Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Modest Proposal, Pt. 1

(Realizing my post was getting waaaaaay long, and as a gift in the holidays, here is the next part of We Taught A Generation to Steal)

Back in what now seem the dark ages of Web 2.0, the concept of The Long Tail began. It explained how brick and mortar was doomed and digital was the business future.

The downside was the reality that digital dimes do not equal Madison Avenue dollars. In an entertainment economy built upon Don Draper economics, we are beset by tectonic shifts if not wholesale Armageddon.

Look, I think I've made convincing arguments regarding the fact we are in the entertainment business. And, by the way, that includes both halves of the body-brain barrier.

As you and yours head into the new year, consider these ideas:

Admission cost for all:
Nothing tells consumers what your product is worth like free admission. A $3 ticket isn't why fans are not attending your volleyball/women's basketball/swim meet. They aren't coming because the product isn't worth it, they don't know it is happening or there is no market for the product in your area.

For over a decade, volleyball could not draw flies at University of Arkansas. Let's be honest. And that was painful, because under Chris Poole the team won more SEC Western Division titles than any other school (and for the longest, more than the rest of the league combined had won). NCAA appearances. All-Americans. The first team to beat Florida for the league tournament title. Uber successful.

Nobody cared.

Why? Because when Arkansas started volleyball, none of the local high schools played the sport. It was not big across the state either.

Meanwhile, soccer had a steady attendance, even when they posted losing seasons. When they were winning, they out-drew volleyball.

Why? Because the largest youth soccer program in Arkansas was in Fayetteville during the formative years of that college team. The high schools weren't just good, they were dominant (and still are the power base) in the state, both boys and girls teams.

There was a local passion for the game, and the Lady Razorback team became the local soccer communities connection to live presentation of it's favorite product.

Aha! The role of the university in the community.

A constant drumbeat among administrators and coaches is to stop charging admission, that's what will bring in the fans.

If so, why did attendance patterns by students not change before and after free tickets began at Arkansas in 2008-09? Prior to the current regime, students paid some nominal fee to attend games because UA did not have a student activity fee. Academic politics.

Guess what sport they students willingly and overwhelmingly paid their hard-earned Starbucks money to attend? Gymnastics.

What sport did they have no interest, no matter how hard we tried, to attend? Women's basketball.

What in the hell does this have with internet rights and new media?

The amount we are charging for fans to attend our events should reflect the costs involved, and it should not be free for that reason.

Football is a very expensive sport. It also happens to be popular. It makes sense the tickets should be higher. The problem becomes when it reaches three digits -- is that to support the sport (or even the greater athletic department) or to simply gouge the public.

This is the truth that old-school journalism has learned the hard way. Unfortunately, in putting up pay walls they are trying to recoup the entire printing press. When the cost is too high, only a handful will pay.

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