Sports Marketing Needs Workout p.12

By: DOROTHY GIOBBE ARE NEWSPAPERS RELEVANT to sports marketing efforts?
The answer depends on who you talk to. A panel at the recent Newspaper Association of America convention brought a diverse range of views to a discussion about steering ad dollars to the sports pages.
"One thing we know is that sports sell newspapers," said Nancy Cooney, executive sports editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Even if people have seen the game on TV, they turn to us to react to it, to analyze it, to interpret it, to dissect it, to relive it, and to celebrate and cry about it."
Cooney said that when the Phillies won the World Series, "it was good for up to 20,000 papers daily."
But if that's true, then why don't newspapers receive a larger share of sports ad dollars?
"One of the problems may be that we do such a good job of covering professional and major college sports that organizations don't seem to need to come to us," Cooney said.
"We provide so much free information, schedules, TV times, prices, there's such a stream of news and features that there's no need to buy ads or otherwise use us as a marketing tool," she said. "Even when we're critical, we're selling tickets."
Gary Bettman, commissioner of the National Hockey League, discussed the league's push to become more complementary to newspaper marketing efforts.
"At the NHL, we operate under a philosophy that everything we do is related to everything else," he said. "From my point of view, to the question, 'Do newspapers matter to sports marketing?' the answer is a resounding, absolutely, unqualified yes.
"In fact, we're probably more dependent on newspapers than even you imagine in trying to get our message out," Bettman added. "The fact is that newspapers give you more detail in what's going on in the over 1,200 games that encompass our pre-playoff regular season."
Bettman cited last January's All-Star Weekend in Boston as a successful example of working with newspapers. The Boston Herald was a sponsor of the promotion, which included the NHL Fantasy, an "interactive trade show" with more than 30,000 attendees.
Only 5% of Anheuser-Busch Inc.'s advertising budget goes to print, said Tony Pontura, vice president/corporate media and sports marketing for the St. Louis-based company.
But recent partnerships, including the NHL/Bud Light promotion, could spur a change. Pontura said Anheuser-Busch is hoping to extend the promotion to local markets through newspaper tie-ins with local teams.
Also, Anheuser-Busch is looking at increasing sponsorship for "lifestyle" sports, such as volleyball, jet skiing and snowboarding.
"As events or sports are linked to a particular market, or as tours come through, there is a way to use the newspaper vehicle more as a part of the overall promotion, and not just as an advertorial," Pontura said.
Newspapers' historical market dominance, though diminished, still affects sales staff attitudes, said Jim Paul, president of the minor-league El Paso Diablo Baseball Club.
In 1974, Paul ran ads for the Diablos exclusively in newspapers. But, as the expense of the ads rose, the volume went down. Salespeople from radio and television became more "advertising-friendly" than newspapers, he said. After ten years, he stopped using newspapers.
"We're looking for someone to work with us and that's where we run into the hard line that this is not the way newspapers do things," Paul said. "Well, we have found out that there are a lot of people who will do it for us."
Advertising effectiveness steers much of ESPN's ad dollars to broadcast, said Vince Doria, assistant managing editor/news director for the cable sports channel.
Doria said that ESPN used to place 35 newspaper ads per year in the top 11 or 12 markets. Over the past five years, however, newspaper ads have dropped off to about five per year.
Part of the drop is because "the philosophy is now more oriented towards the buzzword of the '90s ? branding, which used to be called positioning," Doria said. "Our opinion is that television is a better vehicle for doing this branding than newspapers."
He added, "USA Today has become a large factor in reducing our local buys ? it's one-stop shopping for us that covers a national audience, and it's a vehicle ? rightly or wrongly ? that we perceive as delivering a greater percentage of sports section readers than most local newspapers."

?("At the NHL, we operate under a philosophy that everything we do is related to everything else. From my point of view, to the question, 'Do newspapers matter to
sports marketing?' the answer is a resounding, absolutely,
unqualified yes.") [Photo & Caption]
?(? Gary Bettman, National Hockey League Commissioner) [Photo & Caption]


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