In the spirit of the “Three L’s” (Look-Listen-Learn), let’s take a look at the wonderful world of football. Is it just me or does that phrase no longer describe our traditional Christmas to New Year’s past-time of watching bowl games? Believe it or not, there is a business connection here.
Obviously, an increasingly high number of business minds have identified a “cash cow” in the annual bowl battles. When I was young, we couldn’t wait until the end of the year to witness the customary “Big Four”—The Rose Bowl, The Orange Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, and The Cotton Bowl. In those days, we felt it was hard to keep track of them all. Little did we know that the “Big Four” would some day grow into the marathon of madness we witness today! However, apparently anyone with a product or service to sell saw tremendous potential in our devotion to the pigskin rivalries we currently follow from coast to coast. In addition, television networks have long been well aware of this potential money maker. This year there were 32 bowl games televised to feed our growing addiction, and don’t think for a minute that this offering was the result of our love for football. No indeed. It materialized from the love of money—advertising dollars to be more concise. Note the unpretentious names of the bowl games of old—Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Cotton. Compare that simplicity to what we had to choose from this past season, and I’m not fabricating one of these names:
- San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
- Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl
- Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
- Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
- R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
- PetroSun Independence Bowl
- Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
- Meineke Car Care Bowl
- AutoZone Liberty Bowl
- Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
- MPC Computers Bowl
- Papajohns.com Bowl
- Champs Sports Bowl
- Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
- Toyota Gator Bowl
- International Bowl
- New Mexico Bowl
- Capital One Bowl
- Chick-fil-A Bowl
- Motor City Bowl
- Brut Sun Bowl
- Emerald Bowl
- Outback Bowl
- GMAC Bowl
- Insight Bowl
- Alamo Bowl
- Texas Bowl
Can you imagine someone calling you over the holiday break to ask what you’re doing? You’d have to say something like: “I’m just sitting here with some chips and a beer watching the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl to be followed by the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl!” What are we becoming?
And they even butchered our “Fab Four” bowl games of yesteryear. They have become the Citi Rose Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl, and AT&T Cotton Bowl. All in the name of greed. Is nothing sacred? And there must be good money in chips today … the folks at Tostitos managed to add their name and logo to the Fiesta Bowl as well as the BCS Championship Game that would supposedly decide the best team in the nation. That must have cost them a pretty penny!
As competing TV networks have learned how to make money on even mediocre matchups, a winning record during the regular season is no longer a prerequisite for being picked. There were four teams that made it to a Bowl this year with a 6 win – 7 loss record! They lost more games than they won! There were 10 teams that made the grade with a 7 – 6 record! That’s not a whole lot better!
Some of these teams don’t come close to qualifying as your typical legendary power-house repeaters. When was the last time you read major headlines about the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, the New Mexico Lobos, The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the Utah Utes, the East Carolina Pirates, the Rice Owls, the Maryland Terrapins, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the North Illinois University Huskies, the Troy Trojans, the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, the South Florida Bulls, the Houston Cougars, or the Boise State Broncos? They all reached bowl status this season. Come on, be honest. Nothing against any of these teams, players or coaches. I’m certain they all worked very hard this year. However, you can’t send EVERYBODY to a bowl game. It demeans the nature of the event. We may very well see bowl overload become a legitimate issue resulting in attendance and television viewership decline.
What’s all of this got to do with business and/or the “Three L’s” (Look-Listen-Learn)? There are lessons to be learned everywhere. For instance, from this year’s bowl season we now know:
- You should keep your eye on current trends and cash in when and where you can.
- You should recognize and take advantage of momentum.
- You can market and promote just about anything. (6 wins and 7 losses?)
- Never assume that any market is fully saturated.
- Create a niche to stand out from the crowd.
- Know your audience (customers) and give them what they want.
I’m sure there are other lessons here, but I’m too tired from watching all those bowl games to find them right now. Besides, basketball season is just picking up speed, and I’m running low on chips!