31 Jul

15 to watch 73117

  1. For the third time in seven years, the NBA toppled the NFL for the No. 1 position, with the top ten positions overall revealing a remarkable balance of power among athletes from a range of sports. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (No. 1), Matt Ryan (No. 2), and LeBron James (No. 3) top the Horrow Sports Ventures 2016-17 POWER 100 proprietary annual ranking of the world’s most powerful athletes. In its seventh consecutive installment, The POWER 100 uses a complex statistical model to accurately compare performance and influence through on-field and off-field attributes. This metric is collectively known as POWER, and enables equitable comparison across otherwise incomparable sports. The 2016-17 POWER 100 focuses on long-established sports and the U.S. market specifically. Key indicator statistics were used as predictors of performance per sport. On-field attributes comprise 50% of the athletes’ POWER. The other 50% is based on off-field components like social media presence as measured by MVPindex. Combining on-field (50%) and off-field (50%) attributes yields the POWER score. Athletes are then ranked based on POWER to find the Top 100. The POWER 100 continues to generate discussion as an invaluable tool to evaluate an athlete’s brand.
  2. Phoenix Raceway is engaged in naming-rights talks as the ISC-owned track is in the midst of a $178 million renovation that is slated for completion late next year. Track President Bryan Sperber in a statement said, “From the moment we announced the project in January, we’ve had tremendous response from new and existing partners. This transformation of our venue into a world class entertainment facility has unlocked a myriad of opportunities, including unique branding platforms, new events, breakthrough technology, and even naming rights for the facility.” If PIR sells the naming rights, the move would make the raceway just the second track that hosts a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race to have a brand attached to the facility’s name, with the other being fellow ISC venue Auto Club Speedway. One brand that has already closely associated itself Phoenix Raceway’s renovations is California-based clean energy company DC Solar. PIR hosts two Cup races a year, as well as a Verizon IndyCar Series race, and under Sperber’s enlightened guidance, a naming rights deal is likely eminent
  3. Months after the original opening date was set, the roof at the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium continues to have issues. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the roof is now facing another delay, with speculation that it will be open “at some point” during the team’s 2017 season. When the stadium is opened officially, the roof will remain closed, and will remain that way for an “undetermined period of time beyond that,” as confirmed by AMB Group CEO Steve Cannon. When functional, the sunflower-shaped roof is supposed to open and close in 12 minutes with all eight swiveling panels moving in unison. Cannon said that it “typically takes 40 days to ‘mechanize’ such a roof after its last ‘[construction] move.’” Since three such moves are “scheduled in the coming weeks, the 40-day clock won’t even begin until after those moves.” Even with a rigid roof, the NFL and Atlanta welcome that city’s new football icon, and eagerly anticipate the upcoming season.
  4. The majority stake of the Brooklyn Nets may be up for sale in the near future. According to the New York Post, current Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been focused on selling a minority stake in the NBA franchise recently, trying to a find a buyer for 49% of the Nets for nearly a year. But Prokhorov has “warmed” to the possibility of offering up a controlling stake in the team. A source said that the “change of heart comes after the initial reaction to the minority stake sale was weak” – and with interest in the Rockets sale “heating up.” Sources said that the Nets “believe some of the suitors who look at the Rockets will also take an interest in them.” The Russian billionaire just recently was granted approval to split the corporate ownership of the Nets and their home arena, the Barclays Center, from the NBA Finance Committee. Clearly, the anticipated demand for the Rockets will resonate throughout the NBA, and potentially influence dozens if not hundreds of would-be investors.
  5. The English Premier League is truly global, as exemplified by its list of jersey sponsors for this coming season. According to the London Daily Mail, only four of the 20 teams in the EPL will have British-based companies as their title sponsor for the 2017-2018 season. Those four clubs and their sponsors are Liverpool with Standard Charter, Southampton with Virgin Media, Stoke City with bet365, and Watford with FxPro. The sponsorship roster of the 20 teams in England’s top league also reveals the “continued significance of gambling firms in the game,” with nine clubs remaining tied to gambling and the industry. Clubs will also command additional sponsorship worth an “expected $26.1 million” by selling separate sponsored sleeve patches for 2017-2018 – “shirt space freed up by Barclays no longer being the Premier League sponsor.” Companies from countries such as Japan, Thailand, the UAE, Malta, Kenya, and the United States are kit sponsors, among others, and with good reason – the EPL remains a sound investment.
