Things fans will do with animals, YouTube and myspace

The fur has been flying all week long. On line wars, that is, going back and forth between Bears fans and Colts fans. But this bit of silliness really takes the cake:

The perpitrator is a guys named Ryan Hupfer, who works for Media Sauce here in Indianapolis.

Aside from being slightly bent, which he’s proud of by the way, he’s a bit of a Myspace guru. Ryan has journied cross country to meet (and make documentary video) of the people he is meeting through Myspace. He’s also got a book, “Myspace for Dummies.”

Ryan is a Colts fan, and while this video / voting campaign is very silly, I wonder if there is a method to his madness? While he (seemingly innocently) dances around the fringe of absurdity, Ryan is learning a lot about what people like. Notice that over 3,000 votes were cast in this contest in just the first few days.

For whatever reason, SOME people find this exercise in zaniness engaging. They’re playing along and Ryan is soaking in the clicks and the data. This experience could prove valuable as he looks to commercialize his endeavors. I hope he makes lots of money from the book and other things he’s doing…after all, he’s gonna have a big dry cleaning bill when that Colt gets done with that silly bear!

On a related note: There’s nothing like a Super Bowl between two teams with animal mascots to bring out the local creativity. This week I received a call from Endangered Species Chocolate, another Indy based company, who wanted to do a blue and white Colts themed bar for the Super Bowl. (Apparently, they said, that BEARS are an endangered species, so they need to raise money to help!

Each of these “campaigns”, while obviously trying to capitalize on the Colts run to the Super Bowl, are good examples of an important phenomenon which Don Tapscott (Wikinomics) describes as “prosuming”. Our customers (Colts fans) are “consuming” our product (i.e. they’re experiencing our games) AND they’re “producing” entertainment (er, promotion) based on our product. Combine consumer + produce and you get “prosume”.

Prosumers are very messy. They mess with your brand. They mess with your trademarks, and according to Tapscott, they can’t be stopped. Entire industries (e.g. music, movies, TV) are being reshaped by people who grab digital content, mix it up and post it back to the Web in new forms. It’s messy. It’s mostly illegal, but people love doing it.

So what do we do when people start messing with our brands for their own personal enjoyment? Do we call out the lawyers and run up legal bills (i.e. put our fingers in the dike)? Or do we embrace the creative stuff happening around the fringes and watch carefully to see where it leads? Perhaps our customers are telling us something. Perhaps there’s a way we can work WITH our customers / fans to evolve our brands and keep them relevant – and profitable – both despite and because of this new “mashup” phenomenon.

It’s very difficult the get the lawyers to see this stuff as “good”, but we are making strides. Our widget efforts and our social networking platform are steps in the right direction.

Zack is not an employee of the Colts, but he has become a great partner. He was doing these videos anyway, and he’s very sensitive to the fact that we cannot allow real game footage on our site, so he makes his videos “team friendly” and posts them to his Myspace / YouTube pages AND he shares them with us so we can post them on Colts . In the process he’s gained considerable media coverage for himself, and placed the team in a good light with the digerati. We’re not quite sure how close we can or should let our fans into our marketing mix, but Zack is allowing us (forcing us) to think pretty hard about the possibilities.

Next step, get bigger sponsors to see what these guerilla brands already see. Get, Coca Cola, for example, to integrate its brand into our Web platform in engaging ways. Mashup our brands to give Coke the opportunity to connect with Colts fans at the most basic levels. Do “prosumption” on purpose – and FOR PROFIT!

Challenging the & content is king & mindset

The world is flat, the earth is at the center of the universe…and CONTENT IS KING.

Or is it?

We humans have ways of drawing conclusions based on what we see with our eyes, only to be proven wrong when someone comes along with better observational tools.

Columbus saw things differently. He journied to the edge of the earth, but didn’t fall off because he was correct, the earth is a sphere, not flat as prevailing wisdom held.

Likewise, Galileo had a fresh perspective. He confirmed Coepernicus’ hypothesis and proved (thanks to his newly invented telescope) that the sun is at the center of our universe, not the earth as conventional wisdom maintained.

In both of these scenarios, the way people thought – the prevailing belief system – dictated the way most people behaved. Actions flow from beliefs. Believing the earth is flat and that it is at the center of the universe caused society to make many wrong decisions about the future. Correcting these false assumptions was very difficult, but ultimately lead to unparalleled advances in science and commerce alike.

