The great year in sports, 2012, provided another year of progression in the sports business. In a society filled with DVRs and instant satisfaction, sports continue to thrive as the leading live and shared means of entertainment (especially with the rise of the second screen).
On the teams’ front, the NBA’s Nets moved to Brooklyn, and the MLB Los Angeles Dodgers acquired new owners and made their big mid-season trade. Sports leagues saw continued success of the NFL and another record-breaking Super Bowl audience. Networks saw success, too, with the launch of the NBC Sports Network and NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, averaging 31 million viewers each day, according to a New York Times article.
Sports marketers did their best to capitalize on the great year by giving sports fans meaningful brand experiences, whether through an integrated activation or a sponsorship. The industry progressed and pushed forward. What will next year bring? I expect more growth and opportunity in the sports marketing field than ever before. It is certain that 2012 will be a tough act to follow, but already there are events on the horizon that will shape 2013 as a monumental sports year.
Notre Dame Fighting Again
There’s no better story to kick off 2013 than the return of Notre Dame to college football’s championship game. This infamous program had all but been written off as simply a “former” powerhouse that couldn’t regain a foothold in recruiting. With a BCS Championship Game against the perennial powerhouse Alabama, times are changing for the Golden Domers. This is a seminal moment for college football because of the sheer number of people this game will reach. Expect historic ratings, historic ticket prices and (hopefully) a historic game.
A Super Super Bowl
In sports, the NFL sets the standard. The 2012 Super Bowl saw another jump in ratings, and you can expect 2013 to be even bigger. The always great, host city of New Orleans is the site for Super Bowl XLVII for the tenth time, tying Miami’s record. Consider this: According to an article on NOLA.com, the last Super Bowl they hosted in 2002 reached 86 million viewers and last year’s game against the Giants and Patriots reached an astonishing 113 million, a 28% increase. Add in all the additional activations (fans being able to attend Media Day and the Bud Light Hotel) and Super Bowl XLVII has the stage set to be another momentous event.
World Baseball Classic
This spring will mark the third installment of the World Baseball Classic, an event aimed at spreading the game of baseball worldwide. These games offer fans only a little more excitement than spring training and the WBC is already struggling to hold onto big name players. Derek Jeter and Bryce Harper have already opted out of playing for Team USA, with Ichiro, Yu Darvish and Huroki Kuroda opting out for the reigning champions, Team Japan. Major League Baseball (MLB) is excited about the event, and will be opening their MLB Fan Cave to 11 fans. Fans can go online and apply to represent their country of residence, a great example of transferring the buzz of the event to their digital networks. It will be interesting to see the ratings results, given that coverage is only on MLB Network, but I think baseball fans will be craving competition enough to warrant tuning in.
Golf: The Roar of Rory
With a U.S. Open victory and a historic Ryder Cup comeback, it is safe to say Rory McIlroy left his mark on golf in 2012. Currently number one in the world, he looks poised to keep his stranglehold on the sport after winning the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles (taking $14 million in winnings just this season). This momentum has been noticed by sponsors, with Rory recently inking a $200 million deal with Nike. Regardless of the Oakley breach of contract and lawsuit, this will not change the status of Rory on the course. The kid who once was labeled as the next great one, now simply is the great one.
LeBron James Spring Cleaning
LeBron arguably had the best 2012 of any athlete worldwide, finishing with an NBA Championship, an MVP title and a gold medal. He is 28 (the age Jordan was when he won his first title) and looks poised to repeat for the foreseeable future. When LeBron started 2012, he had a glass ceiling that he couldn’t break. For now, he has shattered that ceiling, with endless possibilities.
Yes, as in sailing! The premier sailing event, and technically speaking the oldest trophy in American sport, is getting a big boost in exposure. The event is back in the states for the first time since 1995, with NBC landing rights to the event and broadcasting it for first time since 1992. The races will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area, but a string of exhibition races were just announced for New York City, tapping into the biggest market in the U.S.
Soccer Without Beckham
Only David Beckham could leave the MLS as he did, off back-to-back MLS Cup Championships. While his recent triumphs were great for the sport, it will be interesting to see how the MLS proceeds having lost their most marketable star. There are signs of hope, as attendance continues to grow, according to a FoxSports.com article. Add a continued investment in club academies, in which MLS clubs can cultivate homegrown young talent and all signs point towards a bright future for American Soccer.
With many of these exciting story lines already brewing (not to mention story lines in motorsports, March Madness and more), 2013 is shaping up to be another great year in sports. Sports marketing will continue its progression as brands seek new ways to connect and engage with fans. As the world embraces the improvements in technology so do sports leagues, marketers and fans. It’s my hope that we don’t bask in the successes of 2012, but continue to deliver game-changing work that pushes the sports business further, a business in which I am a privileged to work.