31 Aug

15 to watch week of 82718

15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 27

  1. Despite not scoring a goal in his home debut, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first appearance for Juventus in Turin delivered on the hype. On the ground in the Northern Italian city, the pristine cobbled streets were painted with black and white No. 7 jerseys in anticipation of the match versus Lazio, which finished in a 2-0 win for the hosts. In Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the city’s main square, a massive advertisement was painted across the entire façade of a building to celebrate Ronaldo’s arrival at Juventus. The ad, put up by Nike and written in Italian, lists all of CR7’s career accomplishments in bold black letters before finally stating in gold print: “Now forget everything, and start again.” Ronaldo earned Man of the Match honors for his efforts on the pitch, creating numerous chances and nearly scoring on multiple occasions. The nearly-sold out Allianz Arena – the only section with open seats was the one allocated specifically to Lazio fans – got its first glimpse at the special talent that Ronaldo is, though fans will have to wait at least one more week to see Ronaldo net his first goal for the seven-time defending Italian champions. And Serie A has now taken one more step in elevating its brand on par with the EPL and La Liga.
  1. The USTA is going to extreme lengths to promote the upcoming U.S. Open, including the recent streaming of the first ever tennis match played in space. According to USA Today, the 50th anniversary of the tournament is being commemorated as a spectacular “three-week festival with plans to keep that extended profile into the future.” The new promotional campaign helped draw attention to the week before the main event, calling it “Fan Week” with all activities free and open to the public at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center and the U.S. Open Experience at Brookfield Place in Manhattan. The traditionally less popular qualifying tournament, where lower ranked players vie for the final 16 spots in the men’s and women’s fields, is now being played up as a “not-to-miss tournament” before the main event. To keep fans engaged during the actual three-week push, “former champions (27 men and 23 women) will be honored in a variety of ways.” Anniversaries are terrific marketing platforms, and you can bet that the USTA will hold serve on this one.
  1. On its 50th anniversary, the U.S. Open also commemorates the completion of a massive renovation and the opening of the new Armstrong stadium, complete with a roof. The USTA will oversee $53 million in prize money paid out in Flushing Meadows this year, but that impressive sum is just a fraction of the $600 million, five-year campus overhaul helping to raise the international profile of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The new state-of-the-art Armstrong comprises a 14,000 seat arena with shade, loads of new concessions, and a large terrace and bar overlooking the grounds. The new stadium will also host nighttime matches, adding to the gate and providing added insurance for compelling TV viewing, especially if it rains. As the New York Times noted, the Open today “has become a vast moneymaking corporate playground and high end shopping mall…if most major sporting events these days are generally better experienced on television, this one remains a singular joy to attend, a two-week bingeathon for tennis lovers, not least because in almost every meaningful way the renovations have improved the bottom-line experience of watching the matches.” Of course, they’ve also improved the USTA’s bottom line.
  1. The total tennis economy grew 1.1% in 2017 to $6.06 billion. The total value of the U.S. tennis economy grew by just over 1% last year, crossing the $6 billion threshold for the first time. The data is from the Tennis Industry Association’s annual “Economic Index,” created to evaluate the total worth of the U.S. tennis industry to the overall economy. The 2017 index value measured 110, the highest since the Tennis Economic Index value was first released in 2008. The $6.06 billion total value of the tennis economy is calculated by measuring various segments in tennis, including participation, facility revenue, program delivery and lesson/clinic revenue, equipment sales, media, and revenue from the professional tours. Despite decreases in recreational tennis participation and sales of tennis equipment to consumers, gains were realized in facility and lesson revenue, sponsorships, and ad revenue, which led to the overall 1.1% gain in the tennis economy. In fact, the total U.S. Tennis Economic Index has seen steady growth since 2008. While fewer people may be playing, more are watching – equally as important to the sport’s long term health.
