15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF NOVEMBER 4
with Jacob Aere
- Fully 14.8% of all World Series ads focused on giving back and corporate social responsibility. There were more advocacy and corporate social responsibility ads aired during the first four games of the World Series than any other type of ad outside of auto makers, according to data from Advertising Analytics, a strategy firm that specializes in political and issues advertising. The World Series attracted mostly defense, enterprise technology, and healthcare ads. While this was a departure from typical sports championships, in which consumer package goods and retail ads typically dominate, Axios noted World Series games in DC presented a juicy opportunity for brands to “reach Washington decision-makers in a casual environment. While many marquee advertisers sponsor events around Washington DC, there are few games that will have as high of an impact and as engaged of an audience as a World Series that includes a Washington team.” As the hyper-political environment in Washington becomes more contentious, companies are pressured to take a stand on more issues than they have in the past – and this is reflected in their marketing initiatives. Expect this trend to continue at least through the 2020 election cycle.
- The World Series Champion Washington Nationals’ “Baby Shark” craze took over Halloween and then some. According to CNBC, Nationals center fielder Gerardo Parra’s walk-up earworm took over Halloween, with MLBShop.com in the 10 days leading up to Halloween selling “more than 4,500 various adult and children’s ‘Baby Shark’ products, totaling more than $100,000.” The children’s song became an “MLB phenomenon” when Parra started using it as his walk-up song earlier this season. Fans then “caught on to the ‘Baby Shark’ craze,” contributing to MLB’s retail sales. Jerseys for both World Series teams were also hot, with the best-selling jerseys belonging to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman. Nationals champion pitcher Max Scherzer had the third-most popular jersey. “Baby Shark” has amassed more than 3.8 billion YouTube views and reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It has also boosted the Korean family behind the educational brand that released the song to a net worth of over $125 million. NHL San Jose Sharks, we’re now looking at you.
- We’re nine weeks into the NFL season and only one undefeated team remains: The San Francisco 49ers (8-0), who finished 4-12 last year. In Santa Clara, head coach Kyle Shanahan has emerged as this year’s Sean McVay — a football guru with a gift for designing plays. Meanwhile, the defense has been lights out and clearly the second-best unit in the league behind New England (which fell flat in Baltimore on Sunday night, losing 37-20). The defensive front, led by No. 2 pick Nick Bosa and $85 million free agent addition Dee Ford, has been dominant. However, no 49er players have yet cracked the NFL’s Top 10 bestselling jerseys. The NFL Shop has released the Top 10 selling jerseys for the 2019 season to date, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “topped the list,” according to Boston.com. Brady has “moved up two spots from last year,” as he finished the 2018 season in third behind Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Bears linebacker Khalil Mack. If the trend holds, regardless of how the Patriots finish, it would be the first time Brady has had the best-selling jersey for an NFL season since 2015.
- The NCAA cleared the way for college athletes to begin profiting from their name, image, and likeness, a landmark decision that eventually will dramatically alter the economics of college sports. The NCAA’s governing board directed its three competition divisions to immediately consider changing the rules governing such benefits for athletes, and to make all such changes no later than January, 2021. The decision represents a stark shift, following years of NCAA opposition, and comes amid growing pressure from legislators, a month after California passed a law requiring schools in the state to allow college athletes to earn endorsement money. An NCAA working group reportedly released a “set of principles” for the association’s board of governors to review, but has not publicly announced any concrete rules changes. Many athletes and pundits alike have dismissed the NCAA announcement as too vague to get behind with any enthusiasm. However, this is the first time that the governing body has really acknowledged that any change to their status quo is sorely needed, so everyone should keep an open mind for the time being at least.
- A college players’ rights group has entered into a partnership with the NFL Players Association to explore how to maximize name, image, and likeness rights. A day before the NCAA announcement last week, the NFLPA and National College Players Association (NCPA) announced jointly that the partnership will “explore opportunities for” college athletes in merchandise, gaming, licensed products, and “how recent developments impact television broadcast revenues in pursuit of fairness.” California’s Fair Pay to Play Act granting college athletes in that state the ability to profit off their name, image, and likeness goes into effect in 2023. A similar bill has been proposed in Florida, but it would go into effect far sooner—July 1, 2020. A Pennsylvania bill is expected to be introduced soon. Were college players able to unionize in a similar fashion to the way NFL players are able to collectively bargain, it would put even more pressure on the NCAA to craft new rules that give student athletes the same rights that all their classmates on campus currently enjoy.
