Friday, August 31, 2007

Another one bites the dust

Dr. Mary Lou Sheffer at Texas Tech passed along this story about another local television station dropping sports from its newscast. Interesting to note the very hard core opinions of the news director, who basically said the local sports segment is worthless because no one wants to watch it.

To me, this sounds like an overreaction to either a) industry research b) ratings c) consultants or more likely d) a combination of all three. We're constantly being told that local sports is dead (at least in the newscast) because there's not enough people watching. But how come any time there's a really big local sports event it's always the lead story, not just in the sports segment but in the entire newscast? I just watched some of the Little League World Series and I guarantee you that was the lead story in every newscast for at least a week in places like Lubbock, Texas and Warner-Robbins, Georgia.

We know there's interest out there ... it's simply a matter of finding a way to make sports more interesting to the local audience. By running up the white flag and cutting the sports segment news directors are saying they don't want to put in the time and effort to make the segment more relevant. It's the lazy way out and gives sports a bad rap it doesn't deserve.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

CFP: Summit on Communication & Sport

The following is from Andy Billings regarding next year's Summit on Communication and Sport. Please note the deadline for submissions is fast approaching:

Call for Papers
Third Summit on Communication & Sport
February 28-March 1, 2008
The Madren Center at Clemson University
Clemson, SC

Building on the first two Summits on Communication and Sport held at the Arizona State University-West, this summit will bring together scholars who study sport through a communicative lens, examining the ways in which communication shapes academic and societal understandings and experiences of sport. Additionally, the summit will provide an opportunity for scholars conducting research on communication and sport to come together to share their scholarship and ideas, providing an opportunity for participants to further refine future directions and possibilities for the study of sport and communication.

The Summit will feature two outstanding keynote speakers: Dr. Jennings Bryant, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research, University of Alabama and Dr. Margaret Carlisle Duncan, Professor of Health Science, Past President of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The event will be held at the Madren Conference Center at Clemson University. More information on the facilities can be found at The Madren Center is connected to the James F. Martin Inn, with a negotiated Summit rate of $89 per night if booked before January 1, 2008.

In addition, some of the best research submitted and presented at the Summit will be published in a special issue of Journal of Communication Studies. Papers will undergo blind peer review, with approximately 4-5 articles being selected for publication. All communication scholars currently exploring communication and sport are encouraged to submit one of the following:

1.) Abstracts (200-500 words) to be considered for presentation at the Summit.
2.) Full-length manuscripts (8,000-10,000 words, APA style) to be considered for both the Summit and the
special issue of Journal of Communication Studies.
3.) Full-length manuscripts (7,000-10,000 words, APA format) to be considered for only Summit

Submissions should be emailed to no later than October 1, 2007. Please indicate if you would like your piece to be considered for publication in the special issue of Journal of Communication Studies. Presenters will be notified of presentation acceptance via email by November 15, 2007. Space will also be allotted for non-presenting attendees. Conference fees will be $70 for faculty and $30 for students (checks payable to the Clemson University Foundation with a memo listing this is for a Communication Studies function).

Any inquiries regarding the event can be directed to Dr. Andy Billings, Dept. of Communication Studies, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 29634; phone: 864.656.1477; fax: 864.656.0599.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Help needed

Ric Jensen is trying to get information about Sports Media courses that are offered online by universities across the US.

If you know of any courses in Sports PR, Sports Marketing, Sports Journalism, Sports Broadcasting, Sports Promotion, how Sport is Presented in the Mass Media, etc., please drop a note to the list.

It would be Great to assemble a database of which Sports Media courses are offered via Blackboard, WebCT and other distance learning technologies.

Please respond to the blog or to Ric at

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Has Red Bull Crossed the Line?

Ric Jensen of Texas A&M gave us an advance look at some research he's doing on sports branding and marketing, and we're happy to share. If you would like to send some research work for inclusion in the blog please send it to me at

Has Red Bull Crossed the Line in Branding Professional Soccer Teams?

