fall. The money, which will be available to 15 teams, supplements an existing $1.7 billion leaguewide credit facility that uses the NBA's media contracts as collateral to secure loans for the clubs. The NBA surveyed its teams, and 15 responded they would like to tap into the new borrowing.

While the league said it is pleased to borrow in an extremely illiquid credit market, the deal came at a cost, with interest rates up to 8.27 percent, hammering home the notion that the era of cheap money in sports is over. The 15 teams can use the money for any purpose, but covering operating losses may be high on the list.

Each of the 15 teams can borrow a maximum of $11.66 million from the debt proceeds. -- Sports Business Journal

Sports Illustrated Moves Fantasy Football onto Facebook; Tries to Catch Up

Like it or not, fantasy football is important. According to the New York Times, 15.5 million people play fantasy football each year - about 86% of which are are male and 63% are under age 40. It's also become a $2 billion industry.

So when Sports Illustrated (SI.com) moved their fantasy football to Facebook, two things became apparent:

1) Sports Illustrated isn't the leader in fantasy football and is trying to aggressively catch up 2) Facebook has become completely mainstream and, for the big brands, an avenue for user acquisition (important to note that fantasy football is comprised heavily of adult males as well - so SI is using Facebook to acquire users outside of high school / college)

Sports Illustrated, according to TheBigLead and Comscore, was the ninth most visited sports network on the web... and in fantasy football, Yahoo, ESPN and CBS are the clear leaders. Here are the stats from the last month:

1. Yahoo Sports: 22,752,000 uniques 2. ESPN: 20,601,000 uniques 3. Fox Sports: 15,105,000 uniques 4. MLB.com: 11,917,000 uniques 5. AOL Sports: 10,632,000 uniques 6. WWE: 6,759,000 uniques 7. NBA: 5,740,000 uniques 8. NFL Internet Group: 5,624,000 uniques 9. Sports Illustrated Sites: 4,492,000 uniques 10. NASCAR.com: 3,528,000

Fantasy sports are critical for the major sports networks because they are remarkably sticky, have high switching costs and attract clusters of users. So for Sports Illustrated to run their fantasy offering offsite is very surprising a clear sign (to me) that they are conceded the fantasy game - hoping to win a new market via Facebook's huge audience. It's an interesting effort and perhaps not overly risky considering their position in the market... But unlike CBS's smash hit with the Final Four / Facebook integration, this doesn't seem to have a clear proposition to get users back to SI.com.

Meanwhile, this seems like a big win for Facebook - just as the CBS / March Madness relationship was.

Notice the Facebook promotion atop the story headline

The Application's front door

The NFL is Worth More than NBA + MLB - Average Franchise Worth $960 Million!

There are 123 professional sports teams across the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. The Dallas Cowboys are worth an estimated 1.5 billion dollars - ranking #1 - and the Nashville Predators are the least valuable team at $143 million. Some very interesting takeaways came from digging into the data: - The average NFL franchise is valued at $960 million. MLB's average is $475. The NBA average is $375. And NHL's average is $200.

- One way is to read this is that the NFL is worth more than Major League Baseball plus the National Basketball Association... amazing.

- The New York Yankees are the only non-NFL franchise in the top 27. The Mets, Red Sox and Dodgers are the only other MLB franchises in the top 40.

- In the NBA, the New York Knicks are the most valuable franchise despite being horrendous for the last several years... proof that market size and hometown are the key influencer. The top four teams (Knicks, Lakers, Bulls and Pistons) are four of the most storied, winning franchises.

- Baseball has the biggest disparity from top to bottom while the NFL - a league known for its parity - is pretty flat... so the least valuable team, the Atlanta Falcons, can still be competitive. This is also interesting because the Falcons have fallen terribly after losing Michael Vick - one of the league's most marketable players.

- The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most valuable NHL franchise and rank 57th overall at $413 million. That's over two times the league average.

