SGP 055: SEAT Conference recap – IT, CRM & Digital

Relief after getting through SEAT Welcome Address without my voiceWhat a week in Miami, a big thanks to Christine Stoffel for another great SEAT conference.  Yes it I faced some hurdles including losing my voice 36 hours before co-presenting the Welcome Address keynote but with some quick thinking and some slides we powered through.  I’m already looking forward to SEAT 2015 in San Francisco and interviewing and working with teams who attended in Miami.

On this podcast you’ll learn about:

  • What happens when you have no voice and a keynote to present
  • How you network without speaking using an iPad
  • What the NFL & MLB are doing for the fan in the stands and at home
  • The great fragmentation of sports broadcasting and why leagues and teams need to address it
  • How we are gatekeepers of sports brands
  • Why digital must be everywhere and why we are all champions of digital
  • Why you must be in San Francisco for #SEAT2015

Keynote panel discussion with Michelle McKenna-Doyle CIO of NFL discussing fan engagement in stadium at NFLResources from the episode

Relive the SEAT Conference Welcome Address

Thanks Tod

People did ask how I integrated a live tweet into my keynote presentation, (hint: I didn’t, Tod was prepped to tweet, it was staged but it got the laugh).

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#SEAT2014 eBook out Friday!

You must be on the Sports Geek News email list to get a copy of my presentation and supporting eBook with case studies from around the world including NBA, Arsenal, Portland Trailblazers, Melbourne Storm, Socceroos, Detroit Red Wings and a few more that I couldn’t include on the day.

TDF cyclists faced with a new danger – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Wednesday 16th July 2014

DaveSjolinDesaLogicWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

Tour De France cyclists faced with a new danger: selfies

World cup footage boosts content, viewers for FFA website

That’s the ticket: Portland Trail Blazers revamps online UX

Inside ESPN’s Social Media war room during the most tweeted sporting event ever

New Kings arena will be among NBA’s smallest, but built for profit

Hundreds of competition entrants left angry after they were unable to buy a Jeep

PUMA launches Arsenal kit trilogy

The Facebook algorithm signal no one talks about……including Facebook

#timcahilling: Tim Cahill sparks Twitter craze after response to Germany thrashing Brazil at World Cup

Throwback Thursday: A look back at NBA teams’ websites in 2004

How Google map hackers can destroy a business at will

How a password changed one man’s life for the better - must read!

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SGP 054: Dave Sjolin on sports website development and fan loyalty

DaveSjolinDesaLogicOn this week’s podcast I preview SEAT Conference in Miami with Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand and chat with fellow sports geek and coder Dave Sjolin about his experiences developing websites and loyalty systems in pro sports.

On this podcast you’ll learn from Dave Sjolin about:

  • How Dave got his start in sports, Money Ball
  • What the Trailblazers did to engage fans before Facebook
  • How fan loyalty platforms have evolved over the past 18 months
  • What Dave learned from working with San Francisco 49ers new My 49ers Rewards system
  • What we expect to be big topics at SEAT in Miami
  • Why selfies can be dangerous in sports

Resources from the episode

LeBron at World Cup

Only last week we discussed ESPN and FIFA worried about short video clips being shared and then LeBron capture YouTube celebrity who streaked at the World Cup Final as a publicity stunt.

Listening via iTunes?

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Podcast transcription

Sean Callanan: Welcome to Episode 54 of the Sports Geek Podcast. On this week’s podcast, I catch up with Dave Sjolin from Desja Logic, now Skidata about sports website development and what he’s learned over the years working with several teams. Of course we preview SEAT 2014 in Miami.

D.J. Joel: Welcome to the SportsGeek Podcast. The podcast built for the sports digital marketer. And now, here’s your host, who has changed the Sports Geek Twitter handle three times, Sean Callanan.

Sean Callanan: Thanks, D.J. Joel. That’s right. I have changed the Sports Geek Twitter handle three times. Original it was SportsGeek_. I hated the underscore so I changed it to SportsGeekHQ and then lucky enough through a few friends at Twitter, I was able to nab the SportsGeek handle. This is a real tip if you are changing your Twitter handle, always secure the old handle and redirect fans. There’s nothing worse than changing over your handle and having someone go and squat on that old handle as people may have recognized that handle. So pro tip for players, it is a bit of a switch tactic. You have to be very quick about grabbing the new account, switching it over grabbing the old account. You really have to protect your brand. You don’t want someone tweeting on an old account. Bags are packed. Presentation and notes for all of the panels that I’m working on for SEAT are nearly done. I catch up with Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand and preview some of that stuff that I’m looking forward to at SEAT. I also catch up with fellow SEAT steering committee member, Dave Sjolin and talk a little bit about the geek side of sports and sports website development. So it’s good to catch up with Dave later in the show, but first here’s Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand.

Al Crombie: Lebron’s not going to Miami. Sean Callanan is going to Miami. That’s the big news.

Sean Callanan: Yeah, exactly. I’m using Grandstand obviously to announce that I’m going to Miami. I’m going to Miami for a conference. If anyone wants any cut priced Lebron gear, I’m sure I’ll be able to get a stack of it. I’m heading to Miami next week for SEAT conference. I’ve spoken about it before.

Al Crombie: SEAT. S-E-A-T.

Sean Callanan: Yeah. It’s Sports Entertainment Alliance and Technology, really right in the wheel house, as they would say, for what we do at Sports Geek. So there are three tracks of sports business professionals that turn up. It started as a CIO. The Chief Information Officer of all of the pro teams. The guys that manage all of the tech. The geeks of the sports world. They are the guys that set up Wi-Fi in stadiums and make sure that databases are running and making sure that fans are getting the right offers, those kinds of things. Keeping all of the technology that’s really growing space in the sports field especially in the stadium area. The other two tracks are the CRM the Customer Relationship Management System. Again, being able to understand your fans, track what they’re doing, and present them with the right offers; integrate the right campaigns and sponsors. Those kinds of things. We’ve spoken to a few of those guys with Francis on the show. Then the track that I curate. I curate the digital track so it’s the digital guys who are producing the content, running the social media platforms and engaging the fans on the platforms that they play on through their mobile devices and in the stadiums as well. Last year it was in Kansas City and I hobbled around on crutches.

Al Crombie: Wow. It’s been a year already.

Sean Callanan: It has been a year so I’m really looking forward to catching up with some of the teams that are there both from a US point of view. So a lot of the pro teams will be in attendance, but then there are also a good contingent of internationals, myself, coming from Australia. Then bigger names like Richard Clark who we’ve had on the show from Arsenal. He’s coming down to Miami because Arsenal are having a trip to the states and I really think a lot of the EPL teams will be pushing their marketing into the US after the World Cup and seeing that the US are really interested in football. So I’m really looking forward to it. There will be some big discussions on I guess, the future of digital and engagement with the fans.

Al Crombie: It’s so interesting isn’t it because you’ll be riding the first wave in just seeing the growth and how especially with fan interaction, the digital components in the stadiums. You’ve mentioned it on the show before, but it’s a real exciting new aspect of the sporting experience.

Sean Callanan: Yeah. So one of the panels I’m running is on the fan trifecta of technology engagement in digital and how they sort of weave that together. So some of the guys on the panel… I’m really looking forward to it, to have someone from… We’ve spoken about Major League baseball advanced media. Their technology, company, ESPN, the NFL, the New England Patriots, to talk to them about how they go about engaging the fan. The fan can be in different places and so you have to work at different profiles of these fans. You have the fan on the coach who has their mobile device while they’re engaged with the TV and watching the game. So how do you communicate and engage them and not distract someone from what they’re watching, but provide extra benefits for that experience. Then there is the fan that is on the move. This is the fan that is being targeted more and more because we are. We’re on the move all of the time whether we’re commuting, walking, at work or anything like that. Fans still want that information so how you go about connecting with that fan or even the fan that’s coming to the stadium. How do you engage with that fan? Then the whole other experience is, how do you engage with the fan that’s at the stadium? So there is making sure there is Wi-Fi, but making sure that you’ve got these utilities whether it’s in your stadium itself or in the apps you develop. So some of the things we’ll be discussing are things like beacon technology. Beacon technology is a technology that’s available in iPhones and Androids. It’s where you can set up these beacons and they send out either a sound or a Bluetooth message and it will send a push notification to your phone so it knows you’re in the stadium. Guys like the Golden State Warriors, as you’re walking into the stadium, it says, “Welcome to the stadium. By the way, if you go to Bay 124 you can pick up your special bracelet or a giveaway”. Or something like that. It’s a little way to thank the fan for going to the game.

Al Crombie: A little personal touch.

Sean Callanan: Yeah, but then what they also can do is present offers to people in specific parts of the stadium. So if you’re going to the upper levels or the nosebleed section and they can have a beacon at the top of the escalators that say, “Just to remind you, there are some seats in the lower level if you want to upgrade your seat.” It’s not pushed out to everybody in the stadium, but just the people that it is completely relevant to. So just that small notification can turn people to go, “Yeah. I have a little bit of extra cash in my pocket. I wouldn’t mind sitting closer to the court. I never get an opportunity.” It’s that kind of technology that, one, makes you want to open up the team app and also maybe get a better seat. Bring in a bit more revenue. Increase the fan experience and make them want to come again. Those are some of the topics that will be discussed. I’m really looking forward to it.

Al Crombie: Yeah. Fantastic for you to be amongst them, especially with some of these big players on the list of paper here. Some big, big sporting clubs involved. I know you deal with the AFL clubs here and the ARL clubs. Where is Australia at in regards to this fan interaction and getting on board and just the tech aspect of the sport?

Sean Callanan: I think from an outside of the stadium view and the content being developed and pushed out, I think the teams are doing a great job entering that same sort of space. They are probably just a little light on the amount of resources, but from a content point of view they’re pushing out a lot of content. It’s hard to compare the IFL and ARL clubs with say, what Richard Clark has at his Arsenal… If I can use that term. He has a bigger team and that sort of thing. It is a matter of volume thing, but as far as the content they are producing and serving their fans and competing against media outlets, they are doing a good job. The next stage is that in-stadium engagement and that needs the technology in order to be rolled out. We’ve spoken about it before where stadiums like the SGE are getting it rolled out and ANZ Stadium is getting that rolled out. So there are a few of them getting that technology. Once that technology is rolled out and fans realize that they can use their phones, the next step is to have the mobile applications that get installed to have that functionality. Again, like the Golden State Warriors, it’s great to have the beacons in there, but the key thing is to have the beacon technology integrated with your app so you can send someone a ping when they walk into the merchandise store and it just presents you with an extra offer. So you were just browsing, but now you’ve been told you can get an extra 10% off because you’ve opened your phone and it’s told you about it. You’re now more likely to buy it because you’ve just been given that offer. That’s where, when you can do those kinds of offers and people say, “We can roll this out and people will spend more money in our shop or people will buy upgrades.” Again, if I was able to go to the MCG and there were level 2 seats available, why wouldn’t I want to upgrade to a comfier seat or whatever? That type of tech isn’t quite there, but it’s not that far away. There are players in that space and I’ll be catching up with a stack of them at SEAT that are rolling out that technology. It’s the one that provides extra revenue and increase the fan experience, but it’s the revenue one that will probably be the one that will be ticking the box first because it’s an easy way to justify it. The whole return on investment is what teams are looking for. So who pays for the Wi-Fi has been a push/pull equation that team venues have been struggling with. There are more and more ways to monetize that and that’s what’s going to lead teams to start using it and really to get started rolling out so teams can use it. That’s the battle in Australia to a certain degree.

Al Crombie: Yeah. Looking forward to hearing what you come back with from the big conference. Let’s move on a little and get some other tidbits before we head to the news. Technology doesn’t always enhance sports. Sometimes it can hinder sport as we have seen in the Tour De France.

Sean Callanan: Yeah. We were just talking about the Tour and the crashes I was hearing overnight. Hopefully no one from the public was involved because there is a bit of a problem on the tour that we’ve spoken about before. When you’re at a sporting event there are a big pull for the people with their phones to prove that they are there and brag about it. It’s something as a sports marketer that you love. You want people to brag that they’re at an event. You want people to take a photo and say, “I’m here”, but it’s causing a bit of a problem in the Tour De France because TDF Selfies seem to be trending so people are waiting to see the riders go past and instead of cheering them on and saying they’re going a great job, they are turning around, putting their back to the riders and taking a selfie with the riders driving by. There are no rear vision mirrors on a smartphone as of yet. In some instances, members are stepping onto the track and causing a little bit of concern for the riders because they’re trying to ride in a professional bike race and some idiot is walking out, turning their phone and going, “Hey, look at me. I’m at a bike race.”

Al Crombie: Or running alongside them. It’s getting video footage.

Sean Callanan: The thing is that people have tweeted, “I nearly died” with a big smile on their face. So it is a bit of a concern. I’m sure the guys at the TDF love the fact that their fans are fully in and committed and those kinds of things, but it is a bit of a security concern. I think it’s something they have to keep an eye on. There’s a bit of danger. You wouldn’t do it with the running of the bulls.

Al Crombie: Mate. Great to have you in. Have a wonderful time in Miami and we look forward to chatting with you when you get back. I’m sure you’ll come in with a whole new set of knowledge we can rock on with for another year until the next one.

Sean Callanan: No worries mate.

Al Crombie: Good on you. Sean Callanan. Resident Sports Geek HQ. Just go to the website

D.J. Joel: Sign up for Sports Geek News at Now

Sean Callanan: So yeah, don’t forget I’ll be live tweeting from SEAT and sharing a lot of content from SEAT and I will be launching a specific e-book around the digital campaigns from around the world presentation. Not only a slide deck, but some supporting information around those campaigns. As I said, I’m still currently working on it. I will get it completed before I do it. That will be released to everyone who is on the Sports Geek News e-mail list. Simply go to and you can sign up for that and you’ll get an e-mail to download that e-book. I’m really looking forward to it and thank you everybody who has helped and contributed and shared some info of the different campaigns that they’ve done. Remember to follow SEAT Conference on Twitter. The #SEAT2014 and find SEAT on Facebook. We’ll be sharing a whole bunch of stuff on each of those platforms. I’ll have a page up that is a little bit hard to keep track of everything. If you just go to we’ll do our best to curate some of the best content there and you can also catch all of the podcasts that I’ve done with people who will be attending SEAT if you want to be in catch up mode and you’re looking for something to listen to while you’re traveling to Miami for those of you who are heading down there. Looking forward to it. One of those people who will be down there is David Sjolin. I now know how to pronounce his name. From Desja Logic. A good mate of mine that I caught up with, initially at Boston. I had a chat to him about the techie side. We got into the geeky side of what I used to do in being a coder and a developer. Dave is still very much in that space and we talk about some of the trends he’s seeing in the space and also what he’s doing with products like Ticket Net and his fan loyalty platform that he’s rolling out with multiple teams. So here’s my chat with Dave Sjolin from Desja Logic and Skidata.Very happy to welcome a good mate of mine, all the way from Portland, Oregon, Dave Sjolin. I always have trouble with your name, Dave, with that silent S, silent J. I don’t know what’s going on there, but Dave Sjolin from Desja Logic, but now moving into working with Skidata. Welcome to the podcast, Dave.

