After dozens of meetings with top-level people in Marketing, Promotion and PR, here are some of the top reasons they said why chess is not more commercially viable than and not as big as it could be with the media. Again, these are NOT chess people. They do not how to play but they represent other industries from sports, fashion to entertainment, etc. They said the #1 problem is:

– Chess players themselves!

I asked what that means. The answer they gave me was to take an example of a game show or perhaps a chess TV show. People want drama, suspense, entertainment, excitement and fun, etc. Skills are less important than the other factors, just as “The Price is Right”, “Deal or No Deal”, etc. Even though there are over 40 million people knowing the rules of chess in the US and nearly 700 million worldwide as claimed by FIDE, most people are not “experts” in chess. They would have no comprehension of the difference between a 700 rated player and a 2700 rated player.

Chess players tend to care about the ratings and quality of chess. The mainstream people do not. They do not want to know the details of the analysis. They just want to quick summary with the drama, excitement and other goodies with it. They want to have fun sitting there and watching the show.

They asked me if I have ever looked at the problems from the outside looking in. They said that if they asked a random tournament chess player about his / her game or tournament, that person would go on and on about how his / her Knight on g5 was powerful, the Bishop on b3 creates a deadly pin, and the Sicilian Najdorf is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4, etc.

They said the worst is when players go on the analysis mode with non-chess players. What does it mean? Nothing and boring to a non chess player! No excitement, suspense, fun or drama! Just purely chess and too much chess!

They told me that they have watched many chess commentators including some of the usual names we know. They said some are fine and some are not but the same problems exist. They may be adequate for the chess audience which is very small. They would be unacceptable for the mainstream people and that is the demographic everyone wants to go after.

Their conclusion was the same thing about the media. They said that most tournament reports and articles are boring and not attractive to the mainstream. There should be a lot more focus on the unusual, exciting and unique angles instead of who finished first, second or third. We have to compete with many other headlines and unless things are done better, chess will not get the adequate space.

We talked about the length of the games. They said for a live broadcast, it would make a difference to make things fast and furious. However, if it is a taped show, the lengths of the games do not matter. What matter is good editing and all the other stuff I mentioned above.

We also talked about the dress code. They said business casual or suit are both fine. The code for women is more vague. Even logo shirts from sponsors is fine. The main thing is the players have to be smart and logical about it. For example, opening and closing ceremonies require a better dress code and it could be less during the competition. However, it is critically important that the clothes have to be nice and neat. The word they used was “presentable”. They also stressed about personal hygiene.

Another major topic that most of them complained a lot about was dealing with the people in chess federations and organizations, both nationally and internationally. They said that it is virtually impossible to talk or negotiate with chess people.

They gave me a lot of examples but here are a few that stick out in my mind:

1. One major company (Fortune 500) wanted to sponsor chess. They thought that the image of chess would be good for the company. So they contacted someone in a chess organization. After 15-20 minutes, it abruptly ended. This company said that it was the most bizarre and most unprofessional experience they have ever faced.

What happened was this company wanted this organization to provide / recommend 10-20 chess players (that fit their mold) for a commercial shoot for a series of chess events that they wanted to sponsor. That means that hundreds of chess players will benefit financially and a lot of free mainstream publicity for chess and the organization.

The person who represented the chess organization kept asking what their organization will get out of it personally. After explaining a few times that the chess community will get free major publicity, chess players will be able to compete in prestigious events with big money, and donations will be made to various schools to create chess programs, the person who represented the chess organization said unless money is paid directly to this organization, they are not interested and walked out.

2. Another example is a major airline wanted to sponsor chess. They could be the official airline for this organization in exchange for free travel. The person who represented the chess organization said that he does not fly this airline because it does not go to his city. So therefore, no thanks.

This is part 1 of this topic. I will publish part 2 in about a week or so. It will include about communications and conducts, etc. Please note that the experiences that they mentioned were with various chess organizations and not just one.

What is your take so far? Do you agree or do you think that these top-level Marketing, Promotion and PR people are wrong?

Posted by Picasa
Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
Tags: ,