Friday, November 7, 2008

Paint It Blue

The post I'm not a seismologist was about the kerfluffle coming for the paint manufacturers. (I've decided I don't much like the word, crisis, as the urge is to use it so often lately it begins to have the same force as the threat of terrorism color code of the day so from now on unless it's an actual crisis kerfluffle will stand in for the possibility of destruction, chaos and the imminent imploding of the known paintball universe.) The later post monopoly 101 was about the ongoing dialogue considering the prospect of the MS (and possibly) the PSP restricting event gear sales and usage to league sponsors only. What intrigues me about this pair of posts is what conclusions might be drawn from information already in hand. (That, and I get to rehash in greater detail topics already commented on because I never know when to stop.)
This off season's paint sponsorships will go a long way to predicting the viability of the pro game and teams for next season. Sponsorship was down last year and if the rumors and restructuring have any validity availability is likely to tighten further.
The current practice – restricting brands available to league sponsors – for selling paint at events would seem to make the case for extending that policy across the board. But it doesn't, not when examined in any detail. For starters paint is unique in that it's meant to be used up. Like buying a hamburger. Or keeping it to paintball, batteries. Your purchase assumes consumption and has no long term consequences. Unlike virtually everything else you might buy in order to play the game. Even so, paint choice isn't irrelevant and is frequently simply tolerated by non-sponsored teams who are more price sensitive than brand sensitive. And the current practice must raise the price of any case of paint regardless of how reasonable it may seem because the vendors have to not only cover their ordinary expenses but also the premium the league charges. And at this point in time that is becoming prohibitive for the vendors – end of the day their wallet is bare, too. The larger problem is the old economies are failing to apply anymore. As everyone gets squeezed it becomes harder and harder to make the process, at any stage, profitable.
Instead the place Big League paintball finds itself is with the leagues facing unpredictable but almost certainly tougher times (think Richard Harris in A Man Called Horse) in the immediate future in part because of the precarious position of the paint manufacturers. In an environment where mid-sized and small vendors struggle to justify participating in Big League paintball instituting sponsor only restrictions across all paintball related gear sales and use is suicidal folly. The rationale with paint was to justify the promotion charging the paint manufacturers for the right to sell at the event. [The leagues can't charge the sellers for the right to sell if somebody who doesn't pay can sell, too.] Not only won't that work to improve league revenues with respect to gear it will drive all but a handful of heavily invested vendors away as well as some (probably significant) number of teams and players beyond the likely losses from the economic downturn. Beyond that it will raise the bar on future participation to a prohibitive level that will keep business and teams away.
Among other things it badly misjudges the current market trends and the value of participating in Big League paintball at every level.

Kay, I think that (hopefully) dead horse has been thoroughly and sufficiently beaten.

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