with Jamie Swimmer & Tanner Simkins
- With the new college basketball season officially underway, the FBI’s ongoing probe into corruption still looms. According to the Chicago Tribune, some of the nation’s most storied universities and basketball programs have been riddled with arrests and allegations, including Louisville, Auburn, and Arizona. The NCAA is hoping that public attention will finally turn toward the action on the court as opposed to the drama and scandal off of it. Speaking of the ongoing FBI probe, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, “This has been a significant issue in college basketball, and a significant distraction…There’s uncertainty in the air with a lot of our coaches and people around college basketball.” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl has been repeatedly told that his job might be in jeopardy if he does not cooperate with the ongoing investigation, while further legal action is still pending for others as the season begins. Not helping the situation – three UCLA students’, including freshman LiAngelo Ball’s, continued detainment in China following alleged shoplifting charges stemming from a Louis Vuitton store near the team’s hotel in Hangzhou.
- For the fourth consecutive year, the BNP Paribas Open has been voted the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year, as determined by player vote. The BNP Paribas Open, the largest WTA and ATP World Tour combined two-week event in the world, has swept the top tournament honors on both the men’s and women’s Tours since 2014. “As both a player and now as Tournament Director, I can understand why this event has been named “Tournament of the Year” for the fourth straight year,” Tommy Haas said. Since Larry Ellison purchased the event in 2009, ongoing improvements to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden have made the tournament a favorite for fans and players alike. Ahead of this year’s BNP Paribas Open, a “Full Bloom” integrated marketing campaign will highlight the world-class tennis players that participate in the renowned global event woven into the natural beauty and backdrop of the desert landscape. The 2017 BNP Paribas Open had an estimated total gross economic impact on the Coachella Valley regional economy of more than $406 million, according to an economic impact study – an increase of more than $32 million since the last study was conducted in 2014.
- As the college football regular season builds toward the conference championship round, leadership positions at Football Bowl Subdivision schools continue to be dominated by white men, according to an annual report card from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. The institute gave top-level college sports an overall grade of D-plus for race and gender hiring in leadership positions, with a D-plus for racial hiring and an F for gender hiring. Overall, Caucasians hold 86.6% of the 395 campus leadership positions reported in the study, which found that 89.2% of university presidents in the FBS were white, as were 83.1% of the athletic directors, 87.4% of faculty athletics representatives, and 100% of conference commissioners. The study revealed that only 22 people of color in total held the roles of university presidents or ADs, and also found that nearly 87% of head coaches in the FBS are white. Conversely, nearly 56% of collegiate football players are black, while 39% are white. A report card is by nature an analysis of progress, and clearly much more needs to be done to create an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion among college sports’ leaders, particularly within high-revenue, high-scrutiny football programs.
- Media and e-Signatures platform Twignature announced a new funding threshold of $3 million investment, with 50% coming from Veterans of the Armed Forces and a new, patented e-Signatures service on Twitter called “Twignature.” Parent company lettrs, Inc. also announced that Dr. Harvey W. Schiller, one of the most respected leaders in sports, media and entertainment, and a former Air Force General, has joined the company as Chairman. The Twignature app is now available on iTunes and activates an immediate digital marketplace for authenticated, distributed, and sponsored signatures across the Twitter network. Twignature’s decentralized service uses smartphone biometrics and blockchain distribution principles to activate a unique number, ledger, and seal of authenticity for signed Tweets, including signature location, device, and even whether the original autograph was associated with a major brand. Lettrs founder Drew Bartkiewicz was named one of Goldman Sachs’ “Top 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs” in 2016, while that same year lettrs was also cited as a Forbes Top 25 Veteran founded business. A successful patent for a cyber method to authenticate mobile signatures, marrying biometrics and media on smartphones, is much needed in today’s high profile digital environments.
- Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is continuing his attack on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. According to the New York Times, Jones wants all team owners to vote on the payment package of Goodell’s pending contract extension. As it currently stands, only NFL compensation committee members will vote on this matter. Over the past 10 years as the NFL commissioner, Goodell has been paid over $200 million; Jones noted that “making a decision potentially worth more than $200 million should be done carefully.” Cowboys General Counsel Jason Cohen penned a letter to the head of the compensation committee on behalf of Jones, “which repeatedly criticized Falcons Owner and committee chair Arthur Blank” for his role in the matter. This past May, the owners voted to unanimously extend Goodell’s contract by five years. Through his lawyer, Jones stated that he wants the new contract “to include less guaranteed pay and more incentives tied to the league’s financial performance.” Goodell is essentially the NFL’s CEO, and top CEO pay has long been incentive based. So Jones isn’t off base…except within the clubby NFL ownership confines.
- MLS will let teams keep 100% of transfer fees for homegrown players. MLS is “set to approve a new rule this offseason that will allow teams to keep” 100% of transfer fees for homegrown players, according to sources cited by FourFourTwo. This “incentivizes league owners to invest more in player development, and rewards the teams that do so successfully.” Currently, MLS receives 25% of any homegrown transfer. Additionally, the league is “weighing a proposal that would increase the cap of transfer revenue used as General Allocation Money.” A source said that the proposal would also see that cap “increase incrementally from year to year.” Across the board, MLS is on the rise, and the revenue streams rising all boats will benefit teams and players alike.
