3 Sports Business Lessons From NASA’s Curiosity Broadcast

Tuning in to the NASA live broadcast of the Curiosity mission was both a lesson in space exploration as well as marketing and business for a few reasons:

1. Simplicity

I connected to the NASA live stream based on a link going around Twitter and immediately saw the broadcast. No apps. No clicking to authorize my service. No calling my cable company to upgrade my cable. One click and I was watching a live stream of one of the more groundbreaking  space expeditions in our nation’s history. It was a very simple process to watch a historic moment.

Beyond that, NASA (and others involved) even branded a segment of the flight known as the “7 Minutes of Terror”. I’m not a rocket scientist. I don’t know many aeronautical terms. I do know that “7 Minutes of Terror” sounds like 7 minutes of a space exploration that I should probably be tuned in for though. NASA took a complicated Mars landing process and simplified it into something that may intrigue consumers: “7 Minutes of Terror”.

2. Social Proof

Social proof is the idea that people are influenced by the actions of others as they assume it is the recommended behavior for a given situation. The USTREAM feed (as all of their feeds do) showed statistics about the number of people watching. NBC has done that on a few live streams I have seen but not on others (such as the Canada vs. USA soccer match). While some may think this is a bad thing, the NASA site to view photos crashed, but they addressed this on air by explaining there were too many people watching. Similar to the famous infomercial line “if phone lines are busy, please call back again”, it hints that viewing photos (and the broadcast) is the recommended behavior.

3. Transparency

The broadcast was surprisingly transparent to the point of live interviews with important members of the Curiosity team and video of the control room. Given the transparency, it led the public to create nicknames for  various people (such as “Mohawk Guy”)  in the control room. The broadcast brought in experts, who were part of the mission, to explain aspects of the mission. Responses weren’t canned, prepared, etc…it was simply raw emotion and excitement for the world to see. There were hugs. There were tears. NASA opened the door to allow the public a glimpse of how the entire process works. While sports broadcasts often show the players, it was essentially the equivalent of a live stream from the dugout, bullpen, general manager suite, and stadium operations room.

Takeaway 

One argument is the financial models (NBC paid $1.8 billion for Olympics & Curiosity cost about $2.5 billion) and magnitude of the events (sporting events versus space exploration) are different and thus comparisons aren’t fair. That’s not the point though. The NASA broadcast, which had built in psychological components, could work in sports business too.

  • What if sports organizations simplified the ticket buying or viewing process?
  • What if sports teams shared the number of viewers watching the game or the number of tickets sold in real time?
  • What if teams opened the door just a bit more to allow fans a better glimpse of the sports and team process?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

4 comments

    • Thanks, Dan! I was very impressed with the NASA live broadcast last night and thought there were some lessons, based on consumer behavior and psychology, that could apply in marketing and sports business.

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  • I think the business of sport is starting to realize this as well. The Golden State Warriors experimented with this in June’d draft (http://mashable.com/2012/06/28/nba-draft-warriors/). However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I believe that there is a huge opportunity in this to create other sources of revenue streams, i.e. sponsors and/or advertising. Nonetheless this is a very interesting article!

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment, Eric! I’m a big fan of several things the Golden State Warriors do!

      Like

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