Watching NFL preseason games reminds me of a story from when I was with the New England Patriots. We owned the rights to the preseason games, which meant we produced, sold and placed the games on a local TV station. Typically, we controlled three of the four games with one being picked up by the network. One year while prepping for the first game, I phoned one of the guys who produced the features that our partners were incorporated into during the broadcast. The purpose of the call was to gauge their progress and to see if everything was ready for game one.
Well, they were lagging behind a bit and I was a little concerned about their efforts, so I let it be known. He understood my concerns and promised that everything would be completed and looking great for game time. Then, not to be “one-upped”, he shot one across my bow – stating that he noticed that the “log looked a little light,” which meant that we didn’t sell all of the commercial spots for the game. If you are unfamiliar with the term, “the log” is a printout that documents all of the elements during a broadcast. My group was responsible for selling spots and features for the broadcast.
I told him not to worry about how many spots were sold and to just complete the features to be produced – but he decided to push on. “You know, spots are like an unsold airline ticket; once the plane takes off you lose that money.” This is traditionally how many broadcasters view how the inventory is being sold, but it is not how I view it. I felt it was time to shed a little light on my colleague’s dark ages view of revenue generation. Now, in all fairness to him, selling for a TV entity is different from how an NFL team should approach the process.
I proceeded to tell him that we do not sell that way. We sold spots, features, signs, and logo rights to recognize revenue, but we approached it as Relationship Architects, and did not force-feed inventory just because we had a glut of it. We created programs to fit with our partners’ needs and help them achieve their goals. Ha, here comes the funny part – he then said to me, “You lose that opportunity for revenue once a spot goes unsold and the game airs – DO YOU GET IT?” Ha ha, gotta like the chutzpah on this guy. But, now it was time to school him.
So I said, “That’s how most teams and leagues fail. They sell their inventory without thought or consideration of the sponsors’ needs, regardless of the outcome. That’s the old way of doing business, and folks doing it that way will soon be looking for new jobs. I really don’t care what inventory we sell and who we sell it to. What I am concerned with is that we are adding more partners each year and keeping the partners we have. To do that, and to do it right, we need to think about what will best help our partners to do business. If we do that, then we will grow our revenues. We are showing a 25% growth in revenue over last year, we added 12 new partners, and probably are going to be at even higher numbers by the time the regular season begins. And YOU are scrambling to produce the features of the partners who pay your salary. The question is, do YOU get it?”
The perfect ending of the story is that although he didn’t at the time, he soon came to understand the importance of servicing our partners and to not look at it as though it was just an automated task. His group began to work more closely with ours to ensure that our partners received what was best for them. At the end of the day – that’s what’s best for the team.
How is your team or organization approaching sales of its inventory? Do the people in your group get it? Do you get it?