- The Chicago Bulls will host the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, bringing the sporting event back to the Windy City for the first time since 1988. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Bulls executives Michael Reinsdorf and John Paxson recently made the official announcement at the United Center. Back in 1988, Michael Jordan was the All-Star Game MVP and beat Dominique Wilkins to take the crown in the slam dunk contest when he jumped from the free throw line. Jerry Reinsdorf was vocal throughout the years of his opposition to hosting the All-Star Game, but ultimately this came down to his son Michael’s decision. “They would have to force me to take the All-Star Game,” said Jerry Reinsdorf in a 2012 interview. “They take over the building. Really, no good can come out of it and all it can do is upset your fans.” Famous last words from a famous father, about an event that has long been considered a standout in the pro sports All-Star Game pantheon. The NBA does it right.
- The Atlanta Braves continue to see a revenue revival, thanks largely to the team’s new stadium and surrounding development. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta have helped drive in $336 million in revenue during the first nine months of 2017. That marker is “already $104 million more than all of 2016 and more than $100 million higher than any of the previous three seasons.” While the Braves’ franchise value and revenue numbers have both increased significantly in the past year, the team took on a considerable amount of debt to finance the construction of the ballpark and community area. Through the end of September, the Braves “carried debt of $585 million,” a number that is up $74 million since the beginning of July. The team is not expected to have a tough time paying off its debt with the increase in “ticket sales, concessions, corporate sales, suites, and premium-seat fees.”
- WNBA teams will be allowed to sell additional jersey patch sponsorships next season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the majority of WNBA teams already have marquee sponsors on the front of their jerseys, but a new 2.25-inch by 2.25-inch patch will be available for a new sponsor on the upper left-hand shoulder of game jerseys. In accordance with league rules, patch sponsors must be “separate from the team’s marquee jersey sponsor.” Additionally, WNBA teams will be allowed to sell on-court advertising near both foul lines to a single sponsor, though those ads will have to be removed for all games broadcast on ESPN. “The league is in growth mode, and we want to continue to innovate,” said WNBA COO Jay Parry. “We are excited to bring the jersey badge and new on-court opportunities as ways for brands to connect with teams in meaningful ways.” As long as the advertisements are tasteful, they should meet with approval from the higher-ups at the NBA, which owns the women’s league, and may be using the women’s unis to test market approval for what eventually may be seen on NBA jerseys as well.
- The 2019 NHL Winter Classic is heading to South Bend, Indiana, for a matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Blackhawks will be the host team at Notre Dame Stadium, marking the team’s league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks played at Wrigley Field in 2009, at Nationals Park in 2015, and most recently at Busch Stadium in St. Louis this past year. In all, this will “mark the Blackhawks’ sixth outdoor game total, while eight teams have never played outdoors” and 10 more have only played outside once. Over the years, Original Six teams and other franchises with richer hockey histories have been picked more frequently to play in special outdoor games, but fans outside of Chicago “are growing discontented with the announcement of more Blackhawks games outdoors.” In all, the Blackhawks are only 1-4-0 in outdoor games, so they are hoping to reverse their luck this time around. Another reason for this league disparity – it’s a little more difficult to pull off outdoor hockey games in Phoenix, Florida, and Southern California, even in January’s so-called “winter chill.”
- Amazon is continuing its push into the sports world, this time via a partnership with EPL club Manchester City. According to Bloomberg, Amazon Prime Video will produce a behind-the-scenes documentary series of Manchester City’s current season. The series will be released in 2018 to Prime members, and will include footage shot at the club’s training facilities at the City Football Academy, feature interviews with manager Pep Guardiola, and provide viewers with an inside look into executive meetings. Amazon has shown its willingness to spend big money on new ventures, with this being no exception; in all, Amazon is paying Man City more than $13 million for exclusive access to the club. The Seattle-based company is building its portfolio of sports investments and ventures, “after winning global live streaming rights for the ATP World Tour and the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package.” As cord-cutting becomes more prevalent and online viewing intensifies, look for Amazon to continue its global sports rights quest.
- German sportswear company adidas is hoping to use this summer’s World Cup to restore sales growth. According to Reuters, adidas plans to launch new international kits before the 2018 Russia World Cup kicks off in June, following a slowdown in European sales these past three months. Germany and Spain – two of the best soccer teams in the world and heavyweight World Cup favorites – are among the countries that adidas currently sponsors. Adidas is now “lifting marketing spending and expects a sales acceleration in the Christmas shopping season.” Third-quarter sales missed the marker set by analysts despite the company’s recent success in China and North America. Slower growth in Europe was largely attributed to the general slowdown in the market, “while the termination of sponsorship deals with the NBA and Premier League champion Chelsea led to an overall decline in basketball and soccer sales.” Citi analyst Dan Homan recently rated the company’s shares as “neutral” in the market. It also won’t hurt adidas that the U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the Russia World Cup – the USNMT, along with the USNWT, is a Nike operation.
