To disrupt yourself means that you try something that’s never been done before, challenging the status quo and the industry standard. In this episode, Jesse Cole explains why it’s vital to disrupt yourself. You don’t have to look far; Amazon and Netflix did it, and see how far they’ve come! Years 2020 and 2021 have created huge disruptions in the economy because of the pandemic; companies you never thought would go bankrupt are going bankrupt. That’s why you need to disrupt yourself now more than ever before you get disrupted! Tune in and get a better understanding on why and how you can disrupt yourself and your company. If you’re not playing the game of disruption, you’ll be left behind!
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Disrupt Yourself Before You Are Disrupted
How the Savannah Bananas are Disrupting The Sports Industry And Fan Experience
We are talking about everything disruption. If you don’t disrupt yourself, you’re going to get disrupted. I’m going to share how The Bananas had developed a mindset of disruption and how we are trying to disrupt the sports industry but most importantly, disrupt the fan experience. I’m going to share why every company needs to be focused on disruption and building that into their culture and DNA. I’m going to share how we’ve been able to do it with The Bananas and also our future plans of disruption, which is important as well. I’m going to give some examples of some new sports teams, new leagues that are dramatically disrupting the sports landscape to give some ideas on how they are thinking and what they are doing. Finally, I’m going to give some lessons and suggestions on how anyone can do it because it is important as a company to look at what are you doing that’s dramatically different.
Things are moving fast. Companies are going bankrupt and companies you never thought would go bankrupt are. It’s because they were resting on their laurels and resting on their past successes as opposed to thinking about what’s next and what are they going to do to dramatically change their business model. We’ve heard the word pivot more than any word. It’s more than a pivot. It needs to be in your DNA of this is what we’re going to continue to do. We’re going to invent. We’re going to disrupt. We’re going to do new things for our customers to create fans. It’s scary. It created a lot of challenges and adversity for us over the years but we know it’s the best decision.
Jeff Bezos says, “You have to be willing to be misunderstood.” Anybody that is disrupting at a point will be misunderstood because the general public is not ready for it. I continue to think back to Netflix when they split the company and said, “We’re focusing on streaming instead of doing the DVD rental.” It was an uproar. People were fired up and the stock plummeted because we weren’t ready for it. They were ahead of the time. They knew what was right. They beat everyone to it. They’re dominating with 200 million subscribers. It’s disruption. Get mentally prepared. Get buckled up. Let’s try to think differently and that’s something that is important.
Why Is Disruption Important?
I want to start first with why is it important? Why does every company need to be focused on disruption? Look at what’s happened in 2020 and 2021, these might have been the two greatest years of disruption. Everything has gone virtual. We’re paying differently than we’ve ever paid before. Everything has become cashless. You got the Apple Wallet. It’s changing. We’re watching things differently. Look at movie theaters that are all potentially about to go bankrupt. Everyone is watching on iPads, smart TVs, and phones. We’re investing differently. NFTs are wild, non–fungible tokens. I’m learning about these but we’ll talk a little bit more about how sports teams are using them. It’s fascinating. Those have started coming along. Look at Bitcoin and everything else. What is happening is wild.
The disruption has been expedited ten times over the previous year. If you are not even playing that game of disruption, you’re left behind. We’ve seen that over and over again. Simply look at some of the biggest companies that have been disrupted. You go back earlier to Blockbuster, they were resting on their laurels of being tremendously successful but it was completely inconvenient. People had to go there and drive. They’d show up and maybe their movie is not in time. They would have to pay late fees if they were late. They had to rewind. It was a lot more work. Netflix completely disrupted that.We need to change. Whatever industry you're in, look for the next experience. Click To Tweet
Think about Borders. Borders is one of the biggest bookstores. Amazon disrupted them. They’re gone. Toys “R” Us, it’s the same thing. Toys “R” Us made a deal with Amazon to let Amazon sell their products online. That was almost the beginning of the end for Toys “R” Us because people could get the same toys on Amazon quicker, faster, and at a better price. Toys “R” Us thought they were in the toy business instead of being in the experienced business where they would have won big if they made it more of an experience at their stores as opposed to buying toys. Look at retail. JCPenney, Belk and J.Crew, all filed bankruptcy. The list is growing and growing. Amazon has completely disrupted them because of their ease, virtual, and digital experience.
