28 Jan

10 to watch SPECIAL 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant 12720

We take a slight departure from our usual format this week to honor and celebrate the life and legend of Kobe Bryant, #24 forever.

— Remembering Kobe Bryant, the statesman entrepreneur. USA Basketball chair and Sport Business Handbook contributor Jerry Colangelo, during an ESPN interview on Sunday, described himself as “shaken to the core” upon hearing the news that Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning, and credited Bryant with leading Team USA to their gold medal Olympic performance in Beijing. “Gold Medal” perhaps best summarizes the span of Bryant’s all too short career. After his two-decade NBA run, Bryant dove into business with the same passion he had exhibited on the court. He started a business incubator and venture fund so that others could get their businesses off the ground. He wrote inspirational books for both children and adults. He made a highly-regarded documentary, “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” with filmmaker Gotham Chopra. And in 2018, he wrote and produced an animated short, “Dear Basketball,” that won an Academy Award. On Sunday night, Lizzo, the most-nominated artist heading into the 2020 Grammy Awards at Staples Center, kicked off the show by telling the crowd, “Tonight is for Kobe.” And it was, as surely as Bryant will be honored at the Super Bowl, the Oscars, the NBA All-Star Game, and throughout many days, nights, and years to come.

— Remembering Kobe Bryant, the philanthropist. Kobe Bryant was also known for his contributions to the community off the court. His goals extended way beyond the hardwood, and he was committed to promoting basketball and other sports to young people, girls in particular. Through his Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation, the charity the NBA star founded with his wife in 2006, Bryant was the official ambassador for a children’s charity called After-School All-Stars. The organization provides after-school programs to 72,000 inner-city kids in need. Bryant also founded the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, and single-handedly sponsored the Mamba Cup basketball tournament there – the event to which he and daughter Gianna were headed when their helicopter crashed on Sunday. And he and Vanessa, according to WUSA9, were “Founding Donors” to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, giving at least $1 million in financial support. Bryant’s legacy as a great athlete and champion will long be remembered, as will his dedication and commitment to using sport as a means for young people to realize their dreams.

— Super Bowl ticket demand could be headed for a record. According to Yahoo Sports and other industry sources, SeatGeek data shows the average resale price is $6,002, the “most-in demand Super Bowl ticket since SeatGeek started tracking prices” in 1010. At last look, the lowest “get-in” tickets on many of the large sales platforms were north of $5,200. The best seats at Hard Rock Stadium are “going for the fan-friendly price of $16,000.” By comparison, the next highest-priced Super Bowl ticket came two years ago in Super Bowl LII between the Patriots and Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium for $5,373. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the demand for tickets comes as both teams offer “explosive offenses and a bit of a championship drought.” The Chiefs have not been to the Super Bowl since 1970. The 49ers last appeared in the Super Bowl in 2013, but they have not won since 1995. With the game still six days away, peak inventory has yet to hit, so there’s no telling where this market could end up.

— Super Bowl bound Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tops the NFLPA’s top 50 player merchandise sales list. Patrick Mahomes has “moved into first place” on the Top 50 Player Sales List, based on data “provided by officially licensed NFL partners” collected from March 1-November 30, according to CNBC. Mahomes, whose merchandise sales are up 30% compared with this time last year, also is the “top-selling player” across Fanatics’ network of sites from the start of the 2019 regular season through last Sunday’s AFC Championship game. NFL Players Inc. interim President Steve Scebelo emphasized that Mahomes’ support outside the Kansas City market “contributed to an increase in sales for products” featuring him. Of course, if Mahomes goes on to beat the 49ers and win the Super Bowl this Sunday, the sky’s the limit as far as his future merchandise sales and endorsement deals go – not to mention his next NFL player contract.

— The NFL putting final touches on Hard Rock Stadium ahead of Super Bowl LIV. The NFL is “putting the final touches” on Hard Rock Stadium to ensure the venue is “prepared to host” Super Bowl LIV on February 2, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Between NFL employees and hired contractors, 6,000 people are working in and outside of the stadium in the final week leading up to the game. Meanwhile, the fan-centric Super Bowl Experience at Miami Beach Convention Center opened on Saturday and runs through February 1. NFL Senior Director of Event Operations Eric Finkelstein said that with the NFL celebrating its 100th season this year, there will be “surprise additional festivities surrounding the game.” On the food festivities front, one of the packages being offered to suite holders is the $5,000 "Oysters and Pearls Package” by Centerplate. It includes “one dozen oysters on the half shell, freshly shucked and served with traditional accompaniments; sustainably farmed and harvested caviar with crème fraiche and homemade potato blinis; a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut 2008 Vendage, served in commemorative flutes; and a cultivated Akoya pearl bracelet.” Proceeds go to the Ocean Conservancy, the host committee’s Ocean Partner.