  6. The Detroit Pistons are now the latest NBA team to sign a jersey patch sponsor for this coming season after inking a multiyear deal with a local bank. According to the Detroit News, Flagstar Bank will be represented on the left breast of the Pistons’ jerseys, opposite the newly-sported Nike logo placed on the right. The duration of the deal was not specified, but the deal also includes signage inside the brand new Little Caesars Arena as well as “spots on Pistons’ television and radio broadcasts.” Flagstar has been a corporate sponsor of the franchise over the past few years, and the Pistons wanted to sign a Michigan-based company as their jersey patch sponsor, which made it a relatively easy decision for Flagstar to win the bid. Flagstar President & CEO Allessandro DiNello said, “There’s no bigger fan of the Pistons. I had season tickets when my kids were growing up, and it’s great to have the team back downtown.” Local sponsorship wins the day on an emotional level, and if the price tag matches what a team could get from a global brand, all’s the better.
  7. Ochsner Health System is expanding its footprint across professional sports in Louisiana with its new eight-year deal with both the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the deal will include naming rights for the combined practice facility the two teams share in Metairie, Louisiana. The newly-named Ochsner Sports Performance Center “is the only training complex in pro sports that houses both NFL and NBA teams, plus administrative offices.” The healthcare system already has an existing deal in place with both teams, but this deal piggybacks on those. Financial terms have not yet been disclosed. About 10 years ago was the first time Ochsner starting sponsoring professional sports, and “around six months ago, the Saints and Pelicans approached Ochsner about extending its deal to include naming rights.” This deal is expected to help spread cancer awareness and overall fitness messaging among the greater New Orleans marketplace.
  8. The Denver Broncos still do not have a new stadium naming rights partner despite an ongoing search that has lasted months. According to the Denver Post, team President and CEO Joe Ellis is “a little disappointed” that the team has not signed a new partner, but remains optimistic because some of these deals “take longer periods of time than others.” Since the team has not found anyone to replace Sports Authority, current signage will stay on the stadium until a new agreement is in place, meaning the Broncos will be playing their home games at Sports Authority Field at Mile High again. Ellis defended his point of not rebranding the stadium without a new naming rights partner yet: “We’re not going to do that. If we’re going to spend money to do those kinds of things, or take the time, we’re going to do it to make the game-day experience better for the fans.” A brand as strong as the Broncos, only one season removed from its last Super Bowl win, should demand only strong brands as partners, even if developing that relationship requires more time.
  9. Coming off of a season where the average length of a football game was a record 3 hours and 24 minutes, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is taking measures into his own hands to shorten game lengths. The Power 5 conference is set to launch a pilot program during select nonconference games that will “experiment with game-shortening measures.” Some of the biggest changes include fewer commercials and shortening halftime from 20 minutes to 15 minutes. Scott, speaking at the start of the conference’s media days, said that research from ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks “found as much as 30% of viewers tuned out after the first half.” One way of keeping advertising time without losing as much fan engagement and interest is to split the screen between the live action and an advertisement, a tactic that is starting to be adopted more widely across all sports and networks. This tactic won high marks from golf fans during the Open Championship broadcast in the U.S. on NBC – expect other broadcasters to adapt it as well.
  10. The English Premier League and other English soccer leagues have welcomed an influx of foreign investments from such countries as the United States, Russia, and China. But the leagues have yet to welcome any investments from the Korean Peninsula. According to the London Daily Mail, that trend may be changing soon with Seoul-based sports marketing firm Sportizen ramping up talks to acquire National League side Woking. Current majority shareholder Peter Jordan would have to agree to give up control of the fifth-tier club, which finished a dismal 18th in the National League this past season. Chankoo Shim is the leader of the group to buy Woking; his “business ethos” has earned him the nickname “the Jerry Maguire of Korea.” Shim wants to bring more young Korean soccer players to compete and play in Europe, and if the purchase of Woking goes through, this could provide a major pipeline for him.