Correcting our thinking becomes the turning point

A similar crossroads may be at hand today as the Internet forces us to rethink the media landscape. Thanks to newly visible data, we’re learning the real power of word of mouth, which always existed, but wasn’t quantifiable until now. We’re learning more and more about connectivity, one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many. As ideas flow faster and faster over the Internet, and as people are connecting with eachother, we are realizing the power of the individual and the power of community are much greater than we had come to believe.

Yet even as new data emerges, the big media companies and content creators are still spouting the same old axiom, “content is king.” This assumption is so widely accepted that few would question its veracity. This assumption is either correct, or it isn’t, and to some extent depends on how you look at it.

Check out the Wikinomics Blog for deep research on the Web’s shift from “presentation platform to community platform.” Given all the things that are changing around us, and the rise of social networks in particular, I think it’s time the NFL questioned it.

Content is king

Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.– Bill Gates essay, “Content is King,” Microsoft 1996.

Content is not king

Content has never been king, it is not king now, and is unlikely to ever be king. The Internet has done quite well without content, and can continue to flourish without it. Content will have a place on the Internet, possibly a substantial place. However, its place will likely be subordinate to that of business and personal communication. – From “Content is Not King,” by Andrew Odlyzko, Head of the Mathematics and Cryptography Research Departments at AT&T Labs. (First Monday, volume 6, number 2 (February 2001)).

Point – counter point

So who’s right?

It’s pretty tough to differ with Bill Gates, who is after all the richest man in the world. But hold up a second. His quote is from 10 years ago. A lot has changed since then. If you read the Gates essay you’ll note that at the time he wrote it he included software, Microsoft’s main product, as proprietary content, i.e. a thing to be packaged, delivered and consumed for a fee.

More recently, Microsoft has changed its tune significantly. While it still sells its software (in shrink wrapped boxes or as digital downloads) products to millions of people and businesses worldwide, it is showing signs of a shift in its thinking. Over the past few years, Microsoft has been opening up to open source and even plans to embrace the “free” spirit of the Internet by giving away Web based versions of some applications in an ad supported distribution scheme.

Microsoft’s changing business model might indicate a paradigm shift. Perhaps the software giant is rethinking its business in light of new data. If you read the “content is NOT king” essay, which itself is a few years old, you may start to see things differently too.

The main point I want to make today is that community, or more specifically COMMUNICATION is the driving force of the Internet and World Wide Web; and whereas old media companies see the Internet as little more than a distribution network for content (and therefore view content as king), the people who populate the Internet are voting with their feet. They say that communication and community are the things they value most. And they’re willing to pay.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of money in the content business, and I believe the NFL should continue to pursue content deals as it has in the past; but I think we should begin to make on-online community and communication into strategic priorities. Given the fast paced nature of the on-line world, the league should act immediately to build a social networking platorm that enables fans to communicate and form community around NFL content or whatever they like. If we don’t do this then somone else will.

Must we wait for a “Steve Jobs” to come along?

Sometimes we get so close to a problem that we cannot see it. When this happens, a third party, someone from outside our “industry” has the opportunity to come along and insert himself into the ecosystem. Steve Jobs is a great example. He saw how much trouble the music biz was having with people illegally downloading music, and he lead Apple to invent the iPod and iTunes to give companies and customers a channel for authorized transactions and a device to play it with.

In my opinion, we should pay attention to Steve Jobs and we should pay attention to guys like Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, who credits his companies success to a fresh belief system: they DON’T BELIEVE IN COMPETITION. Steve is all about the money, Jeff is all about his customers. We should borrow from both and seek to achieve achieve the best of both.

Meet the new king: community

The NFL (and other sports properties) face a similar challenges. How do we allow fans to take our content – and do with it what they will – and make money at the same time? Also, how do we make money from user generated content?

The long tail is bigger than the head.

The most valuable content we “create” is our TV product, live games; and while the value of the games is huge, I’m beginning to think there may be an even bigger opportunity beyond the game. Beyond the stadium. Beyond TV. Our next frontier is everything BUT the game. It’s the conversation ABOUT the game. It’s the lives of people who care about the game. It’s a lifestyle. NFL lifestyle. It’s the brand that more people want to feel closer to than any other. The Internet gives us the means to connect directly with our customers without a media middle man. We can join our customers in community. If we can create this community, we will tap a major vein. If we don’t, we will have missed a major opportunity.

