31 May


With Jamie Swimmer

—Music junkies have James Korden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” If you like comedy, there’s Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” For eavesdropping tennis fans, there’s “Road to Roland Garros.” A multi-year partnership between automaker Peugeot and French Open officials not only has Peugeot providing French Open courtesy cars, it’s made for some pretty good TV. This year, former French tennis star cum Peugeot driver Gustavo Kuerten has solicited backseat confessions from Kevin Anderson on his guitar prowess (he’s learning “Stairway to Heaven”) and quizzed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga about his ballet skills (not good). Kuerten has also revealed to Novak Djokovic the real secret to playing well on clay – it’s all in the hair. The two-minute vignettes are orchestrated and delivered by leading technology provider Globecast, a longtime Roland Garros partner, in cooperation with France TV. The clips are available globally via YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/ROADTOROLANDGARROS, or #ROADTORG. The Road to Roland Garros: Where Creativity Meets Mobile Technology.

—If a new bill working through Congress can get signed into law, golfers may soon be able to write off some of their golf expenses. One of the biggest knocks on golf is that it is simply too expensive. From the cost of equipment to greens fees, the game can put a serious dent in your wallet. The P-H-I-T or Fit Act, which stands for Personal Health Investment Today, is aimed at encouraging Americans to get off the couch and invest in physical fitness. The bill, according to Golf Digest, allows many golf-related purchases, including clubs, balls, greens and driving-range expenses, instruction, and tournament entry fees, would be tax deductible up to $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a head of household or family. Why is Congress looking to give golfers a tax break? The most recent Physical Activity Participation Report suggests 81 million Americans are considered “inactive.” And sedentary, out-of-shape Americans cost the health care system much more than fit taxpayers.

—In an unprecedented move, UnderArmour takes L.A. UCLA’s new 15-year, $280 million footwear and apparel deal with Under Armour marks the most lucrative deal in college sports history – surpassing the 15-year, $252 million one that Ohio State signed with Nike this past year. Under Armour is set to replace Adidas, which has held UCLA’s apparel and footwear rights since 1999, starting in summer 2017. Under Armour will also open two brand stores in Los Angeles, hoping to lift the university’s disappointment in the minimal Bruins product available at the Adidas store in Santa Monica. “This deal was about geography,” said UA Founder Kevin Plank. “It was important for us to plant our flag in L.A.” This marks yet another bold move for the Baltimore-based sportswear company; UA signed Cal away from Jordan Brand last month with a 10-year, $86 million agreement, and inked contracts with Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Northwestern in recent years – all of which had been represented by Adidas.

—Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, former NFLer Rodney Peete, and a group of investors are preparing a bid to help build the Raiders a new stadium in Oakland, according to the S.F. Chronicle. The investors have held multiple meetings with team executives and city officials over the past few weeks to discuss their proposal, but there was “no immediate indication of just how much money the group, backed by a hedge fund, is willing to put into the deal.“ While the group intends to develop the 120-acre Coliseum site, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf makes it clear that she wants to work directly with the Raiders when it comes to Coliseum plans. Sources close to the investment group said that members “would like a minority share” of the Raiders as well. If a new stadium deal is not reached by September, the door will be open for the Raiders to strike an agreement to relocate to Las Vegas.

—Longtime Turner Sports NBA reporter Craig Sager will receive the 2016 Jimmy V Perseverance Award, honoring his ongoing battle with leukemia. Despite fighting cancer for the past two years, Sager has refused to allow the disease to affect his fulfillment of job responsibilities – he has been sporting his signature, colorful suits on the sidelines of this year’s NBA Playoffs. The award is named after late North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano, who died from cancer soon after delivering one of sports’ iconic speeches; Sager noted that he met Valvano at the 1991 Pan Am Games, and referenced the speech, saying, “I have it on my cell phone, I can play it in the hospital when I am feeling down. ‘Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.’ That’s pretty much what I’ve tried to follow.” Sager’s award will be presented at this summer’s ESPY Awards.

—The NFL has announced that the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls will be played in Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles, respectively – shocking almost no one, considering the large checks being written to the league in each city. Longshot New Orleans came up short on its 2019 bid, but surprisingly pushed Atlanta all the way to a fourth ballot. Both Atlanta and Los Angeles will boast new stadiums when their turns come to host the big game, and by funding a major Sun Life Stadium renovation, Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "removed the last roadblock” that would have kept the game away from South Florida for more than a decade. According to the Miami Herald, the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami will also mark the Super Bowl’s 100th birthday; the city hopes to put on a massive “centennial celebration in South Florida,” with all premier Super Bowl-related events and venues based in Miami-Dade.

