08 Jul

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15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 8

with Jacob Aere

  1. Cleveland hosting the 2019 MLB All-Star Game is positively impacting the city’s economy. As reported by Fox 8 Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission estimates All-Star Week will generate $65 million in revenue for Cleveland businesses, which includes packed restaurants, sports bars, hotels, and visitors checking out other attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  MLB’s Play Ball Park drew big crowds to the Huntington Convention Center over the weekend. Restaurants are bringing in extra staff, which will also benefit workers who will earn extra tips this week. 2,000 media members are in town giving Cleveland worldwide attention. The huge amount of money being spent in Cleveland, also means the city cashes in with extra tax money which can be used for city improvements, like roads, public transport, and community service programs. Stores like the Cleveland Clothing Company on Euclid Avenue are packed more than usual. “It’s been great for the community and the city,” manager Desiree Moar told Fox8. Cleveland will once again be in the national spotlight when the city hosts the NFL Draft in 2021, and the NBA All Star Game in 2022.
  2. BofA launches ASG-tied rewards program. As noted by Cynopsis, ahead of the MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland, longtime MLB sponsor Bank of America launched a rewards program tied to ASG festivities. Looking to leverage the drama of extra innings, the “Extra Rewards” promotion offers BofA customers discounts on licensed merchandise at MLB.com, along with some exclusive merchandise. TV ads will support the program, primarily on MLB asset media and in markets where BofA has RSN inventory on local MLB telecasts. Tags supporting the promo will also be read as extra-inning games occur, along with digital and social media. BofA CMO Meredith Verdone said the promotion is designed to enhance customer relevancy and engagement. “The thing we love about the association with extra innings is that there’s always an exciting, emotional ending,” she added. This All-Star Game is especially key to BofA, since it is just entering the Ohio market with retail banking. BofA, an MLB sponsor since 2004, also has deals with the Astros, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Red Sox, and Yankees.
  3. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed that the league hopes to play more games in Europe. While MLB has not yet announced official plans to play games in Europe beyond next year, Manfred said he hopes to make a long-term commitment to the region. “I would like to have sustained play in Europe,” said Manfred, speaking to the press ahead of the inaugural MLB London Series. “I’m glad we’re coming back next year. I’d like to be back after that. But I am interested in having play in other cities in Europe.” Manfred did not reveal which cities MLB is exploring, but emphasized that suitable stadiums will be crucial to any potential deal. “Until you get on the ground and figure whether a particular facility can be configured for baseball, it’s just premature to get into other cities,” he said. Manfred also took the opportunity to address the situation around MLB’s 2020 season-opener. The game was expected to be played in Asia under the league’s CBA with its players’ union, but Manfred said that those plans have now been put on hold. The league’s two London games are its only international events currently penciled in for next season.
  4. The U.S. women’s national team beat the Netherlands on Sunday to defend their title as reigning World Cup champions. When they get back home, they’ve got a different battle awaiting – their legal fight for equal pay and treatment. In March, the 28 members of the 2015 World Cup-winning team – including current national team stars Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Carli Lloyd – filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation alleging gender discrimination in their treatment versus how the governing body treats the men’s team. “The U.S. women’s soccer team does not need to be the best in the world in order to earn equal pay. The point of non-discrimination law is that employees doing similar work should be paid equally,” Columbia Law School’s Suzanne B. Goldberg told ABC News. The lawsuit also cites the denial of “at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; and equal promotion of their games.” Added Goldberg, “In this instance, where the women’s team is outplaying the men’s team, there is an argument that they should be paid more than their male counterparts,“ she said. A U.S. Soccer spokesperson confirmed that the women’s team and the federation tentatively agreed to mediation after the World Cup.
  5. USWNT jersey sales have outpaced all other U.S. soccer jerseys, including those of the men’s team, according to statistics from Nike and Fanatics. As reported by ESPN, Nike said in its earnings report that the women’s 2019 stadium home jersey is now the No. 1-selling soccer jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold on Nike.com in one season. Fanatics said this is the top-selling U.S. Soccer national team, men’s or women’s, of all time. "It’s hard to overstate how important this year has been to the evolution of the women’s offense at Nike,” president and CEO Mark Parker said. The USWNT’s success has helped drive business for Nike even past the jersey, which retails for $90. Parker said the energy around the World Cup, with nearly two-thirds of the teams wearing Nike kits and half the players wearing Nike boots, has pushed the company to the No. 1 position in market share for bras this quarter in North America for the first time in the company’s history. That stat is impressive given the exposure Nike gained in 1999, when Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal against China in a shootout and tore off her jersey, revealing her sports bra – one of the most iconic moments in women’s sports history.
