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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When an Email Newsletter Collided with Big Money Football

In the South, it is always college football season, but with the bowl games looming and BCS chaos abound, it seems college football is on everybody's mind these days.

Which reminded me to post about an interesting scenario where $1,200 bought you an exclusive weekly email newsletter. I don't know of many newsletters commanding subscription premiums but it sounded like this was a winner. From an email standpoint, the ROI surely was strong but it doesn't appear that straightforward.

Texas A&M football coach Dennis Franchione utilized his email marketing best practices to send a weekly email newsletter about the A&M football team to a small group of boosters willing to pay $1,200 per year in subscriber fees over the last three seasons.

Unique content - check.
Relevant and timely messaging - check
Targeted Audience -check
Big picture goals defined with email acting as the communication platform of choice - check

Again, on the surface it looks like Franchione should speak at the eec's upcoming email evolution conference in San Diego. However, this is college football and nothing is that simple.

Once this email approach leaked out, Franchione shut down this permission based newsletter. The newsletter, titled “VIP Connection,” was supposed to be confidential because it contained detailed injury information and other tidbits that Franchione does not tell the media or public.

However, the San Antonio Express-News obtained a copy of the newsletter and confronted A&M officials. The newsletter does not appear to violate any NCAA rules. A public affairs specialist for the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C., said Franchione probably did not violate any laws related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

According to the Dallas Morning News Franchione said, “There was no intent to deceive anyone.” He said “12 to 15″ people subscribed to the newsletter, and all money went directly to the Bryan, Texas, company that oversees Franchione’s personal Web site, CoachFran.com. Franchione, who makes $2 million annually according to his A&M contract, said he has offered to refund all money obtained for this season.

All newsletter subscribers signed a legal non-disclosure agreement. From a blog that broke down the situation, the “VIP Connection” was simply a typed email message with no graphics. It was usually no longer than two pages.

Who said subscription based emails could not work? Just tread lightly if your audience or content happens to be in the college sports world where anything can and probably will happen.

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