The new autonomy of sports entities is a function of their redefinition and evolution from spectator sports provider to television program supplier to integrated marketing product or “software” (Bellamy & Walker, 1995; Ozanian, 1995).
Integrated marketing (IM) is the process by which the once disparate media activities of advertising, public relations, and promotion are collectively and systematically used to market a product or service (Duncan, 1993). IM is a way for sports teams and leagues to use their product “to build revenues indirectly through [specialized] cable television, merchandise, advertising, and the like” (Ozanian, 1995, p. 1).
One reason for the increased emphasis on IM is that sports entities now see themselves as media companies actively involved in the development of new sources of revenue (Jensen, 1995).
This is a changed perspective from the traditional situation where sports leagues and teams accepted money from television, opened their gates, and did little else beyond the sale or giveaway of souvenirs and occasional joint promotions with advertisers.
Today the relationship between sports entities, advertisers, and television is such that Nielsen Media Research has a division that provides audience ^formation specifically for the professional sports leagues. As explained by NBA Properties’ Rick Welts, the NBA has “1,100 new episodes every season with no repeats” (Jensen, J., 1994, p. 4).
In addition to this new perspective on television, most of the new playing facilities (e.g., Coors Field, Fleet Center, GM Centre, Molson Center, and Pepsi Center) generate substantial revenue from major corporations (i.e., advertisers) who pay to have their names on the facility.
These sponsors get not only name identification in every mention of the facility but signage that appears on telecasts, special seating, specifically- designed promotions, and other amenities.
Corporations believe they get positive brand identification at a bargain price by linking their names to sports facilities or, at minimum, by purchasing venue signage and other forms of promotional identification with a team or league (Duncan, 1993; Finkelthal, 1994; Helitzer, 1996; Shanklin, 1992).
Signage which appears in televised games is regarded as much less expensive than traditional spot advertising (Horovitz, 1992), and has the added benefit of being “zap-proof, ” integrated into the telecast so the RCD-armed viewer cannot avoid exposure without also missing event coverage.
On the national and international levels, IM examples include the NBA’s partnership with ESPN and Lifetime in promoting women’s Olympic basketball (Hiestand, 1995), Coca-Cola’s international partnership with the NBA (Boseman, 1994), and the numerous “official sponsors” of the Olympics (“Olympic, ” 1996).
Advertisers now expect “value added” IM elements in sports. For example, the now defunct The Baseball Network was severely criticized as not understanding the IM concept because it did not offer stadium signage and more promotional events to sponsors (Mandese, 1994b).
Even .as sports entities place increased emphasis on new revenue sources to supplement television revenue, they and their corporate benefactors remain dependent on television to create and enhance the value of signage, facilities, merchandising, and brand names.
A review of the recent ways that the Big Four professional sports leagues and the Olympic movement have leveraged the television marketplace will make this explicit.