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Sports Business 5 to Watch: Super Bowl Sunday

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Sports Business 5 to Watch: Super Bowl Sunday

1. Super Bowl 50 is set to be a classic matchup of old vs new, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos pitted against hot-handed Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. And if you want to see this game in person, it will cost you. According to VividSeats.com, a secondary market for sports and entertainment, and SeatGeek, SB50 is shaping up to be the most expensive in NFL history. The cheapest ticket available for the Feb. 7 game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is $3,224, and the most expensive comes in at a whopping $12,785, as of this past Monday. The website’s median price for tickets sold thus far is $4,180 — the cheapest seat in the house was sold for $3,000 in the upper level corner of the 49ers' home. Of those who have already bought tickets from the website, 37 percent are from California, 8 percent are from Texas and Florida each, and 7 percent and 6 percent are from Illinois and New York, respectively.

2. While a significant portion of NFL fans will never be fortunate enough to see their team make it all the way to the Super Bowl, those who are lucky enough will not be able to follow their team to the big game for nothing. Immediately following their wins this past Sunday, both the Panthers and Broncos posted travel packages for its fans through PrimeSport, a Los Angeles-based sports travel packager. The cheapest option comes in at $180 per person, which merely buys you a ticket to your team’s pregame tailgate in the parking lot. If you wanted to actually go to the game as well, buying the cheapest seat available, that number jumps all the way up to $3,507.50. If you wanted to fly to San Jose, arriving for the pregame and departing immediately after, that number begins to hover are the $6,000 marker — being more expensive for Charlotte fans than Denver fans. Three-night land packages (no flight) at each team’s three hotels ranging from $5,935 to $6,805 per person for Carolina fans at the Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf, Embassy Suites at Burlingame or the Sir Francis Drake on Union Square or $5,795 to $5,995 per person for Denver fans at the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf or Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. No matter how you want to approach the prospect of attending Super Bowl 50, it sure won’t be cheap.

3. With Super Bowl 50 quickly approaching in the next few weeks, the event’s host committee — in collaboration with in/PACT and Citizen Group, has launched “Play Your Part,” a campaign focusing on reducing impact on climate change by delivering a low emissions event and responsibly using materials and resources, all while inspiring fans to embrace sustainability themselves. Prizes will be given out by the event’s host committee to leading fans that enter and engage in the campaign. Sustainability Director for the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee and President of in/PACT Sports & Entertainment Neill Duffy spoke about “Play Your Part’s” course of action leading up to the game. “We’re asking fans to do three things ... take action, choose your cause, win prizes. Fans take action by either: a) taking a pledge to do something sustainable, e.g. host a sustainable SB party, or b) actually do something sustainable when visiting Super Bowl City, e.g. leave the car at home, bring their own reusable water bottle or recycle responsibly.” The Super Bowl’s host site, Levi's Stadium, is the perfect venue to foster this campaign, as it became the first stadium in the United States that is home to a professional football team to receive LEED Gold certification upon construction.

4. Super Bowl 50’s reach is going to span far beyond Levi's Stadium, as events will range all the way from the Embarcadero in San Francisco to Mission College in Santa Clara, hitting various other Silicon Valley hot spots along the way. The area has prepared by already designating a special lane on Highway 101 between San Francisco and San Jose for buses and limousines heading to the game. Meanwhile, the Valley Transit Authority is prepared to transport exactly 12,000 passengers to Levi’s on Super Bowl Sunday via VTA’s train system. A round trip transport to and from the game on these trains will cost a mere $20 and is set to be one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of getting the football’s new mecca. Santa Clara council member Lisa Gillmor spoke of her anxiety and excitement surrounding her city’s hospitality. "I'm nervous but optimistic that Santa Clara is going to come through this with shining colors," she said. "I want to make sure that we showcase our city to the country and the world."

5. With recent hard-hitting storms on the East Coast, more bad weather is expected to make its way to the Bay Area just in time for Super Bowl 50. In a front-page newspaper piece in the San Francisco Chronicle this past week, Alexander & Rubenstein noted the likely chance that the days surrounding the matchup “will be significantly wetter than normal.” But NFL officials were quick to note that they “have contingencies in place for rain, from the new weather-tested turf laid at Levi’s Stadium to plans to keep the microphones dry for Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars during the halftime show.” While there is still a chance that the heavy rains foil out or miss Levi's Stadium and the surrounding area completely, the NFL is preparing for any possible weather pattern that might hit. “The football gods have been with us throughout the history of the Super Bowl. We’ve been fortunate to not have the weather as a factor,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “And if it is a factor, well, that’s football.”