—The NFL is refuting a new report from Congressional investigators that at least a half-dozen top NFL officials “waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on football and brain disease,” according to ESPN.com. Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the report directly, denying that the NFL pressured the National Institute of Health to strip a $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher; the report shows that the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study. Atlanta Falcons Owner Arthur Blank said that owners spent a significant amount of time talking about player health and safety at recent league meetings – he followed that up by claiming the ESPN report was “one-sided and imbalanced.” Conversely, critics from the Boston Globe called this “a bad look for the league,” adding that the NFL “has to decide whether its priority is protecting its product or protecting its players.”

—The Buffalo Bills have come under scrutiny after unveiling restrictive new media policies for OTAs and mini-camp – neither of which are open to the public. According to the Buffalo News, the policy is “bizarre even by bizarre NFL standards.” Under the new rules, reporters are not allowed to comment on which players practice with the first or second team, and are prohibited on reporting “who is rushing the passer, dropped passes, interceptions,” and the quarterbacks’ completion percentages. Further, reporters are not allowed to reveal any conversations that took place between players, coaches, or team executives during practice. Bills Senior Vice President/Communications Scott Berchtold noted that these rules will not apply to training camp, which is open to the public. Coach Rex Ryan stayed neutral on the policy and the buzz around it by saying, “Our media policy isn’t something that I’m involved with.”

—GoPro and Red Bull are teaming up in a new exclusive global partnership to distribute content rights on events they produce together, according to Siliconbeat.com. Content from their action-packed events will be made available across both the GoPro Channel and Red Bull TV. The “most significant part of the deal is that Red Bull will receive ‘equity’ in GoPro and GoPro will be the exclusive provider of action-camera technology for Red Bull events and productions.” As part of the deal, GoPro signage and technology will be featured throughout Red Bull events, while Red Bull will get less than 1% equity in GoPro. The deal marks a break in GoPro’s marketing strategy of sponsoring individual athletes – about 140 athletes are currently on its payroll, all of whom receive a GoPro camera and are asked to “record all of the crazy things they get themselves into and send back a hard drive full of content once in a while.”

—Nike has reportedly offered the German FA (DFB) as much as $78 million annually to become its official kit supplier. The federation has partnered with German-based sportswear supplier Adidas for 60 years, which has prompted those close to the deal to call it an “immoral offer.” DFB is currently paid only $28 million per year by Adidas – a $50 million raise would mark a 278% spike in annual kit-related income. Apart from offering a massive sum of money, Nike “wants to make the DFB a priority” over its other kit deals with elite national teams and clubs, such Brazil and Barcelona. Adidas “has so far been unable to match Nike’s offer,” but the current kit supplier has a clause in its contract with DFB that allows it to match any other offer. Nike’s offer is expected to have a duration of between four and six years. Stay tuned for Adidas’ next move on and off the German pitch.

—In year two of the company’s four-year partnership as MLB’s exclusive auto insurance sponsor, Esurance is bringing back San Francisco Giants Catcher Buster Posey for its creative campaign. New advertisements featuring Posey will be played across MLB Network and other sports channels, and will feature Posey offering a comedic take on the choices he has to make in order to save money. In “New Digs,” Posey is shown doing his laundry in the clubhouse, while in “Chicken Strips,” the 2012 NL MVP is loading up his Giants hat with food to cut back on expenses. The auto insurer is also rolling out a new video series, titled “What Would Buster Do?” on its social channels throughout the MLB season. Esurance Director of Brand Partnerships and Social Engagement Chris Lee noted that the company feels better able to “capitalize and improve upon key learnings” after their first year partnering with MLB.

—Turner Sports and WME-IMG’s new e-sports joint-venture, ELeague, made its debut with videos streamed via Twitch, according to the New York Times. “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” a first-person shooter game, had viewership that “fluctuated between 50,000-100,000,” but totaled more than one million viewers by the end of the stream. While announcers in suits and headsets sat behind a desk and commented on the action, the majority of the programming showed an individual player’s point of view. Comments and feedback on the production ranged from “supportive to mocking,” but Turner Sports Chief Content Officer and Executive VP/Production Crain Barry said that he was “cautiously encouraged” by the event. “Everyone’s walking around here feeling comfortable that we have some positive feedback,” Barry said. Going forward, one of the biggest difficulties facing ELeague production will be presenting it in a way that makes it compelling for audiences who have never seen this type of “sport” before.

