This appears in the Monday, march 21, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
Game, Set, Match.
by rick olivares
Last Monday, March 14, I took part in a marketing forum titled “Game, Set, Match” at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business. I was one of six speakers along with former basketball star and Senator Freddie Webb, noted sports columnist Quinito Henson, former UAAP Basketball Commissioner Atty. Rebo Saguisag, Alaska Aces team captain Tony Dela Cruz, and ABS-CBN’s Customer Marketing Specialist, Ardee Gonzales. The moderators were Aksyon TV analysts Eric Reyes and Dominic Uy.
The forum, attended by over a hundred students, was organized by the Marketing Management Class S29 under Professor Rajan Sadhwani.
I am glad that this forum was organized because it gave the students a glimpse of how sports plays a significant role in our lives, the bigness of its impact, and the opportunities available not only athletically but also business-wise.
Local sports has gone a long way from the Philippine Basketball Association being the only game in town to people now having a multitude of choices from boxing to collegiate basketball to volleyball to football (you can also throw in more choices although they compete for people’s attention in the form of the internet to travel to cable television and malling among many others). A cursory scan of the sports pages of newspapers and you’ll even find reports on mixed martial arts, golf, rugby, and more. The sheer number of media outfits that report on a daily basis on sports is massive. More so than even politics.
All the speakers made their points but it was the question and answer portion that I was greatly interested in because they represent in many ways how the public views sports and the way it works.
Question: Why aren’t there any new sports heroes like the Big J, Ramon Fernandez, Freddie Webb etc?
Those guys were demi-gods. But there are new ones. Their names are Alyssa Valdez, JuneMar Fajardo, Nonito Donaire, Stephan Schrock, and Kiefer Ravena. And there’s a whole lot more. They are leading their respective sports into a different stratosphere with the benefit (and even curse) of the internet and social media with them.
Obviously, there’s a generational divide and that is no different from those who swear that Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player of all time and those who give the nod to Michael Jordan. Even as of now, there are those deigning to mention Steph Curry in that same conversation (although the jury has yet to decide on that since Golden State’s star is only in the early years of his incredible career).
One major difference is that sports generally are more geared towards families today. And there are more women too who follow sports. I was of the time when you went to a game there was a possibility of a rumble and you didn’t bring a date along with you because you had to worry about her safety. Thank Heavens that is no longer the case. I think even the older folks have to appreciate that.
Question: How can a sport like gymnastics be popular again?
Quick. Who was the last big name gymnast? Bea Lucero, right. And man that was decades ago. Gymnastics has always been there. It just isn’t one of the more popular sports. Really, prior to Nadia Comaneci becoming the world’s darling during the 1976 Olympics (especially after the Summer Games being tarnished by the previous events in Munich in 1972), can you name any one big name gymnast?
Gymnastics is a sport that is television friendly where you can really appreciate the performance. You need a transcendent star to bring in the crowds, the interest, and the sponsorship. We aren’t a big market for sports. For all the massive inroads and popularity of volleyball, the semi-pro version of the sport is in its infancy. It is growing but it will take a few more years before we see the crowds who pack the UAAP matches share or shift their allegiances to the semi-pro teams.
ABS-CBN’s Ardee Gonzales also made a case for this when he talked about how his channel used affinity to create storylines; to make them more palatable to the public and the corporate sponsors.
We can whine about the lack of government and private sector support and media interest but the fact of the matter is, there are upper tier sports and those in the lower rung.
Tony Dela Cruz also touched upon a very important topic and that is depression. Given the expectations, the stakes, stress of competition from external and internal forces, many athletes do not know how to deal with these problems. This is somewhat related to the two questions I deemed very pertinent to the forum. It has been said that athletes are role models. On one hand, you have NBA basketball star Charles Barkley saying that all he does is dunk a basketball so how can he be a role model? Rightly or wrongly, we put our faith and belief in athletes and it can be especially crushing when we see them falter, stumble, or even disappoint us. It does affect us, the corporate sponsors, and the sport itself.
It was a topic that clearly bears greater understanding and needs to be addressed rather than summarily dismissed because they make wads of money; much more than the common man.
“Game, Set, Match” was slated for about three hours and thirty minutes but it went on for another hour more and it seemed like there still wasn’t enough time to talk, discuss, and dissect the various topics, concerns, and opportunities available. Even after the forum, attendees went came over to ask more questions and to clarify certain points. By the time I left the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, it was well past 11pm. However, it was all good.
So, Raj… when’s the Part Two?