Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Sports

Recap of Tough Mudder

On Saturday, I ran the Tough Mudder race in Frederick, MD. It was awesome. Below is a recap and some lessons I took away from the race:

Tough Mudder is Extreeeeeeeeeme

The race entailed 12 miles of running and 20 obstacles involving mud, mud, and more mud, water, electricity, climbing, jumping, lifting, pushing, pulling and more. And on top of that, we did it all in a torrential downpour, basically running the entire race sloshing in mud and more mud! Crazy.

I’ve done a Mud Run in the past and that’s nothing compared to the Tough Mudder. This is a true test of both mental and physical strength and endurance. My entire body is killing me, I have cuts and scrapes all over my arms, legs, and torso and I even have bruises underneath my fingernails. It hurts to type this blog post, seriously.

Teamwork, Camaraderie and Perseverance are Essential

You can’t run this race alone. I ran it with two of my buddies and we pushed each other throughout the race. But it also felt like every Mudder was my teammate, as everyone helped each other scale the Berlin Walls, climb over the mounds in Mud Mile,  and complete many other obstacles. And even though it felt great for me to get past each of the obstacles, it actually felt better helping others complete them.

Everest was a killer obstacle where you had to run up a 15-foot-high quarter pipe coated in mud and grease, then leap and grab the hands of other Mudders, who help pull you over the top. One of my teammates had a lot of trouble with this one, primarily because “tall” isn’t a word you would use to describe him. In front of a gallery of hundreds of people, he tried to climb Everest about five times, each time sliding down in shame and embarrassment (I imagine he felt that way). On his final try, he was able to get a solid leap and we were able to grab his hands and pull him up. He never gave up and we worked together as a team to get him through it. It seems cliche but that’s what Tough Mudder is all about.

Poor Organization Made This Event Even Crazier

I don’t know whose fault it was, but the traffic going in and out of the event site was insane. 10,000 people converging on the country roads of Frederick, MD made for one hell of a traffic jam. It was so bad that we parked our car about two miles away from the event site and had to walk those miles before and after the race!

Overall, the Tough Mudder was amazing and I’d totally do it again. I have a sweet t-shirt and bright orange headband to prove that I finished. We’re going to try other similar races, like The Spartan Race, to compare. I’d love to hear from other people who completed the Tough Mudder or any other races about what they think.

What’s your version of winning the Super Bowl?

Eli Manning SB trophyI’m a big NY Giants fan, so I was totally pumped when they won the Super Bowl this past Sunday. But as I watched the Super Bowl parade yesterday and saw all the players’ and fans’ happiness, I thought to myself – What’s the normal person’s equivalent of winning the Super Bowl?

We’re all professionals at something, just not a professional athlete at the highest level and the biggest stage.  I think of the times that I’ve felt really good after accomplishing something, and I bet it pales in comparison to what Eli Manning or Tom Coughlin felt. What’s the career equivalent for people like you and me? Is it landing a big sale, getting that promotion or completing that big project successfully? I’m not sure it compares to lifting the Lombardi trophy over your head. Or if you’re an entrepreneur, maybe it’s selling your company or filing that IPO?   I should ask Mark Zuckerberg soon.

Maybe it’s something personal, like getting married or having a child? I don’t know, I haven’t done either of those. Or maybe buying that shiny new luxury car or big house, which signifies that you made it? Who knows.

So what is it? Have you ever felt such a sense of accomplishment that you felt that you won the Super Bowl of your world, and if so, what happened? Let me know!

The Power and Weirdness of Sports

Sports is probably one of the most powerful forces in many people’s lives. Passion for your favorite teams can make you act angry and crazy or joyful and elated. It can also make you desire things you never thought you would. Here are two distinct examples.

Let’s start with craziness and anger. Last night, I watched ESPN’s “Catching Hell”, which told the story of Steve Bartman’s infamous attempt at catching the foul ball at Wrigley Field during game 6 of the 2003 NLCS (for more info, click here. It was a pretty awesome movie.). After the Cubs lost that game (and eventually the series), fans were livid and many sent Bartman death threats for basically doing something they would have done if they were sitting in his seat. Nevermind that Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez made a critical error and the pitchers couldn’t get out of the inning.  It was all Bartman’s fault. Irrational now? Of course.  Back then? Pure passion.

