1. This year’s World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers got off to a strong start from an overnight ratings perspective. According to SportsBusiness Journal, Game 1 on Fox drew a 10.2 rating as the Dodgers won 3-1. That figure is lower than last year’s 12.6 that the Indians and Cubs drew, but “was the best for a World Series opener since Phillies-Yankees in 2009.” Despite a cry that games have been taking too long, Game 1 was the shortest World Series game in a quarter century. Game 2 followed up with 16.0 million viewers on Fox, with the Astros pulling out a 7-6 win in 11 innings. That number is down compared to last year, but up 13% from two years ago. Subsequent games have been packed with drama and action as the series seems likely to go the distance. Viewership numbers for the most recent games have not yet been released, but numbers are expected to be strong across two of America’s biggest markets due to the intensity and star power featured in the contests.
2. With the World Series now well underway, MLB baseball has revealed its postseason viewership numbers leading up to the championship round. According to SportsBusiness Journal, playoff games across ESPN, TBS, FS1, Fox and MLB Network averaged 4.8 million viewers – representing the league’s “best pre-Fall Classic figure since 2011 (4.9 million).” The 4.8 million average is up 13% from the 4.24 million viewers that last year’s postseason averaged. One of the biggest jumps from last year is NL viewership on TBS, which has seen a 46% increase from last year. FS1 has been the big winner thus far, as it had the honor of broadcasting the ALCS Game 7 matchup between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. That game alone averaged 9.9 million viewers, “marking the net’s most-viewed telecast on record.” The 9.9 million average tops last year’s 9.7 million that tuned in to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs in Game 6 last year. MLB has to be happy with this news, especially considering the NFL’s struggle to keep its viewership numbers up relative to past years.
3. Colin Kaepernick is set to attend a meeting between NFL players and owners, where the two sides plan to talk about the ongoing social activism and protest issues. According to Yahoo Sports, multiple players across the league have voiced their desire to get him in their meetings with team owners and league officials, noting that “he is an important voice in their effort.” This now marks the second time “he has been invited” by members of the players’ coalition to attend a league meeting, after he declined the first offer. League officials have been open to the idea of the former NFLer joining their discussions, though it remains unclear what his exact contribution will be since he is not on a team. Kaepernick recently filed a grievance against the NFL for “allegedly conspiring to freeze him out of a job.” Protesting the national anthem all began with Kaepernick, so it will be interesting to see what – if anything – comes out of his inclusion in the meeting.
4. The San Francisco 49ers are teaming up with multiple police unions in an attempt to “ease national police-community acrimony.” According to the San Jose Mercury News, the current on-field protests by players have since “extended far beyond the field,” prompting the 49ers to work with police unions all across the Pacific Northwest. The team and police unions from San Jose, Oakland, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Long Beach and Portland “plan to solicit participation from other NFL teams and police unions.” One of the key areas of focus in this new partnership is gun control, specifically to outlaw bump stocks, which the shooter in Las Vegas used to boost the killing power of his rifles. “We’re all very interested in progress, and it’s very clear that protesting has brought ample vision, and the opportunity for people to speak loudly,” said 49ers CEO Jed York. This partnership could spur a movement across the league of teams working with police unions in their respective markets. This is a great step in the right direction for the NFL.
5. This week marks the national debut of episode three of “The Power of Sports,” a monthly program jointly produced by FOX Sports Southwest, Horrow Sports Ventures, Oklahoma City-based foundation Fields & Futures, and Group One Thousand One. This month, after successful forays into Oklahoma City and Indianapolis looking at public-private partnership ventures, we journey to South Florida with MLB Hall of Famer Cal Ripkin Jr. as he relives his first professional game at Miami Stadium as a Miami Oriole and tour community baseball facilities being developed by his namesake cause Ripken Baseball. We also hear about the good work his father Cal Ripken Sr. is doing with Team Cops and Kids, and go inside Up2Us, which is training everyday coaches to work with vulnerable youth. Check local FOX Sports networks listings to be a part of this truly remarkable journey.
6. The Tampa Bay Rays finally have a site picked out to build a new stadium on, but funding remains up in the air. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the proposed site in the Channel District-Ybor City area presents developers with an opportunity to “build an urban ballpark with, perhaps, waterfront views and access.” Plans and funding for the 14-acre site have yet to be determined. It still remains uncertain how much the new ballpark will cost the Rays, but it is expected to run between $500-650 million. That cost is the cost of the stadium alone, not including the millions it will take to acquire the land, build roads and parking lots, reroute sewer lines in the area and add “new exit ramps off highways or new stops on transit lines.” Sources close to the franchise note that it is unlikely that “ownership will offer to pay” for a new ballpark outright. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman offered to build a new ballpark at a redeveloped Tropicana Field, though the team seems intent on moving elsewhere.
