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View Full Version : What should the ISU do to resurrect Figure Skating in the US and Europe?



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Made4Dancin
03-29-2011, 05:23 AM
I agree about drama attracting an audience, since they already think of FS as being very flamboyant. This is one reason I thought they should have promoted Johnny Weir more as a personality.
During the Olympic coverage in the US, they did their best to downplay Johnny. It seemed like they wanted to unpromote him, which was a huge mistake. I understand that they didn't want him. He's not their type. But for figure skating's sake they should have embraced him. There was a wall on NBC's official website that had photos of all the athletes and the more people were talking about the person on twitter, facebook, whatever, the bigger their photo was. So if everyone was talking about Lindsay Vohn or Shaun White or whoever their picture would get bigger and therefore the most popular person would be biggest. During the men's competition they promoted promoted promoted Evan and Canadian Patrick Chan, made Evgeni Plushenko the evil commie, and basically relegated Johnny to "whatshisface' status. However during the skating, and before and after, Johnny's picture on this wall was the biggest, by far. When he was skating, when Evan was skating, when someone else was skating, when the competition was over, the next day, Johnny's picture was huge by comparison.

If NBC or anyone else wanted to make money they would have used this free market research to promote Johnny Weir and everyone in US figure skating would have benefited. But what was the story in the following days/weeks? The biggest (only) tour in the US doesn't want Johnny Weir because of who he is. That was in all the press and on mainstream entertainment shows where plenty of people who don't watch figure skating got to see what appeared to be a discrimination issue in figure skating. Americans love discrimination right? :rolleyes:

Anyhoo, the fact is everyone in the US seemed to be watching the Vancouver Olympics, so not capitalizing one way or another was a monstrous missed opportunity. The night after the Men's SP I was watching Letterman. The SP came up in the conversation he was having with Ewan McGregor. Dave was complaining that they were all dressed like Edward Scissorhands and Ewan commented that there was an American who wore a waistcoat (vest) but it didn't seem to help him (Abbott). Okay, they were making fun of their outfits, but the point is they both were watching it and it came up in their conversation when neither of them had the agenda to promote figure skating or NBC, which is not Letterman's network. For US figure skating to waste their two week window of opportunity that only happens every 4 years by being catty about Johnny and propping poor Evan up on that couch for the entire day after he won when he needed a nap, just to continuously explain the "quad controversy" was silly. People know where they stand on quads even if they only watch every 4 years. What happened was that Evan seemed baked and Johnny came across as the tortured artist who was victimized by his sport. Who wants to support a sport that treats it's own like crap?

That's the thing. People want to like their athletes. They want to care about them. So it follows that they need to have star quality and/or be likable. People really loved Brian Boitano and Michelle Kwan. Figure Skating soared while they were around. But they weren't the only champions then or since. Everyone with a World Championship or Olympic gold medal does not have the kind of success those two had. So I personally don't think it's about medals tbh. When they played All That Skate LA on TV, my mom, who still watches figure skating now and knows all the current skaters, was sooooooo happy to see Michelle Kwan skate. It was like her favorite kid came home from college. She never even recognizes Tara Lipinski when she pops up. Forget about Sara Hughes. (I almost forgot who she was.) Kristi Yamaguchi who easily could have been forgotten by now, won the popularity contest known as "Dancing with the Stars". Evan didn't although he competed on the show directly after his Olympic win. Figure skating needs to be a sport for the people who run it, but it's a performance for most of the people who enjoy it now, or have enjoyed it in the past. So, imo, you need stars, not medals. And if your star happens to be a non-American, so what? I don't remember anyone changing the channel when Philippe Candeloro was on because he was French.

berthesghost
03-29-2011, 06:13 AM
I really wish people would get over the whole "How can we homophobic teens to love figure skating?" nonsense. You never see ballet fans suggesting the dancers be more X-games like, or classical music fans suggest hot dogs be served during concerts, etc... We love skating because we get it. Obsessing over how to get haterz to conform is just retarded IMHO. There, now I've said it, and I do feel better. :lol:

Firefly123
03-29-2011, 01:58 PM
Well, if you don't care what anyone else thinks except people already in the figure skating community (who "get it"), then I think that pretty much explains the problem right there. If you want to attract new members maybe you need to ask people outside the figure skating community and listen to them, not dismiss them and lecture them on why their opinion is wrong (or "homophobic"), just because you don't agree with it.....

