16 for '16: Rick Horrow's Top Sports/Business Issues of the Year

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16 for '16: Rick Horrow's Top Sports/Business Issues of the Year

With Tanner Simkins

1) After a 108 year wait --what a game, indeed. The Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians Game 7 World Series matchup may go down as the best baseball game in history, and the viewer numbers reflect just that. Despite a 17-minute rain delay and a late finish, the drama kept fans around the country glued to the TV. With the Cubs win, Theo Epstein can now be credited for snapping two of baseball’s largest title droughts – in Chicago and Boston. “Give all the credit where it’s deserved,” said Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts. Over 40 million TV sets; millennials glued to mobile devices; over 200 countries; economic impact in Chicago well over $200 million for the eight games at home and nine away games attracting thousands of baseball pilgrims to Wrigleyville. Net impact: great for baseball, great for the Cubs. It’s happened. Cubs fan such as myself can now go in peace. By far, the biggest sports story in the history of the universe. Economic impact corresponds with social and intergalactic benefits – five million people at a downtown parade. In the future, the time capsule on 2016 baseball will be fun to open, indeed.

2) Many maintain that sport and politics do not - or at least should not - mix, yet the result of the 2016 presidential election will surely have an impact on the future of American sport for many years to come. Before the vote, there were widespread concerns that a Donald Trump presidency could harm Los Angeles’ ongoing bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games and any potential push from the U.S. Soccer Federation to stage all or part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup – which some had suggested America might co-host with Mexico.  Other sports industry followers speculate that the prospect of uncertain trade relations with other countries could negatively affect major league growth aspirations abroad. Whether any of that is actually the case remains to be seen. On the plus side, Trump’s experience as a sports league, team, and facility owner could mean that he will forge policies beneficial to the sports industry both at home and abroad. The jury is still out on whether the LPGA and PGA Tour will embrace the Trump properties in years ahead.

3) This was the year of the NFL tricast, digital streaming, shared rights, and more.  While experts claim different reasons why, that mix resulted in a TV ratings downturn for the league. And the problem might not go away anytime soon. Many of the year’s primetime games had the lowest ratings in 10 or so years. Analysts close to the issue argue a change in consumer preferences as the underlying reason. Whether it was the daily fantasy bubble somewhat popping, primetime competition like the presidential debates, content cannibalization with the NFL available more places than ever before, or simply lackluster game storylines – the NFL downturn was a major deal in 2016. The biggest story is really the convergence of all types of new media – with implications for rights holders, “de-couching,” stadiums and arenas, and the entire sports industry.

4) Live events take center stage, for social interaction and gifting in a “experience economy.”  StubHub has just released its annual “Year in Live Events” report. Peyton’s last game. Kobe’s last game. The Cubs’ World Series win. Hamilton. Those are just a few of the major highlights from a year in live events. According to StubHub, the top 10 bestselling events of the year were all sporting events. Led by Super Bowl 50 in Silicon Valley, which outsold the previous Super Bowl by 7%, and the World Series, which was the highest-selling World Series ever on StubHub, other best-selling live events included Adele’s tour, which led all music acts with the No. 1 selling tour spot and the runaway Broadway hit, “Hamilton: An American Musical,” drove at least four times the sales of any other theater production in company history. Fans also flocked to see Peyton and Kobe’s final games, championship appearances for Cleveland in both basketball and baseball, UFC taking its first match to New York City and soccer’s globally popular Copa America Centenario. International NFL games and futbol (soccer) matches led as the top five international events with the highest sales from U.S. ticket buyers. This past year, the live events industry thrived, with a perfect storm of firsts, lasts, and multiple milestone events that were captured only as StubHub can, with a global marketplace that spans sports, music, and theater. It will be interesting to see how events in the new year stack up to an historic 2016. 

5) From an international sports perspective, Brexit was big news in 2016. With restrictions regarding player’s age and nationality, a shift in the European Union paradigm mixed all this up for EPL clubs. Moving forward, European soccer’s competitive balance should level out if Brexit-caused restrictions prove as tough as many expect. Maybe Britain’s exit means two steps back for UK football or one step forward for the global game such as that in the South America, for example. Maybe policy makers find a way to keep European football strong. Regardless, the issue continues to be something to watch…heads up rugby and cricket fans, too. Uncertainty rules the day, as the European economy evolves to adjust to the unpredicted result.  Look for sports to respond accordingly.

6) This year the world lost golf's patriarch, Arnold Palmer. His stellar playing career aside, Palmer’s biggest achievements stretched well beyond the game. Known today as the originator of sports marketing, Palmer was one of the first athletes to turn his name into a brand. Using his image and business acumen, Palmer's empire was valued at approximately $700 million upon his death. Over the years, he was endorsed by dozens of companies, had his hand in founding IMG and the Golf Channel, even in commercializing his famous ice tea/lemonade blended drink -- effectively founding sports marketing along the way. Through strategic messaging and brand management, Arnold Palmer became the prototype for all of today's sports stars. “The King” as he was known, will be missed. Arnold Palmer was more than a golfer – he defined an evolving, broad sports business in a way no one else could.

