As most of us have heard in sports there are rumors of a pretty large contraction of affiliation in Minor League Baseball. There are talks that the smaller teams would be cut from MiLB’s affiliation and coverage.
The Arena Football League folded last week as well, ending what was a sport that I’ve watched since a teenager (RIP the San Jose Sabres).
There are many opinions here. A lot of sirens going off and many more doomsday ‘teams closing’ scenarios.
And this is probably true. Some teams will probably fold if this happens.
But when I look at this I see nothing but a huge opportunity for these teams, and maybe a blessing for many of them.
Let me start this off by stating that there is no diss to leagues. They do great work with teams and in the community. My main point here is that if you lose your league, it should not be the end of your team. I will go through a few ways you can fortify your brand it this happens
First leagues are mainly distribution & ops channels
Let’s take a step back and think about what a league does:
- They help with rules, refs, operations, schedules, and the organization of the games.
- They create economies of scale in marketing (push marketing for the league which includes your team.
- They negotiate league distribution deals that trickle down to teams (TV money).
- They allow teams to piggyback off the infrastructure and brand of the league.
This in the past was vital to a team’s survival. In the past, there were huge buy-ins and costs to reach a large number of people with your product (TV setup, negotiation with the networks, equipment, etc.).
Teams needed leagues to survive. Today this is not the case.
Today you can reach large distribution fast without a huge cost.
There has never been an easier time to reach fans with your team & product if you know how to.
Again a past barrier to entry was the infrastructure needed to reach millions of people. In the past, you needed a network, camera crew, and people to run it.
Today you can reach 1 million people with an iPad, tripod, and microphone.
I’ve written on this before but with the different platforms, you can reach an exponential amount of fans in a short amount of time with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok.
Today the team is empowered to build their fan base on their own.
A team we work with within minor league hockey has some posts on Tik Tok that have reached over 8000,000 views in a week.
We as teams can build a distribution network. Here are a few easy and cost-effective ways you can build this TODAY:
-Put videos on Tik Tok, this is your overall nationwide branding channel. Today with the reach you can reach 20K-1M views per post and 20K followers per week if you do it right.
-Stream every game on Facebook Live. This is your local reach & national. You can reach your built-in audience (FB followers) as well as a national audience. This is TODAY’S cable network for you. DO NOT TRY AND PAY GATE THE STREAM. Nothing kills reach worse than this. Give it for free and watch it drive ticketing & sponsorship revenue.
-Post on Facebook Watch & IGTV your weekly coaches’ show etc. During the week you can reach all your fans by hosting an FB watch and IGTV episode at a local sponsor’s location. Change it up each week but give real analysis and focus on the community.
The above on the lower level only takes an iPad, microphone, and about $100 in video editing software.
Overall you can build your own distribution network, taking the dependence off your league for that nationwide distribution.
With this ability to build our own distribution network…we can build our own brand and reach fans
The brand is so key in getting people to buy your merchandise, head to games, and sponsor our teams.
A great sales book by Jordan Belfort (ya the Wolf of Wall Street guy) puts selling anything into 3 buckets
People buy from people, companies, and products they trust.
Our job is to build a brand where the customer trusts all of these items.
By building our own distribution network we now control all of that. It is driven by our team nationally.
As a team, you unequivocally can build a brand that is more powerful than that of the league we are attached to, easily locally and it can be done nationally.
And to be honest, you should be. Any time you rely on one way to survive in business it is the sure way to fail in the future that is always changing. You should be setting your team up to survive any and all turmoil in your industry and market.
When we build this brand, the rest will follow
If we build this distribution network and have it build our brand the money will follow.
A million views on a Tik Tok video is massively valuable to sponsors…and you know own 100% of that value.
A Facebook Live stream watched by even 1,000 locals in your market is massively valuable to sponsors and getting fans to buy tickets…and you now own 100% of that value.
When we own these assets 100%, no convoluting, it is ours…we become self-sustaining in the value we grab.
When we are self-sustaining we have options. We aren’t held down by other organizations.
The most important part of building these distribution outlets is we now own 100% of the value they create. We now own 100% of how our game is broadcasted and the sponsors that come with it.
We now have full autonomy toward what we put out there.
If you own your distribution and brand, you can do so much more and the value is now 100% yours.
Overall, I’m not worried for teams…and if I had the cash I would buy the ones losing affiliation if their owners would sell.
Where most see a problem… I see a massive opportunity to thrive.
If I owned a team and lost the affiliation it would force me into building up my distribution network to survive…and that project excites me because it makes the team impermeable to turbulence.
We as teams should be building these distribution networks now. It will do nothing but grow our power and reach.
More importantly, it will make our team stronger for whatever happens.
As cynical as it might sound…I am excited to see the teams rise from this if it happens. I am excited to see them own their branding leverage with fans and push to new heights.
This new era gives us the power to be self-reliant with fewer gatekeepers more than at any time in the history of sports. Do not be the team that doesn’t take advantage.