15 to watch (Week of 5.31.16)
Rick Horrow's "15 to watch"
CSN Bay Area Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow takes you off the field with his 15 top Biz Ball trends for the week of May 31.
What Would Buster Do?
1. In year two of the company’s four-year partnership as MLB’s exclusive auto insurance sponsor, Esurance is bringing back San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey for its creative campaign. New advertisements featuring Posey will be played across MLB Network and other sports channels, and will feature Posey offering a comedic take on the choices he has to make in order to save money. In “New Digs,” Posey is shown doing his laundry in the clubhouse, while in “Chicken Strips,” the 2012 NL MVP is loading up his Giants hat with food to cut back on expenses. The auto insurer is also rolling out a new video series, titled “What Would Buster Do?” on its social channels throughout the MLB season. Esurance Director of Brand Partnerships and Social Engagement Chris Lee noted that the company feels better able to “capitalize and improve upon key learnings” after their first year partnering with MLB.
Making golf cheaper
2. If a new bill working through Congress can get signed into law, golfers may soon be able to write off some of their golf expenses. One of the biggest knocks on golf is that it is simply too expensive. From the cost of equipment to greens fees, the game can put a serious dent in your wallet. The P-H-I-T or Fit Act, which stands for Personal Health Investment Today, is aimed at encouraging Americans to get off the couch and invest in physical fitness. The bill, according to Golf Digest, allows many golf-related purchases, including clubs, balls, greens and driving-range expenses, instruction, and tournament entry fees, would be tax deductible up to $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a head of household or family. Why is Congress looking to give golfers a tax break? The most recent Physical Activity Participation Report suggests 81 million Americans are considered “inactive.” And sedentary, out-of-shape Americans cost the health care system much more than fit taxpayers.
UCLA opens its pockets
3. In an unprecedented move, UnderArmour takes L.A. UCLA’s new 15-year, $280 million footwear and apparel deal with Under Armour marks the most lucrative deal in college sports history – surpassing the 15-year, $252 million one that Ohio State signed with Nike this past year. Under Armour is set to replace Adidas, which has held UCLA’s apparel and footwear rights since 1999, starting in summer 2017. Under Armour will also open two brand stores in Los Angeles, hoping to lift the university’s disappointment in the minimal Bruins product available at the Adidas store in Santa Monica. “This deal was about geography,” said UA founder Kevin Plank. “It was important for us to plant our flag in L.A.” This marks yet another bold move for the Baltimore-based sportswear company; UA signed Cal away from Jordan Brand last month with a 10-year, $86 million agreement, and inked contracts with Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Northwestern in recent years – all of which had been represented by Adidas.
Ronnie Lott's plan
4. Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, former NFLer Rodney Peete, and a group of investors are preparing a bid to help build the Raiders a new stadium in Oakland, according to the S.F. Chronicle. The investors have held multiple meetings with team executives and city officials over the past few weeks to discuss their proposal, but there was “no immediate indication of just how much money the group, backed by a hedge fund, is willing to put into the deal." While the group intends to develop the 120-acre Coliseum site, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf makes it clear that she wants to work directly with the Raiders when it comes to Coliseum plans. Sources close to the investment group said that members “would like a minority share” of the Raiders as well. If a new stadium deal is not reached by September, the door will be open for the Raiders to strike an agreement to relocate to Las Vegas.
5. Longtime Turner Sports NBA reporter Craig Sager will receive the 2016 Jimmy V Perseverance Award, honoring his ongoing battle with leukemia. Despite fighting cancer for the past two years, Sager has refused to allow the disease to affect his fulfillment of job responsibilities – he has been sporting his signature, colorful suits on the sidelines of this year’s NBA playoffs. The award is named after late North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano, who died from cancer soon after delivering one of sports’ iconic speeches; Sager noted that he met Valvano at the 1991 Pan Am Games, and referenced the speech, saying, “I have it on my cell phone, I can play it in the hospital when I am feeling down. 'Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.' That’s pretty much what I’ve tried to follow.” Sager’s award will be presented at this summer’s ESPY Awards.
