15 Apr

15+5+5 To Watch : 41519

15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF APRIL 15 with Jacob Aere

  1. Step aside, George Foreman. Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory now tops the list of greatest comebacks in sports, and elsewhere. Turning back the clock and delivering another vintage Sunday performance at Augusta, Tiger Woods held off the best players in the world to capture his fifth green jacket and 15th career major championship. In doing so, he joined the likes of boxer Foreman, California Governor Jerry Brown, entertainers Robert Downey, Jr., Glenn Close, and Justin Timberlake and mogul Martha Stewart in making a significant cultural impact years after their assumed peak and following a major gap in their career timeline. As testament to Woods’ wide-reaching impact, Twitter noted that over a span of two hours on Sunday, there were over 1.4 million tweets about Woods and more than 1.8 million about the Masters. Sports celebrities including Jack Nicklaus, Serena Williams, Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, and Michael Phelps added their voices to the throng, as did two U.S. Presidents, Obama and Trump. For the next weeks, and perhaps months, we will continue to put into perspective what Tiger’s victory on Masters Sunday means to sports, and what it means to society.  
  2. 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.
  3. Augusta National, Westeros collide. When you envision Masters patrons, you don’t necessarily think of “Game of Thrones” fans. Which may be, according to GolfWeek, the precise reason the Masters has pulled off one of the boldest buzz-building moves in its recent history. Over the weekend, the club tweeted out a promotional clip showing the 12th hole under snow before shifting to its normal glorious springtime view. To even further pull at the heartstrings of Masters and Thrones fans, the 30-second promo also morphed Ramin Djawadi’s Emmy-winning “Game of Thrones” theme with the Masters’ famous Dave Loggins instrumental score. HBO’s blockbuster series may be entering the most anticipated final season in television history – if the 61 million plus views of the season trailer are any indication.  The bridge between the Masters and Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” return was an unprecedented nod to pop culture for Augusta National, which has traditionally not acknowledged much that goes on outside its hallowed gates. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. As the Stanley Cup Playoffs intensify, the New Jersey Devils won the 2019 NHL draft lottery after entering with the third-best odds. It’s the second lottery win in three years for the Devils, who selected center Nico Hischier with the top pick in 2017. The prize of this year’s draft is 17-year-old Jack Hughes, who the Devils will almost certainly make the eighth American-born player to be taken with the No. 1 pick. Hughes is set to make history as the first U.S. National Team Development Program player to jump straight to the NHL. There, he rewrote record books, blowing past the likes of NHL standouts Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Patrick Kane, and Phil Kessel. “You can spend the rest of your hockey career trying to find another player like Jack,” claimed an anonymous NHL exec quoted by The Athletic. Elsewhere, the Rangers jumped up from No. 6 to snag the second overall pick, and the Blackhawks made an even more dramatic move, going from No. 12 all the way to No. 3.
  7. The average Major League Baseball team is worth $1.78 billion according to Forbes latest valuations, an 8% increase from last year. Additionally, all 30 MLB franchises are worth at least $1 billion; whereas a decade ago, only two were: the Mets and the Yankees. The rest of the league has caught up to the Mets and Yankees, who rank dead last and third-to-last, respectively, in growth since 2009. The Giants saw the biggest increase in value over the last decade. MLB’s ownership stakes in MLB Advanced Media (100%), BamTech (15%), and MLB Network (67%), as well as the league’s investment portfolio, were included in the valuations and equally divided among the 30 teams, constituting over $400 million in value per franchise. Over the 22 years that Forbes has conducted its valuations, the average MLB team value has increased 11% year-over-year, while NBA and NFL team values have increased 13% and 12%, respectively. The MLB increases are going to get even bigger in 2022, when baseball’s seven-year, $5.1 billion deal with FOX kicks in.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. NCAA March Madness Live set all-time tournament records in live streams – over 100 million – and live hours consumed (over 24 million), up 31% and 29% vs. last year. According to JohnWallStreet, NCAA March Madness Live generated a record for last night’s NCAA Championship Game based on live uniques, with live streams and live hours consumed showing increases of 19% and 7% vs. last year. Competitive intelligence platforms BrandTotal reports that AT&T, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Infiniti ran some of the top social media campaigns during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, with BWW posting fairly evenly across social using Facebook (31%), Instagram (39%), and Twitter (30%) with the most viewed ad, in terms of engagement, being an Instagram Dark post about March Madness. AT&T leveraged YouTube as its main medium, with Instagram as its second and Facebook third, and scored a positive sentiment report of 45% and a negative sentiment 18%. Infinity used Instagram in 85% of its posts with the other 14% coming from Facebook, scoring a 2% negative sentiment report for its campaign and 29% positive. As more and more people consume media online, look for these numbers to continue to increase by double figures for the foreseeable future.
  11. The L.A. Clippers honored retiring Hall of Fame broadcaster Ralph Lawler during their regular-season finale against the Jazz with a special halftime ceremony to celebrate his 40 years with the team. The Clippers unveiled a special logo on the court at Staples Center, and players wore a special shooting shirt. The first 10,000 fans on hand for Ralph Lawler Night also received Lawler bobbleheads. NBA Legend Bill Walton joined Lawler on the call during the game, and CarMax presented “a check to the charity of Lawler’s choice,“ according to the Los Angeles Daily News. The Clippers actions honoring a longtime figure in the Clippers “family” stood in stark contrast to the turmoil surrounding their Staples Center locker mates the Los Angeles Lakers, who fired Walton’s son Luke as their coach after yet another season in which the franchise failed to make the NBA Playoffs and team president and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson abruptly resigned. An All-Star in his own right, Lawler will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September. 
  12. 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. 
  13. 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.
  14. A new ESPN deal with the Big 12 guarantees three football title games. The Big 12 has agreed to a deal that gives ESPN the rights to all Big 12 football championship games through 2024 and makes the league the first Power Five conference to provide exclusive content to ESPN+, the cable giant’s online subscription streaming service. According to USA Today, the new agreement also calls for Big 12 content on ESPN+ to be branded specifically for the conference, creating a de facto digital conference network. Fox and ESPN share television rights to Big 12 games and are in the middle of a 13-year deal worth $2.6 billion signed in 2012. This is good news not only for ESPN and the Big 12, but for college football fans everywhere.
  15. La Liga, Spanish soccer’s top-flight league, has been named the eighth biggest brand domestically, according to a report by valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance. The report places La Liga above major Spanish brands such as the insurance provider Mapfre and telecommunications company Movistar. Using its brand strength score metric, a figure based on calculations regarding emotional connection, financial performance and sustainability, Brand Finance gave La Liga a score of 80.7 out of 100. Fashion retailer Zara topped the Brand Finance list overall, with the likes of Santander and Iberdrola also featuring inside its top ten. The new 2019 report marks the first time a sports league has appeared in Brand Finance’s top ten, highlighting the continued growth of La Liga. Brand Finance values the league body at $548 million. Based on monetary value along it occupies 50th place on the list, a considerable drop. However, taking into account the value of participating league clubs – which includes the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid – La Liga’s overall value jumps to $4.5 billion, which would place it sixth on that list.