BitPay Strikes Deal With Georgia Tech

bitpayBitPay, the leader in business solutions for the bitcoin digital currency, today announced a partnership with the Georgia Tech, brokered by IMG College and funded with the new currency.

BitPay’s logo along with the bitcoin symbol will be on display in Bobby Dodd Stadium and the McCamish Pavilion through the 2014/2015 school year. The IMG team is facilitating introductions as BitPay sets up merchants to accept bitcoin.

“Pairing an innovative technology company pioneering a new digital currency with Georgia Tech is a great match,” said Kristen Rose, General Manager of Georgia Tech IMG Sports Marketing. “The use of bitcoin in the sports world is brand new, and we’re proud Georgia Tech is leading the trend through this partnership.”

The sponsorship was paid with bitcoin, the first peer-to-peer digital currency. Using bitcoin, it is possible to send money like an email without going through a bank or government. BitPay works with businesses to make it easy to accept bitcoin as a form of payment.

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Panel Recap of the 2014 Sports Industry Conference

On March 12, 2014, the University of Toronto hosted distinguished members of the sports industry to speak at the Sports Industry Conference. For those in attendance, the speakers provided valuable insights into the industry, through the three panels and keynote. The event was also live streamed, and can be watched below.

Moderators are in bold.

 

PANEL 1: BRANDING IN THE NEW AGE

Speakers: Richard Powers (Associate Dean and Executive Director, Rotman MBA), Matt Maccarone (Manager of Sports Marketing, Nike Canada), Greg Woods (Head of Marketing and Partnerships, UFC Canada), Corey Friesen (Director of Marketing, Under Armour Americas), Keith Gordon (President, NFL Players Inc.)

With a heavy focus on marketing, this panel appropriately featured marketing executives from sports apparel companies, the UFC, and NFL Players Inc.

Though there were strict rules against marketing at the Sochi Olympics, Nike and Under Armour did it anyways, creatively – because anytime you can further your brand on an international stage, you do it! In Nike’s case, to show off their brand, they used one of their most marketable athletes, Alex Bilodeau. Bilodeau, wearing a hat with a Nike swoosh under his helmet, was trained to take his helmet off whenever he could, basically becoming a walking advertisement for Nike.

Meanwhile, Under Armour was fortunate enough to provide the uniforms for the U.S. Olympic speed skating team at Sochi, but were embroiled in controversy when the team failed to meet expectations. The athletes put the blame on the new uniforms; even changing to the older Under Armour suits. Still, another deal was signed, this time for 8 years (covering two Olympics), which would give a chance for Under Armour to “fix” the uniform.

The UFC in particular is a brilliant example of good marketing. In Canada, the UFC is experiencing massive growth. Currently, on a per-capita basis, Canada consumes more MMA than any other nation. Dana White, the commissioner of the UFC, is an interesting case because he is unlike most other commissioners. For one, White is younger than commissioners in the NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB. At the sprightly age of 44, White is much more tech-savvy than other league bosses. He’s made it a priority that Twitter be a big part of what the athletes do, providing incentives in cash to fighters who compose good tweets. Dana himself is a huge personality, and is extremely active on Twitter on his own as well. In many ways, he is the face of his own league, which some purists may be against. However, there is no denying that he has been behind a huge growth in the UFC.

The coming out of Jason Collins and Michael Sam was also touched on. Keith Gordon, in comparing the styles of David Stern (NBA commissioner) and Roger Goodell (NFL commissioner), mentioned Jason Collins as an example of Stern’s willingness to be a pioneer. In the NFL, the owners are likely to not care at all about a player’s orientation, since teams are so dollar-driven.

The transformation of advertising is important as well: maybe ten or twenty years ago, pasting an athlete’s face on a cereal box would be positively grand for his brand. But in today’s world, it just doesn’t have the same impact. Instead, social media is coming to the forefront as a premier marketing strategy, since it builds an audience and keeps it in special ways.

