18 Apr


With Jamie Swimmer

—Last Friday, the NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of jersey sponsorships, beginning with the 2017-18 season. The three-year pilot program will allow a sponsorship patch to appear on the front left of the game jerseys opposite the Nike logo with patches will measure approximately 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches and be adjusted to fit the dimensions of each sponsor’s logo. The NBA’s 30 teams will be responsible for selling their own jersey sponsorships. “Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “We’re always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace, and we are excited to see the results of this three-year trial.” Elsewhere as the NBA Playoffs unfold, the league premiered a PSA featuring President Obama and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry designed to highlight the importance of mentoring, and challenging Americans to positively impact the life of a young person in their community.

—CBS and Turner Sports have reached an agreement with the NCAA to tack on an extra eight years to their joint deal, extending it through the 2032 men’s basketball tournament. Each additional year is expected to be valued at $1.1 billion in rights fees, a big leap from the $771.4 million per year under the original structure. Turner and CBS are currently signed onto a 14-year deal with the NCAA that gives them rights to March Madness’s TV, digital and marketing/sponsorship for the duration of the tournament. The two networks will maintain the same shared financial and programming structure as they have had for the first six years of the deal. Turner President David Levy spoke about his excitement regarding the newly reached agreement, “The NCAA tournament has exceeded all of our expectations on every metric.”

—Bryson DeChambeau, who finished tied for 4th in his pro debut on the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina, announced that he signed deals with two new sponsors. Cobra-Puma will outfit and provide clubs to DeChambeau – who became only the fifth golfer in history to win both the NCAA Division I championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year – while Bridgestone Golf will be his ball of choice going forward, according to Golfweek. DeChambeau joins two of the game’s most popular young stars at Puma – Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson – and the company firmly believes that DeChambeau’s signature Hogan-like cap will be the next “big thing” in golf. While terms of the deal have not yet been announced, Cobra-Puma Golf President Bob Philion cited the company’s desire to find the “coolest cats on the planet” – apparently DeChambeau fits right into that category.

—Arizona State University and the W.P. Cary School of Business welcomed a full audience and impressive list of guest speakers at the 2016 ASU Sports Symposium on April 8th. Hosted by Rick Horrow of Horrow Sports Ventures, the day’s main theme was the integration of law, business, and journalism that embodies the sports industry. Panelists included the VP of Digital & Brand Strategy for the Phoenix Suns, the Director of AZCentral Sports, the VP and General Sales Manager of Fox Sports Arizona, the head of a fantasy sports company, and an Arizona senator with a vested interest in the sports industry. Sun Devils Athletics Director Ray Anderson served as keynote speaker for the day, and he delivered an eloquent speech on his vision for the future of sports as both an academic study and a professional practice at the university, “A community center for all, a laboratory for growth and progress, a galvanizing force for the entire region: sports are everything we want them to be,” said Anderson.

—The NFL has released its new schedule for the upcoming season, with a lineup that will see both the Giants and Cowboys slated for the most primetime games, each with six. Fox Sports, home of Super Bowl LI, launches its 23rd season and a schedule of 102 games. The network’s traditional Thanksgiving Day game will pit the Redskins/Cowboys, Meanwhile, NBC comes out with two primetime packages this season with both Sunday Night Football and its new Thursday Night Football lineup for an overall tally of 24 regular season games. The action begins on September 8 with a Super Bowl 50 rematch between the Panthers/Broncos followed by the “Sunday Night Football” opener on September 11 pitting the Patriots/Cardinals. Overall, the lineup will see four NBC games each for Seahawks and Cowboys with three games apiece for Broncos, Patriots, Panthers, Packers, Steelers, Giants, and Chiefs. Other highlights will include a trip to Minnesota’s new U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept 18 with Packers/Vikings.

—Wrigley Field may not be known to be the most glamorous or renovated ballpark in the MLB, but the Cubs’ new clubhouse “leaves the impression you are standing in a stylish European nightclub rather than a 102-year-old ballpark,” according to the Chicago Tribune. As it stands now, the New York Yankees are the only team with a bigger clubhouse. To go along with the clubhouse’s expansion, the strength and conditioning center has been upgraded, a gourmet dining area, barber shop, quiet room with three beds, players’ lounge, steam/sauna room, and a special area specifically for postgame dance parties have all been added. A video of the upgraded area the team posted on Facebook blew up across the Internet, and Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said, “I’ve seen a lot of clubhouses. This is, by far, the nicest one I’ve seen.”

—A hockey personnel search is underway in Arizona, where Coyotes GM Don Maloney was recently fired by the franchise, according to the Arizona Republic. The team said that while they will not name an interim GM for now, the search for a replacement is being led by Coyotes Majority Owner & Chair Andrew Barroway, investor Gary Drummond, and President, CEO & Co-Owner Anthony LeBlanc. Maloney became the club’s seventh GM when he was hired in 2007, and had two years remaining on his contract when he was fired. Many believe the shift in ownership dynamics likely led to Maloney’s dismissal. A new ownership group took control in 2013 after the team went bankrupt in 2009, at which point the Coyotes were managed by the NHL for four ensuing seasons. The three executives involved in the current search for a new GM anticipate the position being filled in “no more than six weeks.”

