with Jamie Swimmer & Tanner Simkins

  • With the new college basketball season officially underway, the FBI’s ongoing probe into corruption still looms. According to the Chicago Tribune, some of the nation’s most storied universities and basketball programs have been riddled with arrests and allegations, including Louisville, Auburn, and Arizona. The NCAA is hoping that public attention will finally turn toward the action on the court as opposed to the drama and scandal off of it. Speaking of the ongoing FBI probe, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, “This has been a significant issue in college basketball, and a significant distraction…There’s uncertainty in the air with a lot of our coaches and people around college basketball.” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl has been repeatedly told that his job might be in jeopardy if he does not cooperate with the ongoing investigation, while further legal action is still pending for others as the season begins. Not helping the situation – three UCLA students’, including freshman LiAngelo Ball’s, continued detainment in China following alleged shoplifting charges stemming from a Louis Vuitton store near the team’s hotel in Hangzhou.
  • For the fourth consecutive year, the BNP Paribas Open has been voted the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year, as determined by player vote. The BNP Paribas Open, the largest WTA and ATP World Tour combined two-week event in the world, has swept the top tournament honors on both the men’s and women’s Tours since 2014. “As both a player and now as Tournament Director, I can understand why this event has been named “Tournament of the Year” for the fourth straight year,” Tommy Haas said. Since Larry Ellison purchased the event in 2009, ongoing improvements to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden have made the tournament a favorite for fans and players alike. Ahead of this year’s BNP Paribas Open, a “Full Bloom” integrated marketing campaign will highlight the world-class tennis players that participate in the renowned global event woven into the natural beauty and backdrop of the desert landscape. The 2017 BNP Paribas Open had an estimated total gross economic impact on the Coachella Valley regional economy of more than $406 million, according to an economic impact study – an increase of more than $32 million since the last study was conducted in 2014.
  • As the college football regular season builds toward the conference championship round, leadership positions at Football Bowl Subdivision schools continue to be dominated by white men, according to an annual report card from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. The institute gave top-level college sports an overall grade of D-plus for race and gender hiring in leadership positions, with a D-plus for racial hiring and an F for gender hiring. Overall, Caucasians hold 86.6% of the 395 campus leadership positions reported in the study, which found that 89.2% of university presidents in the FBS were white, as were 83.1% of the athletic directors, 87.4% of faculty athletics representatives, and 100% of conference commissioners. The study revealed that only 22 people of color in total held the roles of university presidents or ADs, and also found that nearly 87% of head coaches in the FBS are white. Conversely, nearly 56% of collegiate football players are black, while 39% are white. A report card is by nature an analysis of progress, and clearly much more needs to be done to create an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion among college sports’ leaders, particularly within high-revenue, high-scrutiny football programs.
  • Media and e-Signatures platform Twignature announced a new funding threshold of $3 million investment, with 50% coming from Veterans of the Armed Forces and a new, patented e-Signatures service on Twitter called “Twignature.” Parent company lettrs, Inc. also announced that Dr. Harvey W. Schiller, one of the most respected leaders in sports, media and entertainment, and a former Air Force General, has joined the company as Chairman. The Twignature app is now available on iTunes and activates an immediate digital marketplace for authenticated, distributed, and sponsored signatures across the Twitter network.  Twignature’s decentralized service uses smartphone biometrics and blockchain distribution principles to activate a unique number, ledger, and seal of authenticity for signed Tweets, including signature location, device, and even whether the original autograph was associated with a major brand. Lettrs founder Drew Bartkiewicz was named one of Goldman Sachs’ “Top 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs” in 2016, while that same year lettrs was also cited as a Forbes Top 25 Veteran founded business.  A successful patent for a cyber method to authenticate mobile signatures, marrying biometrics and media on smartphones, is much needed in today’s high profile digital environments.
  • Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is continuing his attack on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. According to the New York Times, Jones wants all team owners to vote on the payment package of Goodell’s pending contract extension. As it currently stands, only NFL compensation committee members will vote on this matter. Over the past 10 years as the NFL commissioner, Goodell has been paid over $200 million; Jones noted that “making a decision potentially worth more than $200 million should be done carefully.” Cowboys General Counsel Jason Cohen penned a letter to the head of the compensation committee on behalf of Jones, “which repeatedly criticized Falcons Owner and committee chair Arthur Blank” for his role in the matter. This past May, the owners voted to unanimously extend Goodell’s contract by five years. Through his lawyer, Jones stated that he wants the new contract “to include less guaranteed pay and more incentives tied to the league’s financial performance.” Goodell is essentially the NFL’s CEO, and top CEO pay has long been incentive based. So Jones isn’t off base…except within the clubby NFL ownership confines.
  • MLS will let teams keep 100% of transfer fees for homegrown players. MLS is “set to approve a new rule this offseason that will allow teams to keep” 100% of transfer fees for homegrown players, according to sources cited by FourFourTwo. This “incentivizes league owners to invest more in player development, and rewards the teams that do so successfully.” Currently, MLS receives 25% of any homegrown transfer. Additionally, the league is “weighing a proposal that would increase the cap of transfer revenue used as General Allocation Money.” A source said that the proposal would also see that cap “increase incrementally from year to year.” Across the board, MLS is on the rise, and the revenue streams rising all boats will benefit teams and players alike.
  • The Chicago Bulls will host the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, bringing the sporting event back to the Windy City for the first time since 1988. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Bulls executives Michael Reinsdorf and John Paxson recently made the official announcement at the United Center. Back in 1988, Michael Jordan was the All-Star Game MVP and beat Dominique Wilkins to take the crown in the slam dunk contest when he jumped from the free throw line. Jerry Reinsdorf was vocal throughout the years of his opposition to hosting the All-Star Game, but ultimately this came down to his son Michael’s decision. “They would have to force me to take the All-Star Game,” said Jerry Reinsdorf in a 2012 interview. “They take over the building. Really, no good can come out of it and all it can do is upset your fans.” Famous last words from a famous father, about an event that has long been considered a standout in the pro sports All-Star Game pantheon. The NBA does it right.
  • The Atlanta Braves continue to see a revenue revival, thanks largely to the team’s new stadium and surrounding development. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta have helped drive in $336 million in revenue during the first nine months of 2017. That marker is “already $104 million more than all of 2016 and more than $100 million higher than any of the previous three seasons.” While the Braves’ franchise value and revenue numbers have both increased significantly in the past year, the team took on a considerable amount of debt to finance the construction of the ballpark and community area. Through the end of September, the Braves “carried debt of $585 million,” a number that is up $74 million since the beginning of July. The team is not expected to have a tough time paying off its debt with the increase in “ticket sales, concessions, corporate sales, suites, and premium-seat fees.”
  • WNBA teams will be allowed to sell additional jersey patch sponsorships next season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the majority of WNBA teams already have marquee sponsors on the front of their jerseys, but a new 2.25-inch by 2.25-inch patch will be available for a new sponsor on the upper left-hand shoulder of game jerseys. In accordance with league rules, patch sponsors must be “separate from the team’s marquee jersey sponsor.” Additionally, WNBA teams will be allowed to sell on-court advertising near both foul lines to a single sponsor, though those ads will have to be removed for all games broadcast on ESPN. “The league is in growth mode, and we want to continue to innovate,” said WNBA COO Jay Parry. “We are excited to bring the jersey badge and new on-court opportunities as ways for brands to connect with teams in meaningful ways.” As long as the advertisements are tasteful, they should meet with approval from the higher-ups at the NBA, which owns the women’s league, and may be using the women’s unis to test market approval for what eventually may be seen on NBA jerseys as well.
  • The 2019 NHL Winter Classic is heading to South Bend, Indiana, for a matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Blackhawks will be the host team at Notre Dame Stadium, marking the team’s league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks played at Wrigley Field in 2009, at Nationals Park in 2015, and most recently at Busch Stadium in St. Louis this past year. In all, this will “mark the Blackhawks’ sixth outdoor game total, while eight teams have never played outdoors” and 10 more have only played outside once. Over the years, Original Six teams and other franchises with richer hockey histories have been picked more frequently to play in special outdoor games, but fans outside of Chicago “are growing discontented with the announcement of more Blackhawks games outdoors.” In all, the Blackhawks are only 1-4-0 in outdoor games, so they are hoping to reverse their luck this time around. Another reason for this league disparity – it’s a little more difficult to pull off outdoor hockey games in Phoenix, Florida, and Southern California, even in January’s so-called “winter chill.”
