MLB’s New Rule Changes
As pitchers and catchers report for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, they’ll have several new rules to learn and become accustomed to for the upcoming season. In an effort to speed up the length of games, MLB announced several pace-of-play rule changes for the 2015 season. The rules include mandating that managers stay in the dugout during replay challenges, that hitters keep at least one foot in the batter’s box during at-bats, a prompt return to play after TV commercial breaks, and timed pitching changes. While the new rules begin in spring training, the warnings and fines will not be imposed until May.
The league, which announced the new rules along with the Players Association, established a pace-of-game committee last year to come up with recommendations for speeding up games. In 2014, the average game was a record 3 hours and 2 minutes, up from 2 hours, 33 minutes in 1981.
The personal care/wearable tech space is full of small brands trying to gain an edge over the competition with the latest gadget and gizmo, many eerily similar but all saying they are the smartest, the best, the most engaged. How can one brand set itself apart from the field. Putting money where the noise is certainly helps.
That’s what happened on Monday when MISSION Athletecare, brand founded by former “Apprentice” contestant Josh Shaw, announced a $35 million raise designed to push the company and its lineup of products that help athletes get a better grip, stay protected from the sun and most uniquely, cool down, to a new level of consumer growth. MISSION, along with a treasure trove of athletes who don’t just endorse, they help build the product and then bring it to market. It’s nice saying that a top tennis star likes candy or an energy drink, but when you can have Serena Williams take a cooling towel, your branded cooling towel, out of her bag during her run to the Australian Open title and put it on her shoulders in front of millions of people watching on TV around the world, then you have marketing gold.
Now MISSION is no overnight sensation; the brand has been built steadily by Shaw and a growing team of senior marketers, salespeople, doctors and entrepreneurs for several years (they just added Hap Klopp, founder of The North face to their board as well). They have been making and selling skin care products, and most impressively, grip products (no more powder, LeBron!) for basketball, baseball, soccer and other sports for several years, and have become the dominant force in what is an essential niche space. The likes of Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade have tested, endorsed and used MISSION grip products during games, and are now actively involved in the growth of the company. The Mets David Wright is another active participant as he sought a cleaner and more efficient replacement for the age-old tradition of pine tar for a better grip. “He’s been highly engaged from the onset, and as we move deeper into Cooling with EnduraCool, he’s playing an even great role in the expansion of the business,” Shaw said via email this week.
It is in the cooling category that Shaw and his team see a huge upside. “Industry estimates state that the Cooling Accessories category will surpass $1B in the US in the next 12 – 24 months, and MISSION is the market leader in both Cooling Performance and Cooling Comfort with EnduraCool,” Shaw added. The towels, which MISSION launched to consumers three and a half years ago, can stay a cool 58 degrees for two hours after being soaked in water, even if the water is hot to begin with. The subsequent cooling effect is produced by special fibers in the towels that slow the evaporation of the water, locking heat out of the towel. They were an essential part of Williams’ match strategy in the blistering heat of Melbourne, and are sure to be in place and in sight as the WTA goes outdoors for its spring events in California and Florida in the coming weeks. That brand expansion for a topic (excessive heat exposure) that is becoming more and more scrutinized by health officials for athletes of every age in sport is where the new funding will go, with an eye on both the US youth market (MISSION had a traveling product show that made over 100 stops at professional and youth events last year and will again this spring and summer) as well as a look more at a global outreach which the company has yet to embrace.
With so many brands looking to break through the clutter, it looks like Shaw has found a way by keeping the business simple to understand; identify a need, get some dollars, engage influencers and go from there. Who knew keeping cool could be so hot for sports business.
The El Paso Chihuahuas last week held a job fair to fill 125-150 part-time jobs for the upcoming baseball season. Jobs include box office cashiers, ushers, ticket takers, parking lot attendants, guest services, security, kids playground attendants, maintenance, cleaning crew, and grounds crew. Applicants needed to be able to work 72 home games as well as additional events at the team’s home stadium. The job fair is a way for the Chihuahuas to give back to the community that helped them build the $60 million Southwest University Park.
The Chihuahuas this season will hold a variety of unique promotions to entertain fans at the ballpark. The award-winning Bark at the Park promotion will take place three separate times during the year, once in April, July, and August. Additionally, the team will host a Salute to Selena Night, a Cancer Survivor’s Night, and a First Responder & Superhero Night. The Chihuahuas open their season on April 9 at home against the Tacoma Rainiers.
Lagardere Unlimited is one of the best sports agencies in the business, and it’s easy to see why. The company reaches into nearly every sport imaginable. Consider these facts from 2014 alone:
LU Golf supplied 25% of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, including five-time Major champion Phil Mickelson, 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, and 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth. LU Tennis represented four of the top ten WTA stars, including Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska. On the men’s side, they count Andy Murray as a client as well. LU Football represented five Pro Bowlers, including Patrick Peterson, Mark Ingram, and Maurkice Pouncey. Finally, LU Baseball negotiated two of the sport’s best contracts: a $40 million deal for All-Star J.J. Hardy and a $48 million deal for pitcher Brandon McCarthy.