The way it’s been done doesn’t cut it anymore. We need to change. Whatever industry you’re in, what is the next experience? We’re always focused on best practices. I say this over and over again but we need to be focused on the next practices. We can’t just look at, “What’s that other bank doing? What’s that other realtor doing? What’s that other mortgage company doing? What’s that other restaurant doing?” We need to start taking things from outside the industry and thinking about what will make a faster, better, more unique, and remarkable experience. That’s where disruption can start. It’s time to start disrupting and not being afraid of taking experiments and doing things that may not work. The theory of what disruption is when you’re trying something and going to break the norm and challenge the status quo and the industry standard. It may not work but how do you do more of these small bets?
The Bananas’ Path Of Disruption
Let me give some examples on The Bananas and what we’ve started doing to start that path of disruption. It was easier for us to disrupt because we had no other choice. We weren’t this huge, successful, multimillion-dollar company. We were failing and this started with our first team in Gastonia and then Savannah. It’s easier to try dramatically different things when you don’t have all this past success and all these expectations that have been built on what you’re supposed to do. For us, it was an easy first step. We decided what business we’re in. For us, we cannot compete in the baseball business. We still can’t compete in the baseball business. Major League Baseball will always be better than us. It will be a better level of baseball. Triple–A would be a better level of baseball. Top Baseball in Japan and Korea will be a better level of baseball. What we thought we could be the best at and compete was entertainment.
Whatever business you’re in, you often look to the leaders in your class and say, “They’re the best of this.” Play a different game. It’s part of the Blue Ocean Strategy. It’s a great book that talks about this. We played the entertainment game. Our disruption started with disrupting the players and the player experience by having players do choreograph dances every game, by players delivering roses in the crowd during games, by players involved in music and videos that don’t involve baseball. Number one, we focused on entertainment.
Number two, a big disruption for us was the ticket experience. Every single team in the country had a ticket. With your ticket, you then come into your ballpark, stadium, arena, and you buy food and drink. You pay for your parking. You pay for your programs. You pay for all this. We said, “There’s a better way.” Some teams had dabbled in All–You–Can–Eat but no one did it better than the cruise lines. All of your food is included on a cruise ship. We said, “Why can’t that be that way in baseball? Let’s disrupt that and see if we can figure it out.” The next form of disruption was to make every ticket All–You–Can–Eat, burgers, hotdogs, chicken sandwiches, soda, water, popcorn, and dessert. We started at $15. Often when you disrupt and you do something new, you don’t know what the appetite is going to be for that new disruption or even for the price. We said, “Let’s try $15.” As a fan, we thought that would be a good price that would seem unbelievably huge value. We said, “Let’s roll with it.”
As I’ve shared before in other podcasts, we struggled at first. The lines were brutal. We didn’t know how to do it because no one else was doing it. That’s a true innovation when you do something that’s never been done before. We knew, in the end, it would be a better experience. At any Bananas game in Savannah, you cannot get a ticket unless it’s All–Inclusive and it’s All–You–Can–Eat. That’s something that most teams won’t do because they see the success of, “If they buy a $5 burger, a $5 drink, a $4 hotdog, they buy chips for $3, they’re making so much more money.” That’s how they see it. It’s their past success. We didn’t have that former success, that previous success. We said, “Let’s roll with it. It’s better.”
