22 Jan

10 To Watch : 12219

10 To Watch FOR THE WEEK OF JANUARY 21 : Mayor’s Edition

  1. More brands are “tangling with political and social issues in their advertising campaigns.” However, most Americans “would rather they don’t try the same thing during the Super Bowl,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Viewers are “likely to get what they want.” The WSJ poll shows two-thirds of consumers “call the Super Bowl an inappropriate place for advertisers to make political statements.” Baby boomers in the poll “disapproved of political Super Bowl advertisements more, at 77%, than younger cohorts such as millennials (55%) and Generation Z (43%).” Only 35% of Generation Z respondents “called political Super Bowl ads ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ appropriate.” The Super Bowl has “featured political ads before, most notably” in Super Bowl LI, which “took place soon after President Trump’s inauguration.” A year later, Super Bowl LII was “less overtly political, but still included” a Coca-Cola ad promoting unity, a T-Mobile USA Inc. diversity theme, and a Dodge Ram Trucks spot using audio of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech in an ad that promoted public service. Marketers have not "shown any inclination to charge into hard-core politics or social controversies” during Super Bowl LIII. However, with the country as divided as it is, themes imploring diversity, unity, and inclusion will no doubt make their way into the February 3 broadcast.
  2. In its eighth consecutive installment, The POWER 100, Horrow Sports Ventures’ proprietary annual ranking of the most powerful athletes in sports, uses a complex statistical model to accurately compare performance and influence through on-field (50%) and off-field (50%) attributes. Athletes are then ranked based on POWER to find the TOP 100. Among interesting results: Serena Williams is not ranked for the first time ever. Her performance slowed after taking some time to start a family, and some controversial moments may have hurt her brand. Expect a strong bounce back once she’s back on schedule. Tom Brady (14), in the cusp of playing in yet another Super Bowl, has hit his highest ranking in recent memory, a nearly 54 place increase since last year. And the stellar play of NBA’er Giannis Antetokounmpo continued on the court and has paid dividends off the court as well, as he placed 8th. Top endorsement earners were Roger Federer (12) taking home $58 million in off court sponsorships and LeBron James (10) with $56 million. The highest place rookie from any sport is quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who finished 20th in the rankings and came within minutes of reaching the Super Bowl on Sunday.
  3. Golf also got some encouraging news this week from the market research firm NPD Group, which reported that the golf market “has not only recuperated but experienced a significant uptick in sales” in the past 12 months, resulting in an 8% year-over-year increase up to $2.6 billion. “The macro environment for golf has been in a turbulent state, fueled by Golfsmith’s bankruptcy, major brands cutting back on their golf business, and courses closing. But today, we’re starting to see normalization in the market as those deep holes are now being filled,” said Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor of the NPD Group. The industry saw increases across every product category. Clubs, which make up 50% of the category, grew by 7%, while equipment accessories such as balls (6% increase), gloves (7% increase), accessories (21% increase), and training aids (13%) also made positive strides in 2018. Callaway, Titleist, and Wilson were the fastest-growing brands among the top-10, joining TaylorMade and PING as the other two members of the top-5. With Baby Boomers retiring every day, great opportunity exists to introduce thousands of new retirees to golf. Combine that with a good economy, Tiger’s resurgence, and thrilling up and comers in the game and you have the makings of a stable industry.
  4. It’s official: Austin will be the 27th MLS franchise. Last week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber recognized Austin FC as the league’s 27th team, with the expansion franchise “set to begin play” in the spring of 2021 at a privately-financed, 20,000-seat stadium at McKalla Place in North Austin,  according to the Austin American-Statesman. While the team will be majority owned by Austin FC Chair and CEO Anthony Precourt, he also “plans to announce local investors soon.” Austin FC is the first pro franchise for the Texas capital in any of the Big Five major American sports leagues. Team officials “hope to break ground at the stadium site by September and are finalizing plans that would allow construction to begin on a training facility at a yet-to-be-named private site.” Last year, Precourt made his intentions known to purchase the Columbus Crew with a clause that would eventually let him move to Austin. But that deal was basically scuttled by passionate Crew fans. Precourt’s biggest challenge in Austin: competing with rabid University of Texas fans, especially now that UT’s football team is once again on the rise.