— Twenty years ago, the dotcoms invaded the Super Bowl. Hashtag Sports digests a Fast Company story that reminds us that the now ubiquitous presence of digital companies in Super Bowl ads is still a fairly recent phenomenon. “Of all the dot-com brand commercials in the 2000 Super Bowl, E-Trade’s was the best. While others were funny, E-Trade’s dancing monkey was a living embodiment of what we were seeing at that very moment, right in front of our eyes,” Hashtag reminisces. Brands were taking millions of dollars, putting it in a pile, dousing it with gasoline, and paying for the opportunity to toss a match on it in front of 100 million people. It was a year when brands at the Super Bowl all of a sudden had a distinctly 21st-century suffix attached to their names: Autotrader.com, Pets.com, Monster.com, OurBeginning.com, andthelike.com. It was a new century, and 17 dot-com brands were featured in Super Bowl XXXIV, compared to two in 1999, which is almost as many web-based brands in one game that have bought Super Bowl ads in this last decade.

— It takes a village – the 49ers and Chiefs are bringing large contingents to Miami for Super Bowl. The 49ers are “flying over 1,500 staff members and spouses to Miami on multiple charter planes” for Super Bowl LIV. 49ers CEO Jed York said on Twitter, “We’re talking a lot of people. We wanted to make sure that our entire staff had the opportunity to go…Everybody from [coach Kyle Shanahan] and [GM John Lynch] all the way down to interns, everyone’s been a part of this, and we wanted to make sure they’re there to help and also celebrate the moment that hopefully gets us over the hump.” Meanwhile, the Hunt family, including Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt and Norma Hunt, widow of late Chiefs Founder Lamar Hunt, will be hosting "close to 2,000 staffers, friends, and family members” in Miami, according to a source cited by the Kansas City Star. Consider that according to USA Today, the average American hotel has 115 rooms, so the room nights taken up by 49ers and Chiefs contingents alone amounts to a large chunk of South Florida hotel real estate this coming week.

— Lowe’s is building an actual NFL village in Miami for its Super Bowl LIV activation. The league’s official home improvement sponsor is installing 32 team-themed structures at the Super Bowl Experience fan fest in Miami, which opens Saturday, with Lowe’s as presenting sponsor. The 6,000 square foot “Lowe’s Hometown” will include 32 8 x 8 x 8 structures in team colors and themes. Lowe’s vendors Chamberlain, Kobalt, Valspar, Trex, Leggett & Platt, and Scott’s Miracle-Gro assisted and will get branding at the Super Bowl Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The “Lowe’s Hometown” activation is part of the home-improvement retailer’s “Bring It Home” Super Bowl campaign, which will also be on digital and channels, along with out-of-home ads, and in-store activations in the Miami market, including visits by NFL players and the Lombardi trophy. A cause-related element will see Lowe’s assisting hundreds of volunteers performing home repairs for nine families in West Coconut Grove.

— Volvo is tying its car sweepstakes to a Super Bowl safety. Volvo Car USA has dubbed February 2 “Volvo Safety Sunday” and will give away $1 million in cars if a safety takes place during Super Bowl LIV. The company is promoting the sweepstakes on its social media channels. To participate, consumers must visit VolvoSafetySunday.com by game time. On the site, visitors are encouraged to design their own Volvo from 2020 models, adding the features of their choice. On the summary page, participants will be presented with a “Try to Win This Volvo” button that creates a unique configuration code necessary to enter the contest. Last year, Volvo also opted not to be an official game sponsor, instead giving mobile users a chance to win a S60 sedan Care by Volvo subscription during the Super Bowl. The carmaker’s “S60 Longest Drive” contest challenged smartphone and tablet users to keep their eyes on a video of a car for as long as possible. This year, Volvo is obviously bringing safety into conversations around its guerilla marketing campaigns.