- The rise of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo continues after the Milwaukee Bucks forward re-signed with Nike. According to ESPN.com, the “Greek Freak” – largely considered to be the next LeBron James – was being courted by almost every major apparel company for the right to sign him to a long-term shoe and apparel deal. Antetokounmpo ultimately chose to resign with Nike because the deal “includes the creation of a signature shoe,” which is already in the works. The first signature shoe of the line is expected to be released in time for the holiday season in 2019. The international attention that Antetokounmpo receives is expected to pay huge dividends for Nike in the creation of the new shoe line. With the new deal in place, the Greek Freak now has one of the largest shoe deals ever given to a European player – right on par with the one between Kristaps Porzingis and adidas.
- Texas A&M University is looking to address the common issue of hotel room scarcity in college towns, but it’s going to cost consumers an extremely high price. According to the Wall Street Journal, Texas A&M is planning to build a new hotel directly across the street from Kyle Field to give more football fans a place to stay on home game weekends, and will use guaranteed room options to auction off rooms. For reservations on the hotel’s top floor, bids for GROs “range from $125,000 to $475,000.” GROs are much like personal seat licenses – a tactic that sports franchises deploy upon building a new stadium to partially fund projects and lock in ticketholders. A&M “took inspiration for the hotel from LSU,” while Alabama and Ole Miss currently offer “similar perks at campus-affiliated hotels.” School officials plan to have the hotel completed in time for the 2018 home opener. The GRO program is expected to raise more than $28.5 million for the university.
- The Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Bruins both have their eyes on China. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Boston Globe, the two franchises are looking to expand their respective footprints into the Asian country by partnering with Chinese companies. The Timberwolves recently played two preseason games in China after Shanghai sports marketer Lizhang “John” Jiang “became the first Chinese investor in an NBA team when he bought a 5% stake” back in 2016. The team has since reached a partnership with a Shanghai-based organization that will help see Chinese youth basketball players and coaches come to Minneapolis to participate in camps and attend games. In terms of the Bruins, the NHL franchise has been “aggressive” in planting seeds in China. Hockey is not as popular as basketball across the vast country, so the Bruins have been helping to build the game from the grassroots up by sending players overseas to put on youth clinics. Of course, building a long-term fan base, in China and elsewhere, begins with youth involvement in the sport at hand.
1. Intel bringing ‘live’ virtual reality experiences to NBA on TNT games. Beginning with the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, Intel True VR and Turner Sports will be delivering NBA content to fans ‘live’ in virtual reality. The two organizations announced a multi-year partnership which sees Intel True VR become the exclusive provider of virtual reality for the NBA on TNT. Intel will also be partnering with the NBA around its 360-degree video using Intel freeD technology. Intel plans to integrate the freeD technology into the fan’s ‘live’ virtual reality experience so they can freeze play and view the action from LeBron James’ or Stephen Curry’s point-of-view for example. The 360-degree replay technology can also be woven into broadcasts for commentators to pause and further analyze important plays.
2. NBA, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz executives talk NBA 2K esports league. Aaron Ryan told audience members at last week’s TEAMS Conference in Orlando that despite working at the NBA for the past 20 years, what now gives him “street cred” at his house with his 12 year old daughter is being associated with 2K and the NBA 2K league. Ryan was joined alongside by executives with the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and Monumental Sports and Entertainment (Washington Wizards). He added that the new NBA venture with 2K and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. is “access to a different conversation” with new fans, corporate partners and facilities. Seventeen NBA franchises will participate in next year’s inaugural season, with tryouts and a draft expected to be held next February and March.
3. Media and e-Signatures platform Twignature lands $3M investment, with 50% coming from Veterans of the Armed Forces and a new, patented e-Signatures service on Twitter called "Twignature.” Parent company lettrs, Inc. also announced that Dr. Harvey W. Schiller, one of the most respected leaders in sports, media and entertainment, and a former Air Force General, has joined the company as Chairman. The Twignature app is just now available activates an immediate digital marketplace for authenticated, distributed and sponsored signatures across the Twitter network. Twignature’s decentralized service uses smartphone biometrics and blockchain distribution principles to activate a unique number, ledger and seal of authenticity for signed Tweets, including signature location, device, and even whether the original autograph was associated with a major brand. Twignature offers to verify, authenticate and “notarize” e-signatures on social networks and emerging currency networks like Blockchain and Bitcoin.