7) The Rams stole NFL headlines this season with their return move to Los Angeles.  Since then the balance of power has shifted among NFL owners and the Rams have cemented themselves as LA’s pride once again, despite poor performance throughout the season.  The Ram’s “honeymoon period” in the Coliseum and the construction of their new Inglewood stadium was one of the year’s most closely followed sports business sagas. Now the fun really begins: “franchise musical chairs” should be resolved in the next three months with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.  An early chapter in a very long book.

8) 2016 inched a little bit closer to gender equality.  There is much more work to be done, but here are some highlights: we celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the WNBA; “leaning in” is at all-time high; we saw social movements like Girls For STEM, and a push for workplace equality.  The discerning issue of the wage gap was raised in the tennis community, and then pushed further when TEAM USA soccer spoke out.  Another positive development was the summer announcement of the Indy in Tech Championship coordinated, presented, and sponsored by Guggenheim Life. The LPGA event debuts next Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis, and provides unparalleled benefit for workforce training, robotics, STEM, and other positives. More to come on that story over time. Gender equity is far away, but there were many moments in 2016 where it was supported rather than tossed aside, and that's a good thing.

9) 2016 was a blockbuster year for mergers, resulting in over $1.8 trillion in deals made. Some mega-mergers with sports implications include Microsoft and LinkedIn, Verizon and Yahoo, AT&T and Time Warner and Charter.  The phenomenon was fueled by the year’s oddly low interest rates and other reasons making 2016 ripe with blue chip M&As.  When we drill down into the sports industry, examples include WME-IMG acquiring the UFC for $4 billion; the DraftKings and FanDuel merger; and Disney buying a $1 billion stake in MLBamtech. The sports and business worlds are clearly loved by vertically integrated, global, mega corporations that include media, management, events, and properties.  The stage is set for more power moves in 2017.  

10) The year just concluded saw the growth of eSports, virtual reality, 3D printing, big data, drones, IoT, and other tech marvels. Esports was a $892 million market in 2016, making it a major focus for brands and publishers, according to a report from SuperData. In the overall scope, esports is just a small part of what’s now a $91 billion market for digital games and playable media, with consumers spending $41 billion on mobile gaming in 2016. But we also had a handful of tech mishaps in 2016, whether it was Samsung’s exploding phone’s, the FBI being unable to retrieve data off of a locked iPhone, or NFL team staffs’ on-again, off-again love affair with using Microsoft tablets on the sidelines. The most memorable tech failure of 2016 was the downfall of GoPro -- the camera company marketed to thrillseekers had a market value of $12 billion a few short months after its 2014 IPO. Now after one disastrous earnings report after another, GoPro is valued closer to $1 billion.  These days, event properties must be coupled with significant technological advances to have a chance of success in an evolving marketplace.

11) 2016 was the rise of adidas.  Adidas is now banking on signing top rookies, luring them in with multimillion-dollar deals. Just this past year, adidas signed six of the top 10 NBA draft picks.  In addition to adidas’ renewed focus on players, there’s no underestimating the influence of its celebrity partnerships with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Selena Gomez.  Some standout adidas athletes include Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Roger Federer, and James Harden.  However, the sporting goods industry, especially at the retail level, has taken a massive hit.  Once nationwide, brick and mortar chains like Sports Authority, Bob’s Stores, Eastern Mountain Sports, and Sports Chalet have all filed for bankruptcy. Yet, adidas is thriving with new executive leadership, key player signings, powerful brand influencers, and re-commitment to lifestyle marketing.  Adidas shares are up 56% this year. Nike is down 17%, Skechers down 17%, Under Armour down 37%. Retail wars still take center stage – revenues generated will be important for athletes, agents, colleges, teams, and leagues.

12) Athletes at all levels turned to their sport as a vehicle of peaceful issue-raising. Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Kover, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony pushed for social unity amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, cleats were worn in support of the country by Odell Beckham, Jr. and others. Athletes drove discussion on social media, in our communities, and elsewhere -- whether you agree or disagree with whatever cause, the influence of sport is ever present. Hopefully, all sports fans and non-sports fans alike recognize rights granted under the First Amendment, but also understand the responsibilities of role models as well.