7. Just a year after opening, the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento has already begun to pay dividends in the community. According to the Sacramento Kings, the team’s new $1 billion arena is one of the world’s most technologically advanced and sustainable, making it a staple in the city. Since 2015, “downtown property sales have totaled nearly $885 million,” when construction first began on the Golden 1 Center, while 11 downtown properties worth nearly $360 million were sold in the past year alone. In 2017, the facility was ranked as one of the top 15 venues in the United States and in the top 40 worldwide in ticket sales, “attracting over 1.6 million attendees who spent more than $71.5 million in downtown Sacramento.” Going forward, the Kings want to build on of this momentum to spur more positive economic growth in the city. In just a few short months, the Downtown Commons development will be opening, which is expected to be busy even on non-event nights. Already a staple in the community, the Golden 1 Center continues to drive economic impact in Sacramento. Look for other cities to use this as a case to build their own state-of-the-art facilities.
8. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will host the 2018 MLS All-Star game. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, expansion side Atlanta United FC’s success, coupled with the city’s affection for soccer, has resulted in announcement that the city, team, and stadium will be hosting the event in the coming year. “I don’t think we have to worry about selling out the stadium for the All-Star game,” commented Atlanta United Owner Arthur Blank. On top of the 2018 MLS All-Star game, the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium is also slated to host the 2018 College Football Playoff, 2019 Super Bowl and 2020 Final Four. In this instance, Atlanta was one of four cities in consideration to win the bid. Up to 30 Atlanta United employees “went to Chicago to observe the different facets” of this year’s all-star game at Soldier Field, where the MLS squad faced off against Real Madrid. This marks yet another mega sporting event that Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta has been awarded. The city and venue will use this as a tune-up for the CFP, Super Bowl and Final Four.
9. Detroit professional sports franchises are teaming up in an attempt to bring more marquee events to the city. According to the Detroit Free Press, executives from the city’s four pro sports teams – Red Wings, Pistons, Lions, and Tigers – have formed a new partnership, the Detroit Sports Organizing Corporation, which will “identify, bid, plan and produce major sporting events in Detroit.” Some of the events that the city hopes to attract in the coming years include the NFL Draft and NBA and NHL All-Star Games. Little Caesars Arena just opened in the heart of the city and the DSOC sees the venue as a selling point in winning bids. “The cities that have been really successful in hosting those events on a regular basis have a group like this that is permanently in place so that when an opportunity comes up we’re not starting from scratch,” said Lions President Rod Wood. Detroit now joins the likes of Indianapolis, Atlanta and Phoenix as cities with permanent organizing committees, the latter of which are notorious for hosting some of the country’s biggest sporting events.
10. Charlotte is out of the running to land an MLS expansion club – at least in this round. According to the Charlotte Business Journal, the city’s first round efforts were confirmed to be “dead” by the lead investor for a local team. The city planned on building a soccer-specific stadium for a new team, one of the main criteria for cities hopeful of landing an expansion bid, that would cost $175 million, but “the combination of upcoming elections and a competing bid by Nashville dashed any remaining hopes.” The city and county government disagreed on how the stadium was going to be funded, with some supporting the use of tourism tax while others dissented. SMI President & CEO Marcus Smith leads MLS4CLT and had even “committed to pay” the $150 million fee to acquire a team if Charlotte’s bid succeeded, but it will not get to the point where that is necessary. With numerous cities vying to land an MLS expansion team, a soccer-specific stadium is a must. Funding always presents an issue though, especially for smaller markets.
11. Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long is doing more than just playing football this season, he is making a massive impact in communities around the country. According to SportsBusiness Journal, Long made a splash when he announced his plan to donating his first six game checks to fund academic scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. Long is now expanding his charitable efforts by donating his final 10 game checks of the season “to organizations committed to balancing education inequity.” His new campaign – Pledge 10 For Tomorrow – is geared toward the three markets he has played in throughout his career: St. Louis, Boston and Philadelphia. Using social media as his platform to get fans involved, the campaign has already raised around $200,000 in just over a week. “We’re all trying to improve our communities and our country,” said Long. “I think everybody would agree equality is a goal, and a great gateway to that is an education and educational opportunities, educational equity.” A great example of a player using their status as a professional athlete to spur change in communities across the country.
12. As Amazon and Facebook continue their push to stream live sporting events around the world, a potential bid to land the English Premier League’s media rights is expected to cost more than $13 billion. According to the London Times, if either of the two web-based companies wanted to “stand any chance of winning live rights” to the EPL, they would have to pay at least $13.1 billion. The preeminent soccer league’s media rights have been hyper-inflated due to “aggressive competition between BT Sport and Sky” in the United Kingdom. Amazon currently owns the media rights to stream the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games via its Prime subscription model, though it attracted a mere 370,000 viewers for the first game streamed, “compared with 14.6 million on conventional TV, and was hit by glitches.” Sky and BT are working out a deal to pay less for the EPL’s media rights, since sport “now accounts for two-thirds of spending on content but only 8% of viewing.” Amazon and Facebook both have the capital necessary to make a competitive bid here, it just depends if either company is willing to justify such a move.