All we have to do is change our minds

In order to succeed, we need to stop thinking like the NFL. We need to stop thinking like the major media powerhouse that we have become. We need to start acting like we care about fans and sponsors – caring about more than just their money – and start meeting their needs. We need to worry less about the content we create and more about the community we create.

Walled garden vs. open source – what’s NFL’s strategy?

If content is not king, then the “walled garden” strategy is not ALL right. It’s not All wrong, but it’s not ALL right. Forcing people to subscribe to a service to gain access to exclusive content can make money (e.g. DirecTV, season tickets); but I believe there’s even more money to be made in facilitating the conversation between fans.

If you think about it, the market for conversation and community is much bigger than the market for controlled content. Avid fans are the ones who buy the content, but avid fans make up just 30% of the total NFL an base. What are we going to sell to the other 70% of our fans?

Much as Jeff Bezos started Amazon with books and expanded to include EVERYTHING, I think the NFL has a chance to start with its live games and grow well beyond the sport itself. In order to do this, we need to see ourselves as more than a sport or an entertainment product. We need to see ourselves as a uniying force. As an emotional thread that connects people at home and at work, all day, every day.

Once we see ourselves as a lifestyle, we need to realize that we’re playing catchup in this arena. We need to realize that this new business is not like the old business. It is less about command and control and much more about chaos. We need to get hip to the facts of on-line life. We need to develop our “interactive imagination.”

So, since time is running short (it’s 6:45 am and my kids are starting to stir, and it’s about time for me to jump in the shower and get my rear to work), I’ll pose the following questions as starting points to our community and communication business:

What’s our myspace strategy? How will we compete / cooperate with large social networks?

When a community like Myspace has 80 million participants you have to pay attention. Do we try to compete? Do we partner? And what do we do with Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and the other behemoths?

1. What’s our on-line sponsorship strategy?

2. What’s our widget / add-on strategy?

3. What’s our “second life” strategy?

4. What’s our social news / bookmarking strategy?

5. What’s our photo sharing strategy?

6. What’s our video sharing strategy?

7. What’s our startpage strategy?

8. What’s our calendar / venue / event strategy

9. What’s our music strategy?

10. What’s our mobile strategy (

11. What’s our “niche” strategy?

12. What’s our “points” strategy?

I realize this may seem scatterbrained, but there’s a pony here somewhere

Notice I haven’t even mentioned the pure sports social nets. We should not be thinking like a vertical, or a niche. We should be thinking like a lifestyle. What is our promise?

Can we move fluidly enough to ride this wave? I seriously doubt it unless we put someone in charge of re-thinking our business model and giv him or her the freedom to pursue it.

Much as Columbus got sponsored by Queen Isabella, someone needs to get in a boat and sail to the edge of this content centric world in order to slay the dragaons who live there.

What business are we in?

Thats the age old question. Remember the horse and buggy salesmen? He missed the boat by not realizing he was in the transportation business. Could that be happening to us?

The NFL is most assuredly in the content busines today. I would assert that we should continue to develop that business, AND we should assign a person or a team to pursue the communication business as well. After all, the Internet is not an oligarchy. It’s pure democracy. We should organize ourselves around the laws of this new land.

What if every NFL team had a & social net & site?

There are niche social networking sites popping up everywhere. If you’re a dog lover, you can join Dogster. If you’re into saving money, you can join Deals. If you’re a football fanatic, you can join several sites out there trying to cater to the gigantic on-line universe of NFL fans. Before any one of these parasitic (sorry, opportunistic) sites gains critical mass, we believe the NFL ought to flex its muscle and get into the social networking game.

The NFL Internet Network is comprised of NFL, 32 franchise sites and a few other sites. These sites each attract significant traffic, and since they are linked together, they refer a lot of traffic back and forth as well. In fact, 40% of Colts referral traffic comes from NFL . Thanks to the NFL brand, the popularity of our teams and good URLs (like Colts), our fans know where to find us on-line. Less than 20% of our traffic comes from search engines.

While we’re working hard to be among the first in the league to offer a social networking site for our fans, we firmly believe that the Colts Social Networking site will have more value if other teams also have similar sites and if those sites are integrated in certain ways. With integration in mind we’re writing our code in such a way that other teams will be able to “copy and paste” and get their own social networks up and running relatively quickly. Eventually, we’d like to see the entire league (including NFL) running on the same social networking platform. It doesn’t have to be ours, but we’re making ours available just in case.

