Sunday, August 2, 2009

The 30th National: In Like a Lamb, Out like a Lamb

I attended most of this year's National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. I was there Wednesday night, Saturday and Sunday. I have a recap of each day listed on the Cardboard Connection. Here are my impressions overall with the show.

The bar has certainly been lowered for the 31st Annual Sports Collectors Convention next year in Baltimore, MD. I don't have the official attendance numbers to back this up, but my impression is attendance was way down compared to the last time the National was in Cleveland.

I walked around Wednesday night amazed that more people weren't there. It seemed more like an after-prom party than it did a national trade show. I met the great people at the Freedom Card Board who were doing streaming live audio and video direct from their booth. They did a great job marketing their booth with the webcast, an autograph session, and a scavenger hunt for great prize raffles.

On Wednesday I also talked to the Sports Card Forum booth. They were also raffling great prizes throughout the weekend and did a nice job marketing their booth through the Facebook group and using the twitter #NSCCShow hashtag.

Most of my time the first day was spent meeting people from the internet, the The National Facebook Group, and twitter. Fortunately for me, the small crowd made it easy to find people.

As expected, Saturday was the busiest day of the show. I was able to really hit more of the tables, picked up the free Tyler Hansbrough autograph for the giveaway, and meet more people. Rob from VOTC did a great job sending twitter updates. It was great meeting him at the show. I also met the Card Informant crew. I also met Rich from Sports Collectors Daily. They were both sending twitter updates all weekend.

This had the most pathetic attendance of any day at the National. I swear I heard crickets at one point! I was really surprised it was that bad. There were several dealer tables who had already closed up shop and headed home. I asked around about why people left so early Sunday morning and was informed they didn't leave Sunday . . . they left Saturday!

I always have a good time at the National. It's a shame that Topps and Steiner weren't in attendance for the biggest show of the hobby, but in retrospect, maybe they knew something the other corporations didn't? I picked up some cool cards and great pieces to give-away like redemption cards and an awesome T206 poster from PSA.

Q: How to Fix the National? A: Marketing
OK, truthfully, I work in marketing, so I always think it's the answer. :) However, I think the marketing for the National needs updating.

1. Why was Wednesday a full price day if it was a 4 hour sneak peak? Cut the cost in half and bring in more people. Treat it as a "soft opening" with special raffle prices, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and a local athlete to usher us in. In Cleveland, bring a member of the Cavs or at least the Cavs cheerleaders.

2. Change the hours. Why is the National closing at 6:00pm on Thursday and Friday? You are really limiting your audience. Open it two hours later and keep it open 2 hours longer. How many more families will attend if they can pick up the kids on their way home from work and head to the show for a few hours?

3. Facebook. I talked to John Broggi on Saturday about Facebook. Right now, he views facebook as a way to release information instead of a way to connect with fans. Give facebook fans a coupon or free parking pass. Poll them on their experiences. Think of the interaction he could get. Bring in some You-tube elements to the facebook page. Show me some behind the scenes footage of dealers and signers showing up. Argh!

4. Twitter! I think the twitter feed for the National was the best part. I really think this has momentum and should continue with other shows. I really enjoyed getting the updates from VOTC, SportsCardsDaily, and others and plenty of people sent me DMs to share the same opinion. Mario at WaxHeaven and Gellman from SCU were also sending reply tweets. They were asking questions, getting involved, and hopefully we did a good job of bringing the National to them! Anyone using the #NSCCShow hashtag could follow the conversation and see the twitpics.

That's just my opinion though. Check out the VOTC's take, Sports Card Info and Sports Collectors Daily.


mfw13 said...

You want people to come to the National, then make it easier for them to get there! Aside from the one time it was held in Anaheim, how many times has it been held west of the Mississippi?

If you want it to be a National show, then stop holding it in the same part of the country every year!

JRJ said...

mfw13 - You're right. It's definitely been primarily an eastern time zone event. I think people like the Cleveland venue because of location - right off a major highway and airport and generally it's cheaper to have it in Cleveland than a major market.

I'm pretty sure the National HQ is in NJ too.

I'd like to see it St. Louis, Phoenix, Denver, or Las Vegas!

MattR said...

I'd like to see it in Phoenix, but it may be hard to get people to come in July.

At least occasionally it needs to be held somewhere in the western U.S. How about San Diego?

Andrew said...

In terms of improving it marketing-wise. Why not just spread out promotional giveaways a little bit better to even out the influx of visitors?

JRJ said...

@Andrew - The marketing with the national is like a lot of company's. Going through the check-list has always worked in year's past and they are slow to change and embrace new methods and technologies.

As a marketer, you have to go where your customers are. If they are always in the car - you go radio and if their customers are more and more online, then you have to go there too.

I talked to them a bit about marketing on Saturday - I'll email them again this week. I think they can do a lot of cool things.