Fact is, many people don't like art in their sport. Some people just don't like acting or "dancing" in the sense of portraying emotion through movement to an audience. Personally, I am not good at it. It makes me feel "weird" and extremely uncomfortable, (and I am not a homophobic teen).... So under the current system, someone like me, (or "homophobic teens") who enjoy the technical aspect of skating but are uncomfortable with the artistic are left out because a certain element of fans/skaters (like yourself) love that aspect of the sport so much that you refuse to even consider the possibility of separating it in order to form a new discipline that might appeal to a different set of skaters.....

My point was not to resurrect a dead horse. My point is that I actually asked some non "figure" skaters who happened to be good at skating why they don't pursue figure skating. (Most were adolescent males who could probably do very well in the athletic department). And this is what they told me.... Now, if you want to argue/discuss etc this issue, maybe you should ask an outside audience why figure skating turns them off (if, indeed it does. Some of you have suggested that the general public watches it to make fun of it because they actually like it.:eek: Kind of like listening to Abba.:lol:)

So the point of this is why don't you ask someone outside of the figure skating community what turns them off about figure skating and work from there. The teen boys I asked at the skatepark mentioned the artistic side of the sport. Maybe a different demographic might say something else...

gkelly
03-29-2011, 02:31 PM
I think there's also a difference between "resurrecting" or growing figure skating as a participatory sport vs. as a spectator sport.

Some people are coming at this question as fans who really don't care what the skaters do with their blades as long as there are exciting tricks and/or entertaining performances to watch, with music they enjoy listening to.

Others don't care so much about who's watching, but rather who wants to do it.

Of course there will always be overlap. People who skate are more likely to be interested in watching elite skating than the average nonskater. Viewers who enjoy watching skating are more likely to try it themselves, or suggest it to their kids, than people who are unaware of, indifferent to, or hostile to the sport as currently presented in the media.

But there are also a lot of areas where the two are almost mutually exclusive.

For example, in my area right now there's lots of participation at lower levels, along with our fair share of successful competitors. My club is looking at record membership for this year and next. But a large part of the growth is due to participation in synchronized skating at lower levels.

That's good for clubs, good for USFigureSkating, good for the skaters, good for coaches, good for the local rinks . . . but it really doesn't do anything for fans who watch skating on TV. It's not going to bring in more TV coverage or advertising dollars. It's not even going to bring in any more boys.

manhn
03-30-2011, 04:10 AM
You never see ballet fans suggesting the dancers be more X-games like, or classical music fans suggest hot dogs be served during concerts, etc..

Where's the proof in that?

berthesghost
03-30-2011, 04:47 AM
I'm only speaking from my own experience. I don't actually know any "non skating fans". Skating used to be extremely popular from the 60s thru to the late 90s. Pretty much everyone watched it at least casually. I know tons of people who used to be fans but have dropped the sport like a hot potato because of all the idiotic changes in recent years.

BetsyLou
03-30-2011, 02:52 PM
Figure skating is so closely linked to the Olympics, and Olympic sports are simply not popular here in the US in off-Olympic years.

I recall back in the early to mid 1990s how my local affiliates would always pre-empt the World Figure Skating Championships for high school basketball. I mentioned that one time at work about my frustration, and I got laughed at for even watching figure skating. I've never admitted to watching figure skating since. It is hard to be a fan of a sport if you are going to be mocked.

I have a whole rubbermaid container of figure skating videos in my basement that I taped 15 to 20 years ago. I've often wondered if it wasn't time to let that all go. I even have to admit that my interest isn't what it once was, and I was quite an avid fan years ago.

berthesghost
03-30-2011, 04:55 PM
I have a whole rubbermaid container of figure skating videos in my basement that I taped 15 to 20 years ago. I've often wondered if it wasn't time to let that all go. I even have to admit that my interest isn't what it once was, and I was quite an avid fan years ago.Yes, this is me exactly! :lol:
I recall back in the early to mid 1990s how my local affiliates would always pre-empt the World Figure Skating Championships for high school basketball. I mentioned that one time at work about my frustration, and I got laughed at for even watching figure skating. I've never admitted to watching figure skating since. It is hard to be a fan of a sport if you are going to be mocked.I'm actually pretty closeted about my fandom, but am constantly shocked at how much the average person knows. Skaters names seem to come up in everyday conversation and I'm always taken aback that so many people know who they are and use their names in everyday conversation.

