1. It’s official: Peyton Manning is retiring. The two time Super Bowl winning quarterback reportedly informed Denver Broncos staff and his teammates of his decision on Saturday night, and a formal press conference is scheduled for Monday. With estimated annual earnings of $27 million according to Forbes, Manning, a multiple MVP winner and the first quarterback in history to win Super Bowls with two different teams, is a virtual lock for the NFL Hall of Fame. And despite his substantial off-field business portfolio, led by his signature 21-franchise deal with Papa John’s Pizza, it is likely that Manning will keep at least one foot in football. All of the NFL’s media partners are clamoring for his wisdom and wit in the broadcast booth, and Manning has expressed interest in ownership and possibly a front office position, following in the footsteps of his Broncos mentor John Elway. Stay tuned for more Manning details to emerge in Monday’s presser, and in the weeks to come.
2. New UConn Athletic Director David Benedict is clear: the Huskies should be in a Power Five conference. In his introductory press conference, Benedict expounded on walking the fine line between leaving the American Athletic Conference while respecting the league and the job it has done in its brief history. “I think the American has done a great job putting together a very strong conference in a very short period of time and we are going to be great members to that conference,” he said. “At the same time, we are going to make sure we position ourselves so we can remain competitive nationally in all of our sports.” Benedict becomes only the 12th AD in UConn’s history, which has deep roots of athletic success, especially in men’s basketball. The Huskies last won the NCAA championship in 2014, and are hoping to reach the Final Four in Houston this year.
3. After changing the rules last summer, the USOC now allows non-Olympic sponsors to run ads starring Olympic athletes – but not with complete freedom. According to Ad Age, if a potential non-Olympic sponsor wants to qualify, they must run the ads “continuously starting no later than March 27.” Because of this regulation, advertisers could flood the market with Olympic ads well before the Rio Games this summer. Old rules disallowed advertisers from running ads featuring Olympic athletes during a designated blackout period – lasting from a few days before the opening ceremony to a couple days after the closing ceremony. This year, non-sponsors can request a Rule 40 waiver from the USOC, which allows them to run ads during the blackout period. One of the first non-sponsors to take advantage of this new rule is Under Armour, which has launched a global advertising campaign featuring the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
4. In a sport that attracts an older demographic, golfer Rickie Fowler is using fashion to tap into the millennial market. The flashy Puma pants, shirts, flat-bill hats, and high top shoes he wears on course have caught the attention of younger golf fans, according to Golf Digest. Fowler is currently showcasing Cobra-Puma’s newest apparel, a cap that brings a “faded look to the PGA Tour.” Fowler first wore the Cobra Golf Tour Fade hat at the Honda Classic, and the company is hoping it will become popular among his followers. Yahoo Sports’ Dan Roberts said about the golfer’s style, “You want to get kids and millennials more involved in watching the sport…He’s a great ambassador for the sport right now, and I think others should take a page from his book…Rickie is the future of the sport in terms of the style and panache."
5. The Chicago Cubs have tabbed Olivet Nazarene University as the team’s official education partner, in a four-year deal. The small Christian college currently hosts the Chicago Bears’ training camp, but would like to expand its role among the city’s professional sports teams. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Cubs second baseman and university alum Ben Zobrist will be a school spokesman. ONU Associate Director of Marketing Jen Owen said that the school "had been interested in using the red-hot Cubs as a platform before Zobrist came to town, but his addition 'sealed the deal.'" While Zobrist will focus on the school's Cubs partnership, its brand will also be showcased at Wrigley Field. This is just one creative new sponsorship deal for the Cubbies, who are the early favorites to win the World Series as spring training settles in.
6. David Beckham’s quest to bring an MLS team to Miami just hit another bump in the road. Or parking lot, as the case may be. According to the Miami Herald, a senior Miami-Dade County official has claimed there is "enough concern about where fans would park when attending games at the new Overton stadium" that the county "may try to negotiate some parking improvements before approving the sale of a three-acre county property to Beckham's group." Currently, Beckham and his ownership group have no plans to construct a parking garage, instead relying on a Metrorail station three blocks away and a range of parking lots within half a mile that are capable of hosting 7,000 cars. Given Miami’s car-dependent lifestyle, Beckham’s lack of parking plans are a major concern for Miami Major Tomás Regalado and other city officials.
7. New social media outlet Slyce just got the best investor a startup could ask for: Stephen Curry. The Golden State Warriors guard, who openly admires LeBron James’ off-court business portfolio, just became a co-founder of Slyce, according to USA Today. The platform, which allows users to sift through questions and topics to find ones they want to address, was started by Curry’s former college roommate at Davidson, Bryant Barr, and former Nike designer Jason Mayden. Curry said that Slyce gives him a way to "take back just a bit of control of his own voice in the chaos surrounding" the Warriors this season, and allows him to focus on topics he likes: the Panthers, golf, charitable initiatives, and topics other than basketball. Slyce joins CoachUp, Under Armour, and the other companies in the MVP’s diverse portfolio.
8. Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross has reportedly held “secret talks” with English Premier League clubs Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City, in an attempt to pitch them on his new business endeavor: The European Super League. According to the London Sun, Ross’ plans "are the biggest threat" to English soccer since the EPL breakaway in 1992 and "would spell the end" of the UEFA Champions League. One of the benefits of the proposed Super League is guaranteed qualification. Under the current Champions League format, top clubs have to qualify each year and annually face the risk of not making the cut. While Ross hopes to launch his league soon, The EPL’s top clubs insist that “a breakaway from the Champions League [is] not on the agenda.” Ross has been involved in the International Champions Cup in the US, China, and Australia, and hopes to make the Super League his biggest contribution to global soccer yet.
9. While concussion protocols have become much stricter across all contact sports, more retired athletes are now coming forward to complain about the handling of head injuries during their playing days. Steve Ludzik and four other former NHL players recently sued the league over its explicit handling of concussed players. The NHL said that Ludzik, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, "should be ordered to take a PET scan, which measures brain function,” and the league also “wants its own medical team to examine” the five players, according to TSN.ca. Further, the NHL wants to formally conduct blood work and neuropsychological or psychiatric examinations. The league and the former players have been haggling over medical procedures since last June, and the lawsuit is only the latest salvo in their intense negotiations.
10. With its contract set to expire in two years, Nike is working to re-up its deal with Barcelona in an attempt to remain the club’s kit sponsor, according to AS. The new offer would be for $92.4 million per year, but could ultimately reach $108.7 per year based on incentives. The new deal would go into effect in July, 2018. The cash injection would nearly triple Barcelona’s revenue; the club currently earns $38 million from its current Nike deal, with an additional $20.7 million coming from merchandise sales. Club President Josep María Bartomeu and other top executives have made it clear that their principle objective is to bring in more money, despite already being one of Europe’s strongest brands. Bartomeu is also spearheading a new arena for Barcelona’s basketball club – the project has an initial budget of nearly $100 million – so the extra Nike revenue would aid that building process as well.
11. Fresh off their Super Bowl win, the Denver Broncos are raising ticket prices for a fifth consecutive season, and will introduce a variable pricing strategy on season-ticket plans for the first time in franchise history. All seats are set to increase by 3% at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos have also designated several rivals, including the Patriots, Panthers, and Colts, as candidates for “premium games,” in which prices will be hiked up even more to capitalize on consumer demand. On the other side of the country, the New York Jets just announced plans to increase tickets prices for the first time since 2011, according to Newsday. The Jets previously employed variable pricing – they will continue to use it this season – and are set to increase prices by an average of 4% per seat.
12. In an attempt to play catch-up, Adidas is setting out to capture a larger segment of the $76 billion global women’s shoe market. Research from Euromonitor International shows that Nike’s 5.7% share of this market is more than double Adidas’, with Puma further down the list. Nicole Vollebregt, Adidas’ first-ever global head of women’s products, has been tasked with finding innovate ways to win over a larger segment of the women’s shoe market. Adidas, now heavily focused on women’s lifestyle apparel, aired commercials during the female audience heavy Academy Awards telecast. One of the biggest challenges Adidas will face is that both Nike and Puma are targeting the same market in an attempt to double their respective sales by 2020. Adidas remains optimistic, and expects to see revenue and operating profit “rise at a double-digit rate this year following three years of uneven growth and scrapped profit targets."
13. Domestic violence has unfortunately become commonplace across professional sports, with athletes being accused of domestic abuse seemingly every month. But drastic reforms have come in the wake of these problems, as zero-tolerance policies are firmly in place across all pro sports leagues. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred just issued a 30-game suspension to Yankees Pitcher Aroldis Chapman for “domestic violence allegations stemming from an October incident at his Miami home, according to the New York Daily News. The suspension, which will start on Opening Day, will not prohibit Chapman from participating in spring training or preseason games. Manfred’s unflinching wielding of the discipline hammer will hopefully show all MLB players that there is absolutely no room for domestic violence in baseball. Manfred was ready to hike the suspension up to 40 games, but Chapman and his legal team “negotiated a lesser penalty.”
14. Ahead of this summer’s Euro 2016, Tournament Director Martin Kallen told Germany’s Sport Bild magazine that organizers and French security services “had been working together to discuss options in case of a perceived threat” – keeping the November 13th Paris attacks in mind. A UEFA official commented on these talks, saying that this year’s championship, which will be held in France, “could be moved or played in empty stadiums if security services considered there was danger of an attack,” according to Reuters. While Kallen did not say that this outcome is likely, he followed these remarks by stating that “safety and staging the tournament takes priority over everything else.” Organizers of the tournament have already “increased the security budget” by 15% in the wake of the Paris attacks, strengthening safety measures and bumping the overall security budget to nearly $37 million.
15. Becoming the most recent company to gamble on an up-and-coming “sport,” Yahoo has rolled out a brand new e-sports vertical. The company’s plans include airing live tournaments, player-focused features and expert commentary, and maintaining industry calendars, stats, and player rankings. Yahoo E-Sports will focus on a few specific games, including, “League of Legends,” “Dota 2,” “Counter Strike: Global Offensive,” “Heroes of the Storm” and “Street Fighter V.” Yahoo Sports Media VP Bob Condor spoke of this new business venture, saying, “We’re approaching our coverage of e-sports with the same tenacity and professionalism we always have with Yahoo Sports, News and Finance.” Yahoo is joining other digital sports platforms offering new e-sports coverage – ESPN launched its dedicated e-sports vertical in January.