Dave Sjolin: Thanks, Sean. Thanks for having me.

Sean Callanan: How do I say your name again, because I keep stuffing it up?

Dave Sjolin: My family says Sjolin. It’s a Swedish name. Everybody has trouble with it.

Sean Callanan: I get my name misspelled regularly. Sean. I often get my coffees in the morning and someone shouts out “SEEN? SEEN?” So I’m right with you there with getting your name mispronounced. I wanted to have a chat with you. I think we first met at SEAT… Was it in Boston in 2012?

Dave Sjolin: Yeah. That’s right.

Sean Callanan: I’ve told my Sports Geek story and I was a coder before I started Sports Geek, but you’re still very much fingers locked to the keyboard. You’re still coding away. Done a lot of work in the sports website area. Do you want to give us a little bit of background of your back story in the world of sports?

Dave Sjolin: Sure. Yeah. So I’m really rooted in the technology and the development side of things. It seems today that I don’t get to code as much as I’d like to. I have small team that does a lot of it now, but I still get to do a lot of the architecture and the deep dives and some of the geeky stuff that I really love doing. So I’m a sports geek as well. Actually, right as I left school in 2000, I started working for the Trailblazers and mostly working in their CRM I kind of graduated from there to working with their scouting people. We were doing a lot of statistical scouting back when the Money Ball book first came out. Everybody was really big on that.

Sean Callanan: Yep.

Dave Sjolin: Then did a lot of stuff moving over to their marketing team and promotions. I really have a lot of experience in all different facets of working in sports.

Sean Callanan: So going back there, I think your name came out through a common friend, Dan Harbison at the Trailblazers. I’m a Trailblazer fan project that was sort of one of the first fan-only community based websites that were developed. It was done pre-Facebook era.

Dave Sjolin: Yeah. We came out with that in… We were working on it in 2008 and it was launched in 2009. Hard to believe that it was that long ago, but that was right as Facebook was getting into wide release.

Sean Callanan: Yeah. So what did you guys learn from that experience and how has the landscaped changed? What did social do to those sort of sites?

Dave Sjolin: Well, we were a very early mover in that space. Especially in the social private network. The big thing that we learned with that is probably to keep it simple. We bit off a lot on that. That is a huge platform. The I Am A Trailblazers Fan. Now a days, you don’t really have to build so much of that similar to the social network pieces that are already built for you. You can repurpose those in mash-up. So you can use just Facebook as your social network or Twitter. Then just kind of build off of that. The different features.

Sean Callanan: Yeah. I do remember I met Dan in 2010 when he came to speak in Sydney and New Zealand at the same conference I was at. It definitely was that first mover advantage. There were a few teams that built that sort of fan site before Facebook, but then if you built them after everyone had sort of started migrating to Facebook, it was sort of hard to drive that community. Now, as you said, it’s not that you have to build that whole community, its how do you integrate that community that’s out there using things like Facebook connect and those kinds of things. People don’t want another network to a certain degree now.

Dave Sjolin: Right. You want to interact with the fans where the fans are at. So a lot of teams are doing a better job these days of having a really well moderated Instagram feed and of course Twitter is engrained everywhere now. It’s a matter of striking a balance between having that conversation on the social network and also bringing the user back on to your property so they are immersed in your brand and interacting with your representatives. You can control the narrative better that way.

Sean Callanan: So some of the things from a techie point of view that you’ve worked on. We’ve sort of discussed the Trailblazer thing, but you’re your role now as Director of Engineering at Skidata. You’re moving into the Skidata family around the loyalty stuff. Do you want to sort of touch on the stuff you’ve done so far with some of the NFL teams around the loyalty space?

Dave Sjolin: Sure. Some of the earlier work we did with I’m A Trailblazers Fan has evolved to what we have now in our rewards platform. We’re probably on the third generation now and we’ve simplified it a lot. We don’t do so much. We do less, but we do it a lot better than we did before. With that platform now, we’re in with a lot of the NFL teams. We’ve had quite a bit of traction with the Broncos, the Dolphins, the 49ers, the Kansas City Chiefs. So it’s really taken off. The 49ers are probably our latest property. We just launched that in wide release about a week ago. They are really pushing the envelope on what can be done and how it works across all of their platforms. One of the big pieces of what the 49ers are interested in was the integration which has always been a problem in sports. We have a lot of vendors that are making good products, but they tend to be silo’d. So how do we get that data to flow into our C.R.M, our data warehouses so we can turn that into actionable intelligence? So they looked at a lot of vendors and a lot of different teams that were running these systems. After a long search they decided that they wanted something that was really open. Without going too techie and doing too much of a deep dive, they really kind of liked our service oriented platform that let them extend our membership and our reward services across their different platforms. Mostly mobile. They are doing some really interesting stuff with allowing users to transfer their points into money so that they can actually buy concessions in the arena. That’s a first for the industry.

Sean Callanan: Again, going down into the techie stuff, but it’s just you really having a platform with an API. An application programming interface to be able to plug in the different components that the 49ers or any other team might be wanting to do and I think one of the things… And I’ve spoken to quite a few people about the loyalty game and you look at the industries that have done it exceptionally well like the airline industries and retail. Sports now are moving into that same space. People are buying the tickets and people are buying the merchandise. People who are engaging with the team are the ones getting rewarded and it’s very easy to turn around that ROI to say, “This person is spending all of this money. They are the ones we should be rewarding.” That’s sort of why a lot of those teams are pushing their chips in with loyalty programs.

Dave Sjolin: Right. A lot of the teams that are doing it well are really focusing in on the motivational aspects of it that comes from game theory. That’s the biggest change that we’ve seen in the last four or five years in that space. We’ve seen that a lot with a lot of the Facebook games, the Farmville and things like that. They just find easy ways to hook into a user’s motivation. Whether it is intrinsically or extrinsically motivating them. Whether or not it is something they are doing and interacting with their friends or if they are competing with other people or just finding some way to give them a really quick reward to get them accustomed to doing things and earning more rewards. To train them that they can get some pretty cool experiential rewards if they stick around and come back to the site a lot. Those are the sites that are really being successful. We’re seeing more and more teams become privy to that and getting that and knowing what to ask for.

Sean Callanan: So this is really around sort of engaging your key fans. Your season ticket holders which are the most likely and most financially invested in your team and really deepening that relationship with them. I had a really good chat with Shane Harmon about membership marketing which I think Australia does really well. I think this rewards data that you’re starting to get will help you understand the financial side of things, but if you can put those rewards in and give the fans things that they really do want whether it’s a pass to walk on the field before the game or a special exclusive access to a locker room or a chat with the coaches, it really deepens that emotional investment with the team. So it disconnects the, “I’m paying this much dollars to go to the game.” I’m not even thinking about the dollars because I’m so deeply invested with the team that it doesn’t become a financial question at all. It’s always an emotional investment. I guess you would have seen the Facebook study that came out with manipulating the news feed to see how it effects people and the uproar around that. To a certain degree it’s just Facebook testing it to make their product better, but it did make them sound, very much evil. They’re pretty much just trying to make their product better and deepen that emotional engagement with their fans. So I didn’t have a massive issue with it, but is that sort of your take on it as well?

Dave Sjolin: Right. We want to find the most efficient ways to interact with fans. The way the fans want to be interacted with and all of these teams have limited resources. You want to make sure that anything you’re doing is going to be the biggest bang for your buck. So we try to be smart about that and look at research around things like the game mechanics to figure out what it takes to get to that point.

Sean Callanan: So going back to what you just said there about the most bang for your buck, I did talk to Jeff Elderfeld from the Blue Jackets who uses Ticket Net which is a product that you built which is a ticket sales lead project. You want to tell us a little bit about that and how they’re going about using that to sell more tickets and get more sales leads so it’s more transactional, but it’s also a way for them to engage their fans and have that exchange of we want your data, but we also want to run these cool promotions for you.

Dave Sjolin: Right. Ticket Net, when it’s run in sort of the classical sense, it’s a very flexible promotion, but when it’s run in the simple way, the point is really to improve the perceived value of something you’re offering. It works on referrals. It’s not really built around a system where you can refer your friends to join if you want. It’s all about referrals. We’re incentivizing the referral. Then we’re getting some pretty good prizes around that too. The idea of that really came around the time that Gmail did when Gmail first came out. They had this new exclusive e-mail platform, but you couldn’t register for it unless you were invited. It builds exclusivity and improves the value of it. So we try to take offers that we can… All the teams have certain ticket deals for a Tuesday game or a package or that sort of thing. We try to get some kind of a special offer that we can make available only to Ticket Net registrants. A lot of people refer that. So you can only access that if you’re an insider somehow or if you get invited by an insider.

Sean Callanan: Yeah, in the use case that I’ve been playing around with at the minute and I’m not a fan of Subway so I don’t know why I keep using this, but effectively you can put out an offer that says get a 12 inch sub for the price of a 6 inch through our team. By the way, if you do that you could also win a signed jersey. Something like that. You’re automatically pushing a sponsor into your… Giving a great offer to your fans and it doesn’t have to be a ticketing offer. In this case it could be half priced sub from Subway, but they can exclusively get it. That’s sort of the part that then becomes sales leads down the track.

Dave Sjolin: Absolutely. That’s kind of the beauty of the Ticket Net promotion is that these are people that are in your market. They are fans. They want to go to your games. Depending on what you’re using for an incentive… What you are dangling for the carrot, you can ask quite a bit of information. If you’re giving something kind of small away, maybe they have to buy a ticket and they get a discount on it or something, you can ask for some information, but if you’re giving away a free ticket to a pre-season game that’s poorly attended anyway, you can generally ask for more information. Then of course, a lot of teams don’t like the idea of discounting tickets or especially giving tickets away so it’s always good to bring a sponsor in there and have any kind of discount be there. Courtesy of the sponsor so it doesn’t seem like you have distressed inventory.

Sean Callanan: That is really important. If you’re just pushing out a ticket offer, you don’t want to be training your fans to know that those offers are always out there. That’s super important and there are plenty of people listening who sell tickets understand the term papering the stadium. You don’t want to be known for doing that. So going off some of the stuff you’re doing, over the past five years… It is eons in a technology world, how is the advent of traffic moving to the mobile changed what you guys are doing from a cutting code point of view?

Dave Sjolin: Well, basically for us it’s a variety of things. We need to have responsive websites that work on the phones. What we’re seeing… We’ve crossed a threshold of 50% traffic on mobile. Anything that we design has to be designed mobile-first. We’ve been doing that for a while here. We’re seeing that and also just because we have API we are able to integrate those into any native development as well. A lot of times a lot of experiences don’t work very well on web mobile. Just because of the connectivity. Facebook tried to do a lot of that stuff and they scratched it and decided they’d go native. We generally recommend any kind of any subversive complicated interaction you want to do with the fan on the mobile handset, you might want to go native on that. If you do that we do expose the API and it allows you to pull all of our membership and user information into a native application. That’s pretty much where things are going. We’ve been going native for a while and I think it will continue to go that way. We’re going to see more mash-ups on mobile. Some of the big mobile players that we’re talking with right now are looking to interact and integrate with us as well as some of the other best of breed systems out there like the ticket upgrades and store value and things like that.

Sean Callanan: When you say native, you’re saying apps within mobile integrating with each other’s apps? Would that be the right way of saying it?

Dave Sjolin: Right. So you’re going to see that anything you download from the app store or the Google play store. Stuff you are actually going to install on your phone. Some of the big mobile players out there are going to be offering these integrations to the teams. The teams won’t necessarily have to get everything from one player. They’ll be able to pick and choose and get the best of breed in a single integrated mobile application.

Sean Callanan: A couple of things to get your opinion on and take aways being a sports geek in the space and more geek than I am. I’m sort of not hitting the code as much as you were. If you have those IT skills and I think they are highly in demand in the sports space because they are growing all of the time and you see that at SEAT. If you have those types of skills how can you break into the sports industry or where should they be looking to work?

Dave Sjolin: You probably want to get ahead of the curve a little bit, so right now big data is the buzz word and cloud. The systems like the loyalty reward systems allows you to collect a lot of information. Information needs to be digestible to be turned into knowledge. We’re seeing a lot more teams who are interacting and engaging with data warehousing companies. Probably the analytical side of things such as the ability to do ad hoc report generation, work with some of these no SQL databases and just the ability to sift through large amounts of data and the principles behind that are going to be paramount to anybody trying to get into the system in the next few years.

Sean Callanan: I think what you said about before when you started the scouting analytics and Billy Bean’s Money Ball, I really think I’m definitely seeing it grow at SEAT with the CRM side of things. The new Money Ball is that big data. Is that, how can you analyze that data? How can you make sense of it? All of the teams are getting the data, but the data isn’t of any use if you don’t use it and understand it and analyze it. Again, if you can get into that space… There are the people who analyze data, but there’s also the extraction of that data. If you can’t give me a list of single game purchases that are within the 100 mile range of the arena from your database then you can’t go back and put that offer out. Having some SQL skills and being able to query your CRM to get that data is going to paramount in making the right offers.

Dave Sjolin: Absolutely. A lot of teams are starting to get that and ask the right questions. So anything that we want to get out later, we need to ask for now. If any teams are undergoing any kind of rewards implementation or any kind of CRM some teams are now just adopting CRM Anything that’s going to be doing a lot of lead generation, you’re going to want to know from the beginning, what kind of questions you plan on asking so you can begin with that in mind. Otherwise you might find you get to that point and you don’t quite have everything you need. It’s hard to go back. We’re seeing people ask for a lot of information and it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out in the next couple of years with how it gets used. There’s several companies out there right now that are just looking to integrate the back office systems, all of the CRM and even ticketing and access control with the front. The user-facing systems. The ticket masters on that side and the ticketing people on that side and of course the loyalty reward systems and bringing those together and to have a unified dashboard that shows in one place in real-time how things are going, how sales are trending, even what people are talking about. The sentiment analysis from social network feeds. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that plays out in the next few years.

