Category Archives: General

Rio Got a Bad Rap

After spending the two weeks in Rio, traveling to and from venues, attending several events, and visiting all of the different Olympic regions, we can say, unequivocally, that Rio’s troubles were as overblown as Ryan Lochte’s fabricated robbery account. We at Performance Research deal in facts and direct observations, not media hype or hearsay.

So, what did we experience? An Olympics very much like previous games, but with a Brazilian personality (as it should be). Were there some hiccups?  Of course. But, nothing out of the ordinary and none as severe or as scary as you’ve probably heard about. This has been my (Bill Doyle, Co-Founder) 8th Olympic games, and Performance Research Co–Founder Jed Pearsall’s 15th, dating all the way back to Lake Placid in 1980. So, we’ve seen it all. Below is a recap of our observations from Rio:

  • Zika and Dirty Water: Zika is clearly a terrible virus with significant effects, carried by a mosquito. But, did it mean that the whole place was infested? While we applied a repellant each day as a precaution, not once did we see or even experience any mosquitos. Just as Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks in New England is a terrible infliction, we could not imagine anyone telling loved ones to avoid New England at all cost because we have disease spreading ticks. For certain people (expecting mothers), I can see the concern, but otherwise the whole craziness appeared to be way overblown. As for the polluted water, it surely was a concern in certain areas. But, after better understanding the geography we realized that those areas were limited to a closed reservoir and a specific section of a protected bay, very close to the city center. However, the ocean waves along the beautiful beaches were as clean and clear as any we’ve seen and this is where much of the sailing took place.
  • Unfinished Venues: We did not experience any unfinished venues. All had seats, all were new or renovated, all had concessions, and better than most US venues, all had clean and available bathrooms. There were no hanging wires or gushing plumbing anywhere to be seen. The overall Olympic park had a brand new, “just opened” feel about it with only a few shortcuts noticeable here or there (for example, the walkways were entirely made from pavers, with some a little loose under-foot) but nothing we could find that would give the impression that they were not complete and ready to go.
  • Rampant Crime: I think the media needs to take a deep breath and look at the facts. Face it, Rio is a city of 6.2 million people. That’s over twice as many people as Houston and Chicago, a third more than LA, and nearly the size of New York. Of course in any city this large, there are good and bad parts of town. Crime happens every day throughout all of these cities. But, we never saw or experienced any of it. Not once did we feel unsafe or insecure. The Olympic park was actually in an area that most Americans would consider the suburbs: at the end of a street lined with car dealerships, shopping malls, and a huge multiplex movie theater. Think US1 in Aventura Florida, not downtown Miami.

However, Copacabana and Ipanema are beach front urban areas with very much the same look and feel as Waikiki in Honolulu. While the petty crimes reported on those Rio beaches are quite common, nothing seemed out of the ordinary for an urban area such as this. We heard a few reports of international tourists leaving their back-packs unattended, and just like anywhere else in the world, somebody swiped them – no different than in the US.

This is where I think Rio was getting undeservedly slammed the most, and why Lochte’s false account struck such a nerve with Brazilians. Imagine for a moment that these games were awarded to Chicago, with their current record breaking murder rates. The world-wide headlines would read: “Don’t travel to Chicago, they are murdering people in the streets!” Is this fair? Would you assume you were in grave danger by shopping on the Miracle Mile, jogging by the lake, or attending an event in Soldier Field? No. But that was what was happening to Rio. Can bad things happen? Of course, but just like Ryan Lochte’s fabricated story, it seemed all way over blown with the serious crimes taking place in areas not anywhere near where an Olympic visitor would travel.