— The NBA and NBPA announced that LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers secured the top spots on the NBA’s Most Popular Jersey and Team Merchandise lists for the second consecutive year. The results are based on NBAStore.com sales October-December 2019. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo ranked No. 2 on the player list, followed by the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (No. 3), the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (No. 4), and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (No. 5). Antetokounmpo, Tatum, and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (No. 6) all earned their highest rankings to date, while Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (No. 15) made his debut on the list, according to the NBA. USA Today noted the Raptors “made the top five for the first time in franchise history,” and the Nets (No. 10) “finished in the top 10 for the first time” since 2014. On a day in which people around the world honored Kobe Bryant, whose No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys were both retired by the Lakers, it seems only fitting that the team and James, who passed Bryant’s all time points total on Saturday, hold the top spots.

— As NFL conference championship game merchandise broke sales records on Fanatics and elsewhere, international sports and lifestyle brand New Era Cap Co., Inc. celebrates 100 years. New Era has over 500 licenses in its portfolio, including service as the exclusive MLB baseball cap provider since 1993. According to their news release, the company will launch special collections featuring new designs, product collaborations, and re-issues of classic caps and apparel throughout the year. The collections will also celebrate the future of New Era through global partnerships with fashion brands Helmut Lang, Yohji Yamamoto, Levi’s and Havaianas; visual artist Daniel Arsham; contemporary furniture brand Modernica; watch brand Casio G-SHOCK; and the brand’s first-ever circular economy product with Pentatonic. As part of the centennial year, Buffalo-based New Era will also partner with the Buffalo History Museum to present the first comprehensive exhibit for the brand.

— University of Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. But her “long-term value might be the sway she holds with a group that has often been skeptical of women’s sports as entertainment: men,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Warriors’ Stephen Curry has praised her game, while Grizzlies forward Ja Morant “tweeted a goat emoji” and LeBron James retweeted her video. UO Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Director Whitney Wagoner said that though Ionescu “isn’t the first superstar female player…the attention she’s drawing is different.” Wagoner said, “For a long time, one of the things that has held back the popularity of women’s basketball is this sense that male sports fans have that they are better than women’s basketball players…But when you have a female athlete where men get that she’s better than they are, then that’s a different dynamic.” Ionescu was one of dozens of prominent athletes to honor Kobe Bryant on Sunday – Bryant was one of her biggest supporters, and she had long considered him a mentor and close friend.

— Larry Fitzgerald buys minority stake in Suns. NFL Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has "purchased a minority stake” in the Suns, becoming the second active NFL player with an NBA ownership share, according to ESPN.com. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2018 bought a share of the Milwaukee Bucks. Fitzgerald has a “strong relationship” with Suns Owner Robert Sarver, and the limited partnership “has been in the works for months.” Fitzgerald already has a “significant ambassador’s role” with the Suns, and he has done “everything from sit in on potential front office candidate interviews to canvass for a Suns public arena vote.” Sources said that he will not take on a “more active role with the Suns until his professional football playing career is over.” It is only to the benefit of the greater Phoenix community that the much beloved Fitzgerald will remain in town when his football days are over to become a leader in sport business in the region.

— California tribes will petition for sports betting at tribal casinos. A coalition of 18 Native American tribes in California was "given approval to begin circulating petitions for a statewide ballot initiative that would allow sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racing tracks, but not at rival card clubs or on the internet,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Card clubs “vowed to campaign against the tribal casino proposal and instead support another ballot measure being considered by the California Legislature that would apply to a larger group of gambling interests.” A legal sports betting market could bring in $2.5 billion in “gross revenue annually in California.” State Assemblyman Adam Gray said that the market could generate $250-500 million in “tax revenue for the state.” Gray and state Senator Bill Dodd have each “introduced legislation that would put a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot as early as November to allow sports betting.” To make the ballot, lawmakers have until late June to “overcome the divisions in the state gambling industry over how to allow sports betting.”

— Turner Sports’ ELEAGUE and Twitch are teaming up for a community-driven live show titled ELEAGUE Super Punch. According to Cynopsis Sports, the series will look to show each week’s biggest esports and gaming moments, along with the creators and communities that drive them. The new show will be hosted by Twitch streamers and gaming personalities Ify Nwadiwe, Kelly Nugent, J.D. Witherspoon, and Alex Corea. Super Punch will be formatted as a fast-paced and dynamic take on the late night talk show format with real time engagement built into the live show. The series will air on both Twitch and TBS starting in February, running Monday-Friday beginning February 3 in addition to streaming live on a dedicated Twitch channel. Beginning February 21, each Friday episode will also see a special live showcase on TBS. Having a dedicated platform for esports on both television and on Twitch will draw in new esports fans due to its community based and collaborative media components.