—Following up its partial 4K coverage of The Masters, AT&T proceeded to offer 25 MLB games in 4K this season, starting with the Giants-Dodgers game on April 15, according to Multichannel News. The Giants-Dodger game marked the first live 4K telecast of a MLB game in the U.S. This pixel-packed format delivers TV action with more than eight million total pixels – four times the number of standard HD, delivering unparalleled clarity. Other teams that will be featured on 4K this month are the Yankees and Red Sox, then the Cubs and Cardinals twice each. The Giants-Dodgers matchup was the start of a string of “MLB Showcase Games,” with the later games coming on the heels of DirecTV’s launch of three 4K specific channels. The channels went live on April 7 to qualified subscribers. In this day and age, constant and fearless technology upgrades are key for sports content partners’ survival.

—As the Stanley Cup Playoffs settle it, in the battle to become Los Angeles’ favorite air carrier, Delta Air Lines is trying to win over Angelenos through a love of sports. The Atlanta-based carrier is the second most popular airline at LAX, behind American Airlines, according to the Los Angeles Times. Delta, the official airline of the Los Angeles Kings, is offering priority boarding to any fan that shows up at the gate wearing Kings gear at LAX. The offer lasts throughout the Kings’ NHL playoff run and includes all Kings gear, including hats and jerseys. During the TV broadcast of NBA star Kobe Bryant’s last game with the Lakers, Delta aired its first L.A.-specific television commercial, narrated by actor Donald Sutherland. The company also recently announced a new 6-year agreement with AEG to solidify its status as the official airline and exclusive charter partner of the Kings, the official airline of Staples Center, and an official partner of The Grammy Museum at LA Live.

—Golf’s triumphant return to the Olympic stage this summer in Rio de Janeiro will be missing one of the sport’s more recognizable names: Vijay Singh. The Fiji native officially informed his country that he will not represent them in the upcoming games, according to Golfchannel.com. Singh said, “The timing of it, you know I have to focus over here (on the PGA Tour). I would like to play the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know and all that crap.” The IOC has limited the field this summer to 60 players, with the top-15 in the world rankings automatically qualifying, with a limit of four players per given country. Beyond the top-15, players will be eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15. Despite this, it is largely speculated that not every player that qualifies for the Olympics will elect to compete for a medal.

—After massively successful stints playing host in 2008, 2009, and 2012, the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championships will be moving back into Gillette Stadium for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, according to the Boston Globe. Harvard University will be the official collegiate host for both of these years. In 2012, the final at Gillette Stadium set the Division I record for national championship attendance with 48,970 tickets sold – an incredible feat for such a niche sport. Baltimore and MT&T Bank Stadium, which has served as the championship site six times, was not in the running for these two years due to scheduling conflicts with the Baltimore Orioles. Across the lacrosse community, many have called for change for national championship weekend. During the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Convention, coaches were “more open than in the past to moving the game later into the summer or returning back to college campuses” – though neither was an option for 2017 and 2018, as the bid process opened before the convention.

—In the past eight months, Manchester United – arguably the world’s most recognizable soccer team – has seen its market value drop by an astounding $568 million, according to Yahoo Sports. Sky Sports recently noted that the price of individual shares on the stock exchange was $13.83, 24 hours after the team’s disappointing result against Tottenham last week. When ManU faced Spurs on the opening day of the season, the price had been around 25% higher at $18.37. This stock value represents an all-time low for the Red Devils, with the club having initially been floated on the market at $14 per share in 2012. What this means: in less than three quarters of a year, a franchise that was valued at $2.84 billion now stands at $2.25 billion, a significant drop off for one of the only publicly-traded sports franchises in the world.

—Despite underwhelming sales when first released in the market to consumers, Stephen Curry’s Under Armour shoes have seen exponential popularity growth these past six months on the heels on the Warriors epic, record-breaking 73-win season. According to Slice Intelligence data cited by the Baltimore Sun, the Curry One and Two have been 170% more popular during the past six months compared to the previous half-year period. But despite Under Armour’s rapid expansion into the global sportswear market, Curry’s shoes only comprise a little more than 4% of the NBA player shoe market. The top three are the Nike Air Jordan, with 72% of sales, Nike Kobe, with a nearly 14% share, and Nike LeBron, with the other 10% of the market. Curry’s signature shoes may have gained a little traction, but they are still miles behind Nike and Jordan. With the Warriors’ Playoff surge, and Curry poised to become the league’s MVP for the second year in a row, expect to see Curry’s shoes continue to grow in popularity.

—With Brazilian politics “engulfed in crisis” and many worried about the Zika virus, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has been “keen to stress the positives” of the upcoming Olympic Games, according to the Financial Times. The mayor points to the 1.2 million square meter Barra Olympic Park complex being nearly completed, hoping to draw a stark contrast between what is actually happening on the ground and the sense of crisis and allegations of corruption that have been swirling South America’s first Olympics. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment in advance of the opening ceremony, and if she is actually kicked out of office, even more political unrest could stir up the Brazilian population. Amid such problems, Paes, who at 46 has already spent half his life in politics, has "stepped in to fill the vacuum to become the public face of Rio 2016.”

—A new Internet of Things-inspired rugby sensor system developed in Scotland is set to transform player analysis and recuperation. Professional rugby players could soon be fitted with wearable Internet of Things devices, which monitor how they tackle with their bodies, improve training drills, and inform post-injury rehabilitation programs, thanks to a Scottish start-up company. Sansible Wearables – founded by Jack Ng, 36, and Charlie Patterson, 26 – have created “LiveSkin” intelligent sensors, which are fitted within players’ shoulder pads to capture data from collisions on the playing field. The data can then be wirelessly transferred in real time to a specially designed app that sport coaches, physiotherapists, and doctors can use to monitor the force exerted by the athletes in a tackle or a scrummage, as well as examine how their bodies recover from injury. This is yet another example of how technology is changing sports.