Examining New Models in Sports Media

 

(Editor’s Note. Dr. Janas is an entrepreneur with many interests.  The Sport Digest published another piece by Dr. Janas in December, 2011.  In that article he dealt with issues facing anyone trying to operate a minor league professional basketball team.  One of Dr. Janas’ business ventures can be found online at http://scoretrax.com.  This is an SMS service that allows members (joining is free) to receive scores and updates on their favorite teams).

Competition for the sports entertainment dollar is fierce.  There is less pie to slice up between the “big 4” traditional sports (football, baseball, hockey, and basketball), second-tier sports like soccer and lacrosse, other non-revenue scholastic and amateur sports, action sports, and sport’s newest darling, mixed martial arts.   With only a few exceptions, sponsorship revenues are down across sports at all levels. In high school and collegiate sports, budgets are getting slashed, and everyone is looking for ways to maintain their programs.  For many of these sports organizations, finding exposure opportunities is key part of dealing with today’s business climate.

Of course, sports fans have a host of media options to follow their major college and major league professional sports teams.  Those options include broadcast television, cable television, satellite television, the Internet, radio, newspapers, magazines, social media, and mobile services.  The options to get up-to-date scores and news related to sports at other levels (hereon known as the “other sports”) are not so plentiful, particularly for those who do not live in markets local to the teams or events in which they are interested.   However, there are options for the other sports, and technology can play a big part.

One example (and the focus of this article) is text messaging or Short Message Service (SMS) technology. Text messaging or Short Message Service (SMS) technology is available today on most mobile phones.    The SMS protocol provides the ability to send and receive short messages of up to 160 characters.    Most people refer to the act of sending a text message as “texting.”    Typically, wireless providers offer service plans that include a “bucket” of or unlimited number of SMS messages for a set monthly fee.

Text messaging as part of mobile marketing campaigns is quickly becoming a primary means of reaching out to customers.   People have become more and more comfortable with and reliant on their mobile phones for a variety of services.   There more than 2.4 billion mobile phone users today worldwide.  Those users exchange over 3 trillion messages per year.   Five hundred billion of these messages are commercial or marketing messages.  The associated mobile marketing campaigns have goals similar to other marketing efforts (for example, those utilizing television, radio, paper media and the Internet) and are designed increase brand awareness, increase patronage, improve customer loyalty, and increase revenues.

Mobile marketing is in fact the advertising industry’s fastest growing media channel, offering a cost-effective way to connect to an “opted-in” mobile audience with desirable demographics.  SMS technology provides banks, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, social networks, hospitals, publishers, and more with a direct, quick channel for instant customer communications, instant cost savings and an instant revenue channel.   Even during slow economic times, few believe people will give up their cell phones or texting.   People are tethered to their phones 24/7, and as a result, 97 percent of all SMS marketing messages are opened, and perhaps more remarkably 83 percent are opened within one hour.

Many of the world’s largest corporations and agencies use SMS to both advertise and communicate with customers.    However, until very recently, outside of a few services designed for NCAA Division 1 revenue sports and the “big 4” major league sports delivered by the likes of ESPN.com or CBSSports.com, there have been few efforts to leverage this technology for the other sports.

The next logical question of course is “why not?”  The shortest answer is that the major media players have not been that interested in putting the work in to assemble the eyeballs in these markets, especially when there is other much lower hanging fruit.   While the numbers of interested fans of the “other sports” may seem relatively small, they collectively add up to be a significant target market for advertising various products and services.     Technology such as SMS technology provides the ability to package these fans in an attractive way for such advertising.

As of very recently, companies have emerged with comprehensive content management systems designed to do just this type of packaging.   These systems include the ability for teams to publicize their sports schedules, solicit subscribers, manage ad campaigns, and distribute game scores in real-time, among other functions. Perhaps most importantly, these companies offer the “other sports” the ability to monetize their sports content through a variety of ad revenue sharing or paid subscription programs.  There is no doubt that the sports business climate is tough right now.   But tough times, and in this case technology, can sometimes create opportunities.

Dr. Mark Janas is the Managing Partner and CEO of In3, Inc. a technology and business development firm based in Raleigh, NC with holdings in multiple minor league basketball teams and sport-related businesses including ScoreTrax.com. He received his doctorate in sports management from the United States Sports Academy.  Anyone interested in graduate programs at the Academy should go to http://ussa.edu.

 

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