Sean Callanan: Yeah. Especially how the evolving legislation and commentary around privacy as well. I think people will become a bit more restrictive of what they share. Legislators will pull people up as well. The days of asking for everything or having a Facebook connected that has you get everything are probably closing very soon so you have to be tactical about how you ask and what you ask as well.

Dave Sjolin: Absolutely. You need to give them a good reason to share that information and usually you need to give them something in value in return.

Sean Callanan: Just a few questions to finish up the interview because pretty much everyone I have a chat with are sports fan because that’s why they’re in the world of sport. So what would be the best stadium you’ve attended as a sports fan?

Dave Sjolin: Let’s see. I’ve been to quite a few. I think the new Levi’s stadium is really neat. It’s not open yet. I took a tour of it in January. There’s probably going to be some press coming out about that pretty soon so I’ll let them launch that one.

Sean Callanan: It’s got to be at a game. You have to go to a game. It doesn’t count. I’ve done tours of stadiums when they’re empty and it doesn’t count.

Dave Sjolin: No, but they’re doing some neat things. You’ll see. They’re turning some of these concepts on their heads. It’s going to be really cool. I’m excited to see it.

Sean Callanan: I have seen some of the specs and some of the things that are coming out and yes, I can’t wait to go the stadium myself, but yes. So a stadium sporting memory that you’ve been to?

Dave Sjolin: I have to say Fenway Park then. That’s going to be low-tech, but it’s just the history there. It’s such a neat place to go.

Sean Callanan: It was. Yeah it was pretty cool to go there for SEAT when it was in Boston. Your best sports biz tip for people in the industry or people trying to get into the industry?

Dave Sjolin: Best tip. It’s a lot about sharpening the saw and keeping up on the latest. There’s this funny talking guy in Australia who does a podcast that I like to listen to. I’d recommend that. For me, I’m on the technology side of things so just keeping up with things. If you’re able to keep up on the cutting edge of technology you’re always going to be in demand. Things are going social and open source today. That kind of stuff. The standard things.

Sean Callanan: Technology is its own beast as someone who did it for 15 years. I like it because you have to find the next wave. I did three or four years with Power Builder and then jumped over to Dot Net which you’re still working with. Then I sort of looked at the social space and Apple development and stuff like that. You have to see where the market is moving and have that skillset to be able to move your skillset to meet it and meet it at the time when that wave is at its zenith. Whether it’s the Y2K bug is out. I better start fixing those types of systems. It’s very much in that space from an IT point of view. It’s all about seeing those types of trends.

Dave Sjolin: Right. It’s all always moving faster and faster so you have to be prepared to be… You know what you learned today is going to be obsolete in two years. You have to like to learn. You have to be really inquisitive and you have to be really patient.

Sean Callanan: Definitely. That’s sort of the whole agile methodology that I think more people in sports are starting to see because it’s sort of being pushed on them from the tech side of things of being able to move quickly and take those changes and deliver things quickly because that’s where the whole start-up scene is at the minute.

Dave Sjolin: Absolutely yeah. From a technology standpoint, we work a lot with the end-users throughout the whole cycle of a project and that’s the way to do it. We don’t get off the rails. You don’t finish a project and deliver it and have somebody say, “That’s not what we asked for.” People know exactly what the project is. We always have working software. We could launch at any time. Those agile methodologies have just improved the software craft immeasurably.

Sean Callanan: Well, thank you very much Dave, for joining me on the podcast. I look forward to catching up with you in Miami at SEAT 2014. Until then, I’ll speak to you soon.

Dave Sjolin: Thanks a lot, Sean.

D.J. Joel: Check out what sports teams work with Sports Geek at

Sean Callanan: Thanks again to Dave Sjolin for that chat. Looking forward to continuing those techie, geeky kind of discussions in a few of the sessions at SEAT. As I said again, follow the #SEAT2014 and if you can’t make it and you’re not going to be there at SEAT this this year in 2014, please mark your diaries for SEAT 2015. As you would have heard if you’d listened to the episode with Christine Stoffel a bit over 400 people attended Kansas City and this year there will be over 750 people in Miami. Again, kudos to Christine and the team for building this conference. That clock is telling me to shut up and get out of the podcast. This has been episode 54. where you can get the show notes and everything that Dave discussed earlier in the podcast. That’s pretty much it for this episode. Please check out the new iTunes logo or iTunes cover art for the Sports Geek podcast and if you could leave a review it would be very much appreciated. This week’s sounds of the game comes from the man himself, Lebron James at the World Cup Final. It’s quite apt. Just a week after we discussed the issues around Vine and Instagram video that one of the biggest athletes in the world tweets out a video of a streaker at the World Cup. See you in Miami, guys.

D.J. Joel: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to Find all Sports Geek podcasts at Need help with your content? Book in for a content brainstorming session with Sports Geek now. Go to See you in Miami. Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek Podcast.

How to find killer content, content curation explained – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 8th July 2014

Troy Kirby from Tao of Sports Podcast on Sports Geek Podcast with Sean CallananWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

Twitter and the World Cup: the digital match made in heaven

Learn about how Sports Geek solves content curation

5 keys to the @WWE’s hugely successful social media strategy

Where the digital sausage is made: inside Adidas’ World Cup roost

Wait, Facebook organic reach is going up?

The silence of Twitter during a penalty shootout

Now you can see almost all athletes’ Twitter analytics

How Facebook moved 20 billion Instagram photos without you noticing

The art of self promotion on social media

How to save tweets for any Twitter hashtag

Ikea built a website inside Instagram

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SGP 053: Troy Kirby on ticketing, #sportsbiz and @SportsTao podcast

Troy Kirby from Tao of Sports Podcast on Sports Geek Podcast with Sean CallananTroy Kirby is a prodigious sports business podcaster and a sports business lifer working on the ticketing side of the business at UC Davis.   Troy has released over 350 podcast interviews since launching the Tao of Sports podcast in 2012 and he was one of the reasons I started podcasting.  Troy stopped by the Sports Geek office on a recent trip to Melbourne for a great discussion around podcasting but also Troy’s sports business career in ticket sales.

On this podcast you’ll learn from Troy Kirby about:

  • How Troy paid for his own way into ticket sales and how it paid off
  • How the Octomom got Troy started in podcasting
  • The importance of always learning in sports market
  • Why ticketing relationship is like a marriage
  • What should have the AFL & Collingwood done to fix crowds on Sunday night
  • Why ESPN and FIFA are upset with Vine
  • How will Snappy TV acquisition change sports rights online?

Resources from the episode

Is Vine a TV sports rights issue?


Ask Wimbledon if Vine is a problem…

This Vine went viral, wouldn’t they prefer views on their digital platforms?


Get well Neymar Jr




Attendance for SEAT 2014 is up 60% from last year.  Hope to see you there. Don’t forget to send in your best content and campaigns so I can profile them at #SEAT2014, email me or use contact form. If you want to connect with sports executives then Miami is the place to be, put your name on wait list for tickets.



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Podcast Transcription

Sean Callanan: Welcome to episode 53 of the Sports Geek podcast. In this week’s podcast I catch up with Troy Kirby from the Tower of Sports podcast to chat about sports business, ticketing, and of course podcasting. Also, why is Vine in the crosshairs of ESPN and FIFA?

DJ Joel: Welcome to the Sports Greek podcast, the podcast built for the sports digital marketer. Now here’s your host, who loves working with teams around the world, who needs sleep, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. My name is Sean Callanan from Sports Geek, and you are listening to the Sports Geek podcast. You are either doing that on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher, or even doing it at Sports Greek Thanks again for joining me. Today’s show I catch up with a good mate of mine, Troy Kirby from the Tower of Sports podcast. He was recently in Australia and was lucky enough to stop by for lunch and drop into the Sports Greek office. We did dueling podcasts.

I was in his podcast and he was on my podcast, so you will get double Sports Geek Sports Tower goodness this week in your ears. Also, later in the show, I chat with Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand about Vine and how it’s in the crosshairs of ESPN and FIFA over digital rights and people stealing content, and where that topic might take the industry. Also, other things, getting ready for SEAT not far away now. I leave next week. Well done to Christine. Over 750 attendees. I’ll talk a little more about Seat later, but here’s my chat with Troy Kirby from the Tower of Sports.

Here we are at Sports Geek HQ doing a podcast with one of the key podcast luminaries in this space. I’m going to bring out luminaries. Troy Kirby. Welcome to Australia.

Troy: Well, first of all, thank you very much, and I do want to say that I have never met so many very friendly people, as in one space and time, as in Melbourne.

Sean Callanan: Melbourne.

Troy: Melbourne.

[speakers pronounce 'Melbourne' variously]

Okay. But I have to tell you that I went downtown and if I were in an American city I had asked, “Hey, where do I get back to the Melbourne cricket grounds?” They would not have told me. Those types of things. Everybody was very nice. Sure your movies cost $21, which shock me, but I can wait to see Transformers.

But other than that, it has been great.

Sean: I’m going to the movies tonight.

Troy: Okay.

Sean: And I’m going to pay $21 twice.

Troy: To see Transformers?

Sean: Probably not. I know that’s already going to be bad, and I’m not ready to give Michael Bay that kind of money.

Troy: Oh. I feel that I have already had my soul ripped out from him three times. He might as well take it another.

Sean: Pretty much. So here you are in the Sports Geek office or cave with all of the jerseys and everything. I guess we have had a chat on your podcast. I wanted to return the favor. First of all, I want to get a bit of background on what is your sports business story? What do you do now? What is your current role, and sort of how have you gotten there, and then we will get into the podcasting stuff.

Troy: First of all, I do want to say that I have been meaning to come on your podcast. I seem really good at having people come on mine and then never returning the favor, so I do want to apologize. I kept saying, “I’ll do it, yeah, whatever,” and then it never happened.

Sean: No. I would much rather do it in person. So, yeah.

Troy: Okay. Well, but anyway, what I will say is the impetus of sports business in general for me was, I’ve worked in 10 years for college or for a minor league soccer team, various stuff. But until about 2012 I really didn’t understand what I could do with it beyond just working as an employee. I was selling tickets, I was doing other things. I mean, I can get into that in a second, but what I do have to say is the person that you have to thank for me putting out the podcast originally is the Octomom.

Sean: The Octomom?

Troy: The Octomom, because I was toying around with a podcast that my friend had. He did one called the Nothing Cast. I was a little part of it. So we had a chance to interview the Octomom.

Sean: Is this still on the internet? Can we get links to this?

Troy: I might have a copy of it somewhere. I think he took it down.

Sean: Ah, okay.

Troy: It was interesting and it was classy, whatever. But I think at one point he said, “I really love your work.” But the point is that it was weird because I was thinking, “I could be interviewing and talking to people within my industry and really getting all this stuff.”

I mean, I have nothing against the Octomom, but I was going, “If she’s willing to come on I think I can get my fiends to come on.” I had just moved down to California from eastern Washington University. So I was thinking of new stuff to do. I had more than enough time in certain areas and I thought, “Why not do this?”

I had Matt Harper, who is one of my best friends in the world, who is leaving his job and going up to move to Oregon.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: So he was coming through and I said, “Let’s just tape one. Let’s see what happens.” So I taped one, put it on the internet, because, of course, I’m an idiot.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: How dare you do that? Kevin Miller at the University of West Virginia reached out and said, “I really enjoyed that. I hope you do more.” It really caught me at the right time.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: I’ll talk to him. Sure. Fine. I don’t know the difference. There were a few other people and it just kept catching on. I only did one a week, and then of course I was crazy so I did two a week, then three a week…

Sean: Yeah, putting us other podcasts to shame.

Troy: You know what really caught me was that first 2013 going to spring training. Because I had never been to spring training in Arizona and I walk through, and it was, like, I never had to pay for a ticket, which is of course the antithesis of my own thing.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: But because I knew all the people there and they all wanted to be on the podcast andI was doing six a day. Somebody literally goes, “Hey, do this one. Hey, do this person. I need to make a call. You need to talk to this person.”

Okay, fine. And I had a blast for, like, a week. I was, like, “Wow, this is really cool.”

And more opportunities come from that. What I would say is, anybody who is out there who is listening to these types of things who are going, “Yeah, that’s great. You did 350 of them, but I can’t do that,” you know what? Yeah you can. It has never been done, you know?

I always feel fortunate. I think there are way too many people that like to complain about their lot in life. I shouldn’t even be walking right now. I broke my neck when I was six years old. Paralyze from the neck down. I was told I wasn’t going to walk again. I did. The point was you get up and you walk, but that is, I guess, where I would call the difference. Too many people are willing to live in that mediocrity.

What you do…

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: …I’m sure that there is enough time that you could sit on your laptop and look at Youtube videos.

Sean: Or there are days that I do.

Troy: But you know what I’m talking about.

Sean: Yeah, I do. Yeah.

Troy: Instead of doing that you do your own stuff. The amount of people that are willing to convince you not to do your own stuff are tantamount, because they say, “Well, there’s no money in it. There’s no whatever.” You’ve got to hustle at all times.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: So this has been a great prover to me to hustle. I wouldn’t be in Melbourne today, or ‘Melbourne’, if it weren’t for the podcast. I wouldn’t be in various places. I have traveled the state of Florida twice, Arizona, doing podcasts, doing other things. Wouldn’t have had those opportunities.

Sean: So one thing I did want to talk to you about is, I guess, the whole… Your area of expertise. So before you were a podcaster you were in ticket sales and sales strategies. As I have spoken with several guys on the podcast before like Chris Zeppenfeld from the Bobcats. Or, I’m sorry, the Hornets now. About ticket selling and how it’s different, how it’s a completely different philosophy in the US to Australia.

Do you want to give us a little bit of background of one that… Ticket sales strategy moreso than the podcasting stuff?

Troy: Here’s what I’ll say. I just talked to the Melbourne store. ‘Melbourne’. They were very nice, but a lot of times they were trying to figure out what I was saying. I was, like, “Look, I’ll walk you though the process.” As I’ll do here.

