Here’s To A ‘Fearless Forecast’ For 2012

Last year at this time, I put together my list of the most important life lessons one could take into the new year; each expressed in three words. In keeping with the end-of-year themes towards benevolent giving and introspection, this year’s installment focuses on what we might expect in the world of sports marketing in 2012.

  • More Bobble Heads?: In a never-ending quest to provide enhanced fan experiences and appeal to a wider audience, I see both properties and their partners continuing a trend towards greater use of promotional give-aways with the mutual goal of driving branding and value as ticket prices fight through heightened competition for the leisure dollar. What should be more amusing to watch is how these promotions manifest themselves, and whether anyone will take the time to intelligently measure their impact. Will we see more of the same or will there be greater creativity in promotional execution?
  • A Better Mouse Trap for the BCS?: What we will see in the year ahead is more bluster and pontification regarding the fairness or lack thereof of the current system for determining an NCAA football champion. The elephant in the room is that all of this heated debate is actually good for promoting interest. With 120 BCS teams and only a fourteen week season, both the mathematician and fan in me thinks we are actually doing a pretty good job of getting this right. The alternatives just don’t work for the litany of interests involved in promoting and activating around the 35 bowl games. So, with apologies to my Oklahoma State friends, I will be wearing my Crimson Tide cap throughout the holidays.
  • The 365-Day Season: The NBA season will run through late June. With MLB expanding the playoffs, Derek Jeter may have company in the future as “Mr. November.” The NFL and its partners have done a brilliant job of turning off season activities like the draft and training camp into events in themselves. The proliferation of niche vertical sports media enable target audiences to consume their favorite sports in a 24-7 world. This demands more creative activation and assessment of that activation to break through the clutter.
  • Scandal, Outrage and the Sensationalism of Sports: TMZ Sports is no more, but Deadspin, the blogosphere and sports talk radio feed the monster that fuels fan interest and in some cases, disgust, beyond what actually happens on the field. This is today’s Orwellian reality. With it, sports marketers must monitor and protect the rapidly fluctuating reputations of their clients and properties without over-reacting. Further, they must better understand the essence of what really matters to the target audience. Last I checked, NFL TV ratings were as high as ever and I suspect NBA arenas will be full on Christmas Day.
  • Social Media “Conquers” The World: We’ll continue to see micro-sites, hash tags, QR codes and poorly conceived attempts at building engaging fan communities, often without regard for fan needs. Simultaneously, it will be a rare but blessed occurrence when one takes the time to understand their impact.  If you are looking for ideas on how to possibly do so, see several of my previous postings on Media Post, like our company on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.  Better yet, call me and talk to a real human being.
  • The Great Grasp for Youth: Many sports marketers who continue to ignore Boomers and “sandwichers” (the 30- and 40-somethings that actually have the dollars to spend on high-end products and services, today), will continue to seek the holy grail of aspirational selling.  But in all seriousness, 2012 will see some significant initiatives from governing bodies, like the USTA and PGA of America, to reach out in meaningful ways to the next generation of fans and participants.
  • Mainstream Agencies Expand the Playing Field: 2011 saw several large traditional media agencies make meaningful plays at building their sports marketing practices. 2012 will be interesting to see how the prospective synergies come together, and how smaller boutiques will react and seek to differentiate their services within the environment of heightened competition.
  • Sports Marketers Leverage the Audience Relationship: On my wish list for 2012 is that more sports properties will take significant steps towards leveraging the value of their audiences in providing added value insights and real relationships to benefit their marketing partners. As I’ve belabored in the past, such an opportunity is a smart way to counteract the devaluation of their assets by those who won’t look beyond reach and the often hollow efforts at measuring true engagement.

Happy holidays!