Now to the weirdness of desiring stuff you wouldn’t normally. I’m a big Yankees fan, have been since I was 7. But we’re playing Tampa Bay tonight, and they are dead even with the Red Sox for the final playoff spot in the American League, and tonight is the last game of the regular season.  I want the Yankees to lose, only because I want the city of Boston to cry that the Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs. Yeah, I want my team to have outfielders pitch and attempt to bunt at every at bat so the Sox will lose. What the what?

Sports can make people crazy like nothing else out there. And I love it.

More Important in Marketing – Data or Creativity?

I read an article on Clickz yesterday called “Data Geek or Creative Genius?”  (http://bit.ly/nTPQxn) that touched upon the argument of which is more important in marketing today – creative ideas or data-driven decisions. The bottom line is that these aspects must work in synchronization to produce effective marketing that drives business results. Yeah, it’s kind of a cop out (like saying “it depends”) but it’s true.

I wrote about this topic in the SportsBusiness Journal in 2009 (http://bit.ly/ro61gj) and have reposted the article below.

What are your thoughts on this? It would be great to hear from marketers from both sides of the spectrum!

——————————————

Let science of marketing drive creative solutions

Published September 21, 2009

Greg Economou’s article (SportsBusiness Journal, Aug. 31-Sept. 6) about the art and science of selling was spot on, and I believe that this philosophy could and should be applied to marketing in sports as well.

Sports marketing is many times inextricably defined by big events, captivating advertising, eye-catching design of signage and collateral, and sometimes simply slapping a logo on a product. Of course, these artful elements of the marketing mix are imperative to success, but the science of marketing should be applied to drive decisions regarding these creative components.

The first scientific element of marketing is market and consumer insight (or more boringly named “market research”). To start, properties, agencies, and brands must have a detailed, thorough understanding of their fan base, including demographic characteristics and psychographic/behavioral traits, in addition to analysis of the competition and the overall economy. Additionally, companies must use research to understand what their fans think about the positioning of the brand in order to properly develop effective advertising, engaging design, and exciting events. For example, Red Bull understands that their core audience is typically young and involved in high-energy activities; thus they allocate their sports marketing funds to extreme sports such as surfing, motorbiking and flying and highlight these activities in their advertising to really connect with their consumers and differentiate from their competition. I highly doubt you’ll see the Red Bull logo on the Pro Bowlers Association sponsor roster any time soon nor will you see Red Bull’s primary competition leapfrog them in market performance.

Second is testing and measurement to drive decision-making about the use of marketing assets. This can be broken down into two types of measurement: testing of key performance indicators (KPI) and measuring financial performance, or return on investment (ROI). 

Regarding testing KPIs — let’s say you’ve just designed a few handsome e-mail templates to send out to your fan base. Everyone in your organization looked at a few of your designs, threw in their 2 cents, and chose design No. 1 to launch. Art had great influence in the decision, but where’s the science? Instead of using just a few insiders’ eyes to choose, you can use your fans’ eyes to select the best design. Most e-mail programs have A/B testing capability, where you can send multiple designs to different segments of customers, see which designs resonate more by comparing open rates, click-throughs, etc., and select the best template based on these KPIs. Testing has been historically applied in direct marketing, but isn’t used enough in the digital sports world, where it is much easier and cost-effective. This can be applied to Web sites, landing pages, microsites and most other digital assets. 

In today’s economy, ROI is a hot topic, and why not? Who wouldn’t want to know how much money you’ll make from sponsoring a property or holding an event and compare that to the cost of your initiative? Bank of America stated that for every sponsorship dollar they spend, they obtain $10 in revenue and $3 in earnings. With their huge stable of sponsorships, they’ve obviously put a lot of work into measurement, and rightfully so (after all, those TARP funds didn’t grow on trees). Though measuring ROI isn’t easy, any kind of financial measurement will help sell initiatives to upper management. 

