13 May

10 To Watch : Mayors Edition 51319

RICK HORROW’S TOP 10 SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 13 : Mayors Edition with Jacob Aere

  1. Ahead of the PGA Championship, the PGA of America is making a landmark investment of $2.5 million over the next five years in PGA reach to incubate and grow the PGA WORKS platform. PGA WORKS is a strategic initiative designed to diversify the golf industry’s workforce. The platform began with the PGA WORKS Fellowship and has grown to include scholarships, career exploration events, and the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship, held at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida, May 9-12. These key programs inspire and engage talent from diverse backgrounds to pursue employment positions across the golf industry. “We recognize that in order to fulfill the PGA of America’s mission of serving our PGA Members and growing participation in the sport of golf, we must expand the dimensions of diversity represented in the industry’s workforce,” said PGA of America Chief People Officer Sandy Cross. “It is critical for people to see others from similar backgrounds and experiences working in the sport.” Golf is an $84 billion industry, and PGA WORKS programming generates significant awareness of careers throughout the game, while helping to diversify the workforce so that it mirrors America.
  2. Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles predicted “a 3-5% uptick in attendance over last year" for Saturday’s sixth edition of the Indianapolis Grand Prix, according to the Indianapolis Star. Boles “would not reveal exact numbers,” but the newspaper estimated there were “around 35,000 fans in attendance for last year’s race.” Boles said this year’s attendance may be “even bigger.” He said that credit for the “anticipated increase belongs at least in part to fans and drivers’ growing acceptance of the Grand Prix as the official kickoff of May.” Boles added that the race could have a new entitlement sponsor “hopefully soon,” but there is “nothing imminent on the horizon.” Angie’s List held the entitlement sponsor “mantle for the first three iterations of the race but was forced to bail” after 2016 when facing financial woes. While “having an entitlement sponsor is ideal, it’s not critical to the race’s long-term health.” Boles said that the Indianapolis Grand Prix, even “without Angie’s List or another sponsor, is a profitable race based on ticket sales alone.” The race was also profitable for winner Simon Pagenaud, who overcame the competition and the rain for win number 12 for him and number 205 for Team Penske in its 51-year IndyCar run. 
  3. ISM Connect will expand its Allegiant Airline Network with the addition of two new Minor League Baseball teams, the Salt Lake Bees and Boise Hawks, in June and by 20 more stadiums in 2020, nearly doubling the size of the existing network. ISM launched its network across 25 ballparks on the MiLB’s Opening Night, officially introducing the world’s first and only integrated, in-venue smart network of fan engagement technology. ISM Connect has already delivered targeted marketing and custom branded content to an engaged audience of nearly five million MiLB fans. Already, over 15 local and three national brands, including Allegiant, Applegate, and BAM, have joined the network. Across the 25 active ballparks, ISM published 400 pieces of content on Opening Night, including local and national content and advertising. Additionally, several original series went live. "Logo Love” dives into the unique world of MiLB logos and team names, while “Better Up” traces the youth baseball training evolution. Within weeks, fan engagement with the Ballpark Insider social community quickly swelled to nearly 3,000 followers.
  4. Trump looks to allow service-academy athletes to go pro. President Trump said last week that he "wants to allow top athletes from service academies to defer their military duty so they can play professional sports.” Trump, while honoring the Army football team with the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, told NBC News and other media outlets, “I’m going to look at doing a waiver for service academy athletes who can get into the major leagues like the NFL, hockey, baseball.” Trump added that the move would “boost recruiting for the service academy’s sports teams.” USA Today noted that the Department of Defense previously "allowed athletes to defer their active-duty service requirement in order to pursue pro sports,” a policy that was implemented by the Obama administration in 2016. However, that policy was "rescinded the following year by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis – just four months into Trump’s presidency.” This policy is a win-win for the athletes and military alike, and should be maintained regardless of who is in the White House.
  5. A Phoenix-area poet buys out the upper deck for WNBA Mercury opener. Poet Christopher Owens, also known as Truth B. Told, recently "purchased the entire 7,000-seat upper level at Talking Stick Resort Arena” for the WNBA Phoenix Mercury’s season opener on May 31, according to the Arizona Republic. Now, Owens is “selling the tickets at a discount for $2-$5 though his company Culture Phx with a goal of having a sold-out arena for a nationally televised game.” The Mercury have “been among the WNBA attendance leaders since their inception but only once have they completely sold out a home game,” the inaugural regular season finale in 1997. Owens said he has “never understood the disparity, but the tide seems to be turning.” Owens is “seeking sponsors to buy 50-ticket packages, at a bargain of $100, so 50 girls’ basketball teams and their families can attend.” He also is “selling single tickets for $5 and a 3-ticket package for $10.” Owens will donate 15% of “whatever he makes to School of HipHop PHX.”