13) LeBron James’ return to Cleveland resulted in the city’s first professional sports championship since 1964. The Cavs did so in stunning fashion, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit and winning in a Game 7 “nothing gets better than this” moment for any sports fan. Now, the Cavaliers a $140 million upgrade of Quicken Loans Arena to be complete by 2020. The upgraded facility will also provide a catalyst for mega-events – like the All-Star Game – which should add additional impact for the city once referred to as “the Mistake by the Lake.” In many ways, the Cavaliers victory was as big a sports story for Cleveland and the basketball world as the Cubs were for baseball – maybe even bigger. Another example of sports as a social and economic catalyst.

14) Pokemon Go was the most googled thing in 2016, according to Google Trends, beating out iPhone and Donald Trump, which placed second and third, respectively. Pokémon Go made more than $600 million in revenue for its developer, Niantic Labs, another $115 million in revenue for Nintendo, and added nearly $7.5 billion to the company’s market value. The Pokemon Go app passed Twitter and Facebook in daily users in less than two weeks. Sports teams everywhere are constantly chasing engagement, and Pokemon Go offered creative contests, giveaways, and social media interactions to those teams and leagues that embraced the hysteria. The future trend clearly focuses on interactive consumer events, fueled by social media.  Look for much more in 2017 and beyond.

15) In a year in which we lost Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer, we also saw two “best evers” retire from their sport. 2016 was the year of the Kobe Bryant farewell tour, and the sheriff, Peyton Manning, riding off into the proverbial sunset. For Kobe, the end came in typical Black Mamba fashion -- not only did he receive a standing ovation in each city he played in during the season’s final stretch, but his last playing day, April 13th, was dubbed “Mamba Day” by Nike and backed by their full marketing support. Manning’s exit came after winning Super Bowl 50 following a fitting jersey-number matching “18” year career.  From a performance and sports marketing perspective, these two are some of the best to ever just do it.  The passing and retirement of mega superstars should give us cause to reflect on how important sports becomes to an entire society – especially in the social media age.

16) Yes, there were socioeconomic concerns, the Zika epidemic, minor crimes, and PR issues like the Lochte scandal, but for the most part, Rio 2016 was a homerun.   The USA took home 121 medals, of which 46 were Gold. Michael Phelps took home five Gold medals during his last Olympics, fellow swimmer Katie Ledecky earned four Gold medals, and gymnast Simone Biles took home Gold. Team USA in the Paralympics took home 115 medals, 40 of which were Gold. How Brazil fulfills its post-Olympic promises defines the international side of the story – golf expansion, infrastructure development, home building, transportation improvements, and the like. Now, the world awaits the IOC’s big decision next September – will it be Paris, Budapest, or LA?
 

15 to Watch: July 10, 2017

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15 to Watch: July 10, 2017


1.    Marlins Park prepares for marquee MLB All-Star events, with attendance expected to exceed 110,000 fans, according to the Miami Herald. The host MLB team also reports that the MLB FanFest at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which began “Friday and runs through Tuesday, has already sold more than 100,000 passes combined.” The Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game itself are “each likely to draw crowds at or near the facility’s attendance record for baseball (37,446) set during March’s World Baseball Classic game” between the Dominican Republic and the U.S. The club also reports that the MLB Futures Game and Celebrity Softball Game, the "first big events of the weekend held Sunday at Marlins Park, have sold upwards of 30,000 tickets. A scan of secondary ticketing sites reveals that Tuesday’s game in Miami is the least expensive ASG ticket in the past few years. The average ticket price is $550, a 31% drop ($253) from last year’s game in San Diego and a 62% drop ($885) from the 2013 contest at Citi Field. Miami is well-versed in mega-events, of course, and the city’s/Marlins’ thorough planning on security, traffic flow, parking, and crowd-pleasing entertainment reflects just that.




2.    Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti could likely commiserate right now on one major aspect of hosting a mega event – not controlling the timing. As the Miami Herald notes, "After waiting more than two decades, South Florida is finally hosting the All-Star Game that was promised to it in 1995." Then-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig awarded the 2000 All-Star Game to South Florida that year. But in 1998, the year after the Marlins won their first World Series, the league changed course and awarded the game to the Braves' Turner Field, saying that South Florida "needed a new stadium in order to host the event." The Marlins "could have hosted last year’s All-Star Game," but it went instead to San Diego’s Petco Park. Says Marlins President David Samson, "We switched with San Diego due to booking issues…We agreed, and I’m so glad we did.” Likewise, all indicators point to Los Angeles having to wait four years longer than desired to host its next Olympic Games, as Paris will likely get the nod for 2024. As Florida native and now Los Angeles resident Tom Petty says, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
 
3.    As the fortnight enters its second week, Wimbledon is considering fining players after seeing an alarming amount of retirements in the first round of this year’s tournament. According to Reuters, Centre Court fans endured back-to-back walk-offs in matches featuring Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. The retirees, Martin Kilzan and Alexandr Dolgopolov, were both speculated to have been injured coming into their first round matches, but stuck it out to at least be guaranteed “roughly $45,000” in prize money. In the tournament’s first day alone, seven players threw in the towel partway through their match. Wimbledon is now considering “implementing a new rule to deter injured players from stepping on to” the court. "On the ATP level...if you can't play, you still get your prize money twice in the year,” said Federer. “Maybe the grand slams should adopt some of that, then maybe we would eliminate half of the players [who turn up injured].” If anyone can make this happen, it’s Federer, a global leader who always considers the “little guy” despite his record 18 Grand Slam titles.


