In 2009 the Arena Football League ran into financial trouble. The league has since been purchased and now looks ready to reemerge as a more financially secure business. Some said the AFL tried to do too much too soon. With a large television contract on a major network, and eighteen game regular season and player salaries well into six figures, I would agree. The league couldn’t control cost, so they couldn’t make money. The problem wasn’t fan interest and low attendance; it was a league working outside of their means. By watching, and experiencing some of these mistakes I will help with a model to develop a second tier indoor football league. My model will not try and do too much too fast. I will attempt to find ways to reduce expenditures.
There have been many indoor leagues and indoor league franchises that have folded or shut down operations. One way I will try and save on start-up expenses is approach these teams and leagues to try and purchase some of those assets. These assets may include equipment like helmets and shoulder pads or even the turf to lie down inside the arena with the dasher pads that cover the walls to protect the players. Finding these items at low cost will help in the long run. Arena football is perfect for many people. The hard core football fan will like the hard hitting, and quick scoring. Families like arena football, because it’s an inexpensive way to bring the family to a sporting event, and the players are more accessible then NFL players. It’s a fun summer time activity that everyone can enjoy. I will make sure that merchandise and tickets remain at an affordable price so that many families can feel that they are going out for an affordable evening of entertainment and they can feel comfortable bringing the entire family. I will start ticket prices at seven dollars per single game.
With a home schedule of six games we can begin marketing season passes at just forty-two dollars. The average cost for a family to attend an NFL game can cost hundreds of dollars. A single premium ticket to see the New York Giants in 2012 costs $ 464.75. However, Team Marketing Report bases its findings on average ticket prices, and in 2012 that runs at $78.38, or $313.53 for four. (Yahoo sports 2012) A family can purchase several season passes and attend every home game with the family as opposed to purchasing tickets to just one NFL game. The average cost of just one beer is $7.28. Football fans are no longer limited to just Budweiser and Miller when they go to the stadium. According to Esquire’s “NFL Stadium Food Power Rankings,” many craft brews are available at NFL games, including Goose Island Honker’s Ale and Red Bridge Gluten-Free beer. On average, NFL fans can expect to pay $7.28 for a small beer at the stadium.
The most expensive are found at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium and Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the cost is $9. The study assumes two beers will be purchased, or $14.56. (Yahoo sports 2012) I will work out a way for vendors and the arenas to get those costs down. Some arenas and other venues do not allow a fan tailgate in order to get those paying customers inside. I will make sure the leagues venues allow a pregame atmosphere where fans can bring their own refreshments and not have to worry about high costs inside. The average cost of a hot dog is $4.84. There is no substitute for a good old fashioned hot dog. According to Team Marketing Report, that’s $4.84 or $19.36 for four. (Yahoo sports 2012)
Parking fees are always a major concern when attending major sporting events like NFL games. Sports venues are often accessible by mass transit, but many will still drive to games. The average cost for parking is $27.35. (Yahoo sports 2012) We have to find a way to get these costs down and encourage our fans to drive to and park at the arenas. It’s hard for some NFL fans to leave the game without taking some merchandise home. Team jerseys and caps are popular choices. We definitely want our merchandise to be affordable so that our brand and logo gets out into the community.
The report found that the average price for a cap is $21.38, and to keep the kids happy, two will be purchased for $42.76. (Yahoo sports 2012) There has to be a way to get these costs down. The averages add up to nearly 500 dollars for a family of four. This is a very expensive afternoon or evening out. That is a lot of money for the average family to spend in a single afternoon and discouraging for families working a tight budget. Arena football is fun, hard hitting and high scoring and must be an affordable venture for families to enjoy.
In order for a franchise like this to be successful, the right people in the right places doing the right things is essential. The owners must place executives in the right positions to lead. The General manager is a position that has a lot of duties, they must make sure the marketing and sales staff is in place, they must also hire a director of football operations, this persons job could have many duties as well, in most organizations this person handles game day operations, scheduling, travel, and player relations. There is also the head coach, he oversees the coaching staff and delegates those responsibilities. A budget must be managed, the right coaching staff and player personnel must be in place, the right players have to be chosen, and the team must be marketed and advertised in a correct way.