  • Amazon is continuing its push into the sports world, this time via a partnership with EPL club Manchester City. According to Bloomberg, Amazon Prime Video will produce a behind-the-scenes documentary series of Manchester City’s current season. The series will be released in 2018 to Prime members, and will include footage shot at the club’s training facilities at the City Football Academy, feature interviews with manager Pep Guardiola, and provide viewers with an inside look into executive meetings. Amazon has shown its willingness to spend big money on new ventures, with this being no exception; in all, Amazon is paying Man City more than $13 million for exclusive access to the club. The Seattle-based company is building its portfolio of sports investments and ventures, “after winning global live streaming rights for the ATP World Tour and the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package.” As cord-cutting becomes more prevalent and online viewing intensifies, look for Amazon to continue its global sports rights quest.
  • German sportswear company adidas is hoping to use this summer’s World Cup to restore sales growth. According to Reuters, adidas plans to launch new international kits before the 2018 Russia World Cup kicks off in June, following a slowdown in European sales these past three months. Germany and Spain – two of the best soccer teams in the world and heavyweight World Cup favorites – are among the countries that adidas currently sponsors. Adidas is now “lifting marketing spending and expects a sales acceleration in the Christmas shopping season.” Third-quarter sales missed the marker set by analysts despite the company’s recent success in China and North America. Slower growth in Europe was largely attributed to the general slowdown in the market, “while the termination of sponsorship deals with the NBA and Premier League champion Chelsea led to an overall decline in basketball and soccer sales.” Citi analyst Dan Homan recently rated the company’s shares as “neutral” in the market. It also won’t hurt adidas that the U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the Russia World Cup – the USNMT, along with the USNWT, is a Nike operation.
  • The rise of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo continues after the Milwaukee Bucks forward re-signed with Nike. According to ESPN.com, the “Greek Freak” – largely considered to be the next LeBron James – was being courted by almost every major apparel company for the right to sign him to a long-term shoe and apparel deal. Antetokounmpo ultimately chose to resign with Nike because the deal “includes the creation of a signature shoe,” which is already in the works. The first signature shoe of the line is expected to be released in time for the holiday season in 2019. The international attention that Antetokounmpo receives is expected to pay huge dividends for Nike in the creation of the new shoe line. With the new deal in place, the Greek Freak now has one of the largest shoe deals ever given to a European player – right on par with the one between Kristaps Porzingis and adidas.
  • Texas A&M University is looking to address the common issue of hotel room scarcity in college towns, but it’s going to cost consumers an extremely high price. According to the Wall Street Journal, Texas A&M is planning to build a new hotel directly across the street from Kyle Field to give more football fans a place to stay on home game weekends, and will use guaranteed room options to auction off rooms. For reservations on the hotel’s top floor, bids for GROs “range from $125,000 to $475,000.” GROs are much like personal seat licenses – a tactic that sports franchises deploy upon building a new stadium to partially fund projects and lock in ticketholders. A&M “took inspiration for the hotel from LSU,” while Alabama and Ole Miss currently offer “similar perks at campus-affiliated hotels.” School officials plan to have the hotel completed in time for the 2018 home opener. The GRO program is expected to raise more than $28.5 million for the university.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Bruins both have their eyes on China. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Boston Globe, the two franchises are looking to expand their respective footprints into the Asian country by partnering with Chinese companies. The Timberwolves recently played two preseason games in China after Shanghai sports marketer Lizhang “John” Jiang “became the first Chinese investor in an NBA team when he bought a 5% stake” back in 2016. The team has since reached a partnership with a Shanghai-based organization that will help see Chinese youth basketball players and coaches come to Minneapolis to participate in camps and attend games. In terms of the Bruins, the NHL franchise has been “aggressive” in planting seeds in China. Hockey is not as popular as basketball across the vast country, so the Bruins have been helping to build the game from the grassroots up by sending players overseas to put on youth clinics. Of course, building a long-term fan base, in China and elsewhere, begins with youth involvement in the sport at hand.