I’m not downplaying the art of marketing, as it’s clearly very important; all I’m saying is that the science of marketing should be the driver of a lot of creative decisions. A thorough understanding of research, testing and measurement will help sports marketers become more effective in executing creative ideas.

Mike Chan
Washington, D.C.

The Importance of Consistency

You could be a smart QB with a rocket arm who throws for 4000 yards and 40 TDs over the course of a season, but if you alternate between games of 350 yards/3 TDs and 150 yards/0 TDs, you’re likely not taking your team to the Super Bowl.

A TV show can be entertaining and deliver great ratings in a season, but if the show can’t replicate that success season after season, it’s going to lose viewers and won’t be on the air for long.

You could be a great marketer and run a great campaign for your product and service but if you’re not continually communicating with your customers and delivering value, you’ll likely lose them to your competitors.

Being good or smart once or twice isn’t enough to win. You have to deliver at a high level, all the time. Consistency is really, really important.

I hope that my blog posts are somewhat interesting and provoke some thoughts, but if I posted more often than once a month, I might have more than 30 readers. I’ll try to be more consistent. 🙂

Get Your Preak On, Kegasus

Like a lot of people, I don’t give a crap about horse racing. But when the Preakness comes up with creative yet controversial ad campaigns like “Get Your Preak On” in 2010 and “Kegasus” this year, I’m paying attention. And when attendance grows from 77,850 in 2009, to 95,760 in 2010 (+23%, but partially because of beer was allowed on the infield again) to 107,398 this year (+12), this makes a marketer pretty happy.

The Sport of Kings is dying and the Preakness understands that. They identified the need to stop “doing what’s always been done” – catering to old people who wear funny hats and drink bourbon – and targeted a younger, more diverse crowd who chugs beer. They’ve caused an uproar among critics and horse racing purists, yet they’ve increased attendance and have become relevant once again. This is an amazing example of understanding the situation and being proactive to address it, even if it ruffles a few feathers. I can’t wait to see what the marketing folks at Pimlico come up with next year.

The Rise and Fall of Online Poker

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department shut down online poker in this country, accusing 11 people of  bank fraud and illegally operating online gambling sites. You can read about it in the Wall Street Journal Online here and check out the very official notice on PokerStars here and below. I have a bunch of money on PokerStars and dreams of a very independent, lucrative career in poker (ehh, kinda), so I am not pumped about this.

This got me thinking about two things:

  1. The ongoing argument is that poker is truly a game of skill, and not chance, so is poker really gambling? In the short term, luck is a huge factor, but I do believe in the long run, it is truly a game of skill.
  2. More importantly, how amazing has the impact of online poker been to the overall industry?

Major online poker sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and the defunct PartyPoker have transformed the poker world just like Amazon.com changed retailing – the internet has been a disruptive technology that forever altered the landscape. Just like Amazon gave shoppers access to millions of products and streamlined the purchase process, online poker gave millions of poker players instant access to each other, and thus access to a plethora of poker games at all times of the day. Trips to Las Vegas, Atlantic City or the local cardroom weren’t necessary anymore. No more playing (and crushing, if he’s reading this 🙂 ) my old roommate heads-up; I had access to full ring games with people from Europe and Asia in the middle of the night.

This easy access for poker players ultimately led to the Moneymaker effect, which sparked the growth of poker shows on TV networks such as ESPN, The Travel Channel, and NBC, and the transformation of poker nerds to celebrity status. This then proliferated a virtuous cycle where poker players saw the potential for riches and fame, jumped online or to the local casino to play, achieved success and TV air time, and became role models for other poker players, and so on and so forth, leading to the explosive growth of the poker industry.

Now a lot of that is all gone. And for what?

Will the poker industry be able to survive without its online component? And what if other brick-and-mortar industries were stripped of their online components? Could they survive?

Would you work for (or with) the enemy?

Fandom for a favorite sports team might be one of the strongest emotional bonds in the world. But is it strong enough to get in the way of a paycheck?  So my question for those working in the sports industry is, would you be able to work for or with your favorite team’s archrival?

