Guest Editorial: How Connecting Online Can Produce Real Business Value

Jonathan Norman is a sports sponsorship strategist for GMR Marketing, a major U.S. sports and event marketing firm. Jonathan has been in sports marketing and media for more than 10 years, and has worked on several major corporate branding campaigns around sports. His expertise resides in how brands reach consumers through sponsorship and activation of sports properties. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Norman and his official blog here.

The main ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square was filled last month with the best and the brightest from sports, as executives from the leagues, teams, networks, brands and agencies gathered for the annual Sports Business Awards. Outside the ballroom, there was a familiar scene. Colleagues and friends shared updates and insights that could lead to the next great idea in sports, and introductions were made that could lead to new partnerships that alter the sports landscape.

Networking is critical for our industry, and as many of you know, it’s expanded online significantly in the last five years. Portals such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other industry-specific social communication sites have changed the way we do business. With nearly 750 million accounts between the three major sites, the impact continues to grow.

Twitter has certainly found popularity among the sports industry in particular, as 42 percent of those surveyed in the 2010 SBJ/SBD Reader Survey are using the service, up six percentage points from the previous year. Assuming that our industry has a universe of 50,000 individuals domestically and internationally (a very round estimate), that would mean that at least 21,000 of us could be connecting on an hourly, daily or weekly basis on Twitter.

If we were to look at those Twitter users within the sports business community, we could likely classify them in three ways. I’ll call them “no-shows,” “lurkers” and “connectors.” No-shows are industry members who are not using Twitter. Lurkers are those who have a Twitter account, but use it only for keeping up with the news and conversation, rarely or never contributing. The connectors are those who are plugged in, both receiving and sharing information, all in a highly targeted way.

Each of these groups plays a role in sports business online, but all three have the opportunity to continue to build the community. For no-shows, it’s about getting onto the site, creating a handle and surveying the landscape — listening in. For lurkers, it’s about joining the conversation and interacting with the community — being engaged. If you’re a connector, you’ll want to continue to advocate for using Twitter and engage others to also connect — doing more. That’s where each of these will experience real value. If we look specifically at that value, it’s primarily fourfold. For ease, I’ll just call it the four C’s:

Connection: Twitter provides connection points with colleagues in real time, paired with the ability to network with individuals we don’t normally come across on a daily basis. There’s real value here: Tangible business relationships are formed every day through the medium.

Collaboration: Through these relationships and subsequent conversation on Twitter, we’re able to dissect important issues of the day as a group, each providing our own insights and opinions for the group to consider. While we all represent our own organizations and areas of business, we find opportunities to share valuable thoughts and ideas in an open forum.

Consideration: Through connection and collaboration, we have the opportunity to consider new ways of thinking from other areas of sport. While some may criticize Twitter as a means to erupt with short-sighted musings, it is also a way to read others’ opinions as they unfold, and possibly reconsider your own positions.

Current events: Twitter is increasingly becoming the go-to site for breaking news, whether it’s SportsBusiness Journal reporting a Pac-10 media deal or updates on the latest free agent signing. By simply following one of the many lists of sports business reporters, you can help eliminate the dreaded daily onslaught of Google Alerts.

Over the last three years, our industry has developed a subset of executives that actively participate on Twitter, primarily through the hashtag of #sportsbiz, which is a means of identifying conversations. About 800 users consistently use this identifier to stay up to date on news, share insights, connect with fellow professionals and become more engaged in our industry. This community has become one of the critical components of the ongoing education of sports business executives across the globe. The value of this group, and others built around the sports industry, is evidenced through their rapid growths.

Let it be said that the sports business forum on Twitter will never replace the value of working the ballroom and hallways at industry conferences. We need the face-to-face interactions that are the backbone of our industry. And to be fair, some of the criticisms of Twitter are rooted in the truth. While some of the early perceptions of the medium are well-founded (i.e., sharing what you had for lunch), Twitter has evolved and will continue to do so as business professionals embrace the channel. There’s little downside to joining the community.