13. After a few years of unparalleled growth, Under Armour’s sales are beginning to waver. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore-based sportswear company is now considering “exiting some of its smaller sports categories as it works to stem declining sales.” Among those categories under consideration for exit are outdoor gear, fishing, and most-notably tennis, among others. Star British tennis player Andy Murray is currently represented by Under Armour, but his endorsement deal is not expected to be impacted by any potential move. Just this past year, Under Armour “recorded its first losses as a public company,” while its shares hit a record low when the “retailer reported second-quarter earnings in August.” The company’s revenue growth is expected to slow from 11-12% growth down to 9-11% growth. One of the main reasons for these results is the resurgence of Adidas, specifically in America. Now that Under Armour’s growth has plateaued, the long term arms race between them, Nike and Adidas to only continue to heat up going forward.
14. With the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is now less than a year away, significant plans are still being made for the event. According to the London Independent, FIFA President Gianni Infantino want VAR technology in place for all tournament matches. VAR technology was used during the Confederations Cup in Russia this past summer, with positive results coming out of the trial. One of the biggest fears in the sport is that a major tournament or game would ultimately be decided by a refereeing error – hence the need for VAR. “We need it. Every championship needs it,” said Infantino. “That’s being shown in leagues like Portugal and Italy at the moment.” Meanwhile in Russia, the AP reported that hosting the World Cup will cost the country “$600 million more than previously planned,” bringing the total cost up to $11.7 billion. Hidden and rising costs are commonplace for countries tasked with hosting the World Cup and Olympics, despite continual efforts to buck this trend.
15. Merely months ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, ticket sales continue to lag. According to the Wall Street Journal, safety concerns about neighboring North Korea plague the event – a primary reason for the weak sales. Organizers noted that only “about 30% of the tickets they targeted to sell worldwide, and less than 20% of the batch earmarked for South Koreans” have been purchased thus far. South Korean and IOC officials are adamant that the February Games will be “safe and secure,” but that reassurance appears to be doing little to convince people to make the trip to Asia. The “sluggish ticket sales raise questions about the IOC’s strategy of holding three consecutive Games in Asia to capture interest there, though the next two Games” – Tokyo in summer 2020 and Beijing in winter 2022 – will at least be in “larger population centers.” A recent front-page story on the Wall Street Journal, titled “The Winter Olympics Are Close, and So Is North Korea,” did little to calm any nerves about PyeongChang’s proximity to the DMZ (40 miles).
Five Top Tech
1) Amazon has continued to make their way in the steaming services arena. After it was announced that Amazon had acquired the rights to stream Thursday Night Football, many wondered about how successful the new venture would be. This week, we found out. Over the first four TNF games, Amazon compiled 7.1 Million views in over 180 countries around the world. Amazon’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky had this to say about the extent of the streaming success: “We’re going to continue to invest in video and increase that investment in 2018. The video business is having great results with our most important customer base, which is our Prime customers. It continues to drive better conversion of free trials, higher membership renewal rates for existing subscribers and higher overall engagement. That will always be an important part of our Prime offer, and we’ll continue to use the data that we have to make better and better decisions about where to invest our dollars in Prime Video.” Clearly, the move for Amazon in the digital streaming space has started to work. Over the remainder of the NFL season, we will see if the viewership increases. If it does, Amazon may have much more competition next season for NFL streaming rights.
2) Simon Wheatcroft, a British runner, will be competing in the New York City Marathon on November 5th. Wheatcroft, who is blind, will be wearing a vibrating device that will help him navigate the course next week. The vibrations are called “Haptic Feedback” and is worn around his wrist similar to a watch. When asked to detail his upcoming experience, Simon Wheatcroft said: “This will be my third New York marathon, but undoubtedly my greatest challenge and most significant run to date. Technology has enabled me to strive for the impossible. I want to continue using it to push the boundaries of what I am capable of achieving — and to ensure technologies exist that can assist everybody, whether they’re running a marathon or simply walking through their home town.” Wheatcroft is an inspirational athlete who is using technology to the best of his ability in order to compete in one of the most prestigious races in the world. The NYC marathon will include other athletes using other forms of technology to help them complete the race, but Wheatcroft’s use of a Haptic Device is the first of his kind.
3) The NBA may be moving closer to having players wear technology such as wristbands during play. The move would increase the amount of data and information teams, coaches, and fans could have about players while they’re playing. An interesting idea, wearable technology could tell us all about a player’s heart rate during some of the most crucial moments of each game. Executive Vice President of Media Operation and Technology for the NBA, Steve Hellmuth, said this of the recent VR developments: “Once we have motion capture, then we actually know the hands, arms, legs, feet positioning. It’s “kind of the last piece in really allowing a computer to understand the game of basketball. This is the next best experience that we can provide them with,” he said. “You’re under the basket, you’re seeing the collisions, you’re seeing the athleticism, the grace of the players that you just can’t when watching a flat television screen.” With the NBA progressing as one of the most tech-savvy leagues in all of professional sports, it comes as no surprise that the NBA is embracing this collection of tracking data. In MLB, teams and fans have a large amount of access to a variety of on-field measurable stats, and it has only raised interest for more data.
