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Tuesday September 25 2018
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$ports on the High $eas

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If there was a need to underscore just how much the sports world is looking for ‘the next great thing’, consider it done. At least until the next one comes along; and at least with respect to sports marketing.

Let’s back up to the NHL’s Winter Classic. We recently saw NBC sports bigwig Dick Ebersol—he's the one NHL.com points out has produced eight of the top 10 most-watched television events in U.S. history—talk big stuff about the Classic, calling it the “freshest, most meaningful idea to come to any major American sports league in a very long time, certainly 20 years and the public has just surrounded it with their attention and their praise.”

Considering he was excited talking about the league after NBC Sports Group just wrapped up a 10 year broadcasting and media rights deal with the NHL at about $200 million annually, I could consider his thoughts exaggerated. But there’s that eight of 10 most-watched television events thing on his resume, so maybe not.

Perhaps that was what Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis had in mind when he came up with the Spartans playing basketball this Veterans Day on an aircraft carrier. Against North Carolina. The first time we will have seen that.

Michigan State knows something about this, having played Michigan in hockey at the Big House in “The Big Chill” this past December. Well, switch channels to something else Michigan State knows about—men's basketball—only this time with a limited live audience of largely military personnel with a humongous television audience.

In other words, something similar to the Winter Classic; pumping up interest in what would be an otherwise fairly pedestrian regular season game just by playing it in an unusual setting.

With sports networks, teams, leagues, advertisers and marketing types all looking forward for something unique to advance their common interests, you can understand how this creates buzz. In fact, it’s almost surprising more effort is not placed into creatively attempting to do so, particularly in today’s economy.

The reports have it that about 4,000 military personnel will be selected to be at the game. There will be a few hundred tickets apiece for the participating schools, others to various charities and partners. But if you think you’re going to walk up the carrier and ask for the box office, forget it – no tickets will be sold to the general public.

I mean, it’s like the event’s organizer, Mike Whalen, said: “It’s an added measure of security. Again, this is a United States warship.”

So don’t plan on showing up in San Diego holding a pair of fingers in the air. You’re not getting in.

But for those that do get frisked head-to-toe on the way in, and millions watching at home, rest assured the environment will be electric.

Like the Winter Classic.

Click here to hear The Ellis Cannon Sports Business Report from Radio PA.

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