  11. In a special promotion to honor Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final race at Phoenix International Raceway, the track will allow fans to sponsor a lap in November’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race. According to SportsBusiness Journal, two packages will be available for purchase soon, depending on how much one wants to pay and what kind of access a fan wants. The bronze package will be sold for $188, while the gold package will be priced at $3,288. Both packages “include getting a commemorative certificate plus name recognition in the race program and ISM Vision video screens around the lap to fan sponsors.” With both packages, fans have the chance to sponsor any lap from Lap No. 1 through 312. The gold package also includes “two pace car rides, two garage-access passes for the weekend “and two passes to Curve, which the track is touting as a new all-inclusive hospitality club with a capacity of 300 and a birds-eye view of the track above Turn One.” Top-tier fan amenities, plus the naming rights effort, are the kind of initiatives that will ensure PIR maintains its status as one of motor sports’ top venues, all under the watchful eye of track president Bryan Sperber.
  12. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is back going toe-to-toe with the Chicago Cubs. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel “flatly rejected” a request by Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney to allow the team to play more night games at Wrigley Field. Emanuel defended his stance, saying the defending World Series champions had the choice of staging concerts for profit or playing more night games, and the team picked the former option. “They could have used it for night games. But then, they would have to share it with Major League Baseball,” said Manuel. “The concerts they keep all for themselves…They made those choices. Now, they want to change the consequences of the choices they made.” The Cubs are currently allowed 46 night events at Wrigley, which comes close to the 54 that Kenney requested the team be granted. Compromises are a fact of life in all public-private partnerships, and it appears this one remains a work in progress.
  13. Baltimore Ravens Center and mathematician John Urschel has retired from professional football in wake of an alarming CTE study just released. According to ESPN.com, Urschel “abruptly announced his retirement” at the age of 26, despite previously saying that his passion for football outweighed the risk of CTE. Urschel is widely considered one of – if not the smartest – player in football, as he is pursuing his doctorate at MIT in the offseason, “focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning.” This new CTE report paints the clearest picture yet of the stark connection between football and brain damage. Researchers who published the report studied the brain of 202 dead football players, and among the 111 “former NFLers whose brains were donated for the study, all but one was found to have the disease.” Urschel is just one of many players who routinely retire before the season starts, but that number appears to be rising.
  14. NASCAR driver Paul Menard and his family’s company are switching over to Wood Brothers Racing for next season. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Menard is in this seventh season of driving with Richard Childress Racing, but the switch will see Menard driving the Woods’ No. 21 Ford “with the Menards home-improvement chain serving as primary sponsor for 22 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Another change in the NASCAR world comes with Team Penske announcing that it will enter a third car in next year’s Cup Series with Ryan Blaney as the driver. Blaney is widely recognized as one of the up-and-coming stars in NASCAR, so Team Penske is excited about this new entrant into the field. Sponsorships for the new car have yet to be announced, through NASCAR team owner Gene Haas recently noted that “it typically costs about $20 million annually to run a top-level car.” Kudos to Wood Brothers for this strong alliance in an ever-competitive world.
  15. Coming off a hot debut, the BIG3 has seen a sharp drop in TV audience. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the upstart three-on-three basketball series drew in 400,000 viewers for the first event at the Barclays Center, but that number dropped all the way down to 129,000 for the third event at the BOK Center. “The four telecasts to date have averaged 228,000 viewers, with the most recent broadcast July 17 down 63% from the debut.” The telecasts on FS1 have been shown a week apart, though that has not been enough to keep viewership numbers consistently high. The second week’s event in Charlotte, North Carolina, saw around 235,000 viewers tune in, though that number dropped by over 100,000 a week later. “The average of 228,000 viewers is above what FS1 averaged for its Big East men’s conference tournament games this year (212,000 viewers).” Comparatively, viewer and attendance numbers for the NBA’s Las Vegas summer league have never been higher than they were this summer. Sometimes the new, new thing (up and coming NBA talent) beats the new, old thing (NBA legends).
27 Jul