- The stage is set for the 2019 MLS Cup Final in Seattle on Sunday, November 10. Nick DeLeon scored late in the second half to give Toronto FC a 2-1 win over defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United before a crowd of 44,055 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the MLS Eastern Conference final. For the third time in four years, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders will meet in the MLS Cup Final. Each franchise has one title from the previous two meetings. Seattle’s CenturyLink Field “will be opened to its maximum capacity” for the event, according to sources. Tickets to the match went on sale to Sounders season-ticket holders last Wednesday, and “about 50,000 were sold,” according to the Seattle Times. The stadium’s maximum “capacity for sporting events” is 72,000. The Seahawks “packed a record 69,190 fans in the facility” for an NFL game in November, 2016. The Sounders’ record attendance is 67,385 for a match against their rival Portland Timbers in August, 2013.
- Premier League Primary Stars USA visits Austin elementary school for soccer-themed learning. On October 25, Austin, Texas elementary school students worked side-by-side with Premier League stars during a soccer-themed educational experience. Premier League, the top level of the English soccer league system and EVERFI, a leader in driving social change through technology and education, recently joined forces to bring an interactive soccer-themed education program to students at Perez Elementary School in Austin. The event was part of the Premier League Primary Stars USA program, an educational initiative focused on health and wellness and social and emotional learning skills. Representatives from the Premier League and associated pro soccer clubs led a digital learning session, a hands-on soccer skills clinic, and a school-wide assembly centered on areas of critical emotional development. Perez students also engaged with visiting soccer stars, met mascots from four Premier League clubs, and saw the iconic Premier League trophy. On hand for the event were Premier League star winger and ambassador Shaun Wright-Phillips, EVERFI Global CMO Brian Cooley, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, and youth coaches from clubs including Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Wolverhampton.
- Kansas City, here we come. Our “Power of Sports” program heads to Kansas City this month, highlighting community outreach programs, culturally significant sites, and people who have made a difference through sports. This month, host Rick Horrow visits the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to speak with President Bob Kendrick about the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Negro Leagues coming up next year and the museum’s role in the celebration and in the community. He also checks in on two of the Kansas City Royals’ youth outreach programs: Royalty Fields grants and a recurring Special Olympics clinic, and hears from James McGinnis, a high school football player from the KC Metro, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and used the Chiefs’ success last season to motivate his recovery. Our Game Changer segment features an interview with former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue filmed in early October at a Sport Business Handbook contributor symposium hosted by EVERFI at their Washington, DC headquarters.
- The number of people who watch NFL content on a mobile device has more than doubled in the past year, according to new research by industry analyst Conviva. Data from the latest “State of Streaming” report, which was collated as part of a review of consumption habits across more than 180 countries, indicates that more viewers are adopting streaming options to watch NFL content, with the league seeing a 109% rise in mobile viewership between the third financial quarters of 2018 and 2019. By way of comparison, the NFL’s TV viewership grew by 66% over the same 12-month period. The NFL also saw the number of single-video views for its content go up by 77% and its overall domestic streaming viewership increase by 49%. While mobile NFL viewership appears to be trending upwards, the minutes per play remain at around an average of eight minutes. Conviva says that is an indication fans who stream NFL content on their phones are checking in on their favorite teams rather than choosing that platform to watch a game in its entirety.
- The NFL secured wine brand BABE as the official wine sponsor of the league. Babe, a canned wine brand co-founded by Instagram influencer Josh “The Fat Jewish” Ostrovsky and now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, has become the NFL’s first-ever “Official Wine Sponsor.” Fans can expect to see Babe’s canned wines filled with rosé, a red blend, and Pinot Grigio at 12 NFL stadiums including the homes of the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, and Denver Broncos. Additionally, the brand will be activating throughout the rest of the season including at the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. “Wine hasn’t typically been a top pick when it comes to sporting events in-stadium or at home, but BABE is changing all that by bringing a fun, easy, and portable option to game day,” said David Oliver Cohen, Co-Founder of BABE. “Building on Anheuser-Busch’s long-standing relationship with the NFL, we have seized a unique opportunity for BABE to become the football wine the world has been waiting for.” BABE’s NFL launch also comes in a year in which quality canned wines have achieved a level of respectability.