4.    Qatar’s World Cup plans could face a major roadblock in the near future. According to the London Telegraph, “a number of firms working on Qatar World Cup projects are drawing up contingency plans” in the case that political sanctions are not lifted on the Middle Eastern country. Beyond the eight brand new state-of-the-art soccer stadiums that need to be built in the next five years, Qatar needs a new metro system for the capital city Doha “and 60,000 hotel rooms” – no small task. Both British and American firms have played large roles in Qatar’s plans thus far, “including star architects Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects, who have designed a venue each, historic engineer Arup and U.S. program managers CH2M and Aecom.” This is just another on a long list of issues that have plagued Qatar ever since it was awarded the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, alongside concerns about bribery, human rights violations, and the heat. In fact, it’s still not inconceivable that FIFA will elect to hold the event elsewhere at the 11th hour.

5.    When it comes to winning a bid to host the Olympics, public support plays a crucial role. And Los Angeles has just that. According to a new IOC-funded research report shared by SportsBusiness Journal, the LA 2024 bid has more public support than Paris’s bid. The report notes that “78% of L.A. residents said they support the effort to host the Games, with only 8% opposed.” On the other hand, Paris has support from only 63% of its population, with another 23% opposing the bid. These surveys further explain the dwindling number of major Western cities willing to host the costly Games. And “Paris’ higher opposition could be problematic for the IOC, which has seen numerous American and European bids die in the face of local political objections and is keen to put the politics of bids to the side.” In light of the limited interest among qualified hosts and the ever-escalating costs, this coming week’s verification that both the 2024 and 2028 Games will be awarded in September is looking like a solid win for the IOC, regardless of which city comes first.

6.    This year’s Open Championship will feature a notable shift, but not one that comes on the course. According to ForTheWin.com, the 2017 Open Championship will “award the prize fund in U.S. dollars in recognition of the fact that it is the most widely adopted currency for prize money in golf.” Brexit is considered to have played a big role in this decision with the ensuing weakening of the British Pound. Many players are not happy with this shift because being paid in pounds as opposed to dollars typically means more prize money due to the exchange rate. “In 2007, for example, when the GBP/USD exchange rate tipped over 2 GBP per $1, winning the British Open was the most lucrative prize of the four majors.” This year, the exchange rate stands at “1.2 GBP per $1. The British Open winner received less than any other major winner in 2016,” and this year appears to follow the same narrative. Whether counted in dollars or pounds, this year’s winner stands to receive a record $1,845,000 – hardly pocket change in any nation.

7.    As the European Tour and select American events look at format changes geared to attracting younger fans, a successful golf company is pioneering a new way of getting millennial consumers engaged. With 16 years of consecutive growth, Global Value Commerce is benefiting from double-digit sales increase year over year (15%), totaling nearly $60 million in transactions yearly. While many golf retailers are losing money or going out of business altogether – witness TaylorMade, GolfSmith, and Nike – GlobalGolf.com is thriving as a secondary market expert providing name brand equipment such as Callaway, Cobra, and Titleist at discounted prices. Backed by the PGA Value Guide, consumers new to the game know they’re getting quality clubs at the best prices. GlobalGolf.com has capitalized on millennials and consumers looking for the sweet spot between quality and affordability. Since the 2009 market crash, consumers’ “deal” mentalities have allowed companies like Nordstrom Rack, Aldi, and Off Fifth (Saks) to develop and enjoy substantial growth, just like GlobalGolf.com has done in the golf space.

8.    NHL free agents are starting to follow the lead of their NBA counterparts when it comes to free agency decisions. According to the Chicago Tribune, NHL free agents are now picking their preferred destination over taking more money from a less-preferred team. The most recent examples of this include Brian Campbell and Patrick Sharp passing up on more money these past two summers to join the Chicago Blackhawks, while “Joe Thornton could’ve gotten a multiyear deal from someone but wanted to stay with the San Jose Sharks.” New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk ultimately elected to sign with the club on a shorter, less-lucrative deal than what another team offered because the opportunity to play for the Rangers gives him the chance to “fulfill a lifelong dream” of chasing the Stanley Cup in New York. This is a new trend in the NHL and should only continue to escalate going forward.