  6. In the wake of a thrilling Women’s World Cup final, FIFA proposes Women’s World Cup expansion, larger investment. FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s plan to continue the development of women’s soccer includes “increasing the number of teams for the next World Cup from 24 to 32 and doubling the World Cup pool of prize money” from $30 million to $60 million. Infantino also said that he “wants to launch a club World Cup ‘as soon as possible,’ potentially next year, and a women’s world league for national teams that would operate much like the UEFA Nations League.” ProSoccerUSA added that Infantino also wants to “double the amount of spending on women’s soccer over the next four years” from $500 million to $1 billion.“ With similar plans in the works for the Men’s World Cup, and the exponential growth of women’s soccer worldwide (as evidenced by the leaps in talent seen in this year’s event), it’s not surprising that Infantino is setting out these lofty plans for the women’s beautiful game. 
  7. While it’s long been green, this year Wimbledon is seriously ramping up its sustainability initiatives. Week Two of Wimbledon is underway at the All England Club, and one sight that hasn’t been seen at this year’s tournament is "players discarding the plastic cover from a freshly strung racket.” As the Guardian noted, following a sustainability review, the “removal of plastic bags from the player racket stringing operation means there will be 4,500 fewer plastic bags used” this year. Wimbledon sponsor Evian also launched “its first 100% recycled and 100% recyclable water bottle at this year’s championships.“ Meanwhile, longtime sponsor Rolex ran a full-page ad in the New York Times touting its standing as the official jeweler of Wimbledon: "140 Years of Memorable Performances Ensure Centre Court Will Remain Tennis’s Ultimate Stage.” And timeless tennis superstar Roger Federer has been reveling in a different kind of green: Federer topped Forbes’ list of 2018 athlete endorsement income, at $65 million besting LeBron James ($52 million), Cristiano Ronaldo ($47 million), Tiger Woods, and Steph Curry (tied at $42 million).
  8. IMG is close to signing a ten-year deal worth $1 billion for betting streaming and data rights to the ATP Tour. According to SportBusiness, the partnership being discussed between global agency IMG and ATP Media – the tour’s commercial arm – will reportedly cover the nine ATP Masters 100 tournaments, the Tour 500 series, and a number of the 250 series events. If successful, the deal would add to the agency’s growing portfolio of contracts for IMG Arena, its sports betting and content arm. The division, launched in November, 2018, is already a data partner for golf’s PGA Tour and European Tour, and looking at capitalizing on new U.S. sports wagering laws. IMG’s involvement in tennis is already significant. The agency has representatives on the ATP board, reps elite players including Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka, and owns and operates ATP tournaments including the Miami Open and Rio Open. If confirmed, this will be the biggest rights deal in tennis history.
  9. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, headed to the Clippers, may be shifting the NBA landscape toward the Left Coast, with Leonard reportedly receiving a four-year, $142 million max contract. But that’s far from the biggest number to come out of L.A. recently. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the 2028 Olympic Games should turn a record $1 billion profit. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said as much at the Los Angeles Sports Summit. Further, “the profit from the 1984 Olympics funded LA84, a foundation that has used those surplus funds to supply grants to more than 3,000 youth sports organizations, providing programming for almost 4 million children.” Garcetti added that a billion-dollar surplus from the 2028 Games in L.A. “could provide a perpetual legacy for youth sports in the city.” In related news, about a year out from the Tokyo Games, the predicted cost of staging LA 2028 has risen to $6.9 billion, according to an updated budget report. The IOC is expected to contribute a $1.5 billion share of its international revenues, and L.A. organizers have said they can cover all remaining expenses through domestic sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandising, and other channels. 
