Top stories of the Week for March 13th; interview with Reebok President Matt O'Toole

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Top stories of the Week for March 13th; interview with Reebok President Matt O'Toole

With Jamie Swimmer

1.    The World Baseball Classic is underway, and this year’s rendition truly is a global event. According to Cynopsis, “the ultimate goal of the World Baseball Classic is to globalize the sport of baseball and celebrate the way the game is played all over the world.” With opening round games being playing in Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo, Japan; Miami; and Guadalajara, Mexico, the event is achieving just that. Outside of the MLB postseason, this event is MLB Network’s “most important exclusive live content.” Team USA has hopes of reaching the finals for the first time behind the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Buster Posey, and Andrew McCutchen, while the Dominican Republic is aiming at winning back-to-back titles like Japan did back in 2006 and 2009. GEICO is the presenting partner for MLB Network’s telecast of the event, while over 50 other sponsors from 15 countries across five continents are involved in the event as well. MLB endeavors to be as global as the NBA and NHL, and more global than the NFL. A tremendous logistical undertaking with the number of rounds, countries, and nationalities – but an ambitious project which has the support of Major League Baseball’s power structure.


2.    The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament generated $1.24 billion in national spend in 2016, according to Kantar Media, and continues to score steady gains in national TV revenues. That marks a 4.7% rise over the previous year and includes game programming and studio shows on CBS and Turner. General Motors ranked at the top of brand investment with $93 million, followed by AT&T at $80 million; Coca-Cola with $47 million; Capital One Financial at $46 million; and Volkswagen at $39 million. To that end, the NCAA and Turner Live Events, alongside Coca-Cola and Capital One announced the lineup for the 2017 NCAA March Madness Music Festival in conjunction with the Men’s Final Four. The three-day, free music festival sees The Chainsmokers playing on April 1, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the Capital One JamFest on April 2, and Aerosmith headlining the JamFest on Sunday. Obviously, sponsors incredibly interested in the activation, advertising spend, and general awareness around March Madness.  It is clearly a combination of alumni avidity, dramatic “one and done” bracket excitement, and the social bonding aspect of a tournament with a clear winner at the end of 30 days.

3.    With March Madness and the Final Four being one of the most-watched sporting events of the year, sponsors are increasingly willing to spend big to catch onlookers’ attention. According to WalletHub, there has been a 4,535% increase in the value of the tournament’s TV rights since 1986, thanks largely to the $19.6 billion paid by CBS/Turner Broadcasting to acquire the TV rights for the NCAA Men’s Tournament from 2011-2032. Social media has also had a larger presence throughout the event, with 56 million Twitter and Facebook impressions being generated during last year’s national championship – that number is up 112% from the 2015 National Championship. In terms of landing a 30-second ad during the championship game, sponsors will have to pay nearly $2 million for a spot, which pales in comparison to the $5 million that sponsors had to pay for a 30-second ad during Super Bowl LI. Welcome to the digital era, remembering that the CBS decision to stream the NCAA tournament seemed controversial at the time, but now commonplace in an attempt to finally monetize digital revenues.

4.    March Madness is always one of the best times of the year for sports fans, but it is also one of the most expensive times of the year. The 2017 Final Four is projected to have a positive economic impact of $100-$150 million for the host city and is set to welcome around 125,000 visitors to the Phoenix area – 90% of which will be coming from out of state. In terms of the social aspect of the tournament, it was estimated that around $8.9 billion were wagered illegally on last year’s March Madness and “roughly 3.5 million extra cases of beer were produced to keep up with increasing demand.” The “untold story” of the tournament is the economic impact on the early round cities – from $25 to $50 million per location. 

5.    As the BNP Paribas Open enters its second week, Evian tapped tennis player Madison Keys for a global endorsement contract, making her the first American endorser of the water brand. Keys, who is repped by WME-IMG and advancing through the Indian Wells tournament, will be featured in ad campaigns and point-of-sale displays at Evian’s retail channels in North America, and she will participate in new product launches. The 22-year-old Keys last year broke into the WTA Top 10, won her second WTA title and reached the year-end WTA Finals. Other Evian endorsers in tennis include Maria Sharapova and Stan Wawrinka. Golfers Melissa Reid and Lydia Ko also endorse Evian. Perfect timing to announce a new water endorsement deal: at a desert tennis tournament with daily temperatures in the 90s.