—After hitting a 13-year low of US$0.68 back in January, the weak Canadian dollar could cost the NHL up to $200 million in revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, according to Bloomberg. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman noted that last year’s revenues reached a league record of nearly $4 billion – thanks in part to the NHL’s Canadian broadcast and multimedia rights partnership with Rogers Communications. Despite the weak Canadian dollar, Bettman remains optimistic about this year’s revenue marker. Appearing on Bloomberg TV, the commissioner said, “I do believe there will be a revenue increase over 2015, and we continue to grow year after year and set new records, both in terms of revenues and attendance and the number of people touching our game in media.” The Canadian loonie has rebounded a bit, and is now back up to US$0.76. What may be costing the NHL more than the exchange rate? The dearth of any Canadian teams in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

—Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke has been hired as a consultant by the Oakland Raiders, Majestic Realty, and Las Vegas Sands Corp. to help move the NFL franchise to Las Vegas. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Leiweke’s connections could ultimately help the city “gain favor in the NFL’s front office” for the proposed $1.4 billion, 65,000-seat stadium and relocation; Leiweke’s brother Todd was named NFL COO last year. But the consultant followed up by saying, “It’s not just one relationship, and not just a blood relationship. I have a very good relationship with [NFL Executive VP/Business Ventures] Eric [Grubman], with Roger [Goodell] and with a lot of the owners. The NFL is more aligned with this than you would think.” If approved, Leiweke envisions the new Las Vegas stadium hosting 50 or 60 events per year, including two preseason and eight regular-season Raiders games, plus UNLV football games.

—Longtime White Sox player, baseball Hall of Famer, and concerned citizen Frank Thomas traveled to Springfield, Illinois, to meet with lawmakers concerning Illinois’ policies around Daily Fantasy Sports, according to Chicagobusiness.com. Thomas advocated for House Bill 3655, which would regulate and tax daily fantasy games such as those offered by companies like FanDuel and DraftKings. NHL Hall of Famer Chris Chelios followed Thomas, as an “army of lobbyists push for enough votes to pass the measure in the days ahead after the Senate approved it last week.” Meanwhile, the New York Senate and Assembly both crafted legislation that would allow DFS “to resume operations” under the eye of the state Game Commission, according to the N.Y. Daily News. While this would be good news for DFS companies, the legislation would require operators to “pay licensing fees to the state,” and an annual tax equal to 15% of their gross revenues after prizes would be put in place.

23 May


With Jamie Swimmer

—At last year’s French Open, a teenager managed to outwit security and get on court to snap a picture with Roger Federer after his debut victory on center court Phillippe Chartrier. That feat will be impossible this year at Roland Garros, for two key reasons. One, the Swiss superstar and 2009 champion has pulled out of the tournament, citing unspecified injuries, and thus depriving the French Open and global TV partners of one of its biggest draws. Two, new tournament director Guy Forget has announced that the French Open has dramatically strengthened security, especially in light of the Paris terrorist attacks last November. “Security is at the heart of our priorities,” Forge said at a Tuesday press conference. “There will be double forces for security around Roland Garros,” and access points will be limited to three, all equipped with walkthrough metal detectors. The tournament, is also increasing its prize money, with €32 million representing a 14% increase from 2015.

—Jack has Memorial, Arnie has Bay Hill, Tiger has the World Challenge, and now Phil has the CareerBuilder Challenge. The PGA Tour has announced that Phil Mickelson will replace former president Bill Clinton as the face of the La Quinta event. In this capacity, Mickelson will promote the tournament and participate in various functions during tournament week. The CareerBuilder Challenge traditionally is the PGA Tour’s first stop on the California Swing following two weeks in Hawaii to start the calendar year. “I’m very excited to undertake the role of tournament ambassador and look forward to doing what I can to help with the continued growth of the CareerBuilder Challenge,” Mickelson said. The Clinton Foundation, which has partnered with the tournament for the last five years, will end its official role. However, the Foundation and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative remain committed to continuing their work in the Coachella Valley to improve the health and wellness of the nearly 400,000 local residents.

—Days after EPL side Chelsea announced the premature end to their kit deal with Adidas, the club has agreed to a multiyear jersey deal with longtime rival Nike, according to the London Telegraph. The deal with Nike is worth $87 million per season, almost double Chelsea’s current $44 million per season deal with Adidas. Despite failing to qualify for the Champions League after a disappointing 2016 campaign, Chelsea has landed the second-highest kit deal in soccer history – trailing only Manchester United and the $109 million it gets from Adidas annually. Chelsea’s Nike contract is "twice what Arsenal are paid by Puma and is more than three times what Manchester City earn from Nike, although City’s deal is due to expire” in 2019 and could soon be renegotiated. Since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, the elite English side has won four EPL titles and a Champions League crown, which has helped expand its fan base around the world.

