15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 7
with Jacob Aere
- As the post season intensifies, MLB touts many metrics in 2019 despite attendance drop. MLB saw its overall attendance drop for a fourth straight season to about 68.5 million in 2019. To counter that, the league is announcing other metrics that it says point to strong fan engagement and increased consumption this year. With 1.19 million Ballpark Pass tickets sold, MLB set a new single-season mark. Unique purchasers increased 49% over last year, with the fastest growing buyers of Ballpark Pass being 22 years and younger. The MLB At Bat app also saw an 18% increase in app starts over last year, surpassing 2 billion starts in 2019. The app ranked first among all U.S. sports and sports media apps in total minutes consumed and average minutes consumed during that same period, per Comscore rankings. From a fan engagement standpoint, MLB is also pushing its MLB Postseason Bracket Challenge presented by MGM Resorts. Participants select winners of each round and provide answers to two World Series-related questions. Those with perfect brackets, if any, will compete to win the $250,000 grand prize. The Bracket Challenge has amassed more than 500,000 entries, which is by far a record for MLB.
- In California, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act, allowing collegiate athletes to collect endorsement money. The law, which would go into effect January 2023, makes it illegal for schools to prevent athletes from earning money by selling the rights to their name, image, or likeness to outside bidders. The NCAA responded by saying in a statement that the organization would continue its effort to monitor make adjustments to its rules “that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.” At the national level, U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R., Ohio), a standout receiver at Ohio State and in the NFL, is planning to propose a new national law that would give college athletes the opportunity to make endorsement money. U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R., N.C) also proposed in March the Student-Athlete Equity Act that would change the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization under the U.S. tax code. Discussion at the state level also intensifies: nine other states to date have introduced similar legislation.
- William Hill inks new partnerships with the NBA and Monumental Sports. The British bookmaker will become the NBA’s fourth licensed betting operator. In addition, they will be opening an all-purpose sports-betting complex in Monumental’s crown jewel, Capital One Arena. William Hill joins MGM Resorts, FanDuel, and The Stars Group as official partners with the NBA, as the league looks to expand its gambling footprint. The Washington Post and other sources reported that William Hill will crucially get access to official betting data from the league, while the NBA will get a cut of their bets based on volume, a “royalty” of sorts for use of its intellectual property. Also announced last week was a partnership with Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the owner of Capital One Arena which is home to the Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics. Executives from both companies said they hope to turn the arena into an all-purpose sports-betting complex where fans can place wagers on their phones while watching from the stands, or stop over at the site formerly occupied by Greene Turtle Bar and Grill. The sportsbook is expected to open as soon as 2020, “depending on regulatory approval.”
- As the new NHL season gets underway, a longtime marketing partner unveils a colorful modern day version of the infamous FOX “glowing puck.” SportsBusiness Daily reports that paint manufacturer PPG and the NHL unveiled a three-year extension of their partnership, with PPG continuing its status as the Official Paint of the NHL in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, all official game pucks used in the 2019-2020 NHL season will include a color-changing thermochromic coating that changes from purple to clear when a puck’s temperature is above freezing, providing a visual indication to officials that the puck should be replaced. The renewed three-year deal will continue to enable PPG to promote its partnership on PPG paint product packaging, on point-of-purchase displays, in contests and promotions, and through social media and digital marketing. The company will also be a colorful mainstay at marquee NHL events, such as the 2020 Winter Classic in Dallas.
- “Power of Sports” Indianapolis episode premieres. This month, the popular show hosted by Rick Horrow and distributed by FOX Sports regional sports networks nationwide returns to Indianapolis to profile the regional impact of sports. A big part of the October episode takes place inside iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but not on the bricks…instead, on the links. 2019 marked the third year of the Indy Women in Tech Championship Driven by Group1001, one of the premiere stops on the LPGA Tour. The best golfers in the world fought it out at Brickyard Crossing with a $2 million purse on the line. Off the course, a full week of events made the most of this community-centered event. The week began with the IWiT Summit, where leaders from the golf, business, and tech worlds came together to discuss the benefits of inclusivity and diversity in their industries. The October episode also profiles philanthropic initiatives by the Indianapolis Colts – who stunned the Kansas City Chiefs in a primetime Sunday upset – and an Indy nonprofit founded by a national champion cyclist who uses an innovative program to share his love of cycling with kids.
