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POLL POSITION
Sports Marketer of the Year
 
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QUICK HITS

• Winter Games Brand Awareness
Which of the following brands have you seen an ad for in the past two weeks during Winter Olympics?
1. Coca-Cola 45.4
2. Liberty Mutual 25.3
3. Samsung 24.5
4. NBC 23.7
5. Chobani 16.3
6. United 14.4
7. NBCSN 10.9
8. Intel 9.1
9. Dow 3.2
10. Panasonic 2.9
SOURCE YouGov

• This wknd all 30 MLB teams (including players, coaches, managers and umpires) will wear caps to honor before games, with option to wear the caps  in-game. Players will sign caps and auction them to raise money for Broward Education Foundation to benefit the official Victims' Fund.

• Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Finalists Class of 2018: Ray Allen, Maurice Cheeks, Charles “Lefty” Driesell, Hugh Evans, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Rudy Tomjanovich, Chris Webber, Kim Mulkey, Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, Wayland Baptist University. Class of 2018 will be named during the NCAA Men’s Final Four weekend in San Antonio March 31-April 2.

KEEPING SCORE

Most Exciting Sports Worldwide
1. Athletics (i.e. Olympics) 47% Very/Quite Exciting
2. Tennis 43%
3. Football (soccer) 43%
4. Rugby 41%
5. Gymnastics 36%
6. Boxing 32%
7. Formula 1 32%
8. Swimming 26%
9. Horse Racing 25%
10. Cycling 25%

Most Boring Sports Worldwide
1. Golf 70% Very/Quite Boring
2. U.S. Football 59%
3. Cricket 58%
4. Darts 58%
5. Snooker 57%
6. Basketball 52%
7. Horse Racing 52%
8. Cycling 50%
9. Formula 1 49%
10. Boxing 46%

Poll from YouGov.com

BUY SELL

Top Selling MLS Player Jerseys
1. Miguel Almirón Atlanta United
2. Bastian Schweinsteiger Chicago Fire
3. Josef Martínez Atlanta United
4. Jordan Morris Seattle Sounders
5. David Villa NYCFC
6. Clint Dempsey Seattle Sounders
7. Sebastian Giovinco Toronto FC
8. Kaká Orlando City FC
9. Andrea Pirlo NYCFC
10. Nicolás Lodeiro Seattle Sounders
SOURCE MLS STORE

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Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn121400.html#46Ul8rBF4XpB4lo0.99
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn121400.html#JZxA5jXY4rCwemgZ.99
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn121400.html#JZxA5jXY4rCwemgZ.99
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn121400.html#46Ul8rBF4XpB4lo0.99
Sunday
Jan212018

Q&A: From Grand Central To The Olympics, Squash Seeks Global Growth, Success

By Barry Janoff

January 20, 2018: Squash was first played in England more than 140 years ago. Today, it is popular in 185 countries, with nearly 50,000 squash courts and more than 16 million squash players worldwide, including 1.5 million in the U.S.

Squash played on a regulation court situated inside a glass cube in New York’s Grand Central Terminal dates back only to 1995, when the Tournament of Champions, a major stop on the world Professional Squash Assn. world series tour, was first played in New York’s Vanderbilt Hall.

The concept came from John Nimick, head of Boston-based sports marketing agency Squash Engine, who sought to take his love for the sport to audiences and marketers beyond the core fan and endemic support.

“I made my pitch in the fall of 1994 to Metro North Railroad (which leases the property), and it probably was the oddest thing they ever heard,” said Nimick, whose squash career includes being a champion in college, the No. 2-ranked player on the World Professional Squash Tour and winner of four Grand Slam singles squash titles. “Our first event was in June 1995. It was so hot we had to pipe in air conditioning. But we made Sports Illustrated’s ‘Year in Pictures,’ which gave the event a power-launch.”

Squash Engine has since built several other glass cube events and currently oversees squash tournaments held in glass cubes in such public locations as the Justin Herman Plaza South Lawn, San Francisco; Symphony Hall, Boston; and BCE Place, Toronto.

Originally title-sponsored by Bear Stearns, it has since 2008 been the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York.