We’re confident that social networking will catch on partly because we already have traffic coming to our Website. We’re not building traffic from scratch. While the coming launch of My Colts Network has been the talk of the town around here lately, our current team Web site is the key to everything we’re trying to do. It aleady generates significant organic traffic (43% of all traffic to Colts comes directly from bookmarks or typing our address into address window), and it is this traffic that will give My Colts Network the chance to succeed. We’re not building on-line community from scratch, we’re adding social networking functionality to an existing critical mass of users.

All this being said, I was encouraged this morning when I read in Mashable the story of how Demand Media is approaching the social networking front.

Mashable – The short story is that DM has a radically different approach to this space than everyone else: rather than buying social startups, start off with domain names and content sites that already have significant amounts of traffic, then plug in social networking. You gotta give it to them: it’s a smart idea…

…social sites need a critical mass of users before they become useful: do people join MySpace because it’s the best social network, or because all their friends are on it already? What about YouTube, the video site that achieved critical mass through players on MySpace and blogs, among other factors? Facebook, too, built a user base around the top universities before those crucial network effects kicked in. With that in mind, what could be a better starting point than a domain that already attracts masses of traffic?

I’m getting pretty tired of talking about how great our social networking site is going to be. Ever since I opened my mouth in the media, it seems like our site development is going slower than ever. Still, we’re poised to launch the first version of My Colts Network before the end of the regular season, and have a whole slew of “snap on” applications planned for the days and weeks after Phase 1 launch. My hope is that other NFL teams will join us sooner rather than later.

If anyone out there is interested in discussing a broad, league-wide social networking strategy or “renting” our code, just drop me a line.

Do broadband Colts Fans have & personas

ClickZ recently reported on a research study which claims to reveal five unique personalities of broadband users. Ninety-percent of visitors to Colts use broadband connections, so let’s look into it…

Here are the top-level descriptions of the five groups (from Media Screen)

The content king looks to the Web for entertainment. .

Social clickers use the Internet as a means of communication.

The online insider consumes content across the broader Web. Eighty-six percent contribute to Internet content or information each month, including posting to blogs, community sites, and chat rooms.

Fast trackers typically use the Internet to seek out news and information. Content categories include news, sports, and weather. Fast trackers remain loyal to sources with frequent updates and real-time information.

The everyday pro is characterized by personal productivity and efficiency and looks to the Internet to fulfill those needs.

These handy little descriptors are examples of what designers call “personas”. Personas are fictitious characters that are created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic that might use a site or product. Personas are given characteristics and are assumed to be in particular environments based on known users’ requirements so that these elements can be taken into consideration when creating scenarios for conceptualizing a site.

In the context of software requirements gathering, a user persona is a representation of a real audience group. A persona description includes a user’s context, goals, pain points, and major questions that need answers. Personas are a common tool in Interaction Design (WikiPedia).

A book called “the Inmates are running the asylum,” by Alan Cooper, touched of a rise in popularity of this persona concept. I have not read this yet, but it looks like a good one.

Can we uncover the personas of Colts fans on-line?

I can’t draw any conclusions based on the brief thumbnail descriptions above, but I’m intrigued. I think the persona might hold some rich opportunity for us as we continue digging into the data.

Approximately 1 million people visit every month. Who are these people? What drives them? How are they different from other Colts fans who do not visit our Web site? Which of these fans are most likely to join My Colts Network and why?

These are just some of the questions that prompted me to craft the survey I’ve been writing about lately. Yet as I pour over the data I find myself wondering “what the heck does all this mean?” After all, I am not a trained researcher. I’m simply following my nose and asking questions that occur to me to ask. I feel like there must be some defining characteristics about our on-line fans that makes them not only distinct from other fans, but will reveal their potential value to the team as well as our sponsors.

I was reminded of the concept of personas recently and it occurred to me that this may be just what I’m looking for. If I can focus on finding the personas it will help us design our new site(s) with specific end users in mind. These personas might also inform our strategies for marketing to these fans in the future.

There are three main reasons why all this data matters (to me anyway).

First, the Website is already a key communications channel for teams and season ticket holders. Anything we can do to improve our service to our core customers is going to increase loyalty and hence profitability.

Second, the Website reaches a huge audience of avid fans, and these fans are most likely to buy team merchandise.

Third, these same avid fans are the best prospects for sponsors looking to leverage team affinity to sell goods and services. Many of our sponsors have already discovered that their best customers are “multi-channel”.

