A few days with Dave...
Immediate question for anyone reading this is... who's Dave?
By way of introduction, for those who haven't listened to our podcast, Dave (Wakeman) is a marketing consultant who currently resides in DC, the 'saturated' home of current MLB champs the Nats, WNBA champs the Mystics, the 17/18 NHL champs the Capitals, NBA's the Wizards, MLS' DC United and the NFL's currently deplorable Redskins.
Recognised as a strategic marketer who's worked with some of the globe's biggest brands, Dave has more recently found his voice (it's how I found him) from mostly throwing 'thought' grenades in the middle of the sports biz industry - particularly in challenging the answers defined for some of the questions posed, but better yet, challenging whether what's being asked, is even right.
Unprompted plug aside, I recently spent a few days with Dave when he found himself in Australia. And as part of a number of conversations, coupled with a workshop, a keynote presentation and a live hosted Q&A, we covered a lot of ground with regards to sports marketing, branding, fan experience and engagement, and the future of it all. But, when reflecting on it all, there were key constants that just continued to stand out more than others which I wanted to share today. Yes, some of these are obvious... and somewhat common sense... but I guess that's the point. With the most universal thoughts and insights often forgotten in the churn and burn of the every day, it's important to stop and smell the roses. So, here's four of them:
You Are Not Your Market. I've spoken a lot about this in my work, and some of my writing, but Dave couldn't reinforce this enough. Too often, sports professionals with all their good intentions and passion, continue to make decisions for the fan-base (and future fan-base) on the basis of how they feel, think, or would respond. But the moment you cross the threshold into a business, is the day you have to relinquish the label of being a fan. You have information, understanding and context that the market doesn't. And won't. And whilst you may think that you can be objective, you won't be. Your thinking, responses, feelings are unconsciously biased. The reality is that when pondering how a fan or future fan would respond to your ideas, your ads, content, products, offers, your answer must always be, 'I don't know'. And it's then your job to go to the market to find out.
Your fans will always be 'moving'. There's a wish, and perhaps blissful ignorance, that your fan-base will stick with you through thick and thin. Lots of clubs invest huge amounts of their time and resource (financial and human) into squeezing the lemon and ensuring they continue come back. They bank on that revenue (and likely lock in plans for spending it before seeing it). But the reality is that things change. Fans and their lives change. Some become more engaged, other's less. Some not at all. Some all-in. But no matter how hard you work, or what you offer (including, oh dear, aggressive discounts), they do what they want and need to, when they want. And whilst the loss of that immediate revenue hurts (or the gain of that immediate revenue helps), it needs to be less about looking at it through the key hole, and more about looking at if across their entire lifetime. Customer lifetime value is well understood and heralded in non-sport industry, but it's not well nurtured or considered in sport. Understanding data, and connecting data is key to this. But in understanding that not all codes or clubs can access or pull together all that data to paint a clear picture, you can still make huge leaps by appreciating the reality of it, and accounting for it where possible. Doing so will immediately allow for more relevant and considered comms, products, offerings, ideas and experiences.
It's about selling what you can control. Those within my professional circles know that I love pulling out the 'you need to give people something to attach themselves to other than what happens on-field' when talking about the live sport proposition. And that all comes down to taking ownership of, and doing everything with what you can control. Whilst most sports professionals are waking up to the need of elevating the power of experiences and emotions at-event, there is still too much emphasis put on what can't be controlled. You need to attack the big and small things you can control to ensure that what you're selling is an amazing experience, regardless of what the result is. Whether that be in the entertainment options on display, the food choices, the beverage selection... the queues, the people you sit with, the smile on the face of the staff member sitting on the front gate letting everyone in. The trip into the game, the trip home and every other bit of labour in between. The entire experience from start to finish, at every touch point is what you consider when doing it all over again... In only looking at DC's very own recent MLB champs, the Nats, winning isn't nearly enough to address the gaping hole in their value proposition. Similarly, DC's once-loved Redskins, who have the worst NFL win-loss track for 2019, can't give away tickets - even when losing, there's nothing else on offer. When you rely on performance, and don't invest deeply and consistently in what you can control, you're on a very precarious path, and ironically, will only end up losing.
Change is the only constant. No-one likes change. And because no-one likes change, most people often avoid it altogether. Including those in the business of sport. But if there's one thing that you can be guaranteed of in life and business, it is this - regardless of whether you're ready or not, change is coming. And in the last decade alone, we've seen this at an accelerated rate across the industry through its commercialisation, fan expectations, technology adoption, place in culture, population dynamics, micro and macro economics... the difference between sporting organisations who are successful and those who are not is likely to continue to come down to those that prepare for and adopt to change best. Those who embrace it and move with it rather than ignore it or wait to be left behind. The 'we've always done it this way' is a sure fire way to run yourself and your business to the ground and as professionals granted the opportunity to work in sport, it's on us all to anticipate change, attack it, learn from it, grow from it.
What do you think? Do these hit home? Reach out and let me know.
To learn more from Dave, check out his Podcast, Blog or newsletter for a taste. And for those who've not read my previous post, you can check out Dave and I in conversation on his podcast some month's ago here.
Until next time!