6.    The Oakland Raiders may finally have their fate determined in a matter of weeks. According to the L.A. Daily News, the NFL’s owner-comprised stadium and finance committees are “poised to recommend the Raiders’ relocation request to Las Vegas be voted on at the league’s annual meeting in three weeks in Phoenix.” The Raiders presented the league with a strong case for relocation after multiple failed attempts at finding a new stadium site in the Bay Area. Bank of America, the anticipated financier, was present for the team’s presentation, which was “viewed by the committee as a critical competent.” The Raiders appeared to have "hit the necessary notes with the 18 owners making up the stadium and financing committees to move forward on a vote," but nothing will be officially decided until the vote is passed and the team secures a lease for their pending Las Vegas stadium site. Just as with the Rams last year and Chargers early this year, the Raiders will capture the headlines in Trumpian fashion until a final decision is approved by the owners. Seemingly, the Vegas puzzle is close to being solved, and the city of Oakland realizes that this is truly “their last shot.”

7.    Following the team’s eagerly-awaited regular season MLS debut, Atlanta United still has a lot of work to do to improve the fan experience. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the club drew the fourth-largest soccer crowd in the world on opening weekend, but Bobby Dodd Stadium was still plagued with problems. Some fans “complained of lines as long as 20 minutes to get into the stadium, and as long as an hour to purchase a beer” in one section. One fan said that there were “fights at the nearest concession line because of people trying to cut into line.” The fan added that a “lack of ushers didn’t help.” The team is temporarily playing its home games at Bobby Dodd Stadium on the Georgia Tech campus while the Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium is being completed across the city. Atlanta United President Darren Eales pledged that the problems would be addressed “immediately.” This appears to go beyond a normal opening day “shakeout” experience. The key, of course, is how “fan friendly” the response for the second game will be. Fans are usually forgiving as long as the team understands the need for immediate improvement.

8.    With most of the Olympic commotion surrounding where the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will be awarded, cities are slowly starting to prep bids for the 2026 Winter Games. According to Reuters, the Swiss Olympic Committee’s executive board has “voted to back Sion’s bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.” A formal bid has not yet been put forth by Sion, since the decision “still has to be ratified” by the 86 Swiss Olympic sports federations, the “so-called sport parliament,” in April and “could face a referendum” before it is officially presented to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC is pleased to see another city join the discussion to host an Olympics after many cities have been scared off lately “by the size and cost of the Games or pressured by local opposition.” Budapest recently withdrew its bid for the 2024 Olympics after facing mass public opposition, while Rome dropped out earlier due to a lack of funding. As far as Los Angeles and Paris for Summer 2024, the IOC seemingly is in a win-win situation (at least with two cities). The charter requires each city to be selected seven years before the respective games. There is a move afoot to award 2024 and 2028 together. Legalities aside, the IOC is in an increasingly difficult position of cultivating and maintaining interested bids – they should find a constitutionally accepted method of taking advantage of this situation.

9.    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is taking matters into his own hands to ensure the Coyotes stay in Arizona. According to Sporting News, Bettman wrote a “sternly worded letter” to state lawmakers asking them to support a bill that would help the Coyotes land a new arena. The letter was “sent to the Arizona Legislature, advocates for Senate Bill 1149, which would green light public funding” for a proposed $395 million arena in Phoenix. As part of the letter, Bettman stated that the team’s current facility, Gila River Arena, is not capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise. Coyotes Majority Owner & Chair Andrew Barroway wrote his own letter to state lawmakers, agreeing that the team “cannot survive in Glendale.” “The NHL first needs to make the case for a state-funded arena to the taxpayers,” responded State House Speaker J.D. Mesnard. “We’re not seeing a lot of enthusiasm that the public wants to foot the bill for a new arena, and until the NHL can win over taxpayers, they’re going to have a tough sell at the Legislature.” This seems to be the same “dramatic period” as impacted the Houston Oilers, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Colts, Charlotte Hornets, and others. Cities and states that believe a replacement franchise is imminent after one leaves finds the going expensive, turbulent, and almost impossible.

10.    Following an early-round departure from the ACC Tournament, Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim seized the opportunity to rip Greensboro, North Carolina, the event’s past host city. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Boeheim stated, “There's no value in playing in Greensboro. None. It's there because the league's been there and the office is there and they have a 150 people [staff] that the ACC needs. That's why it's there. It should not be there.” The longtime Syracuse coach wants to see the tournament played in major cities like Washington, Atlanta, or New York City, which would likely result in higher attendance and more media attention. The ACC Tournament is being held in Brooklyn this year and next year at the Barclays Center before its scheduled return to Charlotte in 2019 and Greensboro in 2020. This year’s tournament in New York marks the farthest north it has even been held. Interesting rhetorical controversy over a North Carolina mega-event location is all effectively irrelevant until HB2 is resolved and replaced. 

