Category Archives: General News

Rick Gentile in The New York Times, ‘Blood and Sport’

Rick Gentile, Seton Hall faculty member and Director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll, was featured in this NY Times video report that looks at the violence of football amidst concerns about the health and well being of football players.  The news report, “Blood and Sport,” asks whether these concerns could have an impact on football’s popularity in the way that similar concerns, stemming from the death of a boxer on a televised bout, led to a precipitous decline in corporate sponsorship for, and then the popularity of, boxing.

Gentile, a former Executive Producer and Senior Vice President of CBS Sports, was asked to weigh in.

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Seton Hall Sports Poll Update

Seth Everett gives the latest Seton Hall SportsPoll update: MLB’s World Series vs. NFL; interesting result for sports stadium billboard sponsorship and perceived effect (1 minute, 27 seconds).

Baseball: The Most Excruciating Sport

20151101_230723If boxing is the cruelest sport (it is), then baseball is, perhaps, the most excruciating. In the middle of July in the midst of a 162 game season it is excruciating in the sense that it seems as though it will never end: the teams trudge through summer in a schedule designed for attrition.

In September and October, with the playoffs at hand, it is excruciating because it will end – or could end – with the very next pitch.

With the drama distilled and rolled up into a little ball – focused and traveling at 97 mph— there is nothing quite like a full count on a batter with the game and maybe the entire season on the line. Nothing quite like a playoff game (never mind a World Series game) when your team is playing, and almost every pitch feels that way. The entirety of a year’s work (pitchers and catchers report in February) resting on and rolled into a series of moments—the next moment.

It waits. And in that waiting, that time before the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd, lies the beauty of baseball: an anticipation, a dread even, that has built to a fine point over a period of a year—or decades, or 107 years if you’re a Cubs fan.

Nearly unbearable at times, playoff baseball is, in short, dramatic.

And this has been, by almost all accounts, the most exciting World Series in years. But relatively few people are watching.

A recent Seton Hall Sports Poll found a strong gain for Major League Baseball’s World Series:

That’s a shift in differential from 34 to 12% — with an effective upward movement for baseball of 22 points.

That, coupled with a Game One this year that had the highest TV ratings for a World Series game in 5 years, represents a strong gain for Major League Baseball.

But as Jason Notte notes in his article at Marketwatch: “This is the most exciting World Series no one is watching,” viewership for baseball’s biggest games is decidedly lackluster in comparison with its own illustrious history and, contemporaneously, other sports. He also notes that “baseball has problems with demographics and how playoff games are broadcast.”

He is right. As Rich Hoffman, Sports Editor at the Philadelphia Daily News posits:

But there’s hope. I watched game 4 on Saturday night with my girlfriend’s 17 year old son. He is not a baseball fan. He plays the guitar, works on cars, spends an inordinate amount of time on his phone and watches football and basketball. We rooted for the Mets. As the game progressed and I cheered and cursed in turn, he turned to me and said, a number of times with a big smile on his face: “I can’t believe how exciting this is. It’s soooo tense. I don’t know what to say.”

Nothing to say, really— it’s post season baseball.

But there is a question to be asked: With a product that good, how didn’t he know? What is MLB’s marketing strategy for people who aren’t “about the average age”?

Notte concludes: “Baseball has gone from a national pastime to a niche, and neither it nor its World Series are going to work their way back until they become more accessible.”

I’m not sure niche is quite the right word here. Boxing is niche. I’ve written about boxing for The Guardian, 15Rounds.com, Queensbury Rules (named a Top 25 blog by Time magazine, but you’ve almost certainly never heard of it), the Daily Record and the Asbury Park Press. When I look for boxing news and go to a general sports source such as ESPN.com, BleacherReport or SBNation, my sport is listed under “Other” or “More.”

Baseball still holds a place in the header, but Notte has a point— and MLB should listen, and build upon the tenuous gains it’s made— or risk finding itself relegated in the popular consciousness and sports pages to “Other.”

Public Divided on Whether Fantasy Sports Commercials Should Run During Televised Games; Governor Christie’s ‘Really?’ Comment on Debate May Have Rung True

South Orange, NJ, October 29, 2015 — Despite ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and the FBI into whether daily sports fantasy games are a form of gambling, the American public is divided on whether commercials for those sites should be appearing in televised sports events.

A Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this week (Oct. 26-28) among 820 random adults across the country by landline and cellphone, found that 41% felt they should be able to advertise and 39% felt they should not. (20% said they did not know.)