6. There are two reasons why people watch the Super Bowl: for the game itself and for the advertisements that come in between the action. This year, a few lesser-known brands will take their chances, spending big bucks to market their product during one of the world’s most-watched events. Bai, the maker of low-calorie health beverages, will make its first Super Bowl appearance with a 30-second commercial. The commercial will be "a new entry in Bai's 'None of This Makes Sense' campaign." Employing the shop's "trademark absurdist humor, the work presented oddball characters in weird situations asking why Bai — brimming with antioxidants and packing only five calories — tastes so good." Similarly, SoFi, a student-loan refinancing, mortgage and personal loan company, will ramp up “a $20 million TV and digital ad effort with a spot during Super Bowl 50 ... spending about 20 percent of its annual ad budget on the Super Bowl push," noted Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal.

7. After missing its chance last year, Snapchat has changed its sales tactics in order to capitalize on the Super Bowl’s popularity, according to Garett Sloane of Digiday. With Marriott, Budweiser, Pepsi and Amazon signed on as sponsors, the increasingly popular social media platform has sold out its Live Story with the NFL for Super Bowl 50. Video advertisements for participating companies are set to run in between the game’s Live Story. Budweiser will only be allowed to advertise to users who are 21 years or old, drastically decreasing their reach for the Broncos-Panthers matchup. Financial details have not yet been released for these advertising partners, but the overall revenue for Snapchat is expected to reach the “low seven figures” for the whole offered package. Sources said that Snapchat for this year's game "switched tactics" from targeting a single sponsor and instead "looked for multiple sponsors" in an attempt to bring in more revenue, citing the more sponsors, the more money.

8. Superstition is a real thing in sports, and the Super Bowl is certainly no exception to that. Broncos executive vice president and general manager John Elway is taking no chances of bad luck when his team squares off with the Panthers, hence his decision to wear white vs. the Panthers. Elway spoke earlier this week on that decision, saying, “We’ve had Super Bowl success in our white uniforms, and we’re looking forward to wearing them again in Super Bowl 50.” The Broncos have worn their home orange jerseys on four separate occasions in blowout Super Bowl losses. The last time they won in white was in the 1998 championship — overall in the Super Bowl, Denver is 0-4 in orange, 1-1 in white and 1-0 in blue.

9. While NFL players have been increasingly fined these past few years for excessive celebrations after touchdowns and big plays, one company is actually promoting excessive celebrations in the Super Bowl. This past week, Nestle’s Butterfinger brand announced that it plans to cover “up to $50,000 in excessive celebration fines levied against NFL players through Super Bowl 50” as part of its “Bolder Than Bold” Super Bowl campaign, according to Adweek.com. Former NFL receiver Terrell Owens, largely known for his own planned excessive celebrations, and comedian Billy Eichner were selected to make this announcement on behalf of Butterfinger. Owens and Eichner were seen on the streets of New York City asking people to show off their boldest end-zone celebrations in exchange for a Butterfinger bar. The campaign is certainly innovative, as this marks a first for a company willingly picking up players’ fine tabs.

10. Digital and online advertising has exploded these past few years, as platforms and companies are finding new and innovative ways to incorporate ads all around the web. After hitting a record 840 million minutes of Super Bowl ads on YouTube, the platform has once again elected to bring back YouTube AdBlitz — a YouTube channel and separate website where fans can view and vote for their favorite ads before they air on game day. While this service has been available each of the last seven years, Tara Walpert Levy, managing director of agency sales at Google, said its reach has grown exponentially in recent years. Last year alone, people watched the equivalent of 1,600 years of Super Bowl ads on YouTube, and nearly 40 percent of that viewing time actually occurred before the game itself, with another 300,000 hours of ads watching during the game. With last year’s Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks being the most-watched broadcast in television history, it makes sense for YouTube to capitalize on this opportunity.

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

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USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).

 

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.