9.20.2011

Battling the Dog Days of Summer: Midseason Motivators


Everyone who has ever worked in sports knows the feeling. In every league, you reach the halfway point of a season where it seems like you have to dig a little deeper to make great things happen. Baseball offers the best description of that grind, where the expression “dog days of summer” succinctly explains the daily difficulty in maintaining a high level of performance amidst a marathon-like season.

For teams and players, the All Star Game in July is a symbolic break in the monotony. It’s a chance to take stock of stats and standings; it’s a moment to regroup before it’s too late. A few weeks later, the trade deadline offers teams a literal injection of fresh blood for the stretch run. For those in the business office though, the midseason pick me-up isn’t going to come from a new starting pitcher or a left handed bat off the bench. Sports marketers, like players on the field, need to consistently produce results and provide compelling reasons for fan support no matter how exhausting the season may be.

During those dog days, finding motivation to come up with fresh ideas can be tough. Naturally, it’s harder to get amped for a Tuesday game in July than it is for Opening Day. The ability to discover the motivation to continually try and improve marketing efforts can be what separates a good operation from great ones. Managers need to lead by example and find ways to energize their crew and keep morale high, while every staffer must take personal responsibility for finishing the season as strong as they started it.

Here are some quick midseason motivators to help encourage staff energy and spur efforts to continue producing at a high level.

Take a Staff Trip to Another Stadium
After a long homestand, hanging out with coworkers may be the last thing on your mind. However, taking a staff trip to a rival ballpark or stadium can provide a fun, camaraderie building experience. Even if it’s just a handful of people, this will give you a chance to let loose while also gaining more appreciation for the hard work put into running a sports team. Take notes on things the other team does well and borrow some ideas. It’s equally important to remind each other of the things you might do better than your rival. You’ll never know what you do well or where you can improve unless you have an actual basis for comparison. Most folks working in sports are incredibly competitive and a visit to another ballpark can easily spark a desire to one-up the team down the highway.

Utilize Social Networks to Help Generate Ideas
Even the most creative minds in the business hit mental roadblocks. Sometimes the ideas just don’t flow, no matter how many brainstorming sessions you have. During those times, the best answers usually come from the people you are trying to persuade- the fans. The most effective and personal way of conversing with your fans on a wide scale is through the use of social media, which makes it easy for them to suggest things they’d like to see happen. Whether it is asking their opinion on ways to improve partially-formed new promotions or taking polls on the most popular mascot skit or soliciting feedback on concession items, social media gives you the ability to immediately refocus efforts where they matter most. Also, hosting live social media events (tweetups, social media seating sections) at games is a great way to bring the most active members of the online community in direct contact with your team. It bumps up the pressure to be on point when you know you’ll have people critiquing every aspect of your operation for online consumption. The jolt of excitement these types of events bring can be a welcome change during midseason doldrums.

Recommit to Your Responsibilities as a Mentor
It is said that the best way to learn is to teach. During the middle of a season though, it can be easy to forget about the younger members of your team who look to you for guidance and advice. Too often, interns are asked to complete a task without proper explanation of why it needs to be done. When you take the time to teach those less experienced, you gain a better understanding of why you love what you do. Their infectious enthusiasm can help invigorate your daily routine and provide opportunities to reevaluate practices that have long been accepted as standard operating procedure. By showing them the ropes, you’ll remember what you felt like when you started in the industry- when every idea had unlimited potential and every game taught a new exciting lesson. Beyond training someone to be contributing member of the team, recommitting to your responsibilities as a mentor is personally gratifying. It is so much easier to battle through the midseason grind when you know you’re helping others grow.

Schedule Job Swaps
Much like taking the time to engage with interns, making sure you have a proper appreciation for fellow veteran coworkers is an easy way to stimulate ideas and remain hungry for success. Set up a time on a slow event night when you can swap job responsibilities with someone else in your department. For instance, the Director of Entertainment can head down to the field to quarterback ceremonies, skits and contests while the Promotions Coordinator moves upstairs to get a better understanding of how the video and scoreboard crew, music and PA personnel operate. There are bound to be rough patches for every staff during a long season, where tensions flare due to stress, exhaustion, or even overexposure to each other. Plain and simple, it’s a lot easier to communicate with someone when you’ve been in their shoes. Those tensions become easier to squash when you have a solid appreciation for your coworkers’ hard work and the little details that they also deal with on a daily basis. In addition to building morale and cooperation, job swaps also provide an opportunity to approach old ideas in new ways. A coworker may suggest a more efficient way to accomplish a daily task or they may simply realize something they can do differently in their normal capacity to help you in your job. It shakes things up and reminds everyone how important it is to pull on the same end of the rope.

Plan a Promotion Just for the Staff
Sometimes it’s ok to plan a theme night or promotion just for fun. Especially in baseball, there are plenty of games on the schedule where you can relax and try to enjoy your own show. While every promotion should aim to sell tickets and generate attention, sometimes ideas pop up that just won’t be effective in those areas. Those “just for fun” ideas don’t have to be throwaways though. If there’s a slow stretch on the promotional schedule or a weeknight that could use some spark, consider planning an event based around pop culture events, music, movies, or entertainment personalities that are running topics of conversation or inside jokes in the office. Give your staff the opportunity to plan a theme night that’s pressure-free, and often that can help break creative barriers brought on by midseason fatigue. By doing something different, whether it’s having the staff dress up or playing a totally different type of music or using staff members for all the in-game contests, you might find the ideas start flowing a bit easier. Your fans won’t mind the change of pace either. Afterall, if you aren’t having fun, how can you expect them to?




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