The poll has a margin of error of 3.5%, making the result a statistical dead heat.

“The ads from DraftKings and FanDuel are ubiquitous,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the Poll, which is sponsored by The Sharkey Institute. “They are definitely a new and impactful part of the sports landscape. It happened, seemingly, overnight. But there is certainly no hard push-back by viewers about running these ads.

“It seems to harken what {N.J.} Governor {Chris} Christie said in the debate last night about playing fantasy sports as an issue – ‘really?’”

Only 4% of respondents said they participated in a baseball fantasy game.

The Poll also asked if sponsors who promote products (such as fantasy sports), in an environment where its athletes are forbidden to participate (college athletes may not gamble), should not be allowed to advertise on any college sports. By 59% to 34%, respondents said they should not. A similar margin – 56%-36% – felt that beer advertising should not appear on college sports telecasts.   (It currently does). The Poll also noted that the NCAA has said the ads will not run during their college basketball tournaments, and 47% felt that was a good decision, versus only 30% saying it was a bad decision. (23% did not know).

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World Series vs. NFL? Strong Gain for Baseball Shown in Preference

South Orange, NJ, October 29, 2015 — The World Series, which will go head-to-head against the NFL this Sunday (if a fifth game is necessary), has shown strong growth in such a match-up in the opinion of the American public, according to a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this week.

While a regular season NFL game is preferred over a World Series game by a 48%-36% margin, when Seton Hall asked the question five years ago, the NFL margin was 56%-22%. That is a shift from a 34% to 12% differential, and seems to match the ratings for Tuesday night’s Game One of the World Series, which was the highest in five years.

There were no clear differences in the percentages based on whether a baseball or a football game was being played on the day the question was asked.

“This is a strong trend for baseball,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the Poll, which is sponsored by The Sharkey Institute. “Despite the absence of household name stars in this year’s Kansas City-New York Mets matchup, the public is finding the games compelling.”

The Poll was conducted this week (October 26-28) among 820 random adults called on landlines and cellphones across the country. There is a margin of error of 3.5%.

Asked which they expected to be more competitive, the World Series or the political debate, 49% said the debate and 41% said the World Series. (The vast majority of respondents answered prior to the airing of the debate on CNBC, which began at 8 pm eastern time on the final day of polling).

In other findings, 45% felt the World Series takes place too late in the year (vs. 37% saying it was fine to end in November). When asked two years ago, 53% said it takes place too late, and 36% said it was okay as is.

59% said it didn’t matter if a baseball player acts out with a demonstrative gesture in a game (such as a bat flip or a pitcher’s gesture after a strikeout). 17% felt that was good for baseball and 15% said it was bad for baseball.

VIEWING HABITS STILL LOCKED INTO ‘OLD MEDIA’
BILLBOARD SPONSORS HAVE VIEWER ATTENTION

Although there are growing varieties of ways to watch sports, 83% still choose television and 7% choose “in person,” leaving only 5% who usually watch streaming video and 5% “other” or “none.” Streaming video was launched back in 2000 when Rick Gentile produced the Paralympic Games from Sydney, Australia for WeMedia, but now, 15 years later, it remains a small piece of the viewership pie.

Good news for billboard sponsors – 44% of respondents said they pay attention to sponsor signs in the stadium. Asked if they are more or less likely to purchase a product they see sponsoring sports events, only 9% said more likely and 85% said “no difference.” (Advertisers would surely dispute this finding). 6% said they would be less likely.

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DFS, Advertising and the Potential Cost of a Messaging Narrative

Michael J. Ricciardelli, 2015Perhaps, as the International Business Times has noted, there’s an element of backlash against Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) from a public bombarded by its advertising: The New York Times reported that Fan Duel and Draft Kings spent “more than $27 million for about 8,000 television spots in the opening week of the N.F.L. season”; according to iSpot.tv, which tracks national TV advertising spending, in the last seven days of this week Fan Duel alone spent an estimated $11,234,816 on 1,662 buys –-enough to garner it 6th place—behind Geico, Ford and AT&T, but ahead of Verizon, iPhone and Toyota and all but, well, only five other companies in the entirety of the United States.

Which is to say, DFS ads are everywhere –- and If you are a sports fan they have, for good or ill, become a part of your life.

And beyond a generalized level of annoyance, maybe part of the difficulty DFS now faces (and it faces some major and mounting difficulties) is rooted in that message they spent so much to have tattooed within the popular psyche— which is to say, to some extent, they may have been hoist by their own petard.

