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How to prosper in a "competitive and fragmented marketplace"
on July 19, 2006
Competition for disposal income spent on recreation and entertainment is probably more intense now than it has ever been before. On any given day, we have so many choices and all of them have direct or indirect costs. This is especially true of sporting events, many of which are televised. The title of this book refers to someone whose financial support is increasingly more difficult to attract and then sustain. According to Rein, Kotler, and Shields, "All sports need to be constantly adapting and if necessary changing to accommodate a competitive and fragmented marketplace." Their book suggests how to achieve that objective by adopting and implementing a "strategic approach that emphasizes fan connection, innovative segmentation, brand-building, and sustaining market share."
In essence, marketing either creates or increases demand for whatever is offered. With regard to the sports industry (at all levels from local youth and school teams to professional leagues and international competition such as the Olympics), the authors assert that those responsible for marketing must reinvent their thinking in terms of athletes, teams, leagues , and events in order to differentiate them from competition which, yes, includes the option to commit no hours and dollars whatsoever. Instead of buying a ticket to a baseball game, for example, and probably purchase food, beverages, and merchandise while attending it, why not stay home and watch the same game on television? Or instead watch another television program or DVD? Or read a book such as The Elusive Fan? Or go for a walk in the woods?
In this volume, Rein, Kotler, and Shields address questions such as these:
1. How to connect with "the elusive fan"?
2. How to reinvent a sports brand?
3. How to generate the transformation of that brand?
4. How to implement the brand's transformation?
5. How to communicate the brand effectively?
6. How to sustain the fan connection with the brand?
7. Which sports branding initiatives have been most successful?
8. What lessons can be learned from them?
9. What is the future of "fan connection"?
10. How to respond effectively to "the most elusive fans who are just now being born"?
This brilliant book will be of substantial value to decision-makers in the sports industry who must decide how to market what they offer to an increasingly more crowded marketplace but I presume to suggest that it will also be of great interest and value to others who also struggle to understand -- and then respond effectively to -- the increasingly more "elusive" consumers within those decision-makers' marketplace.
I especially appreciate the fact that Rein, Kotler, and Shields devote relatively little attention to theories, hypotheses, etc. and spend most of their time rigorously examining real-world examples of those organizations which have achieved marketing success by initiating and then sustaining the aforementioned "strategic approach that emphasizes fan connection, innovative segmentation, brand-building, and sustaining market share." They are a commendably diverse selection of effectively marketed sports brands (both individuals and organizations) and include the Kentucky Derby, Maria Sharapova, owner Mark Cuban the Dallas Mavericks, the University of Vermont men's basketball team, general manager Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics , South Lake Carroll (Texas) High School's football program, the Professional Bowlers Association, NASCAR's Daytona 500 (the "Great American Race"), and the Northwestern University women's lacrosse team. However different they are in almost every respect, all are successful sports brands because each "has transformed into a strong, identifiable, and differentiated brand and is an example of how to execute two critical brand differentiation tools - [begin italics] benchmarking and innovation. [end italics]"
In the final chapter, Rein, Kotler, and Shields identify and then discuss six successful "drivers" of successful sports brands (please see pages 295-306) and as I absorbed and digested this material, it struck me that the same "drivers" (after appropriate modification) could achieve the same marketing objectives for almost any other category of brand, especially as most products and services have by now become commodities in their respective marketplaces which are also "crowded" in ways and to an extent which are unprecedented.
Trace the etymology of the word "fan" and you will learn that it is an abbreviation of the word "fanatic" and probably first appeared in England in 1525, referring to an "insane person," from the Latin word fanaticus. Winston Churchill once explained that a fanatic "is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." Although Rein, Kotler, and Shields limit their attention to the sports world, I again suggest that their probing and illuminating insights also have direct, indeed compelling relevance to most (if not all other) market segments and categories. Moreover, that relevance seems certain to become even greater in years to come.
Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Michael Mandelbaum's The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See When They Do; also D. Stanley Eitzen`s Sport in Contemporary Society: An Anthology.