football


21
May 15

Meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars

In London, the Jags’ rep still pronounces it Jag-U-Ars. It is delightful. We mentioned that a few Auburn guys were signed by Jacksonville, and she discussed several of the recent acquisitions from the SEC. Not the S-E-C, but the “SEC.” It was delightful.

And Laura Oaks, director of the Jags’ UK sponsorships, knows her stuff. This was a fascinating chat.

Laura Oaks

So the Jags have the exclusivity deal in London. This works well because they have limited market demographics at home — new franchise, much of their geography is actually in the Gulf and a great deal of their presumed Jacksonville fanbase is made up of military folks, transient or otherwise engaged fans. When owner Shad Khan made a multiyear commitment it might have seemed odd to some observers. But when you hear about what they are doing, a lot of things will start to make sense.

For the raw numbers, one game in London is worth the same amount of money as two games in Jacksonville in terms of the ticket yield. There will be three NFL games in Wembley this year, and they’re expecting to fill the 85,000 seat stadium for each game. Some four percent of the fans will be American and six percent more will come over from Europe. The rest are from the UK. The NFL estimates they have 28 million “avid fans” in the country.

So the first question is, “How do we make ourselves a mainstream sport?”

It is a multi-layered problem.

To mainstream they’re trying to become a top five team among the UK fanbase. They’re currently ranked as the number 10 team among NFL franchises there, but they’re surging. When they started the Jags could count 508 fans there, now they have a list with 35,000 fans. This, Oaks says, is a solid commercial base.

So the Jags are the fastest growing fanbase in the U.K. That multi-year deal helps, and along with that the commercial exclusivity that comes with it. They’ve also done a great deal of player, veteran, cheerleader availability programs to create a sense of openness with the fans.

Some of the problems start with the basics of football. They’re educating fans and employees about the game. Oaks told us about how she was hired for the job with no knowledge of the sport. (She’s an accomplished sports marketer and a quick study, but on day one she knew nothing of the sport.) Also, London is hugely competitive in sports. There are 15 football clubs in the city, a pro basketball team, a handful of rugby squads, cricket and an active outdoors cultural to compete with.

So you’re teaching a sport to a new nation. You’re doing it with a team that is, hopefully, on the rise.

“We are dealers in hope,” Oaks said. “We must at least give people the hope that we could win.”

Jacksonville’s commitment means they are the only team with commercial rights in London, but they are a young team, they haven’t yet won anything to merit a great deal of attention and so on.

“You’re taking a product into a new market, how much do you Anglicize it? How much do you Americanize it?”

So we’re talking about culture of sport as much as we’re talking about the field or the branding or anything of that sort. Oaks said there’s definitely a “love affair with that Americana feel” that allows a fan to get beyond themselves and whoop and holler. But there is an aversion to the commercialization that we are accustomed to tuning out here in the States.

The Americana isn’t just limited to a huge play. They are having great success with the off-the-field fun. Oaks says they’re estimating 600,000 fans taking part in the pre-game tailgating festivities on Regent’s Street. I asked her how they mine those people as prospective fans. If you have 35,000 people in a Jags’ database and know you’re getting somewhere between 85,000 and 255,000 into Wembley (allowing for returning fans) then there are a lot of people left to consider.

So they’ve turned to a Fan Pass app. To take part in certain tailgating activities you have to have the app. To use the app you have to input data. That information about you goes back to the league and to the Jags.

NFL

There’s a big fan difference in the UK too, and Oaks says it leaves American fans amazed. They’re looking at this with the idea that players drive fans which drive teams, and so they are working hard to bring the two closer together. They’re pointing at those interactions as part of the success story. Oaks says they push 50,000 fans through Trafalgar Square in a four hour period for NFL events.

Successful as the grassroots efforts have been, traditional broadcast efforts remain a winner both in terms of teams and marketing. But Oaks said this global-NFL program is about more than 60 minutes on the gridiron.

“Fans have become die hard fans very quickly. This is about belonging and engagement. People want to belong to something. This is why sport is so powerful.”

Some of the most successful NFL brands in the UK are the Patriots — winners get recognition — and teams that were strong in the 1980s. Oaks said that three of the of the BBC channels back then were showing church programming on Sundays. One was showing football. So, if you are of a certain age, she said, you grew up and perhaps remained a fan of the Giants or Dolphins or the like. They were on TV. (I suspect Buffalo and the Niners land in that group, too.) Winners get recognition.

“Shad Khan wants this to be an internationally-recognized brand.”

Now think about this. The NFL has this inroad to London, but there are league efforts in Brazil, Germany and China as well. The question is, “How best to activate those markets?”