Almost everyone you look in the USA, the influence of corporate marketing seems to be spreading as rapidly and out-of-control as that patch of crabgrass in my back yard. Only a few years ago, we began to see collegiate uniforms adorned by the logo of sports apparel companies. It’s a rare occasion when you don’t see a college or professional sports facility named after a corporation or donor. Many sports events are now sponsored by corporate interests (i.e., the Rose Bowl Presented by AT&T or virtually every event on the Professional Golfers of America tour). This year, Major League Soccer teams began the European tradition of featuring a corporate sponsor in very large letters on their jerseys (i.e., Real Salt Lake and Xanga Juice) while the team’s insignia is barely visible. Even at Texas A&M University’s hallowed Kyle Field, where spectators are instructed to show reverence for the venue by not walking on the turf before or after football games, fans are exposed to a blitzkrieg of ads on message boards that circle the stadium.

However, I contend that corporate marketing of sports crossed a very important line in 2005 when the Red Bull corporation purchased a controlling interest in soccer teams in Austria and New York and then named the teams after their caffeine-laced energy drink. Hence, sports fans in Austria now watch Red Bull Salzburg, while Major League Soccer fans on the East coast can follow Red Bull New York. The difference in what Red Bull has done, compared to historical traditions in sports, is that they have named the sports team after a commercial product when heretofore this has thought by many fans to be taboo.

The key questions then become:
1) how are sports reporters and sports fans in the USA and Europe reacting to this development?
2) If professional soccer teams allow this to occur, might this concept become more widespread?
3] What public relations lessons can be learned from this case study?

To investigate these issues, I developed a content analysis of academic sports marketing and soccer literature as well as reports in the mass media in the USA and Austria. This study does not include primary research data. The goal was to identify and compare the reaction to Red Bull’s takeovers in both nations. Although traditional sports fans in the USA probably don’t want to admit it, there is a history of naming teams after corporations. Examples include the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Pistons, and the Coors Light Silver Bullets. However, today’s sports fans and major league sports organizations seem to at least a little hesitant to embrace this notion as an acceptable fad. After all, the National Basketball Association refused to allow the relocated Memphis team to be called The Express (after Federal Express).

In 2005, Red Bull purchased the financially struggling SV Salzburg soccer team. SV Salzburg was formed in 1933 and has a rich history which includes a runner-up finish in the 1994 UEFA Cup. Its fans cherished the team’s violet and white color scheme. When Red Bull took over, one of their first actions was to rename the team and outfit them in the colors of the energy drink (red, yellow, and blue). In addition, Red Bull refused to acknowledge when the club was founded (1933); instead asserting that team began 72 years later. Traditional SV Salzburg fans protested loudly and often. Their opposition resulted in the formation of a group opposed to Red Bull’s takeover (translated in English as “The Campaign for Violet and White”). SV Salzburg supporters who came wearing purple and white to watch Red Bull Salzburg home matches were harassed and, in one case, assaulted with beer bottles. In the end, a new football club been created in Salzburg that wears the violet and white colors.

Red Bull founder Dieter Mateschitz compared that protests about the new team name and logo were “kindergarten stuff” and said, “The Red Bull cannot be violet or else we couldn’t call it Red Bull. Whether you play in purple, blue or green is irrelevant; The only thing that matters is the team being successful” (Joyce, 2003).

In March 2006, Red Bull purchased New York’s MLS franchise from The Anschutz Entertainment Group. The team had originally been known as the New York/ New Jersey MetroStars (ironically, it was named after another corporation, The MetroMedia Entertainment Group). That name was changed to simply “the MetroStars” in 1997.

Unlike the Austria scenario, there simply has not been much of a continuing passion for professional soccer in New York (even though the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League were popular during the 1970s). This time, Red Bull became embroiled in controversy for another reason—removing New Jersey from the team name. The City of Harrison, New Jersey, is now building a new publicly-funded stadium for MLS in the Garden State, but the choice of the new team name is New York Red Bull. This perceived slight incensed New Jersey politicians and local leaders who referred to the move as “A lack of respect for the State of New Jersey” (Bell, 2006). Team spokesman Patrice Redden defended the action, saying that “In the tradition of the New York Jets and the New York Giants and even the New York Cosmos, we believe that the metropolitan New York area is truly one of the most influential markets in the entire world and the New York affiliation is an excellent representation of this international culture” (Ziegler, 2006).

