25 Sep

15 to Watch + 5 Tech 92517

1) Donald Trump: Good for NFL business? Among the dialog over the weekend that stretched from London to the West Coast and reverberated through millions of social media threads, Trump’s incendiary comments on player protests during the National Anthem may actually prove to be a short term shot in the arm for NFL business on at least two fronts. For starters, Trump’s comments have united the NFL and the NFLPA like nothing short of natural disasters, with Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith condemning Trump’s rhetoric and spending part of their Saturday on the phone “discussing the comments that the president made and what’s the best way going forward,” according to ESPN and multiple sources, while players, coaches, and owners league wide linked arms or took a knee in a sidelines show of support. What’s more, TV executives are cautiously optimistic that the NFL’s TV ratings will be up this weekend based in part on the attention that is been placed on the games from the remarks and the debate that followed. Ironic that Trump’s opening gambit at a Friday night campaign rally partially focused on the NFL’s “poor ratings” may actually boost the league’s numbers, for this weekend at least.

2) Week Three of 2017 is probably one of the most turbulent weeks we’ll ever see in the NFL. Virtually the entire country is now focused on the social and political ramifications of the presidential statements and the league, owners, and player responses. But let’s take a moment to examine the business perspective. In retrospect, Donald Trump has probably done more to affect the future of the NFL than anyone has in the past two or three decades. The statements calling for the firing of players who sat or kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem and the immediate response outside the league of former players, corporate advertisers, and others has solidified a league that is looking to a $25 billion revenue stream. The NFL has faced major issues in recent years, including the fallout from CTE studies that all but prove a direct link between playing the game at the pro level and life-threatening concussions. But the statements by Trump have been interpreted by the vast majority of the league’s 32 owners – most of whom lean conservative and many of whom contributed to Trump’s campaign and inaugural funds – as having crossed the line. For the next five months at the very least, Trump will be forced to share the media stage with a powerful conglomerate with a very large megaphone and high approval ratings. The line of scrimmage has been established.

3) Despite playing in the second-biggest city in the U.S., both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers have had a tough time filling the stands for home games. According to USA Today, the Chargers failed to sell out their first home game at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center, while the Rams only drew 56,612 fans to their game against the Washington Redskins at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The league and team officials from both franchises “remain confident” about moving forward from these poor showings, though it is clear that both teams will need to start winning games to draw larger crowds. The Chargers initially took a gamble by electing to move to Los Angeles and picking an MLS stadium for their home games. The media has been very skeptical of the Chargers since their move north. Kelli Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area commented, “The fact that the Chargers could not even sell out a 27,000-seat MLS soccer stadium should be a concern for the NFL.” The Roman Colosseum wasn’t built in a day, nor was the L.A. Memorial Coliseum or the fan base of the teams who have played there. Give it time.

4) MLB is once again debating whether to increase the length of baseline netting to better protect fans. According to the New York Times, talks are reigniting after Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier hit a young girl with a foul line drive. Back in 2015, teams “agreed to extend the traditional protective netting behind home plate to at least the inner edge of both dugouts.” Since then, a third of teams have elected to extend that netting further down the line; the Yankees are not one of those teams. The Yankees are expected to make changes in the wake of the incident, for had Yankee Stadium had longer netting the ball would not have entered the stands. N.Y. Council member Rafael Espinal, who introduced legislation in May to require all N.Y. ballparks to have protective netting all the way to the foul poles, said that he would “hold a public hearing on the issue on October 25.”

5) The Texas Rangers are preparing to break ground on their new $1.1 billion stadium in Arlington. According to SportsBusiness Journal, stadium architect HKS and general contractor Manhattan Construction will team up on the project to build Globe Life Field. The new 41,000-seat ballpark “will encompass 1.7 million square feet, covering about 13 acres” of land. The stadium will have a retractable roof, though team officials have noted their desire to leave fans feeling “like they’re still outdoors.” One of the ways the team will try to do that is with the use of natural light, “even when the retractable roof is closed to keep everyone cool.” Plans for construction call for the ballpark to take up more physical space than other parks, yet it will have fewer seats as a way to give it a more intimate feel. If all goes according to plan, Globe Life Field should be open for the 2020 MLB season. It’s long been accepted that “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and Globe Life Field will be no exception, especially with hometown shop HKS at the helm.

