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Book Provides Ways to Win Back Old and Find New Sports Fans

October 3, 2006 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- There's good and bad news when it comes to the lucrative multibillion-dollar global business of sports, according to “The Elusive Fan: Reinventing Sports in a Crowded Marketplace,” a recently published book from McGraw-Hill.

“The good news is that sports revenues at every level -- from professional and high school to college and club - are booming,” says co-author and Northwestern University communications professor Irving Rein. A communications and marketing specialist, Rein was tapped by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for service on a task force charged with creating a positive future for America's favorite pastime.

“The bad news in the booming sports business is that competition for fans is more intense and more uncertain than ever,” adds Rein. Rein is co-author of “The Elusive Fan” with Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and Ben Shields, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern with expertise in sports and technology.

“Sports enthusiasts, like just about everyone else these days, are enormously busy and have more choices than ever when deciding what to do with their limited time and money,” Rein says. “For decades, sports depended on free media - basically three television networks -- and on creaky, old stadiums with uncomfortable seats for publicity, promotion, and marketing.”

Old business formulas no longer work. “Today successful sports enterprises and product managers must make use of video streaming, podcasts, the Web and other new media to tell their stories, build their audiences and invigorate their fans,” Rein says.

Adding to the more complicated marketplace is the fact that traditional sports (baseball, football and basketball) now vie for fans and the dollars they spend with newer enterprises, such as NASCAR, snowboarding, lacrosse, poker and even paintball.

By presenting case studies, “The Elusive Fan” demonstrates how some of today's most successful leagues, teams, stars and facilities have integrated new technologies to engage fans and increase revenues, built star-powered attractions to drive sports brands, and transformed sports products into dynamic brands that can transcend win-loss records and anticipate and quickly respond to competitive and cultural trends affecting the sports marketplace.

Among the individuals and organizations “The Elusive Fan” examines are Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, global tennis star Maria Sharapova, a Texas high school football program, the Professional Bowlers Association, the National Football League, English soccer club Manchester United, ESPN and Northwestern University's women's lacrosse team. The book, according to the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, is to date the most thorough and comprehensive overview of the sports marketing industry.

For more information about the book, visit www.theelusivefan.com.

Topics: Research