- The Orlando Magic have "filed an updated master plan” for their downtown Orlando Sports + Entertainment District that is “expected to more than double” the original $200 million project budget. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the mixed-use district will be built “starting next year on 8.4 acres across from Amway Center.” Magic Chief Communications Officer Joel Glass said the project will now cost “well over” $500 million. The district will “contain nearly 110,000 square feet of retail space, a conference center hotel with 80,000 square feet of event space, offices, apartments and a 2,500-space parking garage.” The updated plan maintains the original concept from 2018 but “increases the number of hotel rooms by 50 and more than doubles the amount of office space from the original 200,000 square feet to 420,000 square feet.” District Director Pat Gallagher said that the office tower “would now rise to 18 stories, which includes the ground-floor retail, multilevel parking structure and commercial office space.” The Sentinel notes the Magic’s new headquarters “would occupy 40,000 square feet in the office tower,” or close to 10%.
- PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has revealed that the golf circuit plans to roll out on-site betting offerings at its events in the U.S. starting next year. Speaking to the AFP news agency during the Zozo Championship in Japan, Monahan said the move would help keep more fans interested over the course of an entire day of tournament action. “You’ll start to see product in the market place next year,” he said. “When done right, it gives fans the opportunity to engage with your sport over a longer period of time and have more interest in what’s happening across the entire player field.” Monahan did not provide details of exactly what kind of betting products would be introduced, but said they are being developed as part of the PGA Tour’s multi-year global partnership with IMG Arena, the agency giant’s sports betting unit. A key component of that deal was to support the PGA Tour’s integrity program, and Monahan added that protecting the organization from betting-related corruption will remain a priority.
- Unsung World Series winner this year: Palm Beach County, FL. The most publicized “first” this year involves the visiting team winning every World Series game. However, maybe one of the most important economic “firsts” is the first time the World Series finalists shared a Spring Training facility: the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The 7,700-seat stadium also features six practice fields each for the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros. The 160-acre site also includes a 1.8 mile public walk trail and other facilities. The Palm Beach County Sports Commission touts the facility as a major economic generator for the county, as it also hosts over 1,400 youth and tournament baseball games each year. Look for a series of major announcements by the county and sports commission over the next two months.
- The Warriors are the first NBA team to create their own secondary suite product with the launch of Suite Exchange, which will allow for the resale of even the swankiest of premium seating at Chase Center. According to SportsBusiness Journal, Suite Exchange will be "fully owned and operated by the team and will be the only platform in the league that allows for current suite holders to resell their premium areas for individual Warriors games, concerts and other events at the arena.” All suite levels will be “available on the platform.” Suite Exchange is “modeled after a typical secondary ticketing site, but instead of tickets the suites are resold for single events.” Suite holders can “list their suites for a fixed price or they can put the suites up for bid.” The team takes an “undisclosed cut from the resale price.” All of the suites are “sold out, but strong demand for a premium seat experience at the arena is pushing the team to launch Suite Exchange.” If this business model works the way the Warriors expect it to at Chase Center, look for other NBA teams to follow.
- San Diego State is now offering the city of San Diego $87.7 million for Mission Valley stadium site. San Diego State University is "now offering to pay” the city $19.5 million more than before to purchase the Mission Valley stadium property formerly occupied by the Chargers. According to the letter delivered last Monday to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, SDSU’s new offer is $87.7 million, which consists of a “revised purchase price” of $86.2 million for 135 acres of land, plus an estimated $1.5 million to “account for a portion of the site’s appreciation” since 2017. In addition, SDSU is “proposing to take over the portion” of Murphy Canyon Creek immediately adjacent to the site “without requiring the city to pay for any past-due maintenance,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The news comes as SDSU cracked the Associated Press college football Top 25 for the first time in many years (they are now #24), an achievement that should aid local enthusiasm for the SDSU West project, as a new football/soccer stadium is part of the master plan.
