RSS Facebook Twitter

Maintaining Home-Field Advantage In A Digital Age

Share via email

 

(This post originally appeared on Forbes.com 11/21/12)

By a show of hands, how many of you use a smartphone or tablet to follow professional sports?

If you raised your hand, you are not alone.

According to Strategy Analytics, between 2008 and 2017 there will be more than 350 billion smartphone and tablet apps downloaded. This translates into an estimated $57 billion globally in paid downloads by 2017.

With over one billion active smartphone users worldwide and another billion forecasted by 2015, this growth in digital technology has exploded onto the professional sports landscape. More and more fans are seeking instant access to scores, highlights, and live action on their handheld devices, which has increased the blending of digital technology with live sporting events.

Earlier this month, Miami Dolphins Owner, Stephen M. Ross, andMLB Advanced Media CEO, Bob Bowman, spoke about this growing trend at the Michigan Sport Business Conference. In the conversation moderated by ESPN’s Monday Night Football announcer, Mike Tirico, Ross and Bowman discussed how professional sports teams can maintain their home-field advantage in a digital age.

Here are highlights from their conversation…

On the growth of Major League Baseball’s At Bat app:

Bowman: We started with a wireless group, and we hired five developers six years ago when we thought the world was going mobile. This year we are the number one grossing app of all time at Apple. The At Bat app was downloaded 6.5 million times by fans principally here in the US, but some oversees as well. Even more importantly, it was opened by half of the people every day. At baseball, we play every day, so we have to build our apps and our digital strategy very differently than other leagues. It has to be reliable and ready twelve hours a day, seven days a week for the entire summer.

On the challenge of maintaining home-field advantage in a digital world:

Ross: The biggest challenge an owner of any sports team in any league is knowing that the fan experience at home, watching it on TV, is probably a better experience today than it is going there live. Being able to have the replays and the production that you have on television is a good reason not to go to a game and it is very expensive.

 

As an owner, I looked at it as how do I enhance that fan experience to bring them to the stadium? Why would they want to be there? And give them everything they would have at home, and give them a better production by being there live and in-person.

 

This year at Dolphin Stadium we are looking to be the most technologically advanced stadium in the country. We are being wired right now with over 1500 connections for Wi-Fi. All fans will be able to tune in on their smartphones to see the replays and other games, and we hope to have that operable by the end of the year. There are so many different areas that you have to look at as an owner in enhancing that fan experience to compete with television.

On blending the digital world and the sports world:

Bowman: We live in a two screen world. The second screen is what is in everyone’s hand. They are using it right now, texting and emailing. We need to get the second screen valuable no matter where you are – at home or in the stadium. The first screen is always going to be great. But the second screen, if you have to go somewhere and give up the second screen that is when you are going to run into problems. The second screen has to be just as valuable at a live event as it is at home.

On attracting a younger demographic to MLB.com in a digital age

Bowman: Twelve years ago Commissioner Selig set this company up. It talks to a younger audience; it is relevant to a younger audience. It is hard to get people to put their device down and go somewhere else. We have to be everywhere because that is where our audience is. Our effort and our assignment is to combine content with commerce. Bud Selig was just so far ahead of everybody. Whether we meant to or not, we are talking to the next generation of fans every day.  We are trying to be relevant on every device people are carrying, and not forcing them to go to any particular device.

On the challenges of maintaining the NFL as the most popular sport in the United States:

Ross: Football has been facing a lot more challenges outside their attendance and outside the games than baseball has. MLB is far advanced than the NFL from a digital media standpoint. The opportunities for football are fantastic. I think other leagues look to see what baseball is doing and react based upon that. In football, we have 16 games, as opposed to 162 games. The challenges are a little different.

