Tag Archives: sports

The Major Leagues get a new Sport – Pickleball  

By now we’re all familiar with pickleball. We’ve heard about it from friends, relatives, and neighbors. After all, it is the fastest-growing recreational sport with roughly five million players.

But somehow, it lacks the status of other sports. You know, the ones with big name players, top athletes, and big leagues. Like the NBA, MLB, MLS, NFL, and more. But now, there is a new entrant to the big leagues – MLP (also known as major league pickleball)!

Even basketball king LeBron James is in on the action, having recently purchased a MLP team. The MLP will expand to 24 teams next year. Each team has co-ed players, two men and two women, who play singles and doubles events.

In MLP play, there are no home teams. Similar to the three-on-three basketball league Big3, all teams arrive in the tournament city for play. This year there were three tournaments and next year will have six tournaments. Prize money in 2023 will be $2.4 million (compared to $1 million this year).

The popularity of pickleball has grown rapidly. Community organizations, tennis clubs, and athletic gear companies have all gotten in on the new sport. Pickleball-only clubs are also being developed. One such club is Lucky Shot in Minneapolis where players match up in a 40,000-square-foot space. Other entertainment locations such as breweries are also installing pickleball courts.

It may have a crazy name, but it’s caught on and entered the big leagues!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What are favorite sports? Which sports do the students play?
  2. Who has played pickleball? Describe their experiences.
  3. Show the MLP site: https://www.majorleaguepickleball.net/
  4. Show Lucky Shots site: https://luckyshotspickleball.com/
  5. Show Smash Park site: https://smashpark.com/
  6. Divide students into teams.
  7. Have each team put together a marketing campaign to gain followers for a pickleball team.
  8. What are the key elements?

Source:  Berkman, S. (14 June 2022). Developers embrace passion for pickleball. New York Times.; Mather, V. (3 October 2022). Move over… everything? Here comes major league pickleball. New York Times.

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Electric Bikes Take Off

The pandemic created a great deal of pain and turmoil for people as they worried about health and jobs. And, people made a lot of adjustments in their daily lives during, and now after, the pandemic. There have been supply chain disruptions in all industries, making it hard to get inventory to the customer.

Despite all the strain, one of the positive impacts in the past two years has been the uptick in sales of electric-bikes. In 2021, more than 880,000 e-bikes were sold, far surpassing the units sold of electric cars and trucks (at 608,000). Industry experts predict that more than one million e-bikes will be sold in the U.S. in 2022.

And why not. E-bikes are easy to use and greatly increase the speed of regular bike trips. No more huffing and puffing up a hill, only to arrive sweaty at a destination. And instead of driving, the e-cargo bikes can make the trip and haul groceries as well as the kids. Finally, let’s not forget about rising gas prices! (The more expensive gas gets, the better my e-bike looks.)

Many new e-bike firms are taking to the road by selling only online. However, buying online has one big flaw – the inability to touch and test the product before buying. There are plenty of testimonials and videos, but nothing beats actually experiencing an e-bike.

One solution from Belgian e-bike company Cowboy, is to take the bikes to the prospective customer. In ten cities in the U.S., prospects can request Cowboy ‘ambassadors’ to bring the bikes to them for a trial ride. A similar approach is being used by Rad Power Bikes. In addition to several stores, pop-up events and test rides bring the e-bikes to more places. Pedego e-bikes uses a different model and has more than 200 distributors where riders can try the e-bikes before they buy.

Ready to ride?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Have they ridden electric bikes? Where and how?
  2. View Cowboy bikes: https://us.cowboy.com/
  3. View Rad Power bikes: https://www.radpowerbikes.com/
  4. View Pedego bikes: https://pedegoelectricbikes.com/
  5. In order to be successful, companies must be able to physically get a product into the hands of the customers. Discuss how a distribution channel works.
  6. For Internet-based e-bike companies, what distribution channels are used now?
  7. How can the channel be expanded? What approach could be used?
  8. Divide students into teams. Have each team draw a flow chart for the distribution of the product.

Sources:  Boudway, I. (18 April 2022). E-bike online startup lets you ride before you buy.  Bloomberg News.; Hurford, M. (27 April 2022). New research shows that e-bikes are outpacing electric car sales in the U.S. Bicycling.com.

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Finally March Madness Applies to Women’s Basketball, Too!

By chance did you watch the NCAA Final Four Basketball? It was an incredible final match-up with Univ. of Connecticut and South Carolina, with So. Carolina the final champion. What a game!

Oh wait. Sorry. Did you think I meant the men’s final? Not this year – it was the women getting some equity and coverage. Finally.

Remember last year’s disparity in how the men’s and women’s teams were treated? The issue caught fire online and the outrage caused an outside review of the NCAA’s treatment of the tournaments. The 200-page report stated that the NCAA “prioritized men’s Division I basketball over everything else” – including broadcast agreements, sponsorships, distribution of revenue, and culture.

Not only were locker rooms and equipment clearly unequal (among many other issues!), but the women’s tournament wasn’t even allowed to call itself ‘March Madness’. Only the men’s tournament could use “March Madness” branding. And we all know how powerful branding is for business.

In response to the report’s findings, there were a lot of changes made this year and you may have noticed expanded media coverage as one of the changes. It seemed as if suddenly sports journalists discovered just how powerful women’s basketball was with audiences.

The final championship game was the most-watched women’s national championship since 2004. The 4.85 million viewers on ESPN was an increase of 30% from 2019. The full NCAA Division I women’s tournament averaged 634,000 viewers/game for an increase of 16% from last year. In terms of hours of TV viewing, it was roughly 4.1 million more hours of viewing this year versus 2021!

The research report also found that NCAA has left tens of millions of dollars on the table due to its NOT recognizing the earning potential of the women’s tournament. Estimates are that the women’s tournament could bring in as much as $100 million in broadcast payments. That’s revenue that NCAA can’t afford to miss!

Think about it for a minute. The math is simple.

More viewing hours means more opportunity for marketing and advertising.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Who watched the women’s tournament? Who watched the men’s tournament? Why or why not?
  2. Show video of last year’s discrepancies: https://youtu.be/ozGknW86DWA
  3. (Optional) Video of the money behind March Madness: https://youtu.be/ubqGb4_iJMI
  4. Discuss how to build and use a SWOT analysis grid: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (internal and external factors).
  5. For NCAA, break students into teams and have each team build a SWOT analysis grid.
    1. Strengths: what is company good at?
    1. Weaknesses: what needs work?
    1. Opportunities: what is going on in marketplace?
    1. Threats: what should company be wary of?
  6. Based on the analysis, what are the issues and risks that might occur?
  7. Where would the women’s basketball tournaments fit into the grid?

Source:  Baccellieri, E. (18 March 2022). March madness faced a gender reckoning. Now everyone gets a pasta station – but what else? Sports Illustrated.; Bachman, R. (15 March 2022). A year later, women’s NCAA tournament has more teams, more sponsors and ‘March Madness’. Wall Street Journal.; other news sources.

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