Two ads or aspects of DFS ads immediately come to mind for me: 1) a young man who says he deposited a total of $35 and has won over $2 million; and 2) another man who, also a winner, says that the only difference between him and all the people who didn’t win is that he played and they didn’t.

Which sounds to me, a bit like an ad for a lottery.

And, as the Seton Hall Sports Poll noted in the release of its poll on Oct. 1, 2015, for DFS the

“waiver to advertise and promote in sports telecasts was based on [the] argument that it is not gambling.”

But, as the poll found, a “wide margin” questioned disagreed:

And, it seems, other people—attorneys general, district attorneys, legislators, the Department of Justice, the FBI, media networks and even the heads of college athletic leagues — are beginning to have questions of their own.

DFS has had to respond and those responses are not without cost: a few weeks ago FanDuel hired Steptoe & Johnson as its federal lobbyist; this week, in the wake of calls for state and federal regulation, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (established in 1998, who knew?) appointed Seth D. Harris to head a Fantasy Sports Control Agency. Seth Harris is the former acting Secretary of Labor and a former Professor at New York Law and a Visiting Professor at Seton Hall Law School (in the interest of disclosure, I’m a graduate of Seton Hall Law; Go Pirates!). He is also a member of the Public Policy and Regulation practice at Dentons US LLP, and has been charged with “creating a strict, transparent and effective system of self-regulation for the businesses that comprise the fantasy sports industry.”

Whether or not the lobbyists can hold the wolves at bay and/or self-regulation will ultimately be deemed by the powers that be to be sufficient, I do not know; but I do know this: win, lose or draw it’ll be an expensive proposition, but even more expensive with a loss.

Going forward, DFS might want to consider the impact of its messaging and the importance of a consistent narrative. And, when it comes to its legislative, lobbying and lawyering efforts, DFS had better hope it picked the right team.

 

 

‘Deflategate’ Equals Deflated Popularity for those Involved

The aftershock of the prolonged debate over “Deflategate,” which resulted in Tom Brady’s suspension over deflated footballs being overturned in judicial proceedings, has crushed the popularity of those involved.

-Commissioner Roger Goodell, who had rebounded from a 12% favorable rating a year ago after his Ray Rice decision to 24% at the conclusion of the Super Bowl, fell back down to 14% favorable.

-Brady himself fell from 61% to 34% favorable since his winning Super Bowl performance.

-Coach Bill Belichick fell from 38% to 21% favorable in the same seven months.

Brady’s counterpart, the ever-popular Peyton Manning of Denver, remains consistently high, with a 61% favorable rating, almost double Brady’s, and right where he has been since the question was first asked in November of 2010.

“Winning a court decision is not the same as winning back the hearts of the fans,” said Gentile. “They have a long way to go.”

Fantasy Sports Games Viewed as Gambling, not Game of Skill by Wide Margin in Seton Hall Sports Poll

Waiver to Advertise and Promote in Sports Telecasts Was Based on Argument That It Is Not Gambling

This is the year that American sports fans have become accustomed to seeing advertising for fantasy sports games (involving the selection of players), while viewing live sports. While sports long embraced a “No Betting” concept with fans, the operators of such companies as DraftKings and FanDuel persuaded regulators that their games were games of skill, not gambling per se.

But the American people are not buying that argument. According to a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this week, 52% of Americans believe them to be a form of gambling, with only 31% believing them to be games of skill. The margin remains the same among categories of respondents that should know the difference: those that have gambled before, participated in fantasy sports and even those that paid money to participate in fantasy sports, with all categories saying it is a form of gambling by a range of 50-54%.

By a margin of 41% to 47% against, people are saying that these games should not be advertised during live sports coverage, though this is not as one-sided as the 29% to 59% that are against advertising gambling on the direct outcome of the games themselves.

“To see the influx of these fantasy games is a remarkable milestone for sports, which has always taken such a hard line on gambling,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the poll, which is sponsored by The Sharkey Institute. “No betting signs were always prominent at ballparks. And now this.”

The Seton Hall survey found that 19% of respondents have participated in a fantasy league, a daily fantasy or both, while 13% have participated in the last 12 months. This is almost a threefold increase compared to February 2006 when 5% gave an affirmative answer in the Pew Social Trends Poll.

“This topic figures to remain an important one in the sports universe for the foreseeable future,” said Gentile.