By engaging through Twitter, we all share in the ability to be more informed and in tune with the sports business industry. It allows us to serve our clients and sponsor partners better and, in the end, further develop our own ability to collaborate and connect.

For smart sports professionals, I believe the choice is easy: We all have to develop an online networking game plan and execute it. Whether you’re a no-show, lurker or connector, commit to the plan and you’ll find rewarding interactions that have real business value.

Guest Editorial - LinkedIn: How #SportsBiz Approaches the Channel

Jonathan Norman is a sports sponsorship strategist for GMR Marketing, a major U.S. sports and event marketing firm. Jonathan has been in sports marketing and media for more than 10 years, and has worked on several major corporate branding campaigns around sports. His expertise resides in how brands reach consumers through sponsorship and activation of sports properties. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Norman and his official blog here.

I’m going to start today’s blog post with a little trivia. How many LinkedIn users list the key term “sports” on their profile? Any guesses? Would you say nearly 1,000,000 of us? 924,329 to be exact (well, as of this moment). This is roughly 2% of the estimated 50,000,000 users globally.

With nearly 1MM users mentioning sports in their profile, it got me thinking. I think it’s funny just how many @sportsbiz folks I’m not linked to on the LinkedIn platform. Does it seem like a larger commitment than just a follow on Twitter? I think so. When we connect on LinkedIn, we’re looking to establish a deeper (if that can even be said) relationship with a colleague, sharing more personal information. I think that the LinkedIn search has even replaced the Google search for those we’re looking to learn more about. I know I certainly do.

The interesting thing to me about #sportsbiz on LinkedIn is just how disjointed we seem without the organizing concept of hashtags. It’s like we’re lost sheep continually looking for a shepherd! The sheer number of groups related to sports marketing is astounding. Take that key word alone, and we’re looking at 247 groups just in that universe. Expand the term to sports alone, and it’s almost 4,500. I know we’re talking in hyperbole here, but it begs the question: how do we use LinkedIn as an industry?

For me it’s all about making new connections and maximizing existing ones, all in the hopes of creating opportunities by driving value out of the relationship. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but really … it’s what it’s all about. How can what I do on a daily basis, help you and your needs, and can we find a reason to work together? The concept doesn’t seem all that much different than Twitter, and LinkedIn has taken a major step forward in the status and following additions on the site.

But I would challenge #sportsbiz to think about how we can connect on LinkedIn. How can we work together to create opportunities, bridge challenges, and build solutions? I would guess that this is a rhetorical question, but I do think there’s real application there. Here’s five ways I think we can maximize the value of our network:

1. Learn more about each other. Get to know your connections’ backgrounds. See where there are commonalities that might be able to help drive value.

2. Take advantage of longer interaction. We have more than 140 characters to communicate with each other. We need to lever this opportunity and maximize it.

3. Don’t just join a group; contribute to a community. I believe this is one of the major opportunities for us. We all have 20 to 30, perhaps even more, groups we’re a part of. Pick one or two that are particularly a good fit and make your communication useful

4. Think about the mentoring opportunities. I still believe that one of the biggest issues we have in @sportsbiz today is the development and cultivation of solid, young talent. We need to commit to doing more to develop it.

5. Lead by example. There many be other ideas you have on how to maximize your value on LinkedIn. Tell us, and then show us. It’s all about sharing and creating best practices.

One last thing. Are we connected? If not, let's get connected:

Guest Editorial - Evolve the 140: How #SportsBiz Can Lead on Twitter

Jonathan Norman is a sports sponsorship strategist for GMR Marketing, a major U.S. sports and event marketing firm. Jonathan has been in sports marketing and media for more than 10 years, and has worked on several major corporate branding campaigns around sports. His expertise resides in how brands reach consumers through sponsorship and activation of sports properties. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Norman and his official blog here.

Twitter has become a core communications channel among those in the sports business (err, #sportsbiz) community.  We have gathered around the electronic campfire, so to speak, to share our experiences, insights and even stories (sometimes, true ... sometimes, not so true) among our closest virtual contacts.

