Friday, September 7, 2012

The True Value of the Red Sox

My beloved Red Sox, how ungracefully have you fallen... how unelegant has your demise been?  How much money is being left on the table now?  If you look at the Red Sox as a money making machine (which for the past eight years it has been) the well may soon be drying up.  This is two years in a row that the playoffs are not even close.  Last season the Sox had the best record in baseball at the end of August but come September 15th they were all but gone.

I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise, the incremental fallout of a team that had become overloaded with egos and where work ethic was under appreciated, seemed inevitable from the beginning of the '11 season.  What's crazy about the whole thing is how the team seemed to "turn it on" when they wanted to and not give a flying squirrel most of the time.  Where the finger should be pointed is really a multi-faceted question.  I am not here to discuss that, rather I am here to talk about the marketability of the Sox these days.

I will give my opinion about the team from a very bias point of view.  I have been a fan of the Red Sox for years.  I remember the days of Mo Vaughn, Mike Greenwell, heck I go back to when Buckner made a name for himself.  I think it's fair for me to give my brief evaluation.  Bobby Valentine has to go.  He is not the type of leader they need for this team.  I look at Francona and the way he handled his group of "Idiots" by just letting them be but getting the most out of them and I see the exact opposite in Valentine.  I look at Showalter in Baltimore and see what Bobby V wants to be.  It just won't happen with the current roster... errr... the past roster.

The blockbuster trades were necessary.  I liked Gonzo alot.  I thought he would hit to the opposite field much better than he did and anytime he looked like he was going to try and leg out a double I would scream at the TV "Pull the plow out of the ground!"  But all in all I liked him a lot.  I don't feel the least bit sad for Crawford.  He said that he had such a tough time with all of the expectations but that's what happens when you sign a $142MM contract!  You have to be a professional and play how you are paid.  I am extremely grateful to Beckett.  We won a World Series on his back and he pitched some clutch games.

What I can't seem to understand is why everyone is so surprised that he stopped caring.  Beckett loves coming into good situations.  He plays his best when the team is playing their best.  He throws harder, has better control of his splitter and his off-speed will buckle knees.  He did the same thing in Florida (now Miami).  He got sick of a team losing and stopped caring.  When he arrived in Boston he was joining a team that had just won a World Series and was a contender every year.  When things started going south and Beckett became sick of how things were going he quit playing and became a cancer.

What the Sox needed was a makeover.  They needed to get back to their roots of fighting for their lives and having a good time doing it.  They have plunged headfirst off the deep end this year but this is a reset for them.  Bill Simmons wrote a fantastic column on all of this see it here. The Sox had become a bunch of spoiled players that felt entitled to win vs. the Idiots who knew they could win an proved it everyday.  I won't even get into the Youkilis trade... it just saddens me.  (No offense Middlebrooks, I think you'll be great)

So this all leads to the true marketing value of the Red Sox.  Right now it's not that good.  Dunkin Donuts has to be holding their breath and hoping this season ends sooner than later.  There is no brand equity with the Red Sox right now.  I remember a commercial that Nike produced after the '04 series that utilized the Sox brand.  See it here. You can bet that a million Nike shirts or Jackets were sold by that commercial alone.  Reebok loved it when Curt Schilling stood on the mound and the blood soaked sock was drooping around his cleat.  How many cleats were sold off of that shot?

The point is there was a buzz to the Sox.  What they wore you wanted to wear.  Young kids wore all the garb that they saw the Sox wear.  They were always on TV so the kids always saw them.  Now days you have to have NESN to even see the highlights.  Sure the locals and the die hards will always follow, watch and buy, but the national brand that the Sox were is slowly fading.  Can it come back to relevancy?  Absolutely, the next time they are in the playoffs Red Sox Nation will be buzzing and the people who say "I was out of the country for a year", or "I took a year off from being a fan" will be the first in line to buy whatever product has aligned itself with a winner and a feel good story.

That's basically it.  America wants a feel good story.  The Rays used to be that.  The Orioles are turning into that and the Nats are everyone's favorite team because they are loaded with young guns and a hot head who isn't afraid to play hard.  (That's you Bryce Harper).  TV ratings dictate sponsorship.  The Sox are down and so are sponsorships.  When you don't have a good team and aren't playing well you don't make money.  When was the last time you saw a Charlotte Bobcats commercial put on by a behemoth like Nike on national television?  You don't and you won't until the Bobcats become relevant.

And so it goes, the real value of the Red Sox right now is around 50% of its historic worth.  (Strictly from a marketing and advertising perspective)  I'll always be a fan but it sure would be nice to see a bunch of guys out there playing ball and actually enjoying it.  I'll say it, we miss you Varitek, Schill, Francona, heck even Timlin.  Where are the Pedro's the Manny's and the characters that made the Sox so funto watch?  That brought value.  Instead we were stuck with Beckett's pouty "I don't give a crap" face.  The lack of face by Crawford and Ellsbury not on the field.  Regardless of how you look at it in order to print cash again a good product has to be put back on the field.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Welcome back!  After a long haiatus BLO is back and ready to supply you with the latest insight into the outdoors and sports world.  Some of the subjects that are going to be covered  in upcoming posts are:

- The marketing value of the Red Sox now days.
- The NFL and its strength of schedule (TV)
- How the tactical world of outdoor products are going to take over the world
- Preppers: How jumping on that band wagon is not a bad idea (from a sales standpoint).