Top Five Tech
- Call of Duty League launches in January, 2020. According to BusinessWire, Activision Blizzard Esports announced the inaugural season of the Call of Duty League will begin with the Call of Duty League Launch Weekend at the Minneapolis Armory January 24-26, 2020. The event will be hosted by Minnesota Røkkr, which is the Call of Duty League team operated by WISE Ventures Esports, under the ownership of the Minnesota Viking owner Wilf family and tech investor Gary Vaynerchuk. The league will feature all 12 of the professional Call of Duty League teams competing across three days, and the opening weekend will feature additional fan and player experiences to celebrate the launch of Activision Blizzard Esports’ highly anticipated new city-based league. In a concept that should appeal to traditional sports fans, the Call of Duty League follows a home-vs-away format with 5-versus-5 professional match play. Throughout the season, each team will host “Home Series” weekends in their market, with multiple pro teams competing at each which will draw in crowds to take part in the events and participate in one of the most far-reaching video game series ever created.
- DAZN is looking to make boxing mainstream on the back of YouTube and Snapchat stars KSI and Logan Paul. According to Digiday, two late October snapchat shows from DAZN promoted a fight between boxers Canelo Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev on November 2 and a follow-up match on November 9 between YouTube stars Logan Paul and KSI. According to Snapchat’s self-serve ad-buying tool, the app’s monthly audience of fight and wrestling fans in the U.S. ranges between 10.3 million and 10.7 million people. The Paul-KSI fight, in particular, has the potential to increase DAZN’s subscriber base, given the YouTube stars’ popularity online. The first fight between the two that aired on YouTube last year and cost $10 to watch attracted 1.1 million viewers. DAZN stands to make more money from the Snapchat shows if they are able to entice people to pay $20 a month or $100 a year to subscribe to DAZN in order to watch the fights. That’s largely the point of producing these shows. Having the subscription methods go month by month will allow serious boxing fans to see the Logan Paul vs KSI fight, meanwhile casual fans who are new to the sport will be able to see experienced fighters such as Alvarez ad Kovalev go toe-to-toe.
- The World Series ended up delivery big viewership numbers thanks to exciting Games 6 and 7. According to Deadline, Game 7 of the 2019 World Series was a win for both the Washington Nationals and for FOX, drawing in 24 million viewers across all platforms. The overall series itself will likely end up around the 14 million average that the 2014 San Francisco Giants’ clinching series snagged. It hit a home run with 21.19 million viewers in the adult 18-49 demographic, with the first Game 7 since the Astros took the title in 2017 up double digits over last year’s final game. Compared with Tuesday’s Game 6, Game 7 continued the spike the Series experienced in its race to the end, with a 47% rise in 18-49s and 38% in total audience. This was also due to the Nationals’ beating all odds to overcome a 19-31 start to the season to capture the title after going down 3-2 in the World Series. The Series’ strange storyline added to big viewership numbers toward the end as all road teams won the games, the first time this has ever happened across any major American sport. On top of that, the Nationals came back from behind a record setting five times in elimination games this postseason.
- World Surf League is increasing their online content. According to SportsPro, WSL Studios division launched this summer and it is the ammunition for an ambitious new content strategy. Since taking ownership of what was then the Association of Surfing Professionals in 2012, the tour’s ownership group has, through a series of acquisitions, steadily aggregated previously separated aspects of professional surfing under a single umbrella including its major events, commercial and licensing rights, and properties such as the Big Wave World Tour and the Kelly Slater Wave Company. WSL Studios launched in August, opening its doors with a debut slate of programming comprising feature-length documentaries, docu-series, daily short-form videos, and a podcast network. On the off-platform side, the aim is to broaden surfing’s reach by distributing content outside of the WSL ecosystem, to draw more people to the sport as it prepares to make its Olympic debut alongside skateboarding next year in Tokyo.
- Yahoo teams up with entertainment giant MGM for sports betting. According to Legal Sports Report, the deal between Yahoo and the BetMGM sportsbook app will be offered on iOS and Android this month. Although specific details were not abundant, it appears that Yahoo Sports does not become a consumer-facing sportsbook in the deal. Instead, it will send traffic to BetMGM and get compensated for that traffic, according to a report from SportsBusiness Journal. As of now, BetMGM is only live in Nevada and New Jersey, and in the former, users must sign up in person. But BetMGM does plan on being live in West Virginia and Indiana, among other states. What this deal means for Yahoo is that while Yahoo launched a daily fantasy sports platform back in 2015, they will not be running their own “Yahoo Sportsbook” directly. The benefit of this deal for MGM is that Yahoo’s millions of active monthly fantasy sports users can be funneled to MGM to place bets while Yahoo gets to be involved with sports betting without doing the heavy lifting themselves.