If you look at any arena, sports facility, stadium, they’re big on events. We failed miserably with events. When we first started, we did a craft beer kickball League. We did a food truck festival, beer festival, a haunted stadium, running with The Bananas. You name it, we tried it. What happened was they were bringing in revenue but what we were having to do is having to sell and it was hurting our brand. Anytime that you look at your social media, emails, what you’re sending out to your customers and fans, if the majority of the things that you’re sending out are sales, you’re in trouble because no one wants to be sold. No one wants to be marketed and promoted to. That’s what we were doing. These events weren’t even on brand. A haunted stadium? That’s scary.
I hope when you go to a Bananas game, you’re not scared unless it’s maybe The Bananas doing a weird dance or something but not terrified. That wasn’t our brand. They weren’t making a lot of money so we eliminated that. That is a disruption in the sports industry because that’s a huge part of everyone’s business but it doesn’t go into what we can be the best at and what we can be the only at. Everyone does events. It doesn’t make your brand special. What do you want to be known for? We don’t want to be known for these weird, little events. We wanted to be known for the circus–like baseball experience that we provide for our fans.Don't be afraid of taking experiments and doing things that may not work. Click To Tweet
The next disruption that we did was we eliminated sponsorship. I’ve talked heavily about this. It created a lot of controversy in the sports industry because it is a huge form of their revenue for most teams. This isn’t something that we could be the best at or deliver a remarkable experience. Everyone has billboards, program ads and has announcements at games. It is not a Fans First experience to deliver that. When you come to a 1926 ballpark like Grayson Stadium, we want you to fall in love with the history of the stadium and the fun at the stadium. Not fall in love with ads telling you where you should go get your insurance, buy a car, or where you should buy a house. That took away from the experience. We eliminated that, which is a complete disruption because it goes against the financial model of how most sports teams make money.
Since we’ve done it and since we’ve announced it, our merchandise and our fans that we’ve served have gone up dramatically, almost 100%. It’s working because fans are realizing that they believe in who we are and what we stand for and we’re not trying to make money off them. We’re not trying to make them the product that, “You can get in front of our fans and try to sell to our fans.” That’s not the model that we want to be a part of.
I’m going through this list of disruptions so you can get some examples. I’m going to talk a little bit about the future and how you can do it as well. Next is The Bananas Insider. It’s unique. As far as sports, we decided to do a monthly subscription for our fans to watch our games and behind the scenes in a different way. We thought that if we created something unique in the way we show our games with drones, mic’d up players, letting fans determine who could pitch, showing the game in different unique camera views, and having cameras in the dugout during the game and being able to see it differently. We thought that added a unique value.
Has it worked out tremendously? No. In the offseason, we have 300 to 400 insiders. During the season, it gets up to 700, 800. It’s not a moneymaker but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about trying to do something unique and adds value to some of our diehard fans and the ones that love what we do. Every company should have some type of community built for the people that truly love what you do, the VIPs. Give them something else, something another level. That’s been something that’s worked for us. I don’t know if any teams are doing this monthly insider subscription but it was something that has been a good experiment for us.
Banana Ball, I’ve talked at length about it. We constantly watched our fans leave games early. We watched as the games got longer. We watched what’s happening to Major League Baseball and we said, “There’s got to be a better way.” For over two and a half years, we’ve been practicing, working on, and tinkering on a faster game, which our fans have titled The Banana Ball. Yes, it’s the game with a two–hour time limit, no stepping out, every inning counts, fans catch a foul ball, and all these unique roles. One-on-one showdowns. It’s nine unique roles. That’s not going to be the end of it.
Banana Ball is a living and breathing thing like Walt Disney said of Disneyland. We’re going to continue to evolve to make the game better, more enjoyable, and more exciting for fans. This was a huge disruption because no one else is crazy enough to develop a new game that fans don’t understand. It’s confusing to an extent. It’s still a learning curve for fans to understand what’s happening. We’ve done it. We did it 3 or 4 four times in front of fans. We’re doing it in Savannah for our spring series and with our premier team and on the road. We’re going to continue to get more data, watch fans and how they react to get more feedback, and continue to make the game better. Do not be afraid of disrupting your entire industry with how it’s played.
