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In keeping with the theme of my debut Tao of Sports article, as well as a previous article, I’ve decided to call my regular contributions to this site “Leaving Money On The Table.”

In these columns, I’ll focus on missed or underdeveloped revenue opportunities in I might spot within the sport industry.

Of course, in most cases, I’ll be making these observations from an outside perspective and may not know every parameter involved.

However, I will do my best to use good judgment on all counts, and any critiques will be offered in the helpful spirit of continuous improvement. And if you can provide me with added insight, I’d certainly be grateful.

I’ll also offer examples of instances where a sport manager made a heads-up move not to leave money on the table.

This week, I’ve spotted four such items that piqued my interest.

1. Control the language, control the message.

In the first three chapters of his book Don’t Think Of An Elephant: Know Your Values And Frame The Debate, Democrat political strategist George Lakoff delivers several vital pieces of business advice, chiefly the one in the header above.

IMG_0635Though I might be stretching its parameters a bit, I couldn’t help be reminded of Lakoff’s adage, and why social media is too important to be handled by anyone less than a proven professional when I read about the brouhaha surrounding Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s Instagram account (@rgiii).

Apparently, Griffin’s account had liked a derogatory post about Redskins owner Dan Snyder (as if Griffin, Snyder, and the Redskins franchise needed any more flak to dodge).

Griffin attempted to save face set the record straight by declaring that the post wasn’t liked by him, but rather by an intern who had access to his social media accounts.

In either case, RG3 left money on the table.

If he mistakenly or deliberately liked the post himself, he created unnecessary controversy, which can be a revenue-killer.

Or if he turned over his social media access to an intern, he invited more opportunities for human error/sabotage, even if the intern worked for some sort of sport management/marketing agency.

Granted, RG3 has a very secure, lucrative contract, and his level of performance won’t have brands buzzing around him for endorsement deals unless it undergoes a quick, substantial upgrade, but the gaffe should serve as a lesson for athletes (and those managing them) who may be in line for a new contract and/or endorsement deals: if you let someone else control your social media, you may risk leaving money on the table.

2. If it ain’t for sale, don’t advertise it.

In fairness, I need to also add, “…or at least use it to create a buzz by giving it away.”

In the euphoria of last Saturday, that high holy day of the sportsbiz world when the college football season kicks off with a full slate, I kept a watchful eye on the 400+ Instagram accounts I follow, knowing many would be filled with celebratory posts for the glorious occasion.

IMG_0625The volume of such posts and the quality of many of them rewarded me handsomely, but even within some posts whose aesthetics I admired, I found money left on the table.

Such was the case with a post from one of my favorite sports apparel labels, 47 Brand (although I wish they’d reduce the size of the panels on their adjustable slouch hats back to the cut they used when they were Twins Enterprises, but I digress).

I’m unsure whether the Auburn Tigers poster pictured here was fauxback or a reprint of an actual throwback piece of artwork, but its vintage nature made it one of my favorite posts of the day.

Since one of my cousins is an Auburn alumnus, and since his mom likes to give his alumnus status fair representation in their otherwise LSU-obsessed home, I thought a print of the poster might make a good gift for my aunt.

Following the link in the account’s bio (@47brand), I combed through its website, but I found nothing like it for sale.

Obviously, I realize 47 Brand is an apparel company, and posters may or may not fit well as a brand extension for it.

However, just a quick look at the obvious quality of the poster makes several items of worth come to mind immediately:
• Sell it as a poster.
• Give it away as a poster in some sort of Instagram and/or other social media contest.
• Use it as an example for an art contest to produce similar, sellable works from content generated by followers.
• Put it on a tshirt and/or sweatshirt, and either sell it, or make it a limited-edition giveaway.

So instead of giving 47 Brand somewhere between $20 and $25 for it, I’ll get a print made of a screenshot for less than $1, and a department store frame for less than $10. My aunt will get a nice holiday gift, and 47 Brand will get…only my thanks, and a like of the post.

3. Return the love your customers give you.

Fact of sportsbiz life: no matter how creative your social media team can be, on occasion, their creative efforts will occasionally be outstripped by rabid fans.

Such was the case recently on the Instagram account @san.fran.giants, an independent fan account built in support of the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball.