Tech 5

1. Intel bringing ‘live’ virtual reality experiences to NBA on TNT games. Beginning with the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, Intel True VR and Turner Sports will be delivering NBA content to fans ‘live’ in virtual reality. The two organizations announced a multi-year partnership which sees Intel True VR become the exclusive provider of virtual reality for the NBA on TNT. Intel will also be partnering with the NBA around its 360-degree video using Intel freeD technology. Intel plans to integrate the freeD technology into the fan’s ‘live’ virtual reality experience so they can freeze play and view the action from LeBron James’ or Stephen Curry’s point-of-view for example. The 360-degree replay technology can also be woven into broadcasts for commentators to pause and further analyze important plays.

2. NBA, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz executives talk NBA 2K esports league. Aaron Ryan told audience members at last week’s TEAMS Conference in Orlando that despite working at the NBA for the past 20 years, what now gives him “street cred” at his house with his 12 year old daughter is being associated with 2K and the NBA 2K league. Ryan was joined alongside by executives with the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and Monumental Sports and Entertainment (Washington Wizards). He added that the new NBA venture with 2K and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. is “access to a different conversation” with new fans, corporate partners and facilities. Seventeen NBA franchises will participate in next year’s inaugural season, with tryouts and a draft expected to be held next February and March.

3. Media and e-Signatures platform Twignature lands $3M investment, with 50% coming from Veterans of the Armed Forces and a new, patented e-Signatures service on Twitter called "Twignature.” Parent company lettrs, Inc. also announced that Dr. Harvey W. Schiller, one of the most respected leaders in sports, media and entertainment, and a former Air Force General, has joined the company as Chairman. The Twignature app is just now available activates an immediate digital marketplace for authenticated, distributed and sponsored signatures across the Twitter network.  Twignature’s decentralized service uses smartphone biometrics and blockchain distribution principles to activate a unique number, ledger and seal of authenticity for signed Tweets, including signature location, device, and even whether the original autograph was associated with a major brand. Twignature offers to verify, authenticate and “notarize” e-signatures on social networks and emerging currency networks like Blockchain and Bitcoin.

4. Whether on the golf course or in the boardroom, Norman has always tried to push the boundaries of what was possible. In this spirit and slated to disrupt the golf industry, Norman unveiled the “Shark Experience.” The bold, non-traditional concept combines connectivity, content and customization intended to produce an enhanced on-course experience. The centerpiece for Shark Experience presented by Verizon is Club Car. The Ingersoll-Rand golf subsidiary, along with longtime business partner GPSi, one of the world’s leading global positioning system brands, has joined forces with the Greg Norman Company and Verizon to deliver a ‘Your Game, Your Way’ concept to golfers through a connected Club Car golf cart. The overhead unit features a high-definition screen and built-in speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. Neither of those elements are ground-breaking until the system is turned on. When engaged it brings elements of Topgolf — music, live sports, news and other curated entertainment content — onto the golf course, combines it with standard dynamic yardage and hole flyover capability, and augments it with a seamless, one-swipe platform for a cashless on-course experience.