When you’re in the entertainment business and you know what business you’re in, it’s easy to make that decision because we’re not in the baseball business. When you’re in an entertainment business, you will do whatever to create the most entertaining product. Of course, you can mess with the game. When you’re in the baseball business, you can’t mess with baseball. That’s your business. Understand what business you’re in but what business you’re really in. When you have that guidepost, it makes it easy to make these decisions on disruption.
Finally, our premier team. This was a great discussion and conversation with our leadership team that said, “Why do we have to play in a league? Why do we have to play during the summer? What if we played year–round? What if we developed our own team? What if we weren’t in a league?” As soon as you ask those what–if questions, you can develop something disruptive. We developed our own professional team. There two teams, The Savannah Bananas and The Party Animals. There are no rules in regards to we can have anybody that can play at any age at any level. It gives us complete freedom to do more tests and more experiments.
As we had our first tryout, almost 100 different players from all over the country showed up and traveled thousands of miles to be a part of this. It showed that players want to be a part of it. All games for our spring series are selling out, socially distance sold out but still 2,000 each night in Savannah and 3,500 in Mobile. It shows there’s an appetite for this disruption. You look at that starting small and having your players be a part of dancing in the entertainment, knowing what business you’re into, looking at the tickets. “What are you not doing? Who are you not going to serve?” For us, it’s been sponsors and different events at our ballpark. “How do you watch the game? How do you play the game? When do you play the game?” Every question we’ve asked and pivoted and been able to disrupt and it’s built to this DNA that we’re getting started on looking at new ways to make the game and the experience much better. That’s a little bit of backstory on what we’ve done.
I’ll share a little bit about the future. I love talking about some of the ideas and some of the plans. Walt Disney is one of my biggest mentors. He was constantly talking about the future. He was far ahead of his time. Look at Epcot, the New City setup. People working on theme parks with him and he was like, “I’m working on a new city.” That’s aspirational. It keeps you motivated and inspired to disrupt. Walt Disney did it better than anyone. He no longer had amusement parks. He built theme parks. He built a way to make you feel. He had bigger plans to build cities until his unfortunate passing.
Future disruption is a big thing for us. We’ve talked about the game. We’ve talked about how you watch the game. We’ve talked about when we play in our teams. I haven’t talked much about the stadium. Your place of business is probably the biggest opportunity for disruption. I know everyone is going digital and I understand that. There’s still going to be a need for people to come together and to see how and where you do business and your experience. Even Amazon, who’s the king of digital, got those Amazon ghost stories that they’ve built. They bought Whole Foods. I bet you that they’re continuing to buy retail to try to win on that experience.
For us, our stadium, we’re titling it Banana Land. When you look at a stadium, words matter. Back to Walt Disney, cast members, guests, attractions, and not rides, words matter. For Banana Land, when you start saying Banana Land instead of Grayson Stadium, you start imagining more of an experience and more of an all–encompassing land similar to Disneyland. We started to ask some serious questions. We’re working on some unbelievable master plan renderings with things at the stadium that I never would imagine. We have zip lines going across the field to breweries, speakeasies, hidden clubs, underneath the stadium, Banana Beach, Airbnbs, rental places where you can sleep and live in the stadium, to unbelievable historical tours. We’ve tried to reimagine how can it be a different experience. That’s the question, how can you experience a game?
Baseball, even though we’re making it faster to our games, can still be boring sitting in the same seat. The future of sports is not a spectator sport. It’s an opportunity to create your own experience, “Did you get to go to that show? Did you see that? Did you ride the zip line? Did you see that special experience?” You start asking those questions. It’s similar to Disney. It makes it interactive, unique, and something remarkable that you need to come back for. Most people that go to a sporting event say, “I’ve gone this year. I’m good. I don’t need to go again.” How do you create all these different experiences where you have to go again? A big thing that we’re looking at is the way to watch a game. We are asking questions. What if your seat moved? What if you don’t have to sit in one spot? What if you can have 4 or 5 different ways of viewing a game as a part of your experience? When you ask those questions, a lot of cool disruption ideas come from it.
