Top Stories of the Week; NFL Sr. VP Peter O'Reilly on Super Bowl planning

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Top Stories of the Week; NFL Sr. VP Peter O'Reilly on Super Bowl planning

with Jamie Swimmer



1.    Now that Super Bowl 51 is in the books, the NFL will turn its attention to its routine and not so routine challenges. Whether or not you were thrilled with the Patriot’s fifth NFL championship in the 2000s or feel that they have officially now assumed the New York Yankees’ role as the Evil Empire of sports, once the off-season starts, all 32 NFL franchises return to a neutral playing field to hammer out their most pressing business issues. At the top of the 2017 list are two major challenges: resolving the league’s franchise relocation issues out west, and beginning to think about renegotiating the existing CBA, now at the halfway mark of its 10-year term. While five years out may seem like it’s way too premature to plan for the next round of NFL-NFLPA CBA negotiations, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith just ruled out renewing the current CBA, pointing to several issues, including the league’s concussion protocol, player discipline, and whether players should continue to give the league stadium credits (which reduce revenue shared with players so teams can invest in stadiums). After he handed the Patriots the Lombardi Trophy, Commissioner Roger Goodell should now be able to put “Deflategate” squarely in the rear view mirror and focus on league business, including relocation, early CBA strategizing, declining ratings, and international expansion.

2.    For thousands of current and former college athletes, a $6,000 check may soon be on the way thanks to the settlement of a far-reaching class action case on Friday. The NCAA and 11 Division I conferences "agreed to create" a nearly $208.7 million fund for the benefit of current and former D-I basketball and FBS student-athletes, settling the "monetary claims portion" of a grant-in-aid class-action lawsuit, according to the association. The settlement, announced in a Friday statement, will be "funded entirely from NCAA reserves, and no conference or member schools will be required to contribute." The settlement is "subject to approval by the court and will award class members money up to, but not exceeding, their full cost of attendance.” Other aspects of the class action suit remain unresolved, including an effort to eliminate all restrictions on compensation for student athletes. While the NCAA has stated it will “vigorously oppose” all portions of the lawsuit seeking “pay for play,” the next stage of the process will focus on changing existing rules so that collegiate athletes receive more compensation. Stay tuned.

3.    After picking up so much momentum in a short period of time, the Oakland Raiders’ hopes of relocating to Las Vegas are beginning to dwindle quickly. According to the L.A. Times, Goldman Sachs, the bank that originally said it “would finance” the Raiders’ new stadium, “pulled away from the project.” The Raiders told the NFL that the bank would fund their planned $1.9 billion stadium despite Las Vegas Sands Chair & CEO Sheldon Adelson withdrawing from the deal last week, but that is no longer the case. Sources close to the deal reported that Goldman Sachs pulled out because Adelson rescinded his support of the stadium. State Senator Aaron Ford suggested that public money for the stadium "could be diverted for other purposes if the situation isn't quickly resolved." Those who know Adelson well confidently stated that there is very little hope of the businessman reentering the deal. Marc Davis, Las Vegas, and Nevada will surely scramble to replace the “missing equity piece.” But NFL Commissioner Goodell’s statement that no investors in a team or facility can have any ownership stake in a casino may be what makes the effort go bust – it’s virtually impossible to find deep-pocketed investors in or around Vegas with no casino ties.

4.    The Baltimore Ravens are planning on investing $120 million as part of a three-year project to renovate M&T Bank Stadium. According to the Baltimore Sun, the project will become the team’s biggest investment in facility upgrades to date; it will add “elevators and escalators, enlarge the end zone video boards and improve the sound system and kitchen facilities.” On top of the Ravens’ investment, the Maryland Stadium Authority also pledged $24 million to the project. "We need to keep making improvements,” said team President Dick Cass. “You can’t ever stop. You have to keep putting money into your stadium.” The 19-year-old stadium had its Wi-Fi improved in 2013 as part of a $45 million investment that saw concourses and concessions upgraded as well. In today’s NFL landscape, teams continually open new mega stadiums and renovate older ones; the Ravens are playing catch-up. The M&T Bank Stadium renovation is the next in a long line of major upgrades around the league – as leases with stadiums built in the 1990s come up for renewal or renegotiation and technological standards and fan comfort coalesce in new improvements.