  5. The University of Texas athletic department had more than $219 million in “annual operating revenue and total operating expenses” of just over $206.5 million during FY 2018, according to USA Today. This is the second consecutive year in which UT has had more than $200 million in both “operating revenues and expenses,” as UT was at nearly $215 million in revenue and $207 million in expenses for FY 2017. Comparatively, the University of Michigan reported spending $175.4 million in 2017, and the University of Alabama’s “total athletics revenue” for FY 2018 was $177.5 million – up from FY 2017’s $174.3 million that was “then a school record,” according to the Birmingham News. Texas A&M also reported more than $200 million in revenue in 2017, but that amount was boosted by almost $93 million in “contributions received and spent by the department during that year, as the school continued a facilities-spending boom.” UT attributed this impressive revenue to the school’s football program at $144.5 million, a total that was “more than the total athletics operating revenue reported” for FY 2017 by all but 12 NCAA D-I public schools.
  6. New Jersey’s total 2018 sports betting handle reached $1.24 billion at casinos, racetracks, or through online or mobile betting platforms. However, the numbers “flattened out during December after a record-setting November in sports books around the state and online,” according to the Asbury Park Press. The “total handle in the state fell” from $330.7 million in November to $319.2 million in December, a 3.5% decline. Gross revenues also “fell” from $21.2 million to $20.8 million. The Press of Atlantic City notes the opening of two “new casino properties, the introduction of legalized sports betting and the continuous growth of internet wagering all contributed to a total gaming revenue increase of nearly” 8% in New Jersey from 2017-2018. In December, the gaming industry generated $247.4 million in revenue, a nearly 20% increase from the same month in 2017. In December alone, more than $319 million was “bet on sports” in the state. The end of year downtick means there is even more scrutiny on producing big numbers off Super Bowl LIII next month.
  7. CBS Sports HQ plans to livestream 30 hours of content for Super Bowl week.CBS Sports’ free sports streaming network will air more than 30 hours of live, original programming during the week of Super Bowl LIII, including daily shows from Radio Row starting January 28, on-site daily reports, ten hours of original pregame coverage on game day, post-game analysis, and highlights. According to Marketing Dive, programming will include “Off The Bench with Kanell and Bell,” Pick 6 Rundown, Reiter’s Block and CBS Sports HQ Extravaganza which is a Super Bowl pregame show featuring a competition between CBS Sports Digital crew and a mix of current and former NFL players every hour before kickoff. This year’s Super Bowl will be streamed across more platforms than ever before including online, through the CBS app for connected TV devices, tablets, and mobile phones, and via the CBS All Access subscription service. This highlights the shift from TV networks investing more in their digital offerings to give fans more control of what and how they watch
  8. Barstool Sports has rolled out a premium “Gold” Memberships that has racked up 10,000 paying subscribers in just three days. Out of the 10,000 + subscribers, the sports and pop culture blog claims that 81% signed up for the $100 annual subscription. According to Digiday, Barstool Gold is a tiered membership product that offers everything from exclusive content and merchandise, early access to events and office tours, and meet-ups with Barstool personalities. The lower tier costs roughly $1 per week and higher membership tier costs roughly $2 per week and comes with a few extra perks for diehard fans. The launch of Barstool Gold comes at a time when the company has grown to more than 130 employees. Today, commerce accounts for half of Barstool’s revenue, roughly 35%-40% coming from advertising, and the rest draws from emerging business areas including the Rough N’ Rowdy pay-per-views and other live events, as well as a growing licensing business based on Barstool-owned intellectual property. Although controversial, Barstool Gold is a way to insulate the publisher from external sports media giants who find the content too reckless and provide a platform for Barstool to make itself into a major player in the sports entertainment industry
