The Pac-10 today formally announced several wholesale changes to its league at its annual football media days held in New York City this year. You read that right — New York City – a mere 2,400 miles from its nearest current institution. Attempting to rebrand itself after its June power grab of two additional schools who will begin conference play in 2011 (Colorado and Utah), Commissioner Larry Scott (a New Yorker himself) brought the league to the east coast in an outreach effort not seen in those parts since Oregon’s unsuccessful effort to market QB Joey Harrington as Joey Heisman on a 100-foot NYC billboard in 2001.
Does marketing a west coast league with predominantly west coast players who cater to west coast fans in the media capital of the world have any effect on the national conversation about the Pac-10? Maybe if we were talking about the Lakers, but otherwise, probably not. We submit that this is a largely symbolic move by Scott to signal to his constituents that he’s willing to try somewhat unconventional methods to further market the league and reach new fans. He said as much in his comments today:
It seemed to be a bit of an excuse and that the Pac-10 in my estimation was very laid back and passive in terms of how it went about telling its story and promoting itself. To me the disconnect was people worried about that but they were not really doing much about it.
The league has been solid if not spectacular in football over the past five years, and a couple of tremendous basketball seasons in 2008 and 2009 was followed up with an epic stinker last year. Given the three-hour time difference, the league will always have an inherent disadvantage against early-to-bed types in the east, but there are fans of both sports everywhere who will tune in if there is a product on the field or court worth watching. The Pac-10′s television contract is set to expire next year, and one of the major hurdles for Scott and his crew will be to figure out how to handle the Fox Sports Net problem. FSN is the primary television broadcaster for Pac-10 sports, yet in many localities, the NBA or MLB or NHL will pre-empt Pac-10 out of area broadcasts. A big weeknight game between Arizona and UCLA may only be visible to half of the country, with the result being that even if people wanted to watch it in New York, they might not be able to do so.
Unless your name is King James, however, focused marketing usually helps, and Scott seems intent on maximizing the league brand prior to those television contract negotiations next year. Some of the re-branding changes:
Starting next year, with Colorado and Utah on board, the league will be “mathematically correct” in calling itself the Pac-12. It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but we do appreciate the attention to the laws of arithmetic in taking shots at the soon-to-be twelve-team Big Ten and ten-team Big 12. We’re crossing our fingers that they’ve thought through the natural consequence that everyone is going to start calling the league the “12-Pac” now, though.
The conference has a new, modern logo (see above) that features the natural beauty and outdoorsy lifestyle that the region is known for. The old one seemed like something out of the 60s, and what was that thing behind the Pac? The sun?
A re-designed website that will feature streaming video called the Pac-10 Digital Network, including this marketing video that sorta scared us with its intensity.
Of course, without a quality product and the ability to get it aired nationally from coast to coast, all of this is mere window dressing. Props to Larry Scott for recognizing that the viability of his league will require some creative thinking and a proactive approach, but next year’s television deal is where the water will hit the sand. Otherwise, those east coasters and midwesterners who already don’t care will continue to not care, and even with the West Coast adding people hand over fist, it alone still only represents about one-fifth of Americans.