  1. As college football kicks off in earnest this week, the sport is experiencing a dramatic rise in naming rights deals. The value of college football stadium naming rights deals has skyrocketed over the last three years, with the average annual fee now exceeding $1 million, according to JohnWallStreet. American Airlines started the trend in 2015, agreeing to a 10-year $41 million pact with the University of Washington (Husky Stadium). United Airlines followed, agreeing to a 16-year deal worth $69 million, to put its name on the USC Trojans’ L.A. Coliseum. And in May 2017, Kentucky became the first SEC school to add a naming rights sponsor on a football stadium, agreeing to a 12-year $22 million deal with Kroger. The shifting landscape has programs across the country considering adopting corporate names for their athletic buildings. University of Colorado Chief Revenue Officer Matt Biggers noted that his school had explored naming rights sponsorships in the past, but said for the first time there now seems a universal understanding (from administrators and alumni) “from a cost and revenue standpoint” that “we have to generate revenue to compete.” College football is in an arms race, and naming rights are just one revenue stream that allows athletic departments to stockpile ammunition.
  2. Just ahead of the new college football season, Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer has been suspended for the Buckeyes’ first three games. According to the Columbus Dispatch, university Athletic Director Gene Smith has also been suspended for the poor handling of domestic-abuse accusations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. The Board of Trustees handed down the punishment for the two men after interviewing more than 40 witnesses, some multiple times, while also reviewing “more than 60,000 emails and 10,000 text messages in addition to other relevant information.” The investigation ultimately found that both Smith and Meyer “failed to adhere to the precise requirements of their contracts when they concluded that they needed to await a law enforcement determination to file charges before reporting the accusations of Courtney Smith against Zack Smith.” Both Meyer and Smith will be able to keep their jobs on the basis that they acted in good faith, though they did not do enough. Moreover, Meyer’s decision to not report red flags shows that college football’s threshold for action in such cases is way too low.
  3. Youth on Course partners with Pinehurst. Youth on Course, the non-profit organization providing young people with subsidized golf, college scholarships, paid internships, and a caddie program, has partnered with world-renowned Pinehurst Resort and Country Club to include select golf courses to its portfolio of 900-plus member properties. Youth on Course members may play courses No. 1, 3, and 5 for just $5.00. The addition of Pinehurst now headlines an impressive stable of U.S. golf courses in the Youth on Course portfolio. Members can take advantage of discounted rates at 34 different golf courses included in Golfweek’s “Best Courses You Can Play” list. With more than 40,000 members on pace to complete 115,000 rounds at 900-plus golf courses nationwide, Youth on Course continues to gain momentum in the golf community. Since 2017, partnerships with state and regional golf associations have increased by 120%, which positions the organization more than halfway to its goal of providing affordable golf to kids in all 50 states. And since its inception in 2008, Youth on Course has awarded 222 students with scholarships totaling more than $1.4 million. The Youth on Course scholarship retention rate is 98%, with 53 students already graduated – an impressive off-course achievement.
  1. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are set to battle head-to-head in Las Vegas like the heavyweights in the ring typically do. According to Variety, “The Match,” an 18-hole winner-take-all duel, is set to take place over Thanksgiving weekend in America’s gambling capital. With a pot of $9 million up for grabs, this is not the same payday that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are used to walking away with from Vegas, though it is still a significant sum of money for a golf match. The format of the event will be traditional match play, though Mickelson confirmed that there will be ‘in-play’ competitions like closest to the pin or longest drive scattered throughout; both players and their caddies will also be wearing microphones. Tuner has secured control of the pay-per-view rights, though a specific PPV price has not yet been confirmed. In addition to Turner’s involvement, “The Match” will be streamed live on Bleacher Report’s OTT platform. True to form, the trash talk has already started on both sides, and both hard core and casual golf fans anxiously await PPV pricing and availability info.
  1. President Donald Trump continues his direct involvement with the national anthem issue plaguing the NFL. According to The Hill, President Trump has now started a petition urging his followers “to denounce ESPN’s spineless move to continue not airing the national anthem before ‘MNF’ games this season.” An email from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee was sent out following ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro’s announcement that his network would continue its traditional of not airing the anthem. “We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don’t think that will change this year,” said Pitaro. Most networks have traditionally not shown the anthem in years past, even before last year’s protests and hotly-contested debate on the issue, often electing for commercial breaks instead. FOX Sports, which owns more NFL media rights that ESPN, has decided only to show the anthem “during what it considers to be special broadcasts – including on Veterans Day and Thanksgiving and during the playoffs.” As serious indictments continue to be handed out to members of Trump’s inner circle, perhaps the President will be forced to focus on more pressing issues than policies in an industry in which he has no stake.
