I was having some nice food at a diner yesterday, when on the big screen TV sets they had installed the pre-game program to the 1 p.m. ET NFL games was shown. What struck me about it was the timing: The first kick-off was still two and a half hours away.
This means two and a half hours of talking about upcoming games, of analyzing strengths and weaknesses of the teams and of predicting the outcome. But it also means two and a half hours that will have no impact at all on the games to be played. If you are only interested in how the game will go, these two and a half hours are completely useless.
Yet, it can get even more extreme: I remember that when I was in Buenos Aires for watching the soccer “Superclásico” of River Plate at Boca Juniors, the pre-game TV coverage started at 11 a.m. for a game that was going to start at 4:15 p.m.! I was still in my hotel room and not even thinking about leaving for the stadium.
It was obvious they didn’t have a lot of stuff to show: The whole coverage basically consisted of waiting for a team bus to arrive at the team training camp and aerial shots of a (still) completely empty stadium.
Maybe 5+ hours is a bit too much, but the point is: There are people are watching it. They even expect a decent pre-game coverage. Speaking in terms of the classic model of product levels by Philip Kotler: When the coverage of the game itself is the “generic” product, pre-game shows are probably fitting into the “expected” and “augmented” product category. Viewers expect to be able to watch it and the way it is done can be a clear differentiator.
What’s interesting about it is that it has two very positive effects for the TV stations:
First, it enhances the status of the main event. Just like many love to see some adverts in cinema prior to the start of the movie to get the feeling of being at a movie theater, an event for which tension is built up during a few hours appears to be something really important
Second, the pre-game show has become a product itself. And a profitable one. It’s quite cheap to produce: Just put a couple of commentators and one or two of the millions of former players or coaches that miss being on TV into a studio and ask the people that you have at the stadium anyway for broadcasting the game to come to work two hours earlier. Done. No purchasing of additional broadcasting rights, no expensive production costs. In exchange you get a well self-segmented, highly involved audience which is perfect for selling advertising time.
All of this works because the viewers care. Because they are so emotionally attached that they love the buildup of tension prior to the game and in turn because this buildup helps to increase that attachment.
Every marketing textbook speaks about the importance of emotions in buying decisions and in marketing in general. However, I’ve seen many struggling with adding emotions to their products.
Here’s where we can learn from the TV stations and their pre-game shows: If you just can’t find an idea how to emotionalize your products, think about extending it. Add something to it, maybe something physical, maybe a service, maybe just a new way of informing or talking about the product.
If you think about it this way there is no real excuse anymore for not finding an approach to connect with your customers on an emotional level. Even if you have e.g. a quite technical generic product that you sell business-to-business, you may always ask yourself what emotional additional features or benefits could be added.
TV stations show the way. They did not just say “all we can do is to broadcast the game, we can not extend it or change the way it’s going”. They created their own game instead. And they’re winning week after week.