— UFC and Facebook team up for exclusive content pact to push Pay-Per-View fights. According to Variety, UFC has upped its investment in original content for Facebook to try to convert more of its 26 million Facebook mixed martial arts fans into premium pay-per-view buyers. Under the one-year deal between UFC and Facebook, the MMA promoter is producing three original shows for Facebook Watch. All the content will be tied to 20 UFC events over the next year and available for free at UFC’s Facebook page. The content started rolling out last week ahead of UFC 246 on Saturday, January 18, featuring the headline Conor McGregor vs. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone bout. The UFC Fight Week exclusive original shows on Facebook Watch are: “Quick Hits,” “The Check-In Show,” and “Fighter Commentary.” The deal comes as Facebook remains in experimentation mode on its original video strategy, more than two years after bowing Facebook Watch in the U.S. and still hungry to be part of the sports media realm.

— NBC to produce four daily Tokyo 2020 Olympics shows for Snapchat. NBC is again turning to Snapchat as part of monetizing its Olympics media rights — coveting the app’s millions of millennials and Gen Z users. NBC Olympics and Snap inked a renewed pact to present coverage of the XXXII Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, as well as the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, to Snapchat users in the U.S. It’s the third Olympics the two companies have teamed on, following the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The 2020 Olympics partnership encompasses four daily original Snapchat Shows produced by NBC, exclusively for the platform in vertical-video orientation. Those include — for the first time — two highlights shows that will be updated in “near real-time.” Overall, NBC plans to produce more than 70 episodes for Snapchat, more than three times the 2018 Winter Games. NBC Olympics will be the exclusive seller of all ad inventory for the custom programming on Snapchat. In 2018, over 40 million unique viewers in the U.S. watched NBC Olympics content for the Winter Games, up more than 25% from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Significantly for NBC, of those 40-plus million, 90% were under the age of 35.

— Extreme sports fall under one media roof via Thrill One. According to SportsPro, The Raine Group and Causeway Media Partners, the growth stage venture capital firm led by Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, have combined action sports touring group Nitro Circus, the Street League Skateboarding series, and production house Superjacket Productions to create Thrill One Sports & Entertainment. The new venture will be headed up by Joe Carr, formerly of the UFC and World Surf League, who will serve as Thrill One’s chief executive. Thrill One, already claims to have 40 million followers across its brand pages and channels thanks to its previous three companies, has more than 30 events scheduled for 2020, and will produce over 100 hours of live sports, along with more than 175 episodes of original programming. The venture is expected to generate more than $100 million in its first year according to Bloomberg. The move comes with action sports set to gain more global exposure through the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will feature skateboarding and surfing for the first time, as well as BMX freestyle and inevitably boost the new sports media house’s presence.

— Music streaming giant Spotify is in talks to acquire Bill Simmons’ The Ringer. According to Variety, the digital content and podcast network launched by ESPN alum Bill Simmons in 2016 is in the early stages of talking to Spotify about falling under the music media company’s umbrella. Spotify’s pursuit of Ringer is not that surprising given the streaming music giant’s drive into the podcasting realm during the past year. Ringer is a sports and pop culture-centric content hub and production banner that features more than 30 podcasts from Simmons and his staffers as well as notables such as David Chang and Larry Wilmore. Simmons built up a massive online following during his tenure at ESPN that has now surpassed five million individual Twitter followers thanks to his time as an on-air commentator and also spending time with the Grantland news and commentary website that he steered for the Disney-owned sports behemoth. Although Simmons was ousted in May 2015 after numerous clashes with ESPN leaders, it seems he may be poised to cash in big time and potentially move, with his devoted clan, under the Spotify roof.