  1. Nashville continues to forge ahead with its plan to build a soccer-specific MLS stadium, though everything still remains in jeopardy with a final vote one month away. According to the Tennessean, the expansion team’s $275 million stadium proposal “took a step forward in the Metropolitan Council” when it voted 24-7 to advance an ordinance calling for demolishing existing buildings at the fairgrounds site to clear way for a 30,500-seat stadium. The council’s positive vote now sets up a third and final vote on this specific and a few other ordinances involving the team, stadium construction, and revenue plans. The September 4 vote “needs 27 votes in the 40 member council for final approval.” Since the ordinance advanced with only 24 affirmatives votes, Nashville MLS Owner John Ingram and Mayor David Briley’s administration now need to pick up three additional votes from council members. What once seemed as a surefire deal is far from it now; the abrupt resignation of former Mayor Megan Barry, who spearheaded the project, has since cast a looming cloud of uncertainty over the team’s stadium plans.
  1. Merely a week after La Liga announced a new long-term plan to play regular season matches abroad in the U.S., players from Spanish clubs are considering protesting the move. According to Marca, Spanish Footballers’ Association President David Aganzo noted the outrage among the players for not being included in talks to strike such a deal. The captains from the league’s 20 clubs, including Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, recently got together to discuss the recent development. “The players are outraged, very surprised and are all against it,” said Aganzo. “The players don’t want to play overseas. Things have to be done in a more coherent way and with common sense.” Aganzo went on to note that the players could go on strike if it comes to that. With so much initial excitement from fans across the United States, matters appear much more tense in Spain as players and clubs try to manage the actual logistics of making such matches work in their favor.
  1. With the recent announcement of an official team name, Austin, Texas, appears likely to land an MLS team in the near future. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Austin FC could begin play as early as next spring should the Columbus Crew relocate south to Texas. The decision to go with a generic name “falls in line with the recent trend of MLS expansion clubs” like LAFC and Atlanta United. It also “pays tribute to the team being Austin’s first in a major professional sports league.” Not all of the team’s details have been worked out yet, specifically where the planned $200 million, soccer-specific stadium would be built, but the club’s colors have been confirmed as green, black, and white with the name “Austin” placed above a pair of intertwined live oaks on the jersey badge. The vibrant and booming city in Texas seems worthy of a professional sports team, and this is the city’s best bet in landing an MLS, MLB, or NBA team.
  1. MLB is reconfiguring next year’s schedule in an attempt to give players more rest in-season while also allowing for more chances to reschedule rained-out games. According to SportsBusiness Journal, next year will mark the league’s “earliest domestic start to a season ever,” with all 30 teams scheduled to be in action by Thursday, March 28. One week before that date, the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners will kick off the action in Tokyo, Japan, as part of a two-game session March 20-21. The new schedule is set to give each team three or four more days off throughout the season. In addition to these changes, the new season “will feature the most special-event games in a single year in league history, as the Japan matchups will joined by games in Omaha to tie into the College World Series, a two-game Red Sox-Yankees series in London and a third trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League Classic.” Anything that MLB can do to generate excitement among casual fans during the regular season will be most welcome, as they generally don’t tune in until the postseason begins.
  1. 14.In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling the other month, every few weeks or so another state across the country crosses the line to legalize sports betting – this time it is West Virginia’s turn. According to John WallStreet, West Virginia is poised to become the fifth state, following Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi, to legalize such activity when the sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races opens on September 1. This appears to be the only casino that will have an open sportsbook in time for the upcoming college football season; “The Greenbrier, Mardi Gras Casino and Wheeling Island Casino have yet to announce when their sportsbooks will open.” A league integrity fee will be included for West Virginia sports gambling, as insisted by Governor Jim Justice. Despite his input, interestingly enough the law to legalize sports betting was actually passed without Justice’s signature – a clear indicator of the measure’s strong statewide support.
  1. 15.As the NFL regular season creeps closer and closer, sponsors continue to unveil their newest marketing engagements. According to SportsBusiness Journal, concessionaire Aramark will roll out its new “beer bikes” at 10 select stadium this year. The bikes, being branded as “Tour de Taps,” will be stocked with beer and able to travel around the stadium to deliver beverages to fans regardless of their location. The “BeerCycles” will be featured at stadiums in Philadelphia, Houston, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Baltimore this season. The goal of these portable beer stands is to enhance fan engagement, providing stadium-goers with an even more interactive vending experience than ever before. “At the end of the day, it’s about finding new and innovative ways to not only reach fans, but deliver an enjoyable service experience,” said Aramark Sports & Entertainment Division President Carl Mittleman. Now that’s what I call rolling with the changes.