Next is media. Every company is a media company. We’ve learned so much from Gary Vaynerchuk on this. When you start thinking about content–first, media and contributing value to your customers, it changes the way you look from a disruption lens. For us, we see ourselves as a media entertainment company. Everyone is a contributor. I see disrupting with our players being writers, videos, pictures. I see our fans contributing stories and blogs. I see all these differences between podcasts, video, written form. Everybody is a contributor. Yes, we have a strong video team and a strong marketing team but I see everyone that experiences The Bananas experience will be contributing to our media.
The digital experience is going to be huge. Storytelling is essential. Fans telling stories, players telling stories, coaches telling stories, broadcasters telling stories, everybody that comes to experience the game and the show can tell a story. I do believe the short–term is going to win in the end. TikTok has been unbelievable for us. It’s booming because the short–form is huge. The reality is people are wanting things faster. They can be entertained quickly by many sources that you have to be able to hit them with 15, 30, 45 seconds, or a minute of nonstop action. We’re going to think about how do we layer in that digital experience and make it even quicker, faster, that people can get everything they need. We’re in a highlight world. Get to it. If you’re a business, what do you do quickly? We’ve heard the elevator pitch but show it in a quick way. Give that visual. That’s going to be important.
We’re going to continue to look at aging down disruption. Facebook started for colleges. Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram starts young. Everything ages up. We’re going to look at the Bananas Baseball Academy to start with 10-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and younger and developing this way of playing baseball in a fun way. Yes, they will not be in yellow uniforms because they’re not quite ripe. They’ll be in green uniforms to start. How can we age up, build that, and disrupt how baseball is played for younger kids and make the game more fun? Players should be allowed to dance. There should be promotions at little league games. The game should be a circus. It should be fun. It shouldn’t just be a regular baseball game. Can we disrupt the younger level of baseball? We’re going to ask that question, finally.
The last two things on our future disruption are the consumer products. Whatever business you’re in, how do you create a brand that is cool that people want to buy merchandise from you? Imagine if you’re a bank and everyone wants to wear that bank shirt because of who you are and how cool you are. It’s a different mindset. It’s easy. “You’re a sports team, Jesse. People want to wear The Bananas gear.” Yes, but our merchandise is growing dramatically over 100% month over month. It’s because we’re doing more things that our fans find cool. People wear YETI gear like crazy. They’re a cooler company. It’s wild.
What can you do to look at your consumer products? For us, we’re going to explore food and drink. We’ve already experimented with our Banana Beer and our Banana Cream Soda. We’re going to continue to look at our liquor, specialty drinks. I’ve talked about the Slippery Banana and how we did drive–thru with that. I talked about our Banana Blackout drink. Consumer products are huge. We’re looking at different levels of books. Emily released her kids’ book, which was a huge response. Hundreds of books were sold on the first day. We’re going to look at fanfiction books. We’re going to look at some more business books and some more storytelling. That long–form can also have a spot to create some more fans.
Finally, fan ownership. We let all the fans make all decisions. Many things involved our brand, our name, our mascot, our jerseys. They pick players for our team, which we did with our premier team. They picked the last player. They choose who’s going to pitch in a game. Giving fans more ownership is going to be the next level. We’re interested in that as well. Those are some of the future disruptions. I want to get into a little bit of the sports world disruption because it’s fascinating what’s happening. You’re starting to see some of the innovators like Mark Cuban. They’ve been accepting Bitcoin for a few years but now they’re accepting their own Dogecoin as a currency to pay for tickets and merchandise. Any fan that’s a member of their Mavs Fan For Life club can partake.