Multi-channel customers are most profitable

It has been widely reported that “multi-channel” customers are the most valuable to retailers.
A study in the United States by the National Retail Federation found that multichannel customers purchase more often and spend more than single-channel customers. Customers who visit a retailer’s Web site and then buy from a retail store spend 33 percent more than the retailer’s typical store customers.

I wonder if the same is true for sports fans?

Is there anything about fans who visit the Website frequently that sets them apart from “off-line” fans? And surely not all on-line fans are alike. There are probably various personas we could uncover which would help us understand what drives the on-line Colts (sports) fans. Are these people the centers of influence who determine which products their friends will buy?

I have already reached out to some friends in the research community to see if I can get some help. I would like to add some scientific discipline to this endeavor so that our results might carry more weight. If you know anyone who can help, please send them my way.

Who& lurking on your site?

Another phenomenon that’s caught my eye lately: a very small percentage of people who visit a web site or (or this blog) will actually post.

“Come on, Maverick, engage!”

You remember the scene in “Top Gun” where our hero, Tom Cruise, guilt ridden from the death of his side-kick, Goose, just couldn’t engage? Tom had emotional baggage which lead to fear of flying (and fighting). He lost his stinger there for a while, but eventually his Top Gun character returns and he saves the day.

But what about the rest of us? We won’t say much. Why are we like this?

We did a survey last season and asked our season ticket holders what they like to do before the games. A large percentage to out to eat, or tailgate; and many like to watch the players warm up, but by far the most popular thing to do before games is PEOPLE WATCH. Fans go to games to watch other fans in addition to watching players. That strikes me as oddly interesting. I can see living vicariously through the players, but I wonder why this fascination with watching other people?

Looking at the data on our current fan forum, it seems we’ve got the same thing happening here. Very few posters. Quite a few lurkers.


Not sure if you can actually read the numbers (I’m still learning about capturing screen shots and re-sizing) so I’ll help you out. I did some quick math to see what is the ratio of posts to page views and found in most cases, there are 95% more views that posts. Lots of people reading, very few people commenting.

I’m wondering, does this reflect society at large? Is this the best we can hope to do? Or will the MySpace generation, people who are growing up as content producers, be more willing to share?

On second thought, perhaps age has less to do with it than you might think. I’ve watched my wife go from “lurker” to “poster” recently. Amy chose to use cloth diapers instead of disposable for our fourth child. Come to find out there’s a huge and vibrant on-line community for moms who cloth diaper their kids (I know it sounds odd, but it’s there). For months, Amy would read and read and read, but never post. Then one day she did it. She posted. Then she did it again. Just the other day she told me she has recorded no fewer than 200 posts in one particular forum. (She has also bought over $500 worth of cloth diapers along the way). If this is any indication, then there is a way to get people who are hesitant to engage to not only post, but they will spend more money once they feel comfortable in the community.

Pew Internet Research reports that only 19% of the people on-line have ever created content for a website.

This number is growing fast, and I do believe that the younger generations coming up the ladder will indeed consume and participate in their media experiences much differently than I have so far. They’re playing fantasy football, their in Second Life, they’re building their own content pages, linking to friends, playing Madden NFL on their XBOX or whatever…they’re simply more accustomed to participating. Which leads me to wonder if we’ll ever reach a point where our main audience (young males 12-24) might someday realize that THEIR content is more important than OUR content. I mean, why watch the game when you can play your own? Why idolize a player when you can be one?

Maybe I’m crazy. But at the very least, I believe we need to find more ways to get people to engage so that we can better understand who they are and what makes them tick. Knowing more about our fans will help us keep them as customers (consumers of our content) and help us develop better opportunities for our sponsors. We need to engage with our fans (and they with us) so that we can represent their QUALITY as much their QUANTITY to our sponsors.
Currently, all I can tell a sponsor is the number of eyeballs viewing our screens.

But to do this, we need to enter the conversation ourselves. We have been just as guilty as any lurker in that we push out content but fail to offer ways for fans to engage with us. WE don’t participate in the conversation. Eventually, this will start costing us money. That’s why we’re starting our Fan Network. I can’t tell the value of our fans if the fan won’t engage.

So many of us go through life without engaging in the conversation.

Look at voter registration (and voter turnout), or other statistics like 97% of complaints go unregistered, or 85% of new business leads go unfulfilled. We humans simply won’t engage as much as we could engage. But that doesn’t mean we’re not listening or watching or paying attention.