It has made our world smaller, more accessible.  We're in contact with people we likely would not have known before, all through Twitter, Linked In and other like creatures.  The information cycle has shrunk to near zero.  We are more in front of issues, and more on top of news.  We know what's going on almost before it happens.  We're smarter ... or so we think.

While we have more access to information, it's provided mixed results.  We lose critical components of messaging through translation.  We make mistakes because of our inability to tolerate detail that easily accessed information allows us to pass by.  Sometimes, I truly believe that information has made us smarter than we need to be -- information does that.  There's a statement that I've heard several times in my career that I absolutely believe is true: "paralysis by analysis."  But I digress.

Our ability to quickly and concisely communicate has come at a price.  I find that sometimes, we're wont to not pick up the phone, make the meeting or go the extra mile because communication has become so effortless.  Such is the case with Twitter.  It's the easiest form of communications we have in our community.  But we have to move past the ease of the medium, and move towards collaboration without a loss of communication.

When I first started tweeting, I didn't really have a focus on each of my tweets.  Now, I find that I spend considerable time planning out that line of text in Tweet Deck.  I'm careful to make sure that, like a writer on a fine manuscript, I want the message to be perfect.  I want to assure that my message is not misconstrued.  I need to consistently think about thought and intent.

Bottom line: We have to commit ourselves to a simple task -- "evolve the 140."  Through, being the operative term, as I believe we are capable of using Twitter in a much more thoughtful way.

Let's consider thought and intent.  Thought is more about clarity than design.  Is what I'm saying relevant?  Does it make sense to the reader?  Is it appropriately placed within the conversation?  Intent is about targeting the message to the appropriate audience.  It's not, "Am I saying the right thing?"  It's "Am I talking to the right people?"

Now, you're probably asking yourself, "How does this apply to #sportsbiz"?  Well, honestly, if we can evolve ... we can lead.

By my count, there's probably 500 or so Twitter users that are worthy of a follow.  Some because they're captains of industry.  Some because they're thoughtful and insight-rich.  Others because they're downright funny.  But if I apply the lenses of thought and intent, how many of us make the grade?

What does "evolve the 140" mean?  If I were to humbly set out a list of rules for #sportsbiz to demonstrate leadership on Twitter, I’d lay out the following 5 commitments:

  1. We commit to thought leadership. We provide our expertise where warranted, and we use this knowledge to improve the greater community.
  2. We commit to relevancy. We’re always on point with the #sportsbiz thematic, and not what we had for dinner tonight. We find content that is relevant to our audience and we share
  3. We commit to timeliness. We always make sure that what we’re talking about is “in-the-now” or looking forward.
  4. We commit to the audience. In choosing the subject of our tweets, we always make sure that it’s of benefit to the readership at large, not for our own personal self-worth.
  5. We commit to clarity. Nothing is worse than a ill-constructed tweet. We’ll take the time to build something worth sharing – clearly and concisely.

In closing, I'm hopeful that the evolution of the #sportsbiz community will continue, and perhaps this blog post will cause just one person to take pause and think of the implications of a stronger group of sports marketing professionals.  I know we're one of the smartest, savviest, most forward-thinking groups on Twitter.  It's just up to us to show it.

GMR Marketing Showcases New Technologies at Tech Petting Zoo

GMR Marketing recently hosted an Event Tech Petting Zoo that gave employees, clients, and reporters an inside look at the marketing technology of the future. The event, held at the company's headquarters in New Berlin, WI debuted 35 cutting edge, interactive products and exhibits, including digital graffiti walls, the world's first flexible LED wall, gesture-based projection screens, 3D televisions, fog screens and more.

The event helped GMR showcase new technologies to their clients that will truly take their marketing and activation plans to a whole new level.

Check out the video enclosed below that details some of the amazing new technologies that were showcased at the GMR Event Tech Petting Zoo:

For more information about GMR Marketing and/or some of the technologies featured at theGMR Event Tech Petting Zoo, please feel free to contact Brian Gainor at