MLB Advanced Media President Bob Bowman Podcast

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MLB Advanced Media President Bob Bowman Podcast

This week, "The Sports Professor" Rick Horrow talks with Bob Bowman, President of Business & Media for Major League Baseball. Listen to the podcast below.

Here is the video version of the interview, recorded at Sloan this year.

As always, the top business stories in the sports world for the week, with Jamie Swimmer and Tanner Simkins.

1.    As the NBA post season gets well underway and baseball settles into the new season, E-Poll Market Research takes a look at the metrics surrounding sports’ reigning MVPs, as well as public opinion of Russell Westbrook and James Harden ahead of this year's NBA MVP award. The MVP is a key distinguishing factor in establishing an athlete’s marketability, and MVPs often see an explosion in awareness and appeal from winning the award, like reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry. Using E-Score Celebrity data, the firm found that among reigning MVPs, Curry is the most popular. His 50% “Awareness” score among sports fans is 2.5 times higher than the next MVP, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.  And with the 2017 NBA MVP race narrowing to a two-man contest between Russell Westbrook and James Harden, E-Poll found that Westbrook’s 56% “Appeal” is 10 points higher than Harden’s, whose “Awareness” is 13 points higher than Westbrook’s due in part to his earlier relationship with Khloe Kardashian. However, both men fall well short of Curry’s pre-MVP “Appeal” score of 72% during the 2015 season. Curry’s popularity shot up dramatically after his MVP win, increasing by 20 points. This year’s winner will have to wait to see if there is a similar effect – as will their current and would-be sponsors, who will likewise be dramatically affected by the award.


2.    Fnatic has become the latest esports team to see an influx of investment money. The team is receiving a $7 million financing round with a board of investors including the likes of Raptor Group, which owns AS Roma and the Boston Celtics; Hersh Interactive Group, co-owners of the Houston Astros; and Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab. “There has been strong growth in esports…but the major shift has been in the acceptance and inclusion by sports franchises, media companies and high profile individuals," Fnatic Founder Sam Mathews told Forbes. "We’re incredibly excited by the opportunities available within esports, and having world class investors and advisors only enhances our ability to address these opportunities and continue to innovate.” According to market researcher Newzoo, the esports market now has close to 150 million regular enthusiasts and another 125 million occasional viewers, and is expected to be a $1.1 billion business by 2019. With new permanent venue Esports Arena Las Vegas scheduled to open early next year, and many more to come, those who dismiss esports as a fad or “fake sports” do so at their peril.


3.    The United States, Mexico and Canada are teaming up to submit a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the North American countries have joined forces and are now looking to fast-track the historically “long, arduous process” of securing World Cup hosting rights. Multiple high-ranking officials said that CONCACAF is planning to make a proposal at May's FIFA Congress that “could accelerate the entire process,” which would normally be expected to last until 2020. In the proposal, the CONCACAF bid “will ask the world governing body's 211 members for a unique, noncompetitive window” in which it would prepare a report that “showcases the technical specifications of its bid, covering everything from stadium capacities and infrastructure to hotels and transportation.” Under the proposed bid, the U.S. would host significantly more games than its neighbors: 60 out of 80 total games and all matches from the quarterfinals on. While the CONCACAF bid looks like it could be a lock, politics and economics could heavily impact the bid and process. Stay tuned.

4.    The Chicago Cubs not only have a new World Series banner to show off, but a newly-renovated Wrigley Field. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs used their home opener against the Dodgers to debut The Park at Wrigley, which is just one piece of the still-under-renovation stadium project. A large video screen on the team's new office building “showed the Cubs' historic 10-inning victory against the Indians” during the Dodgers game and “showed off part of the third phase” of the $750 million Wrigley Field upgrade. There was a ceremony “marking the opening of what the Cubs referred to as Wrigleyville's new town square and a year-round gathering place for neighbors, families, fans and visitors.” Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts and his real estate company designed, built, and financed The Park at Wrigley, which should allow the community to more deeply engage with the team.

5.    After seeing all Canadian NHL teams fail to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs last year, Rogers Media is expecting a “reversal of fortune” thanks to five Canadian teams reaching the postseason this season. According to the Globe & Mail, Rogers Media made a “billion-dollar” media bet on the NHL last year, but the company has yet to see the returns it initially expected due to the Canadian teams’ collective slump. The actual deal is set at 12 years and is worth C$5.2 billion over that span. Last year, TV ratings for Rogers fell 61% during the NHL postseason. The Maple Leafs “led a resurgence” along with the Canadiens, Senators, Oilers, and Flames that will “see hockey audiences back in the seven-figure range.” Rogers President of Sportsnet Scott Moore said, “Obviously, team performance drives a lot of it. I feel like there’s a lot of excitement about the sport generally and in some key markets. For us, that’s obviously good.” It’s also good for the NHL, as Canada traditionally represents one of hockey’s most fervent fan bases.

