15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 30
with Jacob Aere
- With the NBA preseason tipping off this week, marketers zero in on the latest crop of talent to be brought to the league this season, especially top draft pick Zion Williamson. As such, Williamson’s partners are revving up their own marketing plans for the former Duke player, including Panini America, the world’s largest licensed sports and entertainment collectibles company, which inked Williamson to an exclusive trading card agreement last month to feature Williamson’s only licensed college and NBA trading cards and autograph cards. His first officially licensed NBA autographs will release in October, with the arrival of the 2019-20 NBA Hoops Basketball product, as well as Panini’s 25 additional NBA trading card products released during the season. Cynopsis Sports spoke with Jason Howarth, Vice President of Marketing for Panini America, about his NBA season outlook. “The global marketplace is really excited about this NBA Rookie Class including players like Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, Rue Hachimura [first Japanese NBA Player], and Zion leads the way,” Howarth said. “Zion is a generational athlete – in the truest sense.” Gatorade obviously agrees – last Thursday, they announced that they had signed Williamson to a reported seven-figure, multi-year endorsement deal.
- While the Dallas Mavericks won’t travel overseas this NBA preseason, they have partnered with the Carbonfund.org Foundation as part of a pledge to offset their corporate travel carbon emissions. The move will see the franchise support the foundation’s Envira Amazonia Project, which works to protect nearly 500,000 acres of endangered Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Commenting on the arrangement, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said: “Offsetting our corporate travel with Carbonfund.org Foundation is one way we are creating a more sustainable business and educating our fans, staff and community about simple measures we can all take to protect our shared environment.“ The Envira Amazonia Project is part of a global campaign to provide support for ecosystem services helping to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation. The Mavericks are the latest sports property to lend their support to climate change prevention. Most recently, German soccer club Hoffenheim announced plans to become carbon neutral, including support for away team travel to the club’s home matches.
- The puck doesn’t drop on the new NHL season until Wednesday, but Sidney Crosby has already racked up accolades. The Penguins star has already earned ESPN’s all-decade Hart Trophy and had the top-selling NHL Shop jersey from last year, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Last Thursday, Crosby picked up another retail-related honor: he led all NHL players in merchandise sales on eBay from August 2018 to August 2019, according to the annual NHL preview released by eBay in partnership with StubHub. Crosby gear outsold those of other stars such as Chicago Blackhawks wing Patrick Kane, Washington Capitals wing Alexander Ovechkin, and ex-Penguin and Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The report actually went out of its way to say that Crosby merchandise is 76% more popular on eBay than Ovechkin’s. Pittsburgh is also No. 3 on eBay’s list of top merchandise sales by team. The Boston Bruins and Blackhawks are No. 1 and 2 respectively, while the Capitals came in fifth and the Philadelphia Flyers at ninth. (Sorry, Gritty.)
- EverFi “Runs the Right Plays.” Premiering earlier this year, The Sport Business Handbook recognizes the last 50 years as the formative period for the modern era of sport. Likewise, online education leader EverFi is celebrating over a decade of harnessing technology to equip communities with the skills they need for success. To celebrate the good work in our communities contributors continue to do, EverFi presents "Running the Right Plays: Doing Good Through Sport” on October 2 in Washington, DC. This symposium will present a rare opportunity to hear directly from key contributors in sport, business, and philanthropy and gain exclusive access to their personal insights. Panelists joining Rick Horrow for the evening include Lisa Bowman, Chief Marketing Officer, United Way Worldwide; Jon Chapman, Co-Founder & President, EverFi; Phil de Picciotto, Founder & President, Octagon; Damon Phillips, General Manager, NBC Sports Washington; Nick Sakiewicz, National Lacrosse League Commissioner; and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. We will also present the top five Washington, DC community impact milestones in and around sports.