The Mavs owner, Mark Cuban, was asked about this and they said, “Why are they doing this?” He goes, “One important earth–shattering reason because we can.” He believes that sometimes in business, you have to do things that are fun, engaging, and hopefully generate a lot of PR. We will take Dogecoin today, tomorrow, and possibly forevermore. They are selling these tokens and they’re involving their fans in it, which is interesting.
How can you look at new ways to pay? Sports teams are jumping into this. AC Milan, the soccer team, developed fan tokens as well. In one day, they raised $6 million. These coins give access to voting rights, polls, VIP rewards, super fan recognition, and different discounts. It’s wild. Fandom is huge. Accessing these fan tokens is fascinating. Those two examples of ways to pay and get fans involved are huge. No other team or league is doing it better than the fan–controlled Football League. I have been paying A lot of attention to what they’re doing. It’s fascinating. It is the most fans–first any sports team is being. Coming from the guy who started a company called Fans First Entertainment, that says a lot. I’m inspired by what they’re doing. If you’ve been following at all, they just started. It’s a seven-on-seven football league with Johnny Manziel as one of the quarterbacks. It’s played in arenas. I’ll get to how it started but they are the ultimate of disruption.
They’re Fan Controlled Football League. They started with buying an indoor football league team in 2015. They became the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles. They let the fans choose where they would be from. They let fans name the team. They design the logo and jerseys. The fans help to recruit players. The fans hire the coach. The fans even picked what beer they would have on tap. The team went 6 and 11 or 6 and 12. They not only did that but they let fans start getting involved in calling the real–time plays for the offense. They let the fans choose the plays that they were going to do. It was a huge test and it worked out well.
Now they are doing this on a national level. They inked a deal with Twitch. They’re doing all their games on Twitch, which is smart. Twitch is a platform for video gaming and showcasing live sports. It was a great mix because what they saw in Fan Controlled Football League is could we combine the video game aspect that’s big, Esports has taken off, versus actual real sports and get our fans involved. It’s the ultimate disruption. They play with no fans in a TV studio arena. It’s set up like a TV studio, the lighting, all the cameras. It’s almost a TV studio. It’s a 50–yard field. They develop new rules. There’s no kicking, no field goals, no extra points, one on ones for the two–point conversion, wide receiver versus a defensive back. Fans pick some of the rules in regards to catching, whether it’s whether 1-foot in or 2-feet in. They gave fans some of those options.Do something that's never been done before that, in the end, would be a better experience. Click To Tweet
Every game, fans develop points, fan IQ points, and get to have more power in determining what plays the offense is going to run during the game. As a fan, you got to choose the team you want to support and then you get all in. What a great model. This opportunity to give fans more ownership, more say, more involvement will win in the future. It’ll win for any business as well. We’re afraid to let up control because we want to dictate everything. What if on these small little risks, you start letting your fans, your customers have a say in what you do? That ownership is a powerful disruption. This Fan Controlled Football League is setting the model for that. It’s inspiring to us as we’ve been dabbling in this for years. We’re going to continue to do that.
How Do You Disrupt
That is the perfect segue transition to how do you disrupt? No matter what business you’re in, how do you build that culture of disruption? The starting point always is to watch what frustrates your customers and to put yourself in the customers’ shoes. That is the starting point. I took a lot of inspiration from the story of T–Mobile. Charlene Li explains a lot of this in The Disruption Mindset. It talks about how people hated the contracts.
Think back to your days when we all had these cell phone contracts and you can never rip them up, you can never break them, and you had huge fines. It was brutal. They said, “There are no more contracts.” T–Mobile did this when they were in last. They had no share at all of the markets for cell phones. They said, “We’re going to go the opposite. We’re going to give no contracts.” They kept making all these announcements of new things they were adding that were for their customers. They dominated. They had higher and bigger growth than Verizon, Sprint, and everyone involved. For years they built a brand. As a guy who got T–Mobile years ago, which people thought I was crazy. I was watching what they were doing. I was like, “They truly care.” It was a better price, better experience, more value, and they’re eliminating things that people hate.