What made me think about this? When watching SportsCenter earlier in the week, I saw an image of LeBron James, whose fandom for the Yankees is well-known (but in my mind, pretty dubious), wearing a Red Sox hat. I then learned that he reached a agreement with Fenway Sports Management to work with his LRMR firm to handle his marketing and sponsorship. Though LeBron called this a purely business decision, and may be a very good one, it still got me thinking about this “working for the enemy” concept.

I then thought back to the time when I was in business school, working hard in trying to break into the sports industry, and I interviewed for a summer internship with the Philadelphia Eagles (I’m a big Giants fan).  Though I got rejected for the internship (by who is now my current boss at the Caps, so it worked out) and never had to make the decision, I was seriously considering how my fandom for the Giants would affect this process. Kind of crazy.

I also thought back to the times when I was asked if I would ever take a job with the Boston Red Sox (I’m a big Yanks fan, so the job would have to be huge for me to take it).  I also thought about my Caps colleagues who are fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins and what they go through. 

Some rivalries are bigger than others, and some fans are bigger fans for a team than others, but I think it’s an interesting question to ask. Am I crazy to think that fandom for a sports team could get in the way of a paycheck? What are your thoughts?

My first blog post – kinda

Hey everyone! So this is kind of my first blog post.  I wrote one blog post a few years ago, but it was about absolutely nothing and I quit after that. I’m a different man with different interests now, and I think I am going to dedicate myself to blogging more than I did back then. Hopefully.

The main reason why I am starting this blog is because it’s a great outlet for self-expression. I work for the Washington Capitals, so my big boss is Ted Leonsis. If you didn’t know already, he wrote a book called The Business of Happiness (http://www.businessofhappinessbook.com/), and one of his tenets for being truly happy is having a method to express yourself.  For those of you who know me know that I have a lot to say, and this blog is going to be one of the channels I use to express myself. This blog will be similar to Ted’s and will be about a broad range of subjects. I consider Ted a role model and hope to be at least 1/10000 as successful as he is.

I think I am a man of many interesting interests and this blog is going to address them all. Here’s a little organized synopsis of myself:

Marketing, in sports and any industry

As I mentioned, I work for the Washington Capitals, and I am Director of Strategic Marketing there. I love my job, and in many ways, my job defines me. I like to think deeply about marketing, primarily in sports but across all industries, and am interested in CRM, social media, mobile marketing, advertising, sponsorship, research, and pretty much anything else that has to do with marketing. I also teach a course on Sports Digital Engagement at Georgetown University, which will fuel many of my thoughts on this topic. A lot of posts here will have to do with marketing and I hope we can get into some great discussions.

Sports in general

First and foremost I’m a sports fan.  This drove my journey into working in the sports industry. I am a big fan of the Yankees, Giants, Caps (not only because they pay me), and Georgia Tech. I also follow the NBA, tennis, action sports and poker (if you think that’s a sport), and a bunch of other sports I can’t think of right now. I hate the Boston Red Sox, by the way. The NCAA b-ball tourney is going on right now and I wish Gus Johnson called every game. He’s awesome. And I love fantasy sports, too. Except when my teams suck.

Poker

I like playing poker. I play online and wish I played live games with friends more. I make trips to Atlantic City and Vegas every now and then. I’ll eventually play in the World Series of Poker sometime during my life.

Food

Ask anyone – I am a great eater, in terms of volume and frequency. In my 3+ years in DC, I’ve eaten at more than 100 restaurants in the area. I’ve lived in NYC, San Francisco, Atlanta, spent some time in Phoenix, LA, and Boulder, CO, and have visited Chicago, Seattle, Philly, and a bunch of other cities, so  I’ve eaten at some great restaurants all over the country.  I like all food except for olives, for some strange reason. I’ll post some restaurant reviews here, and will probably start writing reviews on Yelp. Maybe. I’d love to hear more about your favorite restaurants.

I hope you enjoy my posts and that they provoke thoughts and dialogue.

On to the next one…