- The San Francisco 49ers filed a lawsuit to “block Santa Clara’s attempt to end the team’s management of non-football events at Levi’s Stadium,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. The lawsuit filed on Friday “comes in the wake of the City Council’s vote to terminate the 49ers’ management agreement, effective November 15.” City officials “contend the team misrepresented its experience in managing ‘public assembly facilities’ and has violated city and state rules governing public contracts and prevailing wages.” Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor in a tweet Friday night “doubled down on those claims.” She tweeted, “We terminated the 49ers non-NFL events agreement because we discovered fraud and wage theft. They mismanaged a public facility. Net profits plunge from around $5 million to $0 in two years.” If the city succeeds, the 49ers would “no longer book and manage stadium events unrelated” to NFL games and activities. Santa Clara “owns Levi’s Stadium and leases the facility to the 49ers.” The team is “responsible for managing it year-round and generating revenue to be shared with the city through concerts and other non-NFL events.” The 49ers’ lawsuit requests that a judge invalidate the city’s termination notice.
- Watch what happens now. Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. wearing a Richard Mille watch during the Brown’s season opener against the Titans was “emblematic of the big-money sports culture” of 2019, in which “eight-figure athletes increasingly flash six-figure watches as a branding opportunity for player and watchmaker alike,” according to the New York Times. Watch site Hodinkee Managing Editor Stephen Pulvirent said, “A pop-cultural arms race has definitely emerged over the last decade or so when it comes to high-end watchmaking and top athletes. For most people, seeing a watch on the wrist of someone they respect and admire is a pretty powerful entry point to the world of high-end watches.” Fine watches “send a signal to fans that today’s multimillionaire athletes are not sweat-drenched gladiators, but men and women of taste and refinement.” The high-end watch flash, long prevalent in golf and tennis, has now ticked into team sports. And it’s worth noting OBJ lost a diamond earring during a Sunday in-game scuffle with Ravens’ cornerback Marlon Humphrey – not a timepiece.
- Tennis Channel is going bi-coastal, opening a fully equipped broadcast control room on the site of the USTA National Campus in Orlando. The new facility is designed to give the network a year-round presence at the training center for elite American professional and junior players. The facility, which establishes an East Coast production base for the West Coast-based network, provides Tennis Channel with greater access to National Campus competitions and players, in addition to Florida’s tennis community. It was put to immediate use September 24-29, as the network carried the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals for the first time. Tennis Channel has clearly benefitted operationally and financially from its $350 million acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group three years ago – a fact that’s not lost on Sinclair’s newly-purchased roster of Fox Regional Sports Networks and their executives.
- Kroenke, Spanos reportedly at odds over Sofi Stadium PSL sales. According to a report from ABC 10 News San Diego, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is upset about a lack of financial contribution by the L.A. Chargers for their shared Inglewood stadium, which is set to open next summer. Kroenke was anticipating the Chargers would generate close to $400 million from the sale of Personal Seat Licenses. Instead, the real figure is turning out to be tens of millions short of the target, and Kroenke is the one responsible for making up the difference. Costs for the Inglewood stadium are skyrocketing to almost $5 billion. The facility was initially expected to cost $1.9 billion. Kroenke is responsible for everything but the money the Chargers generate in PSL sales and a $200 million NFL G-6 loan. The Chargers, though, get to keep all of their game day revenues when they play in the new building. Kroenke has very little way of recouping the money from Spanos, because it was all part of the deal allowing the Chargers to move from San Diego to L.A.
- Notre Dame and Navy will face off next season at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Upwards of 35,000 U.S. fans are "expected to descend” in late August for Notre Dame-Navy, and a sellout “appears odds on,” but for future games, event organizers “must convince other U.S. colleges, with less obvious Irish links, that it is a good idea to shift one of their annual games to Dublin,” according to the Irish Times. The series will cost up to $5 million in “fees and charges” just to get each game moved to Dublin in subsequent years. Sponsors will “cover much of the initial cost.” Aer Lingus College Football Classic Steering Committee Chair Neil Naughton said, “We’re hoping Notre Dame fans will get to experience Ireland, to love it. And if they’re in business and they want to open a European office, Dublin will be their natural choice.” Ireland-based airline Aer Lingus is title sponsor, and Failte Ireland – the National Tourism Development Authority – as well as Tourism Ireland and the Dublin City Council are all “on board as official supporters.” Teams for the 2021 game will be announced in October.
- Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency has announced the launch of its new global division to be headquartered in London, with Michael Yormark, who will serve as president of the new venture, heading up branding and strategy. Over the past couple years, Roc Nation has drastically expanded their roster in Europe and become more involved with sports. Roc Nation Sports International’s clients currently include six soccer players: Jerome Boateng, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Eric Bailly, Axel Witsel, and Samuel Chukwueze. The company will officially open its London office on October 1 with a major focus on soccer. Based on the expertise of Roc Nation, on the artist and athlete side of the business, the agency believes this is a natural next step to have feet on the ground in the U.K. and develop their company in a 360 degree fashion. The new international venture will bring lifestyle, music and sport to the epicenter of the world’s soccer market.
- Pepsi, the NFL, and Roc Nation announced that Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show. “Ever since I saw Diana Ross fly off into the sky at the Halftime Show, I dreamed of performing at the Super Bowl,” said Lopez. “And now it’s made even more special not only because it’s the NFL’s 100th anniversary, but also because I am performing with a fellow Latina. The Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show telecast on FOX taking place at the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium on February 2, 2020 will be produced by NFL Network. Roc Nation will serve as producers and strategic entertainment advisors of the live performance. According to Variety, although Lopez is originally from the Bronx and Shakira from Colombia, Miami is "widely recognized as the global capital of the Latin music business.” The booking also “bears the fingerprints of Jay-Z,” as it comes on the heels of the NFL-Roc Nation partnership announced last month that “encompasses entertainment – including the Super Bowl halftime show."
- The NFL has signed DraftKings to an exclusive deal making it the league’s first official daily fantasy sports sponsor. Similar to the deal they signed with Caesars in January as the NFL’s inaugural casino partner, DraftKings is specifically prohibited from marketing its sports betting business with the NFL. However, the relationship can indirectly serve DraftKings’ emerging sports book by keeping its brand front-of-center among football fans as legalized betting spreads. The NFL expects to use the relationship to help it better understand how daily fantasy increases fan engagement. DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said access to official league marks and footage will help the company stand out against competitors. DraftKings already is an official sponsor of the Patriots, Broncos, and Cowboys. "The NFL is very careful about allowing people to use trademarks like Super Bowl, and we run contests where people can do things like win tickets to the Super Bowl…Now we can actually say ‘Super Bowl,’” Robins said. The NFL is still the only North American league not to designate a full-fledged sports betting partner, so it looks like they’re still hedging their bets while waiting for the perfect mega sports gambling deal.
- Nike tops analysts’ expectations with first quarter numbers. Nike stock “exceeded an all-time high of more than $90 a share in after-hours trading” last Thursday after the company released its Q1 earnings report, according to the Portland Oregonian. Nike’s first quarter came in “above Wall Street expectations,” with $10.66 billion in sales compared to the predicted $10.44 billion. Sales were up 10%, “not including currency changes.” Nike said earnings per share were $0.86, above the $0.70 expected. Nike Chairman, President, and CEO Mark Parker in a release described the first quarter as a “strong start” to the company’s 2020 fiscal year. The company expects fiscal year sales to “climb in the high single-digits.” Nike has now “exceeded Wall Street sales expectations in 14 of the last 20 quarters and beat earnings expectations in 19 of the last 20.” Nike’s brand new relationship with NBA rookie sensation Zion Williamson should continue to boost its strong numbers.
- NFL owners float proposal for 17-game season. As NFL CBA talks continue, the "most dramatic proposal on the table from owners is an expanded regular season to 17 games that could eliminate preseason games in their entirety,” according to ESPN and other sources. The NFLPA is “not interested in an expanded season, especially without a significant increase in its percentage of the revenue.” Sources on both sides “believe that important progress has been made and a deal is getting closer.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones are reportedly “leading the way to push through a new CBA at some time this season.” With higher numbers of NFL players retiring at the peak of their careers, they are clearly just as worried about the wear and tear on their bodies as they are the revenue feathering their bank accounts. If owners agree to increase revenue share by even a modest percentage, most players will probably jump at this compromise.
- Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Field House officially open after $185 million renovation. Downtown Cleveland was “electric” Saturday afternoon for a “celebration and official opening” of the $185 million renovated Rocket Mortgage Field House, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. An “estimated 2,500 people attended the ceremony” that was followed by a “free public open house.” People had the “chance to explore the space and try new dining options.” Updates include a “77,110 square foot illuminated aluminum curtain, more than 42,000 square feet of new space in the atrium, a power portal entryway featuring LED panels and Soundscape technology.” Cavaliers President of Business Operations Nic Barlage said, “Today was perfect.” The first event in the renovated arena "won’t be a sporting event but a concert, when the Black Keys perform” on Monday night. A fitting opening for a building mere blocks from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Top Five Tech
- Amazon launches a stat boosted “Thursday Night Football” broadcast. According to FOX Business, Amazon Prime Video is adding more customizable features to its streaming broadcasts to build on a viewership spike on its platform from last season. The third year of Amazon’s NFL streaming deal kicked off this past Thursday night, with fans able to use Prime Video’s “X-Ray” feature to access “Next Gen Stats,” such as a running back’s yards-after-contact. The company also will debut “NFL Next,” a 30-minute pre-game show exclusive to streaming viewers with show hosts including former NFL star Chris Long, NFL Network personality Kay Adams, and Next Gen Stats expert James Koh. Amazon is pushing the sports streaming market and plans to roll out more statistics as the season progresses. Amazon has seen a steady increase in viewership since it took over “Thursday Night Football,” with its average streaming viewership rising 86% on Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts in 2018 compared to the previous season.
- Levi’s Stadium is the first NFL stadium to employ 8K video. According to SportsPro, the San Francisco 49ers said the upgrade will come into play in the near future, however an exact timeline has yet to be set. The 8K HD video production technology comes as part of a multi-year partnership with communications manufacturer Foxconn Industrial Internet. A key component of that will be to replace all existing television monitors within Levi’s Stadium with Sharp-brand monitors. The partnership also presents an opportunity for Fii to enhance the match day experience through high-performance computing and 5G connectivity. Following updates completed during the off-season, the Fii name will also serve as the presenting sponsor for the 49ers Museum, the 49ers press room, and the Fii Club which was previously known as the East Field Club. The collaboration between the NFL team and communications company supports the new narrative of sports teams looking for a technological edge to improve marketing and fan experience.
- The NHL looks to boost players’ social media presence through a deal with Opendorse. According to NHL.com, the NHL and participating clubs will use Opendorse to help players publish their highlights, in-game images, and other media to their personal social channels with the tap of a button. Rather than simply handing players a library of assets to wade through, the NHL and its clubs can now send individual players specific photos, videos, or GIFs, streamlining the process to effectively engage their social media audiences. Almost all of the work is done by Opendorse, all the athletes have to do is add or edit their own messaging, then approve the post to publish with a single tap. Opendorse then automatically publishes the post to the appropriate channel at the scheduled date and time. As NHL players already significantly outpace fellow professional athletes in terms of engagement rate in 2019, this added addition of Opendorse will boost the NHL’s social media game to a higher frequency to build a larger brand for hockey overall.
- The Sacramento Kings are getting rid of the lineups for food and drink. According to Business Insider, an Amazon Go-style store where fans can grab a beer and food in under 30 seconds will open in October at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. It’s powered by Zippin, which recently opened its first checkout-free store in San Francisco. To use the store without checking out, shoppers must download the Sacramento Kings + Golden 1 Center app or the Zippin app and cameras and sensors will track what shoppers grab off the store’s shelves. Customers can also shop at the store if they present a valid debit or credit card at the entrance. While teams like the Yankees are bringing food right to your seats, this option still lets fans explore the stadium while getting rid of the hassle of standing in line and increasing fan satisfaction.
- ESPN and Facebook strike a deal to bring sports shows to the social media platform. Under the new deal, ESPN will distribute exclusive digital shows and content on the social giant’s Facebook Watch video platform. According to Variety, the new collaboration will begin with ESPN’s Facebook Watch lineup of additional segments from “Always Late With Katie Nolan,” the late-night sports/comedy show premiering this week on ESPN2; exclusive versions of college-football “Countdown to GameDay” and “Fantasy Focus Live,” and “The People’s MMA Show,” a weekly series about mixed martial arts fighters. With the new content, ESPN will engage with fans through Facebook Watch platform via Watch Parties, polls, or live talent Q&As. Facebook has made a huge push in the last two years to gather more sports content including live MLB games and now all-encompassing sports content from one of sports media’s titans as the push to break into OTT sports intensifies.