2
Feb 15

Super Bowl commercials

This was my favorite of the bunch:

We talked about them in class today. The consensus winners were the puppy spot from Budweiser and this one:

The idea seemed to be that, in a different year, that spot gets overlooked and forgotten. This year it stood out. Weak field, the class thought.

The Dove dads spot was also well-received:

No one seemed to like the Nationwide spot, but a few did make the case that, yes, it was something we’re talking about and, sure, it is an important topic. Someone had missed the spot, so we watched it. It didn’t seem any better to the rest of us upon a second viewing.

Which spots did you like? Which did you dislike? And why?

“It was funny” or “It wasn’t funny” aren’t sufficient answers, though.


20
Dec 14

Things I produced today

I posted my first videos to Vine today. Yes, I am behind.

I try to experiment with about every third MUST HAVE web craze. Skipping a few here and there tends to keep the pressure off. Some of those things will be gone before we know it anyway.

But Vine is proving it has staying power, and people are now talking about “How we can do more with it than just six second jokes.” That suggests an audience maturation, too. When it has more than one accepted use, I figure, might have think of some useful way to use it.

My first idea, was to use Vine as teasers for the video I shot yesterday. If you saw that, you already met the $120 Russian tortoise.

And you also saw the rabbit guinea pigs:

They’ll all catch up eventually, I’m sure.

We purchased neither. We did, however, get cat litter, in such amounts as to be valued at the equivalent of the per capita gross domestic product of Burundi. By the time you pick up pounds 85-126 your hands can sting in the cold winter air. But then that dog walked by and I thought “Establishing shot!”

And the puppy had no camera sense. Don’t look at the camera, dog.

Anyway, that was yesterday. Vines today. I have contributed, then, 12 seconds to the insatiable appetite of the Internet.

OK, fine, I contributed this too, on Twitter. As you know I collect Gloms, the Auburn yearbook. I was scanning a few more for the continuation of the covers project and was putting them away. I opened the back cover of the 2011 book to this picture.

Glom11 Lutzie

A student took this photo, as did a lot of other nearby photographers, I’m sure. The versions you usually see make you wonder what he’s looking at as he turns. Maybe it was her. Here’s the play:

The line they put with that photo now has, I think, several extra meanings.

So I have put all of that on the web today. Also, family events and holiday events began today. Steak, chocolate cake, listening to people talk about cars and so on.

That turtle is rather captivating, right?


13
Dec 14

A standard rambling Saturday of fun and memories

Every so often we have to make Allie, The Black Cat, famous on the Internet. This morning she was posing so patiently in the sun. She doesn’t mind the actual camera, but today I had the phone and she does not care for the phone in her face. Who can explain cats? She didn’t mind so much today, though, I guess because of the warm sun, but who can explain cats?

Allie

We watched the Army-Navy game. We attended one a few years ago, it was a great, chilly day and it is a game that everyone should go to at least once. (We want to go back.) You get a fair amount out of the experience watching the game on TV, CBS has done a nice job with it over the years.

To see the track athletes run the game ball onto the field and to watch the flyovers in person is a different thing. You’ve probably never seen the “prisoner exchange” of returning cadets and middies to their own sides after a student exchange program at home. Television doesn’t often show you the young men and women sworn into the service at the game and it doesn’t allow you to talk to graduates of both academies. For all the care that CBS gives that game, you just can’t absorb it all from the screen.

To watch the cadets march on, or to watch the teams sing their schools’ alma maters — my favorite college tradition of all — that’s an in-person experience you need. Here’s my video from 2011, shot on my first iPhone. It looks fuzzy after a few downloads and uploads from service to service, but it offers a nice little stadium view:

Here are some of the photos I took from our 2011 trip.

Of course, the hype videos always play better at home. You can hear them better. These were my favorites today:

More were collected for you here.

I’ve always cheered for Navy — the Department of the Navy was important in my childhood world — but two years ago, watching that late Army turnover, I softened up. The Black Knights were about to score late and break what was then a 10-game losing streak to the Middies. But they fumbled inside the 20 and I decided, about 40 seconds into the video here, that no rivalry should ever have more than a three-game losing streak. Everyone should know what it feels like to beat the other guys once in their career.

But it was not to be then, or today, of course. Navy has won 13 in a row, but Army is getting better.

I do enjoy the Army-Navy game.

Things to read … because there are other sports to enjoy.

The headline ruins this great high school basketball story:

Your team has not suffered like the Climax-Fisher Knights.