Tech Top 5

  1. Manchester City renews partnership with robotics company. English soccer giant Manchester City has extended its global partnership with robotics company Ubtech. The agreement, which the club claims to be the only one of its kind in world sport, will see Ubtech Robotics continue as the Premier League champions’ official robot partner. Since the partnership first commenced in 2016, the robotics firm has produced a range of content, including the Alpha 2 robot ‘signing’ with Manchester City as a new squad member. The robots have also taken part in match day entertainment, both inside the Etihad Stadium and outside the grounds. The deal will also see Ubtech and City continue to work in the local community, offering educational programs to local children. During the 2017-2018 season, the partnership delivered coding lessons in Manchester schools. Following that success, Ubtech and the City Football Group will be expanding these classes into Melbourne and New York – the cities of City’s sister clubs.
  2. UEFA uses blockchain for ticket distribution. UEFA, the governing body for soccer in Europe, has announced a successful test of a blockchain-powered mobile ticketing system for the recent Super Cup with plans to continue exploring the platform for future events. The mobile-housed system was used to distribute every ticket for the match between Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in an attempt to make its ticket sales process more simple and safe. UEFA says the new system is geared towards providing secure distribution which prevents the replication and duplication of tickets. The technology uses blockchain to guarantee the validity of mobile tickets, which are downloaded onto a user’s mobile device via an iOS or android app. Entry is then gained by presenting the mobile ticket with Bluetooth devices placed around the stadium. Using blockchain ticketing makes it harder for third parties to obtain as many tickets as possible with the intent of selling them for a profit. It also gives sports organizations more control over who gains access to the stadium, while it lowers the possibility of fans being tricked by fake sellers.
  3. Overwatch League and Twitter sign content deal. The Overwatch League has announced a deal with Twitter to bring highlights and live streamed content to the social media platform. The multi-year agreement with the city-based franchise esports league will see real-time video highlights driven by Twitter. The collaboration was in place in time for the Overwatch League All-Star Weekend, taking place August 25-26 at the Blizzard Arena, Los Angeles. The partnership will also see highlights from Overwatch League season two broadcast on the social media site, with Twitter driving Overwatch League’s distribution of clips from every match of the Overwatch League regular season, playoffs, Grand Finals, and All-Star Weekend. The platform will also show a new weekly preview show, Watchpoint, which will be live streamed on the Overwatch League’s official account. The show will provide fans with statistics, predictions and analysis.
  4. NBA 2K league adds four expansion teams for 2019. The NBA has announced that franchises owned by the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Minnesota Timberwolves will join its NBA 2K League esports competition in 2019. The four expansion teams will join an existing roster of 17 NBA teams that participated in this year’s inaugural 2k League season, which just concluded with its first ever finals event August 25. According to ESPN, the price of an expansion franchise for the second 2K League season is $750,000 for three years of participation, which represents no increase on the previous campaign. The Hawks, Nets, Lakers, and Timberwolves will create affiliate brands that will look similar to their basketball franchises. The 2K League will host its expansion draft on September 28. “Welcoming these four world-class organizations and their passionate fanbases to the NBA 2K League is an exciting moment not only for the league, but for the entire 2K community,” said NBA 2K League managing director Brendan Donohue.
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars sign data-driven tech deal. Tech Mahindra, an Indian information technology and digital transformation company, has signed a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars to become the franchise’s technology, analytics, and digital strategy partner. As part of the agreement, the IT provider will offer innovative digital technology expertise, including artificial intelligence and special analytics in order to enhance fan experience and increase front office efficiency. Besides their work directly with the club, Tech Mahindra has committed to partnering with the Jaguars in community work designed to improve the technological awareness and education of northeast Florida residents. A contribution towards local schools will also be made by both the Jaguars and the tech firm. Said Jaguars President Mark Lamping, “The Jaguars’ organization is powered by innovation. This strategic partnership with Tech Mahindra will fuel that pursuit with a data-driven and technologically advanced approach to a variety of challenges that face a growing NFL franchise. We’re excited to welcome them to the Jaguars family and eager to get to work.”