Power of Sports Five
- LeBron James spends thousands on food for the Getty Fire’s first responders. According to “Entertainment Tonight,” James paid around $3,000 to help feed firefighters battling the Getty Fire in Los Angeles, California. The 34-year-old Lakers star is one of many celebrities who were forced to evacuate their homes due to the fire, which erupted in the early hours of October 28 and has burned more than 745 acres. Raul Ortega, owner of Mexican food truck Mariscos Jalisco, was called by a member of James’ team to set up a time for his taco trucks to deliver food to the fire’s first responders. James paid around $3,000 to rent the taco trucks, which were set up at Jackie Robinson Stadium, which has been used as a base camp for the firefighters. Ortega says his employees fed around 150 first responders, serving up approximately 600 tacos. The first responders could work better with food in their stomachs and have now contained over 60% of the Getty Fire; however, the blaze is just one of 13 wildfires burning in California in early November.
- Parisian soccer club PSG goes green with Gaussin transport deal. According to SportsPro, French soccer giant Paris Saint-Germain has signed a strategic partnership with the Gaussin Group for the supply of self-driving, 100% electric vehicles for public transport and goods transport. The long-term agreement includes equipment for all of the Ligue 1 champions’ infrastructure, including their new training complex which will open its doors in 2022. The deal also falls in line with PSG’s ambition to utilize innovations in sustainable development and autonomous mobility, especially with regard to the practice facility as it bids to become the first recognized Smart City in sports. The Gaussin Group will initially undertake research to understand where to best deploy its autonomous and electric mobility solutions before rolling out its products where it best suits the needs of the club. This deal marks a movement for sports franchises to be more environmentally conscious of their off-field impacts.
- John Cena donates $500,000 to firefighters battling blazes across California. According to GiveMeSports, the fires originally emerged in the state’s northern areas, and also ripped through approximately 650 acres within the city of Los Angeles, resulting in the evacuation of over 20,000 people. On “First Responders Day,” WWE wrestler Cena took time away from filming “The Suicide Squad” to post a video to Twitter in which he committed to helping those who are managing the disaster. Cena, who will star as a firefighter in the upcoming comedy “Playing with Fire,” went on to implore the film’s production company Paramount Pictures to join him in helping those he considers truly heroic. Cena’s generous financial contributions will be shared between The California Fire Foundation and the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation. Hopefully more celebrities will follow the path of Cena, LeBron James, and Guy Fieri to help those risking their lives to keep others safe.
- Women’s soccer looks to get a massive media boost from Spring Media and Red Bee. According to SportsPro, more than 1 billion viewers tuned into the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Red Bee and Spring Media’s Wnited women’s soccer OTT service looks to capitalize on a market in the spotlight. After the USA secured their fourth title in France earlier this year, European soccer’s governing body UEFA went live with its own OTT service featuring live women’s matches, while the Football Association has also launched its own free platform to air the Women’s Super League. Although a good start, those platforms have regional limitations that the newly-launched Wnited fixes – it is the first OTT service of its kind wholly dedicated to global women’s soccer. In creating the product, Swedish sports agency Spring Media, which distributes more than 500 hours of live sports to more than 220 global broadcasters annually, has expanded its collaboration with UK-based solutions company Red Bee Media. The Wnited product is due to go live in the first quarter of 2020 and expects a sizeable fan base, as half of the Women’s World Cup viewers were across digital platforms.
- Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris donates $1 million to charities. According to 247 Sports, Harris announced a combined donation of $1 million to assist nine different charities in Philadelphia. He announced the charities and the dollar amount for each during a community draft at a local elementary school. The benefitting organizations include the Center for Black Educator Development which received $300,000; Read by 4th was given $200,000; The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools, and Legends Academy were all given $100,000; World Literacy Foundation and True Love Missions each received $75,000; and both WUFSD Wynadanch Memorial High School and Team Up Philly were given $25,000. Although Harris was traded just eight months ago from the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball star seems to be investing heavily in the youth of Philadelphia, a city facing a major teacher shortage and in which two-thirds of third graders can’t read at grade level.