Sports marketing

BOZICH | Jim Host’s College Sports Marketing Handbook Must Read Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Whenever college sports come back, they’re going to need a playbook.

A playbook – long before games, training and competition resume – on how to put fans at ease, rebuild their clientele and market their product

Jim Host’s lifelong work provided this playbook. The host, a Lexington, Ky. Based businessman, won’t say it, but I will: coronavirus outbreak.

If you thought Host would quietly disappear after being the driving force behind KFC Yum! The center was completed on Second Street and Main Street ten years ago, you have forgotten this man’s relentless DNA. At 82, he has now arranged and presented his thoughts, principles and memories in manual form.

The host (and Eric Moyen) released a book, “Changing the Game: My Career in Collegiate Sports Marketing,” via the University of Kentucky on March 10. The book became available a day before the NBA season’s suspension due to COVID-19 concerns officially pushed the sport into the “In Other News” category.

Relentlessly optimistic, Host said he believes the games will return. But the challenges in attracting and retaining fans will be daunting.

“I have certainly thought about it quite a bit,” Host said. “When I put myself in the shoes of AD (athletic directors) and talked about the difference in income they were going to get over the next two years.

“No.1, I don’t think ticket sales will be close to where they’ve been, just because people are going to know who they’re sitting and how they’re sitting. Are these sports departments going to space out the seats when they make subscriptions? Are they going to separate people from each other? How are they going to deal with all of this?

“It will be an ongoing thing for a while. People will always be aware now, especially if this thing comes back or other viruses start to surface. I think it will be a constant thing that universities will have to lend a lot of. ‘Pay attention to.”

Declining revenues will certainly lead to re-evaluations of programs, staffing and other expenses. Iowa State athletic director Jim Pollard was the first Power Five athletic director to address the issue when he announced nearly $ 4 million in pay cuts and staff cuts for this Big program on Wednesday. 12.

“I hope that doesn’t cost some universities some sport because of the cost,” Host said. “But I suspect that’s going to happen. I think a lot of the progress we’ve made in what I call unpaid sports is going to come through the boards.

“But I think the SEC (for Kentucky) and ACC (for Louisville) have done a good job of bringing their networks together where there will be revenue that is going to come to those networks in the future,” a- he added. “These will always be worth a lot because people will always be watching the games. Live content will always rule, which is why the NFL and NBA will always continue to be successful.

“But there’s going to be a lot of difference in the way people see (the events) on the site. And I really don’t know how, when you come out of the Power Five (schools), these other schools that are trying to compete are going to be able to do it. “

Host was a varsity baseball player who believes he would have made his way into the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox if he hadn’t injured his rotator cuff on his pitching shoulder.

The host could no longer throw, but was still able to throw.

He started changing the game in 1972 with Jim Host & Associates in Lexington. He convinced the University of Kentucky’s sports department that the marketing opportunities were greater if the rights of different teams were brought together.

He remembers selling a contract with Coca-Cola for the sports department, then bringing a Coke executive to Commonwealth Stadium for a football game in the 1980s.

Imagine the worry when the host and his guest noticed crumpled Pepsi cups littered near the British bench. It turned out that football coach Jerry Claiborne also had a deal with Pepsi.

“We had to put everyone on the same page,” Host said.

This quality is a specialty of Jim Host. For decades, his company, Host Communications, has published gaming schedules for NCAA events, most notably the Men’s Basketball Tournament. The host also managed the rights to radio shows, working with the NCAA to take the Final Four from a regional event to one of the best weekends on the sports calendar.

Host said he considered former NCAA executive director Walter Byers to be the smartest man he had ever met.

He has repeatedly mentioned the idea of ​​corporate sponsorships for NCAA events in Byers.

Not interested. Period.

The times have changed. Byers too. As usual, Byers called Host with ideas, then asked him to meet him in his office in Shawnee Mission, Kansas (the former NCAA headquarters site) the next morning. The host recalls rushing to Kansas City and then driving 45 minutes to NCAA headquarters.

During a meeting in 1983, Byers asked Host how much the NCAA could make by selling a corporate sponsorship at the men’s basketball tournament.

The number chosen by the host was $ 250,000.

Byers was intrigued. If Host could close the sale, Byers asked if he would be willing to share the money with the NCAA.


Kind of.

The host made his first Boston sales pitch to Gillette executives. He offered the shaving company the opportunity to become an official sponsor of the NCAA tournament. A limited number of tickets would be made available. Gillette could perhaps reward their best salesperson for a job well done.

Now Gillette executives were also intrigued.

Did they ask the host the cost of the sponsorship?

“$ 500,000,” the host said.


Wait. The host had not finished. He never is. He never will be.

Before the 1984 Final Four was played in Seattle, the NCAA also signed marketing deals with Pepsi and Valvoline for $ 500,000 each.

Instead of earning $ 125,000, the NCAA received $ 750,000.

We all know where he went from there. It’s also in the 296-page book.

The same goes for so many other distinguished guest stories: the US Presidents he has met, the challenges of getting the KFC Yum! Center built and his belief that Louisville can still get an NBA franchise.

Most importantly, Jim Host has written a playbook on how to market college athletic programs – a playbook that will never be more valuable than it is today.

Priced at $ 32.95, “Changing the Game …” is available at Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.