1. NFL Kickoff: 2009 Fan Cost Index
At the beginning of every NFL season, industry trade title Team Marketing Report releases its Fan Cost Index, which gauges how much it costs a family of four to attend a game, including concessions, retail purchases, and parking. Central to the study, of course, is the average ticket price each of the 32 NFL franchises charges per game.
Data from the 2009 FCI reveal that the average ticket price for the league as a whole rose 3.9% this year, to $74.99. Due to the recession, 21 teams either kept pricing the same as last year or even lowered prices, and many teams have created flexible, consumer-friendly extended payment plans for purchasers—in essence, a layaway plan for football tickets.
As can be expected, the priciest NFL tickets this year are for games in new Cowboys Stadium, averaging $159.65. The New England Patriots come in behind Dallas at $117.84 per ticket. Rounding out the top five are the New York Giants, in their last year at Giants Stadium ($88.63); Chicago Bears ($88.33); and New York Jets ($86.99). The bottom five, or the league's "bargain" tickets, include the Seattle Seahawks ($61.25), Tennessee Titans ($60.95), Jacksonville Jaguars ($57.34), Cleveland Browns ($54.65), and last, the Buffalo Bills ($51.24). Most of these teams, not surprisingly, are on the conjectured lists of teams facing multiple blacked-out games in their home markets due to stadiums not selling out, a longtime stipulation in the NFL's broadcasting agreements with TV networks.
2. NFL Kickoff 2009: Mega Media
You thought there was an NFL media blackout? This season, it's more like an NFL media blanket.
As a temporary compromise to its longtime blackout policy, the NFL recently announced that all games blacked out in teams' home TV markets will be shown for free on NFL.com on a delayed basis, starting at midnight after the day of the game for 72 hours (except during ESPN's Monday Night Football telecasts). All other games will be available for delayed viewing on NFL.com via the new Game Rewind subscription feed. As former Anheuser-Busch (BUD) Vice-President of Global Media and Sports Marketing Tony Ponturo put it, "If you lose those big ratings in those home markets, that's going to affect the average household rating, and that's the concern."
For now, ratings are solid. NBC earned a 13.8/22.3 overnight Nielsen rating for its coverage of the NFL season-opening Titans-Steelers game Sept. 10, the best overnight for a Thursday night season opener since Jets-Redskins on ABC in 2003, the best sports-content overnight since February's Super Bowl XLIII, and the best overnight for a prime-time program since FOX's American Idol season finale in May.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also discussed the dispute between the NFL and Time Warner Cable (TWC) around carriage of NFL Network during a press event last week. "Time Warner is unwilling to reach an agreement to carry the NFL Network on terms that are fair and reasonable and consistent with other distributors," Goodell said. "We are surprised that Time Warner continues to reject our offers and deny the fans the only network dedicated entirely to football as well as the exciting new NFL RedZone channel."
In London, perhaps in anticipation of an eventual NFL franchise there, BBC Radio 5 Live has added a weekly NFL program, 5 Live NFL, broadcast on Sundays from 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. GMT. According to Radio 5 Live Commissioning Editor Jonathan Wall, it is the "first weekly live NFL program on British radio."
Here in the States, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention our own "The Snap," a 90-second segment highlighting the top NFL games of the week from a business and marketing perspective that made its debut Sept. 13 on the NFL Today during Westwood One radio's noon-1 p.m. ET pregame hour. The program reaches more than 200 stations on a weekly basis at a high listenership time shortly before kickoff.
Finally, in their effort to drum up support for a new football stadium, the Minnesota Vikings have launched a Twitter feed tied to the team's MinnesotaMomentum.com Web site. The Twitter account, @VIKESSTADIUM, posted its first tweet Sept. 7 and has posted more than 560 since then. As of Sept. 17, the Twitter account had 308 followers—the Vikings claim they will start giving away free merchandise as soon as the account hits 1,000 followers.