  • Long lines: These claims were absolutely false. We went to 11 different events, including high profile swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball. Only once (at the Equestrian center) did we wait more than 3 minutes in any security or ticket line. However, even that 20 minute wait went by fast as a Brazilian military band entertained the crowd with a pop-up concert.
  • Concession food shortages: Are American reporters getting just a bit spoiled with our high end cuisine and ample designer food choices that populate our sports venues of late? It is my only explanation for these accounts. Rio’s Olympic venues had more than enough concessions, but they were limited to a small variety of chips, burgers, ice pops, and mini-pizzas. Not gourmet, but nobody was going to starve. There was one oddity we couldn’t grasp however. When ordering any food or drinks, the procedure is to first stand in a line to pay for the items, then take the order receipt “tickets” to the accompanying counter to again wait in a separate line to redeem these tickets for the actual items. You had to go through this process even for a simple item like bottled water or Coca-Cola. Odd, but it is apparently how they do things in Brazil. Chalk that up to local culture.
  • Traffic and transportation issues: The BRT and Olympic venue transportation worked like clockwork for us. We purchased an unlimited weekly pass for about $50US, and, once we figured out the system, never waited more than 2-3 minutes for a bus or train. They created unique closed off lanes for these Olympic busses that allowed them to race at top speed past any traffic and deliver us right to the venues. Coming from “drive ourselves” dyed-in-the-wool car renters, getting us to use and admit the public transit system was pretty good is a rarity. But, even we gave up the keys and embraced the bus transport system. Compared to Atlanta, that had huge lines and way over-crowded trains, Rio was a breeze.
  • Empty seats in stands: Nothing new. This happens at every Olympic games. Remember London? Rio actually did a few things better than any games we’ve attended. They had a centralized ticket website, along with several ticketing locations, continually updated where tickets turned in by sponsors or other agencies could easily be re-sold at face value. As well, people with extra tickets were selling them out in the open, not petrified of arrest like in Beijing or London. Given that, this was, by far, the best managed ticketing program we’ve ever experienced.

https://ingressos.rio2016.com/rio2016.html?affiliate=OGF&doc=search&fun=search&action=filter

As for the venues, the ushers were very relaxed about seat swapping. So if your seat was up in the rafters, and there were empties down close (typically unoccupied sponsor reserved seats), they let people fill in wherever they wanted and only moved you if the rightful seat-holder arrived. Given that, what you were noticing on TV being empty was most likely the upper decks of any venue because people were all filtering down into the better seats.

After London we pleaded, “When will somebody realize that there needs to be an efficient secondary ticketing system in place to re-sell unclaimed or unused tickets?” It seems Rio figured it out pretty well.

https://ingressos.rio2016.com/rio2016.html?affiliate=OGF&language=en&doc=feature/contentDetail&cid=info/returns

Now we ask, “When will an Olympic organizer figure out what we termed “confetti” seats, of all different random colors – making it impossible for television audiences to differentiate between occupied and unoccupied seats?”  Some day.  (see example)

http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/Articles/2016/02/Top-10-New-Additions-at-DAYTONA.aspx

  • Military-like security: While we did see a few soldiers around venue entrances with machine guns, it was far fewer and far less ubiquitous than most other Olympics. We recall Barcelona teaming with camo wearing, gun toting security forces everywhere, even placing tanks right out front, ready to attack any threat to an Olympic venue. We saw very little of this, and only outside of the Equestrian venue, located across the street from a military base, was there an obvious military-like presence.
  • The Brazilian people: We found our hosts to be VERY friendly and accommodating. Their exuberance in the stands was infectious – at times we found ourselves caught up in the moment and rooting for Brazilian athletes along with them. This enthusiasm was however, at times, a bit unsportsmanlike as they tended to boo and jeer opponents almost as heartily as they supported their own. Also, it was surprising to us how few spoke English, but that is our problem – not theirs. How many American’s do you know who speak a second language, let alone Portuguese? Given that, I would have liked to have seen a bit more international symbols on signage for foreign visitors such as ourselves.

Was everything perfect?  No. We saw many opportunities for improvement.

The transit system, while efficient, was labeled by the names of the parts of the city, as opposed to an Olympic venue or sport symbol. So figuring out which stop correlated to which sport venue from the dizzying transit maps, for example, took some concentrated effort. But, we only missed our stop once, so not a terrible foul.