9.    Longtime MLB umpire Angel Hernandez has sued the league, alleging racial discrimination. According to the L.A. Times, Hernandez, who has umped for almost 25 years, is claiming that MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre “has a history of animosity towards [Hernandez] stemming from Torre’s time as manager of thex New York Yankees.” Hernandez cites the fact that he has not been assigned to many World Series games coupled with not being promoted to crew chief. The ump was born in Cuba and now lives in Florida. Specifically, the lawsuit “alleges violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio state laws.” MLB has not issued a comment thus far; however skeptics surrounding the issue are noting that Hernandez “seems to see something nobody else does” in his claims against Torre. With the possible exception of Derek Jeter and Big Papi, perhaps no one in present day baseball is revered more than Torre – expect extra scrutiny as the courts take up the matter.

10.    “Horns up, Limes in!” That’s the new campaign being rolled out by Corona Extra to celebrate being named the official sponsor of the University of Texas Longhorns. According to kvue.com, the campaign will be visible all around Texas’ DKR Stadium at home football games this coming season. The move for Corona marks yet another massive step toward marketing the beer in American sports, as this five-year deal makes “Corona the first imported beer brand to partner with a university in the United States.” Expanding on Corona’s longstanding ties in soccer and boxing, the company is making a push into collegiate football by partnering with one of the country’s leading programs. “There really isn’t anything more emblematic of the state of Texas than the storied history of the four-time football national champion Texas Longhorns,” said John Alvarado, VP of Marketing for Corona Extra. “Corona is honored to be a part of the legendary Longhorns lore.” Tellingly, according to multiple sources, in-stadium alcohol sales earned the university $1.8 million in 2016. No surprise they are partnering with a growing beer brand.

11.    Superstar forward Lionel Messi will stay put in Barcelona until at least 2021 after re-signing with the La Liga and European powerhouse. According to Bleacher Report, Messi’s current contract was set to end next summer and Barca has been intent on resigning him for some time. Messi’s new four-year deal is reportedly worth an astounding “£500,000 per week,” while also giving him an additional £43.8 million “renewal premium.” The new deal sees Messi’s release clause jump up to $340 million; the contract is expected to be finalized and signed within the coming weeks after initial terms were agreed on in principal between both sides. Club President Josep Maria Bartomeu “personally took charge of the negotiations” when doubts began to circled regarding Messi’s future with his childhood club. Messi follows the footsteps of his fellow strikers Neymar and Luis Suarez in “committing his future to the club.” Messi is such a hero to Barca fans that any complaints about him earning more each week than most Spaniards will earn in a lifetime, in a nation where unemployment is continually high, are never more than murmurs. 

12.    Together, NASCAR drivers seem to agree about wanting more merchandise income, with many drivers not even making six figures from merchandise sales. According to NBCSports.com, under the current NASCAR deal with Fanatics, teams only get 9% of merchandise revenue, which is typically “divvied into thirds between the team, driver and sponsor,” contributing greatly to the small amount of total merchandise-related income drivers see at the end of the day. Under terms of the 10-year deal, Fanatics takes 75% of the revenue – admittedly lopsided terms. When NASCAR’s merchandising boom was at its "peak more than a decade ago, a top star’s revenue share hovered" at $3-4 million annually. But now their merchandise income "isn’t commensurate with the biggest stars in dirt-track racing,” and most of the sport’s biggest stars are struggling to pull in $1 million of merchandise income now. Perhaps the NASCAR drivers should hire Josep Maria Bartomeu.

13.    The Toronto Raptors are now the ninth NBA team to sign a jersey patch sponsorship for this coming season after inking Sun Life to a three-year deal. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the Toronto-based company will have a patch with “the anchor of a CSR program promoting diabetes awareness and prevention.” Financials are reported to be valued at C$5 million annually, which is right on par with some of the other NBA jersey patch sponsorship deals that have been signed thus far. Expanding beyond just the jersey patch, “The deal includes rights with the group benefits, life insurance and retirement planning portions of the insurance/financial services categories, along with courtside signage, along with digital and social ad inventory for Sun Life.” Sun Life has been an official sponsor of the Raptors for four years now, but this new deal escalates the company’s involvement with the team. Sun Life didn’t last long as a stadium sponsor in elder-leaning Miami – let’s see if the company’s retirement products gain more traction in their home market.

14.    New pro sports arenas and stadiums aim to “wow” fans, and the Milwaukee Bucks hope to do just that with their new facility. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the “Panorama Club” is set to be one of the key features of the team’s new arena. Fans will get a catwalk-high view of the entire court from the club, which presents the team with yet “another sponsorship or naming rights opportunity” and even “perhaps a bidding war.” Bucks President Peter Feigin said a deal of “several million dollars over a seven- to 10-year term” was likely for what he called a “branding opportunity.” The name the club holds right now is merely a placeholder until the right sponsor comes knocking at the Bucks’ door. At capacity, the club can hold 500-600 people and will allow fans a dual view of both the court and the new entertainment district the team plans to build to the east of the arena. Just look at the move as a new kind of “sponsor density” – the Bucks are not only building out, they’re building up.

