Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Promotion of Competitive Paintball as Commodity, Part 1

Long title. Sounds kinda boring. Probably is kinda boring. Probably not particularly relevant for the majority of even this blog's readers. Fortunately none of those things dissuade me in the slightest.

I've been reviewing the recent history of major league self-promotion and competitive paintball promotion in general and it falls into three categories; promotion to the pool of potential customers (peeps who already play); promotion within the PBIndustry and promotion to the wider, non-playing public. And within these categories you have sub-groups. For example, when it comes to potential customers there are regional competitive players, recreational players, etc. Industry promotion is about building reciprocal relationships and support for the leagues. Among the non-playing public there are sports fans, adrenaline junkies, spoiled rich kids, video game shut-ins, The Most Dangerous Game wannabes, Real Housewives of Orange County and assorted corporate simulacrum with nothing in common except an unspent pile of marketing cashola. (Some are more likely targets than others.) In all cases I think there's, let's just say, room for improvement.

So what exactly have the Big Leagues done to promote themselves to the pool of likely paintball players? When there was only one league the answer is damn little. (Think Millennium Series.) With the split came competition between the leagues. That competition resulted in actual substantive improvements. Improvements that could be used in the promotion of the leagues--but not promotion per se. But don't get caught up in the conventional wisdom that says the competition between leagues created an unsustainable product and level of expectation. (That part of the competition wasn't about the players it was about the Race 2-TV.)

Once upon a time promotion was mostly assumed--if anybody bothered to spend anytime thinking about it. There are competitive paintball teams out there who will rise to the national/international challenge, right? Cool. With the split to 2 competing leagues and 2 formats promotion began to matter. And that promotion largely focused on philosophies and differences; primarily formats (7-man vs. 10-man & xball) & focus. By focus I mean the NPPL was selling an experience--the perpetual paintball party--while the PSP was selling paintball as legit sport. The methods (and means) were, and remain (mostly) mundane, lacking creativity. Email blasts for past players on a list, announcements on paintball forums, ads in magazines. The latest invention, video clips. (Some of which have been good.) But if survival is at stake shouldn't there be more?

Next time more about where promotions are now--and eventually some thoughts on where they ought to be and maybe even how to make it happen.


J-Bird said...

im actually really, REALLY interested in this side of the sport and why more hasnt been done to cultivate it. looking at other action/extreme sports, they know how to hype their shit. and they do a damn good job at it.

Anonymous said...

I wish we still had a PSP webcast? sad times.

houdini said...

This gets back to TV contracts which will generate $ponsor$ which can be used for better marketing.

Which touches back on a topic much talked about here - is paintball TV friendly?

I watched the NPPL webcast from over here in Asia and was disappointed by the poor camera angles. Can anyone tell me if anyone has ever bothered to do a wide angle overhead camera shot from 10 feet behind the starting gate looking down the field (similar view to the 3D renders of field layouts most leagues provide) so that you can at least see 50% of the field and each player's positions on their side of the field?

The side angles are great for close up action but we're always going to miss the action on the other side of the field. It can't cost that much more to have fixed camera positions at each end of the field for some overhead vision can it? Then at least the viewers can get a better idea of the tactics involved in playing certain bunkers and how players use teamwork to move forward.

I suppose my point here is that in light of the lack of TV coverage major league paintball gets, the next best thing is the webcast. If promoters are going to bother doing a webcast, why not try and add a few more fixed overhead camera angles to make it easier for viewers to follow the action - then at least some non-paintball playing viewers may spend some time watching and may have a chance of understanding how the game is played a little more - heck they may even be encouraged to go and try paintball for themselves if they realize that there is more to the sport than just shooting paint at each other?

Don Saavedra said...

You will find what you are looking for with the PSP webcast.

J-Bird said...

im excited about the psp webcast, i really am. and if you want to see some great paintball for tv, check out the NCPA. Their webcast was right on par with the PSP imo (for being their FIRST cast).

i think a lot of this also has to do with the interesting state that the paintball media is in. Magazines are pretty much dead, online magazines i dont see living much longer, and it's JUST now becoming apparent that there is this thing called "youtube" which is really cool -- you should check it out.

anyway, I have two theories:
1. there is a group of pro players that are primed to retire -- they're getting a little older and might be having trouble with the money and physical aspects of the game. This group should move into the logistics area with teams, or move into the media (much like retired NFL players). Once they retire that's going to provide a pretty beefy influx of coaches/media personnel.

2. PBnation has a monopoly on the pb media.

anonachris said...

The PSP webcast is a perfect case of, what happens if we build it and no one comes? They built a pretty awesome "it". But I don't know how effective at being promotional it was. It was damn effective at showing a lot of awesome paintball to enthusiasts in the know.

Probably the best promotion of it was the underdone part. The team bios, etc.

I go back to my post from a few weeks(months?) ago... staging promotional only exhibitions. Instead of putting on an entire tournament, take the game on tour with a couple pro teams (rotate them in and out).