6.    The NFL tries to control what its players do off the field, and that could now include fining players for participating in an arm wrestling tournament. According to USA Today, NFL players who competed in the inaugural “Pro Football Arm Wrestling Championship” in Las Vegas “without pre-approval” violated the league’s rules against gambling. The competition already took place, but is set to air on CBS over two weekends in May. Notable participants include the Steelers’ James Harrison and Maurkice Pouncey, retired running back Marshawn Lynch, the Dolphins’ Kenny Stills, and the Raiders’ Marquette King and Mario Edwards. The first place prize was set at $100,000, with half of that going to charity in the winning players’ name. Some players spoke out against the impending fines, noting the irony of how the NFL just approved a team in Vegas, yet players can’t go there for a “charity event.” The NFL always goes to extreme lengths to protect “The Shield,” and this incident is no different.

7.    While many teams have been reluctant to reveal their inner workings to the public, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will likely be selected for HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” and are excited about that prospect. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs “believe they are among the top candidates to be chosen.” Speaking about the prospect, team co-Chair Joel Glazer said, “Our players are at a point in their maturity that they would be able to handle it…We'll always be supportive of the league. Nobody is rushing to the podium for that necessarily. But I do feel I have great confidence in this team.” Team executives firmly believe that “Hard Knocks” would be a good way for Tampa and the surrounding fan base to get to know the team on a more personal level. And after multiple seasons, the NFL generally feels that “Hard Knocks” participation is a plus for its teams – or they would have put a stop to it long ago.

8.    Despite having nine years remaining on their current deal with University of Phoenix, the Arizona Cardinals are in the hunt to find a new stadium naming rights partner. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the team is “shopping naming rights to their stadium, but incumbent sponsor University of Phoenix retains the title unless the team finds a replacement.” Regardless of finding a new partner, the university will remain an official team sponsor. University of Phoenix has been the only naming rights partner since the Cardinals’ stadium opened in 2006; the 20-year deal would be worth $154.5 million if carried through to the end of the term. The team noted that it is handling the sponsorship search internally. Following the trend of other teams in the region, the Cardinals might soon follow the Diamondbacks, Suns, and Coyotes as franchises that have all changed their stadium sponsors in recent years. The Cardinals may want to consider reaching out to the other thriving for-profit university headquartered in the market but growing internationally: Grand Canyon University.

9.    Representing a slight but significant change for the franchise, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally unveiled their new logo. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the team’s evolution “took another step forward” with this change. The color scheme is different – “the palette features a midnight blue, lake blue, aurora green, frost white and moonlight grey” – but the image of the howling wolf remains similar to how it has looked in the past. The team noted that the similarities are “meant to represent an evolution, not a revolution.” The look is “meant to represent the current team and the possibilities for its future, but also to honor the past.” The logo is the “first piece in what will be a new identity” for the T'Wolves. New jersey and court designs will be released to the public later this summer to round out the rebranding of the franchise. The T-Wolves, and indeed all sports franchises, should be closely watching the slow eradication of Chief Wahoo in Cleveland. While there’s nothing outwardly politically incorrect about Minnesota’s “howling at the moon,” unlike Wahoo, fans get attached to their teams’ visuals, and should be consulted every step of the way.

10.    The tarps are finally coming off in Oakland. According to the S.F. Chronicle, A’s President Dave Kaval announced that the outfield bleacher tarps on the third deck at the Coliseum will be taken down and that A’s tickets in the third deck “will be $15 for the remainder of the season, and during the next home stand, half the proceeds will go to Oakland Promise, which helps Oakland students attend college.” This move represents the latest one that is met with an “almost entirely positive” response by the Oakland fan base. The outfield tarps initially went up in 2006 to help improve visuals from games with sparse crowds, since the extra capacity was rarely needed. Without the tarps in place, stadium capacity will increase by 12,103 to 47,170. Ever since the tarps went up, fans have been lobbying to bring them down – their voices have now been heard. And with the Oakland Raiders on their way out, local fan interest in the A’s should intensify.