  10. The Brooklyn Nets are projecting year-on-year revenue growth for 2019-2020 between 10%-15% as a result of signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, according to the New York Post. Despite Durant almost certain to miss the entire season with an Achilles injury, the Barclays Center-based franchise is reportedly set to generate additional income that could be as much as $43.5 million through increased ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and merchandise. The arrival of Durant and Irving also makes the Nets an increasingly attractive proposition for current minority owner Joe Tsai, the Alibaba co-founder, to complete his takeover. Under the terms of the arrangement that saw the Chinese businessman take a 49% stake in the team last year, Tsai has an option from January 2021 to buy out majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s remaining 51% stake in a deal that would value the Nets at $2.35 billion. On the court and off it, things look rosy for the Nets currently with further commercial opportunities presenting themselves. Tsai has previously confirmed that he would be interested in buying a significant share in the Barclays Center, which is also owned by Prokhorov.
  11. The New Orleans Pelicans have sold more than 10,000 season tickets since winning the right to draft Zion Williamson. In May, the Pelicans secured the rights to the 2019 NBA draft first pick, with Williamson the consensus number one choice after a stellar NCAA basketball season with Duke. Such is the level of expectation around the 18-year-old, the NBA franchise sold more than 2,500 season tickets within hours of securing the number one pick. Three weeks later, they have crossed the 10,000 mark, and Pelicans president Dennis Lauscha said he hoped around 14,000 would be sold by the NBA Summer League season opener July 5. The numbers look highly encouraging ahead of the Pelicans 2019-2020 season, despite losing All-Star Anthony Davis in a trade to the Lakers. Last season, the Pelicans finished 25th out of the NBA’s 30 NBA franchises in attendance. The franchise’s Smoothie King Center home saw an average attendance of 16,004, a lowly 20th in the league. The Pelicans are hoping that Williamson will improve their fortunes on the court. Last season, the team lost 49 games and finished 13th in the Western Conference. 
  12. Major League Soccer will host a new MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by Target at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports on July 30. The first-time event takes place during the MLS All-Star break, allowing fans to watch on MLSsoccer.com and the MLS App and streamed live in English, Spanish, and French across the digital platforms of all five MLS domestic media partners – ESPN, FOX, and Univision in the U.S., TSN and TVA Sports in Canada – as well as in more than 170 countries around the world through MLS’ international media partners. Points in each of the competitive skills will be earned based on accuracy, as well as style and include: touch and volley; shooting; and passing. The 2019 MLS All-Star Game Presented by Target will take place in Orlando on Wednesday, July 31 at Orlando City Stadium, which holds close to 26,000 fans. The festivities join the city’s rich tradition of hosting mega events, including two annual college football bowl games, PGA Tour tourneys, and the annual Pop Warner Super Bowl and cheer national championships.
  13. Bayern Munich is suing BMW after sponsorship negotiations between the two parties broke down earlier this year.  German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports that the Bundesliga champions are seeking damages of $11.2 million-$22.5 million over an alleged “breach of trust” committed by the German automaker. Bayern president Uli Hoeness revealed last spring that the club had signed a memorandum of understanding with BMW to enter into a ten-year, $893 million strategic partnership by 2025. The deal would have ended Bayern’s longstanding partnership with Audi and seen BMW take on its domestic rival’s 8.33% stake in the club. However, it came out in May that Bayern was set to continue its Audi partnership after BMW pulled out of a deal. Bayern’s new deal with Audi has not been officially confirmed. However, FAZ claimed that BMW had offered the club improved terms of $67 million per year, with other elements of a proposed new contract ensuring that Bayern would stand to make more than $1.1 billion over 12 years.
  14. The Minnesota Vikings’ training camp at their Eagan practice facility will be “open to fans for 16 full-squad practices, which is one more than the team had on its schedule” in 2018. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the open practices keep the Vikings’ training camp “among the league’s most accessible, at a time when many teams are cutting back on their number of open training camp practices.” The Vikings will also “limit training camp autograph sessions to kids under 18, in an effort to ensure children get a better chance at meeting their favorite players.” Another new feature is the “Helmet Hike,” where a “group of children will get the chance to carry player’ helmets from the locker room to the practice field and pose for a photo with a player.” Like they did last year, the Vikings will “make 4,000 general admission seats available for training camp each day, selling 1,000 reserved seats to each practice.” The reserved seats will be “available for $15 this year on some days where the Vikings anticipate lower demand.” General admission seats are free, but fans “must reserve tickets on the Vikings’ website.” The NFL training camp countdown is on.