—Big things are happening in Philadelphia: To go along with receiving the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers have also signed the NBA’s first jersey patch advertising deal. StubHub has signed a three-year agreement with the franchise that will pay the team $5 million annually as part of a three-year NBA pilot program to allow teams to sell a 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch ad patch on game jerseys. The 76ers patch will first appear at the start of the 2017-2018 season, when Nike is set to replace Adidas as the league’s official uniform provider. Commissioner Adam Silver has received backlash since the 76ers made this announcement, with some analysts expressing concern about what this may lead to. The L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke wrote, “This is all leading to something bad. (The 76ers) got $5 million for it – can you imagine how much the Lakers will get for it? In a couple of years, it will be advertisements everywhere.”

—The 2019, 2020, and 2021 Super Bowl bids will be decided at the NFL’s one-day May meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday. On paper, New Orleans looks like the best option: the city boasts a “fan-friendly downtown footprint, world-class nightlife, an extensive hotel room inventory, and an experienced staff of big event planners.” But according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Miami are “considered the prohibitive favorites to win the bids.” The three favored cities all have one thing in common over New Orleans: stadium improvements. In Los Angeles and Atlanta, both cities would feature brand new, state-of-the-art facilities, while Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross has invested $400 in renovating their stadium. The theme of New Orleans’ pitch is “The Big Easy Super Bowl” and is meant to shed light on the city’s history of successfully hosting major sporting events. But it just may not be enough to win over the NFL owners, who are always on the lookout for the new, new thing.

—The Atlanta Falcons recently unveiled a plan to “sharply reduce prices on some popular food and beverage items for the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The unusual move was prompted by fans’ long-time complaints about high-priced stadium food. The “fan-first menu” features an onslaught of $2 items: soft drinks with unlimited free refills, water bottles, hot dogs, pretzels, and popcorn; a slice of pizza, nachos, waffle fries, and bags of peanuts are set to cost $3, while a 12-ounce domestic beer will only set you back $5. AMB Sports & Entertainment President Rich McKay said that the prices “will be in effect for Falcons games, Atlanta United soccer games and all other events in the new downtown stadium.” Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials hope this move will spur more demand for concessions, and that is why the new stadium will have 670 concession points – 65% more than the Falcons had to work with in the Georgia Dome.

—Global marketing technology company Amobee recently examined which NBA franchises generate the most digital engagement – and the results are hardly surprising. After measuring what people see, read, and engage with on over 600,000 sites on mobile, social, web, and video platforms, the Golden State Warriors came out on top, with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat rounding out the top five. Over the last year, the best team in the East – the Cavs – generated only 76% as much digital content engagement as the West’s best team – the Warriors. Despite the Lakers’ on-court, woes, the Kobe Farewell Tour helped generate 63% as much engagement as the league leaders, while basketball-crazy Chicago helped the Bulls generate 56% as much engagement as the Warriors. In terms of franchise values, the landscape is a bit different. The Warriors are only the 6th most valuable NBA franchise at $1.9 billion, and the Cavaliers are 12th at $1.1 billion. While on-court performance clearly drives media engagement, franchise values are rarely influenced by short-term success.

—Dedicated to the crossway of sports, race and culture, ESPN officially unveiled its new website, The Undefeated. Site Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida shared the site’s mission statement, stating that the staff will be “brave, adventurous and independent, refusing to be crushed by setbacks that inevitably will happen along the way.” Challenging subjects, such as the image and depiction of black athletes, black ownership in professional sports and the scrutiny of black coaches, will be addressed head-on. The site’s launch date was chosen to coincide with the 62nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark “Brown v. Board of Education” decision, which declared separate schools for black and white students unconstitutional. Along with traditional news reporting, The Undefeated is set to “produce a rich mix of…innovative storytelling, provocative commentary, must-see video, narratives and investigations” in an unapologetic and unpredictable way.

—Several former college football players have officially filed class-action lawsuits, “claiming negligence over their handling of head injuries,” according to the New York Times. Among institutions targeted by the players are Penn State University, Vanderbilt University, the Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12; Auburn University, University of Georgia, University of Oregon, and University of Utah are also targeted, but only their respective conferences have been named defendants. This “marks a new effort by athletes seeking financial relief for what they say are the lasting effects from concussions sustained in their college careers.” Student athletes filing the lawsuits played during the decades in which the NCAA did not require its members to undergo concussion protocols – that was changed in 2010. A Temple University law professor close to the issue said that he was “skeptical of the litigation’s moving forward because proving negligence against the NFL was easier than it may prove to be against colleges.”