Power of Sports 5

  1. Special Olympics athletes tee up on PGA Tour. United Airlines, the official airline of the PGA Tour, flew nine top Special Olympics golfers to The Northern Trust for an inside-the-ropes, VIP experience with three PGA Tour players: Rafa Cabrera Bello, James Hahn, and J.J. Spaun. Through this unified day of play, United aligned its recently expanded relationship with Special Olympics and partnership with the PGA Tour as a part of its continued efforts to break down barriers and promote inclusion. The Special Olympics golfers received a true PGA Tour player experience. After VIP transportation to Ridgewood Country Club, the athletes were escorted to personal lockers and then participated in a skills clinic led by New Jersey PGA professionals. Each athlete was then officially announced on the first tee. Following three holes of play, the athletes and guests attended a reception in the United Airlines Fairway Club. “United and Special Olympics’ shared vision of unity and inclusion illustrates what the game of golf is all about, and on behalf of the Northern Trust and the PGA Tour, we were truly honored to play a role in what was a memorable experience,” said Julie Tyson, Senior Vice President of Championship Management, PGA Tour.
  2. Andy Dalton donates charity money to Buffalo hospital. Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton and his wife, Jordan, wanted to find a way to show their appreciation for their newfound fans in Buffalo before the Bengals preseason game against the Bills on August 26. Jordan Dalton presented a donation to the pediatric department of the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo on behalf of the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation. The gesture is the culmination of a saga that began on December 31, 2017, when Dalton threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-12 with 53 seconds left in a game against the Baltimore Ravens. The touchdown essentially sealed a 31-27 win for the Bengals, and put the Bills in the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons. Dalton and foundation board members were in attendance to present the donation before going to (716) Food & Sport in Buffalo to meet with Bills fans. Bills fans began making donations, mostly in increments of 17, to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation and the charities of Tyler Boyd’s choice as thanks. Fans raised more than $415,000.
  3. Cyclists ride for charity. Hundreds of cyclists are expected to take part in the second Spoke Series cycle ride on Sunday September 16, taking them on a personal challenge through some of the most picturesque countryside and villages in Essex. British Cycling, the country’s largest cycling organization and national governing body for the sport, has approved the cycling event. Keen cyclist and Spoke Series organizer, James Lord, from Brentwood, said: “I’ve been cycling since the age of 11 and know the Essex countryside really well. I wanted to create a structured cycling event which is suitable for different abilities as well as being sociable and family-friendly. Spoke Series is also raising money for the Yellow Ball Foundation, a charity which exists to give disadvantaged children access to a brighter and healthier future.
  4. James Harden hosts second annual charity basketball game. Houston Rockets superstar James Harden hosted his second annual celebrity basketball game to culminate a great weekend of charitable events. The first two days of the experience included a comedy show and a Saturday softball game. All of the proceeds raised from the weekend went to Harden’s 3 the Harden Way Foundation. “Whether it’s kids or adults, it’s about making positive impacts, said the 2018 NBA MVP. “We’re giving a lot of happiness to the city, that’s the reason we’re here.” In addition, ticket sales helped to “bridge the economic and education gaps in the Houston area by providing academic, financial support to high achieving students, who demonstrate leadership within communities facing economic hardship.” The NBA’s reigning scoring champ received some help from some of the biggest names in the NBA and Hip-Hop. Travis Scott, Meek Mill, and 21 Savage laced up their kicks to hoop alongside NBA all-stars Russell Westbrook and Demar DeRozan. Westbrook and Harden are former teammates as well as the last two NBA MVPs.
  5. Yahoo Sports partners with Big League Impact to launch charitable partnership. With the 2018 Fantasy Football season almost here, Yahoo Sports and Big League Impact have announced a first-of-its-kind partnership that adds a charitable dynamic to the world’s most popular fantasy sports platform. The collaboration mixes the worlds of baseball and Fantasy Football, through a unique weekly charity league that follows a DFS salary cap format. Each week, a player and his cause, beginning with the Yankees’ CC Sabathia in Week 1, is featured. Fans enter by buying into the weekly featured fantasy league to win prizes like signed baseballs, jerseys, and other unique items that the player will personally offer. Yahoo will then donate 100% of those proceeds towards that player’s initiative. Big League Impact, founded in 2013 by St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, is a player-led organization whose athletes from veteran ballplayers Sabathia and San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence to rising stars like Mets pitcher Steven Matz personally host events to raise money for causes they care about in the U.S. and around the world.