The NFL for 2012 began on Sunday and Monday. IMTS took the stage a short walk from the stadium where the Chicago Bears played the Colts. Both are big powerful institutions controlled by a small group of owners and run by a loyal staff of administrators on the East Coast. And both organizations face major challenges today.
The NFL has two major problems that are closely related. It’s current and past players are extremely worried about the physical toll of the game – particularly concussions. The corollary issue is that parents are increasingly forbidding their kids from playing tackle football because it is deemed too dangerous. When I was at the Chautauqua Institution a few weeks ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was on a panel of speakers moderated by Luke Russert. Luke asked the 2,500 people in the audience whether they would allow their kids to play football. The vast majority shouted NO. Certainly this group was a highly educated and upper income sample, but it appears that pro football players are viewing themselves as highly paid gladiators, and are doubting the viability of their profession.
IMTS – the show – also faces major hurdles in the online age. The challenge for the organizers is to get enough qualified potential buyers to pay the price of coming to Chicago and walking through millions of square feet of exhibits that often are similar to what they saw a few years earlier. Machine tools do not change so frequently in most cases for many purchasers. And usually it is difficult to discern what innovations are meaningful.
For the exhibitors the key to success at IMTS is to attract enough real prospects to their displays and then show them something that ignites their interest and stands out from the competition. I think that in many cases IMTS acts more as reinforcement to previous notions clients have about their wares. The show enables new companies to make an impact by showing innovative products and services, which establish them as legit players.
The NFL and IMTS share an important characteristic in the marketplace. They give the country something to talk about. For the football fan, Peyton Manning’s comeback from injury or whether Tim Tebow can ever be a successful NFL quarterback and can hold a fan’s interest for months. For a machine tool user, the competition between Mazak and Mori or Citizen and Star or Haas and Doosan are grist for the mill. Competition is exciting and the NFL and IMTS play it for maximum gain for the exhibitors.
Personally, I’m excited by both events. The 2012 football season and 2012 IMTS are big fun milestones to be marked and enjoyed to the max.
Question: Are the NFL and IMTS rising or falling in importance to you?