- Also on the social good front, for the eleventh consecutive season, the NFL and the American Cancer Society will work together to support the fight against cancer through “Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer.” The initiative kicks off in stadiums this weekend and will run through Week 7 games, addresses early detection and risk reduction efforts for multiple cancers. As part of the campaign, the NFL and ACS will continue encouraging the entire NFL community to complete the Defender, a free digital tool, which provides consumers with a personalized game plan to reduce their cancer risk. Several players will again support the campaign, including Drew Brees, Quinnen Williams, Kyle Rudolph, and the American Cancer Society’s fifteen player ambassadors who have lent their voice. “Crucial Catch” again joins the NFL’s lengthy list of annual philanthropic initiatives, including NFL players’ “My Cause My Cleats” collaboration during Week 13 and its 46-year partnership with United Way.
- A rising number of major sporting events available via streaming services is set to drive the revenue for global broadcast rights beyond $85 billion by the end of 2024, according to a new Rethink TV report. The Sports Rights Forecast to 2025 paper shows the global value of sports rights currently at around $48.6 billion, though the report predicts an increase of 75% over the next five years due to a growth in audiences choosing direct-to-consumer (DTC) content. The Rethink TV report also claims rights growth could also galvanize the popularity of smaller sports properties as well as maintain strong returns for major rights holders. Among the world’s most lucrative sports, the price of soccer rights is expected to swell from $12.8 billion to $31.9 billion in the same period, primarily due to greater viewership of Europe’s top leagues in Asia and North America. The report cites Amazon as the most significant game-changer in the field today, noting its acquisition of rights to Thursday night NFL games, a selection 2019-2020 English Premier League fixtures, and multiple tennis rights.
- Avocados From Mexico partners with complementary brands for football fiestas. According to Hashtag Sports, Avocados From Mexico is kicking off its fall season with two new promotional campaigns designed to elevate engagement, expand usage, and increase sales basket size. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), AFM launched the “Flavor with Heritage” campaign. Three complementary brands – AFM, Tabasco and Bud Light – are partnering for a high-value offer. In stores through December 31, AFM, the number one selling brand of avocados in the U.S., launched a fan-favorite, the “Tastiest Tailgate” program in more than 70 retailers across the country. Finally, In partnership with Bud Light, in-store displays encourage football fans to add guacamole and chips, burgers topped with fresh avocados, and Bud Light to the game-day menu. In our more health-conscious society – and with millennials and Generation Z making avocado toast their most important meme of the day – it’s not surprising that Avocados from Mexico is expanding its annual Super Bowl ad into a broader season-long NFL campaign.
- In Miami, Super Bowl LIV has already kicked off. Last Saturday, the HistoryMiami Museum opened the exhibit, “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football HOF.” The exhibit arrives ahead of Super Bowl LIV and “will remain there until February 9,” according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The exhibit features 8,000 square feet of “photographs, vintage jerseys, helmets and interactive displays,” along with the Lombardi Trophy on display in a “Champions Theater.” The museum’s “Hometown Heroes” section “celebrates the Dolphins and athletes who played in South Florida during high school and college.” And last Friday, Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel announced that Hard Rock Stadium will "phase out 99.4% of single-use plastics by 2020 – including for Super Bowl LIV.” On December 22, Hard Rock Stadium will become the first venue in the NFL to “feature 20oz sustainable draft cups.” In all, the team will “eliminate more than 2.8 million pieces of plastic annually including over 600,000 plastic bottles.”
- The NHL entered into a two-year, cross-platform marketing and promotional partnership with five-time Grammy Award-winning band Green Day. To launch the relationship, NHL fans will get a sneak peek to a yet to be released song called “Fire, Ready, Aim,” off Green Day’s forthcoming thirteenth studio album, “Father Of All…[expletive],” which will serve as the opening theme song for NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Hockey. In addition, “Fire, Ready, Aim” will be featured on NHL on NBC broadcasts throughout the 2019-2020 season. Produced by NBC Sports, the show open features the band playing their new song on a hockey rink interspersed with action shots of more than a dozen NHL players. Songs from Green Day’s new album will be featured in NHL game highlights, broadcast bumpers, tune-in campaigns, and in-arena content created and distributed by the NHL, its teams and television partners NBC Sports Group, Sportsnet and TVA Sports across their respective broadcast, digital and social platforms. Green Day will also perform at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis on January 25.