4. Whether on the golf course or in the boardroom, Norman has always tried to push the boundaries of what was possible. In this spirit and slated to disrupt the golf industry, Norman unveiled the “Shark Experience.” The bold, non-traditional concept combines connectivity, content and customization intended to produce an enhanced on-course experience. The centerpiece for Shark Experience presented by Verizon is Club Car. The Ingersoll-Rand golf subsidiary, along with longtime business partner GPSi, one of the world’s leading global positioning system brands, has joined forces with the Greg Norman Company and Verizon to deliver a ‘Your Game, Your Way’ concept to golfers through a connected Club Car golf cart. The overhead unit features a high-definition screen and built-in speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. Neither of those elements are ground-breaking until the system is turned on. When engaged it brings elements of Topgolf — music, live sports, news and other curated entertainment content — onto the golf course, combines it with standard dynamic yardage and hole flyover capability, and augments it with a seamless, one-swipe platform for a cashless on-course experience.
5. Bayern Munich’s use of Instagram Stories polls shows how useful it can be to clubs. The poll function – as illustrated brilliantly by Bayern’s social media team – adds a new dimension to stories allowing fans to feel involved and, in this case, literally direct the content themselves. Indeed, the reason that Bayern’s attempt at this is so interesting is because of what it could mean for teams in the future, and why Instagram polls could become so important., Instagram is the fastest-growing social media platform for football clubs. Recently, Nielsen found that it was the platform where starting lineup graphics gained the most traction, even though Twitter would seem like the most appropriate platform for a piece of content with such a short shelf-life (of only about an hour before kick-off). Cracking Instagram is clearly key for clubs in the near future, and having a way to actively interact with fans in stories is incredibly useful on this front
Power of Sports 5
1. NFL Makes Donation to Tuesday’s Children. The National Football League has given a $200,000 grant to the nonprofit organization Tuesday’s Children. Tuesday’s Children, a mentoring program focused on supporting children who have lost one of their parents, provides support to communities and families impacted by terrorism and the loss of loved ones in warfare. The NFL first began working with Tuesday’s Children after the 2001 terrorist attacks, when the league partnered with the organization to provide the families of first responders with aid. The recently announced grant will be used to expand this program to include children who have lost a parent in the military. Enrolled children will be matched with carefully selected mentors, who will provide the children with guidance and support to help them succeed both in school and in their communities.
2. Retired NHL Player Launches Charity Hockey Series. Former professional hockey player David Moss and his charity Hockey Has Heart hosted a face-off series for charity this weekend at the Arctic Edge Ice of Canton. The first annual Hockey Has Heart Charity Face Off pitted several Michigan high school varsity teams against each other to help raise money for the Hockey has Heart general fund. The Michigan State women’s varsity club team was also present at the event to compete against the Michigan Selects hockey club. Founded in 2003, the Hockey has Heart organization has raised over $2 million to help more than 70 hockey families that are currently facing life challenges. Made up entirely of volunteers, the majority of all funds raised by the organization come from direct donations. These donations are used to provide assistance for families facing financial strain or extended periods of hardship. Most distributions are $10,000 or less and are intended to cover medical expenses and lost wages where earners have lost income due to accident or illness.
3. Andy Murray faces Roger Federer in Charity Match. On Tuesday, tennis superstar Andy Murray made his return to the court for the first time since injuring his hip on July 12. Murray returned early from his hip injury to face off against Roger Federer as part of the Andy Murray Live exhibition in Glasgow, Scotland. All of the money raised at the event will be donated to a variety of charities, including Unicef and several local organizations. The 26th matchup between the two champions wasn’t the only match that Murray participated in at the event. He also played in a doubles match alongside his brother Jamie. Last year, in the first year of the event, Murray and company were able to raise more than £300,000, and they expect to easily top that number this year after competing in front of nearly 11,000 people.
4. Falcons Honor Veterans for Salute to Service Week. The Atlanta Falcons hosted their third Salute to Service week ahead of their game with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The week was dedicated to honoring the military with different events throughout the week for veterans of our armed forces and their families, leading up to the game on Sunday where they were hosted for the game and each player on the Falcons wore a decal with the initials of a different veteran on their helmet. The families were also invited to the team’s Saturday walk-through where they were able to meet the players and coaching staff. Some of the events hosted by the team throughout the week included a a youth football clinic at Fort Stewart, an event where Falcons employees assisted with the packing of approximately 300 care packages that will be shipped to military personnel overseas, and a Vietnam War Veterans Breakfast.