You’re talking about those life long commitments, those memberships, and that’s a huge part of it.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: That’s a marriage, but you can’t ask somebody the first time they meet you to marry you. But you also want to make sure that it’s more than a one off. It can’t just be a single date. So you’ve got to keep working towards the next date and doing those things. That’s what ticket sales can be.

The problem is, is that we have so many people that involve it as either a rip and tear or they don’t understand that tickets are the greatest ROI of any product you have ever had.

Sean: So take us through some of those terms for people who are listening that aren’t in it.

Troy: Okay. Rip and tear means that somebody just shows up, you rip it. You’re not developing a relationship with them. Sean, if you come to my event I want to develop a relationship with you to where you go, “Wow, that’s a person I want to know. If I have a problem, I’m going to help. He’s going to facilitate a lot of the things that I need.”

Here’s where I started to learn more about ticket sales. I had worked for one organization, Spokane Shadow. We did professional soccer and they did pretty well at ticket sales, but I only understood it from the point of calling people and going, “Hey, do you want to buy tickets,” etcetera. It wasn’t really understood. Then what happened is I worked at Seattle University and it was their GA.

Sean: Yep.

Troy: That’s a graduate assistant. I had gone there, an our basketball team was horrible. We had 17 people the last game of the season when I first started. Literally, parents didn’t even show up. So I get there and we’re sitting down and the guy that is supposed to call all of these people is the events guy and he goes, “I’m not answering the phones.”

I don’t know how you get to choose out or opt out of things, but apparently you do.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: I said, “Well, I’ll call him.”

They said, “Well, that’s $200 to pay for a phone.”

I said, “You know what? I will give you the $200 if I don’t actually sell it.”

They said, “We’ve only had one season ticket every year.”

Out of the entire building I was, like, “Wow, one season ticket.” This is horrible. But what ended up happening was they put my money where my mouth was. I went forward and I sold $3200 that first year. But that was because I also sought out information. I realized I did not know it all. Rob Cornilis, who is game face.

Sean: Okay. Yep.

Troy: I don’t know if you’re familiar with him. If you look on some of my old podcasts I did an interview with him, but he was really helpful in the fact that he did sales training, but he also didn’t treat us like the slimy sales people, wolf of wall street. That, to me, is something that I would like to preface. There are some people that may go, “Oh, come on. This is that slimy, ‘I want to sell you aluminum siding’. “

Sean: Yeah. The whole salesman, the used car salesman.

Troy: Yes. As I was telling some other people, that’s not what you’re here for. You don’t want to sell them on the maximum thing every time. What I want to do is find out exactly what you’re using it for, because what don’t want is for you to pull out that drawer of tickets at the end of the year and go, “What exactly did I invest in?” It’s the same with Apple. It’s the same with Harley Davidson. It’s the same with all those great brands that you talk about.

At the end of the day they want you to be happy with their product. I liken it to, you know, Apple has the option for you to have the big mega laptop, the huge one, but if you’re traveling a lot and your needs are that you need a Mac Air that goes in that little small space so you can type during every single plane trip, it’s not going to help them long term, and that long term vision is something we lack sometimes in sports. But, honestly, that’s what we should we selling them on. We should be selling them on the right product because otherwise they come back to us and go, “I’m never buying from you again and I’m telling 10 other people.”

Sean: Yeah, and that’s critical. I think one of the things with sports, and in Australia it is very much focused on membership, on the membership side of things. When I was chatting with Shane Harmon from Westpac Stadium he really fires on that membership is an emotional decision, which really fits along the lines of your marriage analogy. You want to start that relationship.

That’s what you’re selling, the relationship. You’re not selling the ticket itself or the 12 tickets because it’s a season ticket pack. It’s, you’re trying to build on that relationship, and that is something that sort of takes away that used car salesman sort of aspect to it.

Troy: Well, and that’s the thing. When you hear season ticket and you see the San Diego Padres or the Phoenix Sun’s have said, “Well, we’re doing memberships.”

No you’re not. You’re rebranding the name season ticket You’re trying, and I’m not saying that that’s necessarily bad, and I have interviewed some of them. They are great guys. Great women too. I mean, they are trying various things. I don’t say that there’s anything thinking outside of the box that’s a bad thing, but at the same time it’s a legacy buy. It’s an emotional buy.

The only criticisms I have ever had of memberships is that sometimes they go all or nothing, and when they do re-up every year they should have something different. If I’m a 29 year member and you’re a seven year or first year you should not be getting the same stuff. We should be having that argument.

I know you are a Collingwood guy. That’s your big thing. If you are there for 40 years we should be making sure that you understand how important that is as a person that has been a shareholder in that, and really a legacy for the long term. Longer than anybody else.

I’m not saying everybody doesn’t do that. I’m just saying that those are the things that I would look at and say, “They can be improved.” The one problem I’ve got, and I’ve mentioned that… This was something Mark at the Seattle Seahawks mentioned and a few other people when we were talking is this whole seven years behind nonsense that they have been feeding Australian sport or international… “Well, you’re seven years behind the pros.”

Really? You know what’s funny is 350 episodes I have interviewed quite a few people, and I have to tell you, there are some people in the US that are far behind you guys.

Sean: Yeah. I mean, I don’t subscribe to that theory. I like to say that Melbourne is the sporting capital in the world in the fact that we have a ridiculous amount of teams and we really are, for a population a bit over three and a half million, to have ten football teams in the grand slam, tennis in the Grand Prix… I think we’ve got our version of the Kentucky Derby. So it’s a really great place to play a trade from a ticket selling and sponsorship point of view. So you do have to get really inventive.

I think where the different lies potentially from an Australian US market point of view is potentially in sophistication around the data an the theorem side of things. Also, I guess, experimental budget around marketing and game day type of things. So, from a US point of view, they might have a little bit more spend in that space to go, “We’re going to try this,” whereas there’s not as much experimentation type budget, whereas they sort of want to follow the lead of someone else. So that’s where some of that mentality, to a certain degree, comes from.

But as far as how they go about using social, or how they engage fans or getting people to walk up and turn up to games and crowd numbers and those kinds of things, it can be right alongside, and in some cases in front of.

Troy: And that’s one thing that I would like to say. First of all, I don’t just use internal information or it just has to be specific to sports. I’m a big person as far as history and looking at other things. Thomas Freedman has a saying. It’s called cursed by oil. This is the problem that the United States sporting scene has a lot of times. Cursed by oil talks about the middle east, and it says, the problem is they don’t innovate because of the fact they don’t have to. They’re always going to get that abundance, and until 2008 we always had people that bought suites, we always had people that bought tickets. They were buying on credit. But we didn’t care.

But the problem is we weren’t like the Japanese, and the Japanese are not cursed by oil because they have no natural resources. So they have to innovate consistently, and the problem is in 2008 everybody freaked out, especially in the United States and especially with the universities and colleges. Athletic departments internationally are not the same as they are for the United States, but a lot of them have been able to cover budgets. A lot of them have been able to hit huge sales numbers without having to actually earn it, and now we’re in the space to where we actually have to earn it.

So some of our problems that we talk about with sports business are that we’ve told each other that we are the perfect, we are the epitome… So there is no problem with what we do. Now we’re finding out that’s not only not necessarily true, but we’re not even living up to the numbers and standards we used to because of the fact we forgot to learn. That is where, I think, this is all changing. I think the international sports scene has the opinion and the option of actually moving ahead of the United States.

It’s great to have a virtual cash machine, but not when the suite sales are starting to crush. The suite sales are starting to drop like flies, as they have been in the last four years. I would challenge anybody to actually look at suite sales over the last four years for United States. They are called aging dinosaur for a reason. There’s a reason. Nobody is buying into them. They haven’t fit the needs, and if you look at the suites that are overseas, they are filled because they understand those needs and they understand what it takes to actually get people to buy in.

Sean: Well, I mean, that’s the thing. As much as there’s, I guess, concern and everything that you said, there’s also tremendous opportunity for the people putting in the hard work and putting in that extra effort to not, oh, we’ve got a great team, people will keep showing up.

So using the new technology that’s available around theorems and understand your fan and understanding what offer that fan with get… Not the, “Thank you for coming onboard, please marry me.” Take him along that escalator. Give him that one game offer, that three game offer, that kind of thing, and using things like we’re starting to do with the Facebook advertising and all the demographics. That’s now giving sports marketers the opportunity to say, “We now know what or fans are like. What know what else they like. We can hit them up with a specific offer.”

For as much as people are complaining about Facebook, there’s all this data that it’s providing. So for me it’s a huge opportunity for sports to do it right and to help lead sponsors and patterns in that direction as well. They are in that same space, so how do we reach our customer and those kind of things that sports offers out of the box.

Troy: And here’s what I’ll use as and sample. I know your audience is a little more international, but I would use Nascar and Formula One as perfect examples, where people don’t follow necessarily the sport itself. But they follow that person. Your membership is like an affiliate brand to that Collingwood or Hawthorn, whatever, to where you can actually say, “I can drive them to this specific sponsor, and if you don’t sponsor me they aren’t going to buy your product.” That’s who loyal they are.

I think that’s where the membership model actually supersedes a lot of the season ticket transactional, because a lot of times with the season ticket… Yeah, great, I bought a season ticket. I may have gone to all the games. I may not have. But I don’t feel the loyalty in the same way.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: I’ll give you an example more on the college side. When Settle University, in ’57, ’58, we played for the national title of college basketball back when they were the big powerhouse against Kentucky. So we played them back in 2008. So we had extra exhibition tickets. Now we thought, “Exhibition. Nobody is going to come beyond a few people.”

So we went outside and I was part of it. We handed them to Kentucky people.

First of all, they didn’t know they were going to be able to come, because even with 20,000 seats they didn’t have the ability. But I have to tell you, I had people with tears in their eyes because they had never even been in the facility. They had always wanted to be. But the point was it was such an emotional core.

These things teach you something. I mean, you have life lessons your entire go around. You can either accept them or you can not. The problem is, in sports business, we like to plug our ears and say, “We know it all.” I guarantee you that right now there is somebody who is an executive who is listening to this going, “Well, I know it all. I know what you’re going to say. I know all of this stuff.” That is the person that is going to be failing in a year, because they don’t understand this world changes.

There is so much about Twitter and Facebook and everything else that you have taught me that I thought, “Okay, I kind of figured it out.” That’s why I’ve gone from, like, 100 followers to about 2200, because it’s really that understanding that you don’t know it all and that you have to continue to understand that everything is going to change as you go along, and that’s where the membership model has the ability to really develop those things as a traditional… But they can’t also be there and kind of just rest not heir laurels too, because that’s a huge component that has actually cost them – by thinking that people are just going to automatically re-up.

Sean: Yeah. It’s not a holy grail.

Troy: Not at all.

Sean: There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. I think that’s where it’s weaving them altogether. It’s funny, you’re talking about loyalty and just it seems to be the hot buzz thing of everyone setting up loyalty programs around what you’re doing as far as what you’re doing on social and then what are you doing with your ticket span an turning up to games and spending on merchandise. But something as simple as years of service, that’s a very easy loyalty model to roll out and reward those fans just to begin with, and not to be chasing that, oh, he’s the new thing that’s going to be the real deal when it’s going to be a little bit of that. It’s going to be a little bit of the rewards stuff. It’s going to be a little bit of the delight and surprise your fans with certain things.

Then there’s going to be the underestimated. What still gets underestimated is great customer service or over-serving and those kind of things. It’s a whole picture, and yeah, you’re right. We are now at a time, and it’s not just the podcasts that we’re producing, where you can get access to all of that info to follow how did they do it well in the World Cup, or what are they doing over in London that’s different for the EPL and all those kinds of things.

Five years ago that wasn’t available. You would only be getting it via SBJ, sports business journal, or a few resources where it has now opened up, and you can be having that conversation or seeing what people are doing in the UK or in Europe or in Australia. Again, I think Shane made a really good point that New Zealand is seen as sort of a bit of a place where you watch from trains, because things happen their sooner and that’s where big brands keep an eye on what’s happening.

So what they’re seeing with the world of sports and crowds and who they’re moving is something that you want to pay attention to, because it will happen in Australia and it will happen in the US, and you’ve got access to all of that stuff.

So it’s just a matter of finding the right people that you need to follow to be able to filter that bit of information. But it’s all out there, and if you do have that… “We’re good. Our team is good.” The old winning is a strategy kind of mentality, which some teams still have, you really want to make sure that you are pulling at every resource you can.

Troy: Well, here’s the first thing I will say. Hope is not a strategy.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: So if you’re hoping you’re not going to win, let me just say this to you. The LA Lakers. The Manchester United. Most of them went through horrible years. Where are those dedicated fans over the last 20 years when they’ve been winning championships? Where were those fans this last year? They dropped out, because once you’ve sold them only on a proposition of winning that’s all they expect. When they don’t get it you’re suggesting the worst thing possible.

So selling to the ultimate fan, you have to realize, A, the ultimate fan is already there, and B, if you’re not settling on some of the casual fan… The casual fan will actually become your ultimate fan in ways that the ultimate fan will not, because the casual fan sometimes will not care about your standings. They care about a good time.

Sean: Yeah, and that’s what we’ve seen here in Australia with the big bash league. That has effectively been relaunched. It’s cricket. It’s rather than… We have cricket in various forms. We have it in five day format. We have it in one day format, maybe the length of a baseball game, and now there’s this 20/20, which is a nice three hour consumable.

It has never been pitched as a game of cricket. It is being pitched as and entertainment option. More and more sports need to be pitched in that way. You aren’t competing against other sports. You are competing against TV, Netflix, the movies.

Troy: The $21 movie.

Sean: The $21 movies. That’s what you’re competing against. In cricket’s terms, in the middle of the summer, you’re competing against the beach and those kinds of things. So it has to be an entertaining option.

So more and more sports will be, and they are, whether it’s NBA doing a specific theme night with Star Wars or dress-ups or whatever, there’s another reason you’re going. It might be to bring along those kids to become your next fans and those kinds of things because not everyone is going to have the motivation to go, “I’m super in love with this sport,” or, “I’m super in love with this team, but I want to go for the experience of taking my family to a game and having a great day out.”

So, really, you’re selling a completely different sell to what the standards spot would be, which would be, you know, from Barcelona, come and see them play because you love football. Say, “No, I want to go because I want to go and experience a game and see what it provides.”

