I just finished reading a solid article about the AUDL expansion for next season. The article does a pretty good job looking at the current AUDL teams and takes some guesses at the success of the league based on team profits from year 1. The question the author raises is whether the league will be profitable for investors that have purchased a franchise.
I really enjoyed the article because it addressed a concern I’ve been having for a while. Will owners be able to make money from a team? If they can, I suspect the AUDL is here to stay. If not, the league may last a few more seasons, but it won’t be around much beyond that. A profitable investment is, after all, what owners/investors want to get out of a professional league.
In the short term, I think teams will be able to make enough profits to offset costs, and/or owners that can’t break even will be ok with small initial losses while hoping things pick up. As I’ve touched on before, the AUDL did not really do any national or big scale advertising or marketing before season 1. Nonetheless, several teams seem to have generated enough local buzz to get people into the stands.
Obviously, none of the teams are selling thousands or tens of thousands of tickets for a game, but many teams seem to have numbers sufficient to generate a reasonable revenue stream. A couple owners might already be making a buck off ticket sales. Other owners may be breaking even or experiencing a small loss. It is all speculation and conjecture based on loose numbers. My point is that a local revenue stream could be sufficient to support an AUDL team in most cities.
Unfortunately, local fan support (primarily from the ultimate community in a team’s hometown) doesn’t really grow the sport. That means a team that can’t survive purely on ticket sales will only be in existence as long as an owner is willing to lose money on his/her franchise. The league could probably survive a failed franchise or two, but teams folding will likely have a huge impact on the league. Losing teams affects the schedule, causes problems balancing divisions, incites panic in other owners, etc. Consequently, the professional sport has to grow in national popularity for the league as a whole to be successful.
I’m very interested to see what the AUDL does in terms of marketing and advertising for future seasons to grown the sport. While I recognize that marketing may have not been affordable before the onset of the first season, it has to be a priority as the league expands. The league has to find a way to generate buzz, reach a broader audience than just ultimate players, and find a way to create diversified revenue streams for both the league and the teams.
I’m not sure exactly how they can do this. I’m not really a “marketing guy”. Getting a TV contract with a network, even if it is a smaller cable network, would be a step in the right direction. I suspect that isn’t really in the cards yet though.
In lieu of getting the sport on TV, the AUDL might be able to find a way to monetize their online content more effectively. It seems to me that there has to be more effective model for selling games online than an ala carte service. Perhaps a “league pass” or something similar would be a way to generate up front revenue.
Those are just a couple ideas, and I’m sure there are lots of other great ways the league could expand its brand recognition and fan base. I’m really curious what other people think about this topic though. Do you think the AUDL will be able to be successful with their current model? If not, what changes do you think they need to make to expand their fan base? Do you even think the AUDL as a product is good enough to succeed?