4) Wearable technology continues to make its way into MLB. Garmin has released the “Impact Bat Swing Sensor” that will relay data and information to any player that uses the application. The sensor is a small, watch-like device that fits onto the knob of the bat. Similar to a Zepp sensor, Garmin has decided to try its hand at a new piece of baseball technology. Garmin’s Vice President of World Sales Dan Bartel said: “Garmin has seen great success with our other sports products, like the golf swing sensor, so the addition of the Impact bat swing sensor to the performance training market seemed like a natural fit. Whether playing baseball or softball, or coaching players, the on-device display and auditory cues on the Impact bat swing sensor allow batters to quickly make adjustments so come game time they can step up to the plate with confidence.” While the product is useful, it is a direct copy of Zepp sensor technology. Unless there is a stark difference in price, it doesn’t seem like this product will gain much headway on the market. Time will tell, but Garmin is entering this field very late compared to its main competitor.
5) The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are creating augmented reality experiences for their fans starting next season. The transition began in late September this last season, where Coca Cola handed out interactive cards on which fans could download the BallPark App, and see the card display an animation. Coca-Cola’s Marketing Director for Sports Entertainment had this to say about their new MLB partnerships: We were one of the first partners to do something with Major League Baseball on this, but the team loves this because app downloads were up by 66 percent when we did this activity. That’s a major focus for the team, for Major League Baseball, and a win for us.” The advent of this form of technology could help attract fans who may not be pleased with baseball’s relatively slow pace. With more interactive features, fans that come to the ballpark could have something else to watch along with the game and stay engaged throughout. Soon, we may see more and more MLB teams adopt this technology in an effort to add to their fan experience.
Power of Sports 5
1. Microsoft Partnering With NFL Stars For Charity Campaign. As part of their “Create Change” campaign, Microsoft has begun backing the charitable organizations of five NFL players. Von Miller, Russell Wilson, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, and Richard Sherman have each started their own charitable organization since entering the league, and this week each player agreed to partner with Microsoft in an effort to spread awareness and raise additional funding for their cause. Under the agreement, Microsoft will be providing each organization with Surface tablets to help increase the efficiency of their work. Additionally, the company will be making a charitable donation to each players’ foundation. Microsoft has also produced videos of each player discussing their foundation and why it is important to them. The videos were debuted this week as part of a contest that Microsoft is running for the Super Bowl, in which fans are encouraged to submit stories of how they have created positive change in their community. The five winners, selected by Microsoft’s NFL partners, will each receive a trip for two to Super Bowl LII.
2. Olympian April Ross Encouraging Schools to Host Match for Breast Cancer Awareness. Professional beach volleyball player April Ross, alongside the Side-Out Foundation, is encouraging high school and college volleyball programs to host a Dig Pink event to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. Ross, whose mother Margie battled breast cancer for more than 15 years, has met with multiple college teams over the last year to speak to them about breast cancer awareness and encourage them to support the Dig Pink initiative. DePaul University, one of the schools that Ross was able to visit after her AVP tour stop in Chicago, has been hosting the event annually since 2009 and has been one of the foundation’s biggest supporters over the last eight years. The Side-Out Foundation was founded in 2005 by Rick Dunetz. Through Dig Pink matches and fundraising events across the country, the foundation has been able to raise more than $12 million dollars for breast cancer research and clinical trials. The foundation’s goal is to eventually have every high school and college program host at least one Dig Pink event during the month of October, which is recognized nationwide as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
3. NYCFC and City of New York Open Ten New Soccer Fields Across the City. As part of the New York City Soccer Initiative launched last year by Mayor Bill de Blasio, members of New York City Football Club were present at the openings of ten new soccer pitches across the city this week to cut the ribbon and speak on behalf of the initiative. The New York City Soccer Initiative is being led by NYCFC, the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, Adidas, and Etihad Airways. The initiative plans to to build and maintain 50 mini-soccer pitches in underserved neighborhoods across the five boroughs of New York over the next five years. Their goal is to expand after school programming for thousands of New York City youth and ensure that New Yorkers of all ages can work, learn, and play in safe neighborhoods.
4. Captain of the Rwandan Cricket Team Teaching the Sport to Young Refugees. Mary Maina, captain of the Rwandan women’s cricket team, has begun teaching a one-hour cricket class for a group of around 200 children refugees at the Mahama Refugee Camp in southeastern Rwanda. The camp is home to approximately 55,000 people, 51 percent of whom are children. The class was started in an effort to help the children forget about the trauma and issues that they have been forced to escape from, while also allowing them to learn a new sport that most of them have never been exposed to in the past. The program was started by the Cricket Builds Hope foundation, a charitable organization focused on delivering social programs for children with an emphasis on the empowerment of young females. The foundation believes that this first class is just the tip of the iceberg for what the organization will be able to achieve, and hopes to spread the program across the country and eventually across the rest of Africa.
5. San Francisco 49ers Partner with Local Police Unions. The San Francisco 49ers have joined together with several major police unions to sign the “Pledge for a More Understanding and Safer America.” The 49ers are contributing $500,000 to the campaign, which aims to improve police and community relationships. The pledge also advocates for legislation banning bump stocks, armor-piercing bullets, and gun silencers, accessories that have been facing heavy scrutiny after the recent shooting in Las Vegas. The 49ers will invite other NFL franchises and police unions to join them in their effort to build bridges of trust and communication between the community and their local police force. Thus far, unions representing the police in Oakland, Sacramento, Portland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Jose have all agreed to sign the pledge.