  9. Esports speedrun marathon Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) 2019 raised over $2.39 million for charity. AGDQ is one of two speedrun marathons hosted by GamesDoneQuick every year that bring in thousands of viewers to watch all types of speedruns in the name of charity. This year the speedrun, which is completing part or all of a video as fast as possible, raised funds for the Prevent Cancer Foundation and more than 46,000 donations. To date, Awesome Games Done Quick and its companion event, Summer Games Done Quick, have raised more than $19 million for their respective charities while peak viewership of their most recent event reached 219,240 concurrent streams on Twitch. The next event by GDQ will be the Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) which runs June 23-30 in Bloomington, Minnesota. After the 131 games were speedrun, it is safe to say that both the viewership and donations from the world of esports continue to grow and GamesDoneQuick is at the forefront of the esport charity sector
  10. Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford joins forces with her team’s players to pledge $600,000 to community efforts. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford and Lions’ players pledged a combined $600,000 to help launch the new “Detroit Lions Inspire Change” initiative around the city. The money will help fund three causes chosen by players in a process that was set in motion after eight Lions players took a knee during the singing of the national anthem in a 2017 game against the Falcons. A’Shawn Robinson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Steve Longa are the three players who remain with the team after protesting social injustices. Their donations will help fund scholarships for three groups including families who’ve lost service members through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS); a youth development arm of the Detroit Police Department called the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (DYVPI); and students at Detroit Lions Academy. Additionally the funds will be used to provide clean drinking water in Detroit public schools, help the CATCH charity for children, and aid Mariners Inn for homeless men. Under “Detroit Lions Inspire Change,” players will be able to directly take action for social justice initiatives. 

21 Jan

15 + 5 + 5 To Watch : 12219

  1. The field is now set for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, with the perennial New England Patriots facing the up and coming Los Angeles Rams, and the average rate for a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl game increased by 96% during the past decade, reaching $5.24 million in 2018. According to Kantar Media analyses, during that same period, average primetime ad rates fell by 12%. In 2018, marketers spent $408 million for in-game messages. If you add in pre-and post-game spots, the total investment hits $482 million. The 2017 Super Bowl holds the records for in-game ad spending ($419 million) and total ad spending ($534 million) due to an overtime period. So far, sales for Super Bowl LIII hospitality packages are up about 17% from last season’s event in Minnesota, according to On Location Experiences. And interestingly, the year-over-year increase in female fans purchasing NFL tickets from 2017 to 2018 is 61%, according to research from league ticketing partner Ticketmaster. While the Rams, playing in America’s second-biggest media market, will no doubt add many thousands of eyeballs and dollars to the mix, seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five years and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady making his ninth appearance in the Big Game is downright nauseating to millions of NFL fans.
  2. For a variety of reasons, there appears to be a dearth of celebrities appearing in Super Bowl ads so far this year, according to AdAge. Last year, 56 celebrities appeared in Super Bowl ads, up from 43 the year prior, according to E-Poll Market Research. Last Monday, Hyundai stayed firm on the celebrity bandwagon when it revealed that Jason Bateman will star in its first quarter spot. The 60-second commercial will use humor to promote its auto warranty program. Other celebrities confirmed to appear in Super Bowl LIII ads so far include Luke Wilson for Colgate and Peter Hermann reprising his role as “The Professional” for Persil ProClean. It remains to be seen if the controversy surrounding how the NFL handled players protesting racial injustice by taking a knee during the National Anthem is affecting celebrities’ decision to appear in Super Bowl ads. While Amy Schumer and Rihanna have both said that they would boycott the Super Bowl in support of Colin Kaepernick, many other brands continue to take the “regular Joe” route for Super Bowl spots, opting to spend their advertising dollars on real people promoting real products with humor, poignancy, or both.