IMG_0623Using pics of newly acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd (“It’s a Byrd…”), a Giants-branded Virgin America airplane (“It’s a plane…”), and a Clark-Kent-to-Superman photo altered with rookie phenom Kelby Tomlinson’s bespectacled mug (“It’s Superman.”), @san.fran.giants created a brilliant meme with a creative Giants-themed visual spin on a classic movie phrase.

Ideally, of course, as an official Giants sponsor (of their club level, among other inventory), this sort of creative piece would’ve been generated by Virgin America.

But again, fans never sleep, and they far outnumber marketing staffers, so this is bound to happen, at least every so often.

Still, Virgin America is in a great position capitalize on the value of this stroke of creative serendipity with the owner of the @san.fran.giants account and other Giants fans.


Hopefully, someone on Virgin America’s brand management staff is so fully engaged in the Giants social media sphere until s/he is following @san.fran.giants (and other similar accounts) and saw this (if not, that in itself is money left on the table due to a plethora of missed marketing opportunities).

Then, that someone at Virgin America reached out to @san.fran.giants to thank the account owner and determine the meme’s creator. Then, that someone reposted the meme through Virgin America’s social media. Next, that someone awarded some prize(s) to all involved parties (account owner and/or meme creator), such as:
• An all-expenses-paid vacation to a Virgin America destination (which will likely generate at least one lifetime of brand preference in airlines, a potentially valuable relationship)
• A voucher for one free round-trip Virgin America flight (which will likely generate at least one other purchased fare, which is direct ROI)
• A $100 voucher toward a Virgin America flight (which will likely generate at least a partially purchased fare, and maybe another fully purchased fare, both of which would be direct ROI)
• A VIP Giants game day experience for up to four people (likely in the Virgin America Club Level at AT&T Park, which will likely create multiple lifetimes of brand preference in airlines, potentially valuable relationships)
• A swag bag filled with Virgin America and/or Giants gear/souvenirs (which will likely create at least one multiyear period of brand preference in airlines, a potentially valuable relationship)
• Some combination of these

Finally, that someone at Virgin America publicized this prize via its social media (and whatever available Giants sponsorship inventory it could also utilize) to encourage Giants fans to create similar items using Virgin America’s Giants sponsorship to be eligible to win similar prizes.

This initiative will keep fans interacting with the Virgin America brand via its Giants sponsorship as a no-to-low-cost form of activation (which is both directly and indirectly valuable as a revenue generator and/or a cost-saver).

If this didn’t happen, money was left on the table.

4. You don’t have to be a Boy Scout to be prepared.

Sadly, the closest I came to being a Boy Scout during my youth was a subscription to Boys Life magazine, a high-quality publication that I enthusiastically consumed monthly.

Reading it taught me many things, including the inescapable theme woven throughout the publication: the official Boy Scouts of America motto, “Be Prepared.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 12.02.21 AMWatching the latter part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Southern 500 race at Darlington, S.C., reminded me of this principle.

Actually, the reminder came after the race, won by Carl Edwards, whose car was primarily sponsored by ARRIS, a company with which I was not familiar.

The ARRIS website informed me that the company is “a global innovator in IP, video and broadband technology…We created digital TV, delivered the first wireless broadband gateway and are pioneering the standards and pathways for tomorrow’s personalized, Ultra HD, multiscreen, and cloud services.”

But as informative as the company’s primary website was, the true beauty emerged in the prominent tab labeled “ARRIS Racing,” which took me to a separate webpage dedicated to ARRIS’ corporate support of the Edwards race team.

Even more beautiful on that ARRIS Racing page was the headline “Carl Races To Victory,” commemorating Edwards’ win just moments prior.

Though certainly not the first to take advantage of the real-time nature of modern digital media, ARRIS (perhaps with help from the Edwards team, a part of Joe Gibbs Racing) maximized this asset and the value of Edwards’ prestigious Darlington win by being prepared with a celebratory splash.

Perhaps most beautiful of all was the prominent button in the top right corner of the page that screamed, “ARRIS Merchandise,” which took me to the merchandise page for Joe Gibbs Racing.

For their high level of preparation, I rewarded them with a purchase, so they realized at least some direct ROI for their efforts.

This well designed strategic initiative clearly showed that ARRIS, the Edwards team, and Joe Gibbs Racing were determined NOT to leave any money on the table.

In sport business, the table always has plenty of money on it. It’s up to you to be observant enough to see it and smart enough to collect it.

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