5. Girls in Brazil Finding Solace in Soccer. Brazil’s favelas are best known for their high death tollheavily armed drug gangs, and heavy police presence. Every day, the people in these communities have to live their lives surrounded by violence. The children in the area have it particularly rough, unable to leave their homes or go to school many days due to nearby gunfire. It is for this reason why Street Child United, a charity based out of the United Kingdom, is working to create safe spaces where the children of the favelas can play without fear. In order to create these spaces, the charity had to strike a deal with local residents, police, and gangs to declare their facilities off limits to all violence and illegal activities. Thus far, the result has been a soccer pitch where many young girls have come to find support from others in their community and escape from the surrounding environment. Street Child United provides a global platform for street children receive the protection, support, and opportunities that all children deserve. Based in London, the charity focuses on giving at-risk young people opportunities through sport. The charity’s mission is to assist local street-connected children with reducing their risk of exploitation and abuse, developing their life skills, and improving their education and employment opportunities while changing the negative perceptions and treatment of street children around the world
with Jamie Swimmer, Tanner Simkins
- As Congress prepares to debate the Republican tax bill this week, the NFL is pushing back against a provision that would get rid of tax breaks for communities and states that borrow money to fund stadiums. According to the Wall Street Journal, the league’s opposition is the latest in a “series of political clashes this football season.” NFL Executive VP/Communications Joe Lockhart said, “We believe that the construction of new stadiums and renovations of stadiums are economic drivers in local communities. If the idea is to promote economic growth, this would be a step backwards.” Public funding of sports stadiums, and municipal bond tax exemptions that often underwrite such deals, have recently “come under fire from members of both parties.“ According to a Brookings report, subsidies for NFL stadiums cost $1.1 billion, and that study "didn’t include” Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was in part financed by about $200 million in municipal bonds. If the provision remains in place, several high-profile planned sports facilities could be impacted, including the Raiders’ Las Vegas stadium and extensive renovations to Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
- As the NBA season intensifies, E-Poll Market Research has unveiled its annual list of the NBA’s most marketable players. Topping the E-Score list is the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, who slightly edged out LeBron James. Though LeBron has a higher Awareness than Curry, research shows Curry as the more appealing of the two former MVPs, with an Appeal of 57% versus LeBron’s 41%. Interestingly, three of the top five most marketable players – James, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant – are signed with Nike. And two players on the top 10 list are not signed with any of the major sports brands. Dwyane Wade is with Li-Ning, and Klay Thompson has a deal with Anta. Among the NBA’s most marketable up-and-comers are Giannis Antetokounmpo, a.k.a. the Greek Freak, and Lonzo Ball, who has made headlines with his decision not to sign with a major sponsor and instead push his own Big Baller Brand. E-Poll notes Ball has the lowest Appeal at 29%, possibly due to the hype around his “overexposed” father, Lavar.
- The Houston Astros are official World Series champions. After one of the most dramatic and entertaining Series in sports history, the Astros topped the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7 to claim the title. The excitement of the Series caused secondary market ticket prices to soar for the final game, as StubHub’s average sales price for Game 7 was $1,791, more than $600 above the average price for Game 1. Low-end tickets for the ultimate matchup drew prices north of $1,300, well “above the full-park average price for Games 1 and 2 at Dodger Stadium.” According to data from SeatGeek, the average resale price for a Game 7 ticket was $1,740, which is comparably low in relation to last year’s Game 7 price of $2,420 for the Indians-Cubs series. Former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard last night tweeted that “triangulating pricing and inventory tonight, it looks like sellers will make >$40 million on Game 7.” Next, look for the Dodgers and Astros to raise across the board ticket prices in 2018 – and for other MLB clubs to follow suit.
- This year’s World Series is sure to go down in history as one of the “most memorable” Fall Classics ever staged. According to the Wall Street Journal, a record 25 home runs were hit between the Astros and Dodgers, while two games were decided by one run, three games were decided by two runs, and another was “tied in the ninth before a late scoring flurry.” World Series MVP George Springer led the way with five home runs of his own. “What this Series has done with the sport is hopefully have people around the country that just appreciated the emotion that’s in our game, the youthfulness that’s in our game, the drama that’s come with this series,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. Heading into the offseason, the Dodgers are the early favorites to win the 2018 World Series at 5-1 odds. The Astros are tied for second with the Cleveland Indians, at 6-1. Thanks to an electric postseason, MLB is anticipating more fans are already counting down to Spring Training than baseball has seen in decades. And the best evidence of a baseball resurgence will be seen if Little League sign-ups are up come spring.
- Injuries to some of the league’s best and brightest players continue to plague the NFL this season – with business implications. According to SI.com, with Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson’s ACL tear, eight “’face of the franchise’ players have been lost to season-ending injuries this year.” Joining Watson is Andrew Luck (Colts), Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Joe Thomas (Browns), Eric Berry (Chiefs), J.J. Watt (Texans), and David Johnson (Cardinals). As of November 1, 295 players had been placed on injured reserve this season – up from 277 at the same time last year. Watson had been one of the league’s breakout players this season, as he was “one of the most genuinely exciting, thrilling things that has happened to the NFL this year or in recent memory.” The news of Watson’s ACL tear comes at a bad time for the NFL, which is already fighting to keep its ratings up. Losing marquee, fan-favorite players will only ensure the league loses more viewers in the short term.
- Sports marketing is a lot tougher nowadays due to the industry’s position at the crossroads of politics and culture. According to SportsBusiness Journal, leading marketers noted at the 2017 Sports Marketing Symposium that reaching fans has become a more difficult task than in the past. “We have to be more like real brands,” said New York Giants VP & CMO Mike Stevens. “We have to be storytellers. We have to get our message out because the truth is, negative stories get a lot of coverage.” Philadelphia 76ers CMO Katie O’Reilly spoke about how difficult it is to maintain a solid brand identity and integrity in the modern era of sports. Social media and a digital presence have given teams, leagues, and organizations more platforms to market their products to fans, while simultaneously giving them more channels to monitor and regulate. “You have to make sure you’re aware of social issues and how your fan base feels about that,” noted NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Jill Gregory. In this era of heightened sensitivity, it’s virtually impossible to develop a marketing plan that won’t offend someone, somewhere – even when your basic stage is a ballpark or court.