  3. More brands are “tangling with political and social issues in their advertising campaigns.” However, most Americans “would rather they don’t try the same thing during the Super Bowl,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Viewers are “likely to get what they want.” The WSJ poll shows two-thirds of consumers “call the Super Bowl an inappropriate place for advertisers to make political statements.” Baby boomers in the poll “disapproved of political Super Bowl advertisements more, at 77%, than younger cohorts such as millennials (55%) and Generation Z (43%).” Only 35% of Generation Z respondents “called political Super Bowl ads ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ appropriate.” The Super Bowl has “featured political ads before, most notably” in Super Bowl LI, which “took place soon after President Trump’s inauguration.” A year later, Super Bowl LII was “less overtly political, but still included” a Coca-Cola ad promoting unity, a T-Mobile USA Inc. diversity theme, and a Dodge Ram Trucks spot using audio of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech in an ad that promoted public service. Marketers have not "shown any inclination to charge into hard-core politics or social controversies” during Super Bowl LIII. However, with the country as divided as it is, themes imploring diversity, unity, and inclusion will no doubt make their way into the February 3 broadcast.
  4. In its eighth consecutive installment, The POWER 100, Horrow Sports Ventures’ proprietary annual ranking of the most powerful athletes in sports, uses a complex statistical model to accurately compare performance and influence through on-field (50%) and off-field (50%) attributes. Athletes are then ranked based on POWER to find the TOP 100. Among interesting results: Serena Williams is not ranked for the first time ever. Her performance slowed after taking some time to start a family, and some controversial moments may have hurt her brand. Expect a strong bounce back once she’s back on schedule. Tom Brady (14), in the cusp of playing in yet another Super Bowl, has hit his highest ranking in recent memory, a nearly 54 place increase since last year. And the stellar play of NBA’er Giannis Antetokounmpo continued on the court and has paid dividends off the court as well, as he placed 8th. Top endorsement earners were Roger Federer (12) taking home $58 million in off court sponsorships and LeBron James (10) with $56 million. The highest place rookie from any sport is quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who finished 20th in the rankings and came within minutes of reaching the Super Bowl on Sunday.
  5. Thanks to Tiger Woods, Torrey Pines is preparing to welcome an additional 30,000 fans to the Farmers Insurance Open this week. With Woods committing to the golf tournament at the 11th hour, the “Tiger Effect” produces 20% more spectators on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific, according to tournament director Peter Ripa. This looks to be the strongest field for the tournament since 2005, with World No. 1 Justin Rose, No. 7 Jon Rahm, defending champion Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy also teeing it up at Torrey this week as part of the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing. This year’s tournament marks the 20th anniversary of Woods’ first victory there – he’s won the event seven times – and also marks the site where he won the last of his 14 majors, at the 2008 U.S. Open. Farmers Insurance has title sponsored the event since 2010. Next up for Torrey Pines after this week’s tournament: a $14 million renovation of the facility’s famed South Course as it begins to prepare for the U.S. Open to be held there once again in 2021.
  6. Golf also got some encouraging news this week from the market research firm NPD Group, which reported that the golf market “has not only recuperated but experienced a significant uptick in sales” in the past 12 months, resulting in an 8% year-over-year increase up to $2.6 billion. “The macro environment for golf has been in a turbulent state, fueled by Golfsmith’s bankruptcy, major brands cutting back on their golf business, and courses closing. But today, we’re starting to see normalization in the market as those deep holes are now being filled,” said Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor of the NPD Group. The industry saw increases across every product category. Clubs, which make up 50% of the category, grew by 7%, while equipment accessories such as balls (6% increase), gloves (7% increase), accessories (21% increase), and training aids (13%) also made positive strides in 2018. Callaway, Titleist, and Wilson were the fastest-growing brands among the top-10, joining TaylorMade and PING as the other two members of the top-5. With Baby Boomers retiring every day, great opportunity exists to introduce thousands of new retirees to golf. Combine that with a good economy, Tiger’s resurgence, and thrilling up and comers in the game and you have the makings of a stable industry.