That’s the difference, I think. There’s a lot of change happening in that space as well.

Troy: And the interesting thing about that is you bring up that every competition… I went to the one on Sunday night. Was it the Collingwood..?

Sean: Collingwood Carlton on Sunday night at the MCG.

Troy: Sunday night footie, right?

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: I had never been to a football game. It was interesting. I found it funny that somebody made the reference that it’s more exciting than the NFL and that they don’t understand it because there are too many rules. I said, “Well, that’s kind of a cultural thing.”

So I can respect that sports are different and I can respect those types of things. What I cannot handle and I cannot respect is that, when you have someday that gets on the next day, and I happen to be watching because I was up at four in the morning because I could not get to sleep…

Sean: Time zones.

Troy: The time zones. The person got up there and blamed the league when it’s his club.

This is not the 1970s and your event is not Gandhi’s funeral. Gandhi’s funeral, by the way, is the largest walk up crowd ever. It was two million people. So unless it’s those types of things… Apparently they knew from December that this thing was going to happen. So if you knew was December… This is kind of, like, when did they know, why did they know.

Sean: So, for the listeners, Troy is talking about Eddie McGuire, who is the president of the Collingwood football club and a Polish media performer. So he’s a TV and radio star.

Troy: He’s a Polish media performer who should have been embarrassed. I’m sorry.

Sean: Yeah. He was effectively defending, I guess… I’m not going to defend Eddie, but he was effectively just pretty much putting his stake in the stand to say, “We don’t want to have these terrible time slots again.” A bit of a power play.

The fact that 40,000 turned up when they have averaged 6000 – 70000, it was a combination of bad time slot and those kind of things. But yeah, they could have done more to get more people there, and it was a bit of deflecting of the blame I would have thought that Eddie was playing there.

Troy: But you don’t control the weather. What if, all of a sudden, the premiere had died that weekend? What if, all of a sudden, a freak snow storm? What if everything had happened? What if all of a sudden an earthquake had happened? You can’t control the outside things around you, so intend you need to focus on, how do we make sure that this game… I guarantee you that the Superbowl, even though it was played in New York and it was played in snow and it was the first open air thing, I guarantee you none of the NFL guys stood around and said, “That will be sold out.”

They had to sell every single ticket, and that’s the point. When the buck stops with you the bucks stops with here, that’s where you have to go. In his case, I’m not saying he’s a horrible person or whatever. What I’m saying, though, is he has to refocus.

The problem is too many people go on the ultimate fan and they think everybody is going to show up. Pretend that nobody shows up. Tell me how you would fix that if nobody shows up and you are eight months out, six months out, and that’s all I’m asking. I know I’m picking on him, but he was the only one that…

Sean: No, I completely understand. Yeah.

Troy: And I don’t know him from Adam. Probably a very nice guy. I don’t know. But my point is, is that I saw that and I was, like, “You know…” First of all, the worst thing you can do is blame the fans. So I’m going to blame the victim. I’m going to blame the person that could have come out, and then they’re going to be told… Okay, so if I come out and there isn’t enough of us, then I get blamed? Or I don’t come out because my kid is in school the next day. I get blamed?

I mean, to me, it’s the antithesis of what you should do. Now that sounds like something out of the 1970s playbook, but we’re not in there anymore unless I check my calendar again. So I guess those are my kind of criticisms, and I don’t want to be too harsh. I get it that it’s a sensitive subject. But it’s something that really kind of bugs me. That’s where people go, “Well, you’re seven years behind.” You’re not.

Sean: So don’t complain.

Troy: Yeah.

Sean: Look at the solution and not complain. I completely agree.

To wrap up this chat, one, where can people find you and all of your stuff and podcast? This is the plugging part of the interview. So your Twitter handle?

Troy: Sportstower.

Sean: And where can they find your podcast?

Troy: They can find it on iTunes. They can find it on Spreaker. They can find it on TuneIn. All of them. Stitcher. I’ve made sure they are on all of them because I always get somebody that emails and says, “Hey, you’re not on this platform.”

I say, “Okay.”

Sean: Are you on the Windows phone store?

Troy: Yes.

Sean: Did you have a real hard time getting it on there?

Troy: No, because I use a company called Libsyn that actually makes the app thing for me and puts all of that…

Sean: So you’ve gone down that route of Libsyn with the apps. So people can download the app as well.

Troy: I’m a very big supporter of what Rob does because I am not a tech guy, which is kind of funny because I’m in the world of tech. But I just want to be able to put it up, and I will pay the $30 a month so I don’t have to think about it.

Sean: Yeah.

Troy: But yeah, but he got it figured out for me. What’s funny is I’ve had other people that have reached out to me and said, “I had such a problem with iTunes and this, that and the other,” and I said, “Well, if you talk to Rob…” Look, if there are other things out there, he’s not paying me any money to do it. I’m paying him. But it really does… If it makes it easier for you I would anther farm that out. That’s an Americanism maybe. I don’t know.

Sean: I mean, my podcasts are on Libsyn as well. But yeah. iTunes is where most people find you and that’s where a lot of the downloads are. I think there’s probably, you know, for looking at the podcasting scene, if someone can sort of break that how to download a podcast… I mean, I’m sure you’re still answering that question.

“How do I download it? What do I do it with?”

Troy: That’s a huge one.

Sean: I mean, it has helped that now iTunes has the podcast app and people can start understanding that. But Android is another space. Like, if somebody is on Android, how do I get it? Oh, well, I’ll tell people I use PocketCast. I love PocketCast. That’s where I send people.

Troy: Yeah. What I would stress, though, and Libsyn doesn’t do this, but a lot of those companies out there do… Be careful that they’re not throttling. Because if they’re throttling what they’re doing is stopping you. If you get a certain amount of listeners then they stop allowing you to have so many things. It’s kind of like really bad wifi. You don’t want it.

So just make sure that you’re being protected.

Sean: Yeah. All the big podcasts are in Libsyn because it is a pay your fee per month, and if it’s popular…

Troy: I don’t want to think about it, yeah.

Sean: …It’s popular, so there will be links to everything Troy related. Twitter. LinkedIn. His podcast. All of his websites. He’s pretty much everywhere. If you’ve missed him you’re doing it wrong.

Troy: Yeah. as well, which I don’t even run. They asked me to be a part of it and somebody said, “Well, you obviously own that.” I go, “No, but I just publish a lot.”

Sean: You do do a lot of articles on that, so there will be a few links in the show notes. Thank you very much for being on the show and hopefully we will catch up with you stateside sometime.

Troy: I want to say thank you very much, not only for today, because we had lunch and everything, but just your friendship. I really do appreciate the fact. You have taught me a lot. I hope that I can return the favor in some way. But I just really want to say that it has been really nice to meet somebody of your caliber who has not only donated the time, but just been there. That’s a good thing. So what I would stress is anybody that’s looking to… When they talk about that networking stuff, don’t just give a stupid card. Just be a card. It helps so much more.

Sean: All right. We’re going to go to break so Troy and I can hug. Cheers.

Troy: Cheers.

DJ Joel: Sign up for Sports Geek news at

Sean: Thanks again to Troy Kirby from the Tower of Sports. All the links to all things Troy will be in the show notes. That will be Check out his work on ticketing today and definitely give his podcast a listen to.

This week on ABC Grandstand with Al Crombie I caught up with him to chat about Vine and where it sits, and why it’s currently catching a lot of heat from FIFA and ESPN.

Al Crombie: Hey. Sean Callanan joins us in the studio, our resident sports geek from Good morning, Sean.

Sean Callanan: Good morning, Al. How are you doing?

Al Crombie: Well, better than you, because you’ve got to actually turn round to see the screen.

You’ve got to look at my mug, whereas I’m kind of watching this beautiful game.

Sean Callanan: I’m 100% committed to this radio program, Al, and I can see the show on the reflection over there. So maybe 85%.

Al Crombie: Wonderful. Five minutes to go. Columbia are pressing pretty hard. The Brazilians are starting to look a little nervous, looking a little bit cagey, but we will keep our eye, one eye, on this one. But of course you’re here to talk social media and…

Sean: All things digital.

Al Crombie: …All things digital.

Sean: Everything that is happening in the world. One of the things that is actually happening around the World Cup, and it’s around the sports rights issue around TV rights and sort of where social media is playing in that space.

So I’ve spoken about a few of the different programs are coming up, and one of them that’s causing a bit of stir is Vine. So Vine is an app that was acquired by Twitter and then launched by Twitter. It’s a six second video clip. So you can take a six second video clip and put it out there. You vine it, effectively, by putting it out there and people can watch it, and watch it on a loop.

Sports rights, especially in the World Cup, are going, “Well, hang on. We’ve gone and paid a stack of cash for the TV rights. There are these people stealing our content, effectively, and sharing it.”

Now, if it’s you or I they’re not that fussed about it. If we were to show our fervor and stuff, or it’s even better from an organized point of view if you’re taking a Vine from the stadium or that kind of thing to show the event. But it’s when there are several media outlets that don’t have the rights and stuff like that. We spoke about it with Francis around the Olympics. Olympics, super clamped down. You can’t take an audio clip or a tiny video clip. They just have a raft of lawyers ready to pounce on anybody.

But it’s sort of becoming looser in this space. At the moment it’s ESPN and FIFA that are chasing down a few media outlets saying, “Hey, stop vining all of the top goals.” People wake up and they want to see the goals, and it’s a really easy consumable form. So it’s really eating into their both TV and their digital rights. There’s a bit of backwards and forwards with the rights holders and Twitter, copyrights violations and stuff like that.

But it is a growing, I guess, area of concern. A growing area of legality. I guess the best example, just in the last week with Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, everybody would have seen that between the legs shot…

Al Crombie: Yeah. Sensational.

Sean: And they probably saw it via a Vine. Again, it was a random person that took it off their TV, but then all of the media outlets picked it up under – you would know, under fair use for news, which is sort of a gray area where sports programs are allowed to use content to say, “We’re reporting on the news.” That’s where the argument lies.

Now, that Vine has had 3.6 million views. So Wimbledon would be complaining that, “Well, you should be going to our site to watch that clip,or we’ve already monetized it and we’ve put it up on or YouTube channel because we’re the ones with the rights.”

But people have already gone, “Oh, well, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it on this Vine. I don’t need to see it.”

Al Crombie: Well that’s it then, isn’t it? A lot of people would be sitting at home thinking, “Six seconds? Gee, what’s the big deal?” But if we think about something like Nick Kyrgios shot or, say, Cahill goal, those kind of ones, that’s the stuff that people want to see. They’re not too worried about the other highlights. They want to see the absolute moment.

Sean: And the thing is, that also drags in the causal fan and the non-avid fan that’s not watching it. So that’s what all these teams that we work with, or leagues, or that kind of thing, want to promote and drive people back to their sites and show the full experience of the game. If all of these premium snippets just end up out on the web, weather they be via Vine… I mean, the other area that is of concern, and I guess there is contentious rights issues, is with GIFs.

You know, animated GIFs. Animated GIFs is where you can take some vision, for instance, and make it into a picture that just has stills effectively in it, but it effectively ends up looking like a movie.

So there are even rights issues talking about, “Oh, hang on. There was that big dunk in the NBA and now it’s on Tumblr and it has gone completely viral, but because it’s not video we can’t classify it. We can’t go after it.” But when you’re looking at it and watching it, it looks like video. It shows the presentation of it. I can take Cahill’s goal, make a GIF of it and put it up on Twitter, and it will play and be exactly like video.

So that’s the point of contention at the minute, and I think probably future rights discussions and those kinds things will probably tie those loose ends. It’s a developing space.

Al Crombie: Is there any way to actually track or monitor how much… Say, three million people watching this Vine and not going to official website, how much that will cost? Because it all comes back to rights and dollars.

Sean: Yeah.

Al Crombie: I mean, can they put a ballpark figure on how much this costs them, and hence why they’re getting so upset?

Sean: Lawyers can put money and dollar figures on a bunch of things.

Al Crombie: Yes.

Sean: Yeah. That’s the main thing. There have been a few media outlets in the US that have had their Vine accounts sort of shut down because they kept sort of breaching the copyright policy. So they have to re-up, build those audiences up, but I think that’s where it will come down to. Someone will say, “Hang on. You are siphoning off our audience, siphoning off the rights that we paid.”

So it will be a matter of saying, “We paid $100 million,” or whatever the money is for these rights, and then if you’re saying your rights, move on… Now, YouTube has technology to detect if you upload game footage or certain things and they can go, “Oh, hang on. We know the right holder,” and automatically take down, or the rights holder has the option to allow that idea to stay there, but with their advertising.

So there are some of the football teams that do a lot of work through YouTube. So Real Madrid is one of them. They would allow someone to remix Ronaldo’s goal celebration or whatever and not say take it down. They will just say that we own the rights to that video, to that content. We will claim that content..

So the technology to say, “Is it allowed,” is there. It just needs to be adapted for these new networks, and then potentially that might be a solution where they say, “We will let it happen, but there will be a pre and post rule, maybe on these kind of videos.”

Al Crombie: Sean Callanan is with us from Sean, sports starts have embraced social media. Their Twitter accounts, Facebook, obviously to build their profile, to keep in touch with their fans.

Sean: Yeah, or to give the illusion of keeping in touch with their fans in some instances. It can backfire on you. Maria Sharapova has had an instance this week where it has backfired pretty heavily.

Al Crombie: Oh, yeah. So if you haven’t been following, Maria Sharapova, obviously a big tennis star, massive amount of fans, was asked at Wimbledon this week because Sachin Tendulkar was in town, was at the game… I think he was in one of the corporate boxes. She was asked if she knew who Sachin Tendulkar was, and she said that she didn’t. And what a crime that is.

Sean: Oh, big mistake.

Al Crombie: That effectively annoyed millions upon millions of cricket fans in India who decided to provide her with an educationalist via her Facebook page, via her Twitter. For a short while her Wikipedia page was updated to say she does not know who Sachin Tendulkar is. So it just shows you, I guess, the fervor an fandom around Sachin Tendulkar in India.

Nothing wrong. You can’t expect Maria Sharapova to be across everybody in cricket, but yeah, people can be offended at the smallest thing. I get the power of the crowd. But yeah, the amount of the…

Sean: Just that direct link. They can click to her.