6) In a new lawsuit filed against the NFL and New England Patriots, the family of late Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez claim he had a severe case of CTE. According to the Boston Herald, the $20 million lawsuit cites a report from Boston University CTE Center Director Dr. Ann McKee, which concluded that Hernandez had stage 3 of the disease. Despite playing just three seasons in the NFL, Hernandez’ condition is the “most severe case of CTE they had ever seen in a person of his age,” as stage 4 is the worst possible. Attorney Jose Baez and Hernandez’ fiancée Shayanna Jenkins announced the lawsuit, which is separate from the $1 billion settlement which the NFL has “agreed to pay families of players who suffered brain injuries while playing in the league.” The lawsuit claims that the former player’s condition caused him to hang himself in his jail cell. The bigger unspoken issue, of course, is whether the CTE caused Hernandez’ murderous behavior in the first place – and if this will ever become a legal defense should another NFL player find himself in a similar tragic situation.

7) Milwaukee Bucks phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo is facing a tough choice: which shoe company should he join? According to ESPN.com, multiple companies have recently pitched the Greek superstar as they are looking to “position him as the future of basketball.” Adidas rented a modern loft in Milwaukee and decorated it with pictures of Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, and Jesse Owens, noting that Antetokounmpo could be the next in the adidas lineage “of global game-changers who impacted not only their sport, but also left a legacy of social impact.” The German-based company also noted multiple times that it recently took over Jordan Brand as the No. 2 player in the domestic shoe market. Also set to pitch the Greek forward were Nike and Chinese-based Li Ning. Each offered the “Greek Freak” his own signature shoe that would likely launch for the 2018-2019 NBA season. Antetokounmpo’s current deal with Nike is set to expire on September 30. Clearly, Antetokounmpo will heed the old saw “if the shoe fits, [exploit] it.”

8) In an arms race to remain the world’s wealthiest sports franchise, Spanish soccer powerhouse Real Madrid have resigned Emirates to a jersey sponsorship deal. According to Palco23, Real Madrid’s new deal is worth a record-shattering $83.5 million per year. Manchester United previously held the record for the most lucrative kit sponsorship with its $74 million per year deal the club holds with Chevrolet through 2021. Real Madrid did not “wish to wait” until their current contract expired with Emirates, so they went ahead and resigned the Dubai-based airlines to an extension. On top of just having their name on the jerseys, Emirates has requested that the club install “four LED advertising banners by both goal areas at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium as well as publicity on the squad’s training kit.” Real Madrid is now expected to start negotiating a new deal with adidas – the club’s official outfitter.

9) The NHL is continuing its push to expand its international presence by hosting preseason games in China. According to Sportsnet.ca, the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings played a pair of preseason games in China recently, marking the first time any NHL contest has been played in the Asian country. The teams made stops in Beijing and Shanghai to play each other, making an “impact on developing the NHL brand in the Far East.” Sources close to the league noted that the idea to host contests in China was first conceived a year or two ago, but now it has finally come to fruition. “In prior years, out international strategy had probably intentionally omitted the Far East, in part because of a lack of hockey interest and infrastructure,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. With Beijing set to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, this move by the NHL comes at the right time to start “a massive movement to develop youth sports of the winter variety.” However, the best international “advertising” the NFL could do in China is to allow its players to compete in the 2022 Games there.

10) Following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that devastated Mexico City, an “enormous crack” has appeared in iconic Estadio Azteca. According to the London Daily Mirror, the soccer stadium is one of the most iconic in the world, as it has hosted two World Cup finals, is included on the list of potential sites for the 2026 joint North American World Cup bid, and is “due to host” the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders in a regular season game November 19. The 87,000-seat stadium will certainly need repairing, with a massive fracture appearing in the stadium’s exterior structure. It will take time to fully assess the damage and move forward with repairs; the city is still scrambling to move forward in the wake of the natural disaster. The earthquake that struck Mexico City was one of the strongest and deadliest to hit Mexico in more than 30 years. While stadium repair is clearly a priority for the NFL and soccer constituencies, the Mexican government must be careful to not dedicate extra resources to its repair while thousands of homes, businesses, schools, and the infrastructure citizens rely on each day stand in ruin.