Brazil 1

We found the Olympic Park to be somewhat lacking in excitement or energy. Unlike London which was teaming with street performers (mostly thanks to Coca-Cola), music, sponsor venues, and huge screens showing all the action, Rio’s was simply a large closed in area that contained several sports venues. There were concession carts, a souvenir mega-store, a few sponsor activations, and some directional signage, but not much else. Even locals we attended with were disappointed by the lack of a “festive” atmosphere at Olympic Park.

Brazil 2

We later learned that instead, Rio created Boulevard Olimpico down-town, away from the sports venues. This area featured all of the sponsor activations and festive atmosphere one would expect, aimed primarily at the home market as a way to share the Olympic experience with everyone, regardless of whether they held an event ticket or not.  http://www.boulevard-olimpico.com/?lang=en  This area was jam packed every day, and really acted as the party central / theme-park area for these games. It just wasn’t publicized very well to visitors as we saw no promotions or mentions of it anywhere we visited.

Every Olympic Games we’ve attended has had its own personality. Some overtly commercialized (LA and Atlanta), some romantically quaint (Lake Placid and Lillehammer), some feeling very “designer – high end” (Beijing and London) and some feeling very industrial (Nagano). In the end, each were unique in their own way.

For Brazil we will remember the proud and welcoming people, the immense enthusiasm and energy in the stands, and while their budgets couldn’t match Beijing’s or London’s exorbitant spending, we always got the feeling that these Olympic hosts were giving it their very best to ensure visitors had a great experience in their country.

To the people of Rio, we apologize for Ryan Lochte and the US media. It appears they both have a flair for negativity and dramatic embellishment.

Regardless of what they reported, we know the truth and will most definitely return.

Thank you Rio

Brazil 5

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When Sponsorships and Athletes Collide, Who Wins?

While a shoddily worded campaign, an untimely marketing ploy, a legal infraction, or an unethical manipulation can jeopardize the effectiveness of sports sponsorship, a poor activation can both threaten the safety of the athletes and negatively influence the results on the field of play in the process.

It sounds like a rare occurrence, but that is exactly what has happened twice this past week in the 2016 Tour de France.

Tour De France

This begs the question: should properties establish stricter standards as to what is and is not allowed in terms of sponsor activations, not solely based on promotional balance and marketing needs, but weighed against their potential to negatively impact the event itself?

Lex Sportiva – the term coined in recent years to refer to the jurisprudence of sports and its legal implications – thankfully, accounts for injury to athletes. In the fairness of competition, sponsors are typically held liable when their promotions run awry. When an athlete is injured by a rogue mascot-driven vehicle, or a falling banner, not only does the activation appear to have been negligently created, but organizers of the events themselves damage their credibility in offering a safe venue for the competitors. A mistake in sponsorship activation that creates unnecessary hazards does not belong in sports and that mistake can generate negative implications for years beyond any single event.

This past week, the Australian bottled water brand Vital’s sponsored inflatable banner, (referred to as the flamme rouge) that bridges across the race course, collapsed on the lead competitor when a spectator “accidentally” disengaged the generator causing mayhem. Lead rider Adam Yates was tossed from his bicycle, sustaining a gash to his chin, which required stitches. The organizers awarded Yates the time lost because of the sponsor-driven calamity and the entire incident served as embarrassment to an event still haunted by multiple doping scandals surfacing in recent years.

As if that failed sponsor activation was not enough, this past week saw leader Chris Froome finishing a stage of the Tour de’ France on foot after colliding with a press cameraman’s motorbike that was forced to stop due to uncontrolled crowds.

Horrific and failed sponsorship activations range from the slippery finish-line decal at the 2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon that led to the disastrous fall and hospitalization of the winning runner, (Robert Cheruiyot), to a promotion at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 1995 that forced them to forfeit to the visiting team when a crowd of over 50 thousand were given promotional baseballs which became dangerous flying objects both on the field and in the stands as fans vented their frustrations over two ejections in the ninth inning of the game.

