Insights and Observations
Thursday, October 23, 2003
By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner
of Greenville Cable 7
Time running out to make Big
When news came several months ago that the Big East was
going to lose a couple of members, I gave some key East Carolina officials
my thoughts that our program needed a Madison Avenue style public relations
effort to put in front of Mike Tranghese and the presidents of those
schools. Unfortunately, those people are now gone.
Maybe it happened. Maybe it didn’t. I really don’t
Our former chancellor was being forward-thinking when
he hired the former commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Roy Kramer,
to consult with ECU and get involved in the negotiating. Good move, I think.
Kramer was the first president of the Bowl Championship Series and certainly
knows where the bodies are buried with regard to the heartbeat of college
To date, however, there is little to show.
Call me an old-timer (you’d be mostly right) but I am
still absolutely stunned that South Florida has somehow leap-frogged ECU
into a probable invitation.
Of course it is all about money and television markets
and, as everyone is aware, the Big East is losing its Florida presence when
Miami moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.
In talking to knowledgeable media contacts in the
northeast there is still a sense that ECU brings less to the table that the
programs being tossed around to receive an invitation when the Big East
presidents meet on November 4th.
One major newspaper writer said to me recently, “I’ve
been to games at ECU. I understand ECU but I can tell you that no one up
here does.” He went on to praise Pirate fans as some of the best in the
nation. He even said he had been to few places where the electricity matched
what he has viewed in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
On the other hand, he then goes on to explain, the
belief in the northeast is that ECU just does not add enough to the national
exposure of the conference.
Being in the advertising business my entire
professional life, I see his point. Painful as it may be, the truth is that
a national advertising agency looking to purchase an ad schedule for a
national client will often look to just the top 100 markets. The
Greenville-New Bern-Jacksonville market is just outside that range. While
there are 450,000 people in eastern North Carolina, it just doesn’t come
close to a Cincinnati, Louisville or certainly a Tampa television market.
Those national ad dollars drive the television
networks' decisions when they are negotiating with different leagues. ESPN,
CBS and ABC want to be able to tell those national ad agencies that they
will be investing dollars into the top markets when they purchase
advertising on the games. That is the only way they can justify the
exorbitant dollars being paid to leagues today.
Can it be overcome?
The simple answer is yes. It will not be easy but it is
not impossible. The only way to overcome it is with getting the right people
in front of the right people with the right message.
Case in point. This television market was no different
when former ECU Director of Athletics Dave Hart signed an unprecedented five
year deal with ESPN in the mid-90’s.
Those of us who witnessed this incredible feat know the
truth. Hart developed and nurtured a relationship with the right people. I
remember golf outings and visits to the “pig-out” where the ESPN brass were
treated like royalty. Suddenly, they were not worried about the market. They
wanted to televise the excitement they saw when they visited here.
South Florida has stepped in front of the Pirate
program with a stronger television market. ECU must counteract it prior to
November 4th with the strongest relationship-building effort it can muster.
Governor Mike Easley weighed in (better late than
never, I guess) with a Wednesday letter to the commissioner and presidents.
The timing of our university’s unfortunate leadership
snafu could be costly. Let’s hope everything is being done to offset that
ill-timed vacuum and make this happen.
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02/23/2007 10:12:16 AM