It reminds me of an old joke: There was a 9-year-old kid who had gone his entire life without ever speaking. Everyone thought he was mute. Then one morning while sitting at the breakfast table, the kids blurts out “this oatmeal’s cold”. His father, feeling as if he’s witnessed a miracle, runs to him and says, “Son, you can speak! What happend? Why have you been quite for so long?” This this the kid replies: “Up until now, everything was fine.” (da dum dum).

Where will sports marketers go from here?

I recently asked readers of this blog for to name the top trends they see coming in sports marketing. Read the comments on this post to see what others are thinking…

It’s pretty tough to predict the future these days, especially with the rate of change we’re experiencing. But here goes.

What will be the top 3 trends in sports marketing over next 5 years?

I believe the strongest trends of tomorrow will arise around the solutions to today’s biggest problems. For marketers, these problems include:

1. Consumers are harder to find – as the media market stratifies into niches, it’s tough to find your audience and even tougher to get your prospect’s attention, get your message through and elicit action. In fact the mass media “push” style of advertising seems to be giving way to something new.

2. Consumers have the power – your customer has information at his / her fingertips. Word of mouth is the biggest driver of consumer opinion…traditional advertising methods (which have always been hard to measure) are losing their effectiveness (especially among younger audience) –

3. Consumers don’t trust you – Enron is the poster child for this issue, but it’s not alone. As consumers become better informed, they grow more skeptical, and less likely to buy what you’re selling if your brand isn’t authentic in their minds.

So those are some of the biggest challenges facing marketers today, how can we solve them? And what “trends” will emerge in sports marketing over the next 5 years?

1. Return to “sponsorship”

Sponsorship in its truest sense is a wonderful model. A company desires to engage with an audience, so it finds ways to add value to that audience’s life or experience. Often this means finding something that is important to that audience (some cause, like a sports team or event) and underwriting some aspect of that event in order to enhance the fan’s experience. The sponsor doesn’t push product at the fan. The sponsor earns favor with the fan by enhancing the fan experience. Once it has earned favor (trust), the sponsor’s offers are more likely to be heard, received and acted upon by the fans. In my opinion, avid fans are the most likely to appreciate the sponsor’s efforts and be lead to buy.

Keys for sponsorship success: target avids, add value, improve reputation, earn business

2. Beyond the stadium and TV

To truly engage with a fan base, sponsors today need to go beyond the stadium and beyond television. For example, only 280,000 fans attend Colts games in our stadium each year, yet 6 million Colts fans visited our Website last year. The stadium is not the ONLY place to find AVID fans. In fact, the Website is the place where you’ll find more avid fans, more often. And the Web is just the beginning. Sponsors need to consider mobile, E mail, IPTV and other new media channels in order to truly activate their programs and reach fans where they are.

Keys for sponsorship success: go digital, go national, personalize the fan experience

3. Recognize the ecosystem and put the fan first

Sponsorships are a form of partnership. In the past, these partnerships have typically included only the sponsor and the team. Now these partnerships must also include the fan. Whatever program gets produced, sponsors and teams need to put the fan experience first. Improve the fan experience, and the fan will buy more tickets and the fan will buy more product.

Key for sponsorship success: focus on fan’s ROE (return on experience)

As you can see, I believe the consumer is the key, not the marketer. I feel like the only “problems” that should matter to marketers are those which effect customers or prospects. If we’re not solving problems for people, and if we’re not offering products and services that make improve their lives, then we shouldn’t expect our marketing efforts to succeed.

What does success look like for mycolts?

What does success look like?

I get asked this question a lot. My boss wants to know. Sponsors want to know. Heck I WANT TO KNOW!

But by what measuring stick should we evaluate our success?

By the number of people who register into the system?
By the number of return visits?
By the number of ‘clicks’?

Or is there some other, deeper value to our online community?

Traffic figures are what media buyers and sponsors are looking to buy. We HAVE to have traffic.

But there’s something bigger going on here. Something quite special.

When you look at this site you see what fans are made of. You read stories about how they became fans…how they experience the Colts, and you see their families and their pets and their friends. You get a little window into their lives. Sure, some of the stuff you see is off the wall and even a little sophomoric. But many folks in our community are doing what I hoped they would do. They are CONNECTING with other people and forming new friendships.

It is these friendships that makes the Colts experience more fun. It is these friendships that will cause more and more folks to become connected and make Colts games into rituals, habits that will be hard to break. It’s these friendships that make Sundays the best day of the week. It is these friendships that will help them in other areas of life as well and on other days of the week.

It’s all about community. That’s where the value is for the FANS.