Maybe you can go the high class venue... (think Eiffel tower or Times Square in the background -- yes I know that's dreaming but more high profile venues, and not necessarily sprawling venues since you don't need tons of space if you're just running one exhibition field)

Promotional matches at concert tours is another way to go.

This is real promotion.

Patrick Spohrer said...

"The PSP webcast is a perfect case of, what happens if we build it and no one comes?"

People came, trust me and more were on their way, but it takes money to get something like this off the ground and to the next level.

One day maybe, as for now we can only hope they bring back the webcast.


Anonymous said...

Why can't we take paintball as it is? Why is everyone looking for a golden horse to ride on that will bring the promised land? No sport, ever, has been able to turn tables like paintball wants to "get big".

You get big, by getting more people playing. It does not involve TV, nor TV friendly formats, it means more and more tournaments and progression that players want.

When you reach the critical mass of people involved, everything becomes golden. Effort should be focused "how do we get more paintball players to play tournament paintball".

Baca Loco said...

Me and you, J-Bird.

I think what's the next best thing is an open question. And even if the webcast is it but the webcast isn't an option--does that mean little or nothing gets done or considered?
(The NPPL webcast is both promotion and symbol but can't be a significant expense. The PSP was expanding camera views and option practically every event.)

(I'm responding as I read each comment.) I think you're right about one rank of pros and it will be interesting to see but if even a handful make successful and positive transitions it's a plus.

That was weeks ago, I think, and an excellent comment. But one of the issues is that there are options other than the big budget home run effort.

I agree in the sense that any and all promotion should have priorities that guide how the leagues choose what to do. Of course it wouldn't hurt to have a menu of options other than the home run.

I'm not sure I buy the critical mass argument though. What number is it? Will it only be a critical mass when it succeeds?

J-Bird said...

To piggy back off anonchris's idea - why not hold these matches at state fairs (if possible)? If money for set up is a problem, I'm sure a team could work with a local field. Heck, you don't even need an organizing body to really do it...two teams could get together and manage this them self. Say there are two teams for Florida, they decide to do this at the Florida state fair and play for some made up could work?

Reiner Schafer said...

Maybe I'm out of touch, but what is a webcast supposed to accomplish? The only people who are going to tune into the webcast (with a few minor exceptions) are people already interested in competitive paintball, at least on some level. It isn't going to attract people from outside of paintball and even from players of other paintball genres.

On TV, at least paintball might get a few channel surfers to stop and watch for a while (and hopefully get interested). The internet is way too big for many to "chance" upon the webcast. Not saying that I think paintball on TV is economically viable.

houdini said...

Agree with you Reiner but...

The webcast helps to create a fan base, ok yes agreed not as effective as TV but you have to work with the resources available to promote your sport. Produce the webcast properly and promote/market the webcast properly and you start building viewer stats and exploring production aspects that can be presented to TV bigwigs for coverage consideration in the future.

You can't expect people to tune into a webcast if you don't promote it to the masses. You want people to watch then run an international competition where people need to login into the webcast to win etc - everyone loves free stuff... give away a car or a free trip and watch how many non-paintball people will watch the webcast!!! They do the same thing for TV so what's stopping anyone doing the same marketing for a webcast?

Prove that you can obtain decent viewer numbers and you may get companies wanting to advertise on the webcast or even sponsor the entire thing.

At the end of the day the webcast should be only seen as stepping stone to TV coverage which should be the ultimate goal.

I think Baca should just pitch an documentary idea to Discovery Channel where he turns a bunch of non-playing sports misfits into paintball pros...obviously he'd have to get rid of the mask first!!!

anonachris said...

Patrick, All due respect but promoting your product to enthusiasts is important for sure, but I don't think it's so much of the promotion we're talking about.

It's the difference between fighting a turf war to retain your potential customer base (important) to instead just enlarging the pie and growing your potential customer base.

The PSP should have a webcast. I'd argue, financially, unless a big sponsor comes in and pays for it it should be a barebones one to help retain potential customers. The top notch effort that was put out there was great, but I don't think it accomplished much other than to say, "We did it" (and what have you done for me lately, the customer responds)

Johnny5072 said...

I think the webcast is an evolution. Now that it has been shown to be a viable "product" for the PSP (it was produced well with a quality that everyone can agree on), now it is time to see what it will take to evolve it beyond the Paintball audience. Is it even possible to market it beyond Paintball?

The next step in the evolution is to figure out how much, who, and where to spend money to market it beyond the nets of competitive paintball. The only drawback I see is that the PSP would be inevitably building back into the sport and not directly back into the league. However since the PSP is league/manufacturer operated, that may not be that much of a stretch for them. Being that the owners want new players as much as the league does.

anonachris said...

J-Bird said...

johnny, by building back into the sport, they might also be building back into the league?

if race-2/five man becomes the real money game, they'll feel it...