We have watched with The Bananas as fans have left games early every single game. We’re fortunate that every game sells out. When the game sold out, people that wanted to come to the game can’t. They’re still leaving early. That tells you that fans are frustrated or they’ve had enough. If people have had enough of your product, that is not a good sign. That was a starting point for us saying, “We need to make the games faster. We need to make them more entertaining.” We don’t necessarily need to find how to keep them longer. We got to find ways better to make the game shorter and want them to want more. That is a key. What will make your customers want more? You got to start with looking at everything that frustrates them and eliminating it.
Number two, let go of yesterday’s breadwinners. This is hard. You can look and say all out, “This model, this product, this experience generated millions of dollars.” Sponsorship generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for us. Events at the stadium generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for us. That necessarily wasn’t the future for us. That wasn’t what we saw that we could be the best and that we could be different enough and remarkable enough to grow and scale and be sustainable in years to come.
Let go of some of those breadwinners and say, “Is this where we want to be in the future? Are we proud of this? In five years, will this be relevant? Will this matter to our customers and fans?” If the answer even raises a little bit of doubt, immediately question it. That’s what we question. We said, “Are billboards going to be more popular in 10 and 20 years or less? Are program ads going to be more popular in 10 or 20 years or less? Are these separate events going to be something that people talk about when they think about The Bananas?” By asking those questions, we said, “We can let go of those. We can let go and create something that we know might matter and be relevant in the future.”
On that note, we’re going to look at our future fans. Who are your future fans? This was a big game–changer for me when I read Charlene Li‘s book. I wrote it down, who are our future fans? If you look at baseball fans, the average fan is in the 60s. They continue to get older and older. That is not our future fan. Eventually, that fan, unfortunately, is passing away. We want the young, the fun, the energetic, the people that love change, new things, new attractions, and the idea of new. They’re not a traditionalist. The great quote we’ve all heard by Wayne Gretzky, “I don’t go to where the puck is. I go to where the puck is going.” “Are you going to where your future fans are? Are you still focused on your past and your former customers?”
Many teams are afraid to upset their season ticket holders by doing something different. In most teams, the season ticket holder number is going down because not many young people want to buy 30, 60, 80 games. Why do we continue to say, “Season tickets generate $1 million for us?” That’s what they did in the past but what’s the future? You got to let go of yesterday’s breadwinners and then focus on your future fans. For us, our future fans are the TikTok audience. We’re excited about that 12 to 24. In most sports teams, it is the kids. We do focus on the kids. We’re focused on that teenager in their twenties. We want to create something for them that’s cool and fun. We believe we’ll all age up. We are trying to do more unique and fun content with our players, not necessarily baseball highlights.
Another great idea on how you disrupt is to write a future press release. Amazon does this tremendously well. Whenever they’re about to announce or launch a new product that is, most of the time with Amazon, pretty disruptive, they will announce the future press release a year later after it came out. The impact that it made, what did it do for their customers? I’m not necessarily saying, “We won this award.” What did you do? What did the Kindle and Alexa and the Echo do and change the game for their customers? If you’re going to try to disrupt and create a new product or experience, we wrote a future press release about our premier team, taking the show on the road, the impact that it made on our fans, how we went to many cities, about Banana Ball, and what happened with new kids playing it all over the world. We wrote that press release. It gives you this aspiration view of the future and where you want to go. It makes it easier to disrupt.
Finally, a manifesto. This is something I’ve worked on for a couple of years. I’m being honest. I’ve been afraid to release it because I’ve dabbled in it and tinkered with it and adjusted it so long. T–Mobile, going back to them, released a manifesto when they were going to be dramatically different. I’ll read a little bit of the manifesto. It is starting with a rant. “Who are you not? What fires you up? What frustrates you about the industry that you’re in?” This is what you stand for. It’s your Manifesto. This is something that can guide you on your path to disruption.
