Support For Second NHL Team In Southern Ontario

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I opined earlier that the anti-tribe will support a second NHL team in the Toronto area.

Here is a brief recap:

So why then do I think a 2nd NHL team would be successful? 

Because, almost an entire generation of Leaf fans in Toronto have been patiently waiting to win another Stanley Cup without much success.  Life long Leaf fans are starting to feel that the organization they are loyal to is not doing enough to earn their loyalty and are not serious about contending.  The feeling of animosity towards the organization they once loved may grow stronger if the Leafs once again fail to make the playoffs or worse, finish last in their conference. 

This could be a ripe environment for a prospective new owner to move in to the Toronto market and help nucleate the anti-Toronto Maple Leafs tribe.  Make no mistake, this anti-tribe is hungry for something different.  Thus, the model of expensive tickets and low performance that we are seeing now will not be tolerated.

Looks like more than a few people agree that another team should be able to move to Southern Ontario based on this poll.

WWE Universe - The Ultimate in Tribe Engagement?

Monday, May 4th, 2009

In a multi-part blog, we’re going to discuss the WWE. Arguably the most controversial form of sport, professional wrestling has spawned tribes and anti-tribes.  While some follow it devotedly for the entertainment it provides, others shun it for being fake and leading to violence amongst children.

I admire the steps taken by the WWE to involve their fans in more and more ways. The WWE Universe now has forums, blogs and other features available with frequent updates provided by the wrestlers themselves. By opening up a channel of communication between the fans and the wrestlers, the WWE is enabling fans to connect with the people they want to hear from.

Understanding their fans has really helped the WWE provide a product that appeals to the masses. In fact, with young viewers making up a growing portion of their audience, WWE has recently obtained a PG-13 rating.

I think that’s a risky move since the new approach may turn away the more mature viewers who have been following the WWE since they were young. However, this may help those same viewers get their kids watching too. Given that the WWE already dominates T.V. ratings every week, it should be interesting to see whether this move helps them cement their position or if they’ll suffer.

Recently, the WWE has taken a stab at channeling the efforts of the tribes that support them. Fans have always shaped the direction of the product offered weekly to millions of households and now the WWE is taking steps to service its expansive fan base through the WWE Universe.

  • WWE offers a variety of mobile services for people wanting to get the most up-to-date news delivered to their cell phones
  • The website itself allows fans to vote on their favourite designs for future WWE merchandise
  • The icing on the cake for most fans is the interactive Pay-Per-View where fans get the opportunity to vote on the type of matches and even the participants of the match

With the WWE using multiple channels to connect with their fans, I truly believe their focus is on adapting the WWE to their fans.

NFL Director of Fandemonium- A Good Way To Engage Fans

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

NFL and Monster.com have partnered up to bring the NFL Director of Fandemonium contest.

The 32 finalists (one fan from each team) will go through a series of events including trivia and on field skills.

The winner will be the Director of Fandemonium and will:

  • Get to announce a pick at the 2009 Draft
  • Join the coin toss ceremony in Super Bowl XLIV
  • Select a play during the 2009 Pro Bowl
  • Get 2 tickets to your home team’s games for the season
  • And best of all…get a $100,000 ’signing bonus’ (this would be the only monetary compensation, as this is just a prize promotion and not an actual job offer)

I think this is a creative way to keep fans engaged with the teams and the league.  Also, this type of contest may be a good way for smaller leagues to engage both sponsorship partners as well as fans.

The Paradox of TV - It’s The Content That Counts

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Ivan Fecan, CEO of CTV got it partly right when discussing the possibility of closing down their A Stations:

“This is not the fault of our hard working and dedicated employees who work at our A stations across the country. It is because the business model for conventional television is now broken.”

I say Ivan got it partly right because, I don’t think the business model for these smaller/speciality channels was ever feasible.  There are just too many hands grabbing the small pie - be it the producers, on-air talent, content providers, cable/satellite operators, licensing bodies, etc.

Broadcasters have a dilemma ahead of them.  On one hand, the viewing public wants speciality channels which speaks to their passions - their tribal channel.  On the other hand, the traditional broadcasting/cable TV business model does not fit the need for smaller niches. 

In other words, the more specialized you are the higher the value you are but to a smaller number of people.  The more general you are, the less value you will be but with a higher audience.

The key to successfully accomplishing this is to shift the from the ‘Specialty Channel’ concept to the ‘Speciality Content’ concept.  There are already some interesting business models in play:

  • Many channels allow viewers to watch full episodes of their shows online
    • Is it now feasible to exclusively do this?
  • Cable operators now have a wide variety of paid and free content available through their on-demand services - thus viewers only pull what they want

Us vs. Them: Why Some CFL Fans HATE Rogers Communications

Friday, February 27th, 2009

         

In early posts I talked about the strong us vs. them dynamic within tribes.  The one post which demonstrated this was when I talked about Bills fans vs. CFL fans.