I will be presenting to the board the addition of a couple of programs and personnel important for an indoor football team that may get overlooked. That operation will be a Game Day Staff and Ops crew. We will need a game day staff to help coordinate half time and down time events in order to keep fans involved. We need this staff to help time out a game day script that will tell coaches and players when they can and can’t be on the field and will allow the sponsorship staff a guide to offering sponsorships as they can determine how much exposure they will receive. They will also coordinate with team sponsors on promotional events like a T-shirt toss or game day give away. Some sponsors will like their logo and name on noisemakers or small footballs that get tossed into the crowd. We will need an assistant to the equipment manager and trainer. There is equipment that needs to be transported from the team’s offices to the arena on every game day.
There needs to be someone to help set up the locker rooms for the players and coaches as well as the referees and visiting teams. This will include handing out game day equipment and uniforms as well as making sure water coolers and bottles are filled for in the locker room and bench areas. We will need to hire a Director of Football operations who can oversee these areas, in addition to these responsibilities the director will be in charge of updating the website with stats and news as well as player transactions. The director will also handle travel arrangements for the team and hotel accommodations for the visiting teams as well as team meals for both. The presence of a director of football acts as an intermediary between the general manager and the board and may relieve pressure on a manager by handling aspects away from day-to-day coaching, allowing a manager to focus on performance.
In general, the director of football operations is not a shareholder in the club, or holds a nominal stake. This is opposed to other members of the board with whom the director of football will sit. This allows an impartial go-between that will not have biased views. The level of power and influence in the day-to-day and transfer operations of the club held by a director of football may vary considerably. In some cases, the position may be as a figurehead or as a club ambassador, with transfer dealings, team affairs, squad selection and day-to-day operations handled exclusively by the manager and his staff. Often, the position in this case is filled by a former famous player. Bobby Charlton at Manchester United is such an example. In such a case, the role of the director of football is more one of club promotion and marketing than that of actual control over footballing operations. Employing a well-known football personality in such a position may also be used to enhance the perceived prestige of the club, improving the club’s position in the transfer market. (Wikipedia 2012) The director of football’s job is sometimes compared to that of a general manager in a North American professional sports organization, and often referred to as ‘sporting director’ or some equivalent in continental Europe.
Marketing the team can be a task. There has to be structures in place that will help the team succeed in getting noticed, gaining sponsorships, and selling tickets. Our book discussed a model. The principles that should be observed in a marketing program include: Customer principle, Competition Principle, Practice Principle, Cross-Functional Principle, Continuous Improvement Principle, and the Stakeholder Principle (Krotee & Bucher, 2007, pp. 474-475). In the indoor football program that I currently work for, marketing is a big deal and it seems as if some of these principles are in place. We take into consideration what type of customers we will have, catering to middle-aged men and young kids. We understand what and who we are competing with; Florida Everblades are a minor league hockey team that occupies the same arena. We compete with them in the same market. There is also minor league baseball in town, a group that has games sometimes on the same nights as us.
The cross-functional principle works with the hockey team as well. During their games we are allowed to set up an information table and sale season passes and merchandise during their contests. The continuous principle is where we hand out surveys to season ticket holders asking questions about how we can improve. The stakeholder principle helps us as we continue to be the model franchise for the league and the one that other franchises would like to emulate. How the team is perceived in the public eye is vital for its success. The first task for a company is to decide that all forms of public relations will be based on current strengths and the overall mission of the company. We want to make sure our targeted group understands exactly what we want to accomplish in all areas. (Krotee & March, 2007. p. 457).
A company must also know who their audience is and how they can reach them. I’ve mentioned before that the indoor football team I work for targets middle-aged men and school aged kids who can bring parents. We hand out ticket vouchers to kids at local events and schools. Each kid will only get one voucher. The reasoning behind this is that we understand these kids can’t get to the game alone. They have to have someone drive them whether it’s a parent or older sibling or friend. They will be they paying customer bringing in ticket sales, which without having handed out the voucher, wouldn’t have been sold otherwise. The other catch is that the arena will only accept so many vouchers per night. We inform the voucher holder that it is wise to get to the box office in advance of the event to claim their ticket.
Many don’t do this and by the time they get to the arena the allotted amount of free vouchers has been counted. This person is stuck having to now pay for a full price ticket as they will probably not opt to return home. There have been complaints about this program but it is stated by whoever hands out the voucher and on the voucher itself that there will be limited use. Another aspect of effective public relations is to find out what the customers are thinking, along with what they believe. The team has sent out surveys to season ticket holders with questions about how they can do better.