- Rwanda’s new Gahanga cricket stadium is more than just a venue for the national team, it is a reminder of how far the country has come since the 1994 genocide. According to The Independent, Rwanda national team captain Eric Dusingizimana described the stadium as “a dream come true.” Longstanding President Paul Kagame was present for the opening ceremony, a day that has been six years in the making. The new stadium’s name is “the Lord’s of East Africa” and was constructed using 66,000 handmade tiles without using concrete – “the same way as Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia although with the added bonus of actually being finished.” The pavilion will also serve as an HIV testing center and restaurant going forward, giving it a true place in the community apart from just cricket. Previously, Rwanda’s only other cricket stadium was at École Technique Officielle, the site of a “notorious” 1994 massacre and the location of the film “Shooting Dogs.” A poignant example of the healing power of sport – even in a country still rebuilding from a tragedy that unfolded over two decades ago.
- In wake of the controversial comments made by Houston Texans Owner Bob McNair, head coach Bill O’Brien is being praised by his players for his response. According to the Houston Chronicle, Texans players have since described their coach as “a rock – a voice of reason whose leadership helped avoid a near mutiny” ahead of their game against the Seahawks. McNair seemingly compared NFL players to inmates in prison during an owners meeting, which did not go over well with his team. Texans players wanted to show that they were angry with McNair’s comments, leading them to consider skipping a game. O’Brien won his players’ trust “throughout the ordeal” by showing his unconditional support for them, while simultaneously convincing them that taking the field was the right thing to do. Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones was in the room with McNair and is “adamant that McNair was not talking about NFL players.” This is a situation in which words speak louder than actions – and in today’s highly-charged political climate, it is imperative for McNair and others in leadership positions to think long and hard before they speak.
- With Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension being mulled over by the NFL, Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is claiming that his star running back is a “victim of an over-correction” by the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell. According to SportsBusiness Journal, Jones thinks that Goodell is overcompensating for his mishandling of the Ray Rice domestic violence issue, and that Elliott is being penalized for Rice. “Two years ago this wouldn’t be an issue, before Ray Rice this wouldn’t have been an issue because the Commissioner shows where he really wants to come down when he did with Ray Rice,” said Jones. Rice initially was handed a two-game suspension after a video was released of him punching and dragging his then-girlfriend out of an elevator, while Elliott was handed a six-game suspension without video evidence. Jones noted the discrepancy here is “unbelievable,” especially considering the debate that Elliott might be innocent. The incident is only the latest battle of wills between Goodell and NFL owners, and may well impact Goodell’s contract extension.
- The NFL currently hosts four games in London annually, but that number might soon be rising. According to PA Sport, Commissioner Roger Goodell “hinted at increasing the number of U.K. games” before the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings took the field at Twickenham Stadium in London last week. The league currently has a 10-year deal in place with EPL club Tottenham to play games at new White Hart Lane. The club’s soon-to-be-completed stadium in North London will be able to hold 61,500 spectators, and could even feature a retractable turf field specifically for NFL games. While Goodell hinted at the possibility of adding more games, NFL U.K. Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood currently feels that four games is “the right number of games for London to host at the moment and is not ruling out a return to Twickenham Stadium in the future.” Within the next few seasons, four games will likely become six, especially if White Hart Lane is a white hot hit.
- The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, are now less than 100 days away. According to Reuters, less than one-third of total tickets have been sold, though organizers still remain optimistic about selling the lot before the Opening Ceremony. The Olympic torch relay started at the beginning of November, which should help spur more domestic interest in the Games. In an attempt to sell tickets within South Korea, organizers are targeting “schools, government organizations and public companies” with block ticket deals for low-demand events. Almost all Olympic venues are being finished currently or have already been completed, while restaurants for fans are being built in empty fields around the Olympic Stadium. The bobsled track and ski-jump mountain are being lauded as the Games’ most stunning images, “nestled in the hills near the stadium.” Efforts will only ramp up as the event draws closer in the coming weeks. President Trump’s South Korean visit in the days ahead will also doubtless draw global attention to the region, and to the Games.
- The Milwaukee Bucks are still in the hunt to find a naming rights partner for their new downtown arena. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the team is not willing to compromise its standards just to sign a sponsor immediately, but rather will wait for the right fit in order to enhance its brand equity. “We think there’s a tremendous value,” said Bucks President Peter Feigin. “The Giannis (Antetokounmpo) effect is a big deal. It’s kind of exploded for us on an international basis, so all of a sudden, the prospects of who to work with have changed over the last six months.” Feigin noted that “in a perfect world” the team would sign a blue chip international brand, but at this point the team is open to smaller, regional concerns. Antetokounmpo, from Greece, has really helped push the Milwaukee brand across the globe, so the team is trying to capitalize on that movement.