- The Boston Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins are worth 1.45 billion combined... less than the Dallas Cowboys.

The 50 Most Valuable Sports Franchises

Rank Team Current Value 1 ($mil) 1 Dallas Cowboys 1,500 2 Washington Redskins 1,467 3 New York Yankees 1,306 4 New England Patriots 1,199 5 Houston Texans 1,056 6 Philadelphia Eagles 1,052 7 Denver Broncos 994 8 Chicago Bears 984 9 New York Giants 974 10 Cleveland Browns 969 11 New York Jets 967 12 Baltimore Ravens 965 13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 963 14 Kansas City Chiefs 960 15 Carolina Panthers 956 16 Miami Dolphins 942 17 Pittsburgh Steelers 929 18 Green Bay Packers 927 19 Tennessee Titans 922 20 Seattle Seahawks 921 21 Cincinnati Bengals 912 22 Indianapolis Colts 911 23 St Louis Rams 908 24 Arizona Cardinals 888 25 Detroit Lions 870 26 New Orleans Saints 854 27 San Diego Chargers 826 28 New York Mets 824 29 Buffalo Bills 821 30 Boston Red Sox 816 31 Oakland Raiders 812 32 Jacksonville Jaguars 811 33 San Francisco 49ers 799 34 Atlanta Falcons 796 35 Minnesota Vikings 782 36 Los Angeles Dodgers 694 37 Chicago Cubs 642 38 New York Knicks 608 39 Los Angeles Lakers 560 40 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 500 41 Chicago Bulls 500 42 Atlanta Braves 497 43 San Francisco Giants 494 44 St Louis Cardinals 484 45 Philadelphia Phillies 481 46 Detroit Pistons 477 47 Seattle Mariners 466 48 Houston Astros 463 49 Houston Rockets 462 50 Dallas Mavericks 461

The NBA's Most Valuable Teams

The NFL's Most Valuable Teams

The MLB's Most Valuable Teams

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David Stern's Brand Problem: 41% of Fans Believe NBA Fixes Games

Tonight, the Boston Celtics have an opportunity to win the 2007-2008 NBA Championship against the Los Angeles Lakers. The game will likely draw huge ratings and put an exclamation point on a terrific, renaissance season for the NBA.

But not all news is good for commissioner David Stern. After the first game of the NBA Finals (and a spectacular game at that - pitting Paul Pierce against Kobe Bryant), the Tim Donaghy scandal worsened. Donaghy, who has now been under investigation by the FBI for over a year, claimed that the other referees fixed NBA games... citing a critical elimination Game 6 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings (the Lakers won that game, then won Game 7 and went on to win the championship).

AdAge released a poll this week that was conducted before the Donaghy scandal - and it reveals a huge brand problem for David Stern that surely is worsened by Donaghy's claims: 41% of NBA fans say the league alters games and 26% say the Lakers-Celtics finals a setup. Wow.

Those are troubling numbers... but they are also conflict the success the NBA has seen over the past year (viewership, ticket sales, etc). And the NBA isn't the only league with problems:

- The NFL's integrity has been questioned with the Spygate scandal and the league has had a long-running problem with players and the legal trouble

- Major League Baseball's massive steroid problems were aired publicly and have ruined the era's best hitter (Barry Bonds) and best pitcher (Roger Clemens)

- The NHL has neither problem, but playoff games draw lower ratings that ESPN's rerun of past Word Series of Poker events

So does any of this really matter? Ultimately the health of the league is (mostly) predicated on talent and competition. The Donaghy scandal hasn't deterred viewers for basketball. Too many Michael Vicks and Pacman Jones haven't made the NFL any less popular. And steroids likely contributed to baseball's resurgence. The only sport lacking a major scandal is the only sport struggling to stay afloat.

For the NBA, one thing is apparent: the players drive the league. Despite Donaghy (and whatever other external events occur) - fans want to see great athletics and great athletes. As long as Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Lebron James and other stars continue to play, people will continue to watch.