Bivens Meets With The Media

Carolyn103005.jpgI want to apologize for saying Thursday was a slow news day when all along a goldmine of the most absolutely LOL priceless MBASpeak waited over at ASAPSports.

Second, I must apologize to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem who, despite the occasional Yogi Berra inspired line, can at least speak English.

Which brings us to LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. Get a cart ladies and gentlemen, we're going 36 here. Commissioner:

On the business side, talk about a few things we're doing. The first, as we talked last year, the preparation for this year, our overarching theme for the next three years is going to be building the LPGA brand. We're going to build that brand by continuing to build on the fans first and the five points of celebrity.

Build on the fans first? Oh, and the five points of celebrity are the product of Ty Votaw's imagination, in case you were afraid to ask.

Some of the first initiatives is we have we are doing a lot of work and having an individual branding coach available for the women. The idea being that we will do everything we can to help them build their very own unique brands.

Is we serious, we have branding coaches?  Are they like a life coach, only armed with a Masters degree?

The women have really gravitated to this. We had a couple of the players go through this during the off season. They were part of a panel. During the player meeting we offered sign up sheets and we actually had to expand having this coach for more than one day. We actually had to go to three days.

Someone actually, like, actually bought into this? Oh yes... 

And we're bringing her to a couple more tournaments and we will be putting up matching funds for the women who want to continue to work with the branding coach. We want to open up more endorsement opportunities and more opportunities to earn livings not only on the course and at the tournaments but beyond.

We've done a number of things in general media marketing. Examples of what we talked about last year, that we think these women and these stars have pulling power outside the world of golf.

I'll spare you the Academy Awards recap.

We have something coming up in a couple of weeks. We're putting two of the LPGA rookies with two of the NASCAR rookies and doing a cross promotion, if you will. It's a program that is already on the Speed Channel. And we're going to have two of the LPGA rookies take the NASCAR rookies to a course outside Dallas one day and they're going to go through the five points of celebrity. They're going to go through the fans first and then they're going to go through all of the pretournament warm ups and routines and then the four of them will play nine holes of golf.

They're going to go through the fans? That sounds dangerous. Sorry, continue...

The next day it will be reversed. The LPGA rookies will go to the race track. They will go through all of the prerace routines, including all of the sponsor meetings, and then they will work the pits.

Wow, through the sponsor meetings?  And I bet there's a camera crew to record it all!

There is a lot of cross marketing we can do with NASCAR for a number of different reasons. The primary one being is that we both operate very heavily in the space called hospitality. And I think there are a lot of things that we can learn from each other, and a lot of fun opportunities to have these women who have very unique and different pastimes and personalities into new arenas where they are very comfortable.

You see you dumb writers, "we both operate heavily in the space called hospitality." There is a lot of reasons I have to talk to you like this, but mostly it's because you don't understand the sophisticated world of brand cross-pollination.

PAUL ROVNAK: Thank you, Carolyn. We'll now take questions.

That's right, the questions haven't even begun.

Okay, the gentleman on the right with his jaw dropped:

Q. Carolyn, you say three years. Is that the time frame at the end of which you would want to see the major changes you want or the major differences you want established for sure?

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: Larry, it is. We have such great momentum, and I keep talking about this great foundation. We couldn't be doing what we're doing now in branding with fans first and five points of celebrity not so inculcated throughout the organization.

Yes, she just said inculcated.

So we will extend, and we actually know where we want to go beyond the three years, but each one of these is going to be a continuum, a building block on top of each other.

Now I'm just going to let this next part go uninterrupted because, well, it's frightening.

Q. How do you measure that? Is it strictly a television ratings thing? Is it a sponsorship thing, purse thing?

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: How do you measure branding?

Q. No, how the success has been of branding and the growth and translating the buzz into tangible results.

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: There is a lot of different ways. I got here late last night. I had attended for Monday afternoon and the first part of yesterday, the Sports Business Journals World Congress, dedicated to sports and a great cross section of sports.