- U.S. Soccer Vice President Carlos Cordeiro has entered the running to become the next U.S. Soccer President. According to ESPNFC.com, Cordeiro is currently Sunil Gulati’s right-hand man, so many assumed that he would support his “longtime friend and colleague” if Gulati chose to run for reelection. Instead, the former Goldman Sachs partner penned a letter to potential voters outlining a platform that calls for significant structural changes within the U.S.S.F., a bold financial growth strategy, and plans to bid to host the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2027, respectively. “U.S. Soccer has achieved a lot over the last 25 to 30 years, but I think we’ve hit a plateau,” said Cordeiro. “This is not about Sunil. I’ve decided to take the plunge here because I think it’s about the federation and how I fit into that.” The election will take place in February, and more candidates are sure to enter to field before then. Stay tuned.
- Detroit is pulling a major audible with their hopeful MLS expansion bid. According to the Detroit News, officials working to bring an MLS franchise to the city have scrapped the idea of building a soccer-specific stadium and now plan on using Ford Field as their preferred site. Architects working on the bid found that the NFL Lions’ home field can be made into a state-of-the-art soccer stadium. Up to this point, a soccer stadium was being planned on the site of Wayne County’s unfinished jail in Greektown, though that is no longer being considered. “We concluded that the downtown location of an MLS stadium is paramount to an MLS team’s success,” said Palace Sports & Entertainment Vice Chair Arn Tellem. “And no MLS stadium sits in a better downtown location than Ford Field.” It remains to be seen whether MLS approves of this move away from a soccer-specific stadium, as the league has been trending towards building facilities specific to its sport for many years now.
- Questions are circulating as to whether MLS misled San Antonio officials in regard to landing an expansion team. According to the San Antonio Express-News, Bexar County (Texas) Judge Nelson Wolff recently asked a local district attorney to investigate the matter. In 2015, MLS encouraged local San Antonio officials to purchase Toyota Field for $9 million and submit a bid for an expansion franchise. That purchase came “two years after Crew Chair Anthony Precourt had obtained the legal right to relocate the Crew to Austin.” Wolff notes that he was told by MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott in 2015 that the league “would not add both San Antonio and Austin as expansion cities,” which is problematic now that the Columbus Crew seem likely to move to Austin. Precourt denies claims that the team reached an agreement to use University of Texas facilities starting in 2019. Since the two cities are so close together, it may be possible for a compromise to be reached so that soccer fans from both markets can enjoy “their” regional team.
Five Top Tech
1. We could soon be watching Esports competitions in the Winter Olympics. Last week in Switzerland, representatives of the Olympic movement met to discuss where Esports could fit into the Olympic picture. The move could become a landmark development for Esports as they continue to gain momentum on the global stage. Ubisoft Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Geoffroy Sardin said about the potential addition: “We’re proud to be part of the Esports exhibition leading into the Winter Olympics that will provide fans with more ways to engage with the sports they love. We have been developing ‘Steep Road to the Olympics’ in close relation with the IOC and we are now looking forward to this competition.” If the Olympic committee approves the addition of Esports into the most prestigious athletic competition in the world, the public outcry could be intense. Regardless of which side of the court you are on in terms of Esports being a sport or not, the worldwide increase in interest is changing the spectrum.
2. Facebook continues to look into making more investments into broadcasting sports on their platform. Facebook has been live streaming IPL soccer games, and could expand to other sports in the future. The potential broader entrance of Facebook into the sports streaming arena could be a cause of concern for both Amazon and YouTube, who agreed to large partnerships to stream live sports this year. Misha Sher, Vice President of Sports and Entertainment at MediaCom told SportTechie, “Facebook will almost certainly bid on major sports rights so it’s a question of when rather than if. I believe it will happen in the next 12-18 months and it will disrupt the way these rights have traditionally been sold. I think the recent bid for the IPL rights is a clear indication of their ambition. Facebook will want to lead in disrupting this space and the upcoming Premier League rights will likely be their first bet.” If Facebook expands its sports streaming realm, consumers will have a bevy of options to watch their favorite teams play every week. Whether it’s the NFL, MLB, NBA, or other sports, Facebook could create a new problem for cable networks now struggling to not be left in the dust.
3. Game Four of the World Series brought Augmented Reality and traditional marketing into the fold at the same time. Before that game, Mastercard and MLB collaborated on a message that was read by Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa. The message encouraged fans in the park to donate to Stand Up To Cancer, another MLB partner. Mastercard’s Executive Vice President of North American Marketing and Communication said of the gesture, “We’re proud to come together with MLB, our cardholders and partners for the seventh consecutive year and advance SU2C’s mission. It’s truly special to thank baseball fans at the World Series through AR for their commitment towards the fight against cancer.” Fans could see the message if they had the MLB Ballpark app, which encourages fans to use it to buy food, tickets in order to better help MLB teams build personalized database profiles. Teams are now able to collect more personal data than ever before thanks to features like the BallPark app, to be used in traditional partner marketing as well as their philanthropic ventures.