3. Incident Gives 'Serena Slam' a Whole New Meaning
Serena Williams is likely only one of a handful of athletes on the planet who could hijack attention away from the NFL on its opening Sunday—ironic in light of her recent commitment to invest in the Miami Dolphins. Already a polarizing figure after a controversial default incident at Indian Wells eight years ago and because of her perceived lack of commitment to tennis, Williams' conduct violations during her U.S. Open women's singles semifinal Sept. 12 will make her even more so.
While it's doubtful Williams will lose any current endorsement deals because of her outburst, it's likely that any new deals corporate sponsors are considering will be closely reevaluated. For now, Williams' marketing and endorsement deals include ones with Nike (NKE) (a $40 million multiyear pact), Wilson, Gatorade, Kraft (KFT), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Her endorsement earnings are believed to be in the $10 million to $12 million annual range, while on-court earnings year to date are $4,037,966 (not counting the U.S. Open); prize money from the Open will put her over $26 million in career winnings.
Booksellers may also be alarmed at Williams conduct. Her autobiography, On the Line, was released by Grand Central Publishing on Sept. 1. On Sept. 12, the $27 hardback was ranked No. 1,250 in books on Amazon.com (AMZN); it had dropped to No. 1,425 by Sept. 14—not exactly a bestseller.
Will Williams' conduct open the door even wider for Melanie Oudin, America's new tennis sweetheart? While that largely depends on Oudin's on-court performance the next few months, she already cemented one new sponsor, BackOffice Associates, during the Open and veteran sports marketers are predicting the sky's the limit for the plucky blonde teenager from Atlanta. U.S. Open winner Kim Clijsters and runner-up Caroline Wozniacki are also attractive alternatives for would-be sponsors.
While Williams wasn't booed when she took center court on Sept. 14 to contest the U.S. Open women's doubles final (which she and sister Venus easily won), and was fined only a paltry $10,500 for the incident—roughly the amount of spare change rolling around at the bottom of all her designer bags—more severe sanctions may be yet to come, including "possible permanent suspensions from one or more Grand Slams and fines of $250,000 or more," according to International Tennis Federation Director Bill Babcock during the doubles final.
The episode is definitely a blow for the WTA Tour, which has gotten almost no leadership from its top players in recent years either on the court or off. The tour needs role models, not the antithesis of one.
4. Vancouver 2010 Tickets Selling Quickly
The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) reports it has received more than $345 million in requests for tickets to the Games. Canadians have already requested approximately four and a half times the value of tickets in Phase 1 for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games ($345 million over five weeks), compared to the first phase of ticketing ($75 million over nine weeks) for the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the most recent Olympic Games held in North America. More than 140,000 tickets were requested for the men's gold medal hockey game, over 41,000 for the women's, and over 84,000 tickets were requested for the Opening Ceremony.
Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games packages are selling out and individual requests are increasing daily. CoSport, the official hospitality provider for the Vancouver Games, reports that around 120 packages including tickets to the gold medal men's hockey game had sold out within two weeks. Packages include other event tickets, accommodations, and in some cases, transportation and meals, and range in price from $3,800 to $34,500. The packages are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis and will remain on sale until they are gone. Individual ticket request forms will be accepted until Nov. 7. If demand outstrips the number of tickets available they will be allocated by lottery.
Meanwhile, an investigation into 2012 London Games spending has uncovered that the financial shortfall for those Games has increased to $267 million. Accounting firm KPMG's report, which previously estimated the shortfall at $144 million, shows a "catalogue of management errors and budgetary failings" at the London Development Agency and "hints at a cover-up by officials who waited more than a year before alerting senior managers."
5. Last College Classes
When they actually graduate, it seems as if star college football players finish their academic careers on a simple note. In his last semester at USC, Matt Leinart infamously took Ballroom Dancing as his final class before graduation. (If only it were that easy for all students.) Here are five other college football players' last classes:
1. Colt McCoy, Texas: Management of Sport, Health Promotion, and Fitness
2. Tim Tebow, Florida: Senior Seminar (one hour each week)
3. Colt Brennan, Hawaii: CPR
4. Alex Smith, Utah: Bowling, and Varsity Football
5. Dennis Dixon, Oregon: Billiards