They are now studying to see how do you bring technology into the stadiums; they have not really attacked it, and they don’t have the personnel to look at it the way baseball does. We are trying to create and bring connectivity to stadiums, and MLB is ahead of the NFL in regard to that. I think within a year it will be everywhere; the stadiums will be connected, and we can really start this new age of digital technology in the stadiums. Where it goes from there, I think we’ll see who is the most aggressive and creative.

 

Share via email

Sparky Anderson: To retire or not to retire?

Share via email

An owner is always faced with the challenging decision of determining if and when to retire a number. A variety of factors can go into the decision. How long did they play for the team? What impact did they have on the franchise? How long have they been retired?

This weekend the Detroit Tigers announced that they’re going to retire the number of its former manager, Sparky Anderson. Sparky’s #11 will be honored and join other Tiger greats, Al Kaline and Willie Horton. But is it a little too late to celebrate this beloved manager? Sparky died last November and it has been 16 years since he worked for the Tigers organization. 16 years – plenty of time for Sparky and owner Mike Ilitch to mend fences and let bygones be bygones. Right?  Wrong.

There are many Detroit sports reporters and fans that are upset Mike Ilitch didn’t honor Sparky sooner. Of course none of us will ever know what went on behind closed doors, but we do know it will be a bittersweet day when Sparky’s number is retired and he’s not there. I have no doubt that Sparky will be looking down on the ceremony from above, but Sparky deserved to emerge from the dugout and walk to the pitcher’s mound one last time.

Owner Lesson: Honor your players and staff when you can. Don’t let feuds and disagreements get in the way of showing your love and appreciation. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

Share via email

Ron Washington – On the road to redemption

Share via email

Did you hear that the Texas Rangers are in the World Series?

Did you know that the Rangers organization was faced with a tough decision of keeping its Manager Ron Washington or firing him?

One of the biggest challenges any owner will ever face is when to keep your front office management and coaching staff intact, and when to let them go. It’s such a difficult choice. Time and time again we’ve seen coaches let go when the team is losing. We’ve also seen coaches let go when the team has been winning, but not winning enough or not winning championships.

Sometimes it’s apparent and obvious to an organization that a coach has to go. Everyone knows that it’s time for a change and a new voice – even the guys selling beer in the stands know the coach has to go. What about the situations when the owner has to make a judgment call? If I keep my coach this team could have a miraculous season. Or if I keep my coach/management this organization could lose games and stand to lose millions of dollars.

What’s an owner to do? The pressure is coming from everywhere – fans, media, players, and staff.

We saw what happened with the Detroit Lions. Matt Millen was the President and CEO of the Lions from 2001-2008. The team was 31-84 during his tenure. The Lions consistently underachieved and could never find the right personnel to move the team forward. During Millen’s tenure there were four head coaches (Marty Mornhinweg ‘01-‘02, Steve Mariucci ‘03-‘05, Dick Jauron ‘05, Rod Marinelli ‘06-’08) and neither coach was able to produce a winning season. And during Millen’s tenure there were teams like the Carolina Panthers that went 1-15 in 2001 and they were able to turn it around and went to the Super Bowl two years later.

Now I’m not suggesting that it’s easy to get to the Super Bowl in two seasons. Clearly the Panthers had good pieces to the puzzle already in place. My point is that there were other NFL teams that stepped up their production on the field during the same time frame. This is an example where management was kept too long.

We also saw what happened in Cleveland. The Cavs let Coach Mike Brown go even after his team had the best record in the NBA over the last two seasons. Brown had the highest winning percentage in Cavs history, but he wasn’t able to win an NBA Championship or keep LeBron James happy. Nothing less than that would be accepted in Cleveland.

What about a situation when a coach or management makes an off the field or court mistake? They damage their own reputation and the reputation of the organization.

This is exactly what the Rangers faced. In 2009, Ron Washington tested positive for cocaine. Initially, the situation was handled in-house and with the league until the story broke in the national media.

I can only imagine the amount of pressure that the Rangers organization received. There had to be many people calling for Washington to be fired. Even though the team was having a successful season, I’m sure this type of behavior wasn’t going over well in the court of public opinion.