Horrow Sports Ventures 2016-2017 POWER 100

https://www.prlog.org/12654338-nba-mvp-russell-westbrook-top-horrow-sports-2016-17-power-100-athletes-rankings.html

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (No. 1), Matt Ryan (No. 2), and LeBron James (No. 3) top the Horrow Sports Ventures 2016-17 POWER 100 proprietary annual ranking of the world’s most powerful athletes.

In its seventh consecutive installment, The POWER 100, the proprietary annual ranking of the most powerful athletes in sports, uses a complex statistical model to accurately compare performance and influence through on-field and off-field attributes. This metric is collectively known as POWER, and enables equitable comparison across otherwise incomparable sports.

“The POWER 100 continues to generate discussion as an invaluable tool to evaluate an athlete’s brand,” said founder Rick Horrow. “By focusing narrowly on social media for our off-field component, we are combining strong performance analytics with the most robust social media statistics in the industry, forming a unique way of analyzing an athlete’s overall performance measurement and marketability.”

The full 2016-2017 POWER 100 report is available here: http://horrowsports.ventures/2016-17-power-100/

24 Jul

15 to watch 72417

    1. As NFL rookies and some position players prepare to report to training camp this week, one of the league’s marquee veterans has announced a hefty new sponsorship deal. According to the Allentown Morning Call, Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack has signed a sponsorship deal with Mack Trucks that will see him promote the company’s “‘next-generation highway model’ that will be unleashed September 13.” Mack said that the idea "started when he got a text” from the Warriors’ Draymond Green, who “suggested that Mack try to partner with Mack Trucks.” Mack said that he then “reached out to his representatives to try to get something together." As luck would have it, Mack "reached out to the company about the same time that they were thinking about reaching out to him.” Lagardère Sports President of Team Sports Joel Segal, who reps Mack, said, “It was really a cold call. But it couldn’t have gone better.” Mack counts Nike and New Era among his other endorsements. Another Segal client, Cowboys defensive end Taco Charlton, recently signed a deal with Texas-based fast food chain Taco Bueno. Another NFL season and rookie class, another grand stage for creative, lucrative sponsorship deals. Let the games begin.