It opened up Monday night with a interview with David Stern. If you want to talk about building a brand in the sports world it would be the NBA. They brand everything NBA and you know pretty much what you're going to get when it says NBA.

From an entertainment standpoint I would say Oprah is the best we know. She is a great personal brand. Whether it's her magazine or TV show, you know what you're going to get and there is a consistency.
Again in the entertainment world, Disney would be another world class brand builder. So there are a lot of different metrics that go behind that, it's not just one.

Ok, enough!  Metrics. Major, major points for that MBA jargon classic. I bet we've got a product, a benchmarking and a core values in our system today too.

Q. When you speak of branding and a branding coach for the players, I'm not quite clear on the concept. Are you talking about, in essence, becoming producer of their own product?

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: They are their own product. Each individual golfer is a brand. They stand for something. They have core values. The companies that they choose to associate with and put on their hat or wear on their sleeve then begin to communicate to the rest of the world what those core values are.

So, like, their sponsors are their personal brand? Wow, what individualism!

So it's making sure that those that they represent are consistent with who they are, and that the messages, the way they conduct themselves, is communicating to the rest of the world this is who I am and this is what I am about, is it consistent.

In going through the process, it also includes things like a number of these women have managers. When was the last time that you checked your press kit. What photo is being used. What's been said about you. If it's 2 or 3 years old, you may want to update it. You've grown, you are a different personality.

You have a mustache from the steroids you've been taking and you need to Photoshop it out...oh, sorry.
It's looking at things like the products and services that they use, and would use whether or not they are endorsed by. What's comfortable. They'll end up being better spokespeople and they'll end up being better business partners.

To the extent we can get them to do that, again we can roll this up to the LPGA and our overall brand.

Roll this up? Oh, is it like toilet paper?

Q. I want to ask you a media related question, actually. With ABC television dropping out of the PGA Tour next year, does that conceivably open up any opportunities for LPGA events to perhaps be on network TV going head to head with the PGA, and would that be something that's desirable?

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: The media landscape is something we're spending a great deal of time looking at. First we're looking at it from inside the LPGA Tour. Let's talk about that first. We talk about this wonderful 30 year pipeline that ranges from Michelle and from Morgan all the way up through Juli and Beth. That is a great opportunity. It's also a challenge. It's a challenge because it requires very different messages be targeted at very different audiences and use different distribution channels. What do I need.

Ah, distribution channels in the media landscape.

To communicate with Juli Inkster fans and followers is very different than communicating with Morgan's fans and followers.

What's the difference between a fan and a follower? Sorry...

There aren't very many of the under 25 fans, those that are following Natalie and Julieta and that group, that are going to rush in on a Thursday or Friday and sit down and watch a two hour telecast whether it's on cable or network. They probably won't do much of that on Saturday or Sunday either.

Hey, at least she's honest about no one watching the LPGA Tour any day of the week! Nice positioning there with the networks.

We have to find out and understand more how do they consume media and how do they want to. So far some of the things that we're finding, they would much rather, the hole by hole scoring be pushed through and preferably to their cell phones.

We have to be able to what I call slice and dice our audience, know exactly who it is we're targeting, what messages works and what distribution channels.

What I call slice and dice? Everybody on, two, three... "OY VEY!" 

The 35 and older audience, we need to reach them in more of the traditional media. I don't mean to suggest that TV is ever going to go away, but I do believe there are different combinations that we have to use. Maybe a highlight show or a combination of a highlight show and live coverage. Should it be an hour, what much should it be, how much should be broadcast. Should we be taping the after round interviews and webcasting those. We're looking at all aspects of inside and outside content.

Does this mean when I turn 35 this year, that I'll stop using the Internet?

Q. There have been a couple of negative headlines earlier this year regarding off course issues, rankings, media credentials policies. I'm wondering how you would characterize the first two months of the season off the course?

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: I'm surprised I got that question.