Colts widget goes live

You should be able to “grab” this widget and send it right to your personal profile page inside most social networking systems. Myspace is the one big exception. If you’re using Myspace, you’ll need to copy the code (near the bottome of the widget) and paste it in by hand.

This widget features action photos of Colts players. We’re sending through XML feed the 8 most recent photos from, and we’ve programmed it so that it will scrol through a slide show shwoing a mixture of different players.

We’re also sending through XML our top news headlines and our most recent video additions. All the links on this site drive traffic back to Aside from giving fans a cool thing to stick on their social network pages, driving traffic to is our main goal.

Please note, Myspace does not automatically allow links to send traffic away from its pages, but we’re working to fix that right now.

We’re also promoting our Super Bowl tickets contest through this widget.

I explained the Colts “widget” strategy in a previous post. You’ll remember we’re working with Clearspring Technologies on this beta project. Clearspring has a widget syndication system that will allow us to get our widget posted into widget galleries, and track where our widget goes on the Web. If it gets grabbed, posted or forwarded to a friend, we’ll know about it.

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Slide and RockYou have been the most talked-about widgets this year, with gaining a little more traction with the MySpace set. Both are impressive products which give users the freedom to express themselves. Even the launch of MySpace’s own service, MySpace slideshows, didn’t put a dent in the popularity of these two slideshow tools. Zingfu, another one of our favorites this year, has also achieved success by allowing users to create funny images of themselves and their friends. Meanwhile, we think Stickam’s live webcams are a killer idea, and the service will be a big success. We’re also hopeful that MyBlogLog, a service that helps communities to form around blogs, will successfully expand to the mainstream in 2007 – they added support for MySpace only a few weeks ago, and we think that could be crucial.

The popular vote, meanwhile, went to Zwinky. The avatar service has a huge, dedicated user base consisting largely of teens. In our original review, we said that Zwinky “will probably be a massive viral success despite a lack of interest from the geek elite”. We stand by that claim going into 2007.


Great leaders make great bloggers

Tony Dungy set to blog inside MyColts

The highlight of my week last week was a meeting with Tony Dungy. It’s always nice to spend time with him, but this meeting was particularly sweet because he agreed to write a blog this season inside our social network.

I have had several meetings with Tony over the past several months, hoping to persuade him to jump in and join us. I’ve been showing him what we’re building and offering him reasons why he might like to blog (i.e. our fans will love it AND it will be a great platform for him to use to communicate with the world). He finally agreed. It’s gonna be great.

Just yesterday I was reminded (in Church of all places) of just how impactful Tony Dungy IS and therefore how cool his blog might be. My pastor was preaching about loving one another, and reminding the congregation what it says in 1 John 4. To sum up his message, he read a brief story from Sports Illustrated. The story was about Tony.

Tony Dungy is an ALL PRO Dad

The story is written by SI writer, Rick Reilly, and recounts how Tony Dungy, after reading in SI about a father who had lost a son, contacted that father. And not only did he contact the grieving dad, he got to know him. Over the course of months he built a friendship with the man, and even invited him to the Super Bowl so the two could meet.

The whole story is here if you want to read it.

Anyway, my pastor brought up this story as an illustration. He wanted to show us all what loving eachother really looks like. It’s a simple thought, but much harder in practice. But how cool that our football coach is the kind of guy people point to as an example of loving behavior! And it illustrates perfectly why I was hoping Tony would blog. He sets an example in word and in deed for many of us to follow – and his blog will be (I hope) a little window into his world that will allow us to see him in action (off the field).

And happily, Tony isn’t the only Colts leader who is setting a good example…

Random acts of kindness – Jim Irsay reads his mail

On Saturday night I was out to dinner with some friends and I met a guy who told me a great Jim Irsay story. He told me that during the Super Bowl run, his 5-year-old daughter expressed several times that she wanted to meet Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning. One day, he sat down and helped her write letters to both men.

Then one day his cell phone rang…and it was Jim Irsay. Jim had read the letter, picked up the phone and called. The man told me how Jim talked to him like they were old friends. How Jim talked to his daughter for several minutes. And how Jim invited the father and the daughter to come visit and meet the owner and the QB and whoever else she wanted to meet.


Drive by philanthropist.

This is just like Jim Irsay. Nobody would ever know it, but he’s always reaching out to people in need. He never seeks credit for this stuff, in fact he never mentions it. Sometimes he reaches out and writes big checks for people in need. Sometimes he reaches out to call people who have written letters to him. Either way, this is how he operates. He realizes that he has a responsibility to use the position he has been given to help others. And when he sees someone in need and feels his heart moved, he takes action.