5. Bayern Munich’s use of Instagram Stories polls shows how useful it can be to clubs. The poll function – as illustrated brilliantly by Bayern’s social media team – adds a new dimension to stories allowing fans to feel involved and, in this case, literally direct the content themselves. Indeed, the reason that Bayern’s attempt at this is so interesting is because of what it could mean for teams in the future, and why Instagram polls could become so important., Instagram is the fastest-growing social media platform for football clubs. Recently, Nielsen found that it was the platform where starting lineup graphics gained the most traction, even though Twitter would seem like the most appropriate platform for a piece of content with such a short shelf-life (of only about an hour before kick-off). Cracking Instagram is clearly key for clubs in the near future, and having a way to actively interact with fans in stories is incredibly useful on this front

Power of Sports 5

1. NFL Makes Donation to Tuesday’s Children. The National Football League has given a $200,000 grant to the nonprofit organization Tuesday’s Children. Tuesday’s Children, a mentoring program focused on supporting children who have lost one of their parents, provides support to communities and families impacted by terrorism and the loss of loved ones in warfare. The NFL first began working with Tuesday’s Children after the 2001 terrorist attacks, when the league partnered with the organization to provide the families of first responders with aid. The recently announced grant will be used to expand this program to include children who have lost a parent in the military. Enrolled children will be matched with carefully selected mentors, who will provide the children with guidance and support to help them succeed both in school and in their communities.

2. Retired NHL Player Launches Charity Hockey Series. Former professional hockey player David Moss and his charity Hockey Has Heart hosted a face-off series for charity this weekend at the Arctic Edge Ice of Canton. The first annual Hockey Has Heart Charity Face Off pitted several Michigan high school varsity teams against each other to help raise money for the Hockey has Heart general fund. The Michigan State women’s varsity club team was also present at the event to compete against the Michigan Selects hockey club. Founded in 2003, the Hockey has Heart organization has  raised over $2 million to help more than 70 hockey families that are currently facing life challenges. Made up entirely of volunteers, the majority of all funds raised by the organization come from direct donations. These donations are used to provide assistance for families facing financial strain or extended periods of hardship. Most distributions are $10,000 or less and are intended to cover medical expenses and lost wages where earners have lost income due to accident or illness.

3. Andy Murray faces Roger Federer in Charity Match. On Tuesday, tennis superstar Andy Murray made his return to the court for the first time since injuring his hip on July 12. Murray returned early from his hip injury to face off against Roger Federer as part of the Andy Murray Live exhibition in Glasgow, Scotland. All of the money raised at the event will be donated to a variety of charities, including Unicef and several local organizations. The 26th matchup between the two champions wasn’t the only match that Murray participated in at the event. He also played in a doubles match alongside his brother Jamie. Last year, in the first year of the event, Murray and company were able to raise more than £300,000, and they expect to easily top that number this year after competing in front of nearly 11,000 people.

4. Falcons Honor Veterans for Salute to Service Week. The Atlanta Falcons hosted their third Salute to Service week ahead of their game with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The week was dedicated to honoring the military with different events throughout the week for veterans of our armed forces and their families, leading up to the game on Sunday where they were  hosted for the game and each player on the Falcons wore a decal with the initials of a different veteran on their helmet. The families were also invited to the team’s Saturday walk-through where they were able to meet the players and coaching staff. Some of the events hosted by the team throughout the week included a a youth football clinic at Fort Stewart, an event where Falcons employees assisted with the packing of approximately 300 care packages that will be shipped to military personnel overseas, and a Vietnam War Veterans Breakfast.

5. Girls in Brazil Finding Solace in Soccer.  Brazil’s favelas are best known for their high death tollheavily armed drug gangs, and heavy police presence. Every day, the people in these communities have to live their lives surrounded by violence. The children in the area have it particularly rough, unable to leave their homes or go to school many days due to nearby gunfire. It is for this reason why Street Child United, a charity based out of the United Kingdom, is working to create safe spaces where the children of the favelas can play without fear. In order to create these spaces, the charity had to strike a deal with local residents, police, and gangs to declare their facilities off limits to all violence and illegal activities. Thus far, the result has been a soccer pitch where many young girls have come to find support from others in their community and escape from the surrounding environment. Street Child United provides a global platform for street children receive the protection, support, and opportunities that all children deserve. Based in London, the charity focuses on giving at-risk young people opportunities through sport. The charity’s mission is to assist local street-connected children with reducing their risk of exploitation and abuse, developing their life skills, and improving their education and employment opportunities while changing the negative perceptions and treatment of street children around the world

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