  7. This year’s Australian Open “should see more financial records broken,” as ticket sales last week “were tracking 20-25% higher than the same time a year ago and revenue will surge to a record high. According to The Australian, Tennis Australia is beginning a new six-year, $249 million broadcast deal with Nine Entertainment and has signed $7.19 million-plus "annual sponsorship deals” with Kia and Chinese spirits brand 1715. The money coming in has “allowed Tennis Australia to spend huge sums on growing the Open into a sporting, food and entertainment event that dominates Melbourne for two weeks.” Tennis Australia will also hold a $359,000 event for esports leader “Fortnite” after “striking an agreement” with developer Riot Games. Last year’s Australian Open “attracted a record audience of 743,000 over the two weeks. The HINDU.com noted the Australian Open now "sets the standard for player facilities and spectator experience.” In this year’s entry list, the world’s “top 102 women and 101 men confirmed their attendance.” The Australian Open has increased its purse" to $45.1 million, a jump of 14% over last year. Most of these increases will be directed towards players in qualifying, early rounds, and doubles.
  8. The NHL has detailed activation plans for its 2019 NHL Fan Fair presented by SAP, the official fan festival of the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, January 24-27 in San Jose. Highlights of the four-day, family-friendly festival spanning 175,000 square feet include SAP’s Battles from the Bench and SAP NHL All-Star Skills Zone and the 2019 NHL Mascot Showdown presented by Playmobil, along with attractions from Adidas, Bridgestone, the Cigna Kids Zone, the Coors Light ‘The Silver Bullet Slapshot: the Enterprise NHL Hat Trick Challenge, FanDuel Chuck-A-Puck, GEICO Speed Shot Challenge, the New Amsterdam Vodka Bullseye Battle, and more. The home of the San Jose Sharks is looking forward to its moment in the icy sun in a sports market that the Golden State Warriors have dominated over the last few years, particularly in the winter months.
  9. Adidas and the NHL have unveiled new, eco-innovative and ocean-inspired adizero authentic jerseys for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game. The first-ever NHL hockey jerseys feature repurposed and upcycled materials created in partnership with Parley for the Oceans. Parley Ocean Plastic™ is a range of materials made from upcycled marine plastic debris, and each jersey is crafted to be a symbol of change in the movement to protect our oceans. As a part of their partnership and joint commitments to ending marine plastic pollution through the Parley AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign), Adidas and Parley rework these various marine plastic waste materials into technical fibers that create the material framework of a durable, yet breathable fabric that is optimal for Adidas performance apparel. The new special edition adizero Authentic Pro x Parley jerseys will be worn by the NHL’s best players exclusively for the 2019 SAP NHL All-Star Skills on Friday, January 25 and for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Saturday, January 26 at SAP Center in San Jose.
  10. Even though it is retaining its deals with individual teams like the Super Bowl bound Los Angeles Rams, Hyundai isn’t continuing a league-level sponsorship deal with the NFL when its four-year partnership ends after this season. The decision clears the way for another automaker to take the mantle. According to Automotive News, Hyundai Motor America CMO Dean Evans made it clear that NFL programming will still be a “key piece of its marketing strategy going forward.” While Hyundai “carried the official vehicle and SUV moniker, and Genesis was the official luxury vehicle, rival brands such as Ford and Toyota still filled the airwaves on game days.” Hyundai had “tweaked its game plan by taking a more aggressive stance on game days this season,” highlighted by its pregame sponsorship of “Sunday Night Football.” For this year’s Super Bowl, Hyundai said that it will “engage with fans celebrating in Atlanta” as the presenting sponsor of the Super Bowl Experience Driven by Hyundai. 
  11. It’s official: Austin will be the 27th MLS franchise. Last week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber recognized Austin FC as the league’s 27th team, with the expansion franchise “set to begin play” in the spring of 2021 at a privately-financed, 20,000-seat stadium at McKalla Place in North Austin,  according to the Austin American-Statesman. While the team will be majority owned by Austin FC Chair and CEO Anthony Precourt, he also “plans to announce local investors soon.” Austin FC is the first pro franchise for the Texas capital in any of the Big Five major American sports leagues. Team officials “hope to break ground at the stadium site by September and are finalizing plans that would allow construction to begin on a training facility at a yet-to-be-named private site.” Last year, Precourt made his intentions known to purchase the Columbus Crew with a clause that would eventually let him move to Austin. But that deal was basically scuttled by passionate Crew fans. Precourt’s biggest challenge in Austin: competing with rabid University of Texas fans, especially now that UT’s football team is once again on the rise.