I’m proud to be associated with these men. Now if only I could get JIM to blog!! Now that would be cool. Watch out, Mark Cuban, there’s a new owner in town! Maybe. Someday.

Post Script

After church on Sunday a woman came up to me and said, “you have something to do with the Colts, right?” And I said “yes”. She went on to explain that her best friend’s child was dying of some incurable disease, and his last wish was to meet some Colts players. She wanted to know if I could help her get connected.

I told her I was happy to help and would bring her message wherever it needed to go inside the organization. But I also told her that she didn’t need me. All she really needed to do was write a letter directly to the coach or the owner or (hopefully) the player she wanted to meet, and they would reply. In fact, they might even reply faster just because they care about people.

As I prepare to face this new work week, I pray that I remain as generous with my time and attention and gifts and resources as Tony and Jim are with theirs.

We got our rings. This is so cool! | Sports Marketing 2.0

Posted on Thursday 14 June 2007
Last night the Colts held a gala bash to celebrate the Super Bowl victory and award the Super Bowl rings.

Jim Irsay and Tony Dungy stole the show

Yesterday was not just a big day for the franchise, it was also Jim Irsay’s birthday. This photo shows Tony Dungy presenting a gift to Jim. The gift is a photo of our entire staff forming a giant horseshoe. We took this photo last week out on our practice field.

It is so fitting that we took time to honor Jim on this night. He has shown incredible faith and perseverance over the past 30 some odd years, and has guided the franchise to the top of the league. He is also the most generous man I’ve ever met. I can’t say enough…but I can say this, THANKS FOR THE RING, JIM. I’M HONORED!

Before we got our rings, we were entertained by Sinbad.

I had to mention Sinbad for a couple of reasons. First of all, he was flat out hilarious. He started out talking about how he remembers Tony Dungy from his prep days in Michigan, where both men grew up. He was ALL OVER our coach for wearing a big afro, and tight 1970’s shorts, etc. Very funny.

I was OK when Sinbad’s focus was on the coach, but then something surprising happened. He turned his attention to my table. First, he went looking for women in the audience who might have something they wanted to fix about their husbands. So he looks at my wife, Amy, and says, “you look like you’ve got something to say…” And when she says that I’m a good husband, he rips into me for being trained / whipped, etc. I can’t describe all that he said, but it felt like he was focuesed on me for about 5 solid minutes (even though it was likely only about 1).

Later in the show he starts picking on another young woman at our table. He wants to talk about her job. She happens to be a Web coordinator (she works for me) and she also happens to be my niiece. So when she can’t explain to Sinbad’s satisfaction what a Web coordinator does, Sinbad asks, “whos’s your boss?” Of course, she points to me…and now he’s back on my case again, asking “what do YOU do?”

Anyway, I got roasted. And what I didn’t know was that the cameras were on me much of that time so every one of the 400 people in the room were zoomed in on my embarassed face as I was getting the business. Afterward, I happened to run into Jim Irsay, Bill Polian, Chris Polian and several others and the first thing they said to me – even before “congratulations” was, “…man, Sinbad was ALL OVER YOU. You really took one for the team!”

It was all in good fun, and after the comedy, we experienced a dramatic ring presentation ceremony and got to see and wear our rings for the first time. There was a ton of buildup around this event here in Indy. It’s amazing to me how interested everyone seems to be in the rings. Lots of people have asked me, “are you getting a ring? did you get the ring yet?” and other similar questions.

Oh, I almost forgot. Before the rings were presented, a 50 voice gospel choir came dancing in and began singing praise to God. This was TOTALLY fitting! Just at the moment we are all handed our expensive hardware, and just as people might be thinking about how talented or accomplished they are, this song reminded (me anyway) that all good and perfect things come from God. He gives us the talent to do our jobs, and I’m so glad He did not get taken for granted at this moment. I needed that reminder and it was sweet.

The coolest thing, I think, was to watch the players. They were giddy. You could see that this was a huge deal for them, and why not? This is the kind of thing that they’ll never forget. When they’re old and bent from years of football, they can wear these rings and tell stories of the Super Bowl to their grandkids, or to the media or whatever. They’re a the top of their sport. It’s a pretty cool place to be…and I’m just happy to be along for the ride and to be part of an organization that is lead by an owner who cares enough to include EVERYONE in the celebration.