Lombardi gets his home
6. The NFL has announced that the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls will be played in Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles, respectively – shocking almost no one, considering the large checks being written to the league in each city. Longshot New Orleans came up short on its 2019 bid, but surprisingly pushed Atlanta all the way to a fourth ballot. Both Atlanta and Los Angeles will boast new stadiums when their turns come to host the big game, and by funding a major Sun Life Stadium renovation, Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "removed the last roadblock" that would have kept the game away from South Florida for more than a decade. According to the Miami Herald, the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami will also mark the Super Bowl’s 100th birthday; the city hopes to put on a massive “centennial celebration in South Florida,” with all premier Super Bowl-related events and venues based in Miami-Dade.
NFL's brain issues continue
7. The NFL is refuting a new report from congressional investigators that at least a half-dozen top NFL officials “waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on football and brain disease,” according to ESPN.com. Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the report directly, denying that the NFL pressured the National Institute of Health to strip a $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher; the report shows that the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said that owners spent a significant amount of time talking about player health and safety at recent league meetings – he followed that up by claiming the ESPN report was “one-sided and imbalanced.” Conversely, critics from the Boston Globe called this “a bad look for the league,” adding that the NFL “has to decide whether its priority is protecting its product or protecting its players.”
'Bizarre even by bizarre NFL standards'
8. The Buffalo Bills have come under scrutiny after unveiling restrictive new media policies for OTAs and mini-camp – neither of which are open to the public. According to the Buffalo News, the policy is “bizarre even by bizarre NFL standards.” Under the new rules, reporters are not allowed to comment on which players practice with the first or second team, and are prohibited on reporting “who is rushing the passer, dropped passes, interceptions,” and the quarterbacks’ completion percentages. Further, reporters are not allowed to reveal any conversations that took place between players, coaches, or team executives during practice. Bills Senior Vice President/Communications Scott Berchtold noted that these rules will not apply to training camp, which is open to the public. Coach Rex Ryan stayed neutral on the policy and the buzz around it by saying, “Our media policy isn’t something that I’m involved with.”
Red Bull + GoPro = Action
9. GoPro and Red Bull are teaming up in a new exclusive global partnership to distribute content rights on events they produce together, according to Siliconbeat.com. Content from their action-packed events will be made available across both the GoPro Channel and Red Bull TV. The "most significant part of the deal is that Red Bull will receive 'equity' in GoPro and GoPro will be the exclusive provider of action-camera technology for Red Bull events and productions." As part of the deal, GoPro signage and technology will be featured throughout Red Bull events, while Red Bull will get less than 1% equity in GoPro. The deal marks a break in GoPro’s marketing strategy of sponsoring individual athletes – about 140 athletes are currently on its payroll, all of whom receive a GoPro camera and are asked to “record all of the crazy things they get themselves into and send back a hard drive full of content once in a while.”
10. Nike has reportedly offered the German FA (DFB) as much as $78 million annually to become its official kit supplier. The federation has partnered with German-based sportswear supplier Adidas for 60 years, which has prompted those close to the deal to call it an “immoral offer.” DFB is currently paid only $28 million per year by Adidas – a $50 million raise would mark a 278% spike in annual kit-related income. Apart from offering a massive sum of money, Nike “wants to make the DFB a priority” over its other kit deals with elite national teams and clubs, such Brazil and Barcelona. Adidas “has so far been unable to match Nike’s offer,” but the current kit supplier has a clause in its contract with DFB that allows it to match any other offer. Nike’s offer is expected to have a duration of between four and six years. Stay tuned for Adidas’ next move on and off the German pitch.