Almost everyone I know watched all those pro events that were always on in the 90s. $peedy killing pro skating is just one of the many reasons why people IMO need look no further than him to answer the question of why skating is in such a shocking free fall decline. I also know that this will be hotly denied and ridiculed here, but in my personal experience, tons of average people who used to watch skating casually and now don't, all without exception complain about COP and say it ruined the sport and made in unwatchable. But yeah, I'm just an idiot. What the sport needs is not to win back the huge audience it lost, but to alienate it's core group by reaching out to a demographic that never liked it or anything even remotely resembling it. :rolleyes:

aliceanne
03-30-2011, 05:12 PM
One thing I wonder about is who does the marketing for skating.

I see a lot of arenas 1/2 filled or 1/3 filled on tv. When I commented on it on one thread someone in Japan replied that although there were many empty seats on tv, they had been unable to obtain tickets to NHK after several attempts. I had the same experience when I went to Worlds Exhibition in Washington DC. I tried to buy tickets as soon as they were available, but could only get nosebleed seats, yet the arena was pretty empty when I went.

I also so a letter in IFS from someone with extensive PR experience and contacts in the host city who tried to volunteer for one of the U.S. Nationals, but was turned down when she revealed that she was not a USFSA club member.

Maybe the "old boy" network is just too thick.

Frau Muller
03-30-2011, 06:47 PM
I'm not so sure that I agree with the basic concept of taking figure skating further into pop culture - the 'marketing' that is called-for by the original poster. Why? Skating is fine now. It is no worse -- just as delightful -- as it was in the 60s and 70s, when I discovered it via ABC Wide World of Sports (brief telecasts in those days - 1 or 2 hours, maybe twice a year).

Skating is a classy sport and should stay thus. 'Class' doesn't have to be marketed a-la pop culture, IMO.

If what some people want is to return to the big-payout days of the mid-1990s, post-Tonya/Nancy, it just ain't gonna happen. BUT there will always be a fanbase of folks like most of us on the FSU board who learned to love the sport through the limited viewings in 1960s/70s/80s TV.

I was in grade school and middle (then "jr high") school in the 1960s/early 70s. I was hooked 2-3 years before Peggy Fleming skated in Grenoble, so we can't even give credit to the phenomenon of Peggy's win. No need for fancy-schmancy "marketing" to hook fans. Just the art of skating on TV, with beautiful classical music - plain & simple. For me it was the joy of seeing something beautiful and 'feminine' on TV, similar to ballet, which I also came to adore in those years.

p.s. ABSOLUTELY NO to vocals, which would open the door to rap and the antithesis of what, to me, is the most attractive quality in skating. It's bad enough to have the 'wailing woman' vocalizing in Artur Gashinski's SP...or the screecher in Kawaguchi/Smirnov's old 'Dying Swan' SP!

manleywoman
03-30-2011, 06:59 PM
One thing I wonder about is who does the marketing for skating.

I see a lot of arenas 1/2 filled or 1/3 filled on tv. When I commented on it on one thread someone in Japan replied that although there were many empty seats on tv, they had been unable to obtain tickets to NHK after several attempts. I had the same experience when I went to Worlds Exhibition in Washington DC. I tried to buy tickets as soon as they were available, but could only get nosebleed seats, yet the arena was pretty empty when I went.

I also so a letter in IFS from someone with extensive PR experience and contacts in the host city who tried to volunteer for one of the U.S. Nationals, but was turned down when she revealed that she was not a USFSA club member.

Maybe the "old boy" network is just too thick.
I'd say that's part of it. But even on a tiny regional level I see it all the time. I skate at several rinks in my area. A LOT of local ice shows that have really decent local star power all the way up to SOI happen here. And I RARELY see a poster for any of them in the rinks I frequent. It doesn't seem that hard to me to get a poster in each of the rinks to help ticket sales. And that's not a USFS thing.

geod2
03-30-2011, 07:34 PM
Another problem is the visual appearance of skating on the TV screen or monitor. The viewer sees a flat expanse of white and a little skater puttering in the middle somewhere. I think the ISU should work with video people and computer programmers to enhance the skating images in a way to make them more 3 dimensional, so the viewer will get more of a sense of the speed. I'm sure we have all gone to an event with non-skater friend--they were amazed to see someone hurtling and rotating through space. Wow! Let's get that wow onto the TV screen.