4. If you attended an MLB World Series game in Houston last week, you were treated to some of the greatest World Series action we have seen in a long time. Thanks to newly-installed 360 degree cameras, you could also see exactly where you were during each game. SportTechie describes the technology as the cameras take “multiple images thousands of times during a game, then pieces them together to create a giant 360-degree photo that shows in detail every person there. Fans can go online to find themselves and tag the photo on social media.” With the new technology in place, the fan experience has been improved. And with a better fan experience, an organization builds trust. MLB knows that attending a World Series game can be a bucket list event, especially if your favorite team has advanced to the Fall Classic. While it doesn’t seem like much more than just a picture of a person at a game, that 360-degree photo cements a lifelong memory for that fan.
5. For NBA Teams, every small advantage can go a long way over the course of an 82-game season. Accordingly, the Chicago Bulls are implementing a new way of tracking and analyzing their players’ sleep patterns, and how they can affect play on the court. One change the team made after analyzing early data was moving their shootaround back one hour, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., in order to give players a few extra crucial minutes of rest. Chip Schaefer, Chicago Bulls Director of Sports Performance, said in a statement, “We felt there was enough data to collect at home. What we are looking at is particularly back to backs and late-night returns, what their sleep patterns were — not to be intrusive on them but rather to advise us and our coaching staff on the scheduling of practices and shootarounds and things like that. I think it’d be very helpful not only to the NBA but to the world of professional, elite sports in general.” The Bulls could change the way the NBA evaluates player rest. This season in Chicago may not be great in terms of wins and losses, but the team is taking necessary steps to change the way their future players will be trained. Time will tell if the new-look Bulls will also be the well-rested Bulls.
Power of Sports 5
1. ESPN Opens Community Sports Facility in Bangalore. This week, as part of its global “safe spaces” initiative, ESPN representatives gathered with community leaders and local residents in Bangalore to celebrate the opening of a new multifunctional sports facility dedicated to the local community. The facility is the first of its kind to be built in Asia. The court was refurbished by members of the local community alongside ESPN and Disney employees. The facility will host several development programs focused on teaching the local youth valuable life-skills and empowering them to reach their full potential.
2. Los Angeles Chargers Helping Feed the Homeless. The Los Angeles Chargers are underwriting a new initiative to help serve 30,000 meals to people in need throughout the most underserved areas of Los Angeles. The initiative will be presented at Summit LA17, a local flagship ideas festival in downtown LA. Chargers owner and chairman Dean Spanos will be present at the event, along with Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung, to help serve meals and to inspire others to take action.
The movement is being operated in conjunction with Robert Egger and the L.A. Kitchen, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reclaim local, healthy food that would otherwise be discarded and use it to provide healthy meals to local citizens in need. The groups participating in the movement hope that their efforts will inspire others across the country to follow in their footsteps and help feed those in need in their own city.
3. Anthony Rizzo Announced as Recipient of 2017 Roberto Clemente Award. Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was announced as this year’s Roberto Clemente Award recipient before Game 3 of the World Series last week. The award is given out annually to the player who best represents Major League Baseball through a combination of extraordinary character, philanthropy, and community involvement.
The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation assists pediatric cancer patients and their families. Over the last five years, the foundation has contributed more than $4 million to programs that provide financial assistance to children and their parents. Earlier this year, the foundation also made a $3.5 million donation to the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Rizzo makes frequent trips to many of the hospitals across the city to visit with the children currently undergoing treatment. Rizzo was a five-time nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award before winning this season.
4. Former Raven Hosting Celebrity Cornhole Tournament Fundraiser. Former Baltimore Raven Matt Stover is hosting a Celebrity Cornhole Tournament at the Baltimore Museum of Industry to raise money for his Players Philanthropy Fund. Plenty of Baltimore’s biggest celebrities are expected to attend the event on Monday night, including current Baltimore Ravens Justin Tucker, Brandon Carr, and Brandon Williams. Other athletes confirmed to be attending the event are Baltimore Oriole Mike Wright and lacrosse star Paul Rabil, among others. Tickets for the event are being sold for $75 and include tickets for dinner and a drink.
The Players Philanthropy Fund is a public charity that helps athletes, entertainers, and other philanthropists maximize their charitable giving while protecting their finances and reputation. Stover co-founded the organization alongside philanthropy expert Seth McDonnell after retiring from the NFL in 2011.
5. Saudi Arabia to Allow Women into Sports Stadiums. Beginning next year, Saudi Arabian women will be allowed to attend sporting events in stadiums in three of the country’s major cities, according to a statement issued this week by the General Sport Authority. According to the report, families will soon be able to enter the stadiums in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Saudi Arabia’s governing body for sports has said that the preparations would begin immediately to get the three venues ready for the accommodation of families by early 2018. The selected stadiums are the homes of six teams in the Saudi Professional League. This decision is the latest in a series of changes aiming to give Saudi Arabian women more freedom. Last month, the country made a public decree announcing that women will be allowed to drive for the first time in history, beginning next June.