Here is why some Canadian Football League fans hate Rogers Communications

Background:  For those of you who don’t know, Rogers Communications Inc (RCI) is one of Canada’s largest providers of cable, high-speed internet and cellular phones.  In addition, they own other properties such as the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rogers Centre. 

Here are a few reasons why many CFL fans hate RCI:

  • For many years Ted Rogers (its late founder) was a strong proponent of bringing and NFL team (possibly relocating the Buffalo Bills) to Toronto.  
  • RCI is no longer a CFL sponsor.  RCI was paying the CFL approximately $250,000 per year to sponsor their weekly/monthly/annual awards.  However, in June 2008, the CFL and RCI could not come to an agreement to renew their contract.  According to some reports, the CFL was looking at getting $750,000 per year while Rogers was only willing to pay $350,000.
  • Rogers also signed a significant deal to bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto for their Bills In Toronto series.
  • The Toronto Argonauts play in the Rogers Centre - which many CFL fans detest as being a poor facility.
  • Rogers also owns the Toronto Blue Jays - some CFL fans also view them as a threat (i.e. people will spend their entertainment dollar on the Jays instead of the Argonauts).

This ‘hate’ has resulted in some potentially real and economically damaging (for RCI) activities.  I stumbled upon some posts at the popular CFL fan site 13thman.com.  Here is a sample of some of the anti-RCI comments from a few people.

In support of the CFL, I’ve switched carriers from Rogers to Telus and have taken a hammer to my old phone.

I no longer pay for any Rogers services. Bell is no great hell either, but at least they’re not trying to harm the CFL. Hit Rogers where it hurts!

I guess it’s at times like this I wish I was with Rogers to I could dump them.

would everyone still be ok with the fact I want to name my son Roger though, as long as its not connected with the company.

too bad though, Rogers was a big supporter of the CFL back when I started watching in 03, what happened???

There you have it!

Labatt USA’s Pond Hockey Tournament Explodes In Size

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

For the second year in a row, Labatt USA will host a pond hockey tournament in Buffalo.  The demand to participate in the tournament increased to the point where they quadrupled the number of teams from 16 last year to 64 this year.

Labatt USA worked in conjunction with the City of Buffalo and Erie County to expand this event, making it a regional draw. Scheduled to be held on eight rinks, the tournament will span nearly 136,000 square feet on the frozen lake. Competitive, entertaining and nostalgic, the event will also carry the benefit of turning eyes on Buffalo in terms of outdoor winter entertainment.

“We want to create an authentic hockey experience that takes people back to hockey’s roots,” said Peter Bodenham, director of marketing, for Labatt USA. “Our tournament is played on Lake Erie and the choppy, dull surface delivers hockey in its purest form. Players maintain the ice with shovel and buckets of water, much like you would during a pick-up game on a neighborhood pond.”

This tournament has the effect of not only bringing multiple tribes (teams) together, but also solidifying the connections between members of the same tribe (team).

The lesson for other brands:  Build an event that helps bring together people to share their common interest.

College Bowls - The Rallying Point for Several Tribes

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Yesterday the two teams for the 2009 Interenational Bowl were announced - University at Buffalo Bulls and the University of Connecticut Huskies.  Accelteon is a strategic partner with the International Bowl, thus we get a unique view into this annual cultural and sporting phenomenon.

Bowl games are essentially the post season for US College Football and occur annually from mid-December to early January.  They are as much about the fan experience as they are about the game itself.

From the time fans learn if and where their team will play (usually on the first or second weekend in December) to the weeks following the game, the bowl experience brings together fans in a way unlike any other sport.

The following is a timeline from pre-announcement to post-game on how various fan groups might interact:

Pre-announcement Anticipation:

  • Days or hours before the bowl committees announce their selection, fans rush to online discussion forums to discuss and predict where their team may go.
  • This is probably the most anxious time for the fans as they don’t know if or where they are going.  For example, this year University of Connecticut fans didn’t know if they should book a plane ticket to El Paso Texas for the Sun Bowl or get ready to drive up to Toronto.

Getting Ready to Go:

  • Once the fans know where their team is going fans go online to:
    • Discuss the match-up, some fans hoped for a better bowl game, opponent or location; however, most are excited about the opportunity to travel with their team for a new experience.
    • Try to find out from other fans what the best way to travel to the game is (car, plane or train); if they are driving, many try to find other people to car pool with.
    • Discuss where the best hotels, restaurants, pubs are in the host city.  Some fans may group together to get a discounted hotel rate.
  • Team pep rallies are often held at the school before the team heads off to their bowl location.  This is an opportunity for players, students, alumni and fans to rally around the team.