11.    Marking a big step forward for Nike and the sportswear industry as a whole, Nike announced its planned release for the Nike Pro Hijab. According to the L.A. Times, this spring 2018 launch will mark the “first foray into high-performance headgear for Muslim women athletes.” Despite smaller sportswear brands having already entered this space with Islamic clothing, Nike is the first “major” global sports brand to do so. The Oregon-based sportswear company sees an increasing demand for this product. The U17 Women’s World Cup in October in Jordan “marked the first time Muslim players were allowed to wear headscarves” while competing in a FIFA event and last year, Danish brand Hummel partnered with the Afghan Football Federation to “integrate hijabs into the women’s kits.” Select Muslim professional athletes have been testing prototypes of the Nike Pro Hijab for the last year and are eagerly awaiting the official release. A major market differentiator for Nike with an incredibly sensitive and entrepreneurial cultural evolution. Look for other brands to follow suit, though without the benefit of being branded a “cultural pioneer.”

12.    Amid an overall sportswear industry consolidation, Dick’s Sporting Goods is trying to expand its reach. According to CNBC.com, company Chair & CEO Ed Stack outlined a plan to “continue grabbing share” by “opening stores in markets where competitors’ bankruptcies left a gap” and by “targeting new customers in existing markets where one of those chains failed.” The company plans on being more patient in site selection for future expansion, and will also cut 20% of its lower-volume venders to focus on the more important ones. “It’s difficult to do,” said Stack. “It’s difficult to tell people we have done business with for a long time that we are not going to do business going forward.” The company also plans to start carrying more of its own private-label gear and equipment, cutting down expenses and dependency on out-of-house brands. This coming fiscal year Dick’s plans on opening 43 new locations – 19 of which are “former Sports Authority stores.” A tough road for all retailers as given the ease of Internet shopping – way beyond sports. Hopefully, brands consolidate, get smarter, and stay alive.

13.    The Atlanta Braves’ new ballpark is just about ready for action with the MLB season right around the corner. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SunTrust Park, which was open for the first time for a media tour, was described an a “photogenic expanse of green” with 41,000 green seats to complement an action-ready field. But before the venue will officially open on March 31 for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, a multitude of things still need to happen. The suites and club spaces “must be outfitted with furniture, fixtures and equipment.” Some of the technology systems, including Wi-Fi, are “still being installed.” And a “punch list of minor fixes, which numbered almost 30,000 items at one point, continues to be worked through.” SunTrust Park is a more intimate park than its predecessor, Turner Field, with about 9,000 fewer seats, many of which are closer to the field. 2017 an unprecedented year in Atlanta sports – two new stadiums opening with four months of each other. Reminding folks of the positives (and some negatives) surrounding the 1994 Summer Olympics. 

14.    Politics and sports do not always have a direct impact on each other, but they do for Tottenham in England. According to the London Evening Standard, Tottenham Director Donna Cullen confirmed that the cost of the club’s new White Hart Lane stadium project “has increased substantially due to Brexit.” The new 61,000-seat stadium is set to open for the 2018-2019 season, and the “final bill” is set at $973.2 million. Tottenham’s original estimate was less than half of that price. “Brexit has added a straight 20 per cent on costs for foreign goods due to the exchange rate, overtime working and increased construction costs similarly,” said Cullen. “This new ‘estimated’ figure relates predominantly to the stadium with some elements of substructure for the other builds, particularly the Tottenham Experience.” The club made its first cost estimate over seven years ago, so combining inflation and the runoff from Brexit have landed the project at nearly $1 billion. Stadiums across the globe have similar cost overrun issues. The key is not the nature of the excuses, but the technical and legal remedy. Who pays the cost overruns? How are they managed? And how is it sold to the public?

15.    Las Vegas Motor Speedway will now host two NASCAR weekends beginning in fall 2018. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, LVMS will become the “only venue” in the United States to have “weekend triple-headers of the three national divisions in both appearances.” This comes hand-in-hand with the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority unanimously approving a “seven-year sponsorship and marketing agreement,” plus $500,000 a year to “market both the spring and fall events, beginning January 1.” This move to bring an extra weekend to LVMS “has nothing really to do with racing,” as the action “has been great at New Hampshire.” SMI owns the track, which means it can still sell the naming rights to races, but “’Las Vegas’ must be in the name and logo” of all events there. The Nevada city’s sports business is booming as the NHL Golden Knights are set to start next season and the city could welcome an NFL franchise – likely the Raiders – in coming years as well. Las Vegas is in an unprecedented position to capture the economic impact of two “Super Bowl-type” weekends. Tourism, travel, hotel, and restaurant infrastructure is busy year round with a community understanding the leverage and economic impact created.

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.