For T–Mobile, it begins, “We’re not like other wireless companies. Why would we be? They’re in the phone company business. We’re in the changing the phone company business. We are unapologetically the un–carrier. Unwilling to play by the rules they fiercely protect. Unsatisfied with the status quo. Unafraid to innovate and unhappy to be lumped in among them. Someday, when the history of the wireless industry is written, the chapter about now will be titled What the Hell Were They Thinking? This is an industry filled with long–term contracts, overage penalties, termination fees, throttle data, no rewards for loyalty, everything that is the antithesis of what people love about mobility. Consumers today live in the land of now, tweeting, pinning, Skyping, posting, streaming, all in between texting and status updating.” It goes on for another whole page. I could say this was written years ago. Skyping was interesting. It will be Zooming. They’re going on this rant and saying, “We are not going to be like them.” How are you not going to be like other people in your industry? That manifesto is the path towards disruption.
The Fans First Manifesto
This is still a rough draft mock but I’ll read ours, the Fans First manifesto. “I’ve taken some inspiration from T–Mobile. We are game–changers and fanatics. We are not like your typical baseball team. We are not in love with the current game. We are in love with what the game could be. The fans now deserve something better, something faster, more exciting, and more fun. Our imagination drives our experimentation. We outthink and don’t outspend. We move fast and constantly test things. We don’t break the rules. We make the rules on what the experience should be. Some say we are crazy and others say we are not for them. Whatever you say, you cannot ignore us. We are changing the game for our fans. Every game is someone’s first game and every fan deserves a better experience. Every fan deserves to be entertained. We are fanatical about putting the Fans First. We don’t take ourselves too seriously but we take fun seriously.
Our stage is our stadium and we are always on stage. We never stopped giving fun and entertaining our fans. We never stopped asking questions on how to create the best fan experience. We believe in creating moments that matter and stories that will last a lifetime. We are fanatical about creating these Fans First moments. When you stand for changing the game and changing the fan experience, every detail, every moment, every action can make a difference. We are getting started and it’s showtime.” That is the manifesto that I’ve worked on for a while. It says clearly who we are, what we stand for, and what we’re trying to do. When you make that clear, it makes it easy to think about what are you going to do to disrupt your industry? If we’re trying to be fanatical about that fan experience, if we are trying to change the game to make it better, then everything is in play. We can experiment and test and try.
I will leave you with a few other thoughts. Hopefully, this is inspiring. I love taking you behind the scenes to share how we do things. We all need to ask the question what if more. We are often afraid of failing and I’ve been there numerous times. What will people think if we fail? We need to ask, “What if? What would be that best fan experience? What would be something that you would be proud to have someone experience of your product that you would start telling everyone?”The greatest leaders are the ones that share more and give more. Click To Tweet
The greatest leaders are the ones that share more and that they give more. Leaders are out there sharing their experiences because they’re proud of what they’re doing. They weren’t afraid to ask, “What if we did this?” Even if it’s a little crazy, “What could give the most VIP, the most access, the most wowing experience for your fans? How can you challenge the rules of your industry?” If this is the way it’s always been done, immediately question it. “How can you give up control to your customers, to your fans?” Let them have the opportunity to make some more decisions. In the future, the customers rule, the fans rule. “How are you just the guide for them? How are you the one that’s helping them have that opportunity to create the best experience, the best product for them, and everyone that they interact with?”
I hope that in five years, I can look back on this episode and say, “We did more of this disruption than I even thought was imaginable and was impossible.” As Walt Disney said, “It’s fun to do the impossible.” A lot of the disruption over the last few years, people would say, was impossible but it was because they had the mindset, they built a culture of their team saying, “What if we could do this?” I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you disrupt more. If you do some unique things, that are different, that are changing your industry, please reach out to me. I want to know more about it. I want to share more about it. People need examples. They need the confidence and the courage to say, “Someone else did it. I’m going to do it as well and I’m going to do it in a different way that makes a huge impact.” Thank you.
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