15.    On the heels of Amazon’s massive deal to acquire Whole Foods, the online conglomerate has now signed a new deal with France’s National Basketball League, the LNB. According to Le Parisien, the three-year deal between the LNB and Amazon will see a new online store for French clubs’ gear being sold. LNB President Alain Béral said, “We wanted to develop our digital presence, and after discussions, we are celebrating an association with a great company.” This comes as the first official partnership that Amazon has struck with a professional sports league, though the company does have a presence in digital sports streaming that is only continuing to grow. Starting in September, “all club products” of the French league will be available online for fans to buy around the world. While basketball continues to grow internationally, it’s clear this deal would have never happened without the blueprint created by the NBA many years ago. 

15 to Watch: July 3rd

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15 to Watch: July 3rd

with Jamie Swimmer and Tanner Simkins

1.    Hey, it’s better than eating baseballs. Every 4th of July, the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest takes over Brooklyn’s Coney Island, with 35,000+ fans joining in the quirky Independence Day celebration. Heading into Tuesday’s competition, Joey Chestnut and Matthew Stonie, are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the Major League Eating circuit. The rivals, both from San Jose, have headlined the event for the past five years. Here, courtesy of Forbes, are some key stats surrounding the foodie fest to be broadcast live on ESPN3. 70: Record number of Nathan’s hot dogs eaten by Chestnut in 2016. $10,000: Payout for first place in each division of the contest. (Second place receives $5,000, third place $2,500, fourth place $1,500, and fifth place $1,000.) $400,000-$500,000: Estimated Major League Eating Circuit prize money. 1,000,000,000: Based on a recent report commissioned by MLE, the number of consumer impressions in the U.S. alone around the Hot Dog Eating Contest. Social media numbers are also sky-high for the event, which could be considered a pioneer in reality sports TV “lifestyle” programming. Happy 4th. 




2.    If you are into consuming baseballs, however, next week’s MLB All-Star Game in Miami should sate you. Baseball’s official All-Star Game website lists game tickets at $280, while StubHub is listing a “Full Strip” of tickets – All-Star Sunday, Home Run Derby, and the game itself – starting at $313, while game tickets start at $180 and Home Run Derby tickets are going for $130 on StubHub. (Dave George of the Palm Beach Post suggests the best place to catch a Giancarlo Stanton on Aaron Judge dinger might be “the left-field terrace behind the Budweiser Bowtie Bar.”) And no longer will the MLB All-Star Game dictate World Series home-field advantage. Starting this year, as laid out in the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the American and National League All-Stars will be playing solely for bonuses. Notes George, “Each player on the winning team gets $20,000, and World Series protocol returns to rewarding home-field advantage to the team with the best regular-season record.” Fourteen All-Star game results directly tied to the World Series, and the American League won 11 of them. And if the Dodgers-Padres game I attended on Sunday is any indication, baseball still has much work to do on its “pace of play” improvements. 


3.    While it still appears quite green around the grounds, Wimbledon turns 140 this year, and celebrates a host of other milestones as well. Not only is the All-England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) celebrating its 140th Wimbledon Championships, but 2017 marks the 90th anniversary of the first live Wimbledon radio broadcast, the 70th anniversary of its first live championship match TV broadcast, and the 50th year we have been able to watch televised Wimbledon action, in all its green glory, in color. Sports media has gotten global since then, as confirmed by Chinese media giant Sina Sports inking an agreement with the AELTC to become an official Wimbledon partner for the next three editions. Beginning with the 2017 tournament and running until 2019, Sina will help to promote Wimbledon in China, delivering news, highlights, live scores and other exclusive content via its popular Sina Weibo social platform. And while it’s not a nice round milestone number, in case you’re wondering, Wimbledon finally incorporated yellow Slazenger tennis balls into play in 1986, a full 14 years after the ITF sanctioned them for use. (Slazenger has been the official ball at Wimbledon since the early 1900s.)


4.    Fresh off his second NBA Championship, the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry has agreed to a five-year, $201 million extension – the "richest contract in league history." Curry, represented by Octagon, is the "first NBA star who will sign a supermax contract," crossing a $200 million threshold that "eventually will become the norm for the NBA's biggest superstars,” according to ESPN. The Warriors will "finalize the contract once the free-agency moratorium ends Thursday." Curry, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes, has been the "biggest bargain in sports for the past four seasons," and has "had his big payday coming." He has "helped make everyone around him rich.” The NBA has revealed that its salary cap for next season is $99,093,000, and the luxury tax line is $119,266,000, which are slight decreases according to the league’s projections in April. Further, the minimum team salary" for 2017-2018 is $89,184,000, representing 90% of the salary cap. Regardless of Curry’s raise and the new NBA numbers, Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber will keep their core championship team for at least one more season. 




