15 Apr

10 To Watch : Mayors Edition 41519

RICK HORROW’S TOP 10 SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF APRIL 15 : MAYORS EDITION with Jacob Aere

  1. Tigers’ Masters victory: other winners and losers. Let’s start with the biggest winner: CBS. According to a release from CBS Sports, Saturday’s Masters coverage was the highest-rated Saturday golf telecast on any network since 2015. It also featured a 5% increase in ratings over last year. Given the Tiger Effect, Sunday’s final ratings will blow the doors off those increases. Other major stakeholders benefitting from Tiger’s victory are Nike, which stuck by him during the troubled years, the PGA and the state of New York, looking ahead to the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black May 16-19, the golf industry as a whole, and fans. But even on this happy sports day, there are losers. The NBA and NHL had to air playoff games across from a Masters final round held early due to weather. Ditto the U.S. women’s hockey team, which defeated Finland to win their fifth consecutive women’s hockey world championship gold medal but likely had few casual fans watching back home. At Bethpage and elsewhere Tiger tees it up, the rest of the field will see its screen time vanish as TigerTV – every hole, every shot – blasts back. The biggest losers? The pocketbooks of 2020 Masters patrons. Secondary market badges averaged $2,500 per day this year. Next year, look for that marker to move north of $3,000.
  2. Heads up! This year, Minor League Baseball fans might notice new digital screens and displays at their favorite stadiums. Together with ISM Connect, over 25 MiLB teams will be adding new smart displays to their ballparks. But beyond delivering unique stories and creative ads to fans during each game, these displays are also equipped with smart cameras to measure audience engagement. These smart cameras will help keep ads and content fresh. The cameras record anonymous interactions – how long someone watches the screen or their age range – not individual images of specific people. By measuring foot traffic and engagement, MiLB teams and ad sponsors can better understand who their fans are, what resonates with them, and how they’re experiencing each game. The result is a better, more engaging experience for fans, and a better way for teams and partners to learn how to best serve their loyal audience.
  3. Stanley Cup Playoff storylines intrigue as the NHL enters its second week of the post season. Here are a few big picture scenarios for 2019. First, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in the conversation for best regular season team ever. The Lightning won 62 games, something only one other team has done – the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-1996. However, of the 13 teams that have finished with the NHL’s best record since the 2004-2005 lockout, only two – the 2007-2008 Red Wings and the 2012-2013 Chicago Blackhawks — have gone on to lift the Stanley Cup. Second, the Stanley Cup hasn’t been won by a Canadian team since Montreal took it home 26 years ago. However, three Canadian squads are in this year’s mix — the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and Winnipeg Jets — and Calgary has the second-best odds of capturing the title, per The Action Network. Finally, in his first full season as NHL owner, Tom Dundon helped the Carolina Hurricanes make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. In Raleigh, Dundon is a hero. Elsewhere, he’s more of a villain, as he pulled the plug on the Alliance of American Football’s inaugural season less than seven weeks after investing $250 million to rescue the league.
  4. Congressmen threaten MLB antitrust exemption over RSN bid. U.S. Representatives Elijah Cummings and Raja Krishnamoorthi threatened MLB’s antitrust exemption over the league’s attempt to buy the 21 Fox-branded RSNs. In a letter sent to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the two House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform members wrote that they are concerned about the potential for “anticompetitive conduct that harms American consumers” if MLB buys the RSNs. “MLB’s potential purchase of these RSNs raises significant questions about the antitrust exemption that professional baseball has enjoyed for nearly a century,” they wrote. “Although the Supreme Court has upheld baseball’s unique, judicially-created antitrust exemption for nearly a century on the basis of stare decisis, the Court has also described the exemption as an ‘aberration’ and recognized Congress’ ability to limit or even eliminate it.” The congressmen gave MLB only two weeks to produce documents relating to MLB’s potential acquisition and operation of the RSNs.
  5. The Trump administration has nixed Major League Baseball’s historic agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation (CBF) that would have made it easier for Cuban players to enter the U.S. legally without needing to defect. According to Axios Sports, the goal of this deal was to help end the dangerous trafficking of Cuban players that has gone on for decades, resulting in players being threatened, extorted or even kidnapped. Take Yasiel Puig, now an outfielder with the Cincinnati Reds. After helping Puig escape Cuba, traffickers affiliated with a notorious Mexican drug cartel held him for ransom on a small island for weeks. The Cuban agreement is similar to the deals MLB has with China, Korean, and Japan, and dates back to the Obama administration’s détente with Cuba, which intended to soften relations between the two nations. However, the Trump White House last Monday argued that the CBF is a branch of the Cuban government and that the agreement, therefore, violates U.S. trade law since MLB would be paying a fee in exchange for each player. A geopolitical war is being waged — and young baseball players with dreams of a better life are the collateral damage.