Picture1

2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon

While the sponsoring brand’s logo and artwork go through a vigorous vetting process, had anybody considered testing the traction of the street decals athletes would be running across? Similarly, had anybody considered that baseballs are meant to be thrown? On both counts the answer would seem to be a resounding “No”.

Fans attending the Dodgers game may have enjoyed themselves, but the narrative and merit of an activation hinges on its preparation and execution. Our years of research have shown that fans love clever sponsorships, but are cynical toward companies that impede competition or create a threat to athletes through their promotions. Although there are times when the decision to activate a promotion can be tricky, the line between an activation that goes too far and one that is on-point is sometimes blurred. Consider, for example, the Texas Legends basketball team that suspended a local auto dealer’s Kia Soul over their home court. While the promotion drew attention and the event went smoothly, we question whether suspending a 2,000 lb vehicle over the field of play and the athletes’ heads is a risk worth taking.

NBA Car

As our studies have proven time and time again, the difference between a horrific and a successful sponsorship is typically the result of an activation that is relevant to the attendee / target audience far more than those dependent on creative “risks” or “stunts”.

In our view, both sponsors and properties owe it to themselves to implement stricter standards for anything that comes close to the field of play.  Sponsors and properties should spend more time considering the “what if” scenarios to ensure there is no possible interference with the athletes, and consequently, no negative implications reflected upon the sponsor.

By contributing columnist: Jackson Davis

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Is Pokémon Go the Future of Sponsorship? Augmented Reality and Sponsorship Activation

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It’s not just kids and aging millennials who are all a clamor over Nintendo’s newest franchise of the Pokémon brand: Pokémon Go! Back in February, the sports world had its first glimpse of the new game during its minute-long Super Bowl ad, but that did little to prepare the vast majority of Americans for the harbinger of augmented reality gaming.

As investors and marketing agencies eye the new application, shares of Nintendo (NTDOY) have climbed sharply since the game’s release, up over 100%. The new game is a product of Niantic, a subsidiary of Google (GOOGL) and its parent company, Alphabet (GOOG).

Pokémon Go is the first augmented reality game to see such widespread initial adoption, between 15 and 21 million users in the first weeks alone. Using your smartphone’s camera and location, the game interactively overlays Pokémon upon a google-maps based program. The game has an established list of historical locations and points of interest that the developers have used as so-called “PokéStops.”

Although the game has, as of now, been live for little over a week, tech-savvy retail businesses, perhaps with younger employees, are jumping at the plethora of opportunities presented by the emergent Pokémon Go.

Within days of the new gaming platform’s launch, a pizzeria in New York City spent $10 using the in-app purchases feature to lure a dozen Pokémon to its location and enjoyed a 75% jump in sales, according to a CNBC report.

Estimates suggest Pokémon Go has generated $14.04 million in revenue since its release on July 6th,, 2016. But where is this money coming from? And what does this mean for the sponsorship industry going forward? Are games and apps such as Pokémon Go the future of the industry?

As augmented reality software and interactive gaming platforms continue to surge in popularity in the coming months and years, we can undoubtedly expect to see an unprecedented opportunity growth in potential impressions and actual audience engagement with sponsors via mobile gaming platforms.

Pokémon Go and other augmented reality platforms that are still to come create a tremendous opportunity for sponsorship and co-branding at specific geographic locations and events ranging from stadiums, concert venues, to festivals. Some examples include the potential for interactive elements held in more remote locations, with less permanent infrastructure for sponsor activations, from the Polo Fields that host Coachella to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, home to the Burning Man music festival.

Within the realm of more traditional sponsorship, and in the context of Pokémon Go, imagine that as you enter a NASCAR race, you are notified that there is a limited time ability to get a rare Pokémon if you visit the Coke ZERO activation and participate in their promotion. It is not hard to see how this type of engagement could be used to funnel fans directly toward the sponsor activation.

In the case of Pokémon Go, the game could easily be used to attract users to an activation at a concert or sporting event during which the sponsor has paid the game developers to make a “PokéStop” or hotspot, for players in the Pokémon Go game. In fact, with Pokémon Go set to launch in Japan on July 20th, it has already been reported that McDonald’s will be sponsoring the launch, making its restaurants key locations within the game.