  15. Elsewhere in NFL Campland…The Chicago Sun-Times notes the Bears’ 18th season holding training camp in Bourbonnais will "feature eight training-camp dates open to the public.” Meanwhile, after taking last year off because of the team’s participation in the Pro Football HOF Game, the Bears will “return to Soldier Field for Family Fest” on August 3. In Green Bay, the Packers “will hold 16 public practices during training camp this year,” including two with the Texans,” and again will “offer the fan-interactive Packers Experience during the first three days of training camp.” Packers Experience “includes free special activities, live entertainment, alumni Q&As and football activities.” Down South, the Falcons are "set to have only eight open practices for training camp, the lowest total of teams in the NFC South, excluding the Saints, who will announce their training camp schedule in July,” according to the Journal-Constitution. The Panthers will have 14 free and open practices for their fans, while the Buccaneers will have 11.  We’ll have much more on NFL camps and the preseason in the weeks to come.

Top Five Tech

  1. FuboTV launches a free streaming sports network. Although the company has an internet counterpart that runs off customer payments, the company is now soft-launching the Fubo Sports Network: a live, free-to-consumer TV network for U.S. sports fans offering event coverage, news, and exclusive programming. According to Variety, the content will mostly be recycled, although there may be occasional live streaming coverage for niche sports. Initially, Fubo Sports Network will be available on Xumo, a free, ad-supported service available via smart TVs, mobile, web, and streaming set-top boxes. The network also will be available on FuboTV’s base subscription package, and CEO David Gandler hopes to expand distribution with additional partners to reach up to 50 million homes by August. Original studio shows are slated to debut later this summer, along with sports-themed movies, a weekly sports talk show, a strip of original video podcasts, and content from partners including simulcasts of their produced shows and sports highlights. The goal for Gandler is to create at 24/7 immersive sport experience and to raise enough brand awareness to drive in subscriptions to its live sports streaming service.
  2. Universal Tennis releases an app to makes tennis more available to the masses. According to PR Newswire, the UTR app helps to connect the tennis community as it helps to rank the skill level of players across the globe. At the core of the Universal Tennis platform is the Universal Tennis Rating, the global gold standard for measuring tennis skill across age, gender, and geography. UTR and the Universal Tennis platform have been adopted by players, coaches, organizers, academies, clubs, and colleges worldwide to facilitate more connectivity and better competition across the tennis landscape. The new UTR app is free for all tennis players of any age and skill level. In the United States, all USTA and college players already have a rating and profile on UTR, and any player can create their own profile. To celebrate the app’s launch, Universal Tennis will raffle tennis gear for those who post scores, whether professional or amateur. 
  3. Marvel joins the esports world thanks to superheroes. According to Forbes, Team Liquid has announced a new partnership with Marvel that will see its players wear Avengers-inspired jerseys at certain special events. The year-long contract includes inspired jerseys from Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers Endgame, and a collaborative T-shirt between the two parties. The first look at the new gear was in the team’s Captain America jerseys at the EU vs NA Rift Rivals League of Legends competition taking place in Los Angeles last weekend. As Avengers Endgame nearly overtook Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time, Marvel is now expanding its influence into the world of gaming and further building its empire while Team Liquid will garner a new slew of fans.
  4. Minnesota Vikings owners invest in esports through the Call of Duty franchise. According to SportsPro, Vikings owners Mark and Zigi Wilf are buying into one of two franchises set to join Activision Blizzard’s new Call of Duty esports league. Wilf Innovative Sports & Entertainment Ventures has confirmed it will enter a Minnesota team into next year’s city-based competition. In addition, Activision confirmed that a team in Los Angeles will also be launched by OpTic Gaming. OpTic Gaming and WISE Ventures join five other cities in planning to host a new CoD franchise, with Atlanta, Toronto, New York, Paris, and Dallas already confirmed. Slots for the new venture are being sold for $25 million apiece, according to ESPN. This move by WISE Ventures shows how traditional sports owners are rapidly following the digital trend into the esports world which now includes all of the traditional elements of a full-fledged sports league.
  5. FIFA is ready to move into the world of gaming. According to SportsPro, EA Sports’ officially-licensed FIFA series has a thriving online community and a strong governing body to deliver a credible route into esports. EA Sports’ officially-licensed FIFA series began in 1993 and has become among the most successful franchises of any kind. It has sold over 280 million copies to date across every major format. Now, over a million players have been known to be competing online simultaneously at peak times with the FIFA Ultimate Team mode at the center of that online experience. By 2017, the game was making $800 million a year, and between unit sales and in-game purchases, FIFA 18 made EA $3 billion worldwide in its first year of release. Although most esports leagues focus on online battle arena games and first-person shooters, FIFA is now consolidating its esports strategy around a concept they are calling eFootball. After the first ever FIFA eNations Cup in April, look for a FIFA esports league to be formally introduced soon.