1. A return to the World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers – their first Fall Classic appearance in 29 years – will likely “erase years of red ink.” According to the New York Post, the Dodgers “might be close to break even” thanks to the increased number of MLB Postseason home games. The team had an Opening Day payroll of $242.2 million – which increased to $265 million due to in-season trades. The Dodgers "posted an operating loss” of $20.5 million last year after an operating loss of $73.2 million in 2015. The team’s financial picture is “expected to improve next season – with expected payroll cuts.” And within a few seasons, the team “projects” making more than $50 million annually. The Dodgers’ World Series opponents, the Houston Astros, advanced to their second World Series in franchise history on Saturday with a shutout win over the Yankees in ALCS Game 7, a victory that, according to the Houston Chronicle, “lifted up a city that will long be recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.” But don’t expect the massive economic impact from the World Series that Super Bowl host cities experience: in multiple studies, sports economists peg the impact per World Series home game at around $6.8 million, a far cry from the $300+ million a Super Bowl brings in.
2. In Northern California, Sonoma Raceway is ready to re-open in the wake of area wildfires. As firefighters appear to have devastating fires contained in Wine Country, Sonoma Raceway is ready to re-open. The track closed for more than a week after fires broke out in Sonoma and Napa Counties. The fires burned the hillside around the course, but raceway VP/Communications & Marketing Diana Brennan noted that structures came through unscathed, and fortunately so did the staff, none of whom lost their homes. The track will conduct a test day on Monday, with the first race to follow this weekend. Last week, Sonoma Raceway opened its 50-acre campgrounds as a stop-through shelter, offering three meals a day for evacuees. Brennan said at the peak, there were around 75 RVs and campers on the adjacent grounds. “This valley (Sonoma) and the community are amazing on a good day,” she noted, “and, it turns out, even better on a bad day. It’s a long haul, but we need to be a part of the restoration process.” From hurricane relief to wildfire shelter, this is just the latest example of American pro sports stepping up to aid disaster relief in 2017.
3. After a meeting between NFL union representatives and players, no changes have been made regarding rules on protesting the National Anthem. According to the New York Times, athletes will still be allowed to kneel or sit during the anthem in coming weeks without penalty. The NFL has flirted with the idea of changing the rules to require players to stand for the playing of the anthem, but no consensus has been reached. After the meeting, the NFL “did promise to help support some of the causes targeted by the protesting players, including reform of the criminal justice system.” Fans across the country have voiced their objections to the anthem protests, saying that they feel players are being “disrespectful to the flag and the military.” One of the chief critics of this movement has been President Trump. “The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country,” he tweeted. The NFL and its players association continue to show unity and resolve in the face of political forces attempting to cast them as dividers, not unifiers. Moving forward, hopefully cool heads will prevail, and the league can identify more ways to affect positive social change.
4. The 2018 NFL Draft is heading to Dallas. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the event, scheduled for April 26-28, will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Philadelphia held last year’s draft and Chicago hosted the two preceding events. The NFL Draft has become more than just an isolated event – it is now a weekend-long celebration that goes beyond just picking players. Cowboys Executive Vice President & Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones Anderson tweeted that she is “so excited” to have won the rights to host the event. In terms of logistics at AT&T Stadium, the NFL plans to utilize the field, stands, and outdoor plazas, “where the NFL Draft Experience festival would take place.” The Cowboys’ state-of-the-art practice facility, The Star at Frisco, will be used in some capacity as well. It’s clear the NFL Draft has cemented itself as a must-attend event, and solidified the league’s quest to capture sports fans’ attention year-round.
5. The NBA season is underway, and a new report from Wasserman notes that jersey patch sponsorships are worth an average of $9.3 million across the league. According to SportsBusiness Journal, more than half of NBA teams signed jersey patch sponsors ahead of the new season, giving them additional revenue sources. The reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors lead the way with an NBA-best deal worth $20 million annually with Japanese tech company Rakuten. The $9.3 million marker is “slightly up from projections,” which were initially forecast at $9.0 million annually. The NBA jersey sponsorships are the first for any of the four major sports leagues in the U.S., so selling the “high-priced inventory was proven no easy task given it had never been done” before. The league gave teams an “18-month runway to sell the patches.” Look for the NHL to be the next domino to fall in the uniform patch revenue hunt – the league will test the scheme at hockey’s World Cup next December.
6. Nike was sent scrambling just a day into its tenure as the official jersey provider of the NBA after LeBron James’ jersey ripped down the middle on national TV. According to ESPN.com, Nike executives are “extensively reviewing” why James’ jersey split down the back middle on opening night. The James incident marked the second time a Nike NBA jersey was torn during a game; in a preseason game again the Timberwolves, Lakers guard Tyler Ennis’s jersey ripped between the 1 and 0 on his No. 10 uniform. Nike took over as the official outfitter of the NBA from adidas after signing an eight-year, $1 billion deal with the league. The Oregon-based sportswear company is debating whether or not it is at fault for the recent rips. While “Nike makes the materials and provides blank uniforms to the squads, it is often the team’s responsibility to find a vendor to custom-stitch the names and numbers on the official jerseys.” If Nike is smart, it will avoid the blame game, solve the problem, move on, and sell thousands of NBA replica jerseys to satisfied fans.