    2. The Jake Peavy Foundation has partnered with leading education technology company EverFi in a program designed to empower young people with the essential skills needed to make sound financial decisions. Former MLB pitcher and Cy Young winner Peavy, who aspires to return to MLB, has partnered with EverFi on a financial education program that will impact students in his home state of Alabama and in numerous cities in which he played. Peavy developed his own financial acumen the hard way. In 2015, the two-time World Series champion was swindled out of more than $15 million in a Ponzi-like investment scheme brought to him by a shady advisor. Now, he’s passionate about helping students build their financial futures through the Jake Peavy Foundation Focus Forward program, a financial education course powered by EverFi. “Financial literacy became part of my story,” Peavy told MLB.com. “As you get older in life, you want to recognize the platform you’ve been given…financial literacy is something I’m passionate about and truly believe makes a difference in these young peoples’ lives.” Yet another example of an exemplary partnership between a sports standout, education, and communities.
    3. Golf’s third Major is in the books, amidst news that U.K. broadcaster Sky Sports has lost the rights to show the PGA Championship, just days after launching a new dedicated golf channel.The PGA takes place at North Carolina’s Quail Hollow next month, but will not be covered by Sky Sports for the first time in a decade. The PGA of America, which runs the tournament, confirmed that its Sky Sports deal would not be renewed because a different media model is being pursued, although a replacement broadcaster has not yet been named. The move has led to suggestions that the PGA of America will seek to engage a different consumer demographic by offering live coverage on social media platforms instead. The announcement comes in the same week that Sky Sports branded itself as the home of televised golf in the UK, having last year acquired the exclusive live rights to all four major championships. The 2017 US PGA Championship will be the 99th edition of the golfing showpiece, and gets underway on August 10. Ironically, almost 24 year old Jordan Spieth, winner of the Open Championship just concluded in the U.K., is a savvy social media user who fits the target digital-age demographic to a tee. His victory, of course, was showcased on Sky Sports
    4. The NBA will no longer have “home” and “away” uniforms with Nike coming onboard as the official jersey provider this coming season. According to Reuters, home teams will now have the option of picking between “four primary uniforms to be worn at all home games” while visiting teams will have a set of contrasting uniforms to choose from. Instead of “home” and “away,” Nike has coined the terms “Association” and “Icon” uniforms. “Association” unis will be white and “Icon” threads will use the team’s primary color. Some key changes from the adidas uniforms also include a stitched logo, bigger armholes, and a tweaked color shape. The only team that will have a jersey without the Nike logo will be the Charlotte Hornets, who will wear jerseys bearing the Jordan Jumpman logo instead. Nike’s “on-court NBA collection also includes new tights and socks.” NBA players are clearly the fashion icons of the sports world – check out Russell Westbrook on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated “Fashion 50” issue. So look for NBA players having some input on which of the new Nike unis they will actually wear week to week.
    5. The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to sell the naming rights to the field at Dodgers Stadium. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the team is seeking $12 million per year from the right bidder to effectively change the stadium field’s name to “X Corp. Field at Dodger Stadium,” not straying too far from the current name. The naming rights have been on the market since early spring. Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten confidently noted that he is “not concerned about the risk of sullying the name of an iconic stadium” by selling the naming rights. The team currently has in-stadium naming rights deals with BMW for the stadium suites, Ketel One for the baseline club, and Coca-Cola for the right-field pavilion. Kasten also claimed the Dodger Stadium name is not for sale. “That has never been for sale,” said Kasten. “It never will be for sale.” Icons deserve to remain icons, which is why you’ll never see a corporate name in front of Dodger Stadium, Lambeau Field, Fenway Park, and the other true monuments to sport. They are truly priceless.
    6. Amazon is continuing its push into sports by setting its sights on winning the broadcast rights to the ATP Masters series. According to the London Daily Mail, Amazon has “big plans” for the live steaming of sports, including tennis. The current broadcast rights for the ATP Masters series are owned by Sky, but expire in 2018. Winning the bid for this event is just one step in a broader plan for Amazon to develop a full portfolio of live streamed events. Amazon firmly believes that it “has the financial resources to challenge any sports rights of interest.” Amazon representatives were noted to have been in London at Wimbledon to start making connections in the tennis realm before placing a bid on rights to major tournaments just below the Grand Slam level. The company plans on using its Amazon Prime subscription platform to stream events. The tennis news follow on Amazon’s announcement in April that is paying $50 million to stream Thursday night NFL games. What could be next: an esports tie-up for the online marketplace giant, which would seem to be an organic extension of the Amazon brand in sports.
    7. In other tennis news, the USTA has announced that total player compensation for this year’s U.S. Open will top $50 million “for the first time,” with a record $3.7 million going to “each of the singles champions.” The total purse will be $50.4 million, a nearly 9% “increase from last year.” Singles runners-up will get $1.825 million, up from $1.75 million in 2016. Both men’s and women’s doubles champions will earn $675,000, the “highest in U.S. Open history.” And a player who loses in the first round “will make $50,000, an increase of $6,700." For comparative purposes, Open Championship winner Jordan Spieth pocketed $1,845,000 for winning the 146th edition of the Open at Royal Birkdale on Sunday, out of a record $10,250,000 purse for that event. While Speith seems to be doing okay at this golf thing – he just won his third major before turning 24, after all – maybe he should take a crack at tennis, where the “real” money is.
    8. MLS continues its push to find the right expansion cities, and the competition is heating up. According to the Charlotte Observer, MLS officials recently visited Charlotte, North Carolina, where they had a “very positive and productive” experience. About 200-250 people attended a rally following the officials’ visit, as the city hopes to land an expansion team that would begin playing in 2020. The team would play in a brand new, $175 million facility, though controversy remains surrounding the “public funding portion of the proposed 20,000-seat stadium.” There were no discussions regarding financing during the visit in Charlotte; instead, the focus was placed on business and community leaders with a stadium site visit included in the agenda. MLS President & Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott “outlined the four criteria MLS evaluates for potential expansion markets: the ownership group, the stadium plan, community support and how the market can help the MLS grow.” San Diego, Miami, and other prospective MLS markets, take note.