 

PANEL 2: TRUST THE DATA?


Speakers: Matt Mitchell (Professor of Business Economics, Rotman), Alex Rucker (Senior Analytics Consultant, Toronto Raptors), Reid Mitchell (Director of Scouting Adiministration, Toronto Maple Leafs), Alex Burwasser (Analyst, Bloomberg Sports), and Timothy Chan (Industrial Engineering Professor, University of Toronto)

Appropriately sponsored by Bloomberg Sports, this discussion was the one that brought the most light to the way front offices in sports are run.

A big part of this panel was the relationship between analytics and scouting. In basketball, this is particularly difficult, since there are multiple variables that interfere when scouting prospects. How do you compare a professional in Europe to a college player? Every league plays a different game, and in these situations, it’s almost impossible to judge by stats. The differences in leagues are most glaring in basketball, since the rules are completely different. For instance, in his last year in Europe, Ricky Rubio’s stats were down across the board (4.8 ppg and 4.1 apg in 22 minutes). In his first season in the NBA, Rubio blew these numbers out, almost averaging a double double with 11 and 8. What the numbers don’t take into account are the huge differences between the European game and the American one. In Europe, players are given less freedom to do what they want. There is much more freelancing in the NBA, and because of this, some players are just more suited to play in American leagues than others.

In hockey, the struggle is just as real as it is in basketball. Leagues other than the NHL only keep stats for goals, assists, plus-minus, and penalty minutes, which, as Timothy Chan put it, is “like the NHL twenty years ago.” Advanced metrics are very difficult to find in these leagues, forcing an even stronger emphasis on attributes such as character, size, and play style.

Mentioned as a player who exceeded expectations, Connor Brown posted a horrendous -72 in his draft year. Brown is now leading the OHL by 20 points. Obviously there may be some inflation due to him playing with super-duper prospect Connor McDavid, but as Reid Mitchell said, “I’m not saying he’ll be in the Hall of Fame, but boy he’s got a good start.” Plus-minus is a causal stat, and based on a player’s environment, he may end up either posting a great number or a very disappointing one.

But the panel wasn’t just limited to scouting – if it were, Alex Burwasser and Timothy Chan may have been left without much to say. The importance of “intangibles” and teamwork was in play, with Reid Mitchell placing high importance on both aspects of a player. In fact, traditional metrics were exposed to be of little importance when evaluating a player. However, there’s no doubt that there are statistics that teams use but hide from the public. More than anything, running a team is as much of a competition as what is going on during the matches. Each team is in a battle against each other. And because ultra-competitive people are running them, any kind of advantage will be used and protected.

When a player is performing well because of causal reasons, they become especially difficult to evaluate. Clearly there is no real way to know how good these players really are, which is evidenced by the multitude of bad deals that pro teams make. The Kunitz-Crosby relationship was used as an example: would Kunitz be as successful a player if Crosby were not his linemate? For scouts, it’s not enough to evaluate Kunitz when Crosby is out of the lineup, since with him out, there is a huge amount of cap space that would be filled if Crosby were not playing with him at all. This, however, only applies to salary cap leagues, where strategies that wouldn’t take place otherwise are employed.

In front offices, analytics play a huge role when contracts are being written. We are now seeing teams use more advanced stats than goals or assists when evaluating a player’s value. This often translates to better contracts, and a better way to correctly assess what a player is really worth.

 

PANEL 3: TWITTER AND THE NEW AGE OF FAN INTERACTION


Speakers: Gurdeep Ahluwalia (Anchor and Reporter, TSN), Debora Silveira (Senior Account Executive, Twitter Canada), Dave Hopkinson (Chief Commercial Officer, MLSE), Keith Gordon (President, NFL Players Inc.), James Duthie (Host, NHL on TSN)

Featuring people who have been on TV, and hosted by a very cool man, the Twitter panel was one that delved into fan interaction in sports and its growth as a result of social media.