7. Not news to anyone, but LeBron James is the NBA’s most marketable player. According to a survey of sports business executives and reported by SportsBusiness Daily, James finished “comfortably ahead” of Stephen Curry for the top spot. King James received 38 of the possible 49 first place votes, while also appearing on 98% of the ballots. Rounding out the top five are Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. Four members of the Warriors cracked the top 10 – more than any other team – while rookie Lonzo Ball finished tied for 10th with Draymond Green. The survey was distributed to marketing/branding executives, agencies, sports business professors, and basketball media across the country. “…When you have the NBA Finals and all the exposure of the last few years for the Warriors and Cavs, it’s hard not to have a list dominated by those teams’ players,” commented Bruin Sports Capital Partner David Abrutyn. As the NBA season gets underway for real, it will be interesting to see which new brand stars emerge over the next eight months.
8. The Target Center, home of the Minnesota Timberwolves, is now on par with other state-of-the-art arenas across the NBA. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the facility’s $140 million facelift actually saw the total capacity reduced by 400 to 18,798, but the added features give it some flare. Extra windows were placed throughout the concourse, “making Target Center look bigger, even while staying in its same smallish footprint in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.” A new beer garden that overlooks the court was added, along with the new Lexus Club and a second arena entrance. The team’s new locker room is noted to be “spacious and clean, with a circular design that creates more open room.” “This place has actually some life in it,” noted forward Shabazz Muhammad. The Timberwolves have high expectations on the court this year, with the additions of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson from Chicago.
9. The San Antonio Stars are officially set to become Las Vegas’s newest professional sports franchise. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the WNBA team has been purchased by MGM Resorts and will start playing in Las Vegas beginning with the 2018 season. The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors were quick to approve the relocation, as this transition “has been in the works for several months.” One of the biggest questions leading up to the move was where the team will play its home games; the Mandalay Bay Events Center has been chosen as the team’s arena. “Mandalay Bay is a smaller, more intimate arena with about 12,000 seats,” said MGM Resorts Chief Experience & Marketing Officer Lilian Tomovich. “We feel it’s the absolute right size arena for the fans to have that intimate experience to come watch basketball.” While unrelated, it’s also terrific that Mandalay Bay, currently associated with terror and tragedy, has something much more positive and uplifting in its near future. It’s good for the resort, and for the city.
10. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is toying with the idea of raising the city’s amusement tax on large concerts. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, if implemented, the new plan would “eliminate the 5% tax and charge a 9% tax on tickets at venues with a capacity over 1,500 people.” Small venues and concert halls would welcome this change, while larger ones – like the United Center and Wrigley Field – could expect to lose concerts due to the high tax rate. In a statement released by the United Center, venue management noted that “the plan would be the highest amusement tax for fans attending sports and concerts in the United States.” The Cubs issued a similar statement. “World class entertainers like Billy Joel and Lady Gaga who perform at Wrigley Field have their choice of venues and the new proposal puts Chicago venues at a disadvantage,” noted Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green. As soon as Chicago loses a major concert tour stop to Milwaukee, Indianapolis, or Ann Arbor due to its high amusement tax, look for Mayor Emanuel to negotiate offsetting tax credits or incentives with Wrigley, the United Center, and the like.
11. The NHL expects facial recognition software to be implemented in arenas within the next two years. According to TSN.ca, the NHL and some of its 31 teams are now “fielding pitches from companies offering to install high-definition cameras and facial recognition software,” hoping to have the technology adopted in the near future. One of the reasons for this push is that professional sports leagues across the world have come to terms with the fact that they are targets for terrorists. The conversations around facial recognition software are part of league-wide security reviews that could potentially help limit “the league’s financial exposure if terrorists targeted an NHL game.” “They’re looking to keep out the really bad guy and the technology has improved dramatically in the past few years,” said FaceFirst CEO Peter Trepp, whose firm sell this type of software. “We can identify someone literally as they walk through the door.” While some fans might decry the lack of privacy that would accompany putting the software systems into place, in this day and age can we really afford to dismiss them?
12. The Las Vegas Knights are looking to provide fans with an unparalleled in-game experience. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the NHL expansion club is trying out different entertainment aspects in its first season. The team plays its games at the brand new, state-of-the-art T-Mobile Arena right off The Strip and is trying to use its location as a selling point for fans. “We are making adjustments with every game,” said Golden Knights VP/Events & Entertainment Jonny Greco. “We listened to what people like and what they don’t like.” One way the team has showed its willingness to try new tactics is when it chose its mascot. Instead of a “Golden Knight,” the team chose a Gila monster, an animal indigenous to the region. The Golden Knights are on their Vegas honeymoon at present, and currently sitting in second place in the NHL Western Conference. If they continue to win, it looks like this marriage will be a lasting one.