—The Chicago Cubs’ surprise decision to apply for a patio permit has not been taken well by Wrigleyville community leaders, who claim the Cubs are “ignoring legitimate public safety concerns” in an attempt to create the “Midwest’s largest beer garden.” According to the Chicago Sun-Times, local leaders wrote a letter to Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts accusing the organization of “pulling the plug on months of negotiations in favor of an end-run around area residents,” stating that “It is not the responsibility of the community to help the Cubs owners generate revenue. And we won’t be bullied into meeting the demands of the Cubs organization….” If the city ultimately approves the permit, the Cubs will build a liquor-licensed patio that is 30 times larger than Chicago’s biggest. Community leaders believe that the patio, which would be allowed to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, would threaten the neighborhood’s quality of life and residents’ safety.

—After doping samples from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics were retested, up to 31 athletes could face bans from the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics, according to the London Telegraph. The IOC announced that 6.8% of the 454 defrosted samples from Beijing contained banned substances, while results from London will likely be disclosed later this month. The positive athlete samples represent six sports and 12 nationalities; other specific identifiers remain confidential for now. Further, the IOC acknowledged that it plans to reanalyze samples from the 2014 Sochi games after allegations against another state-sponsored doping program in Russia surfaced. In wake of the investigations, IOC President Thomas Bach warned that he would ban entire federations if the claims are validated – the FBI is also participating. On June 17, Russia will be notified whether its athletics federation has met reform criteria, allowing its athletes to compete in Rio.

—Ahead of Euro 2016, Carlsberg is planning its biggest sports marketing campaign in brand history. The 24 participating teams mark the largest qualifying field in the tournament’s 56-year history, and accordingly Carlsberg is sparing no expense. According to Bloomberg, the Danish brewing company plans to spend as much as $90 million on marketing around the tournament, having already spent about $45 million in advance of the matches. Carlsberg Senior Marking Manager Richard Whitty said that most of the focus “will be on the brewer’s digital footprint” because of the strict alcohol advertising laws in the host nation, France. Beer makers will not be allowed to attach their names to stadiums or on field-level billboards – only slogans will be allowed. Whitty also revealed part of Carlsberg’s strategy is to capitalize on the growth of soccer in Asia – particularly in Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore.

—Change may soon be coming to Royal Troon Golf Club, as the host venue for this year’s Open Championship recently “dropped a heavy hint that it wants its 800 male members to vote in favor of admitting women members,” according to The Scotsman. The Ayrshire club currently shares its facilities with the Ladies’ Golf Club Troon, but both have separate clubhouses. The Open Championship at Troon this year marks the first time since 2004 that the club has hosted the tournament, and the “clock is ticking” as to whether or not change will come before the event commences. Club captain Martin Cheyne wrote a letter sent to all 800 members reiterating the necessity that the club “reflects the modern society in which we exist.” In 2014, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews opened its membership to women for the first time in 260 years; Royal St. George’s followed suit by lifting its ban on women members last year.

—Over the past few years, outspoken Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has not been shy in voicing his opinion that Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis should give up his team. According to Bleacher Report, Jones feels that Davis is “incapable of maximizing revenues and the brand, creating value for the team and league, improving or advancing its goals or agenda in general.” When Davis pondered moving the Raiders to L.A., Jones was “highly vocal with other owners that if the Raiders were to be considered, Davis had to sell or give up control.” Davis recently met with Las Vegas officials and has been in discussions to relocate his team to Sin City, but Jones strongly opposes the potential move. Jones’s opposition could completely derail the move because of his influence over league owners. Apart from Jones, other NFL owners and league officials have been skeptical about whether Vegas can appropriately host an NFL franchise.

—Silicon Valley has shaped the Bay Area, and the technology hub of America has now expanded its reach into professional sports. Virtual Reality company Jaunt recently partnered with the San Francisco Giants to produce a series of VR videos, giving fans “up-close virtual access to their favorite players,” according to Fast Company. Starting on Opening Day, Giants fans got their “first look at the product at a cafe behind the left field bleachers.” Since then, Jaunt has continued to expand its involvement with the club and is looking at new ways of weaving VR videos into fans’ regular content consumption. The company noted that some of the VR videos in the works could include lying on the ground in between 2014 World Series MVP pitcher Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey as Bumgarner throws a pitch, or “standing directly behind a Giants hitter in a batting cage.”