Power of Sports Five
- Burton Snowboards joined millions of students and workers from around the world in support of the Global Climate Strike. On September 20 and 27, the snowboard brand closed all its offices and retail stores in America, Canada, Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia so its employees could join the strike and attend local marches, while still being paid. Burton.com was also closed for online orders around the world on the same days. According to The Telegraph, visitors to the website were automatically redirected to the Global Climate Strike homepage instead. In addition, the brand’s flagship stores, which are largely based in the U.S., were open to the public as a space to gather before and after the marches. People in 150 countries organized Global Climate Strikes in September, in which people were encouraged to walk out of work or school to join a local march to draw attention to the need for a new approach to combat climate change.
- A pair of new-found friends cycle from London to Tokyo for charity and the Rugby World Cup. James Owens and Ron Rutland cycled from London to Tokyo, a total of 20,093 kilometers and a distance that spanned across 27 countries over 230 days to reach rugby’s showpiece event. The primary aim of the journey was to raise money and awareness for ChildFund Pass It Back, the Rugby World Cup’s official charity. According to CNN, the aim of the project was to help children from developing communities in Asia learn essential life skills through the sport. Seeing the actual children who were benefiting from the project’s $83,181 raised was the highlight of the journey for Owens and Rutland, who had only met five days before their journey and were also tasked with delivering the official whistle for the opening match between Japan and Russia. Rutland had previously cycled 41,843 km over two years and three months in the world’s first unsupported solo cycle through Africa to watch his beloved South Africa in 2015 in England. This time, he used his extreme conditioning to better the lives of others.
- A college football fan asks for beer money and ends up raising $1 million for charity. According to People Magazine, Carson King went viral last week with a homemade sign asking viewers of ESPN’s “College GameDay” to donate to his Venmo account so he could afford to stock up on beer. The sign read “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished,” which was seen on TV during the match-up between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones. King, 24, told CNN he didn’t expect to make any money off of the “joke” sign, but somehow netted $400 within 30 minutes. After he made more than $1,000 in a day, he decided to donate almost all of the money (as he did keep just enough for a case of Busch Light) to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Within days, Busch Beer was on board too, and so was Venmo, with each company promising to match King’s donation. Now, with Busch and Venmo on board, the donations crossed the $1.1 million mark. The randomness of a viral sports sensation helped to make a huge impact for sick children in need.
- After a sensational UFC match, Khabib Nurmugumadov and Dustin Poirier keep up the charity work. Last week, Khabib gave his swapped jersey with Poirier away so that it could be auctioned off for charity and it ended up raising $100,000 which was put towards helping Poirier’s “The Good Fight” charity with the funds to be used to build water wells and repair water supplies at an orphanage and school in Uganda. Additionally, UFC president Dana White revealed that he would match whatever the shirt sold for, so $200,000 was raised. According to MMA Mania, Poirier’s auction on EBay for his fight gloves, shorts, wraps, and Khabib’s shirt sold for $60,200 to bring the total money raised to over a quarter million to help provide clean water to those who lack access.
- The U.S. Soccer Foundation donates three mini soccer pitches to Baltimore. The D.C.-based soccer philanthropy and advocacy organization plans to fund and build three $60,000 “mini-pitches” at Desoto Park in Southwest Baltimore’s Morrell Park neighborhood, the Farring-Baybrook Recreation Center in Brooklyn, and Betty Hyatt Community Park in Washington Hill. According to Baltimore FishBowl, the donations would come as part of the nonprofit’s “Safe Places to Play” program. The foundation has partnered with sports-lighting firm Musco Lighting on a modular soccer field design, roughly the size of a basketball or tennis court, for underserved areas around the country and they come with lighting to allow for after-hours play, plus storage and benches. And the effects from these “city pitches” won’t be short lived – the foundation is partnering with MLS teams, corporations, and others to install 1,000 around the country by 2026.