13. The Columbus Crew could be leaving town for Austin, Texas, as soon as 2019. According to SI.com, Owner Anthony Precourt recently announced that he would move the Ohio-based MLS franchise if a soccer stadium in downtown Columbus is not finalized within the next year. If prompted to move to Austin, the Crew would be forced to play in a “temporary facility in 2019 and 2020” before making the move into a soccer-specific stadium the year later. Mapfre Stadium, where the Crew currently play, became MLS’s first-ever soccer-specific stadium when it was built in 1999, but its amenities are now “far behind those of recently-built stadiums in the MLS.” Precourt bought the team in 2013 and has since rejected numerous offers from other suitors to purchase 100% or 50% of the team. If they move to Austin, the Crew would most likely play home games at the University of Texas in the interim – a move that could help them build a lasting millennial fan base.
14. U.S. soccer great Landon Donovan is contemplating running for U.S. Soccer President. According to SI.com, Donovan has been approached by “a number of respected figures in American soccer” to run for the position, citing his qualifications to better handle the soccer aspects of that job than current President Sunil Gulati. Gulati is expected to run for his fourth term, though the USSF presidential campaign seems up for grabs following the USMNT’s failure to quality for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The election is set for February, and the American soccer governing body is concerned about Gulati “continuing to control decisions on the technical side – including hiring head coaches.” Donovan does lack experience in governing roles, however, which could pose a potential problem for his candidacy. One big difference between Gulati and Donovan is that the former tended to prioritize money, whereas Donovan is expected to prioritize youth reform and quality.
15. Political debates regarding Catalonia’s split from Spain have stalled media rights conversations for La Liga. According to Reuters, La Liga President Javier Tebas commented that the proposed secession has “held up negotiations” regarding the league’s international TV rights deals. The situation in Catalonia has been controversial in Spain, but the split could have severe consequences on La Liga, considering Barcelona is within the region. “La Liga would lose about 20% of its income if Real Madrid or Barcelona left,” said Tebas. “We’re talking about a problem that could have a huge impact on our competition, even though I don’t think [Catalonia splitting from Spain] will occur.” The TV rights are not only being sold in Spain and throughout the European Union, but in India, Singapore, Turkey, and beyond. Talks regarding new La Liga deals are being delayed a few weeks until a final political decision has been reached – the situation became more serious over the weekend, after Madrid announced drastic measures to stop the region from breaking away, and close to half a million people took to the streets in protest.
Five Top Tech
1) MLB’s American League Championship Series was one of the first of its kind in terms of technology. Over 100 microphones were used during the ALCS to capture every sound, along with a high number of cameras. Further, MLB is increasing those numbers for the World Series. As a result, fans will have an unprecedented amount of access to player reactions and emotions after each play. FOX Sports Senior Vice President of Field and Technical Operations Michael Davies noted in a press release: “We will have eight Super Slow Motion and Hypermotion Cameras, including the FOX Phantom Cameras, at either side of the plate to capture at-bats and close plays at a blistering 1,500 frames per second. Quite simply, it’s more Motion Cameras in play than at any other baseball game on any network this season.” For MLB, this is a great way to capitalize on some of the biggest moments the World Series has to offer. Having players “mic’d up” has been a part of sports technology for the last decade, but now MLB has placed microphones along with high-speed cameras right on the field, to fans’ advantage and delight.
2) Even though they failed to reach the World Series this year, the New York Yankees are moving forward in the esports arena. The team has entered into an investment partnership with Vision ESports, and will also invest in three other esports companies. The move is the latest example of professional sports franchises recognizing the legitimacy of esports and striking while the proverbial iron is hot. Yankees Co-Chairperson and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner told Fortune, “The New York Yankees are thrilled to partner with Vision Esports and its diverse portfolio of esports companies. Guided by an impressively skilled and sports-savvy leadership team, Vision Esports is transcending the industry with a bold, innovative approach to their business, and we are excited to enter into this dynamic arena as their partner.” The Yankees continue to push the envelope of their global brand in new ways. By investing in esports, they also open the door for the industry to tap into the massive New York market. The impact of an open door into NYC could pay enormous dividends for the entire esports image and brand.
3) FIFA will implement Video Assistant Referees in an effort to better aid on-field referees in making crucial calls during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The technology was used during the most recent Confederations Cup, and now FIFA is reaching out to technology companies in order to better prepare for the World Cup. A FIFA press release described their search for outside help: “It became clear how important it is to make correct decisions regarding the possible offside position of a player in one of the reviewable situations particularly when a goal is scored. Calibrated offside lines are requested to offer support in decision-making. FIFA calls for providers to offer a solution for a calibrated virtual offside line that will be made available to the VAR in order to assist with decision-making for possible offside positions.” If FIFA is able to increase its use of technology in the largest soccer tournament in the world, we could see VAR use expand faster than expected. With more teams and leagues in Europe seeing how the integrity of each game changes for the better, the quality of professional soccer globally could increase.