When speaking about “trolls” on social media, James Duthie mentioned “Twitter Terrorism”, an act that him and his co-worker Bob McKenzie often engage in to combat attacks. One such act of Terrorism was when one person tweeted that he would kill Duthie’s son. Enraged, he went on a sleuthing tear that ended with him calling the tweeter’s hockey coach, getting him suspended from the team. In general, these hate tweets are a part of being on social media, and is nearly an expectation at this point. Because of this, it is necessary that public figures are careful about who they respond to and what they say online. As Duthie says, social media is a reflection of society in that most of the people are good, but the ones that are not may have a louder voice. A positive is that these few jerks are also shot down when they do gain traction, a reflection of the good on social media.

In MLSE’s case, Twitter is a huge part of their organization. The Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC, and Marlies all follow back, since, as Dave Hopkinson puts it, “if you’re going to have an authentic connection, it needs to be two-ways.” The importance of this philosophy is that there is more fan engagement than if the organization saw it as only one-way street (such as Manchester United), and MLSE sees this two-way interaction as a good investment. An advantage for a company like MLSE is that they can see what fans are saying on a public forum, while engaging in the conversation.

It’s also interesting that some athletes who would be lesser known if it weren’t for Twitter have been able to build their brand through it. An example that was referenced is Paul Bissonnette (@BizNasty2point0), who is, by all rights, a marginal NHL player. Through Twitter, fans were exposed to his wit and humor, something you just don’t get from watching him on the ice. His hockey will always be mediocre on an NHL level, but when you compare him to a player like Phil Kessel, who rarely tweets but is an extremely skilled player, his personality shines through his Twitter account. Players are also given training throughout the year, and are told “don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper.”

In the athletes’ case, Twitter is even more important because of sponsorships and endorsements. Almost all contracts now have a social media component involved, and because of this, the players could be more guarded than they usually are. A single tweet could change a person’s life.

Athletes will also use Twitter to engage in real-time connections. Twitter can create special moments for fans. Even a retweet or a reply by an athlete is special. Last offseason, Kevin Durant played pick-up with some fans at a local court, making their days. Did this build his brand? Yes, it did. Twitter offers the chance for athletes to maximize their potential as a brand. Because of this, many athletes have teams that help them decide what to tweet. An important note is that the tweets still need to be authentic, in that the athletes need to be themselves when they tweet. Fans want to know the person, not an account run by a group of marketers.

A lifelong Toronto sports fan, Daniel has endured many miserable times as a fan while watching on television and at games. Currently a student at the University of Toronto, Daniel is also the Head Blogger for the University of Toronto Sports and Business student organization.

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5 Big Picture Takeaways From #DSFE14

Tuesday closed the doors on a great, information-packed two days in Dallas at the Q1 Productions Digital Sports Fan Engagement conference. I’d say most of us are still unpacking all the information, still filing it away neatly, trying to pluck out points most useful to our brands, while identifying ways to incorporate them into our strategies. Not every point will be agreed upon, not every tactic will prove beneficial to every brand, but as is the case with most anything, the best ideas are born from the discourse.
DSFE14
Trying to summarize and recap every major point from the many presenters would be an exercise in futility. Yet, some broad strokes really stuck out to me… the type of things that are applicable to any brand, any sport, any audience.

1) Write Everything in Pencil

Russell Houghtaling, Director of Digital Media at the University of Oklahoma, made this statement before laying out his presentation, but it’s a principle that holds true in every situation. New platforms constantly pop up in the marketplace and attempting to predict those of which have staying power and those that do not proves folly. Even those platforms which have been around the longest in digital, are still only 10 years old – babies as far as the marketing landscape is concerned. So we’re all still learning how to utilize them most effectively. Even examples of those who do it best are only captured across a few years, a small sample size of data when you step away from it.

So it’s all written in pencil. What’s good today may not work tomorrow. Being adaptable isn’t a perk; it’s a necessity.

