After reading my Lacrosse Done Right post, my uncle Dennis sent me an email with some really interesting points on growing a professional sport. I focused on TV as one of the potential drivers for growth and exposure to new fans, but Dennis supplies another approach and it has me seriously reconsidering my original proposition. Maybe more exposure on TV isn’t what the pro leagues need! Dennis lays out an affordable, grass roots approach that is 1) more realistic and 2) based on history. Open and honest conversation about lacrosse with my puck obsessed uncle. Awesome. I found his argument pretty compelling.
You mention TV as the breadbasket, or potential to be so. If you agree that there are parallels to the NHL growth process, then I am not sure you want to put your eggs in that breadbasket (sorry for that!).
The NHL has never been able to garner gig enough TV revenues (or causally, viewership), to make a dent dollars wise, and are therefore almost entirely attendance-based for their revenue… and this has been going on for decades. Lately, the ratings are higher than ever, but I think they still lag behind those of the WNBA. There are lots of reasons for this, and Lax has many similar reasons that it will face the same problems. And they may in fact be insurmountable, at least until the day comes when every kid and adult is playing or has played lacrosse.
The point? The growth of lax, like hockey, will depend on in-person attendance and ticket purchases for a long time, if not forever, so focus on making the game experience as good as possible.
Promote your star players, etc. – Rivalries, intensity, physicality… all that. Use TV as a tool for that, and do what it takes to get it on TV, but don’t try too hard to cash in (NBC plays the NHL in an ad based revenue sharing deal much like an infomercial… really!). They always say about hockey, if you can get someone to a game, you’ll have a fan for life. I think that’s overstated, I think one needs to find a connection with a team and its players, as well.
To me as a newbie, lax players all look the same on TV, I have no sense of stars or teams or rivalries so the game lacks a connection and is just ‘there’ on the TV… somewhat enjoyable, but not compelling.
If I watch 2 NHL teams, like Columbus and Atlanta, I still know a lot of the players so it’s pretty enjoyable. Bruins vs Canadians…. ’nuff said, it rocks on so many levels, going back to a childhood full of bitter disappointments, hatred of the Habs, etc.
Build solid teams that stay in their towns for the long term, keep the players somewhat static on their teams, get them into the community, promote, promote, promote, and grow it grassroots slowly but surely.
Thanks for listening!