  12. The University of Texas athletic department had more than $219 million in “annual operating revenue and total operating expenses” of just over $206.5 million during FY 2018, according to USA Today. This is the second consecutive year in which UT has had more than $200 million in both “operating revenues and expenses,” as UT was at nearly $215 million in revenue and $207 million in expenses for FY 2017. Comparatively, the University of Michigan reported spending $175.4 million in 2017, and the University of Alabama’s “total athletics revenue” for FY 2018 was $177.5 million – up from FY 2017’s $174.3 million that was “then a school record,” according to the Birmingham News. Texas A&M also reported more than $200 million in revenue in 2017, but that amount was boosted by almost $93 million in “contributions received and spent by the department during that year, as the school continued a facilities-spending boom.” UT attributed this impressive revenue to the school’s football program at $144.5 million, a total that was “more than the total athletics operating revenue reported” for FY 2017 by all but 12 NCAA D-I public schools.
  13. New Jersey’s total 2018 sports betting handle reached $1.24 billion at casinos, racetracks, or through online or mobile betting platforms. However, the numbers “flattened out during December after a record-setting November in sports books around the state and online,” according to the Asbury Park Press. The “total handle in the state fell” from $330.7 million in November to $319.2 million in December, a 3.5% decline. Gross revenues also “fell” from $21.2 million to $20.8 million. The Press of Atlantic City notes the opening of two “new casino properties, the introduction of legalized sports betting and the continuous growth of internet wagering all contributed to a total gaming revenue increase of nearly” 8% in New Jersey from 2017-2018. In December, the gaming industry generated $247.4 million in revenue, a nearly 20% increase from the same month in 2017. In December alone, more than $319 million was “bet on sports” in the state. The end of year downtick means there is even more scrutiny on producing big numbers off Super Bowl LIII next month.
  14. Arsenal’s shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates is the most recognized in the Premier League among fans, according to a Europe-wide study by market research company Statista. The North London club’s partnership with the Dubai-based airline, which is reportedly worth $56 million annually, generated 78% awareness among the 3,000 fans who took part in the study. Southampton’s deal with telecommunications giant Virgin Media and Brighton & Hove Albion’s tie-up with American Express followed closely behind, with both partnerships being recognized by 75% of fans. Overall, the report revealed that shirt sponsors in English soccer’s top flight have an average awareness of 34% among fans. In total, 80% of Premier League fans expressed satisfaction with their club’s shirt sponsors, despite the growing condemnation of the prevalence of gambling companies, which account for almost half of the league’s shirt deals. Of the ten least liked sponsors, five were gambling firms, with each scoring less than 2% for likeability among supporters.
  15. In Spain, more than seven million fans attended La Liga and second division matches during the first half of the 2018-2019 campaign, an increase of 602,372 on the previous season. La Liga and second division stadiums registered a total attendance of 7,520,225 in the first half of the current season. Never before had the number for the first half of a campaign reached the seven-million mark. La Liga matches drew 5,172,228 fans, while second division games drew 2,347,997. The average crowds during the first half of the season were 27,222 (La Liga) and 10,164 (second division). Like their Premier League counterparts, La Liga clubs have not been shy when exploring shirt sponsorship deals. The 2017 season saw Barcelona start a new front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with Japanese online retailer Rakuten, which agreed in November, 2016 to a four-year partnership worth $260 million. These numbers are likely to increase exponentially when this term soon expires.