In sum, the key point is that Red Bull offended stakeholders (fans, politicians, and decision-makers) in both Europe and the USA by not being aware of and/or sensitive to specific issues that people care deeply about.

In Austria, Red Bull was seen as perhaps destroying the traditions of a long-standing soccer club and trying to erase its institutional history. Perhaps, in contrast, the corporation could have kept the original team and colors while incorporating the Red Bull in the logo. Certainly, they could have promoted SV Salzburg by purchasing advertising sponsored by the energy drink.

In New York, the problem was distinctly different. Here you had a variety of New Jersey residents who have suffered through several attempts to not include the name of the state in the name of professional teams who play their games there (i.e., think of the long history of the official name and logos of the National Football League Giants, who play at Meadowlands Stadium, New Jersey). To further increase the insult, imagine the rage that politicians and taxpayers in New Jersey must feel when a new stadium they are paying for will feature home games for a team that refuses to include the name of the state in its name. I get the sense that naming the team the New Jersey Red Bulls may have been more acceptable to fans in the region. From a public relations standpoint, it would behoove Red Bull to try to build positive relations with fans and stakeholders in New Jersey, maybe even going so far as to consider comprise solutions that somehow incorporate the heritage and history of New Jersey into the team’s marketing efforts and day-to-day programs.

So we return to the question posed at the beginning of this piece—Is the practice of Red Bull naming a team after its own product going to set a precedent that other sports teams in the USA might follow?

I contend that MLS is accepting this naming arrangement in large part because pro soccer in the USA still has a minor league stigma. In a similar vein, adorning MLS jerseys with a huge banner for HerbaLife is OK because the sport is not taken so seriously. Therefore, one might suggest that other minor league sports (i.e., Arena Football, the NBA Developmental League, minor league baseball) might follow the Red Bull’s lead.

However, those team sports in the USA that are really considered as big league (i.e., the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League) may come around to adopting this practice much more slowly. They simply have built up reputations and history that are too rich and valuable to consider changing by this type of action.

I think that Tony Miguel, a former public relations specialist for the MetroStars, summed it up best when he said (quoted in Spangler, 2006): “Imagine the outcry that would occur if the New York Yankees became the New York GEICOs.”

Ric Jensen, Ph.D.
Adjunct Lecturer
Sports Management Program, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bloggers also take notice ...

You should be aware of another sports media blog. Marie Hardin of Penn State is the Associate Director for the Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. She also writes for a blog called Sports, Media and Society, which emcompasses many things, but focuses a lot on gender issues in sports.

Marie's research interests are in gender differences in sports, and she has been a contributor and reviewer for JSM. Check out her blog, but don't forget to come back to this one!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New resource for sports professors

Michael Wallace, who covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald, has created a service to help better connect sports professionals with college students and professors. I highly recommend you visit his website and see what he can offer students interested in a sports media career. Michael worked here in Oxford for a few years covering Ole Miss for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and he visited my classes on several occasions. He is wonderful to work with and someone dedicated to teaching college students about sports journalism. I've included his release statement below--
I'm Michael Wallace, a reporter with the Miami Herald. As you're aware, journalism continues to be a rewarding and growing field, as evidenced by the increasing number of Mass Communication and Mass Media programs sprouting up and expanding at colleges throughout the country.

After nearly a decade in the field, I recently reached one of my career goals when I was hired to cover the Miami Heat and the NBA for the Herald, culminating a journey that began when I was a curious reporter for the campus newspaper at Grambling State.

Along the way, we have taken great pleasure in reaching out and sharing experiences in the field with students who have an interest in mass communication, journalism, English or professional writing. Please accept this invitation to visit our web site at, and as you consider bringing guest lecturers or industry professionals to campus, don't hesitate to contact us. We offer tools to help guide, captivate and inspire your students, and are currently scheduling campus visits for the 2007-08 academic year.

Thanks and God Bless,
Michael Wallace

Monday, August 13, 2007

A New Sports Business Text for Journalism Students

Yes, call this an advertisement or self-promotion. If anyone is teaching sports journalism, he or she may want to consider my text -- the only one to my knowledge that directly covers business issues in sports. Called "The Business of Sports -- A Primer for Journalists" (Erlbaum, 2006), it provides budding journalists with a foundation for understanding the various segments of the sports business. The text covers the structure of professional sports, amateur sports, the Olympic movement and collegiate sports. It also discusses contracts, labor agreements, franchising, stadium construction and economics, agents, drug testing, risk management, intellectual property and media issues.