11.    English Premier League side Everton is trying to build a new stadium, and adding a running track to it could end up making a significant difference. According to the London Times, Everton may consider making a provision for a running track in its proposed $437.3 million stadium to help Liverpool win the bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The host for the 2022 slot is still up for grabs after Durban, South Africa, failed to meet the host city criteria, giving other cities the chance to rebid for the right to host. During dialogue between the club and Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson asked the club to “consider including a running track” in its blueprint, which “would allow the arena to host athletics events.” The track would be covered with seats for soccer matches, ensuring fans close proximity to the field, while the track would bring in additional revenue for Everton and the community. As in all modern day sports facilities, both privately and publicly funded, multipurpose use and flexibility remain key to ongoing support.

12.    Seattle is back in the mix for landing a professional sports team now that two groups are “prepared to spend more than $500 million apiece” renovating KeyArena. According to the Seattle Times, Oak View Group and AEG each submitted proposals of more than $500 million and each “involve eventually attracting NBA and NHL teams.” The OVG proposal runs up to $564 million and the AEG bid would involve spending $520 million. Both groups said the arena renovation “could be done” by October 2020 if “no unforeseen delays hit,” with construction beginning before being awarded a professional team in both cases. KeyArena’s iconic roof and general exterior structure are set to be preserved by both AEG and OVG in the renovation process. “We're going to do this and stand on our own two feet,” said OVG CEO Tim Leiweke. “And we believe by doing that we give Seattle its best chance at getting one or two teams.” The OVG-led group also includes Madison Square Garden Co. and Live Nation and is primarily focused on turning the venue into a concert specialist like the Forum in Inglewood. That bid is supported by the band Pearl Jam – ironic since Pearl Jam once sued Live Nation over monopolistic ticketing practices. Want change? Wait 20 years.

13.    St. Louis is officially suing the NFL “over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago.” According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the 52-page suit filed by St. Louis lists the NFL and all 32 teams as defendants as the city “seeks damages and restitution profits.” The plaintiffs claim the Rams and the NFL “made intentionally false statements, unjustly enriched themselves” and “interfered with business expectations.” The suit further claims that the city has lost around $7.5 million in property taxes, $1.4 million in sales tax revenue, and “millions” in earning taxes since the Rams moved to Los Angeles. The NFL is now getting ready to defend itself and its franchises in this case, which is expected to “remain in the Missouri court system because the Chiefs operate in Missouri.” It is unlikely that this lawsuit will move to the federal court, “where defendants without a clear connection to a given state are more likely to get a more fair shake.” It is also unlikely that this lawsuit will result in compensation to St. Louis, if past history is any guide.

14.    Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment wants the Islanders back in the Nassau Coliseum, and it is ready to make further “adjustments” to the facility in order to pull the move off. According to Newsday, BS&E is “preparing to pitch to bring” them back to the recently renovated area. The Islanders moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the Nassau Coliseum closed to undergo a $165 million modernization. Still, BS&E is ready to invest further in the arena to satisfy any of the Islanders’ remaining concerns – such as having too few of seats. Long Island Association President & CEO Kevin Law said that the presentation will be made to Islanders co-Owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin when they “meet soon to talk about renegotiating the 25-year license agreement with Barclays Center.” Both the Islanders and Barclays Center can “opt out of the deal.” Returning the Islanders to their core fan base should boost the franchise; winning enough games to not miss the Stanley Cup playoffs by one point would help, too.

15.    The NFL Draft has migrated around multiple cities over the past few years, but New York thinks it is time to bring it back to the Big Apple. According to the N.Y. Daily News, New York has “expressed interest” in hosting the NFL Draft in 2019 “and beyond.” This year’s draft is scheduled to take place outdoors in Philadelphia, while the last two years’ drafts took place in downtown Chicago. New York is set to be just one of the multiple cities vying to land to rights to host. Other cities in contact with the league noting their interest in hosting the 2019 draft include “Philadelphia, Canton, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Green Bay, Jacksonville and Los Angeles. Radio City Music Hall appears to be the likely location to host the draft if it does wind up being held in New York City. To the general onlooker, it may not seem that hosting the NFL Draft is a big deal, but it has actually “become as competitive as hosting the Super Bowl” thanks to the positive economic impact it generates. It’s also the second most important tent pole event on the now-year-round NFL calendar, and the league doesn’t take its locale lightly. Expect the draft circus to continue to travel for the foreseeable future.
 

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.