A few weeks ago, Tim Crow and I found ourselves sat in the back of a car on a stationary motorway for five hours. A lot of filling time by anyone’s standards, but we turned to one debate which actually not only filled the five hours, but is still going - what is the greatest modern sports marketing innovation?
This is not about the biggest financial deals but decisions made off the field that were genuine game changers in the wider sports marketplace. We brought the debate back to Synergy and found the more we’ve all discussed it, the more we’ve argued and the more we’ve argued, the more we’ve enjoyed it. So we thought it was only fair to open the debate up.
The format is simple:
a) We’ve listed below our initial thoughts – once you’ve read them, let us know if you think we’ve made any glaring omissions or if you disagree with any of our choices in the comments section.
b) In December we’ll then publish the full list including your suggestions, with a voting mechanic alongside giving you the chance to vote for what you think is the greatest modern sports marketing innovation.
c) The vote will determine the Top Ten, which we’ll announce in January.
It wouldn’t be a real debate without some house rules though, so here they are – short and simple:
1. It must have been a genuine game-changer
2. It must have impacted primarily on the marketing and financial side rather than on the field of play
3. We’re talking global impact
4. Keep it within the last 50 years
OK? So, here are our thought starters, in chronological order:
1960 – a promising American golfer called Arnold Palmer shook hands over a representation deal with his friend and Yale law grad, Mark McCormack. This handshake was the start of IMG and birth of modern sports marketing.
1968 – After the NFL and AFL merged in 1966 the first two championship games between the two winners were called, snappily, the NFL-AFL World Championship. KC Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt then came up with the term Super Bowl for the game after seeing his grandson playing with a Super Ball, (a densely elasticated ball) and a global phenomenon was born.
1976 – already prevalent abroad, Kettering Town became the first British football club to have a sponsor on its shirt – the deal may only have lasted four games but it changed the rules in the UK. The forward thinking brand? Kettering Tyres.
1978 – Horst Dassler and Patrick Nally created a sponsorship model for world events starting with The FIFA World Cup that other rights holders have followed ever since.
1978 – Bernie Ecclestone became chief executive of the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) which culminated in Ecclestone securing the right for FOCA to negotiate television contracts turning F1 into the global financial phenomenon it is today.
1979 – Jack Nicklaus argues successfully for the inclusion of European (rather than just British) players in the Ryder Cup, transforming a struggling, one-sided tournament into what is today probably the most significant global event in golf.
1981 – the first major PPV boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns was screened by Viacom Cablevision, the event sold over 50% of its subscribers for the fight and a new form of sports viewing was born.
1984 – Nike, a struggling sports shoe company, signed rookie Michael Jordan and created the first shoe named after a player – The Air Jordan.
1985 – Horst Dassler, Juergen Lenz and Michael Payne (pictured) create the TOP (The Olympic Partners) concept – the building block of the most lucrative sponsorship format in the world.
1992 – The English First Division clubs resigned en-masse from the Football League and formed the Premier League (with the considerable help of Sky TV) which is now the most watched and most lucrative football league in the world with the format copied across the globe.
1995 – The first ever Extreme Games (later changed to X Games) was held with the backing of ESPN – it catapulted fringe sports into the mainstream, bringing with it vast corporate investment.
2003 – The ECB introduced the world to Twenty20 Cricket via the Twenty20 Cup between counties, the mould breaking game has gone on to be adopted across the globe with IPL changing the financial face of the sport.
Now it’s over to you - let us know what you think (good, bad and ugly) and we hope you enjoy the debate as much as we have.
By Dominic Curran on November 5th, 2010
Tags: American football, Barclays Premier League, Brand marketing, ECB, Football Sponsorship, Formula 1, New Product Development, NFL, Olympic sponsorship, PR, Public relations, Ryder Cup, Sponsorship, UEFA Champions League, What's the Greatest Sports Marketing Innovation?, World Cup