On 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
- Follow @ShaneHarmon on Twitter and connect with him on Linkedin
- Follow Shane Harmon’s Sports Business Today on Flipboard
- Also on Flipboard “Sports Geek flips out”
- Follow @WestpacStadium on Twitter and like Westpac Stadium on Facebook and check out WestpacStadium.co.nz
- Premier League games at Westpac Stadium as discussed on the podcast
- Good interview with Shane when he started at Westpac Stadium “Walking into the ring of fire”
- Take Shane’s advice and follow @rscibetti, @briangainor and @louimbriano
- Check out 120Sports.com for latest 2 minute sports video follow @120Sports on Twitter and FB.com/120Sports
- Adidas removing Luis Suarez from World Cup campaign
- Follow @SEATConference on Twitter and Instagram and like SEAT on Facebook
- Listen to podcast in out SEAT 2014 Sponsor Series
- Thanks to Dave Burtenshaw for Sounds of the Game from FA Cup Final as he discussed on ep 50
- Connect with all guests of the podcast and check out the podcast archive
- Thanks for iTunes reviews in Australian iTunes and USA iTunes.
- Have you signed up for weekly Sports Geek News?
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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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 SportsGeekHQ.com/signupnow.
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 SportsGeekHQ.com/seat2014. 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 Arsenal.com. 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 SportsGeekHQ.com/52. 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 SportsGeekHQ.com 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.
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 120Sports.com 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: SportsGeekHQ.com 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.
DJ Joel: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to SportsGeekHQ.com/iTunes. Find all Sports Geek podcasts at SportsGeekHQ.com/SGP. Need help with your content? Book in for a content brainstorming session with Sports Geek now. Go to SportsGeekHQ.com/work. Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.