- In a different sort of green day, ESPN’s “College GameDay” is headed to Dublin next fall. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will begin the 2020 season in Dublin for Navy-Notre Dame, with the trip outside the U.S. marking the “first for the show.” The trip was announced during Saturday’s episode of “GameDay” from Gainesville. Navy-Notre Dame is “one of the oldest rivalries in college football.” The game will take place Saturday, August 29, at Aviva Stadium, and “GameDay” will start at 11:00am ET, “three hours before kickoff” at 7:00pm local time. ESPN Vice President of Production Lee Fitting will “head to Dublin next week to scout locations.” The show “figures to conclude at Aviva,” a 51,700-seat venue that opened in 2010.” Ohio State has hosted “GameDay” more than any other school, with 18 hosting stints. Tied for second at 13 hosting gigs are Alabama, Florida, Michican, and LSU (after this coming Saturday). As for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish hosted the very first “GameDay” telecast in 1993. The Dublin journey is a testament to both Notre Dame’s global brand and American football’s ever-widening appeal.
- The Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers played a pair of exhibition games on Friday and Saturday in Mumbai, fulfilling the desire of Kings Owner and Chair Vivek Ranadive for the NBA to “host preseason games in his native India.” According to USA Today, when Ranadive bought the Kings in 2013, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver “promised Ranadive that would happen eventually,” and nearly “six years later, it has.” Ranadive said, “It’s been a long journey, but the NBA has kept its promise to me.” When Ranadive met with NBA officials, he “often referred to India as ‘the next great frontier’ for basketball.” The league opened an office in India in 2011, and began refurbishing local courts and schools. In 2014, Silver “traveled with Ranadive to India to explore more initiatives.” The league launched NBA Academy India in 2017 for elite prospects, and also “televised more than 350 games in India and hosted 25 after-school and five in-school basketball programs.” For the first exhibition game, the NBA invited 3,000 children who participated in the Junior NBA program. In addition to on-court action, the Kings’ recent travel plans included visiting the Taj Mahal and hosting an NBA Cares clinic.
- The Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center tenure begins. The Warriors were “happy to get into their new billion dollar home” on Saturday night despite losing to the Lakers during the team’s exhibition opener at Chase Center, according to ESPN. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “The crowd was fantastic. It seemed like everybody was, including the players and coaches and officials, everybody was sort of looking around.” The “cheapest ticket on the secondary market for Saturday’s debut game” was $131, and to get in the lower bowl, fans had to “shell out $300-plus.” The San Jose Mercury-News added that the arena is an "impressive building and a testament to what next-level perseverance, strong vision, and a ton of cold, hard cash can build.” There is “not a thing functionally wrong with this place.” Along with the indoor Jumbotron, Chase Center "boasts a prominent outdoor video screen, the captivating feature of a spacious outdoor area.” Samsung partnered with the Warriors to install the Jumbotron, the largest center hung main videoboard installed in a sports arena — a feature that will make the building a top level concert destination.
- AEG Facilities, SMG officially combine to create ASM Global, the world’s largest venue management company. AEG Facilities and SMG have officially merged to create ASM Global, a new, standalone global facility management and venue services company. ASM’s vast portfolio spans more than 300 arenas, convention centers, and other venues across five continents. ASM will be headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in suburban Philadelphia, the UK, Australia, and Brazil. Former AEG Facilities President Bob Newman has been named ASM President and CEO, effective immediately. Newman spent more than 20 years at SMG prior to joining AEG. Private equity firm Onex, AEG, and their affiliates are contributing their entire equity investments in SMG and AEG Facilities, respectively, into the combined business and are now equal co-owners of ASM Global. SMG is a premier operator of convention centers, while AEG’s background is as an arena developer. This is a merger of extremely complementary companies. AEG owns and operates venues, while SMG primarily provides venue management services.
- Minshew Mania takes hold of Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Jaguars are benefiting from Minshew Mania on the field – and now they’re hoping to benefit off it as well. Per ESPN, the team is counting on the rock star status of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew – as well as his headband and mustache – to help pack TIAA Bank Field by offering what it’s calling the Minshew Mini Pack. The Minshew Mini is a package of tickets to the team’s next two home games, versus New Orleans on October 13 and the New York Jets on October 27, that includes a bandana, fake mustache, and the opportunity to get a photo taken on the field wearing the gear. Ticket prices range from $41 to $600. People also have embraced Minshew’s wardrobe – jean shorts, headband and retro aviator sunglasses – and his 1970s-style mustache. T-shirts featuring Minshew are popping up around Jacksonville and there apparently has been a resurgence in mustaches among Jaguars fans. It will be interesting to see if Minshew Mania follows the Jaguars across the pond, when they face the Houston Texans in London on November 3.
