DO I HAVE IT STRAIGHT ?

The phone rang early this morning,….real early.

Hello ! Who is this ?

Brooks, it’s me.

Yeah ?

You know who this is ?

Yeah I know who the hell it is !  No one but YOU would call me this early. What do you want this time ?

I just read your latest blog .

AND ?

Let me see ,..do I have it straight ?

Straight what ? If you ever call me again at this damned hour, the only straight you are going to get is me sending you STRAIGHT  to hell !

C’mon man, I’m serious here.

N—-r so am I.

Okay, okay. Did I get it straight  when I understood that you are claiming that USATF hired two CEOs who did not even know the sport, and at the same time they were trying to concentrate more power into the office these people were going to run. Plus these same people  took money and influence  away from athletes ?

That is EXACTLY what I am saying and a lot more !

And a lot more ?

Yeah,…read the next blog. Hang up the damned phone.

At the recent winter Olympics, the Russians awarded, according to a Russian website, $122,000.00 for gold, $76,000.00 for silver, and $46,000.00 for bronze. U.S. Track and Field athletes that medaled at the summer Olympic Games got the equivalent of a handshake, if that, in comparison, from their federation, and generally had to count on their shoe contract for bonus money.   Keep in mind that in terms of media and viewer importance, the largest and most important Olympics are the summer games. Within the summer games, there is a definite pecking order in terms of magnitude of viewership, and therefore value to television and the various other associated and related stake holders,….. including national federations. When doing some background research a while back I came across the following poll results. When asked what most important and popular sports  for the summer Olympics, 28% of the respondents said track and field(athletics), 18% said women’s gymnastics, 8% said swimming and 8% for basketball. All it takes is a cursory look at the scheduling of events for the summer Games to realize the validity and the hard-headed decisions business decisions made based upon this data. NBC paid in access of one billion dollars for the rights to produce and broadcast the last Olympics. In addition, they incurred approximately a billion dollars in productions costs. They are so satisfied with the results of their most recent fiscal returns and results they have contracted with the International Olympic Committe( IOC )for several more Olympic Games at more than 7 billion total dollars for the rights fee s alone. Why would NBC look to spend this kind of money ? What is the quid-pro-quo, what do they expect to get in return,……plenty ? The Olympic Games is a huge and very effective billboard and marketing/promotion vehicle for their fall offerings on their television network . In publicizing the shows for the fall to one of the largest viewer audiences ever over a two week period, they get more viewership in the fall and regain money spent for  right fees  because they can charge more to their advertisers because they have generated so many more eye-balls for their  fall shows and the rates are established based upon viewership. So what looks like an exorbitant amount of money, NBC is all too happy to pay because it represents a huge business coup for them to get the Olympics away from ABC/ESPN/Disney and CBS. Now keep in mind that we are talking about sophisticated and educated, calloused business people making these kinds of decisions. These same people and their scheduling provide us with a very insightful look at the real value of track and field. The first week of the summer Olympics, as you would expect from the viewer research data, is centered around swimming and women’s gymnastics. The second week,..the anchor week, is centered track and field. That is because track and field draws the largest on-site and television viewing audiences and is closest to the times the television shows being promoted are to air. Therefore, they are the most valued because they generate the greatest amount of revenue. Now our federation and the leadership will let you know without any real prompting that USATF is the #1 track and field team in the world because we win the most Olympic medals.   However and but, every American stake holder associated with the Olympics makes out in a big way except, ……..USATF . The USOC gets approximately 10% of the IOC rights fee ( it used to be even more ), USATF has been promised a serious increase in the amount of funding it will get from the USOC since 2001. To date that serious increase has never directly materialized based upon the contribution that USATF makes to the USOC fund raising.

In 2000, at the Sydney Olympics the medal count for America was anemic and paltry compared to what was expected and needed. The Chinese were killing us in swimming and after the drug related medal loss for track and field, track and field was down to essentially a count of 15 medals. The USOC expects to raise between 500 to 600 million dollars for the quadrennium. This is based on a promise to their sponsors and corporate supporters of 100 plus Olympic medal count for America. Of that 100 plus, it is expected that track and field and swimming will garner 50% of that count. After 2000, panic set in, in Colorado Springs and there was a big shake up at the top. I was appointed the High Performance Chair for USATF in 2001. My clear and mandated mission was to bring up the medal count for the U.S. in track and field for the World Championships and Olympic Games. The quid-pro-quo that was tacitly accepted was that if we increased the medal count we (USATF) would be rewarded commensurately. In 2007I asked Peter Ubberoth,  who was then the USOC president, about that promise of more money. He indicated that the USOC itself was having trouble balancing its budget, but they would get to the promised funding after they were fiscally in a better place. The point I want to make here is that although track and field is a big player when it comes to GENERATING money for others, our leadership has been a fabulous failure when it comes to  making sure that track and field, and more importantly and specifically, its athletes, get their fair share of what they have generated. To the extent this is covered up with smoke and mirrors, then the athletes are indeed being tricked and numbed to what should be accruing to them through their efforts and exploits. To the extent that failure is accepted in this regard by the board and the leadership, and even athletes themselves, the athletes are essentially being defrauded from getting what is legitimately coming to them.

Now one of the arguments our leadership will make to counter the fact that they have failed miserably in leveraging the world’s #1 track and field team’s’ success into bigger sponsorship dollars ( do not even mention the new NIKE “deal” David Greifinger has put that myth to rest – see TRACK AND FIELD NEWS ) is the economy and other false leaders. Bottom line, the last two CEOs for USATF were supposed to have enough marketing and sponsorship background and ability overcome the fact that they knew/know next to nothing about the sport itself. This proved to be a gigantic fallacious and fatal assumption. If you are provided with the #1 team( U.S.) in the area of Olympic sports ( track and field ) that provides ragingly rewarding revenue streams to all of these other related stakeholders, ……..how can you in good conscience excuse not bringing home a lions share ? This becomes a fatal flaw if your assumed credentials are based upon your past ability to generate sponsor and support dollars. The other damning defense position and excuse for non-performance might center around the economic climate. I do not think this is much of an excuse since NBC exists in the same economic climate as the rest of  us. Recently William Morris Endeavor, paid 2 billion dollars for IMG. William Morris is best known for representing entertainment and movies stars. IMG is the company founded by Arnold Palmer to represent mostly athletes. In 2004 IMG was bought for 750 million by Forstmann Little, a private equity form. So despite the recent “bad economy” the sports marketing and  representation area of the economy seems to have grown by serious and many multiples. When we look further into why William Morris , the mega Hollywood agency bought IMG, the mega sports representation agency, the New York Times business section reports, ” ..the need to transcend entertainment has become more acute since the middle of the last decade…”. Quoting again, “Hollywood agents have seen a solution in the more predictable world of sports. Athletes command contracts worth millions of dollars, but the real money lies in negotiating endorsement, licensing, and media rights deals.”  Now I ask again, if you have the #1 team in a major sports area that generates a billion dollar television rights fees,…… and very successful Hollywood marketing and promotion agencies want to diversify into sports ,….and you are supposed to have marketing, sponsorship, and licensing as your major qualification, should your sports organization settle for crumbs in this area ?

Coming full circle, I pose the question, DO I HAVE IT STRAIGHT ?

More tomorrow !

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

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