5.    Twelve cities have formally applied for MLS expansion bids, but only four of these hopeful markets will eventually land a team. According to Soccer America, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, and Tampa are all vying to join the growing domestic soccer league. The bid groups "include owners with interests in the NFL, NBA and MLB," while eight "have had interests in teams" in NASL and the USL. A MLS expansion committee is expected to begin reviewing applications later this month focusing on three areas: “Ownership, stadium details; and financial projections, corporate and soccer support.” Two of the selected franchises will hopefully begin play in 2020, with the other two to follow. Speaking of the 12 applicant cities, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, “All great cities, support of proven leaders, and passionate fans.” MLS now faces the standard tradeoff that all leagues analyze:  significant expansion revenue and higher franchise values vs. the long-term harm of overexpansion. 

6.    In a push to make the game safer and more popular for kids, USA Football “intends to introduce a drastically altered youth football game.” According to the N.Y. Times, there has been a sharp decline in youth football participation over the past few years in response to the concussion crisis sweeping through the sport. The organization has “created a new format that brings the game closer to flag football and tries to avoid much of the violence in the current version.” Teams will now play with between six and nine players on the field instead of the traditional 11, the field will be smaller, and all kickoffs and punts will be eliminated. "There are, legitimately, concerns among parents about allowing their kids to play tackle football at a young age,” said Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy, who is on the USA Football Board of Directors. “So they can look at this and say they’ll be more comfortable that it is a safer alternative.” All youth football organizations (including Pop Warner and USA Football) are experimenting with various safety measures, format changes, and contact restrictions in order to “stay ahead of the concussion science.”

7.    Pittsburgh Penguins Center Sidney Crosby finished atop the list of best-selling NHL jerseys during the first half of the 2016-2017 season. According to Yahoo Sports, Crosby’s sensational 2016 campaign, one that included a Stanley Cup title last season and a spot in the top three on the total points list this season, resulted in him having the highest-selling jersey for all of 2016. Meanwhile, jersey sales for Toronto Maple Leafs Center Auston Matthews through the first three months of the 2016-2017 season reflect his status as a "rookie sensation," as his sweater was the "second-highest-selling jersey" on Shop.NHL.com. Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane finished third on this year’s list; he led the NHL in jersey sales back in 2014 but slipped after sexual assault allegations last season. Rounding out the top five are Blackhawks Center Jonathan Toews, who “led the NHL in jersey sales” in 2015, and Edmonton Oilers Center Connor McDavid. The NHL is in astronomical health in many ways. Their “superstars” represent the younger demographic (Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid) combined with the “old guard” of Crosby, Kane, and others. A good mix for the future.

8.    The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will have a weirdly unique feature: the medals that will be awarded to athletes will be made from recycled materials. According to Reuters, organizes in Tokyo said that the medals will be “forged from recycled metal from old mobile phones and appliances donated by the general public to give them a sense of direct involvement in the Games.” On top of keeping the general public involved, this move will also save costs after the initial budget “ballooned” to more than $26.4 billion at one point. The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee hopes to gather as much as eight tons of metal – 40kg of gold, 2,920kg of silver and 2,994kg of bronze – to meet the required amount of materials needed to properly make the Olympic medals. Several million units of mobile phones will be required to meet the "eight-ton target," the organizing committee said. A national recycling effort will officially begin in April. A symbolic but important effort to focus on environmental concerns – that will be one of the Tokyo Olympic legacies going forward.

9.    Sports have recently acted as a popular medium for athletes and teams to express themselves politically and socially, and “The Bridge Tournament” is set to become another example of just that. According to Xinhua, border-region Mexican and American soccer teams are planning to “play a tournament to protest the wall U.S. President Donald Trump plans to build along the two countries’ shared border.” The new president drew a significant amount of criticism during his campaign for his proposal of a wall and how to fund it, and the criticism has only escalated since he announced his intention on following through with the initial plan. No date has been set for The Bridge Tournament yet, but invitations have already been sent out to potential participants. “The event will pit three teams from each country, including Ascenso MX side Correcaminos, Tampico Madero and Reynosa from Mexico, against U.S sides Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas and Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.” A welcome symbolic and practical attempt to maximize “hands across the border” given the obvious political concerns. In this case, sports may help show the way for better regional cooperation.

10.    San Diego State’s impressive 80-game regular-season sellout streak is over and the university is now struggling to keep its students interested in the team. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, last season saw a 10-15% no-show rate for students at basketball games at Viejas Arena, with the trend escalating this season. Around 700 students “failed to collect free tickets” to SDSU’s game against Wyoming, equating to around 30% of the 2,500-person student section remaining empty. It has been “seven seasons since all student tickets were not claimed for a conference home game with school in session.” The university has begun to float the idea of converting 500 of the student section seats into season tickets for paying fans, but no move has been made yet. The “cash-strapped athletic department” seems likely to make this switch in the near future because these additional season tickets “could generate an additional $500,000” for the university. The team has been consistently successful both and off the court. Long-term marketing techniques are sometimes necessary to sustain interest between championship caliber teams. 

