Talking Tickets 30 October 2020: MLB! Revenue! London Theatre! More!

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Hey! 

Happy Halloween! 

We all could use that break, right? 

In the Slack group for the newsletter, we’ve been talking about good fall drinks. 

Come have a drink with me, Ken Troupe, and Matt Wolff this afternoon

If you haven’t already, live in the States, and are eligible, VOTE! Send a photo to #IVotedConcerts on Twitter and see a show!

To the tickets! 

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1. The business of baseball faces a serious challenge:

The story this week that MLB is carrying $8.3 B in debt was pretty scary, to say the least. 

Add that to the number of people being cut from the business side, scouting, and front of house staff and it gets even worse. 

Wed that with the trend of declining sports ratings and we begin to see a serious crisis that goes deeper than the pandemic’s challenges. 

Let’s break this down a little bit: 

First, we really don’t know when things are going back to normal

When things do go back to “normal”, it will be difficult to predict what the world will look like for all of us. 

Does this mean buying patterns will change permanently? 

Maybe. 

Does it mean that we are going to prioritize different things?

Likely. 

Should we be spending time considering how we are going to deal with a new environment?

Certainly. 

Second, baseball is dealing with something that a lot of people are dealing with: marketing that is missing the mark. 

I’m going to be presenting at the National Sports Forum’s winter event on the topic of marketing strategy. Specifically, I’m going to hit on the ideas of data, segmentation, targeting, and positioning. 

So this idea of marketing is something I’m going to cover extensively for about 75 minutes. 

But teams and leagues, not just baseball, need to go back to the beginning of the marketing journey right now. Everyone’s path will look different because every market is different, but begin with: 

  • Market Orientation and looking at the game through the eyes of the customer.
  • Research: I’m going to suggest focusing on qualitative data over quantitative at this point, at least in the short term. 
  • STP: Segments! Targets! Position! 
  • Come up with a strategy! 

After that, you can add all the bells and whistles of tactics! 

From the outside looking in, strategy is one of the big challenges that folks are dealing with and they need to get it under control fast. 

For everyone that’s reading this right now, you need to know the answer to these two questions ASAP, if you don’t already:

  • Where will you compete?
  • How will you win? 

Then you can look at your marketing strategy and come up with a new plan forward. 

For baseball, this offseason is going to be a real indicator of whether or not the game is going to come out of the other side of the pandemic healthy or limping. 

The impulse in cases like we are seeing in baseball right now is going to be to make more and more cuts across the board. 

That’s dangerous. 

Even without the ability to bring fans full ballparks full of fans in right now, there is still money to be made on merchandise, memberships, partnerships, sponsorships, and other new revenue ideas. 

At a larger level, right now is a great time to get the marketing right for teams and leagues and sports. 

The history of these huge debt loads is that it ends poorly for the business taking on the debt. The debt weighs the business down and the business enters a death spiral of having to cut costs to survive and it never works. 

You don’t cut your way to growth.

You have to create and capture new opportunities. 

Marketing and sales! 

2. Athletes are taking their brands into their own hands:

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the brand of Tottenham Hotspur. 

So the idea of brand and brand management has been on my mind lately. 

So I was intrigued to listen to friend of the podcast and newsletter, Zoe Scaman, talk about working with a current NBA player to build his brand outside of the team’s structure. 

What do I think of players building their brands? 

Smart. 

In too many cases, the marketing for the teams and leagues has gotten stale. 

Even worse, most of the advertising and marketing budgets are being wasted on communications that lack distinctiveness, emotion, and fail to move people through the sales funnel. 

It is smart for athletes to take control of their brands. 

Right now, it seems like players dominate the conversations more than teams do. 

There isn’t really good data to back this up but my observations of people’s actions indicates that players are driving a significant amount of commerce in sports.

Due to this, it makes sense for the players to spend a lot more time focusing on how they want to come across and building their own sales and marketing opportunities. 

For the teams, the pandemic has shed the light on three key things: 

  • The need to strengthen their brands.
  • The need to reinvent the relationship between fans and teams. 
  • The need to rethink the revenue streams of every organization. 

To regain their standing and strengthen their brands, teams need to:

  • Focus on their brand because badly managed brands reduce demand, opens you up to inferior competition stealing marketshare, and increases price sensitivity to your products. With high levels of excess share of search in the world of entertainment, teams should be still bringing in revenue now and they should be able to find new streams of revenue. 
  • Rebuild the sales and marketing funnel. Between the partnerships and the TV exposure, most sports teams are sitting around 100% in awareness in their local markets. So the empty seats and lack of spending means that somewhere in the funnel between awareness and purchase, people are being lost. Looking at the sales funnel right now is an incredibly important aspect of setting your business up for growth in the future. 
  • Rethink the relationship with fans. Fan loyalty can’t be taken as a given. There are studies that show that fans have lifecycles where their connection to the team goes up and down depending on the life phase they are in. This means that you can’t just think of a fan as a static commodity. This means rethinking the value and the way that a fan engages with a club and giving them more and more ways to connect and evolve their relationship over the course of their lifetime. In other words, think about lifetime customer value and how to capture that. 