It’ll be interesting to see what 2015 brings for the agency, but there’s no reason not to expect great things.
Bust: The Colorado Rapids are phasing out the Ciao Telecom logo from its jerseys after the company failed to pay for its five-year, $8.3 million sponsorship deal. The Rapids in October filed a lawsuit against Global Logistics Solutions, the North American distributor for Ciao Telecom, claiming the company had defaulted on its sponsorship payments.
Boom: MLS by June is expected to announce its newest expansion market, with Minneapolis a strong favorite to land a team. The team likely would play in the Minnesota Vikings’ under construction, $1 billion stadium, which is designed to seat 25,000 fans for soccer games.
Hope: FIFA is prepared to announce that the 2022 Qatar World Cup will be moved to winter of that year. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has previously admitted that the tournament cannot be played in the summer due to average temperatures in Qatar rising to nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
What it means: It was only a matter of time until FIFA moved the 2022 World Cup to winter. What remains to be seen is how much chaos it causes to the international soccer calendar. While clubs and leagues have plenty of time to plan accordingly, don’t be surprised if they push for the tournament to be taken away from Qatar altogether.
Bust: NASCAR suspended Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch on the eve of the Daytona 500 after a judge expressed concern that Busch had committed an act of domestic violence. Busch is the first driver to be suspended by NASCAR for a domestic violence offense.
Boom: Subway officially has followed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing, according to Adam Stern of SportsBusiness Journal. The QSR is scheduled to be primary sponsor of Edwards’ No. 19 Toyota Camry four times this season.
Hope: NASCAR is integrating its new loyalty reward program into a mobile app. The program will reward users with points based off actions such as sharing content on social media, engaging with brands, and checking in at tracks. In exchange, fans can get items such as merchandise, gift cards, and unique experiences.
What it means: Busch lost his appeal of the suspension, and his car sponsor, Chevrolet announced that they will cut all ties with the driver. This is Busch’s third career suspension.
Bust: The Auburn University athletics department posted a deficit of more than $13.6 million during its 2013-14 fiscal year. Auburn has reported an operating deficit in each of the last two years, but the 2014 deficit was significantly higher than the $866,000 loss Auburn booked two years ago.
Boom: Turner Sports officials expect a record-breaking year for digital ad sales revenue for March Madness. The network expects digital ads to sell out this week, as 19 brands have bought roughly 60% of all available spots through category-exclusive deal while various companies are buying up the rest.
Hope: Kansas State has decided to sell beer at its spring football game, which will be held at Sporting Park in Kansas City. While the school allows beer sales at home baseball games, it has no intention of carrying that over to football or men’s basketball games.
What it means: One reason for the massive deficit at Auburn was an increase in football expenses. The school paid its coaching staff roughly $2 million more than the previous year, and also saw an increase in its buyout of former coach Gene Chizik. The university also spent more on travel for its bowl game and on guarantees to opponents.
Bust: The city of San Jose is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court its antitrust lawsuit against MLB. The Oakland A’s have wanted to build a new ballpark in the city, which falls within the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights. San Jose leaders hope MLB would rather settle than risk losing its antitrust exemption.
Boom: The Arizona Diamondbacks and Fox Sports Arizona agreed to an extension of their media rights deal believed to be worth more than $1 billion. While specific terms of the deal were not disclosed, the deal will at least triple the annual value of the team’s previous agreement, reportedly worth $31 million annually.
Hope: Major League Baseball has implemented pace-of-play rule changes for the 2015 season in an effort to speed up the game. The rules include mandating that managers stay in the dugout during replay challenges, that hitters keep at least one foot in the batter’s box during at-bats, a prompt return to play after TV commercial breaks and timed pitching changes.
What it means: The league, which announced the changes with the Players Association, previously established a pace-of-game committee to come up with recommendations for speeding up games. In 2014, the average game was a record 3 hours, 2 minutes, up from 2:33 in 1981.
Bust: The NFL is suspending efforts to track potentially concussive hits using helmet and head sensors, according to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. NFL officials concluded that the compiled data was unreliable in determining when a hit should result in a player being taken out of a game.
Boom: The NFL has notified teams that it expects this year’s salary cap to be between $140-143 million, at least $1.5 million higher than projected. The 2014 salary cap was $133 million, up from $123 million the previous year and $120 million in 2012.
Hope: The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders will jointly pursue building a $1.7 billion stadium in Carson, California. Each team will continue seeking public money for a new stadium in their current home market, but the teams are developing a detailed proposal for a Los Angeles should they be unable to get deals done in San Diego and Oakland by the end of the year.
What it means: The NFL now has four Los Angeles stadium proposals on the table and three teams publicly exploring the market. A group of business and labor leaders called Carson2gether plans to immediately launch a petition drive for a ballot initiative to get voter approval for the stadium.