2) Incentivize Every Experience

Chris Yandle, Assistant Athletics Director of Communications at the University of Miami, said it so well Monday:


In a humorous way, he touched on a theme that showed up in numerous presentations: fans need to be validated. Accomplishing this validation can occur in so many different ways. Some fans place a premium value on having their tweets replied to, favorited and RT’d. Others love having their picture on the big screen at the arena.

When you listen to Jeramie McPeek, the VP of Digital for the Phoenix Suns, talk about the Suns’ loyalty program, Club Orange, it becomes very clear that incentivizing each fan’s every action is of premium value. Buy tickets? Get points. Show up? Get points. Like, RT, comment, share? Get points. Then cash those points in for actual meaningful fan experiences, like taking a picture with the team or getting a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities, or maybe even eating pizza with the Suns Gorilla. The Suns want you to know that everything you do has value to them… and they want to reward you for that.

3) “Fish where the fish are.”

Katie Miller, Group Director of Sports & Entertainment Marketing at The Coca-Cola Company, really drove this point home during the Sponsor Partnerships panel. It’s a simple tenet, but one often lost in broader discussions on creative strategy. Sure, in the idealized world fans would do and say and respond and think exactly as we anticipate them to. Unfortunately. This. Never. Happens. So you have to meet them where they are. Sometimes it’s better to not overthink these things.

As much as we all want to coach fans and direct them to engage in the ways we prefer, at the end of the day, we have to go where they are. If we don’t? We won’t catch any fish.

4) Use Every Weapon in Your Arsenal

Kenton Olson, Director of Digital Media & Emerging Media with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, discussed how the Seahawks have cleverly leveraged celebrities into fan engagement, through mainstream outlets like Macklemore, which open them up to previously untouched markets. Craig Pintens, Senior Associate Athletic Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the University of Oregon talked about incorporating the Oregon Michael Jordan’s. Lauren Murray, Digital and Social Communications Manager for Jimmie Johnson Racing related turning the negative hashtag #blamejj into a comically fun winner for Jimmie Johnson.

Each presented creative, innovative ways to generate fan interest without an inside-the-box mentality. It seems a common mistake is targeting initiatives to the die-hard fans…the type that do not need to be won over. Olson, Pintens and Murray offer clear examples of ways to broaden the umbrella and attract fans that maybe wouldn’t inherently follow your brand because of a blind affinity to it.

5) Engage Fans Authentically

The days of slapping a sponsor on a post/tweet/status and calling it engagement are over (if they ever started…). Fans see right through phony tactics and dressed up versions of manipulation. As nameless and faceless as social media can be, fans want to be dealt with as you would any person face-to-face. Would you slap a Taco Bell sticker on your head and dance around your friend to convince them to like you? Then why treat the fans any differently?

The best way to connect, engage and, ultimately, produce repeat business, is by meeting the fans where they are and giving them an actual meaningful experience. This ties back to takeaway no. 2, but no one feels validated by hollow gestures.

As a blogger, I found #DSFE14 to be fascinating on so many levels, even if the exchange of information didn’t specifically tailor to my needs. My goals aren’t all that dissimilar from those of digital marketing pros. We all want to capture eyeballs and keep them returning.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway, though, even bigger than the five I mentioned above, is that the conversation doesn’t end here. This is merely the beginning. #DSFE14 gave us all an opportunity to gather, bounce ideas off one another, learn from one another and bond over the battles we fight on a daily basis. Yet, it doesn’t cease because the conference room doors are closed, and we’re all back to our homes and comfortable environments. Let’s do with one another what we all set out to do with our fanbases: engage, engage, engage.

Continue the conversation with @Q1Sports. We look forward to more meetings, more engagements and more opportunities to learn and grow with you all!

Q1 Productions has partnered with blogger Dan Davis (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) from And the Valley Shook for a series of blogs leading up to and after the Digital Sports Fan Engagement Conference (#DSFE14). Dan will also be in attendance at the program, live tweeting from the official @Q1Sports account.

