Oct 24 2009

The Future of Advertising = Football

Published by at 7:53 am under Idea Driven Marketing

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the future of advertising — at least of advertising as we know it. Given the massive changes in media, the rise of digital communications, and big shifts in how people consume and use media (and thus see, or don’t see, advertising), many have predicted the demise of the advertising industry.

I have made that same dire prediction on this blog on more than one occasion.

But, a recent visit back to my hometown of Bethesda, MD (in the bustling Washington, DC area), gave me a change of heart regarding the future of advertising and marketing. Why the change of thinking?


Simply put, as long as football (and sports in general) remain popular, the advertising business is going to do just fine…thank you very much!

Now, that does not mean that the ad business will not continue to transform itself because of the above outlined media trends and consumer shifts. Some of those transformations are already proving to be pretty significant. I expect, they will be even more so, especially as big technological forces like the mobile Web really start to kick in in a big way.

But, the incredibly symbiotic relationship between football/sports and TV (and more generally, media of all types), will keep advertising pumping for the foreseeable future.

What did I experience in Bethesda to cause me to have this marketing/media epiphany? Actually, it was just a visit to a bar. But, it is a pretty interesting bar. The establishment I happened on last Sunday at Noon was a brew pub called Rock Bottom Brewery. (Rock Bottom is a national chain of brewery pubs.) The food is nothing special but the beer is superb. They brew it on the premises. I even got to meet the brew master (a subject of another post).

What opened my eyes as a marketer, however, was the passion of the guys (and they were mostly guys…mostly youngish, but of all ages, too) who were there at around Noon to cheer on their favorite football teams who were about to play on 7-8 big screen TVs situated around the large bar area of the pub. Many of those guys were wearing the jerseys of their favorite teams. (Before I went into this bar, I passed a large English looking pub/sports bar where ten or so football lovers were wearing black and gold Pittsburgh jerseys, waiting for the game to begin.)

I have been to plenty of sports bars, and this was like many I have seen over the years. It is not even the biggest I have patronized. But, my experience last Sunday in Bethesda, MD reminded me of something that is easy to forget when you spend a lot of time in places like San Francisco, CA (where I work today) and NYC (where I previously worked for 14 years). In most of the country, football reigns supreme, and that means watching it on TV. And, men (and plenty of women, too) watch their football on big screen TVs in sports bars like Rock Bottom, at home, and with friends. But, they are watching and doing so with amazing passion and commitment.

As I said, living in a place like San Francisco, you might think that everyone around the country is a hipster in skinny jeans and likes Chardonnay and craft made mojitos with their meals (I am generalizing here…plenty of good beer is enjoyed in SF, but you get my point!). Most of the new media gurus and digital ad types who have been aggressively predicting the end of advertising and "traditional" media live in places like SF and NYC.

And., I would bet that they seldom get out to sports bars like the one I visited recently in Bethesda. Open your eyes, dudes, and learn what "real consumers" are doing every weekend.

Football was made for TV, and TV for Football. It is a true symbiotic relationship. You cannot get the kind of experience that I immersed myself in last Sunday at the Rock Bottom brewery by staring — by yourself, no less — at a little computer screen. And, you DEFINITELY CANNOT get that experience by looking at your tiny iPhone screen. Just cannot happen, never will happen.

Watching football (and sports) is a basic part of American culture (and it’s nearly just as popular around the world because of the passion for sports like soccer, rugby, cricket, etc.). That passion is best experienced with a large screen, in a group, and in public. Some beer thrown in the mix helps, too.

Come to think of it, watching movies is pretty much the same thing. Home videos did not kill the movie business anymore than the Internet is killing the traditional TV watching experience. The movie business is just as popular as it ever was. That is even true of today’s Web- and cellphone-obsessed kids, who love catching the new slasher flicks at the local movie theatre as much as we did when I was young (back int he stoneage called the sixties and seventies).

I realized last Sunday that the fundamental connection between football and TV would keep plenty of ad agencies in business for a long time. Because, someone has to produce those beer and fast food commercials to run on the football game of the week and the MLB playoff series games.

Digital media trends will keep driving big changes in the advertising/marketing industry (many of them positive). But, the close relationship between King Football and TV will keep a traditional aspect of our business alive for a long time to come.

Long live football…long live TV!


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