Living The Experience:

  • Once the fans arrive in the host city they may participate in a host of planned an unplanned activities:
    • Unplanned activities may include meeting up with old classmates at a local pub, students hanging out together with the team at a club, or a family/group of friends going to see local tourist attractions.
    • Planned activities may include, The Battle of The Bands competition, an awards luncheon or a pep rally before the game.

Game Day:

  • Fans that attend the game often head to the stadium early to participate in tailgating activities
  • Once the game begins, the thousands of fans in the stadium band together as one for the duration of the game.
  • Likewise, fans that could not make the trip often get together either on campus, or at a friends house to watch the game.  However, some fans take the bowl viewing experience to another level as seen in this video.

Post-Game:

  • Once the game is done, fans may gather for one last meal before heading to the airport or hitting the road to get back home.
  • The days and even weeks following the bowl game is usually filled with fans posting pictures/videos, talking about their experiences and thinking about next season.

Brands such as FedEx, Tostitos, Allstate and Capital One have been synonymous with the bowl experience for many years.  In subsequent posts we’ll talk about how companies can and have monetized this opportunity.

Combining Tribes: Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee Brewers Do It Right

Monday, November 24th, 2008

As I blogged earlier, it is a good idea to seek opportunities to combine tribes.  Another example I came across is the partnership between H-D and the Milwaukee Brewers.

A big part of the renovation of Miller Park is the addition of a Harley-Davidson Deck.

The focal point of the deal is construction of the Harley-Davidson Deck, to be located beyond left-centerfield. Slated to open prior to the 2009 season, the deck will seat up to 42 people and feature actual Harley motorcycles built into the structure.

A new entry gate-called “Gate H-D” and a motorcycle-exclusive parking lot are two other amenities included in the deal.

The partnership goes beyond branding assets and includes ticketing opportunities.

The two Milwaukee mainstays also have a joint ticket plan in the works. Under the proposed plan, they will team up to offer ticket packages that include game tickets and admission to Harley’s new museum.

Members of the Harley Owners Group will receive discounted tickets to the Harley Deck. The deck will be used for both groups and individuals, depending on the game date. H.O.G members will also be able to use Gate H-D and the parking lot.

This is one of the best examples I have seen of two organizations looking at their tribes and determining how to support them in their passions.  The real win-win will be when a member of the Harley tribe and a die-hard fan of the Brewers sees the results.

Harley owner and Milwaukee resident Michael Reynolds is enthusiastic about the merger.

“Being a Brewers fan, I’m happy to see the two interact,” Reynolds said. “I go to Miller (Park) a few times a year.”

“I think it’ll be successful,” he said. “Those are two huge attractions. It’ll be fun to see what they do with this.”

There will be nothing better for Michael than riding his Harley to the Brewers game, parking in a designated lot and enjoying the game from the Harley Deck - at a discounted price of course.

Nike - Gutsy Cricket Ad

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

I came across this great ad by Nike on Indian cricket as part of their national campaign. Launched in early 2007, this is a perfect example of how a tribal approach enabled Nike to really understand what it means to be a cricket fan in India - you play hard , you play to win and you play wherever you can - after all that’s just good cricket!

The ad was done by JWT India . You can read more about the ad and the results on the Coffee and Donuts blog.

Social Media Sites - Should I Build or Rent?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Operation Sports is a leading online community dedicated to sports video game enthusiasts.  As a member of the community myself, I got an email announcing the launch of their own social media site called the OS Arena.

As soon as you login you’ll immediately gain access to:

  • your own customizable trading card
  • stats tracking and your own OVR (Overall Rating)
  • your own blog
  • friends lists
  • video albums for all of your videos from EA Sports World, 2K Sports Community, Youtube etc.
  • screenshot albums
  • comments and messages on your chalkboard
  • customizable backgrounds allowing you to give your Arena its own unique style
  • your own unique address at operationsports.com/username/

And this is just the beginning. Over the coming months we will be adding exciting new features designed to expand your sports gaming experience.

This brings up the question about whether or not an organization should try to build its own social media site (as it is in this case) or tap into existing media such as Facebook or MySpace.  The answer is, it depends. 

In this case I think it made sense for OS to go ahead and build their own since they have become a key online rallying point for the sports gaming tribe:

  • Operation Sports has been around for about 10 years and they have built up a substantial member base (There are almost 800 member online at this moment)
  • OS focuses on a specific interest, thus they quickly became the number one destination for enthusiasts.
  • The existing site already had very active discussion forums thus enabling them to more safely take this risk

A critical mistake many make is building the tool before understanding whether or not it is relevant for your tribe.  Often times using existing media may be more appropriate.  Ultimately, you truly need to understand your tribe before proceeding.