  6. An increase in media exposure could be having a seismic impact on the business of female athletics. In the last few months, multiple big name brands have pumped significant dollars into women’s sports. AT&T signed a multiyear partnership with the WNBA, becoming the first non-apparel company to have its logo featured on the front of all 12 team jerseys. Barclays made the “largest single investment in British women’s sports,” signing a three-year, $11 million sponsorship deal that will see the top league rebranded as the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. And ahead of the Women’s World Cup, Budweiser announced its first-ever sponsorship of women’s soccer, inking a deal with the English national team. Brands have historically ignored women’s pro sports, as have televised news and highlight shows — two realities that go hand-in-hand. As WNBPA Director Pam Wheeler points out, this is the first time in women’s pro sport history that sponsorship deals are being made as the result of “economic decisions, as opposed to emotional connections.” It seems brands are finally realizing that there is serious value here. Now it’s up to the leagues to ensure that this influx of sponsorship cash trickles down to the players.
  7. While most collegiate athletic departments are financial drains on their universities, the University of Nebraska’s athletic department is one of “about two dozen public D-1” schools that operate without assistance. While it’s commonplace for “institutional funding, state appropriations or student activity fees” to prop up those operating at a loss, at Nebraska, not only is the athletic department self-sufficient, it contributes to the school’s academic mission by funding scholarships for non-student-athletes. According to multiple sources, roughly 20% of the 20,000 students enrolled on NU’s Lincoln campus received Husker scholarship money within the last 12 months. In addition to funding $5 million dollars’ worth of academic scholarships, Nebraska athletics gave $5 million to the University’s chancellor to help cover university operational expenses (including support for the student rec center and additional academic support). Nebraska’s athletic department is unique in that it’s one of just a few schools to have consistently generated a net surplus over the last 20 years – the department reported $6.6 million in operating profit in 2018.
  8. KIT KAT has partnered with Overwatch team Los Angeles Valiant. According to Esports Insider, KIT KAT is the official candy sponsor of the team as well as the entitlement partner for KIT KAT Rivalry Weekend. The weekend esports tournament takes place August 24-25 at LA Live and will feature branded activations and events alongside competitive Overwatch League matches. The August event will feature an event called the KIT KAT Fan Fest. Outside the competitive arena, attendees of all ages will have the opportunity to interact with various activations and activities. Inside the arena, die-hard fans of the teams playing during the weekend will receive exclusive seating in the KIT KAT Team Lounges separated by team affiliation. While KIT KAT has made the odd esports related appearance, this is its first real entry into esports and represents how sponsors from all markets are plunging headfirst into the esports craze.
  9. The XFL signs a massive TV rights deal with Fox and Disney. Vince McMahon’s dream of creating an alternative to NFL football is one step closer to becoming a reality as his football league has pinned down a deal to give weekly berths on both ABC and Fox to the XFL’s inaugural season in addition to supplementary games on the companies’ cable networks, including ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, and FS2. According to Variety, the XFL intends to air back-to-back games on Saturday afternoons at 2 p.m. along with two additional weekly games on Sunday afternoons with teams to be fielded in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington D.C. After a near two decade hiatus from the sports scene, McMahon will bring back the XFL with the league attempting to be the second spring football league in recent years after the Alliance of American Football folded after just one season in 2019. With knowledge of past XFL shortcomings, McMahon and the executive staff have taken their time to strategize and properly lay down the foundation for a successful football league.
  10. The Washington Capitals raised more than $2.5 million for charity this past season. According to NHL.com, some of the many highlights include KaBOOM! Design Day which had Capitals forward Tom Wilson visit Bright Beginnings, a learning center for children and families experiencing homelessness. Just a couple of months later, the Capitals’ charitable arm, MSE Foundation, partnered with KaBOOM! to fund a new playground at Bright Beginnings. The team helped Hunter Shrauger’s Make-a-Wish dream come true as he walked the red carpet with Alexander Ovechkin in October while the team’s casino night raised over $400,000 for MSE Foundation. Ovechkin scored another goal as he skated with and taught more than 80 players from American Special Hockey Association. Beyond these highlights, the team stepped up to fight cancer, inspire young women to play hockey, aid the military, and more. MSE Foundation was hyper-involved all year with nearly 40 different charitable endeavors; this proves how athletes, staff, and owners all play a role in the philanthropic process within sports.