As parades of smartphone users quickly descend upon specific location, a well-targeted sponsorship activation could immediately capitalize on this vast, untapped demographic, which ranges from 10-year old children to aging millennials, and young parents.

Augmented reality platforms also offer innovative opportunities for logistics and event operations, on the most basic level of possibilities in the area of crowd control.

In a crowded theme park or stadium, as congestion builds in a specific area of a venue, augmented reality games and apps such as Pokémon Go could be used to drive fans and attendees toward a less busy area of a theme park or stadium from a more heavily trafficked location, in a much more interactive and organic fashion than offered by barricades or security personnel.

It is not hard to see how these emergent augmented reality platforms will transform the sponsorship industry in the short term, and irreversibly alter the landscape in the future.

Sponsorship engagement through augmented reality apps, if done right, won’t be a matter of simple logo placement or banner ads within the gaming app. Instead, augmented reality presents sponsors with the opportunity to enhance personal experiences at any event or public space where smartphones are permitted.

As is always true with genuine sponsorship, those who leverage the marketing opportunities presented by augmented reality by enhancing experiences and emotionally connecting with consumers will be the real winners. GO!

 

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Hey, College Football Sponsors: Read the Signs

2014-0927-Cincinnati-signal-sign-X158733_TK1_1109

College Football has developed its own language.  Although you won’t find Rosetta Stone College Football hitting stores any time soon, it is indeed real.  This language manifests itself in the form of pictures and symbols many top programs use for increasingly efficient sideline communication.

Most of you have probably seen these images laminated on oversized poster boards during college football broadcasts.  Why does the the sideline look like a high school science fair, you ask?

Teams use the process of visual association with everything from presidents and pop stars to iPhone emojis as a means to facilitate player-coach communication.  More specifically, players see a coach hold up a series of meaningful images above their head and quickly translate the sequence into the next play to be run.  This system allows offenses to operate at a much higher rate than traditional methods.

The premise is simple, yet relatively new.  Then-Oregon head coach Chip Kelley was an early adopter in 2010 and used the system to run plays in quicker succession than any other program in history.  Given their widespread use in today’s college football landscape, the competitive advantages of play cards are clear.  Not so obvious, however, is the residual sponsorship potential for both brands and rights holders alike.

Pictures and symbols are equally effective at communicating information and evoking emotion.  Football programs use images that resonate with their 19-year-old players to operate more efficiently.  Brands leverage corporate logos to symbolize stories and experiences they cultivate with consumers.

Wouldn’t it make sense for brands to leverage this coaching innovation as a way to align with the passionate, interactive fans that support college football?  Brands and personalities already exist on these play-call signs without consent.  Why not regain control of your likeness and use it to create strategic partnerships with schools?

While these oversized play-call signs take up valuable real estate on stadium sidelines and television broadcasts, simple logo placement is not enough to engage today’s hyper-connected, hyper-opinionated fan.  Sponsorship makes brands champions when it enhances personal experiences for the audience.  Creative partnerships such as this one hold the requisite potential for powerful storytelling.

Imagine your Ohio State University Buckeyes throw a game-winning touchdown pass to win the Big 10 Championship Game.  In the postgame press conference, head coach Urban Meyer is asked to describe that play.  His response, “I turned to my guys and signaled in Buckeye 52 Allstate.  Luckily we were in good hands with our quarterback and receiver on that one.”  #AllstateGoodHands is a lock to trend worldwide in this scenario.

Consider the possibilities as you enjoy college football bowl season this Holiday – and keep an eye out for those wacky play cards.  You never know who, or what, you may find.

Photo: Al Tielemans, Sports Illustrated

 

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Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: A Fight for Money

One of the biggest days in sports history centers around money.

One of the biggest days in sports history centers around money.