No matter how Raider-y or 76ers-esque your program is, it has not endured their unique brand of pain. Even Prairie View, the Division I-AA football team that lost 80 straight games during the 1990s, has technically suffered a shorter string of defeats than the Climax-Fisher girls basketball team, which finally broke its four-year losing streak Tuesday despite incredibly unfavorable odds.

That’s a happy finish.

I remember covering the accident that started this story years ago. It was probably one of the last stories I did before I moved to KARN in Little Rock. It was a terrible accident, to be sure. Dangling power lines killed a 7-year-old and changed a 4-year-old boy’s life forever. But this story is thrilling to read today. Good for him. Ward Webb lost his feet at age 4, but the Mountain Brook linebacker never says ‘I can’t’:

Mountain Brook football coach Chris Yeager remembers the early days of watching Ward Webb train with other players.

As teens sprinted up and down stadium steps for conditioning, Yeager remembers, they told Webb to go to the side and use the handrails.

Webb, who lost his feet at age 4 and uses prosthetic legs, refused.

“He wants to be like everybody else,” the coach said. “He’s falling down those steps and that’s just typical Ward. He absolutely believes he can do anything anybody else can do. I’ve been coaching him for 3½ years, and I have never heard Ward Webb say, ‘I can’t.’”

This is a neat concept. Not sure if I’d want to work there, but I’d read the product: A newspaper and a hotel, all in one. If you’re interested, here it is now.

St. Patrick’s is beautiful. Immediately below are a few of the pictures I’ve taken on visits to Manhattan over the years. The cleaning, though, has done wonders. St. Patrick’s unveils its immaculate facelift

St. Patricks

St. Patricks

This is an interesting visual mashup, and it leads to some spooky results. Battle of Nashville Then & Now is worth seeing, and the bigger your screen, the better.

In elementary school, during the third grade, let’s say, we buried a time capsule. It seemed a very big deal at the time, of course. I think it was a garbage bag-lined ice chest or something like that. And possibly they dug it up sometime later that night after we all left school. But we took it seriously, because it was very serious. It would be important when they dug it up in 50 years. All of this has come to mind a few times since, and now I wonder if anyone knows about it, if anyone remembers where it is or even cares. Were there 10 or 15 such time capsules buried on that playground? And did they dig it all up when that school built the big gym next to it? All of that is boring. This is amazing: Time capsule found at Massachusetts Statehouse:

Crews removed a time capsule dating back to 1795 on Thursday from the granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse, where historians believe it was originally placed by Revolutionary War luminaries Samuel Adams and Paul Revere among others.

The time capsule is believed to contain items such as old coins and newspapers, but the condition of the contents is not known and Secretary of State William Galvin speculated that some could have deteriorated over time.

Officials won’t open the capsule until after it is X-rayed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to determine its contents. The X-ray is scheduled for Sunday.

Time capsules are fascinating things. Who came up with this idea? And why can’t I open them for people?

We went for ice cream last night. One of those places where you drive over, park, walk up to the window and order under the humming neon lights. There’s a list of the ice cream flavors of the day, and the flavors are always changing. This is a challenge for me. Occasionally I find something I really like, but it is never there twice.

Tonight we pulled up about a half hour before the place closed and the guy at the window, Matt, knew it. He was older than the usual high schooler working there and he knew that too. The Yankee ordered her usual. I hemmed and hawed and agonized.

What is the Oreo cheesecake like? I asked.

“It tastes like cheesecake … with Oreos,” Matt said.

He gave me a sample. He was correct. I ordered it.

ice cream

It was good. I’ll probably never see it offered there again.


6
Dec 14

All of the football

Our old friend Brian is here. He and I used to work together. He’s known The Yankee and I as a couple longer than anyone, we think. We’ve done and been through a little bit of most everything in life with Brian and his family. He’s a great friend that we don’t get to see nearly often enough.

This weekend, we are catching up some. And we are having a watch party.

screens

If you look closely, you’ll see his two phones — because Brian is that kind of guy, sitting just beneath the television. We didn’t watch it like this, really, but we wanted to see how many screens we could pull up at one time. In the last five years, at various intersections of schedules that allow watch parties, we’ve gone from two games to five, then six and eight and, now, 10. There are 10 screens showing a football game in the picture above.

Ten!

We were also taking pictures with two more phones, and I think there were two laptops down the street we weren’t borrowing, so this could have been an even more ridiculous photo.

The first point: football.

The second point: I give Charter their fair of grief for this and that, because they deserve it from time to time. But that’s some nice bandwidth right there. Kudos on that.

The third point: Brian’s a good guy. It is great to see him.