4) The Green Bay Packers and Microsoft are partnering to create a technology facility near Lambeau Field. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the facility, called “Titletown Tech,” is a tech accelerator created in an effort to boost the growth of startup companies and revitalize the local economy and beyond. The project is a significant financial commitment for the team, as they committed $5 million for the next five years to fund Titletown Tech. Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy had this to say about the Microsoft partnership: “Titletown has gained a tremendously impactful partner in Microsoft. Economic development is the key to our region’s future, and Microsoft, with its array of tools and expertise, will help grow new businesses as well as assist our existing companies to use technology to realize greater success.” The Packers are looking to boost their brand through this investment in technology along with aiding their fan base’s local economy. As a publicly-owned entity, the Packers famously have a very close relationship with their fans. As a result, this sort of investment perfectly fits their image and will only help them in the long run.
5) Kevin Durant grows his tech investment portfolio with his most recent support of autonomous drone startup Skydio. Skydio is believed to be one of the 30 or more tech investments Durant has made over his playing career. That number is not expected to decrease. Skydio describes their drone product as such: “At Skydio our fundamental goal is to deliver the power and magic of flying cameras without the complexity. Current drones are cool gadgets for enthusiasts but still a curiosity to mainstream consumers. Our belief is that advanced onboard computer vision and artificial intelligence, combined with world class hardware product design, will yield a breakthrough that makes drones a trusted part of our daily lives.” Durant is no stranger to the tech industry. A marquee NBA player who heavily invests in tech startups, Durant has always shown a willingness to try his hand at new ventures. Durant, Stephen Curry, and Andre Iguodala are notable NBA players that invest in tech companies, and not coincidentally they all play for the Bay Area Golden State Warriors. It’s inspiring to see pro athletes invest in ventures that represent the markets in which they play.
Power of Sports 5
1) Eagles DE Chris Long to donate year’s salary to education equality efforts. This week, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long announced that he will donate the remainder of his salary this year to help improve educational equality. Long had already donated his first six game checks from this season to provide scholarships for students in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, over the next ten weeks, each game check will go towards launching the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign. The Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign aims to encourage people to make donations to help improve equal education opportunities. The foundation has selected four organizations that focus on making education easily accessible for underprivileged youth while providing the support and resources they need to help them develop a strong social identity. The four selected organizations are located in the three cities in which Long has spent time during his NFL career: St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia. Each foundation will receive donations throughout the season, and the organization that raises the most money by the end of the season will receive an additional $50,000 donation.
2) Premier League players pledge a share of their earnings toward Common Goal Foundation. Premier League footballers Charlie Daniels and Alfie Mawson have pledged a share of their earnings towards Juan Mata’s Common Goal charity, becoming the first English players to do so. Mata, the star midfielder for Manchester United, believes that the support from Daniels and Mawson will help the foundation take a step forward in its international growth, and could help the foundation attract support from athletes around the world. Common Goal was started by Mata less than three months ago, with the goal of uniting the football community behind a shared commitment to give back. The idea is that each player will pledge a minimum of 1% of their annual salary to a collective fund. From there, the money will be distributed to various football charities around the world that provide underprivileged children with the opportunity to play and learn the game. To date, 12 players from various European clubs have committed to participate with Common Goal.
3) NCAA schools scheduling exhibition games to raise money for hurricane victims. Several major college basketball programs have added exhibition games to their schedule in an attempt to raise money for the victims of the recent hurricanes that impacted Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. The University of Oklahoma will host a charity scrimmage against UT Arlington on October 28 before their homecoming football game against Texas Tech. The basketball game will be free to attend and will have open seating, but fans will be encouraged to make a donation. All money raised at the game will go towards the United Way Harvey Relief Fund. Mississippi State University will also host a charity basketball game against the University of Nebraska next weekend. The game will be held on Sunday, October 22 at the Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi. Admission to the game will be free, but the schools will be partnering with the American Red Cross to collect monetary donations at the gates. All of the money collected will go towards helping the victims of Hurricane Irma throughout Florida and the Caribbean islands.
4) Saudi Arabia appoints first female head of sports. Last week, Saudi Arabia appointed the country’s first ever female president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports. Princess Reema bint Bandar was named head of the organization, which manages sports and sports-related activities for both men and women throughout the country, after she led the effort to license female-only gyms and sports clubs in her previous role with the national General Sports Authority. In a country where women are not allowed to exercise or participate in sports with men, the hope is that the new appointment will create more opportunities for women to exercise and will help them gain access to proper health and wellness facilities. According to a recent study done by the country, only 13% of the population exercises weekly. The hope is that by changing the way people view fitness, the country will be able to raise this number to 40% by the year 2030.
5) U.S. women’s hockey team given Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. On Wednesday night, the U.S. women’s national hockey team received the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. The team was presented with the award at the Salute to Women in Sports event in New York City, an annual event hosted by the Women’s Sports Foundation. The players were given the award for their courage and leadership both on and off the ice. Earlier this year, the team announced it would boycott the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship. The boycott was promoted as a way to advocate for equality in their sport. Just two weeks after the boycott was announced, the dispute was successfully resolved and the team was able to participate in the IIHF World Championship, in which they emerged victorious after beating Canada 3-2 in overtime during the championship game. Now ranked number one in the world, the U.S women are training for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, where the team hopes to medal for the sixth time since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1998.