3. Barcelona’s team president quits and says the team will join the Super League:

How do you know a new soccer season has started? 

Someone is talking about a super league. 

The idea sounds like fun, but how awesome would it be? 

First, I think this is a bit of a stunt to cover for a press corp that was likely to take shots at Bartomeu as he left. 

The team’s success had been slipping, getting blown out in the Champions League. Lionel Messi had demanded a transfer in the offseason and only came back to the club due to a bit of language in his contract that came into play due to the pandemic. And, he was in the last year of his role with the club as the club is run by its owners and they elect new leadership every few years. 

Second, the Super League is one of those ideas that sounds a lot like giving a kid all the Coke they can drink. It is like heaven until it isn’t. 

Anyone that watches soccer loves the big matchups between clubs like Bayern and Barcelona, Madrid and Man U, Liverpool and Ajax. 

One of the reasons these matchups are so great is because they are so rare. 

You can’t create a rivalry out of every matchup, but that is what it seems like the Super League idea wants to create. An environment where every match is life or death and the money comes rolling in. 

This reminds me of interleague play and MLB. When the idea first started, it was a great boost to the sport. Folks bought tickets, the games had intrigue, and it was a good story. 

Now…? 

Same thing with the Super League idea. 

I prefer the idea of making changes in domestic leagues and improving the Champions League because I think that’s where the most money stands to be made. 

As for Barcelona, the cries of poverty and needing to join the Super League to survive seem a little overwrought. 

Barcelona recently announced revenue of almost $1B. 

Historically, they’ve been very wise in their business operations, using Messi as a printing press for revenue, and consistently innovating. 

So don’t take any of this stuff too seriously yet. 

But do look for the lessons we can learn from this episode: 

  • Star players do matter. Winning matters. But having a good business matters most. 
  • Sometimes the seemingly wise decision isn’t the wise decision. 
  • If everyone else is doing something, ask yourself what you are missing. 

4. London’s biggest shows return to raise money:

A few of London’s biggest shows have announced a series of shows to raise money and provide employment for folks that have been out of work due to the pandemic. 

6 shows is a great start and provides some hope for people because people need hope sometimes. And, as one person mentioned at the press show of The Great Gatsby this week, seeing people perform fills your heart. 

Another positive sign is the announcement of Magic Goes Wrong selling during the Christmas season. 

We are still in for a period of uncertainty. But showing people that you prioritize safety, focus on security, and offer flexibility is a chance for you to lead the way through the pandemic.

5. We have to pick ourselves up. No one else will.

Jim McCarthy from Goldstar shared the video above earlier this week and if you haven’t had a chance to give it a look, take 5 minutes to do it. 

Jim’s message is clear:

Things suck. We deserve help but can’t count on getting it. 

So what do we do?

We take action anyway. 

I’ve been sharing ways over and over with you throughout the pandemic to help you take action. 

The folks that I’ve talked to that have taken action have seen some good results. Things are not perfect, but they are better than completely shutting down. 

Don’t shut down. 

I’ll share with you a story before we wrap up this week’s newsletter. In 2008-2009, during the financial crisis, I froze. I had been doing pretty well and made my way pretty well through different challenges and opportunities during my career, but I found myself working at an iconic NYC radio station at a time that ad dollars were running away from radio, debt was being piled onto radio stations by private equity firms, and the economy was collapsing. 

And, when things started to get rough, I didn’t have the experience of getting through something like this before and I panicked. 

I froze. 

The financial crisis crushed me mentally and did a number on my finances for a while. 

The truth is the situation we are dealing with right now is difficult. There is no way around it. 

It is being made worse by what passes for leadership in many places. 

But the one lesson I learned from the Great Recession was that you have to keep picking yourself up and moving forward, even when it is awful. 

Not for any reason except for you owe it to yourself. 

This is why I’m showing up every day during the pandemic, learning, connecting, teaching, and making sure I’m productive. 

I know that the way that these situations really destroy us is when we stop moving and we become overwhelmed by anger, concern, and despair. 

So…if you need to talk, I’m here. 

If it is useful, we can set up a group chat session where we exchange ideas to move forward and take action when nothing is certain. 

I’m here for you. But find an action that you can take right now to move something forward. I promise it will make you feel better. 

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I was on Eric Rosenberg’s podcast this week to talk about revenue, marketing, sales, my career, and change. Among other things. These are the most complete show notes ever! 

I’m posting podcasts and blogging! So check me out! 

Go visit my friends at We Will Recover for ideas and content on the recovery of the live entertainment industry. Check out my friends at Booking Protect with a redesigned website and easier navigation!

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