Tomorrow looks to be one of the biggest days of the year in sports history with both the Kentucky Derby and Mayweather vs. Pacquiao welterweight championship fight happening within hours of each other. It may be one of the last fights of Mayweather and Pacquiao’s careers and the richest boxing match of all time. It also is horse racing’s biggest day of the year.

It also happens to be one of the biggest days of the year for Uncle Sam.

Starlight Racing’s “Itsaknockout” exclusive sponsorship deal with Mayweather-Pacquiao promotion is all about the money, money, money. The aggressive campaign has an estimated $200 million dollar draw, bringing sponsorship to a whole new level for the sporting world, or the world in general for that matter. Mayweather is expected to receive 60% of the total, no matter if he wins or loses.  If you break this down by minute, assuming the fight goes the distance, that means Mayweather will make $5 million for every minute of ring action Saturday night. Break it down further and he is making $83,333 per second. Whoever wins the Derby will make a mere $2 million.  Still a decent salary for one day!

Ticket sales are also at a record breaking high for any sporting event with prices ranging from $87,000 to $150,000 per ticket. One thing is certain, a lot of people are going to make money off of this fight.

What does this mean for the direction of sponsorships?  Is the sports industry changing? Will sponsorships of the future include multi-million dollar deals for athletes?  Is it all about the money first, and then the actual sports?

We will find out on May 2.

photo credit: US Treasury via photopin (license)

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Who Will Win the Kentucky Derby Social Media Race?

We learned a lot last year when we used EVsdrop to listen in on — and analyze — the social media posts from Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby weekend. The infographic below shows some of our key findings from 2014.

Kentucky Derby Infographic (1)

We’re looking forward to seeing what happens on the sponsorship side of this year’s Derby. Will sponsors step up their social game and earn more than 2% of the conversation? Will Vineyard Vines “win” the share of voice race again? Only time (and tweets and ‘grams) will tell.

About EVsdrop: EVsdrop is Performance Research’s social media listening and analysis platform made specifically for the events industry. The tool streams social data originating from a specific geographic location (here we targeted Churchill Downs), and we use our 25+ years of sponsorship research expertise to translate what all that social media buzz means for sponsors and event stakeholders.

For additional information about this EVsdrop study or access to our unique stream of data, please reach out to Julia Burke by email (julia@performanceresearch.com) or phone (401-848-0111).

 

 

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Sponsors Take a Stand

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react.

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react.

The hot topic this week centers on Indiana, but not just the NCAA Final Four that kicks off tomorrow. The controversial Indiana “Religious Freedom” law will allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers and the NCAA, among other sports properties including NASCAR, are taking a stand against Indiana’s religious ruling.

In our 2014 IEG presentation we discussed corporate responsibility to social issues and how important it is to take a stand. People may not like what a brand sponsors, how a brand sponsors, or who sponsors and this negative reaction for decisions made can affect brand equity, rankings, and participation. Brands that say something, right away, fare better than brands that ignore the situation. We found that 44% of those surveyed felt sponsors should say something and be engaged in social issues.

We talked about these issues last year regarding both the Sochi Games and the LA Clippers – negative sentiment can be generated in an instant and tarnish a brand faster than it can be promoted. Controversies and reactions to those controversies continue to play a role in a sponsor’s brand health and sustainability.

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react. With the Final Four in full swing, and such strong opposition for this law, sponsors of the NCAA would fare best to issue a statement and quickly. If they can engage in this social issue to increase public sentiment and decrease the risk for negative associations, they may get more out of the Final Four than they imagined.

As the Final Four unfolds, we will be watching sponsors to see if they follow the NCAA’s lead or wait for the storm to pass.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31355653@N07/8257073694″>Mason Plumlee | Duke Blue Devils vs. Temple Owls – Dec. 8th, 12</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Additional Links:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/writer/jon-solomon/25123924/ncaa-expresses-concern-over-indiana-religious-freedom-law

http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/nascar_becomes_latest_to_denounce_indiana_anti_gay_religious_freedom_law

http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/story/2015-03-29/indiana-religious-freedom-act-pacers-nba-statement-response-criticism-wnba-fever-mike-pence

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