I have been to the OR show in SLC and I will give my thoughts on the latest and greatest from there.  (Keen had an entire city lot for their "Keengdom".  Good thoughts, just dunno if it produced the results they were hoping for.

I spoke with many of the Gerber marketers and they had some interesting insights along with the Carhartt bunch.  I'll update you with all of those.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marketing and the NFL Post Lockout

First of all let it be known that no one ever thought that the season wouldn't happen.  $9BB is a lot of money to leave on the table and let's be honest without the fans there really is no NFL anyway.  And because the NFL has the largest viewership of any sport in the U.S. it means that there is a lot more money to be made through marketing and advertising.  Just a quick recap to those who don't understand why it is essential to market through the NFL.  The NFL touched 150 million viewers last season or just a little under half of the U.S. total population.  The demographic is 18-55 year old males, middle class with a tendency to lean right.  If you have a product that fits that demographic and it has the potential to offset the incredible price you are going to pay to see a Patriots vs. Jets game in primetime then you darn well better pony up the money and get on it.

TV stations had been reluctant to sell advertising space because of the lockout but now that the locks have been removed from locker rooms it's turning into a free for all to gobble up all the advertising space.  The NFL signs incredibly lucrative tv deals that it distributes to the teams.  The TV stations make their money from companies doing media buys to push their products.  Now that we have a firm grasp on how it works here is how the landscape will change and look now.

It really won't look too different on the surface but internally it'll be a scramble!  The biggest challenge is coordinating the new sponsors and advertisers.  There won't e any down time in commercials or a lot of repeats, in fact it will probably be an even better play for the networks carrying the NFL.  Money is king and there was all kinds of build up to this season because of all the story lines with the lockout that everyone wants to have a piece of it.  The only down side could possibly be the fact that without a full blown training camp that the on field product won't be as good as previous years at the beginning of the season.  If marketers actually pay any attention to this it will probably be in weeks 3-7 when the injury bug will hit a group that is out of shape.  If I were to put money on it I would avoid these weeks because of the probability.  Injuries usually occur at the beginning and the end of the season when people are out of shape and then tired. 

With the shortened training camp expect people to still be getting their feet under them even in the beginning.  If anything the risk of injury and lack of cohesiveness on the field during the first few weeks will keep the marking and advertising back.  There will still be some great games and the die hards are going to love every week their team plays but to the casual fan if Peyton Manning is injured during the time period (and the way things are looking he could be out at the beginning of the season) who is really going to want to watch Indy play?  Same goes for Brady and the Pats or Brees and the Saints.  The lockout will affect the product which if you are a marketer would mean not as much money being spent in the beginning... but that being said look out for the second half of the season, through attrition you'll see some lean, mean, and fresher than normal teams which will factor into a great closing stretch of the season!  My money is on marketing late in the season when it means more and you have the better product on the field.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My sincere apologies

I have been missing in action.  I have been working diligently to finish writing my book.  I hope that everyone can forgive me for not posting more often.  I will get back with some incredibly insightful and earth shattering thoughts on marketing and the pursuit of happiness soon.  I am planning posts and hope to get back to it sooner than later.  Some of the scheduled posts are:

NFL How the marketing will look post lockout.
MLB and what a face can do for a brand.
The growing footprint of The North Face.
Outdoors but not granola.

Hopefully these will intrigue you to check back!

Thanks for the patience.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Branding and Marketing a Book

This post is going to be a work in progress.  I'm finishing writing my first book and I am very excited about it.  But now that I have a book, my product if you will, how do I get people to read it?  Well let me tell you.  The first thing I did before I started writing my book was look at my target market.  Who would buy my book?  Does this target market actually buy books regarding this?  How big is this target market?  I even went as far as to consider hot topics right now.  My book is social commentary which is an incredibly hot topic right now.  I figured that if you put up something that was entertaining, controversial then it would possibly sell. 

Writing is a huge undertaking.  I managed to hit the 50K word level which is probably just about where I want to be.  A good read but a quick one.  Knowing what I have in terms of a product and who I want to sell to I next started considering the opportunities to gain publicity.  Talking heads can be annoying but they are also the biggest proponents of my type of book.  I also am going to contact local radio stations to set up inteviews about my book and my opinions.

I need to establish credibility so I'm going to book speaking engagements and also see if I can submit a couple of articles to news papers.  The end goal?  It's to pick up some credibility, spread my thoughts and honestly, just see how far a guy can get with a product!  It's almost an experiment of sorts.  I want to produce a commercial for it and see if it goes viral on Youtube.  I'm going to have a website for it also.  I really just want to see how big I can grow it.  I believe in my book and my thoughts.  I think that I have reasonable credibility and would love to write more.  I'm not doing it as a Morgan Spurlock type thing, it is a real book with real opinions, but combine that with my marketing ability it'll be interesting to see what I get.