The event in New York, which attracts the top squash players from the U.S. and worldwide, is currently in progress, having set up in the midst of one of the world’s busiest commuter hubs on Jan. 18 and running through the men’s and women’s quarter-finals (Jan. 23), semi-finals (Jan. 24) and championships (Jan. 25).

Event marketing partners including Lexington Partners, Hospital For Special Surgery, SL Green Reality Corp., Dunlop and Great Northern Food Hall (also in Grand Central Terminal).

Although seating around the court is for several hundred people, estimates are that several hundred thousand people will have seen part of the TOC since it began, given its location at 42nd and Park in Manhattan.

Beyond staging major local events, Nimick and the global squash community have a grander goal: Getting into the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee has had the sport under consideration for some time. It was on a short-list for the 2012 London Games, but the IOC only added a tennis competition and no new sports; then again for 2016 Rio, when golf and rugby were added.

For the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, the IOC in 2016 voted to add number of sports, including the return of baseball and softball (which had been eliminated from the Games as of 2012 in London), karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. “There is no squash in Japan to speak of, so it was not a surprise we didn’t get in,” said Nimick.

The sport has upped the ante for Olympics inclusion with World Squash Federation joining with PSA to target the 2024 Games in Paris and the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. Weber Shandwick has been named as communications campaign partner to provide strategic counsel.

NYSportsJournalism spoke with Nimick, who is in the Squash Hall of Fame, about the growth of the sport, challenges in vying for marketing support in a crowded sports landscape and playing squash in a glass cube.

NYSportsJournalism.com: So one day you walked into Grand Central Terminal and said, ‘This place needs a glass cube squash court and a squash tournament'? How did that all come about?

John Nimick: It did happen kind of like that. We have what is called in our sport ‘Glass Court Events.’ If you are  going to the trouble and expense of putting a glass court up somewhere, it tends to be a major event. We were running a major glass court event at the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center from 1988 to 1994.

In 1994, a friend of mine asked, ‘Have you seen this space in Grand Central Terminal?’ I looked at it in Vanderbilt Hall, which at the time was completely empty, before the main renovations a few years later. It looked, back then, kind of gloomy. But the idea of converting it into an event space was intriguing. The fact that people going to their trains and other destinations could pass through the middle of the room, with a squash arena on one side and hospitality vendors and displays on the other, would let us take advantage of the greatest aspect of these glass courts:

NYSJ: Isn’t the crowd movement a distraction to the players?

JN: The glass has a one-way viewing property. So athletes in the glass court can somewhat see out, but their view is mainly of a squash court while the audience outside can clearly see into the box. It was a milestone moment to see that we could make it work and have hundreds of thousands of people exposed to squash.

NYSJ: Have you found that this event and others you oversee has expanded the squash audience from core to casual and even people who don’t know anything about the sport?

JN: We definitely have seen a year-round uptick in awareness of and interest in the sport. The sport is growing, The latest stats I have from the Sports & Fitness Industry Assn. show that squash has 1.5 million recreational participants in the U.S. alone. That was at 300,000 ten years ago. The growth is significant.

NYSJ: What about from the sponsorship and corporate side?

JN: We are seeing growth and increased interest there, as well. How the U.S. sits in the global scheme of things regarding the sport is very positive. It is very healthy in certain places around the world, growing in others. But where we are seeing the most growth is at junior schools, high schools, colleges and into the pro tours in the U.S. There is a nice rising tide for squash right now in this country.

NYSJ: Are you finding more doors opening regarding talking to companies about marketing and sponsorship, or is it more a case of having to knock doors down?

JN: It is getting to be a better sell but is still challenging. Speaking specifically about Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal, our title sponsor for five years leading to the ‘Great Recession of 2008’ was Bear Stearns. They were a strong sponsor of the sport and their headquarters were right near Grand Central. But when they went bankrupt (in 2008), the Fed forced J.P. Morgan to buy them.

"Our path with J.P. Morgan has been groundbreaking. They rate us the No. 2 event in their global sponsorship portfolio behind the U.S. (tennis) Open."

I got a call that year from the new head of Bear Stearns who said, ‘I see we have this squash event in New York and I wanted you to know that we will continue it this year.’ But about a week after the event, they called me saying they were no longer gong to sponsor it. Then a few months later they called back again saying they had received a big push-back for cancelling the sponsorship, with people in the company saying that it was a great event to sponsor. So (J.P. Morgan) picked it up again in 2009 and have been a great title sponsor ever since. And they have continued to increase the amount they are spending to sponsor the event.