— HSBC Bank USA will collaborate with Rick Horrow to create unique experiences for customers and prospects geared towards financial literacy. The partnership will center around the launch of Horrow’s latest book, The Sport Business Handbook: Insights from 100+ Leaders Who Shaped 50 Years of the Industry. Curated events will be held in markets across the U.S. where book contributors will share the lessons that helped shape their athletic careers and future successful business endeavours. Entitled “SportBusiness 50:  Lessons and Leadership from Legends of the Game,” the partnership will launch its initial event in Miami, coinciding with Super Bowl LIV. The announcement is another example of HSBC’s commitment to supporting the growth of its local communities and the customers within each. It follows the bank’s launch of the HSBC Financial Wellness Center in early 2019 powered by EVERFI, a leading education technology company. The online platform features a series of engaging modules focused on financial literacy topics such as buying a home, planning for higher education, and building credit. The platform is available to anyone looking to advance their own financial literacy, inclusive of corporate partners as well as clients and non-clients of the bank.

— Twitch is hosting a Super Bowl Fortnite tournament to raise $500,000 for charity. According to Polygon, Twitch is hosting a Twitch Rivals Fortnite tournament to celebrate the NFL’s biggest game, which will include some of the world’s most famous Fortnite streamers teaming up with NFL athletes live in Miami, site of Super Bowl LIV. The tournament, which Twitch has dubbed the Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl, will feature 16 different duos. The teams were chosen in a draft, where the streamers picked which NFL player they wanted to partner up with. The teams will compete for a charity prize of $500,000, which Twitch will donate to a charity of the winners’ choosing. The competition will be live from the NFL Players Association party in Miami and streamed on Twitch with high profile football players including, but not limited to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Keenan Allen, and Baker Mayfield. The event will be held in the lead up to the actual Super Bowl game starting on January 30. By bringing together football, esports, and charity, the NFL is positioning itself as a forward-thinking sports league.

— Women’s NCAA basketball gets a broadcasting boost from ESPN as the sports network is beefing up the presence of the 2020 Women’s Final Four. According to Cynopsis Sports, the semifinals and championship games will be carried in primetime on the flagship network rather than ESPN 2. Additionally, the entire first and second rounds of the women’s championship will be available nationally on ESPN’s television networks, eliminating regionalization as had been the case in past years. The ever-growing popularity of women’s college basketball drove most of the change, but so too did women’s rights changes in sports over the past few years. The move marks a step by ESPN to finally put forth similar efforts to market the women’s sport the same as it does to promote the men’s game, something that fans have been advocating for years. Last year, the Women’s Final Four produced an 8% ratings increase, and this year can expect to have even bigger numbers due to its more favorable network and airing time.

— Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers fans raise nearly $20,000 for charity after a fight between the two NHL teams. According to CBC, the two teams got into an altercation on January 11 as Oilers forward Zack Kassian and Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk traded jabs during Calgary’s 4-3 win over Edmonton. The fallout from the game, which featured some questionable Tkachuk hits before Kassian’s retaliatory attack, included a two-game suspension for the latter and nothing for the former. Flames fans started a fundraising campaign to place billboards with Tkachuk’s face plastered on them across Edmonton. When the campaign reached $3,053 in less than 24 hours, surpassing its $2,500 goal, a local radio station stepped in to say it would handle the billboards, and the fundraiser money would now be directed toward ALS research. That GoFundMe page now says it has raised $3,738. Then Oilers fans struck back. Twitter user @SamInYEG posted a donation receipt to the charity Brown Bagging For Calgary’s Kids “so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.” Now, more than $10,000 had gone to the charity and Dragon’s Den actor W. Brett Wilson also pledged to match donations up to that number, as well as another $5,000 to the Edmonton shelter of @SamInYeg’s choosing. Combined with the Calgary efforts, it is nearly $20,000 in donations due to two hockey players starting a fight – making good come from pain.

— After a beer can celebration, Budweiser will donate Eric Fisher’s NFL fine amount to charity. According to 247 Sports, the NFL fined Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher for a beer can celebration in last week’s AFC Divisional playoff win over the Houston Texans and the beer company stepped in to donate the fine amount, $14,037, to a charity of Fisher’s choosing. After Chiefs tight end Blake Bell scored a touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes with 13:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, Fisher ran over to celebrate with his teammates near the stands in the end zone. The offensive tackle then grabbed two beer cans that were on the ledge of the end zone, banged the two cans together and poured them over his helmet, similar to a maneuver of WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Now Kansas City and Eric Fisher will be playing in the Super Bowl against the defensive juggernaut San Francisco 49ers and Fisher can focus his mind on the game after his round-about charity donation.