Well, it’s been a LONG month-and-a-half.
As most of you now know, Rev2 Media, the agency I co-founded with genius videographer and designer Josh Glazebrook last fall, elected to pull the trigger in April and accept work on the new AVP account, immediately taking over the difficult task of rebranding the tour. It hasn’t been easy keeping things under wraps given my love for absolute transparency, but under tight contractual stipulations, we were not able to dispense any info until everything was secure and released on the official launch date. If you know me at all, you know how hard it has been. And even when things went live, we were still obligated to remain objective, so fans and readers could take in the relaunch article from an “AVP” perspective versus a “Hans Stolfus” perspective.
Now, why would the ultimate online AVP dissenter go right back into the lion’s den and start pumping AVP ‘propaganda’ as if nothing went down nine months ago? Or hell… as if nothing went down over the past 10 years?
I needed a job. No, really. I did. If I answered that question any differently, the fictitious notes in my response would be so obvious they might spontaneously combust. But that’s not the only reason. The bigger reason for accepting this nearly impossible position is because I believe in the overall operational plan and media direction of the new AVP.
I believed in the Players Association (PBVA) from the very first moment we sat down to hatch out our long-term vision and this is no different. Sure, it’s taken a significant amount of time to get to a point where the brand’s vision aligned with mine for the sport, but we’re there. And I will never once back down from what I believe is best for this sport.
Unfortunately, the PBVA didn’t materialize like it had the potential to, but looking back, it was going to be a nearly un-winnable fight any which way we approached it. Even with nunchucks and matching bandannas. But the PBVA’s overarching philosophy was still the right direction. And keep in mind, I had also been actively negotiating with AVP owner Nick Lewin during that stretch on the PBVA’s behalf, knowing very well that if he was unable to sell the brand for an acceptable price, he would opt to run a tournament[s] to keep the brand alive. And if he did run an event[s], I wanted to make sure it was organized in the best interest of the players.
We met multiple times to discuss every aspect of the operational model, how to implement promoters effectively so they can turn an actual profit, what the brand means nationwide and how many fans are only familiar with the AVP name, and what the sport truly needs to command an honest-to-god mainstream media response.
So, what does it entail? Well, right now, one really unique event this fall. But that’s just the beginning. The vision is one-of-a-kind, first-class events in specific markets with the cooperation of skilled and capable promoters. Four in 2012 and eight in 2013. But the schedule won’t be filled just to be filled. Events carrying the AVP name will now only reside in strategic locations and make complete sense to both the brand and its eventual sponsors.
As for the unified rankings system, that’s always been the plan. I admit we miscalculated the negative effect the creative buttons we designed for the AVP Cup Series might have on the community, as no one viewing the site really knew what they meant or what we were trying to do with them. So, to clarify, the AVP has no intention of “stealing” other tour’s tournaments or illegally robbing those tournament’s points. We’re going to use USAV’s Unified Rankings System once it’s produced to unify the country’s events, not further divide them by creating the 16th rankings system out there. — Points are not proprietary as results and finishes are all public domain, fyi. — And if they were proprietary, the National Volleyball League would be in violation of their own claims as they are currently using the AVP’s rankings system to rank and seed their players, which is technically still an asset of the AVP. But is it an issue? No. Because the point of our city event list was to house the only comprehensive tournament schedule of every event garnering more than $50k in total prize money on the web. A hub of all things professional volley, if you will. Nothing more than a resource. Will each event also qualify players for our season-ending tournament? Yes. But if you do the math, that only makes everyone else’s tournaments more valuable anyway.
Five men’s players I spoke to about the AVP Championships event prior to the 15th had zero intention of playing in every event this summer — especially those located on the East Coast. The cost analysis simply didn’t work itself out. One would have to finish in the final four just to break even in several of the events and with teams like Hyden/Scott and Patterson/Keenan out there, nothing’s guaranteed.
But now? With the possibility of earning an invitation to the AVP Championships by finishing in the Top 2 domestically? They’re in. Jersey and Florida here they come. And that was the goal behind the eight tournament requirement in the AVP Cup Series. To INCREASE participation across the board.
As AVP promoter-based events are added to the schedule in years to come they won’t all of a sudden become a substitute for those that currently exist. They’ll merely be added to the already robust calendar of volleyball events across America. And as hard as this is for the Facebookeratti and Volleytalkminsitry to understand, the AVP isn’t trying to compete with the CLWO, NLV or USAV/IMG. Each of those tour’s events are still 100% necessary in this country to see the sport grow. Also, the beach party is still a huge part of the sport and cannot under any circumstances be overlooked. Long-time fans of the game live for those types of events and that particular type of atmosphere. And that is the essential reason why the AVP will not be competing with them. They need room and opportunity to succeed in their own market.