Road to Roland Garros
11. Music junkies have James Korden's "Carpool Karaoke." If you like comedy, there's Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." For eavesdropping tennis fans, there's "Road to Roland Garros." A multi-year partnership between automaker Peugeot and French Open officials not only has Peugeot providing French Open courtesy cars, it's made for some pretty good TV. This year, former French tennis star Peugeot driver Gustavo Kuerten has solicited backseat confessions from Kevin Anderson on his guitar prowess (he’s learning “Stairway to Heaven”) and quizzed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga about his ballet skills (not good). Kuerten has also revealed to Novak Djokovic the real secret to playing well on clay - it's all in the hair. The two-minute vignettes are orchestrated and delivered by leading technology provider Globecast, a longtime Roland Garros partner, in cooperation with France TV.
ELeague shows off its fans
12. Turner Sports and WME-IMG’s new e-sports joint-venture, ELeague, made its debut with videos streamed via Twitch, according to the New York Times. “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” a first-person shooter game, had viewership that “fluctuated between 50,000-100,000,” but totaled more than one million viewers by the end of the stream. While announcers in suits and headsets sat behind a desk and commented on the action, the majority of the programming showed an individual player’s point of view. Comments and feedback on the production ranged from “supportive to mocking,” but Turner Sports Chief Content Officer and Executive VP/Production Crain Barry said that he was “cautiously encouraged” by the event. “Everyone’s walking around here feeling comfortable that we have some positive feedback,” Barry said. Going forward, one of the biggest difficulties facing ELeague production will be presenting it in a way that makes it compelling for audiences who have never seen this type of “sport” before.
Canadian dollar hurting NHL
13. After hitting a 13-year low of US$0.68 back in January, the weak Canadian dollar could cost the NHL up to $200 million in revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, according to Bloomberg. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman noted that last year’s revenues reached a league record of nearly $4 billion – thanks in part to the NHL’s Canadian broadcast and multimedia rights partnership with Rogers Communications. Despite the weak Canadian dollar, Bettman remains optimistic about this year’s revenue marker. Appearing on Bloomberg TV, the commissioner said, “I do believe there will be a revenue increase over 2015, and we continue to grow year after year and set new records, both in terms of revenues and attendance and the number of people touching our game in media.” The Canadian loonie has rebounded a bit, and is now back up to US$0.76. What may be costing the NHL more than the exchange rate? The dearth of any Canadian teams in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Hire made to move Raiders to Vegas
14. Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke has been hired as a consultant by the Oakland Raiders, Majestic Realty, and Las Vegas Sands Corp. to help move the NFL franchise to Las Vegas. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Leiweke’s connections could ultimately help the city “gain favor in the NFL’s front office” for the proposed $1.4 billion, 65,000-seat stadium and relocation; Leiweke’s brother Todd was named NFL COO last year. But the consultant followed up by saying, “It’s not just one relationship, and not just a blood relationship. I have a very good relationship with [NFL Executive VP/Business Ventures] Eric [Grubman], with Roger [Goodell] and with a lot of the owners. The NFL is more aligned with this than you would think.” If approved, Leiweke envisions the new Las Vegas stadium hosting 50 or 60 events per year, including two preseason and eight regular-season Raiders games, plus UNLV football games.
Frank Thomas the politician
15. Longtime White Sox player, baseball Hall of Famer, and concerned citizen Frank Thomas traveled to Springfield, Illinois, to meet with lawmakers concerning Illinois’ policies around Daily Fantasy Sports, according to Chicagobusiness.com. Thomas advocated for House Bill 3655, which would regulate and tax daily fantasy games such as those offered by companies like FanDuel and DraftKings. NHL Hall of Famer Chris Chelios followed Thomas, as an "army of lobbyists push for enough votes to pass the measure in the days ahead after the Senate approved it last week." Meanwhile, the New York Senate and Assembly both crafted legislation that would allow DFS “to resume operations” under the eye of the state Game Commission, according to the N.Y. Daily News. While this would be good news for DFS companies, the legislation would require operators to “pay licensing fees to the state,” and an annual tax equal to 15% of their gross revenues after prizes would be put in place.