Power of Sports Five

  1. The MLB All Star Game auctions off Louisville Slugger and Fender guitars for charity. This year’s All-Star game is taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, and will pay tribute to the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. According to Yahoo! Finance, the location of the All-Star Week makes for an ideal partnership between two manufacturers that are world leaders in their respective areas: Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Fender musical instruments. To celebrate the rock n’ roll history of the city, MLB partnered with the two companies to create a public exhibit featuring 31 pairs of artist-painted Fender Stratocasters and Louisville Slugger baseball bats, one for each MLB team and one for the Baseball Hall of Fame. These bats and guitars will be displayed through July 9 at Cleveland Public Square’s Midsummer Village and will later be auctioned off for charity, with funds raised by MLB Charities to be used for instrument purchases and music program learning resources.
  2. USWNT made a charity bet versus Piers Morgan on their win against England. According to Sports Illustrated, days before the USWNT and England faced off in the World Cup semifinals, the English broadcaster began to trash talk the USWNT and Megan Rapinoe. Morgan mentioned his dislike of the vulgar statements that Rapinoe had made against traveling to the White House. During the match between the USA and England, things got heated and Morgan decided to make a $1,000 bet for charity against American journalist Charlotte Clymer. After the English Lionesses fell short after missing a late penalty kick, Morgan followed through on his promise to deliver the cash for a charity of Clymer’s choice. The organization receiving the overseas funds is “Raices Texas,” an organization that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. The USWNT also more opportunities to raise money for charity as they won the World Cup Finals against the Netherlands.
  3. The American Cancer Society and Skillz esports are launching a year-long partnership. Their efforts will come together to feature a series of charity esports tournaments to support the fight against cancer. According to VentureBeat, Skillz has proven to be a strong platform for philanthropic fundraising, activating nearly 27,000 new nonprofit donors in just 10 one-day charity esports tournaments. Because Skillz is a mobile based platform, gamers worldwide can compete in games powered by the Skillz platform and donate proceeds to ACS. The first tournament ran June 29-30 and more will happen in the near future. Additionally, Scotland’s Outplay Entertainment, the United Kingdom-based developer of Bubble Shooter League on iOS, will cross-promote content to support the initiative. The great part is that anyone can get in on the gaming and charity action: interested players can download Skillz-enabled games like Solitaire Cube, Strike Bowling, Bubble Shooter League, and Bubble Shooter Tournaments.
  4. Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs passed away and left a legacy of hard work and compassion. According to 247 Sports, the Angels drafted Skaggs in 2009, but the team traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. He made his Diamondbacks debut in August, 2012 before being traded back to the Angels in 2013. The left-hander started and appeared in 96 games during his MLB career. This season, Skaggs had 15 starts for the Angels, posting a 7-7 record and 78 strikeouts over 79 2/3 innings. Skaggs leaves behind his wife Carli, yet his philanthropic efforts will not be forgotten. He was a proponent of the “DoMore4: Good” program in Los Angeles, active in numerous Angels community events, including hospital visits, Moving Day, and the annual Kids Holiday Party. This news is especially difficult for the Angels, who a decade ago saw the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart; MLB has since been terrific in supporting his organization, friends, and family. Expect the Angels to organize a charitable effort in the near future to celebrate Skaggs’ life.
  5. The Toyota Supra is back, and its first new model has been delivered to owners, with $2.1 million delivered to charity. The first 2020 Toyota Supra was auctioned off in January at the 2019 Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale for an eye-boggling $2.1 million. According to Motor1, the specific Supra that went to auction has a couple of distinguishing features. The last five digits read 20201 – indicating the car’s model year and its status as the first production unit off the Supra’s assembly line in Austria. Given the immense pent-up demand for the storied sports car’s return, owning the very first Supra built since 2002 is a big deal for enthusiasts. And eagle-eyed followers of the new A90 will note the exterior shade of Phantom Matte Gray. This color is not among the Launch Edition choices, making it a true one-of-one vehicle. Special extras like a Toyota racing suit and a photo signed by Toyota President Akio Toyoda were also part of the auction package, and of course, all the cash went to charity.