As for the release date... TBD, the name... I have one but I want to make sure that it is what I want it to be.  I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Travel Brands

I recently returned from a trip to Panama and while there I couldn't help but notice the different brands of the different travelers.  First of all you have to understand that Central America is a haven for travelers.  It's a conglomorate of Europeans travelling for 1-2 months, Australian college students looking to get a way for 6 months, rich latins who spend time in another country flaunting their cash, business men doing deals in developing countries and the dread locked nomadic "dude I just love the laid back lifestyle" hippies who hang out for months at a time and who knows how long they end up staying there.  Oh and did I mention the crazy Americans who have given up on the country and are drawn to the cheap real estate and semi-Americanized culture (in Costa Rica and Panama at least).  Then there are the typical Americans who only have a few days off of work because we all work so hard.  We spent 9 days in country and everyone thought we were crazy, I thought it was a good amount of time until we heard the stories of people hanging around and traveling all throughout Latin America.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  The adventurers and Typical American travelers are the ones who pack for the trip.  They wear the clothing that is best suited for travel and the conditions they will encounter.  If you look at the different brands that are available that tout themselves as "Travel Brands" you can easily recognize many of them and many you didn't even know existed.  Ex-Oficio is a travel brand.  They want to be known as a travel brand plain and simple.  Their clothing is for those who want to have good looking apparel that is somewhat performance based but the branding is all about the Jet Setter.  Many companies have "Travel" as a category now.  For example Patagonia has a Travel section see here.  Another well known company that is making headway into the apparel realm is Merrell.  They like Patagonia, have a Travel section.

Of all the brands that I saw in all of Panama ironically old faithful Columbia was the most visible brand.  I saw many travelers, businessmen, adventure seekers, and fishermen wearing the Columbia Omni-Dry shirts.  Multiple times I saw the hats and shoes.  Somehow Columbia has resonated with the traveling types.  I have a couple of theories on this.  First, the price point.  Columbia is affordable and many deft travelers are used to traveling on budgets and want to get the best bang for their buck.  Second, Columbia has penetrated the Latin market better than many of the aforementioned brands.  I saw many Latins wearing Columbia which leads me to believe that a concerted marketing effort has been made world wide.  And it has paid off.  I saw fishermen from Europe with Columbia on, backpackers from Argentina, Americans that were laying on a beach all wearing the brand.  What does this mean?  Well, I'm not sure if Columbia intended to become a traveler brand but it certainly is a big area that could/should be and is being exploited see here

I remember it being that cute brand from Portland that had the old lady testing coats.  They made great coats and outer wear but now Columbia has grown into a formidable affordable outdoor/travel giant.  I guess I can't say that I was completely shocked to see everyone wearing Columbia clothing as I brought my fair share of Columbia gear, I guess I was just shocked to see so many people wearing it in the airports and on the buses.  Everyone scattering around to participate in their various activities while wearing quality performance apparel.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sponsorships and branding

I recently went to an auto race in Utah and I was intrigued by all of the sponsorships.  On every car... well almost every car there were a grundle of sponsorships.  The teams themselves are supposedly extensions of bigger brands/owners.  There is the Michael Jordan Racing team, complete with the Jumpman logo and everything.  The National Guard is a sponsor for that team along with Gatorade, Upperdeck and Hanes.  All those brands have jumped on board all to be part of the man MJ.

Sponsoring is rough way to go when you think about it.  It fairly ineffective way to spend marketing dollars and you really never know what you're going to get as far as returns.  Even worse than that you really can't measure any of it.  Every once in a while you hit a homerun when you line your brand up with a relevant event or product.  I look at some of the classics that have been successful and they make sense.

Gatorade - Has done a great job with associating itself with sports and leagues.  NBA, NBA, High School Athletics.  This is great sponsorship dollars.

Coke - Pumping billions into the Olympics is incredible but there is a reason why it is the global drink of choice.  (Even though they have a different formula in Mexico... they use real sugar and it's better!)

Nike - College football teams.  If your team wears Nike apparel you know you have a good thing going.  This extends beyond just the unis, the apparel is going to be quality also.

Under Armour - The NFL Combine.  It is the perfect showcase for UA.  The training and the venue is right on.

Mountain Dew - The Dew Tour.  Young, adrenaline kids showing off with loud music and disregard for society... well done.

Social commentator/film maker Morgan Spurlock the man who brought us Super Size me has a new movie "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" coming out in which he had sponsors pay for all of it by using ad placement.  He even got Pom the Pomegranate drink to purchase the naming rights to the movie.  It looks fascinating and kind of puts things in perspective.  How effective placement and sponsorships can be depends completely on the product and the associated brand.  The Sprint Cup doesn't seem like a great marriage nor does Energy Solutions Arena but spending money and sponsoring can certainly get your name out there.