NYSJ: How important is it to have a partner such as J.P. Morgan?

JN: Our path with J.P. Morgan has been groundbreaking in that we continually show value to them — they rate us the No. 2 event in their global sponsorship portfolio behind the U.S. Open (tennis). The things that made this possible were Grand Central Terminal as an iconic location, the fact that the event is open to the public so it is a community and not just a private event and it is the most convenient event location in the world. That people can see a world-class sports event there, host a guest, host clients and enhance the relationship for two hours with food and beverage, and then take the train home, is an asset that is unique to the Tournament of Champions. We are in one of the most dynamic, constantly evolving retail environments in New York City.

NYSJ: What about your other marketing partners?

JN: Grand Central Terminal is upping its game all the time. In the other half of Vanderbilt Hall they opened the Great Northern Food Hall (in 2016) which has been an amazing boon for us because now we have the use of their food court via a partnership with Claus Meyer.

We’ve had Lexington Partners (investment firm) with us for a long time, 20 years, and they are one of the premier private equity firms in the world. Hospital For Special Surgery came on-board two years ago. This year we added SL Green Reality Corp. and their One Vanderbilt project, going up right next to Grand Central Terminal. So we feel very fortunately that we have been able to partner with the Tournament companies that represent the very best in their field.

NYSJ: What sport would you compare it to as far as growth in this country? Rugby? Lacrosse? Cricket?

JN: Perhaps lacrosse. That came out of the gate nationally about 20 years ago with a major expansion, in particular on the East Coast. Now, at least from an NCAA perspective, lacrosse is one of their top participant sports. Rugby is on that path in the U.S. For us, Ultimate Frisbee is an interesting sport to watch because, like squash, it is knocking on the door of the Olympics.

NYSJ: What aspects of the sport do you see separating squash from these other sports?

JN: Squash is unique in that it is an individual sport. It is a sport for life. It has the challenge that someone has to build a court. You can’t just go onto a field or basketball court and play. There are no squash courts in municipal parks, although there are efforts pushing in that direction. So there is a lot of focus in the U.S. to continue the growth at the school, high school and collegiate levels, where the opportunity to build facilities is somewhat easier than at a municipal, city or state level.

NYSJ: Are you getting support from outside the sport, say from health and fitness?

JN: We are seeing that. Lifetime Fitness in particular stands out. They are putting squash courts in most or many of the new clubs that they build. The basic problem is that a squash court takes up a certain amount of space that can be used for rock climbing, yoga or some other class in the same space and properly monetize it more. It can’t be used for anything else. A racquetball court, for example, is 45 feet long and a squash court is 32 feet long. There have been attempts at building a court with a moveable back wall. But where the sport thrives the most is where you have dedicated courts and dedicated teachers or coaches.

NYSJ: Are players allowed to sign their own sponsors?

JN: They can, and many do have endorsement deals. The international players bring their sponsorship deals with them. The U.S. market for American squash players isn’t at the point where athletes can secure a deal with a Nike or Under Armour. The one athlete in squash who is at the top of the ‘Q Factor’ is Ramy Ashour, who was born in Cairo and lives in New York. He was a phenom at 16 and 17 (he is now 30) and has won all the major titles in the sport. Highly charismatic. He would be the closest we have in the U.S. to a squash celebrity. (His sponsors include Prince and Salming shoes and clothing.)

NYSJ: Do you see potential for squash in future Olympics?

JN: The squash associations that oversee the sport are excited about Paris in 2024. One reason is that there are some French players now at the top of the game who we hope will have a strong influence on the IOC decision. The challenge is that the IOC does not see squash as offering something new to the Games. But with Grand Central Terminal and other squash events we oversee that are in energetic, iconic, community-oriented and economically vital places, that is the strength of the message we are sending.

If there is squash in the Paris Games, we can build a glass cube court under the Eiffel Tower. That would be an 'Aha!' moment for the sport. We feel the more we can profile world-class squash being played in a glass cube court in iconic places, the better the sport will be long-term.

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