Not that they can't do even better, but compare the current camera angles, cuts, close-ups, etc. to the old ones back when FS was "popular"....coverage and images now are better than ever, we see less of the "flat expanse of white" than the old days.... yet FS popularity has still declined.

IMO, one big problem is that FS is competing with the most incredible (and unrealistic!!!) computer-generated actions scenes from movies/TV that have now become the norm and minimum expectation for what younger viewers/potential fans need to feel entertained or even willing to watch.....
This is a cultural shift that no FS organization or marketing program can fully address other than gkelly's idea for X-Treme skating events.

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geod2
03-30-2011, 08:01 PM
Popularity of skating in the US is in the lap of US Figure Skating.They were given suggestions in an open forum at GC from various delegates from all over the U.S.6 years ago(and I imagine at other times as well )and chose not to take any of them.


You've made me curious, what were the suggestions???
There has to be a record of them somewhere.
If, as you say, USFSA chose not to follow any of the suggestions, perhaps you remember what they were???


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Rock2
03-30-2011, 08:34 PM
It has all kind of been said but to summarize for me.

1. Appeal to a broader audience. Pull in younger people and men. Whole discussion on how to do this but Skate Canada started to talk about it in the last year.

2. Incubate stars. Without star power of the skaters you will never draw big crowds. National Hockey League is dealing with this. The are 'forcing' players to make more appearances and market themselves and personalities to pull people in. In Asia, skaters are doing commercials and they are all over billboards, etc. Have to make the NA and European skaters more marketable.

3. De-mystify the scoring system. Right now you see skaters skate and then a total score comes up and the audience just doesn't get it. They can't relate and reconcile what they saw to the score and placements. Plus there is no drama in the score read out. You used to have: 5.4...5.7...5.6....5.8....
Now you just have "143.89" :blah:

I'd break tech scores into 3 parts: jumps, spins, footwork
Show a score and ranking for all 3 and read each out separately.
I'd condense PCS into 3 as well:
*skating skills
*choreography and transitions
*performance and interpretation
Read each 3 out and show a rank.
Roll up into a total score with a rank.

Then at least the person watching can say "oh yeah his jumps were great and he was 2nd in jumps, but he was 8th in spins and 12th in skating skills...etc...so that's why he did great jumps but he was 7th"
You still keep it very simple, but you introduce the drama back into the readout and give the public one level more depth of information to help them understand what happens. Also teaches them over time to look at everything and not just jumps and performance for example.

That's what I'd do....

Frau Muller
03-30-2011, 09:53 PM
....You used to have: 5.4...5.7...5.6....5.8....
Now you just have "143.89" :blah:
....

Sorry but there's nothing "blah" about reading a grand-total-points score which easily and transparently shows exactly where that skater ranks at the moment. We can even instantly see if it's a season's best or personal best. That is MUCH more exciting than the old system. More transparent and to-the-point. It's one of the few very positive changes in recent years.

The problem is not with the sport. The problem is with parents/families who fail to cultivate children who appreciate class and beauty. Any household that teaches class and beauty will cultivate lovers of skating and other arts. Change the potential audience, not the sport or the art. Don't 'dumb it down' with idiotic gimmicks, pop music, tasteless costumes, etc. Why should figure skating aspire to pop culture?

Rock2, Incubation/Cultivation of Stars is good, in theory...but why should anything be tampered with? Stars will rise to the top if they are consistent. Manipulation doesn't and shouldn't work...as in the times when the old 6.0 system could be used to manipulate and KEEP the 'oldies' on the podium forever, even when they had not earned it at a particular event. [As, I am certain, Sasha Cohen would have been "rammed" onto the Olympic team last year, had the 6.0 system still been in play. Or, say, Abbott or Nagasu's scores at 2011 Nats may have been manipulated enough to ensure that they made this year's Worlds team. I say 'maybe,' based on what used to happen in the old 6.0 system.] Alas, one of the 'negatives' of the current, more fair, judging system is that 'the powers that be' run the risk that 'media darlings' will not make World and Olympic teams every year...because placements are now based on how one performs on a given day. And that's not so bad, is it?