I am not a horse racing fan.
I don’t dislike it. I just don’t find myself drawn to follow it year round.
When I wake up on the first Saturday of May each year, I do have an intention to watch horse racing. When I arrive to my couch at 4p, when I turn on the television and when I purposefully dial in to the telecast of the Kentucky Derby, I find myself curious about the industry connected to this event and interested in the race. I know that I don’t know names of the jockeys, horses, owners or trainers. Yet by the time 5:55p rolls around, when the famed “Riders Up” call is bellowed, I am all in.
At 6:45p, it’s over and I am done for the year.
Nearly three hours of my time I invest in a sport that I don’t care much about, involving people and animals whose names I will soon forget. How did I get there and why will I come back next spring?
Simply put – the production value of the broadcast.
The National Broadcasting Company takes great care in planning a show (and that is exactly what the Kentucky Derby is, a “show”) about sports history, human emotion and the awesomeness of the equine. Using lights, motion, music and superb editing, NBC’s content producers map out a Run of Show of packages and interviews, steady cams and sound effects that grab me, keep me and provoke me into thinking about the industry of horse racing. Regardless who crosses the finish line in the end, NBC wins.
In winning, they keep me engaged throughout the late afternoon and I like it.
So I get to thinking:
Those of us in the sports life face the challenge, every day, of appealing to not only the most ardent of supporters but also to those people who are casual or that show indifference about attending a sporting event. Designing advertising plans and activities that persuade people into the football stadiums, the basketball arenas and the other surfaces of competition are paramount to the marketing success (or failure) of a sports property each year. And if fans do decide to pick your venue to spend three hours of their day after weighing all of their options, what kind of entertainment have you built in your Run of Show?
Sports marketing professionals should learn from NBC.
NBC captured my attention the moment I tuned in. How does the entryway of your venue help you capture fans’ attention? The network leveraged video and music and timing to get the most out of me and how I viewed horse racing. How do you script your events from start to finish, filling the air with the best sounds and images possible at the appropriate moments? NBC told the story of who was competing and the interesting aspects of the race. Do you give your fans the opportunity to learn about what they are about to see before the game begins? After the starting gates sprang open and history unfolded, I was informed, impassioned and involved, watching intently while remembering all that had influenced me in the time before the start. Do your fans have that sense of connection during the game? When the race concluded and the broadcast ended, I talked about NBC and the Kentucky Derby. When fans return to their homes and offices, do they talk about you?
Use the assets of your facility, the strength of your staff (while complementing the players and coaches) to introduce an environment that is special, regardless the number of times a particular person steps foot in your venue. Influence their emotions and make them vested, even if it is only for one game year. Pony up and build the best Run of Show you possibly can.