The Rangers organization made the tough decision and kept Washington as their manager. He came forward and explained that the drug test would come back positive even before the results were in. When Washington was hired he said that he would be a “player’s manger” and the he would keep things simple and right. It’s clear that the player’s appreciated this, and many of them rallied around him.

In the end the decision to keep Washington paid off. The Rangers just defeated the Yankees, and they are in the World Series for the first time. Ron Washington is truly on the road to redemption.

In the end, I don’t think there is a magic formula for an owner to decide when a coach/management should stay or go. Every situation is different and requires a clear judgment call. However, I do think an owner needs to have a vision and a clear direction that she wants to see the team move in. An owner can’t panic and be too quick to pull the plug on a situation. And an owner can’t hang on to a coach or front office management for sentimental reasons – especially if it’s very clear that the situation is NOT working. Finally, an owner needs to have respect for the game, the players, the coaches/management, the fans, the sponsors, and yes – the media.

Congrats to the Texas Rangers for making it to the World Series. And Congrats to the Rangers management for making the tough and right decision to keep manager Ron Washington.

The Rangers organization made the tough decision and kept Washington as their manager. He came forward and explained that the drug test would come back positive even before the results were in. When Washington was hired he said that he would be a “player’s manger” and the he would keep things simple and right. It’s clear that the player’s appreciated this, and many of them rallied around him.

In the end the decision to keep Washington paid off. The Rangers just defeated the Yankees, and they are in the World Series for the first time. Ron Washington is truly on the road to redemption.

In the end, I don’t think there is a magic formula for an owner to decide when a coach/management should stay or go. Every situation is different and requires a clear judgment call. However, I do think an owner needs to have a vision and a clear direction that she wants to see the team move in. An owner can’t panic and be too quick to pull the plug on a situation. And an owner can’t hang on to a coach or front office management for sentimental reasons – especially if it’s very clear that the situation is NOT working. Finally, an owner needs to have respect for the game, the players, the coaches/management, the fans, the sponsors, and yes – the media.

Congrats to the Texas Rangers for making it to the World Series. And Congrats to the Rangers management for making the tough and right decision to keep manager Ron Washington.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

Share via email

Boys Behaving Badly

Share via email

What’s up with all of the boys behaving badly lately? Yes, I called them boys. Real men do not act like this.

In the last week we’ve seen NY Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez tear a ligament in his pitching hand after getting into an altercation with his girlfriend’s father. Indiana Pacers 2010 draft pick, Lance Stephenson, was arrested for assault after pushing is girlfriend down a flight of stairs. And finally Miami Heat forward, Udonis Haslem, was arrested for possession of marijuana following a traffic stop.

I’m not sure which one of these incidents is worse.

The passenger in Haslem’s vehicle has stated the marijuana was his. It was found in the passenger’s luggage and it’s possible that Haslem will be cleared. Even if he is cleared, what part of “I am a professional athlete and I have a lot to lose so don’t do anything stupid around me” does Haslem not understand. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.

The Stephenson situation is very sad. He is 19 years old and clearly is young and immature. Domestic violence is serious and it is something that I personally don’t take lightly. Larry Bird, Pacers President, issued a statement saying the arrest is “very disappointing to the Pacers franchise and to me personally.” Yup it’s disappointing alright and I am sure there are a few other choice words that Larry Bird would like to say too. If it were me I would. Then again I’m a lady and I don’t talk like that.