Al Crombie: I’m pretty sure she definitely knows, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I see an Instagram photo of her and Sachin Tendulkar in the near future to appease her new legion of Indian fans.

Sean: Indeed.

DJ Joel: Check out which teams work with Sports Geek at

Sean: So where do you think Vine will land in the space of sports digital rights? Really interesting to see that Twitter recently acquired Snappy TV, which is used by a few leagues around the world, the NFL, the NBA… The AFL are using it here to enable them to put in live clips directly into the stream. So that may be a way for Twitter to appease these rights holders, but I definitely think they are going to have to move along with some technology similar to what the Youtube have to be able to protect the digital rights of the people who buy the rights.

If they don’t, obviously those rights may diminish if everyone just can simply watch the biggest highlight on a Vine.

That clock is telling me to wrap up this episode, get to, and let you get on with your day. This has been episode 53. You can find the show notes at All the links to Troy Kirby and all the other things that I mentioned on this podcast will be in that episode. Getting to the pointy end of the World Cup, so my sounds of the game and social media post of the week has got a Barcelona flavor, I should say, with Messi in action for Argentina. I was lucky enough to see him and Rinaldo in Barcelona. That’s where these sounds of the game comes from, and social media post of the week goes out to Neymar Jr wishing Neymar Jr a best recovery, as we all do.

DJ Joel: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to Find all Sports Geek podcasts at Need help with your content? Book in for a content brainstorming session with Sports Geek now. Go to Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.

How Wimbledon went big in digital – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 1st July 2014

Shane Harmon CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadiums and #sportsbizWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

How Wimbledon has become one of the most digital events in sport

Twitter is experimenting with a new way to retweet

Whoops! World Cup own goal - security officials’ wi-fi passwords printed in newspaper

Launch of 120 Sports a game-changer for fans

World Cup highlights “real-time” differences on social media

What’s next for the US, “brand soccer”?

Sports teams immersed in big data

Want to use Facebook Ads?  Listen to this

Simple SEO fixes - thanks for the feedback Jim Stewart!

MLS turns soccer stars into superheroes – literally!

Step inside the invisible world that runs the internet

Career advice: How long should your resume be coming out of college

The Wiggles - “The last Suarez Supper”

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SGP 052: Shane Harmon on crowds, stadiums and #sportsbiz

Shane Harmon CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadiums and #sportsbizOn this week’s podcast we chat with Shane Harmon CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadiums & technology and #sportsbiz.    Shane is a sports business lifer and is CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington, if you’re not following @ShaneHarmon then you just aren’t doing it properly.   Later in the podcast I chat with Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand about new sports digital collaboration called 120 sports.


On this podcast you’ll find out about:

  • What it is like moving from team/event side to stadium side of sports business?
  • What are the key issues stadiums are facing around the world
  • Why the world uses New Zealand as a beta platform and to see upcoming trends.
  • How stadiums can leverage social media for customer service
  • What is the next steps for connected stadium?
  • How Shane keeps up to date on all things #sportsbiz using Flipboard
  • Why would MLB, NBA & NHL collaborate on digital?
  • What is 120 sports and why is video so important?
  • How did fans respond to Luis Suarez Adidas promotion?
  • What do the Wiggles have to do with World Cup?

Resources from the episode

Cheers Shane

Last time I caught up with Shane at MLB in Sydney

Well done to The Wiggles

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Everyone else was having fun deciding where LeBron would go over the summer, the SEAT intern team joined in the fun.

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Podcast transcription

Sean: Welcome to episode 52 of the Sports Geek podcast. On this week’s podcast I chat with Shane Harmon, the CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadium technology and just the world of sports biz in general. And we check in on the World Cup. And at Sports Illustrated’s new digital platform.

DJ Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast, the podcast built for the sports digital marketer. And now, here’s your host, who has attended MLB games in 10 MLB stadiums, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. My name is Sean Callanan from Sports Geek and you’re listening to the Sports Geek podcast. Yes, 10 MLB stadiums I’ve been to, so I’m very much looking forward to notching up to number 11 when I go to Marlins Park at SEAT Conference down in Miami and I’ll have to actually update my sports passport. I believe the app that Peter Robert Casey is building to keep track of what stadiums you’ve been to will be out soon. Check out episode 46 for my chat with Pete.

This week’s podcast I catch up with another previous guest, Shane Harmon. We’ve had him on episode 23 but a bit more of a dip and dodge discussion this week. Shane is the CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. You would know him if you follow him on Twitter, a big share of all things sports biz. So we’ll talk about crowds, stadium and technology and his journey using Flipboard as a content curation tool and how he keeps up with the world of the sports business. Then I chat with Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand to talk about 120 Sports and a bit of a wrap of the World Cup so far. But first, here’s my chat with Shane Harmon from Westpac Stadium.


Sean: Very happy to welcome a good friend of mine who’s been on the podcast before, all the way from New Zealand, Shane Harmon. Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast.

Shane: Good afternoon Sean.

Sean: So, you have been on the podcast before but I just want to get everyone a little bit of an intro of who you are and what you do. You are currently the CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Do you want to give everyone a little bit of a background of your sports biz journey?

Shane: Sure. I’ve worked in sports for the last 15 years or so. Previously to sports I worked with Citibank in a direct marketing role and that for me was a large stepping stone into the sports business. My first job in sports was with the Sydney Swans who I joined in 2000 as Membership Manager. And as you know in the AFL background, direct marketing is a key component of those roles and I was able to transfer those skills across into a sports environment. And essentially I’ve been in sports since then. I spent three seasons with the Swans and moved on to rugby for five years as Head of Marketing for the Rugby World Cup in ’03. That was largely the ticket marketing program and then I spent three years with Australian rugby after that as their GM of Marketing.

And the opportunity then came up with a young family to maybe go overseas, so I got a contact regarding the Rugby World Cup roles for 2011 and we moved over here from ’08 to 2012. For me to date it was the highlight of my career. It was an amazing project to be involved in. It essentially was New Zealand’s Olympic Games and as an event I think that we’ll not see the scale of again in New Zealand. It was a huge ticket target. We sold $300 million of tickets. It was their only source of revenue. And we had a number of challenges through that program as you know. I’ve discussed it before, including the Christchurch earthquake and starting again with eight games six months out of the tournament.

You and I have talked at length about the whole social media scene back then and starting in ’08 it was really just beginning to blossom at that stage. We’re very proud of some of the work we did over at Rugby World Cup in that whole social media space. I think we were the first real major event that used social media to drive engagement and actually sell tickets.

I left New Zealand with a heavy heart in 2012 but moved back to Sydney and I took up the role as Deputy CEO for the Asian Cup for 2015 and expected to see that right through until I got a call about a year and a half ago to consider this role and it was a very difficult decision to make. But it was an opportunity for me to do two things: one, to step up into the CEO role, which I always had the ambition to do but also to move into the venue space because I had spent my entire career on the other side of the fence, as either a hirer or running a major event. So I just came to spread my wings, grow, learn all the time, which I’m continuing to do every day.

Sean: So I guess yeah, that was the first question I wanted to ask you about, you know jumping to the other side of the fence, going from the hirer, the tenant, someone working with stadiums. What’s it like being on the other side of the equation, being CEO of a stadium? Tell us a little bit about Westpac Stadium, where it’s at and how you’ve settled into that role.

Shane: Sure. The stadium has been open 14 years, so it was built in 2000. We are New Zealand’s busiest stadium and we’ve got the busiest event calendar and we’ve got some regular tenants in the Wellington rugby and the Hurricanes and the Phoenix. We’ve run a number of other major events during the year. We’ve got AFL, we’ve got NRL, and we’ve got the upcoming Premier League doubleheader with Newcastle and Westhampton. We’ve held the last two World Cup qualifiers for the All World as well, and cricket. We’ve got a very varied calendar. We’ve actually got two World Cup’s next year. We’ve got the Cricket World Cup and the FIFA Under 20 World Cup. There’s a lot of major events in this part of the world—Australia and New Zealand—in 2015 but I think we’re the only stadium hosting both so, a very, very busy period for us.

I suppose transitioning into this role, it’s really just given me that other side of the picture in terms of commercial negotiations and understanding the venue side of what is always a healthy commercial tension between a steady amount of hirers and really being professional about those negotiations, ensuring that both parties are going to be adequately looked after financially from events and both are in a healthy state. But more than that, it’s really for me about working collaboratively with hirers and I don’t think in Australia/New Zealand there’s enough collaboration between stadium and hirers and how we actually achieve what is essentially an end goal, which is getting more bums in seats.

Sean: Yeah, I mean crowds is I guess an issue sort of world wide. It’s unending, it’s located in any particular part of the world. There is the battle at the moment to get fans to the games. You’re competing against the big screen TV and a very comfy couch. How do you see that, just from an overall perspective, not just with your stadium but stadiums around the world and just trying to draw fans into the stadium?

Shane: There’s actually an uniquely New Zealand view to this and I think that there are things that happen in New Zealand and because we’re such a small market they happen earlier here than they happen in other parts of the world and New Zealand is actually often used by large internationals and multi-nationals as a test market for research for launching products before they roll out globally. So what we’ve seen here over the last 10 years in New Zealand is—particularly in super rugby and other sports as well—is that there has largely been a decline over the last 10 years in people attending live sports. The issue is exacerbated here somewhat by the fact that we’ve got an exceptionally high pay TV penetration in this market. We’re at 52%, where I think Australia is running at 25% Sean is it?

Sean: Yeah. It’s something like that.

Shane: Yeah. So we’ve got double the penetration here and anybody who’s interested in sport here has got a pay TV subscription. And when super rugby launched in the mid ‘90s on really the crest of a wave on the start of this century, there was pretty huge crowds but pay TV was also kicking off at that stage as well. With that level of penetration and even this year, the TV audiences have increased again, it’s very difficult for both of those barometers in a small market to be increasing. At some stage something’s got to give.

The other issue we have here with rugby as well is it tends to be a night time product and because of the nature of rugby—where it goes from one market into the next, New Zealand into east coast of Australia, west coast of Australia, South Africa—it’s great for the TV viewer because you’ve got back to back rugby for eight hours. But it also means that the vast majority of those games take place at night time and we have seen some correlation here between those events that we do host during the day we tend to get better crowds than in the evening. We understand why that’s the case. I’ve seen in various markets that you get two to three times the TV audience with a night time game versus a daytime game. But that is challenging, particularly when you’re dealing with winter sports.

On a global perspective, I’m seeing these trends now being manifested globally and I’ve paid close attention to some of the media coverage. In Australia at the start of the season, both for NRL and AFL, but I also see this as a result of both of their new TV deals. You don’t do deals at that level without making some compromises in terms of your product and I think scheduling is probably one of the bigger issues that has impacted on the codes in Australia this year, particularly when you’re playing some of those games at times that ordinarily wouldn’t be considered family or fan friendly: Sunday nights, Monday nights, that type of thing.

Sean: I mean, I think the TV deals, especially in Australia and for the people listening in the U.S., we don’t—I think it’s just in the last two years that they’ve been playing live TV on Free-to-Air and some on free TV—but still a lot of it is being Free-to-Air, not on an hour delay or a half-hour delay. And that’s sort of taken two years for that effect to roll on. We don’t have the blackout rules that they have in the NFL so if people have the option to—if it’s a cold night—to stay in, and yes the NFL has been testing a lot of things so it’s very hard to pinpoint anything in particular that might be the cause. It could be scheduling. Games on Sunday night and Monday night haven’t been a big hit, but they’re also experimenting with variable pricing and there’s a lot of people complaining that the confusion in the market and the price of tickets going up is causing people to stop going. So there’s multiple factors there, but it’s definitely an issue that all codes, definitely within Australia are struggling with and looking to.

Part of what I’ve been talking to people is sort of going back to your Rugby World Cup 2011 experience and the fact that you sold a lot of tickets using Facebook. The options now that you’ve got in Facebook as far as targeting the right fans and reaching those fans in a relatively cost-effective manner, I see that as a big opportunity for sports to be able to get that ticket selling opportunity to the right fan that currently is under-utilized in a lot of sports. We’re working on a few things with some of our teams as far as putting out the membership offer and ticketing offers to fans but there’s some really cool and—I guess Facebook offers creepy options—to target the right fans is probably one way of putting it.

Shane: Okay. And I think also, I think it’s important that sports and venues, particularly in Australia, because the crowds in general, compared to other parts of the world have been very healthy. You look at the AFL and I think it’s ranked as the fourth highest attended football code in the world for average attendance. I think it’s important that they beat themselves up too much because the numbers are still very healthy and I think in Australia it really leads the world in terms of membership programs and that’s something that we in New Zealand can learn from where traditionally we have not had a strong membership culture here. The majority of our sales for events tend to happen in the days or on the day of the game. We’ve got a big game here tonight, the Hurricanes versus the Crusaders. Thankfully it’s really good weather here. It’s a fine day so we will have a strong walk-up crowd.

However, when you’re relying on late ticket sales you are relying on hope as a strategy and hoping that the team is going well, hoping that the weather is good, whereas building up strong and loyal membership bases at the start of the season locks in a large support base at the start of the season and I think that’s what the AFL has done particularly well. I know the NRL obviously is following that model now and even in the U.S. they’re looking more at a membership type program than the season pass type program and people think they’re much the same thing, but I see them as fundamentally different. A season pass is a financial transaction while a membership is an emotional one and the AFL have been world leaders at that in that regard. That’s certainly something that I’d like to see follow suit here in New Zealand.

Sean: Yeah. I mean I’m always talking to people about membership marketing and the way it’s done in Melbourne. You’re in a role that’s had the opportunity of the past five years to effectively do what the AFL has done in the last 15 because I’ve been able to accelerate it and start that messaging of “this is why you need to be a member.” I mean, I feel membership sort of marketing at the moment is at the level where it’s almost guilt marketing. If you’re a member of that club and you see another person that says they support the club, the first thing that most fans will say is “are you a member of the club?” So like the marketing assets and everything is really put on to your own ambassadors and they’re effectively out there sparking to get their friends to sign up.

Shane: And you get the engagement at that level where the financial component of the transaction, it becomes almost more of a donation than expecting specific value in return for it and just to give you my example, I mean I’ve had the same seats at the sitting cricket round for the Swans for 16, 17 years now and I renewed my memberships for four years while I was in New Zealand even though I wasn’t getting anything out of it. We wanted to sit with the same people when we eventually went back that we’d sat with for all those years. It was also my way of supporting the club and in some respects that’s engagement nirvana if fans take that attitude toward supporting their teams.