14 Jan

10 TO WATCH : 11419

  1. Ahead of this weekend’s big matchups, the NFL and Intuit Inc announced that as part of their multi-year official sponsor partnership, Intuit TurboTax Live will serve as the first-ever presenting sponsor of both the AFC and NFC Championship Games. As a part of the sponsorship, TurboTax Live branding will be featured during the 2019 AFC and NFC Championship Games as well as within ancillary programming and content across league broadcast and digital media platforms. “We’re proud to have Intuit as the NFL’s first-ever presenting sponsor for both AFC and NFC Championship games,” said Renie Anderson, NFL Senior Vice President, NFL Partnerships, Sponsorship and Consumer Products. “Intuit has a longstanding reputation as a leader in the financial and accounting software industry that NFL fans recognize and trust this time of year.” Beyond the presenting sponsorship of both 2019 AFC and NFC Championship games, Intuit also becomes the NFL’s official sponsor for financial and accounting software, as well as tax preparation services.
  2. This year’s Indianapolis 500 “will pay special tribute” to Mario Andretti and the 50th anniversary of his only Indy 500 win in 1969. According to the Allentown Morning Call, Andretti’s 50th anniversary celebration will include a “commemorative logo that will be used on the cover of the race program, on special merchandise and other places to celebrate the anniversary,” and the “coveted bronze badges that have long served as credentials that allow garage and pit lane access will feature Andretti.” Beginning May 1, the IMS Museum “will feature a special Andretti section devoted to his entire career.” Because Andretti is “still so involved in IndyCar Series racing,” he will “be around IMS almost all of May.” IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said that he "hopes to make a formal announcement” about a new series title sponsor next month; NTT Data reportedly is in talks as a potential replacement for Verizon. Andretti Autosport, home of rising IndyCar star Zach Veach, will obviously be front and center throughout the May celebration.
  3. Thuuz Sports, using their custom designed algorithms to measure real time global event excitement, determined that the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints were the most exciting teams throughout the NFL regular season. The Kansas City Chiefs’ record-setting game with the Los Angeles Rams was the most exciting regular season game of 2018. In terms of most exciting teams, the Eagles and Saints were the only teams to have eight games register as “GREAT” on the excitement scale. KC had seven Great Games make the list, while three non-playoff teams – Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay – joined the Rams with six Great Games each. The measurement scores were done on a 0 to 100 scale and take into consideration game pace, team parity, play novelty, momentum shifts, social buzz, and historical context. Coming soon: Thuuz’ evaluation of this year’s thrilling NFL post season matchups, as well as Super Bowl LIII.
  4. Ricketts’ soccer stadium faces political headwinds In Chicago. A planned 20,000-seat stadium for a Chicago soccer franchised owned by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts “appears to be on life support,” according to the Chicago Sun Times. Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins reportedly rejected plans for the USL club’s stadium due to its “expected impact on traffic in the area.” Developer Sterling Bay and Ricketts “could try to revive the plan later, as traffic infrastructure in the area is improved during the years-long development process.” Hopkins also put the kibosh on another major element of Sterling Bay’s massive Lincoln Yards development: “a live entertainment district controlled by LiveNation with large music venues.“ Hopkins demanded the site be "repurposed as open and recreational space.” Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton said the family’s “potential involvement was focused on the soccer team and contingent on city approvals.”
  5. The Nationals have "offered a reprieve to season-ticket holders affected” by the partial shutdown of the federal government. According to the Washington Post, the club announced that employees or spouses of employees of federal agencies “may postpone their monthly ticket payments beginning this month.” Once the federal government reopens, the “next scheduled payment will be for the amount of the full missed payment(s).“ Subsequent payments will return to "normal monthly installments,” until the account is “paid in full by June 15.” If the federal government remains shut down on February 1, season-ticket holders’ February 15 payment “will be postponed.” If the federal government “remains shut down on March 1, season-ticket holders’ March 15 payment will be postponed.” Also participating in special ticketing discounts or other opportunities for federal employees in shutdown limbo: George Mason University and the Washington Capitals and Wizards.