There are also randomly timed questions that go out on social media like, what is your favorite night to watch arena football? This can help when scheduling home games as most people wouldn’t want to come on a Monday night because of work obligations. (Krotee & March, 2007. p. 457). A fourth aspect of public relations work is deciding what services or programs to offer that will best suit the needs of the intended audience. We try and figure out if most people would rather purchase a hat or tee shirt or would they be more likely to purchase season passes at a discounted rate or buy game to game. (Krotee & March, 2007. p. 457). Choosing a good PR representative is also key. Someone who understands the mission is important.
All of these aspects will help a new league flourish and remain successful. One more important part to that would be landing some type of television or media deal. The younger, mostly male audiences at professional sporting events are an attractive crowd for advertisers, but pro sports can be an expensive buy as we have already mentioned.
Advertisers and sponsors reach not only young men but also, because games are less expensive to attend than most pro sports events, families looking for cheap entertainment as well. Advertisers can also get more creative at AFL games than they can at other leagues such as the NFL. The league can handle its own advertising and sponsorship, and individual teams handle some promotions. Arena Football League games are played on 50-yard fields surrounded by padded dasher boards that look similar to those used in hockey. These boards create prime billboard space where companies that purchase sponsorship can place their name or logo. It would be more appealing to a company to purchase if they knew they would be exposed to a national audience. The season will run from March to August, so that it won’t interfere with the NFL season.
There are a number of advertising options on and around the playing field, including ads on the boards, 6-by-9-foot turf squares on the field itself, and ads on the jumbotron scoreboards hanging from the center of the ceiling where highlights can be played and the score clock is displayed. Brands can also place patches on player uniforms, decals on helmets, graphics on game balls, or ads on first down markers. Anywhere that there is viewable open space can be covered in advertisement. Other options available in the arena are similar to those seen in other sports, such as signage, static and video ads on the scoreboard, on-field promotions during timeouts and stoppages in play, and concourse booths that can be used for sampling and fan interaction.
Some promotions that I have seen in the past that get fans involved is a football toss from a long way out attempting to win a car by throwing the ball through the driver’s side window. The league may also have a title sponsor. For example, the Indoor Football League presented by Bud Light. We could also title the championship game, the third annual Doritos Indoor bowl, similar to how colleges promote bowl games. On-field advertisers can get additional exposure on television. Games may also be televised locally in teams’ markets, giving on-field advertisers extra eyeballs. The only downer to this would be the argument that fans won’t come pay to see a game live when they can watch it in the comfort of their own home for free.
We will continue to build in smaller markets like here in Fort Myers Florida or Rome Georgia. We will not compete in watered-down, saturated markets where local businesses have been bombarded with sponsorship sales and sports marketing teams. Game attendance will be tracked and TV ratings are also used to measure impressions. We will use sponsors relevant to our target market, they will include telecom, restaurants, insurance, athletic equipment and apparel, hotels, soft drinks and beer. Arena Football League fans are 72 percent male and 28 percent female, according to Scarborough Research. Sixty-two percent of fans are ages 18-49 and 33 percent are 18-34. Forty-six percent of fans have an annual household income below $50,000, with 33 percent between $50,000 and $100,000, and 21 percent above $100,000.
The mean household income of AFL fans is just over $72,000. (League Attendance 2012) The success of an indoor football league and franchise is dependent upon having many working parts in place. There must be a realistic budget to work with so that these teams and leagues aren’t working outside of their means. Player and coach salaries must be realistic in order for these teams to stay alive. Ticket and merchandise costs for fans must be affordable in order to appeal to larger crowds.
The venues must work with the individual teams to keep costs down. They must make parking costs and vending costs affordable so that fans and families will attend more than one event per year. There has to be a good marketing team that understands the mission is to not only make the team money, but appeal to fans and gain support from the local community. It will be the leagues responsibility to broaden that market by adding television and media exposure. Finally, there needs to be a good PR program in place so that a good relationship between the team, league, and its fans remain.
Krotee, M., & Bucher, C. (2007). Management of physical education and sport (13th Ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill. ISBN: 0072972920.
Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved December 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Director_of_football
Arena Football League Attendance Needs Some Help: Fan Opinion by Eric R. Ivie | Yahoo! Contributor Network – Wed, Apr 11, 2012 3:12 PM EDT, retrieved on December 9, 2012 from http://sports.yahoo.com/news/arena-football-league-attendance-needs-help-fan-opinion-191200000.html
NFL game-day costs for fans By Daniel Bukszpan | CNBC.com – Thu, Oct 4, 2012 3:31 PM EDT retrieved on December 9, 2012 from http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–nfl-game-day-costs-for-fans.html