  6. The Boston Marathon passes $200 million in economic impact, and welcomes seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to its field. This year’s Boston Marathon, held Monday April 15 and carried on NBCSports Network, will be the 123rd running of the race that winds its way 26.2 miles from the town of Hopkinton to the finish line at Copley Square. It is the world’s oldest annual marathon, starting in 1897 after the successful debut of the marathon at the first modern Olympics in 1896. The Boston Marathon is traditionally held on Patriots Day, the third Monday in April. The Boston Red Sox also have a traditional home game on Patriots Day with an 11:05 a.m. first pitch against the Orioles this year. Boston is among the six largest marathons, along with Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. A special prize purse is given to runners who accumulate the most points in the majors. Here’s a bit of trivia: Just five national sporting events were held during the two World Wars, and the Boston Marathon was one. The others? The Kentucky Derby, Penn Relays, Rose Parade, and Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. 
  7. NASCAR has reportedly rejected an offer from Monster Energy to extend its title sponsorship of the US stock car racing series in order to push ahead with a new tiered partnership model. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the energy drink brand offered to extend its deal for an additional year to give NASCAR more time to finalize its sponsorship restructure. However, NASCAR has apparently turned down that option to keep moving forward with the new model, with Monster now in talks about becoming a lower-level partner. NASCAR’s switch to a tiered sponsorship model has been rumored for some time, and the series is reportedly asking for close to $20 million per year for top-tier deals. SportsBusiness Journal added that Monster would likely land a second-tier sponsorship deal, although it is not yet clear how much NASCAR wants for those slots. Monster was first named NASCAR title sponsor in 2017 as part of a two-year deal estimated to be worth an annual $20 million. The company then extended the partnership for a further season last April. The new arrangement would see NASCAR’s premier series be known as the NASCAR Cup Series, rather than the title-sponsored Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
  8. Your Call Football looks to change the future of the game through tech. According to ESPN, YCF is part football, part gaming, part fantasy and allows fans to decide how an actual in-progress game is played, as if Madden came to life. Every Monday night for four weeks in the spring, fans get a notification at 8 p.m. to open the YCF app. They are given a coach-selected “bundle” of three plays to choose from and each fan has 10 seconds to decide what the team’s offense should do next on their app. The game is free to play, there are cash prizes, and fans are awarded points when they select what the coach wanted and when their play selection is successful. On the other hand, fans who don’t pick with the majority are awarded points when the majority-chosen play results in a negative play, like a sack or an incompletion. At the end of the 10 seconds, the play is radioed into the huddle with the whole sequence taking just 19 seconds, no longer than a normal football game. For a generation of hyper-connectivity, YCF wants to bring the digital world into live sports and give millennials who have stopped paying attention a reason to actually care.
  9. AT&T becomes the first non-apparel company with logo on WNBA jerseys. AT&T will become the first non-apparel partner to have its logo featured on all WNBA jerseys as part of a new deal, with the tech company and the league also planning to collaborate on programs that support women in sports. According to Hashtag Sports, the jerseys debuted during last week’s WNBA Draft held at Nike’s new NYHQ. “Whether it’s women in sports, supporting small businesses like those owned by WNBA players, being a leading voice in LGBTQ rights, or giving back to communities in which we operate, we have much in common and many opportunities to empower these incredible athletes and their fans,” said Fiona Carter, AT&T’s chief brand officer. Sports sponsorship deals can be important gateways to philanthropy. With this latest move, AT&T is demonstrating that giving back is as important to the telecom company as selling mobile phones and service plans.
  10. April is National Autism Awareness Month, and the MLF Bass Pro Tour roster is participating in the way they know best: by catching fish. Most of the field of 80 anglers competing in the next two Bass Pro Tour events are pledging “dollars per pound” donations to their favorite autism awareness organization, and they’re asking their fans to consider doing the same. “Autism affects so many families, we’re just doing our best to encourage people to do whatever they can for their local autism awareness organization,” said Kevin VanDam, who is pledging a robust $5 for every pound of fish he records on SCORETRACKER. MLF anglers participating in April’s awareness and fundraising effort will combine their weights and contributions from the Stage Four event on Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee, and the Stage Five event on Smith Lake in Alabama. With big weights of Florida-strain largemouth expected on Chickamauga and even heavier overall weights of spotted bass on Smith Lake, those dollars-per-pound pledge could add up quickly. The angler with the most weight at these two tournaments will be recognized as the Autism Awareness Champion.