K-Rod’s actions have probably ended his season. The Mets suspended him for two games, which amounted to a penalty around $125K. Later, he revealed his injury to the organization and it turns out that he has torn a ligament in his pitching hand. Seriously? Yes, Mets organization your closer has a possible season ending injury that occurred off the field. Oh yeah, he has been charged with third-degree assault, second-degree harassment and the entire incident occurred at Citi Field. The Mets organization has said that they are disappointed, discouraged, and frustrated by the situation. I have to hand it to them, they have been very calm when it comes to addressing the media. Continue reading

Share via email

Pride of the Yankees

Share via email

In the summer of 2001 I made the trek from Minnesota to New York to work at the world-renowned Bronx Zoo. Each morning I would take the B or D train from Harlem @ 147th street into the Bronx. Two stops away was 161st street, which is the stop for Yankee Stadium. Being from Detroit and a Tigers fan of course, I didn’t naturally follow the Yankees. I didn’t read about the Yankees in the paper and I didn’t follow their schedule. But with the help of the New York fans and traveling tourists I didn’t need to follow the team; all I had to do was pay attention to the people on the subway.

Just by watching the make-up of the crowd on the train I could tell if there was a day game or a night game. I also could tell if the team won or lost by the mood of the travelers. And believe me – New Yorkers can be a bit moody. Sometimes I could figure out what team the Yankees were playing that day. Every now and then there would be a brave out-of-town tourists willing to wear their team’s gear on the NYC subway. And of course I even witnessed Mets and Yankee fans on the train together.

If there is one regret that I have from that summer, I regret never getting off at 161st street. I didn’t get a chance to see a game at the old Yankee Stadium – “The House that Ruth Built.” I suppose I took that stadium for granted, thinking that it would always be there; and that games would always be played there. Now I know that’s not the case anymore. Old Yankee Stadium is now a memory and instead we have “New” Yankee Stadium – “The House that George Built.” Steinbrenner that is.

George Steinbrenner was the long-time Yankees owner and he passed away July 13th. I would be remiss if I didn’t dedicate a blog posting to Mr. Steinbrenner and acknowledge his contribution to professional sports ownership.

 Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973 from CBS for $10 million. He vowed to stay out of the day-to-day business operations of the club and “just stick to building ships.” 37 years and $1.6 billion dollars later, Steinbrenner was the most recognizable owner in all of professional sports. Unless you’re an “ownership junkie” like me, not many people can rattle off the names of pro sports owners. Steinbrenner was a name everyone knew.  

He wasn’t just on owner. And in many respects he could have been considered one of the most recognizable faces in major league baseball. Love him. Or hate him. What you can’t say about him is that he wasn’t committed to the Yankees. Over the years Steinbrenner developed a reputation for being a hard-nosed demanding boss. In fact he developed the nickname “The Boss” and the organization was called “The Evil Empire.”

It’s safe to say Steinbrenner’s tenure wasn’t always a bed of roses. He was banned from major league baseball twice. Once for making an illegal campaign contribution and the second time he was banned for paying a gambler for illegal information about a player. He was also known for often having tumultuous relationships with managers and players. In April 1985 he fired Yoggi “it’s déjà vu all over again” Berra 16 games into the season. Steinbrenner was quoted stating that Berra would be the manager for the entire season win or lose. The beloved Yoggi had played in 14 world series’ and won 10. But after Steinbrenner went back on his word, Berra refused to enter Yankee stadium for 14 years until receiving an apology from The Boss.

In spite of his persona what you can’t say about Steinbrenner is that he took himself too seriously. He hosted Saturday Night Live, presented David Letterman’s Top Ten List, and even did a cameo appearance on Seinfeld.

So what did Steinbrenner’s ownership legacy teach me?

I learned the importance of having pride in the organization that you own and work for. And having the willingness to stick your neck out for what you believe in and the organization that you represent. Steinbrenner loved the team so much, that he was quoted saying “I wouldn’t sell the Yankees for anything. Owning the Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa. You don’t sell it.” There’s no doubt that his pride and his commitment often ruffled some feathers. And it’s safe to say that I probably wouldn’t make all of the same business decisions that he made. But I have tremendous respect for his commitment to the organization and his Pride of the Yankees.  

 Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

Share via email
Rimons twitter widget by Rimon Habib