The Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium came close to standing room only as Syracuse University professor of sport management Rick Burton moderated the first panel devoted to the economics of the National Football League. The panelists taking part in the discussion included two Newhouse alums – Patricia Betron (’88), Senior Vice President of Multimedia Sales at ESPN; Melissa Richards-Person (’89), Senior Director of Advertising and Promotions at Papa John’s International – as well as Buffalo Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon and Mark Rooks, a senior marketing director for Pepsi Sports.
Despite the 2011 season well under way and approaching its midpoint, much of the discussion revolved around the what ifs had there been a prolonged lockout.
Being a Bills executive, Brandon stated that his situation was unique to the other panelists because his business is solely football, not simply partnering for broadcast or marketing and advertising opportunities. From the moment the lockout began, there were tiered reductions in salary and benefits from the highest levels in the organization all the way down to ensure the Bills experienced a “shared sacrifice,” Brandon said.
As for the league’s partners, the other panelists agreed that a longer work stoppage would’ve been a serious issue, but contingency plans were in place and there was no fear of people losing their jobs.
“We were fortunate that we didn’t have any people who worked specifically for the NFL,” said Richards-Person in regards to Papa John’s.
Richards-Person also added that “anytime people are not in their homes [watching television], it’s bad for pizza,” drawing some laughs from the crowd.
Another major talking point for the panel was where the league can expand its reach and if oversaturation is a concern going forward.
Although there are myriad outlets to spread information, all the panelists were in agreement that when it comes to sports, and specifically the NFL, fans think more is better.
“For us, clutter’s a good thing,” Rooks said when discussing the situation from Pepsi’s standpoint.
The main areas of growth for both the league and its partners are the Hispanic and female populations, but they also need to work hard to develop the next generation of fans, the panelists said.
“We just can’t take for granted that kids today with the video games and everything are going to grow up to be fans,” Betron said.
(Image courtesy of Stock XCHNG)
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