Q. Surprised it was this late?

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: No. But let me say this about that. It had to happen. It just had to happen. I'm not go going to give you these, but I'm going to suggest that you go onto the Internet and that you Google LPGA and then pick out some of your favorite players and see what you can buy, see what kind photographs have been taken at tournaments. And you can purchase just about anything that you want.
The LPGA, as I've said, was late to this game. We were the last mainstream sport that wasn't controlling the credentialing and controlling of the photographs. This was not targeted to the mainstream press. The mainstream press does also sell to a lot of other organizations who in fact generally tell the mainstream press that they are going to use it for news coverage.

And after a whole bunch of mumbo-jumbo...

As we discuss about brand building, we have got to have control of our content. It's also important, as you all know from a commercial standpoint. The two headlines that came out of the Sports Business Journal meeting the last couple of days have been two things. No. 1, brand is everything. And No. 2 is, he who owns content has it.

Was Yogi the deliverer of message No. 2?

One of the things that they asked Mel Karmazin spoke yesterday, kicked off with an interview and talked about what they're paying for different content for serious radio. And they said how much of this can you afford and how much do you want to own. He said, "We want to own every content that's ever been developed and anything that's going to come along." The commercial aspect of controlling this is part of the brand and it had to happen.

Note to LPGA Tour: proofreading, it helps. FYI, it's called Sirius, and uh, I guess no proofreader could make sense of the rest of that nonsense.

And now onto the World Rankings debacle...

Again, in talking to a number of people who have worked very closely with the PGA and been part of that whole system and doing studying on my own, it seems in just about every ranking there is always something that's called an aberration, or the ones that I was most interested in, is the fact that the same conversation had been had over the years with Jumbo Osaka. I don't think he ever won on the PGA Tour, but he consistently ranked in the Top 10, much like Uri Futo did because he played so often and won so frequently on the Tour.

I'd crack a joke here but my face is buried in my hands.

Q. On the credential matters again, I thought LPGA went a little bit too extreme on that and I don't understand that. I believe that the first regulation the LPGA drafted was that the media, when they take pictures, that they can use that for only 48 hours and after that they needed LPGA's permission. I want to know why you went that extreme.

COMMISSIONER CAROLYN BIVENS: Good. First of all, let me say that we had hired about a month ago one of the best First Amendment lawyers and law firms in New York City. We had had conversations and prolonged sessions with the heads and the general counsels of a number of sports organizations. Every sentence that was in the credentials, from SBS is taken directly from a major sport credential.

There are a couple of things. No. 1, the first week we allowed redactions, changes, to be made to the credentials. We gathered all of those and consulted again with some of the other sport general counsels and with our First Amendment law firm and made changes.

The 48 hours, by the way, is and always has been in our credentials for all of the video and television footage. That wasn't new to the LPGA. That was new to the press credentials, not to network or broadcast.

The other change that the Associated Press asked us to make was the addition of a sentence that clearly stated that we were not controlling news stories. We added that.

The other language that ended up beyond the first 36 hours, by the end of this happened on a Wednesday. By Friday morning there had been a joint press release issued by the Associated Press and LPGA that the language did not inhibit news stories, nor was it ever intended to. Everything beyond that has been over the commercial use.

The other sentence that has caused so much conversation was taken out of a paragraph that said that the LPGA had the right to use the photographs solely for the purpose of promoting that tournament.

Now, where did that come from? That came from the NCAA credentials, for exactly the same reason the NCAA uses it. We're two organizations that don't have our own press core. We don't have our own in house crew, be that either photographers, reporters, whatever. We don't have that. So the only way that we promote the tournaments the next year is with the use of those photographs.

In some cases, the media is not the right owner of that. Unlike some of the other sports who will not credential freelancers, we do credential freelancers. So sometimes the media is not the rights holders, which meant that we needed to negotiate individual media by media for the use of that.

Does that answer your question?

Yes. So all of the language was "taken directly from a major sport credential."

Maybe these major organizations need to add language stipulating that other sports organizations are barred from lifting language from press credential forms more than 48 hours after the event?

Well, time for the final tally: 22 references to the brand, 7 to branding and 2 to brands.

30 out of 3500 words, nearly a 1% clip. Not bad, not bad.