  6. 2019 will bring changes in how sports marketing is handled on social media. Looking back at the past year, Coca-Cola heavily benefited from the Boston Red Sox’ victory in the World Series and Fortnite launched a partnership with the NFL. Esports and integrated advertisements are powerful new elements of brand-driven activations, but a central change in sports digital marketing will be the online shift from impressions to interactions. According to Oh No! Tech, more brands are adopting incentive-based care models that include a basic compensation package for the team or league combined with different levels of rewards regarding the success of online performance metrics. Since the beginning of 2017, the top five American sports (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL) and NASCAR have deployed more than 6.3 million social jobs, resulting in 16.7 billion social media entries. As sports leagues slowly adopt gambling, the need to create online interaction will move to the forefront of all sports marketing deals.
  7. NBCSports Washington’s alternate broadcasts of the Wizards could be the future of sports betting on TV. According to the Washington Post, NBCSports Washington Plus aired an augmented broadcast of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks last Friday featuring real-time statistics, sports betting information, and a “Predict the Game” contest prompting viewers to project the results of on-court action for the chance to win $500. The “Predict the Game” contest featured roughly 30 questions — such as “Will Trevor Ariza score 10-plus points in the first half?” – that appeared on the screen throughout the game. Fans submitted predictions on NBCSports Washington’s site and the winner(s) were announced during postgame coverage. NBCSports Washington’s alternate broadcast is free during its eight Wizards games this season, and the alternate broadcasts are the first step towards in-game prop betting via mobile devices, the most popular form of gambling in Europe. Soon, fans will be directly engaging with sports games and be able to wager real money on whether Alex Ovechkin will score on a power play or Bradley Beal will make a three-pointer during a specific possession.
  8. As a part of a Royals Associates fundraiser, Mario Kart was played on the Jumbotron at Kauffman Stadium. According to CBS Sports, a local news helicopter from Kansas City’s KCTV5 was taking an aerial shot at Kauffman stadium when they noticed Mario Kart being played inside the empty stadium. As the video of the impressive Mario Kart screen started to go viral, the Royals’ charity Twitter account hinted that there may be more opportunities to game at Kauffman in the near future as the Jumbotron brand CrownVision may make it an auction item in 2019. Some of the baseball team’s players even took notice, as second baseman Whit Merrifield claimed “dibs on Yoshi,” a character in the game. This is a great example of how to bring on-field sports together with charity and video games, as many teams are looking to esports to help not only bring in market value, but serve as a means to give back to their communities.
  9. 18-time Grand Slam champion and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Chris Evert takes over chair of the U.S. Tennis Association’s charitable arm. Evert partnered with the USTA Foundation in 2016 to set up the Jimmy Evert Fund, a scholarship program in honor of her late father. According to Fox Sports, she takes over the position from James Blake, formerly one of the world’s top-ranked players. The USTA foundation supports National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) which works with more than 350 nonprofit youth development organizations to provide free or low-cost tennis and education programming to more than 200,000 under-resourced youth. Additionally, the Foundation provides The Donald Lawson Tisdel College Scholarship Fund, a $10,000 fund given to 20-25 exemplary high schoolers who have participated with a tennis program to put towards their higher education. With Evert in charge, tennis philanthropists can expect more initiatives based around female under-sourced youth utilizing tennis as a catalyst for change.
  10. Marlins manager Don Mattingly makes a difference with “Find A Way” charity event. The Find A Way event featured Mattingly, a former major league baseball player and current manager, MLB television analyst Harold Reynolds, and comedian Joe Piscopo with all event proceeds benefiting the underserved youth of Evansville, Indiana. This has become a major fundraiser for Mattingly’s charities that support youth athletics. According to the Courier Press, Donnie Baseball has another event on January 20, called the "Night of Memories,” that will showcase stars from both sides of the Cardinals and Cubs rivalry to fundraise for the Tri-State Hot Stove League. Since 1993, the event has raised over $1.5 million that has been distributed to youth organizations, contributed to local athletic programs, and helped fund scholarships. Starting in 1988 with Make-A-Wish, Mattingly continues to give back to the less privileged in the communities where he lives – a useful note for the Marlins, who can use a helping hand getting any kind of media attention.