Sean: So one other thing that’s in the solution spectrum of crowds is technology and bringing up the technologies at the stadiums, allowing fans to connect. I’ve spoken with a few seat sponsors on the podcast about the different solutions that are available as far as rolling out stadium wi-fi, whether it be popping it up at fan’s zones and events. Where do you see it, both as a necessity for a stadium to roll out and where does it play a role in getting fans through the gate?

Shane: I think, Sean, if not within five, within 10 years every stadium in Australia and New Zealand will be fully networked is my view. It will become the norm rather than the exception. I think because we’ve been relatively late to the party, say compared to the U.S., it’s probably one of those spaces where our first move or advantage doesn’t necessarily apply and what we’re seeing now are models emerging where venues and teams can actually commercialize these assets. I think the early adopters in this space put a lot of money into this and filed them and see what return they could get. But what we’re seeing now are viable commercial models that are emerging. I look at a few of the venues in Australia and I see three different models already. One is a stadium-funded model, which is completely funded by the stadium and they commercialize it then through advertizing rights and data rights. I’ve seen another model where the stadium has incurred no costs whatsoever but the cost has been borne by the telecomm and technology partner but as a result they retain the commercialization rights.

And I’ve seen a third model emerge which is these models being funded by stadiums but then a per-game fee being passed on to hirers for them to commercialize it. So I think over the next year to two years we’re going to see models emerge that show the return on investment on the technology investment and how venues and teams can actually make this work. We’re looking at this whole space like everybody else at the moment. We’ve recently constructed a new lounge on our public concourse and for me it’s probably one of the best public spectator spaces in any stadium in Australia or New Zealand. And we’ve got a substantially enhanced food menu than we had previously but we’re playing with a number of pieces of technology here as well. We’ve installed free wi-fi into the lounge. We’ve got large IPT video boards, food menus that are IPT based and mobile phone charging stations and for us that’s just a little taste of what we think is going to come here. So we’re just looking at this next space at the moment.

We’re speaking to everybody in the market and it’s a real shame that it’s unlikely that I’m going to be able to make seat this year due to commitments I have here because obviously it’s a very hot topic over there as well. I think it’s going to become a necessity. I would caution, however, that I don’t necessarily see technology as a holy grail in terms of crowds suddenly going upwards again. I just think this is going to become one of the expectations from fans that this is something we’re going to have. I don’t necessarily think that it’s going to necessarily result in massive increases in crowds. I think teams and venues, there are probably other basic elements that we need to be working on and getting right before we even make that level of investment, too. One very simple area that is mentioned to me regularly is the whole area of beer pourage and you go to any stadium in Australia or New Zealand and there’s normally a pourage partner that’s either tied to the venue or team. But there tends to be very little choice and we’re in a very sophisticated city here. We’ve got more craft beer bars in Wellington than we do in Sydney, for example and if I ask 10 Wellingtonians would you rather offer craft beer or free wi-fi in the stadium I reckon nine out of 10 would tell me to offer craft beer.

There’s a whole lot of other areas. I think it’s a component, but it’s not the holy grail in itself.

Sean: Yeah. I completely agree. I mean it is becoming—I think it was said at Seat last year—that it’s going to be just another utility of a stadium in the same way that you need bathrooms. Wi-fi will be just something that people need but the people aren’t going to a rugby game or a baseball game or a football game to be on their phone. But if you have the wi-fi, how can you enhance the experience so it is a matter of how can we do things like the Warriors are looking to do with their new app and having geo location locked highlights that only come up on the mobile app when you’re at the stadium.

Or special offers, like when you’re walking around sporting Casey’s venue here at the north end of the stadium a special offer will come compared to the south end of the stadium. I think that’s the way effect that’s really going to reach that younger demographic that really sort of loves that type of stuff. The other point of the connected stadium which is sort of–I think it’s Phase II for a lot of the stadiums that are rolling it out—chatted with Fiona Green on it during a previous podcast and she’ll be able to say it as well, it’s the data side of it. Like, how much data can you get from that implementation as far as getting more access to your fans, what they’re doing, that kind of thing. That’s a really big piece that can maybe better help inform you going down the track of attracting the right fans and those kinds of things. So, it’s not just putting in infrastructure, it’s how you go about using it and what you do with the data that you capture from it.

Shane: Absolutely, Sean and in terms of planning in advance of making those investments it’s the data, as you know, on its own doesn’t do anything. When you’re making these investments you also need to think of the resources that you need behind the scenes actually to be able to make sense of this data and to identify trends and to actually make it useable and there’s no point in collecting this data if you’re not going to be able to analyze it and get actionable insights.

Sean: Yeah. And that’s I guess the next money bowl. Like that’s the business money bowl and that’s what, with guys like Russell Scibetti and all the crew that will be in the CRM track at SEAT, that’s their value in understanding that data and then being able to come back to those fans with the right offer to get them to be coming back again and again and again.

Shane: I think so and I think again, you look at these types of offers that are coming up on phones. It’s a fine balance between sending offers through all the time and then looking at other areas of value-add. So we’re looking to develop an app at the moment. It’ll probably take awhile before we get to a place where we’re going to do video streaming in stadiums because we need to look at the broadcast rights and who owns them, et cetera. So there’s a whole minefield to walk through there but even looking at feedback that comes from fans and through social media and identifying the problems that fans incur while they’re in the stadium and how you can use technology to overcome those problems.

One very small example I just saw the other day that I said what a great idea to incorporate into the app is we’ve got a commuter car park here during the week. However on event days that happen during the week it’s closed to the public but we’re not particularly good in communicating that. I noticed a couple of tweets saying oh bugger, I’ve just driven past the stadium, it’s closed. Where am I going to park now? I’m going to be late for work, et cetera. And notification alerts for people who have the app and if there are issues at the car park. They would receive that notification the night before and it would be sweet. They’d be able to make their plans in advance and it’s just a very small example of a problem that I saw come to us via social media that I could see technology actually having a role in performing. I think when you scratch beneath the surface you’re going to find all of those little problems that an app can help and deal with those issues as they arise on game day or outside of game day.

Sean: Yeah. I think the customer service side of things is critical. It’s so easy for a stadium to do and especially if you’re building that kind of app. No one is going to go into that kind of app to check the scores or get an update. They’ve got apps for that so you’re pretty much looking at, I’d send people to J.B.’s book utility and I’ll put the link in the show notes, but he goes through a whole bunch of examples where the marketing or the app in this case is built as a utility for the fan. And so that’s the perfect example of “Oh, I need to find out if I can get to parking,” and it’s going to tell me. It’s going to make it useful to where it’s showing the shortest beer line is this one, go to Bay 13 or Bay 17. Like that is a viable app that people will want to open up again and again.

Shane: And I completely agree and I think stadiums—and I’ve seen in through social media—would sometimes fall into the trap where they’re putting across the same content as the team and really a stadium should not be providing live score updates as far as I’m concerned, via social media. That is the role of the team and the code. Certainly a halftime score or a full time score is fine, but a live commentary from me on the game from the stadium and I see some stadiums, now stadiums have probably been late to the game in social media, but I see MCG aimed at stadiums are doing some good work in this space. And I think social media also allows stadiums to develop a bit of a personality, otherwise they’re a multi-facility building that the hero is the code or the team or the players et cetera, but it really allows the stadium to develop a bit of a personality as well.

We’re finding Twitter in particular is becoming an increasingly important customer service tool for us. We’re just revamping our sales and marketing team but we are bringing on board, starting the week after next, a Fan Engagement and Digital manager and it will be a multi-faceted role, but it will be really about lifting our social customer service on match day and addressing issues and opportunities as they arise and jumping into conversations if there are problems. Because inevitably when you’ve got 20,000 or 30,000 people in a stadium, you’re going to have issues. And I think like any form of customer service or customer complaint is actually how you respond to those issues is going to be key to retaining and keeping a happy fan.

Sean: Yeah. And the critical thing, when you’re doing that kind of thing is to get whoever is driving the Twitter and seeing those posts connected to the control room so it actually happens.

Shane: I couldn’t agree more.

Sean: So there’s nothing worse than, as a social person saying yes now ours are going to get fixed, but not knowing if it got fixed because you can’t go out and see if that toilet stopped flooding or that line for the hot dogs has gotten shorter. There’s going to be a lot of trust with your whole team but if you can get that flow right, the response online can be really good because a lot of the time the customer just wants to be heard and if you’re on the process of solving it, you can turn around that complaining fan rather quickly.

Shane: Absolutely. And I see the role of this person on game day is that they’ll be roving around the stadium looking at some photo opps obviously and fan shots leading into the game. And what we’re doing as a stadium and what food items we have on special or have launched, et cetera but during the game this person is most likely going to be sitting in the control room next to the operation guys and monitoring the issues, monitoring the discussion and being proactive as issues arise. It’s a brave step forward for venues and they really need to be set up operationally to do this. My recommendation is that a venue should not be on Twitter unless it has the capability to be able to react to issues on game day because you’re really not in it seriously if you’re not able to have that discussion on those key couple of hours once a week, twice a week where you actually have a full stadium.

Sean: One thing I did want to ask you about is your meteoric rise with your Flipboard. Tell us about how you use Flipboard, where you get your content and again for our listeners I put in the show notes Shane’s a rock star in the Flipboard space with his own sports biz magazine. Take us a little bit through how that came about?

Shane: I fell in love with Flipboard very early on, Sean. It’s a very visual medium and it really takes your Twitter feed, your Facebook feed, all of your social feeds and particularly those stories that have got a photographic element to them and turns it into this online magazine. The app itself is a beautiful app. It’s beautifully designed. It allows you to flip through stories and see what’s of interest. About a year, year and a half ago Flipboard allowed its users to create their own magazines and you can curate your own content or you can add on friends or colleagues to your account to also add content to it. Because this was at the very beginning, I set up a sports business magazine. I think it’s called Sports Business Today and all I do each day is I monitor the key sports business hashtags that you see on social media. So sports biz is one, social for tickets is another, fan engagement is another. So just those key hashtags that I use on Twitter to generate that conversation around sports business.

Now it involves me each morning or each night just filtering through probably a lot of rubbish but because I’ve started to grow quite a following—I’ve had over 9,000 readers now—I do feel a personal sense of responsibility and a lot of posting on there is actually relevant. The content is probably more geared towards the digital, social, fan engagement, ticketing space so it’s particularly in the fan space but if there’s anything else of general interest I’ll put it up there. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it. The numbers that I’ve gotten on it have been about 2,000 page flips. I’ve posted 2,200 stories, so if you’re looking to go through the minefield that is social media and RSS feeds and everything trying to find the best of sports business daily, what I’ve done is curated it so it should all be there and there wouldn’t be too many that are escaping my attention. If there are, send it my way and I’ll add it to my magazine.

Sean: Yeah, I mean like I hadn’t found a spot for where to use Flipboard for a long while and it wasn’t until I got the iPad Mini that I started using it again. I just never sort of found a space for it in sort of how I go about finding content. But yeah, like I’ll find a stack of stuff from yours, I’ll start up my own Flipboard magazine. I’m like, damn Shane’s already posted it. I get very competitive. So I do re-Flip a lot of the stuff that you’re putting up in the same space but yeah, just the fact that you can pull in all of the different streams: here’s your LinkedIn feed, here’s a specific Twitter list, here’s what people are saying from Facebook and even just the cover stories that it promotes of all those magazines, it sort of gets the rhythm right of these are things you should read.

Shane: Sure. Absolutely and it’s a relatively manual process for me. I mean I tend to look at it and curate it each morning and each evening when I go home. But I really enjoy it and as I’ve said at the start, I been in this for 15 years but there’s not a day goes by that I’m not learning something new. It’s an industry that’s evolved very quickly and we really all need to stand our guard and just keep learning and look what’s happening around the world, what best practice and every day I see something that amazes me or thrills me. It’s a great resource and hopefully I’ve taken a lot of the heavy lifting out of it for people who are looking for this content. So jump on board and subscribe to it and tell me what you think.

Sean: Yep. Well I’d better wrap this episode or this interview at least, up. Otherwise I’ll go over the optimum time for podcasts, which I’ve been told is around 40 minutes, so I’ll try to keep it around that time, keep it within a commute or a gym session, so I’ll wrap this up. I’ve got a couple of quick questions at the end to hit you up with in the world of sport. Now this one, obviously you can’t name Westpac Stadium, but what’s the best stadium that you’ve ever attended?

Shane: The best for me would probably be AT&T Park in San Francisco. I think from a customer service and an atmosphere and a technology perspective they are the leaders. And I’ve been there on a number of occasions and it’s probably why I keep going back. Anybody in the sport business of stadiums and teams that hasn’t been there should go and get a look.

Sean: Yep. I completely agree with you on that one. What about a must-follow? It doesn’t matter what platform it is. Who do you want to give a shout out on someone that people should be following?

Shane: There’s a few people in sports that I’ve followed from the very beginning. Absolutely name yourself, Sean, as one of the key people that I follow in terms of keeping up to date with what’s happening in the industry. But other people in the U.S.: Brian Gaynor, who’s been to Sydney before for a Sport is Fantastic conference and is a good friend and is an industry leader, and Russell Scovetti you mentioned earlier on and Lou Imbriano, and there are a few others there that are really good sports business Twitter handles and they’re guys that I follow on a daily basis.

Sean: And a best sports biz tip?

Shane: The fan is the number one stakeholder in sports as far as I’m concerned and I think if you get the fan right and you have a vibrant and large and healthy fan base everything else follows. Without a large fan base and an engaged fan base there are ultimately no sponsors. There are no broadcasters. There are no paid professional players and I think sports sometimes loses sight of that. So for me it’s about elevating the fan and making the fan the number one stakeholder in sport.

Sean: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more, especially with looking and working with teams at the social. A lot of the time they’re looking at growing their likes and getting more fans but your key fans, your key fans that they’re already liking you and you’ve got to go deep in your engagement with those ones because they’re the key ones. They’re the ones that are the members. All the stakeholders are turning up and in a long history of working with sport, what is your best sporting memory?