5.    Golden State Warriors veteran forward Andre Iguodala has not called it quits on his playing career yet, but that does not mean he hasn’t started thinking about post-NBA life. According to the Wall Street Journal, Iguodala has teamed up with media channel Cheddar to “create a late-night-style variety show called ‘Evenings with Andre.’” He hopes that the show – which is set to feature interviews with guests from business, technology, sports, and entertainment – will ultimately be picked up by a premium TV network or streaming service. If no premium buyers emerge, Cheddar will “broadcast it on Facebook, Twitter and its own streaming platforms.” Iguodala, who has been with the Warriors for a few years now, may “tap his Silicon Valley connections to interview startup founders.” Cheddar, the startup founded by former BuzzFeed executive Jon Steinberg, which offers “live-streamed business news programming aimed at younger audiences, says it reaches more than 1 million live viewers daily.” Yet another example of on-court success and championship rings begetting off-court opportunities for business-savvy athletes.

6.    The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will feature an interesting twist to keep fans engaged: The Games’ “urban sports venues” will be open for public use while the Olympics are in progress. According to Kyodo, International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates confirmed that fans on the ground in Tokyo during the Olympics in three years will actually be able to use certain venues for recreational use. To name a few of the urban venues set to be open, the sporting homes of “skateboard, sport climbing and BMX freestyle” will be fair game. “We're very pleased with this. As you know, we have introduced on your recommendation the new sports of sports climbing, skateboarding and surfing,” said Coates. “And then recently, in cycling we've introduced BMX freestyle and with these sports what we want to do is bring them to the people, have them available to the people of Tokyo.” The more lifestyle sports, popular with young amateurs, are adopted by the IOC, the more these millennials will be inclined to watch the Games. Being able to compete “side by side” with Olympians in actual competitive venues only ups the interest factor.

7.    China is largely recognized as the next hotspot for global soccer, and international teams are now pulling out all stops to tap into the budding market. According to the London Daily Mail, English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion is planning to build “up to six soccer towns” across the country to exponentially grow the club’s presence in China. Club owner Gouchuan Lai recently rolled out the plans for bringing these plans to fruition; “the company has signed a deal with local governing bodies in the mountainous Guizhou Province to build its first sports town between Guiyang and Anshun, and the company plans to create 'five or six soccer towns' in the name of their team.” Club owners believe these projects will eventually let the club earn extra revenue “in the form of fresh commercial returns, while also helping them to support Chinese soccer at a grassroots level.” Just like the new Olympic sports, soccer must continue to establish a grassroots beachhead in order to attract new eyeballs and wallets, whether those wallets hold pounds or yuan.

8.    Joint bids to major sports events are on the rise. According to the Calgary Sun, Edmonton could potentially join forces with Calgary to submit a joint bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. Edmonton Mayor Don Iverson has publicly stated that a single city hosting the Games is “fiscally irresponsible,” making more sense to spread the cost and benefit across multiple cities instead. Calgary governing officials have not made any moves yet to include Edmonton in an Olympic bid. But Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that it is “simply too early to talk about accepting Edmonton's support with a potential Winter Olympics and he's not opposed to a partnership.” He added that if Calgary does in fact move forward with a bid, a tie-up with Edmonton “would be deeply examined.” Edmonton boasts the new Rogers Place, and could offer infrastructure that Calgary currently does not have on hand.

9.    Amazon, fresh off its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, has slapped a price tag of up to $2.8 million on its advertising packages for its streams of NFL games next season. According to Reuters, the packages are said to include 30-second spots during the company’s ten live Thursday Night Football games, which it bought in April for $50 million and will be made available to its Amazon Prime Video subscribers. Word of Amazon’s intentions coincided with reports that the king of e-commerce is closing in a potentially game-changing deal with Nike. Reports say the sportswear giant will soon begin selling its merchandise directly on Amazon’s platform rather than through third-party sellers, a move analysts say will reduce sales of counterfeit Nike products on Amazon and give Nike, which has set an ambitious goal of reaching $50 billion in revenues by 2020 despite slowing growth in bricks-and-mortar retail, greater control over how its products are displayed and sold. Nike plays on a big field, Amazon, a bigger one.