    9. The WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx have officially submitted a bid to land the hosting rights for the 2018 All-Star Game. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the team wants to host the event at the Target Center, which will be fully renovated in a matter of months. The team is noted to be in the “middle of a historic run,” having played in two of the last five WNBA Finals and winning two of those. Coupled with the team’s stellar annual attendance and a soon-to-be-renovated Target Center, that makes the Minnesota franchise a likely winner for the event. Lynx Owner Glen Taylor spoke highly of the possibility to host the game. “Right now is the right time for us to do it,” said Taylor. “This is a team that is winning, with the great players we have. We have a new practice facility and the Target Center. Just everything. There is a lot to show off.” The WNBA ASG at Seattle’s Key Arena drew 15,221 fans this weekend, and proved a great opportunity to show off the city, the franchise, and its fans. While Minneapolis will get plenty of exposure as Super Bowl host, the WNBA midsummer celebration would give it another season in the sun.
    10. The Golden State Warriors announced their new ticket structure for Chase Center when it opens in 2019, calling it a “membership” program. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the new program will “require season-ticket buyers to pay a one-time fee that will enable them to buy their seats for 30 years.” What really makes this proposition interesting is that the Warriors have promised all fans that they will be reimbursed in full after 30 years. This “membership” program comes as the newest evolution in Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs), a trend that has been sweeping through new stadiums for all sports. The initial 30-year payment will be enabled to be paid in full or through financing payment programs. The memberships can be sold, but only through a marketplace run by the team. Warriors President and COO Rick Welts said that “half of the expected 11,000 to 12,000 season-ticket memberships would be priced under $15,000.” The other half “could sell at a much higher cost.” The new program could also allow naming rights partner Chase to get in on the financing action as a preferred financial services partner – one way to chip away at the $1 billion Chase paid for the privilege of putting its name on the building.
    11. Major League Lacrosse is ready to expand. That is what Chesapeake Bayhawks Owner Brendan Kelly believes, at least. According to the Annapolis Capital Gazette, team owners are expecting the league’s new commissioner to push for expansion upon taking office. Finding new media partners is also an expectation that owners have of the soon-to-be-named commissioner. Currently, all MLL games are broadcast by the Lax Sports Network, “which holds exclusive rights.” Lacrosse, considered to be a niche sport by many, is largely fragmented, as explained by Kelly: “The MLL and NLL are doing their things. We should all be working together as a unit to grow the game.” Kelly and the Bayhawks are pioneering a revolution in the league; one example of that is the team’s plan to build a lacrosse-specific venue for home games. Expansion might also help reduce the amount of parity in the league, since seven of nine teams finished with an 8-6 record last season.
    12. NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo wants to own the Houston Rockets. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the legendary big man is trying to get a group together that would ultimately vie to purchase the franchise he played for in his glory days. Mutombo retired back in 2009 after playing his final five years in the NBA in Houston for the Rockets. “I’m working on it,” said Mutombo. “I’m talking to a lot of people already. We’ll see. I’m just talking to people who can cut the check and they can make me be part of it.” Two years ago, Mutombo missed an opportunity to be part of a group that purchased the Atlanta Hawks, the team he played for from 1996-2001. He still has a home in Houston, so the move of taking over control would not cause him to drastically uproot his life and move. The Rockets’ sale is speculated to reach the $2 billion price tag the Clippers commanded three years ago. So while Mutombo is saying the right things and displaying the same leadership traits as he did on the court, he’d better be courting some deep-pocketed partners. And fast – other suitors are circling.
    13. Global telecommunications company AT&T has elected to renew its partnership with MLS and U.S. Soccer. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the company has had a longstanding relationship with both entities for the past eight years, so this comes as an extension to those deals. Now, as part of its agreement with MLS, AT&T “will become presenting sponsor of the final day of the regular season, known as Decision Day.” AT&T will now also sponsor the up-and-coming league’s “Goal of the Week” voting platforms and an online video series on the league’s website. In signing again with U.S. Soccer, AT&T is locked in through at least the 2018 Russia World Cup for men and the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. Financial terms to the deals have not yet been disclosed. The agreement "puts to rest any doubts about AT&T’s plans to continue marketing around domestic soccer." Soccer continues to be the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. outside of esports, so it’s hardly surprising that the American telecom giant continues to hitch its considerable wagon to the Beautiful Game.
    14. The International Champions Cup has become a marquee event across the United States as the sports’ popularity continues to grow. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, big time European clubs are seizing the opportunity to grow their brand across the Atlantic thanks to “the most prominent preseason tournament in the world.” Rivalry matchups such as Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona and Manchester United vs. Manchester City have been drawing big crowds to NFL stadiums across the U.S. Though some players and managers in the past have “complained about the long travel distances, the heat and other hurdles” of the trips to the U.S., they also “know it’s an opportunity to build their individual brands.” The games, even the big rivalry contests, definitely lack the intensity that they carry in Europe and often feature reserve players, but players have recognized this special opportunity to show off their talents in front of a new crowd. As the NFL establishes more regular-season beachheads in London, Mexico City, and elsewhere, it’s only logical that its European marquee equivalent would be operating from the same playbook here.
    15. The Montreal Canadiens are making a move to help better the environment…much to the chagrin of their fan base. According to the Montreal Gazette, the NHL franchise notified its fan that this season’s tickets will only be available “in mobile format,” with season-ticket holders set to “receive the tickets electronically on their smartphones.” If someone wants printed paper tickets, it will cost an extra $150 per seat, plus taxes. News of this decision, delivered via email, caused a bit of a stir among the fan base, prompting many to call “the new fees a cash grab.” In the letter to season-ticket holders, team management “cites security, ease of use and environmental sustainability as reasons for the change.” Another team considering this move is the Toronto Maple Leafs, though they have not made this big jump yet. Get used to it, sports fans – electronic tickets are the format of the future, for all of the reasons cited above. Reading between the lines, it’s likely that the portion of the fan base complaining skews older, as younger fans are almost entirely comfortable with an all-electronic universe. We’ll continue to see paper tickets for a while – mostly offered as memorabilia, which comes with a cost.