11.    The NWSL will now have its games streamed on Lifetime after A+E Networks “purchased an equity stake” in the league. According to the K.C. Star, weekly matches will be streamed on the network and there are plans to launch NWSL Media, “which will oversee live streaming of all matches.” NWSL Media will "serve as the commercial branch for the league, overseeing its broadcast and sponsorship rights." It will also "administer a new website and phone app." The TV deal with the NWSL and Lifetime is set for three years, marking the “top broadcast arrangement in the league’s history.” Another part of the deal will see Lifetime’s logo placed on all official league jerseys with a patch on the right sleeve. Due to the 4:00pm ET slot that NWSL games will have on Lifetime, NWSL games and MLS games will “go head-to-head at least 10 times this year” when men’s games air on ESPN. Lifetime may have provided a “life line” to the league – with the hopes that the product and demographic appeal can carry the day and reenergize momentum.

12.    The NFL is looking to expand its International Series in Canada. According to the Toronto Sun, the NFL scouted four Canadian stadiums in 2016 as “candidate sites for possible future regular-season games.” Rogers Centre and Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, and B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver were the four venues considered, as confirmed by NFL Executive Vice President/International Mark Waller. The league was primarily evaluating the locker rooms and whether or not the venues met the NFL’s technological standards. Waller noted that the NFL has "not yet reached a conclusion on a Canadian venue," nor does it "disclose findings of such information missions," but the league will be heading back to Mexico next year regardless of what happens north of the border. The NFL recently confirmed a game between the Raiders and Patriots will be played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City next season. Inevitable and positive news by the NFL to expand its reach north of the border while continuing to work with the CFL.

13.    The Tennessee Titans and the NFL are at odds about the team’s ownership structure and whether or not it “complies with league rules.” According to the Nashville Tennessean, Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk took over for her sister, Susie Adams Smith, in March 2015 and each owns 33% of the team; the remaining ownership stake is “split among three other family members.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the ownership situation in Tennessee by saying, “The fundamental aspect of our policy is to make sure that we have an individual who has the ultimate authority over the franchise, and to make those decisions, including league-vote decisions, as well as locally, and it’s clear – it’s clear to the ownership group and it’s also clear to the membership.” When Amy Adams Strunk took over in 2015, the league levied a six-figure fine on the franchise, but that did not ultimately change the situation. Look for these ownership and transition issues to be resolved as soon as possible, especially with the evolving estate tax laws and the need for stability and clarity in the Nashville market.

14.    The departure of star player Elena Delle Donne to the Washington Mystics is almost surely going to negatively affect the business of the Chicago Sky. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the WNBA franchise is losing “not only one of the faces of the WNBA, but one of the most marketable female athletes in the country.” Since being drafted by the franchise in 2013, the Sky’s ticket sales have risen by 27% to a “franchise record of 7,009 per game at Allstate Arena last season.” The Sky also “signed a landmark five-year local TV deal with Weigel Broadcasting shortly after drafting Delle Donne,” putting the team in 8 million local TV homes. The Sky said that they also “ranked in the top three of the WNBA's 12 teams in sponsorship revenue last year.” When she joined the team four years ago, the Sky immediately launched a “Delle Donne deal” on season tickets, helping to boost sales. Without their star player to build their business around, the on-court and off-court success of the Chicago Sky remains uncertain. As always, a team and league depends on the stability of its superstars. As a result, they continue to look for stability and “sizzle” at the box office and on television.

15.    Broadcasting legend Brent Musburger has officially retired, and the sports world will miss his on-air presence. Musburger capped his 50-year broadcasting career by calling the Georgia-Kentucky men’s basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Following the overtime game, “a video aired of some of Musburger’s best broadcasting moments, followed by his closing remarks,” according to ESPN. “What a road we’ve traveled together,” reminisced Musburger. “Thanks so much to you for sharing your time with me, (what) great memories we had over the last almost 50 years.” The former broadcaster will be remembered for his “unique ability to tell a story and paint a picture for the fans,” as longtime broadcasting partner Dick Vitale noted. He is set to retire to his new home in Las Vegas, where he will take his first break from broadcasting since he began decades ago. The torch is passing from many of the media icons – Dick Enberg, Verne Lundquist, Vince Scully, now Brent Musburger. From a business perspective, the older viewing demographic will lose some of its reason to watch.

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.