The idea for the book germinated about four years ago, based on the need to educate students on writing about such a multifaceted area. A reporter must have a working knowledge about business models, labor relations, facility management and economics, liability and intellectual property and new media, to name a few. However, I found that all too many students (and even some working journalists) do not have the foundation to cover complex stories involving some of these issues. I think the book gives students a blueprint for writing about the sports business.

If anyone has questions, please send a comment and I would be happy to respond. To view a link to the book, check out:

Help needed

John Spinda at Kent State needs help finding some sports media information. Here's his request and contact information; if you can assist contact him directly or post the information here--

I am having some difficultly locating figures and percentages of sports fans nationally. I have found some market research that has suggested about 90% of Americans consider themselves "fans" of sports, but it is really vague and outdated. Is there some publication or outlet that regularly publishes this kind of data (yearly, etc.). Or is there any ideas about where I'd find this data. Basically, I am looking for some up-to-date, reliable figures on the popularity of professional and/or college sports in our society to help make some arguments in my dissertation.

John Spinda Doctoral Candidate & Graduate Assistant
School of Communication Studies
D207 Music & Speech Center
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242
Email: jspinda@KENT.EDU
(330) 672-0284 (on-campus)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jockocracy ethics

The late, great Howard Cosell constantly railed against the "jockocracy" of the sports media--the fact that networks often hired former players as announcers, even when the players had little or no media training. In the celebrity culture of the 21st century the jockocracy is alive and well, and thanks to technology the athletes-turned-media stars have even more platforms on which to appear.

This isn't necessarily a rant against former athletes in the broadcast booth. Many of them, including Troy Aikman, Ron Jaworski and Joe Theismann, have become outstanding sports broadcasters. John Davidson was one of the greatest hockey analysts of all time before he took a front office job in St. Louis.

The bigger issue here is one of ethics. Athletes and former athletes see themselves as members of an exclusive and elite club. One of the club's basic rules is to protect other club members. Consider Deion Sanders' newspaper column defending Michael Vick. Without a doubt, Vick is guilty until proven innocent, but is Sanders speaking as an impartial media member or an NFL insider and club member? In a similar way,
ESPNs Joe Morgan's relatively light treatment of Barry Bonds has drawn some harsh criticism from some non-club members, especially the New York Post's Phil Mushnick.

The other club rule is to delegitimize those not in the club. Bob Costas of HBO and NBC has the reputation as one of the fairiest and most insightful sports broadcasters on his generation. But when he mildly suggested that Bonds's record performance merited closer scrutiny, Bonds responded by calling Costas "a little midget man who absolutely knows [nothing] about baseball, who never played the game before."

The jockocracy lives and the club still has its rules. But it's also good to know there are professional sports media people like Costas who, in the words of Cosell, can still "tell it like it is." By the way, Costas had a wonderful reply to Bonds's criticism--"As anyone can plainly see I'm 5-6 ½ and a strapping 150. And unlike some people, I came by all of it naturally."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bonds away!

Have you ever seen an entire sports network held hostage by a single player? We're seeing it now with ESPN's coverage of the Barry Bonds home run chase. Taking no chances on missing the historic homer, ESPN has decided to air every Giants game until Bonds breaks the record. It paid off somewhat Saturday night when Bonds homered in the first inning to tie Aaron's record of 755.

But there's a major downside. When Bonds isn't hitting home runs (which is just about every at bat given his recent performance) there's absolutely nothing of interest to watch. The Giants are dreadful this year and ESPN runs the risk of alienating a big chunk of viewers by force feeding them boring baseball. Not to mention the fact that the constant overexposure of Bonds has caused most fans outside of San Francisco to wish the whole thing would just go away.

Given that ESPN has a multitude of platforms it would seem to make more sense to air programming that people actually want to watch and cut in across the networks with live coverage every time Bonds comes to bat. Or does that make too much sense?