This difficult economic year signals more problems for sports franchises, even in the premier league in all sports - the NFL. There's the news that as many as 20% of games this fall with be blacked out in their local markets, due to mediocre attendance. In fact, it's looking more and more like fans in Jacksonville will not be able to see any of the Jaguars' home games because too many seats will go unsold. In fact, as many as a dozen teams will experience blackouts this year - recession or not.
So, if you're one of those teams struggling with attendance issues, do you sit back and write it all off to a lousy economy? Or do you respond with a stunt that might help re-energize fan interest?
In radio, we've been trained to go the latter route. If it's not happening organically, we're charged with making it happen. Stunts, features, specials, contests, and even a little risky creativity are all part of how we've been trained to deal with key rating periods. You cannot just sit around and suffer lousy ratings. If it's not working, you can't just run the same strategies. You have to do something.
Now it's looking more and more like the NFL may be taking a page or two from radio's playbook. That might explain why the Bills signed Terrell Owens, the Eagles added Michael Vick (especially with a hot Phillies teams gunning for the post-season again), and the Vikings have picked up Brett Favre out of another of his retirements.
None of these moves may do much to help these teams on the field. But they are already showing positive results in both ticket and merchandising sales. And as importantly, the Bills, the Eagles, and the Vikings have reinserted themselves into "the conversation." Fans are engaged, the media cannot get enough, and sparks are flying. Go ahead, name three players on the Jaguars. I rest my case.
Celebrity doesn't just sell. It pays dividends in a myriad of situations. And while the general managers of these three teams may come under scrutiny from fans who feel their teams won't win any more games because of these players, it's about putting butts in seats and generating revenue.
Post Script: Isn't it interesting to see how this is playing out on "American Idol?" Last year, they announced their new panelist, Kara DioGuardi, a virtual unknown who stirred up very little controversy or talk. This year, "Idol" has learned its lesson and has hired Ellen DeGeneres as Paula Abdul's replacement. Already, this big celebrity move has stirred up the pot, and viewers are asking all the obvious questions: Why did she do it? How will she fit in? Will she bring a kinder, gentler sense to "Idol?" Celebrity sells.