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 Colts.com, 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 colts.com. Aside from giving fans a cool thing to stick on their social network pages, driving traffic to colts.com 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.

View Nominees

Slide and RockYou have been the most talked-about widgets this year, with Slide.com 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.