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A better TV product can drive bigger pay day for track and field athletes

JANUARY 2:  With the World Cup Football scheduled for this summer, the television viewership for football will increase even more. It is already number one, boasting up to 3.5 billion viewers.

The draw for the ‘greatest show on earth’ sets up for a highly competitive series of games. Pundits have begun to suggest that groups D and G are the ‘groups of death’ and so we anticipate chart stopping performances not just from those groups, but all round. See the draw in the groups

So far though, the sport of football has taken away significant portions of funds available for sports for this year, as the exposure to any product/service from June 12 to July 13 is key to any global brand. With the Commonwealth Games scheduled for Glasgow, Scotland from July 23 to August 12…the question is, how will those Games fare in terms of ability to attract big bucks for TV rights?

The USA college system is projected to seeing $2.3 billion of funds flowing up to 2020 and while they are trying to determine whether to adopt a play-for-pay model, the other sports could very well be affected by its ability to raise funds. Bear in mind, the collegiate system is not a professional league.

Let’s look at the NBA, where in 2007, ABC/ESPN and TNT paid a combined 7.4 billion to the NBA to air games on television. That revenue though is divided into 30 and those are the amount of teams in that league. Can that even be possible in track and field?

The NBA has made their game a made-for-tv-event and so its revenues are directly related to television audiences worldwide, even though the franchises separately, have created a variety of experiences in the respective cities. Think what happens in the major cities if you are a Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma, or a New York fan.


Track and Field has to create a package which is more television friendly outside of the Olympic and World Championship experience to sustain and improve the value of the sport in between those times and so sets itself up to be able to offer more to its athletes. The salaries for track and field athletes are not comparable to their colleagues in other disciplines.

The effort by Doyle Management to bring the ‘American Dream” template to track and field, may just be the game-changer. The plan to launch this year will see at least five events with on and off the field activities starting in May aimed at reaching the super fan, the TV fan and curious onlookers.

The USA market has been deemed the marketing capital of the world, and has been known to influence television viewership in several sporting disciplines…maybe just maybe it is time for track and field. The IAAF could very well develop a new marketing programme which could attract way more athletes, increase revenue and improve its image by adding the element of a product friendlier for television.  The IAAF could also target up to ten venues across the globe which can be re-defined for a greater fan experience – in and around Europe, but with some focus on the Americas, north and south.

The sport industry’s value is not decreasing, but is more available to the best packaged product. The track and field athletes are on the same magazine covers, same night time television shows, have been known to tilt television ratings, but earn significantly less…that should change up to 2016 (next Summer Olympic Games) and beyond.

Over to you IAAF! 


A sport aficionado who writes, researches and presents on everything sport. A second book is out to prove her work's reach. She reads in her spare time.

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