11) Coca-Cola has found a new way to advertise its brand in the new FIFA 18 videogame. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the Atlanta-based soft drink company will “sponsor its first-ever virtual athlete in a deal with EA Sports.” Last year’s edition of FIFA introduced gamers to “The Journey,” a mode that allows you to play as “Alex Hunter,” a 17-year-old soccer phenom, as he progresses through his professional career. This year, Hunter signs a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola; he even shoots a commercial with the company in the video game. Bringing this sponsorship move to real life, Coca-Cola will “promote the tie-in with cans featuring Hunter’s likeness sold at 7-Eleven and Wal-Mart stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.” The cans will each feature unique game codes that consumers can use to unlock additional game content. Further, Coca-Cola will put Hunter’s image on one of the most-seen advertising screens in the world upon the game’s launch: Times Square.

12) The Los Angeles Lakers have joined the NBA’s elite ranks in terms of jersey patch revenue. According to SportsBusiness Journal, despite not boasting the best product on the court these past few seasons, the Lakers inked a deal with San Francisco-based e-commerce company Wish. The deal is worth between $12-14 million annually over the next three seasons, which puts it in the upper tier of jersey patch deals. That number still lags far behind the $20 million that Rakuten is paying the Golden State Warriors for their jersey patch spot; that deal includes naming rights to the team’s practice facility, too. Wish was founded back in 2011 and is a “digital mall” that sells discounted merchandise through an e-commerce platform. Lakers President of Business Operations Tim Harris said that “other elements of the Wish deal include a founding sponsorship in the team’s training center, along with signage and hospitality in Staples Center.” The Patch is here to stay, and while its dimensions won’t get any bigger any time soon, its price tag certainly will.

13) The Miami Heat have signed a jersey patch sponsor for this upcoming season. According to the Miami Herald, the Heat have elected to partner with South Florida-based Ultimate Software. A common theme has spread across the NBA when it comes to inking jersey patch deals: teams have largely been looking for local companies to partner with. Ultimate Software is a “technology company that develops and sells UltiPro, a human capital management solution.” Apart from just getting the company’s logo stitched onto the breast of the Heat’s new Nike jerseys, the partners are planning to work together on “several community programs.” “It was important for us to find a partner that held similar beliefs and values and Ultimate Software definitely fits that bill,” commented Heat Executive Vice President & CRO John Vidalin. “They have been a longstanding partner of the Heat’s, with a rich history of giving back to the South Florida community.” The Patch is Here to Stay Part II: Local is good, as long as Local brings a price tag comparable to any national partner.

14) Amazon is preparing to make a significant leap into the sports streaming world. The online giant has already started moving into the sports streaming space with its purchase of the rights for ATP tennis tournaments, but the company’s plans to bid for the English Premier League rights take it to another level. According to the London Daily Mail, Amazon is expected to enter the next TV rights auction, “which is expected later this year, setting the stage for another bonanza payday.” The Seattle-based company is known for its unpredictable expansion, as it recently overtook the upscale Whole Foods grocery store chain. The bid will most likely be for the next set of three-year packages from the 2019-2020 season onward. With Amazon having the “financial muscle to buy as many packages as it wants,” the preeminent soccer league is “anticipating another rise in the value” of its games for which Sky is already paying $15 million a match.

15) Coming as huge news for the company, adidas has surpassed Jordan Brand as No. 2 in the domestic sneaker market. According to data from NDP Group and cited by GQ, adidas now owns a 13% market share, which is “more than double what it had a year ago.” Nike is still well ahead of the pack with its 44% grip on the market, though this number is down significantly from the 60% it was at back in 2014. Adidas’ “classic styles” are largely believed to be a significant reason for the brand’s rise. Kanye West’s Yeezy line of sneakers certainly create a buzz around the brand, but most likely had “little direct effect” on the company’s bottom line due to their limited production volume. Jordan Brand now holds a 9.5% market share – a number that has been relatively stagnant for some time now.