The AVP, on the other hand, is only looking to produce small, unique, A-1, professional-grade events. Events that stand out and compel fans in attendance to share photos and video of the venue online because they simply can’t believe how different and cool it is. Where fans feel honored to receive a signature. Where fans know the ‘work’ they’re going to see on court represents the athlete’s only job. And where fans won’t entertain attendance because it might mean a potential shared hot tub sesh with the 22nd-ranked player on tour after the player party.
For too long, the “AVP” hasn’t meant enough. Any player with a qualifier on his record could refer to himself as a “Pro,” and annual contestants on the “Amazing Race” were more recognizable as “professional beach volleyball players” than current players gracing the top ten. We made a mockery of our own classification system. And it meant absolutely nothing to call yourself a pro, even if you were, in fact, a pro. Well, the point of the AVP Cup Series and AVP Championships event is to not only establish a new line for AVP professional status, but a legitimate benchmark for active players to aspire to.
As stated at avp.com, AVP Championships event qualifying players will earn AVP Player Cards in the form of prepaid credit cards garnering an evenly split percentage of total gross revenues over $1m. (i.e., if the percentage is 5%, then $5m in gross revenues would produce $250k for the players to be split evenly among all 16 athletes, producing $15,625 per player card) As the AVP prospers, so do the players — instead of the office getting fatter and the tour getting leaner, as in the past ten years of operation. And as revenues increase, so will the size of the AVP Championships event draw. In 2013, the goal is a two-day, two-court, eight-team event with an even more legitimate prize purse that extends well beyond winner-take-all, producing 32 card carrying players. Qualification for the AVP Championships will represent the establishment of the tour’s professional “line.” A distinction for AVP card carrying players to finally be proud of because accompanying incentives will be valuable enough for the athletes to actually appreciate.
Think of what the AVP is trying to accomplish this way: a “Barclays Premier League” (soccer) with a “Barclays ATP World Tour Finals” (tennis) to finish each season. Right now all we have is the World Tour Finals and we’re looking to add the Premier League over the next five years. A series of small events right here on American soil worthy of our best teams currently competing year-round overseas, so mothers and fathers aren’t forced into saying goodbye each April as sons and daughters disappear for the summer, only to be seen again via tragic live-streaming feeds with no commentary and bandwidth built for 20 active viewers.
And apparently the hardest part for our sport’s passionate online audience to understand is the concept of starting small and building up. It’s simply so foreign, not a soul can grasp it. “What do you mean? What is one event? 4 teams? That’s nothing, why even run it? If you’re not going to overleverage and overextend yourselves once again and run between 12-16 32-team events, why even return? You’re wasting our time.” That’s honestly the majority response thus far. Actually, that’s the nice version. But I’m not sure if it stems from the newly proposed business plan, which only includes the one season-ending event, or just the overall disdain by internet empowered fans over the AVP brand?
On the flip side of that coin, more than 29,000 fans have visited avp.com since Monday morning. More than 9,500 have viewed the John Hyden relaunch video. And more than 8,000 have read “Reinventing the AVP.” Granted, we take a lot of pride in the digital work we produce and have a specific vision in mind when creating anything that may influence the direction our sport is perceived online. But this is the exact reason I am here today writing you from a computer carrying the AVP Championships event rendering as a screen saver. The AVP brand still has a resounding presence in the social marketplace. There is no denying it. Beach volleyball and the AVP are synonymous. And that’s despite being the most horribly run organization in the history of horribly run organizations.
The events are great entertainment and the sport is truly electrifying when played by the very best. Anyone who has ever been to a Southern California event can testify they really are awesome. But as always, I digress… We couldn’t help but produce the worst television and sponsor contracts on Earth, while affording ourselves the most unbalanced executive salary to player prize money ratio in professional sports history — we were seriously striving for 80 percent of revenues to operations and staff, with 20 percent to the players, and we couldn’t even accomplish that. Well, never again.
First NVL event is Friday. I will be pubbing it via the AVP Facebook and Twitter page, and writing a recap of the event at avp.com. It is my belief that more than 35,000 FB fans deserve to see what is going on in America regarding their favorite sport. If supporting the NVL online this weekend is viewed as nothing more than the AVP flexing its bankruptcy-laden muscle, while trying to stay relevant, by all means I don’t have to. But their personal outreach will only continue to be stymied by the fact they’re a startup and simply haven’t been able to build a following yet. And I can help.
I also have a 150,000 email database at my disposal and the ability to publicize any tournament or tour in the sport that players and fans should be aware of, which I intend to utilize for the rest of this summer’s events. Because that’s how I believe the sport grows; through awareness, visibility, cooperation, and interaction.
The haters will hate. I can’t do anything about that other than confess I used to be the Jedi Knight of online AVP hate. In fact, I may have been one of the first. A version of my blog dates pre-2005. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s this: a problem doesn’t exist unless one can also present a solution. And although I only represent the AVP’s Media, I’ve been given the somewhat ironic opportunity to work on a solution for the biggest problem our sport has ever known. It may require 12 hours a day, but it will come. The AVP will be better.