Top Five Tech
- The numbers are in on MLB and YouTube’s season long live-streaming deal – and they’re quite positive. Across 13 MLB games live-streamed on YouTube during the 2019 season, the live-average number of views was 1.2 million, including pre- and post-game shows. According to Variety, total average minute audience across the games was 130,000 with the peak concurrent viewer average at 171,000. The season high for YouTube and MLB’s partnership was the August 7 meeting of the Cardinals at Dodgers, which had just over 320,000 live peak concurrent viewers. YouTube wouldn’t disclose the total number of live views for this game — which the Dodgers won 2-1 on a walk-off hit — but the on-demand version has nearly 1.7 million views to date. While the YouTube games for the MLB were streamed globally, they didn’t produce TV viewership ratings such as FOX’s average 2.23 million viewers for MLB broadcasts and MLB Network’s average 239,000. It seems that if given more primetime windows, YouTube streamed games have the potential to match numbers from MLB Network in the near future – an important business tactic to appeal to a younger crowd.
- Global audio broadcasting company TuneIn launches a 24/7 sports betting channel, The BetR Network. According to Advanced Television, listeners of the new network can tap their TuneIn app or ask their smart speaker to experience The BetR Network, which features select content from Vegas Stats & Information Network and SB Nation Radio Network. The BetR Network line-up includes Hall of Fame broadcaster Brent Musburger and his “My Guys in the Desert” show; VSiN morning show “Follow the Money” with Mitch Moss and Pauly Howard; “Pushing the Odds” with SB Nation Radio’s Matt Perrault; and “The Lombardi Line” with former NFL executive Michael Lombardi. After VENN became the first 24/7 broadcast platform for esports, sports betting didn’t take long to follow suit with its own platform to provide valuable insights into the more commonplace hobby, sports betting.
- Nielsen will start to track esports statistics and viewership. Two of the biggest esports organizers in the world, ESL and Dreamhack, announced that they are entering into a “comprehensive esports measurement agreement” with Nielsen, the data-tracking firm, according to VentureBeat. Nielsen is best known for providing TV ratings, but the group provides statistics for all kinds of fields, including esports. It even acquired gaming industry intelligence firm SuperData Research last September to help its esports efforts. What this really will do is open up more opportunities for sponsorships and marketing in esports. This new agreement with ESL and Dreamhack will give Nielsen more data. ESL and Dreamhack can then relay that data to current and potential sponsors. This will include measuring viewership of esports events, along with deeper insights into those audiences. At this point in time, esports is getting big enough to attract sponsors outside of traditional gaming spheres, including luxury brand Louis Vuitton, and this new data tracking could see a near-future wave of more top brands entering the sphere of esports sponsorship.
- Washington Wizards and Intel bring a 360 home replay to Capital One Arena. According to SportsPro, “True View” camera technology has been already used by some of European soccer’s elite clubs including Manchester City, Liverpool, and Arsenal in the Premier League, as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga. The new tech innovation allows for the creation of updated sports content via 38 different 5K cameras mounted around the venue, which produce video that renders 360-degree replays and detailed freeze frames to create visual content from any perspective on the court. Intel True View highlights will be available during Wizards broadcasts on the NBCSports Washington network, in addition to Wizards mobile and social platforms. The new technology is expected to be available for the Wizards’ first home game of the season in late October. 5G networks allow for higher quality feeds to be distributed to all parts of the globe, and the Wizards now can add the True View camera to their excellent fan experience after being one of the first basketball teams to test sports betting broadcasts last year.
- LeBron James’ and Maverick Carter’s media company Uninterrupted launches Nike sneaker and e-commerce store. According to Fast Company, the partnership not only includes an Uninterrupted-branded Air Force 1 sneaker but also a new apparel collection that features a hoodie, shorts, hats, and socks, available exclusively on Uninterrupted’s newly launched e-commerce store on October 7. The brand has always been based in athlete empowerment, and the announcement timing conveniently suggests Uninterrupted’s version of empowerment is more than a marketing slogan. On Monday, news broke that California Governor Gavin Newsom had signed a bill on LeBron and Carter’s show “The Shop” that would allow college athletes to hire agents and get paid for endorsement deals. LeBron is standing up for athletes across the globe to be more than one-dimensional, while simultaneously setting himself up in the media and business worlds for life after basketball.
