Macali Communications, Feb. 26, 2014 blog post features an interview with SLRG’s Jon Last. Jon addresses key insights on sports marketing issues and opportunities in the year ahead, driven by recent SLRG research.
I am lucky to meet smart and talented people who have great perspectives on business and sport. Jon Last is one of the brightest.
Jon is the founder and President of Sports and Leisure Research Group, a full service marketing research consultancy that supports leading brands in sports, travel and media. Last’s 25+ years of professional experience includes seven years as VP Corporate Marketing for Golf Digest Companies, and eight years at the PGA of America, where he oversaw marketing research, consumer marketing and retailing. A frequent speaker and featured columnist for Media Post’s Marketing: Sports, Last holds an M.B.A. from Wharton and a B.A. from Tufts. He is a former national president of the U.S. Marketing Research Association (MRA).
Jon and I had the chance to speak about various facets of the sports business following a Golf 2020 meeting at the PGA Merchandise Show:
1. What is the value and meaning of the intersection of insights and strategy to your clients and prospects?
We strive to integrate rigorous and well-crafted research with a deeper understanding of the strategic implications of those findings. Some of our competitors offer one or the other of these important elements, but not both. There are consultants who offer strategy without having the experience and proficiency in solid research methodology. And then there are research firms that dwell on the esoterics of process and data, but fail to translate them into anything pragmatic or actionable. We believe that good research can be pragmatically applied to business and that’s where the intersection occurs. We differ from major consulting firms because we vertically integrate the research and the strategy and we do so with sensitivity to the client’s specific insight needs and budget realities.
2. What is the most valuable insight you can offer sports marketers this year?
First, young people are becoming specialized in sport at an early age. In the past when April came, we hung up our hockey sticks and picked up our baseball gloves. But now, if you’re a higher level athlete (e.g. high school), you focus your time on a specific sport all year round. Second, speaking broadly about recreational sports; sports organizations and brands must know how to engage and activate participation. Sports like golf, skiing and tennis will gain from accepting that people will find the time for sports that captivate them. If there are tangible advantages to a sport, people will find more time and money to actively participate in them.
4. How can sports leagues and organizations address the challenges of the in-game or in-competition experience?
My concern is for teams, organizations and brands to continue to captivate fans and participants, to make the products unique and fresh and to add value to making their sport a better alternative for attendance or participation. We need to determine how to insert fans into the sports’ community and how to create valuable experiences for those within the community. I often think back to an example from work we conducted for the World Golf Foundation regarding golf participation. When you ask people what prevents them from playing, the default response is “time and money,” but that’s not an actionable insight. Upon digging deeper, we discovered the sentiment that “there are no guarantees” in golf meaning there’s inconsistency to the value of the experience. Sports fans and participants turn to those pursuits that are fresh and compelling, while also delivering a reliable, consistent and comfortable experience.
Jon, thanks for this valuable ideas and insights.
What do you think will affect sports business the most in 2014 and beyond?