Shane: Well, it would be the whole World Cup experience, the reward at the end of the day on a very long and difficult journey. I suppose reminiscing in Eden Park after the final, when the old Blacks beat France in a game where France probably should have won. But there was this enormous emotional tension just lifted across the country after that game and it was a huge celebration and at the end of a very tough year for New Zealand after Christchurch so for me it was probably that Rugby World Cup Final.

Sean: Well, thank you very much, Shane for joining me. Don’t forget you can follow Shane on Twitter at ShaneHarmon and we’ll have a link to your Flipboard in the show notes. And I hope to catch up with you for one of those craft beers sooner rather than later.

Shane: Sounds good.

Sean: Cheers, man.

Shane: Thanks, Sean.


DJ Joel: Sign up for Sports Geek news at

Sean: Thanks again to Shane Harmon. I am looking forward to catching up with you for a beer as we did at Major League Baseball in Sydney. And I hope to catch him at SEAT next year if he can’t make it this year with the premier league match at Westpac Stadium. For those of you who haven’t registered for seat yet, there still is a few spots left. I was speaking with Christine: over 700 attendees are going to be in Miami. That’s a 16% jump in attendees from last year in Kansas City. Simply go to Obviously you can listen to a couple of podcasts that I’ve done so far with seat sponsors and the people who go to seat to understand why you should be there.

Also, if you’ve got any campaigns that you want me to profile in my book for digital campaigns around the world, please send them in. I’ve got some really great ones from NASCAR, the Kings, Tampa Bay Lightning, V8 Supercars, Portland Trailblazers and the NBA and more. So yeah, I’d really love to see your best campaigns and profile me in that book that I’m going to launch at seat.

That sound that you can hear underneath me is from the FA Cup at Dave Burtenshaw. I spoke about it on episode 50 and he sent in this is what happened after the FA Cup final.

[Background noise, cheering]

Sean: So, very fond memories there for Arsenal fans. Dave Burtenshaw did say it was one of the best moments he’s been from a live event point of view and obviously a big moment for guests, previous guests like Rich Clark, who was calling the game for Chained to the shop a little bit, this clock is telling me to wind up and get out of the podcast. This is episode 52. You get those notes at I’m going to finish up this episode with my chat with Al Crombie, who filled in for Francis Leach at ABC Grandstand, with a little bit of a chat about 120 Sports and also the World Cup.


Al: It’s time to welcome a good friend of the program. This is Sean Callanan from and I must say, he’s looking more Sport than Geek this morning. He’s got the skins on, he’s got the sporting attire.

Sean: You don’t want to put people off their breakfast. Good day Al. How are you doing?

Al: Very well, man. Great to have you back on the program. We had a little hiatus up in Sydney so we didn’t get to see you but it’s been a busy period. Social media has just absolutely been going off in this World Cup.

Sean: Oh, definitely. We’ve seen stacks of, I guess content, shared by the teams and by FIFA but it’s really the fans getting involved which has completely changed the perspective of how people are seeing and interacting with the World Cup. And so we spoke with the guys a couple of weeks ago about the different names coming in: Robert Van Persie first goal with his flying headers and people taking that and yeah, the soirees bite has been something of mirth throughout the internet. And I think it is a cautionary tale for marketers. I mean, I’ve been talking about the World Cup being the best footballs on the beach but it’s also the world’s best marketers presenting their wares. And unfortunately for Adidas, they’ve done a whole campaign around all of their athletes because they were in a fight with the other boot manufacturers and they’ve gotten messy at leading it. And if you look at the photo it’s Luis Suarez particularly chomping down or growling, looking like he’s about to bite something.

Al: That’s a lot of teeth.

Sean: A lot of teeth. And the thing is, these posters are all around Brazil, so the post ups, everything like that. So if you pretty much Google selfies and soirees you’ll see those fans taking selfies, putting their arm in somebody’s mouth due to the biting incident. So whether the added S people come back and say “Oh, look at our brand recognition, it’s all over the web.” Partly they might say that’s great, it’s great buzz, but yeah they might be reconsidering whether to have him on board as an endorsement if he keeps biting people. I think I mean as Rachel said, when the Wiggles attack making fun of you. The Wiggles have brought out a song about the biting incident. This is pretty much for your mum and dad’s kids. So if you’re getting that kind of attention it’s just sort of a completely different way to consume your sport.

Al: Indeed, indeed. Those marketing men would have been sweating heavily, wouldn’t they? And I believe Suarez has lost a big deal with a big betting agency in the U.K. just in the last couple of days so, it’s all fallen apart.

Sean: The moral compass of betting, as you see. That’s how bad it’s gotten. Yeah so, if he’s lost a betting company who knows what’s going to follow? He might even move on from his club and all that kind of stuff because he’s got to form a band and all those kinds of things.

Al: I want to see someone be bold and get a toothpaste endorsement or something, just come out and say “Well, you know.”

Sean: Oh, I’m sure.

Al: No matter what you eat, they still need to be washed.

Sean: Yeah. There was a lot of marketers that did jump on board. Snickers did a great ad. When you have a Snickers when you’re hungry you won’t be angry. There was a whole bunch of brands that sort of jumped on the moment to sort of say “Here, take a chomp out of this pizza,” that kind of thing, so…

Al: It’s incredible. Yeah.

Sean: Again, part of that, what is now moment marketing, some way that Oreo put up the Oreo tweet when the Super Bowl blacked out, that kind of stuff.

Al: It’s the immediacy, isn’t it?

Sean: Yeah. And they got a lot of kudos because you know, the fans go “Oh that’s funny. I’m going to pass it on.” And particularly it’s a free ad.

Al: Yeah.

Sean: But there’s a really big change or big announcement this week with the announcement of the 120 Sports Network. It launched just this week. It’s pretty revolutionary as far as the partnerships are involved so it’s a partnership between Time Incorporated, which is Sports Illustrated, but it’s got the Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL and NASCAR all partners with it. Which is, having the different leagues collaborating on a digital effort is quite remarkable because normally they’re all trying to work on their own patches and they’re competing against those fans in some sense and so this one tweening network is effectively a collaboration with those partners to create content and effectively its own digital channel. So it’s a little bit of a startup competitor to the ESPNs of the world and the other big media players. The 120 name comes from the 120 seconds, so again everyone is going to have a little catch, a little pitch. So what they’re going to be doing is creating these 120, you know two minute video clips of game highlights, talking heads, issues of the day, that kind of thing and it’s going to be curated and sort of populated by the popularity in social media and how much it’s getting played. And it’s really targeted to that younger generation that just wants to consume that short form media.

So it will be really interesting to see for one how it goes. It’s backed by—and I’ve spoken of Frank before about the technology behind it—but Major League Baseball advance media which is the tech company behind all of the things you see for Major League Baseball. So they’re providing all the tape to live streaming services and those kinds of things. So you can go to and just be sitting and watching videos and picking clips that you want to watch. They’ll have, I think, it’s eight hours of live programming a day so they’ll be churning out a lot of content so why are all these leagues joining up? Again it’s a way for you to get a taste for oh, I am following now a little bit more Major League Baseball. I’m not behind the pay wall that is Major League Baseball and again that is about deepening ties with your fans. They do all want to consume more content. I mean, all the studies have shown that if you give fans more content to consume, they’ll watch more. So even if we go back to when YouTube live-streamed some of the 2020 Cricket in the IPL in India, and you’re able to watch the games on live YouTube, people who are watching more clips and more opportunity to watch on YouTube meant that they watch TV.

So this whole idea of digital and mobile cannibalizing TV numbers is actually the opposite. The more people get to watch when they want to watch it means they actually want to watch it in all its glory. I mean, if you’re a massive baseball, basketball, hockey or NASCAR fan, yes it’s great to be able to catch up on the bus with a two minute video on the NBA draft or whatever is happening. But then you want to go watch it on your big screen so, sort of one feeds another. There will obviously be advertising play in there. It’s available on multiple apps, so you can get it on a mobile, get in on an iPad, tablet kind of thing, so again, I think it’s probably in the right sweet spot. We’ve sort of seen short video come along from a social media point of view about buying, which is six seconds, which, what can you tell people in six seconds? Not much.

Instagram has a 15 second video but it’s not really where you go to watch video whereas this is dedicated. You want to get the latest clips and highlights, so if a Giant’s pitcher throws a no-hitter, you can get in on there and watch it. And the idea is you would start showing your preferences and they would obviously have advertising data but then you would start saying “Oh, I’m really getting into the baseball season, I’m following that story,” and it will go back to the properties.

Al: Do they get a lot of objection from the ESPNs and whatnot in the sense that they’ll be taking away, in a sense, customers. And the fact that all these big sports are on board as well; did a cause a bit of a kerfuffle in the states?

Sean: Well, I mean, ESPN is a pretty big beast. I mean they’re probably seeing it as a bit of a side play for those leagues. And it has been, there is a bit of competitiveness in the same way it is in Australia between the leagues broadcasting their own content versus the broadcasters but I think that pretty much because it’s a digital play there’s this culture of cord cutting as far as separating yourself from cable and not paying the cable fees. That’s where the play is. Now, it’s four days old so it’s a bit early to tell if it’s going to have some success. But the thing for the teams are, why can’t they monetize that sort of thing? But yeah, where it will get interesting is if it starts affecting broadcasters deciding whether they want to pay for rights or whether the leagues decide, well we like our rights the way they are and we can monetize them better than they can pay. So that’s always going to be the push and pull between digital and TV. If they raise their game, which is most likely from a competitive point of view, ESPN will probably come back with a counter. They’ll come back with some video play. They’ve got Watch ESPN, they’ve got all these different opportunities but they might say “That’s actually working.” Imitation is better than innovation. They’ll just go and copy it and do their own spin on it. So the end result, the leagues will get exposure.

The one note of the partnership, if there’s one rather big league that’s not involved it’s the NFL. They’re quite happy doing their own thing. They’re quite happy keeping it all in-house. They don’t want to share. They don’t want to play with the other boys in town. So, like that’s about the only one that’s not there but it will still have a swag with really great content on it.

Al: Is it a free app? Is it free for us? It’s not going to be five bucks a month or do you see it progressing that way? A lot of these things start free and then you’ll end up paying the first sentence.

Sean: It could progress that way but I think because it is, I guess, league based and it’s a bit more altruistic in that they want to promote their leagues and their content and effectively drive traffic eventually their sites. I think that’s probably not the way they’ll go. They’ll be league sponsors and it will be activations through them and that kind of stuff but I don’t think it will be a paid thing. But who knows? They might head down that path. You know, Major League Baseball at Bat has done that; WWE, we’ve spoken about before, they’re on that Major League Baseball advanced media network and it’s a pay-for-play type of service. So it might be, if you can get the volume. It might be you get to watch 20 videos and if not you can pay two dollars and be on board. But then again, it’s just a subscriber thing, so I don’t think they’ll be at that point just yet.

Al: It sounds like a pretty handy, one-stop-shop though, for sports lovers, you know coming in on the train and getting all those little snippets that you need. But also like you said, I mean this is your realm. Do you see this kind of heading into the future and more collaboration between these sports?

Sean: Well, the collaboration is the interesting twist.

Al: I’m amazed that it happened.

Sean: Yeah. Well that’s the thing and that was the big announcement around it. I think that the trend for more video and more teams doing more content, more video from sports teams is definitely the way to go. Every team that we’re working with, and every one of these people want to consume more video, so finding that sweet spot of one, how you can best consume it and in that manner is the way to go. So then that’s what this is being built for. It’s being built for you to watch a quick mobile version, share it with your mate. It’s that kind of thing. So, it’s a really big player. If you look at the NBA draft, there were stacks of video going out, stacks of interviews, really great coverage by the NBA.

Al: Interesting. Watch this space. We’ll keep track of it with you, Seanie. We’ll see you next delay. For anyone who wants more data on this they can hit your website…

Sean: or Sports Geek podcast in the iTunes store.

Al: Lovely. Appreciate your coming in. Just wrapping up, heading up towards news time. Hang around after the news. Frankie will join us live from Brazil and we’ll also chat with Brent McKay and cover the super rugby action. Of course it’s back on board after a little three week international hiatus but why don’t we head up to the news and hear some of the Wiggles? It’s probably the first and only time it’ll ever be played on Grandstand breakfast side, as you say but let’s hear what all the fuss is about.

[Music] [00:51:16]

DJ Joel: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to Find all Sports Geek podcasts at Need help with your content? Book in for a content brainstorming session with Sports Geek now. Go to Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.

Why audiences hate hard news— it’s all about cats – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Wednesday 25th June 2014

NBA Preseason appearing on Warriors LiveWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

What to look for in killer digital campaign

Why audiences hate hard news— it’s all about cats

The NBA’s Instagram team doesn’t need LeBron to score

San Francisco 49ers roll out reward program in lead up to new stadium launch

FIFA’s Chinese own goal

The key Twitter stats from #AUSNED

Facebook dominates #WorldCup chat

Dear Red Wings: Detroit’s Twitter account offers solid relationship advice

Don’t Let Your Website Rebuild End in Tears

Seven #WorldCup data takeaways so far

Infographic Friday: Most social sports on Twitter

Funny stuff again with Jimmy Kimmel with NBA stars reading out mean tweets

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Simple SEO Fixes

Thanks to good bloke Jim Stewart for reviewing on his weekly YouTube SEO series. (A must subscribe to know what is happening in SEO and Google land)

Watch Jim first

Read his suggestions for some simple fixes to clean up our SEO.

What did we do to fix SEO issues?

Following Jim’s lead I produced a quick YouTube video explaining what I did.

Fixing the problems included the following:

  • Removing plugins redirecting 404 errors to my very savvy WTF page they were causing issues with sitemap
  • Built a custom 404 page with my distracting rainbow if someone does get a 404.
  • Update Yoast SEO Plugin to remove tag & category from sitemap
  • Removed social media slideshow that was autoplaying YouTube clips in Jim’s video
  • Changes the Title on Sports Geek home page
  • Started project to reduce the amount of 404s Google is seeing

Follow Jim for more SEO goodness

Thanks again Jim, you can hear him school me further in episodes like Google it! on Beers, Blokes & Business podcast (I return the favour in Facebook and Linkedin episodes)

Infographic: Sports and Social Media a perfect match

Do you remember the last time we posted an infographic from Infographic World?

It went viral around Jeremy Lin and ended up on NY Knicks site.

Where do Infographics sit in Sports?

  • Do you find them useful?
  • Are fans engaged around them?

Let us know in the comments or via Twitter.

Courtesy of: Infographic World