Power of Sports Five
- WWE legend John Cena announces pledge for veterans’ charity. According to FOX Sports, Cena appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” last Monday to call on others to donate to FitOps, pledging to match all donations from now through Veterans Day (November 11) up to $1 million. FitOps is a foundation that helps military veterans find stability, success, and community through fitness. The organization helps veterans achieve personal trainer certification, creating a path in life after service. Out of the ring, Cena is known for his charitable endeavors with Make-a-Wish and his receipt of the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award – it seems that even through his busy Hollywood schedule, his philanthropy won’t get lost in the shuffle.
- The Toronto Raptors are auctioning off game-worn shoes from their historic 2019 Finals. According to the Toronto Sun, some of the biggest names on the Raptors’ roster are offering their shoes to the cause. Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet are just a few of the names participating in the auction, which will give all of its proceeds to the MSLE Foundation. The charity funds renovations of local athletic facilities and programs that help kids through sports. Those interested in participating in the event downloaded the Toronto Raptors app which detailed current bid prices and which players’ shoes are still up for grabs. The event ended October 1 – Pascal Siakam’s kicks hit the $2,000 mark, as did a pair of adidas by Kyle Lowry. While some of the lower end shoes were in the $500 range, the total funds raised should cross into the tens of thousands. The Raptors fans helped to raise money for charity after heckling KD in the finals, now Raptors executives are making a difference in their own communities.
- Tim and Negah Connelly’s Ping Pong charity fundraiser for LuBird’s Light Foundation includes Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray. Some of the Mile High City’s biggest athletes and local sports personalities were in attendance at the EXDO Event center in the Rino neighborhood to show their support for the Connelly family and help raise awareness for the LuBird’s Light Foundation. The organization is raising money to create accessible playgrounds for children of all abilities. High-profile athletes ranging from the Colorado Rapids’ Tim Howard and Jamal Murray to several members of the Denver Broncos were on hand. The event raised over $22,000 in less than four hours. According to NBA.com, Jokić plays a ping pong match three hours before every Nuggets home game and almost won the entire competition. Jokić and Murray were joined by 11 other Nuggets players in attendance. By playing a game that levels the playing fields across diverse athletes, the Nuggets have shown unity to rally for children who need greater accessibility on playgrounds.
- Esports streamers DrLupo and Brendon Urie announce monthly charity stream at TwitchCon 2019. Streamer DrLupo and Panic! At the Disco singer Brendon Urie announced an upcoming monthly charity stream in partnership with State Farm to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Highest Hopes Foundation, and the American Red Cross. According to The Gamer, the charity streams will take place monthly through the end of the year and will be called the State Farm Charity Streams featuring DrLupo and Brendon. Both streamers are already well known for their humanitarian efforts. Urie started a charity last year called the Highest Hopes Foundation, which supports non-profit organizations that advocate for human rights, while DrLupo raised $920,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital during the GuardianCon fundraiser finale earlier this year. DrLupo also ran a charity stream in September with fellow streamer Griz for The Trevor Project. On top of the money raised from monthly stream donations, State Farm, which began sponsoring DrLupo this past January, will contribute $10,000 each stream for a total of $30,000. Esports are expanding their marketing through new Nielsen data, which creates more charity opportunities.
- Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber was awarded the Jean Béliveau Trophy for his charity work and community involvement. According to NHL.com, the Jean Béliveau Trophy is awarded annually to the Canadiens player who best exemplifies leadership qualities in the community, and the award is accompanied by a $25,000 donation made to a charity of the player’s choice. Since the 2017-2018 season, Weber has been sponsoring one of the two Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation’s private suites, and provided the opportunity for more than 350 children in need from all across Quebec to attend a game at the Bell Centre for the very first time. Many of these kids are invited through Best Buddies, whose mission is to promote the creation of true friendships between people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and students. Weber has remained close to his best buddy, Mike Maguire, a decorated Special Olympics athlete with Down Syndrome and a member of Best Buddies Tennessee, since Weber’s Nashville Predators tenure. He will now have an opportunity to give a large donation to his charity of choice.