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Winning The Second Screen Competition

At the end of the day, we’re all competing for eyeballs. The clearest tell that you have someone’s attention is always in their eyeballs. Ears are nice, but eyeballs are key. And right now your main competition to eyeballs is the second screen.

Increasingly more brands are coming to terms with the reality that the second screen is one competitor they cannot topple. The days of dad in the recliner, watching the ball game, with the only competition for his attention being the daily paper are dead. The modern fan watches the game with a plethora of options for consumption across multiple convenient platforms.

The real goal here is to win that second screen too. Just ask Rob Bernstein, Vice President, Editorial Director, Digital & Print of WWE. His greatest achievement? “Launching a compelling second screen app that delivers live video, from venue, during every commercial break. Actually this same app also allows our fans to vote in ways that actually impact the storyline during programming. It’s a stressful, weekly exercise that’s also extraordinarily rewarding for us and our fans.”

If you can’t keep the fan from the second screen… meet them there. By acknowledging the inevitable, the WWE turned disadvantage to advantage. What others saw as obstacle, the WWE saw as opportunity. The second screen gave them the opportunity to engage fans in a way they simply couldn’t through live broadcasts.

Just this week the WWE launched their own digital network, a paid subscription service that gives avid fans access to a whole library of WWE productions, ranging from documentaries to past events, as well as the capability to stream every PPV, all for the low cost of $9.99 a month. Beyond the digital content, the WWE is utilizing the platform to further build their own storylines. They are able to build story arcs between characters that may not otherwise command screen time in a live broadcast. For a wrestling fanatic, these type of bread crumbs enhance their overall experience with the brand. The WWE wins by saying, “okay, if you’re going to look elsewhere, we’re going to give you the best, most compelling place to do so.”

Obviously they are dealing with built-in advantages, primarily that their program is entirely scripted. This gives them the opportunity to give viewers precisely what they want, sometimes in real time. But for every brand, there are always innovative and creative ways to reach customers. Every sport, every fan base will crave different types of content, different types of interaction.

The question you must answer is, how can I meet my fans on the second screen in a way that no one else can?

Rob Bernstein is one of Q1 Productions’ speakers at the Digital Sports Fan Engagement Conference, scheduled to take place March 3-4, 2014 in Dallas, TX. For more information on this program, please visit www.q1productions.com/sportsfanengagement.

Q1 Productions has partnered with blogger Dan Davis (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) from And the Valley Shook for a series of blogs leading up to and after the Digital Sports Fan Engagement Conference (#DSFE14). Dan will also be in attendance at the program, live tweeting from the official @Q1Sports account.

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New Ticketing Solution Helps Trail Blazers Increase Revenue

Sq1 recently launched a sports ticketing solution for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers with promising results. The conversion optimization campaign utilizes video, mobile, paid search, display and re-targeting to sell tickets. A complex testing strategy was developed to test consumer segmentation, creative messaging and the landing page conversion environment. The campaign is ongoing on the Trail Blazers’ ticketing portal.

Individual ticket sales and revenue per ticket are up from last year. 30% of single-game ticket buyers were new to the Trail Blazers and traffic to the newly designed single game ticket process has increased by 300% year-over-year.

A star point guard in Damian Lillard doesn’t hurt either.

By halfway through the season the Trail Blazers’s had reached last year’s full season totals. Performance was up before the team went on their first winning streak and Sq1 has capitalized on the success on the court to maximize ticket sales and capture data for future campaigns.

In a release from Sq1, Gabe Winslow, Partner at Sq1 stated: “Utilizing our conversion optimization methodology has yielded extremely positive results within the first few weeks of implementation and results continue to get better. There are no other such solutions or campaigns being utilized in all of sports to the best of our knowledge. We love working with the Trail Blazers and look forward to introducing our sports vertical ticket selling experience to other teams and leagues.”

Trailblazers Sq1

Sq1 will join many other industry leaders at the upcoming MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference from February 28 to March 1, 2014.

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