10.    The UEFA Champions League will be getting expanded coverage after Fox Sports entered a “partnership with Facebook to broadcast a slate” of games during the upcoming season. According to Philly.com, the games will be aired free of charge for Facebook users and will be available in both English and Spanish. The games are set to be viewable on the Fox Sports and Fox Deportes pages. The package of games will “feature two on each group-stage match day, which encompasses a Tuesday and a Wednesday,” and fans can expect to see one game on Facebook on “each of those days.” The deal also includes “four round-of-16 games and four quarterfinals.” This deal comes as the third soccer-based streaming partnership that the social media platform has struck, coming on the heels of ones with the Mexican league and the MLS. The specific games Facebook will stream have yet to be disclosed. New media is rapidly becoming old hat in the sports broadcasting realm, as Facebook now joins Amazon, Twitter, and Verizon in securing top-level sports rights.

11.    Ahead of Wimbledon, the International Tennis Federation is shaking things up a bit. According to the New York Times, the ITF’s Board of Directors has approved a plan to host the final rounds of the Davis Cup men’s team competition and the Fed Cup women’s team competition together over the next three years. By combining the two premier events, the ITF is hoping to create “the World Cup of tennis.” While this decision isn’t final – a two-thirds vote from the ITF’s full membership is necessary to approve this change – the new event “could last from five to nine days, depending on the format, and would be held in the Davis Cup Final’s traditional time slot, in late November.” Another key component the ITF just approved is the first site of the new combined, annual event: Geneva ultimately beat out Turin, Wuhan, Miami, Istanbul, and Copenhagen. A World Cup of tennis, indeed.

12.    Derek Jeter is believed to have enough funds to buy the Miami Marlins. According to SportsBusiness Journal, MLB thinks that Jeter has had “some success in solidifying his investment group” that would ultimately purchase the Marlins franchise. The Miami Herald has confirmed this news, noting that none of the three potential bidding groups for the team have been willing to wager up the $1.3 billion asking price. The Marlins are now “prepared to sell the team for something less, potentially in the $1.2 billion range.” Current Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria has set the goal of selling the team by the end of July, leaving him only a few weeks to get the deal done before his ideal deadline. None of the three bidding groups are considered favorites to land the team as of now, but those close to the deal “have suspected that Loria would lean toward Jeter if all things are equal.” If he succeeds, Jeter joins a rarified group of former standout pro athletes turned team owners, including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Will Peyton Manning be next?

13.    The NFL has confirmed that it will not host a regular season game in China in 2018. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the league has changed its plans and is now targeting the 2019 season to host a game in the Asian country. NFL Executive Vice President/ International Mark Waller even noted that the league is considering playing the opening regular season game of the 2019 season in China, helping to kick off the NFL’s 100th anniversary in grand fashion. “It may make better sense to look at that game as an opportunity to celebrate our hundred years, in the event we can pull it off and as a way to look forward to the future,” said Waller. The NFL has stated that it is in no rush to add another international game to the current slate, with “four London games, one in Mexico, and the start of the Tottenham partnership next season when the club’s new stadium will host two games.” The NFL is acutely aware of not trying to spread itself too thin, especially across multiple oceans.

14.    Questions have been raised over Major League Soccer’s stated timeline for expansion to 28 teams. MLS Commissioner Don Garber stated in January that it hopes to announce its 25th and 26th franchises by the end of the year. In cities across the U.S., almost all of the 12 would-be ownership groups hoping to land a coveted MLS slot have come up against a litany of issues, including political opposition, financial red tape, and continued public apathy towards the use of public money for stadium projects. Of the 12 groups in the running, only Sacramento – whose United Soccer League team, Republic FC, is poised to begin work on a new stadium – has fulfilled all of the MLS expansion criteria. Two of the other early favorites, St Louis and San Diego, have run into public opposition, perhaps as a hangover of recent NFL departures. No group has yet dropped out of the race, but as Sports Illustrated noted last week, it could be that “what was once a sprint contested by 12 fit and fast runners has become a race of attrition that will be won by those left standing.” League expansion is a marathon, not a sprint, and Garber and co. will take all the time needed to get it right the 25th and 26th time.


15.    As it celebrates its signature annual Fourth of July holiday weekend race in Daytona, NASCAR has announced results from the 2017 Fortune 500 study of brands in the stock car sport. The sanctioning body saying results showed that 139, or 28%, of all Fortune 500 companies now invest in NASCAR across teams, tracks, and the series. NASCAR says that is up 7% from last year and continues a trend of the number either being flat or up every year since 2012. NASCAR added that nearly half of Fortune 100 companies are now invested in the sport. In another cross-pollination, Daytona International Speedway on Friday night gave NASCAR fans a look at another increasingly popular form of “ring competition," as USA Today put it, as it hosted MMA exhibition matches from the Professional Fighters League. PFL Exec Chair Russ Ramsey said that the organization is "looking at the possibility of scheduling events at other NASCAR tracks" as part of its 2018 season. From ringing the bell on Wall Street to diversifying its own ring, NASCAR clearly is on an upswing as the second half of 2017 gets underway.