When the midway point of the Major League Soccer season was reached with D.C. United in first placed in the Eastern Conference, head coach Ben Olsen was quick to point out that goals were not achieved and that the teams work was far from over.
The workload seems even greater now. Sporting Kansas City is back in first place. The New York Red Bulls managed to survive the heat, and a mid-week match against Chicago, to take all three points and leap over D.C. into second place. Uniteds opponent on Saturday, the Columbus Crew, is in eighth place and should be highly motivated playing at home.
Last week at Crew Stadium, the Crew was blanked by Kansas City 2-0. Forward Emilio Renteria received a red car for a head butt of Paulo Nagamura and will miss the United match. The two argued after Renteria was fouled by Nagamura. Renteria only has two goals on the season, but the Crews leading scorer Eddie Gaven only has 4 goals.
The Crew in 20 matches has managed only 17 goals. Only Chivas USA, with 12 goals on the season, has found the back of the newt fewer times. Injuries have been a problem for the Crew, who lost midfielder Bernardo Anor to a torn ACL, and now the team has 11 players on its injured list.
A wounded team can be a dangerous team, but still the Crew has failed to show real bite in its attack and has been shutout six times. To stay at least within shouting distance of the playoff race the Crew has relied heavily on the goalkeeping of Andy Gruenebaum and the organizational skills of defender Chad Marshall. The Crew has only allowed 19 goals.
United has been playing with less swagger of. As they reached the seasons 17-pgame mark there were troubling signs. The Black and Red managed to hold on to a 3-2 win over New England at home. That was followed by a less than convincing 1-0 road win in Philadelphia and then a collapse in 3-2 loss away to the New York Red Bulls.
Last week United showed plenty of promise in the opening 15 minutes in Houston. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid received a red card in the 16th minute and United was reduced to ten-men. Sometimes down a man teams will play inspired and punch above their weight to get a result. It was not that way for United against the Dynamo.
I thought we could have been meaner, I thought we could have been angrier, Olsen said.
I thought our shape could have been better and you keep the game 1-0 as long as you can. We got a little stretched, and we got impatient.
The first 15 minutes, it was going back and forth, added midfielder Danny Cruz. We had a couple great chances and they had a couple great chances and then the red card changes the entire dynamic of the game. Hats off to them, scoring four goals is not easy to do whether you are up a man or not. We just have to learn from it."
Olsen and United now have to figure out the response to the 4-0 loss to the Dynamo. On the team sheet there will be changes with defender Robbie Russell out with a foot injury and midfielder Branko Boskovic nursing a calf strain. As he did against the Dynamo, Chris Korb likely will replace Russell, but Boskovics replacement is open for debate.
In the last two months Boskovic has played his best soccer with United. Putting Boskovic in an attacking midfield role and then pushing Dwayne De Rosario closer to goal seemed to be the teams way forward. The question now has to be whether De Rosario drops back in the midfield or will Olsen try someone else there and keep De Rosario as a withdrawn striker.
If De Rosario is back in midfield then it likely would mean Chris Pontius would return to forward. That shuffle would then open an opportunity for Nick De Leon to return to the starting lineup and play on the left flank. De Leon is due to get a a chance again to show the spark that made him look like the steal of the MLS draft in the opening two months of the season.
15 To Watch in Sports Business: Wrapping up the Olympics and NBA news
15 To Watch in Sports Business: Wrapping up the Olympics and NBA news
15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BUSINESS/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 26 with Jamie Swimmer & Jesse Leeds Grant
Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins
Now that the PyeongChang Olympics have concluded, all eyes now turn to Tokyo 2020. According to SportsBusiness Journal, even before this year’s Winter Olympics ended, “the hype for Tokyo 2020” was already building in Asia. The next Summer Games, which are about 29 months away, are already drawing sponsors from across the world. Many bigtime brands and companies “have made it clear they’re reserving their most expensive plans” for the Tokyo Olympics. Tokyo 2020 had an Olympic house built in South Korea to spread the buzz among more casual fans. The display had a specific purpose: to excite fans about the culture and technology available in Japan. “I want to suggest that all visitors can see the Japanese technology,” said Organizing Committee Senior Director Hiroyuki Kobayashi. “Also that Tokyo has various characteristics and attractions such as culture, nature, delicious food and the water, so people can enjoy many things in Tokyo’s metropolitan city.” One of the delights for Olympic participants, fans, and journalists in PyeongChang was the efficiency of operations, from facilities to transportation to food service. Expect the same in Japan, famous for being a place where, among cultural treasures, the trains always run on time.
Wrapping up the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, female athletes helped carry Team USA across the finish line in a big way. According to the Los Angeles Times, the recently-finished Games mark the fourth Olympics in a row where the American women outperformed their male counterparts, with a gold medal in women’s hockey highlighting the two-week campaign. On top of that, Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall took a shocking gold in cross-country skiing, and the women’s speed skating team pursuit surprised the field by taking bronze. Leading into the final week, Team USA as a whole was on track for one of its worst Olympics ever in terms of the overall medal count – it finished with 23 – but the Games were salvaged thanks to the women. Certain days were highlighted by medals won only by female athletes, most notably on February 21, when all four medals were claimed by women. With the likely exception of gold medal snowboarder Chloe Kim and skier Mikaela Shiffrin, both thought to have commercial staying power, most Olympic champions have only about a 12-week window to capitalize on their fame before the Olympic halo effect fades.
The United States women’s figuring skating team turned out its worst performance in an Olympics since the 1948 Games in St. Moritz. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the team only won two bronze medals over the two weeks of competitions, marking the fewest since Nancy Kerrigan’s sole silver at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. Of the top American skaters heading into PyeongChang, U.S. Champion Bradie Tennel, Mirai Nagasu, and Karen Chen finished ninth, tenth and eleventh, respectively. The lack of medals in PyeongChang was compounded with the worst group effort in Team USA history. While the top five U.S. women’s skaters at last month’s nationals averaged an age of just over 22 years old, the top five Russian skaters averaged only 16. The U.S. team has much catching up to do if it hopes to win medals at the 2022 Beijing Olympics; the talent pipeline does not look promising.
The NBA’s All-Star weekend was thrilling and lucrative, delivering an estimated $116 million economic impact to Los Angeles. It was also educational. During the All-Star break, Jerome Williams, NBRPA Chapter Members, fathers and mentors of pro basketball players, and the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation visited Manual Arts High School to celebrate their commitment to bringing African-American history education to schools across several states. Williams and company have partnered with education-technology company EVERFI to deliver 306 - African American History(TM), a web-based course that communicates African-American history through primary texts and compelling vignettes. At Manual Arts High, EVERFI and special guests held a group conversation and panel discussion about lessons from the course. The event also recognized 10 students for top essay reflections through the 306 - African American History writing competition. The 10 winning students received a prize pack from the NBRPA Chapters Legends Shooting for Peace program and scholarships for HBCU schools. The event ended with a Celebrity Basketball Game, which featured Williams, Houston, and other retired NBA players versus the Manual Arts High basketball team. This is yet another terrific example of how sports partnerships and mega events don’t just deliver ratings and economic impact, they can change lives.
NBA All-Star break brings at least $116 million in increased economic activity to Los Angeles County. A new study completed by Micronomics (an independent economic research firm) estimates that NBA All-Star Weekend generated at least $116 million in increased economic activity for Los Angeles County. Of that $116 million, an estimated $90 million is tied to tourism; visitors from out of town spending in local hotels, restaurants, and in Jimmy Butler’s case, possibly clubs. The Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission also believes that the city received intangible value from the league marketing it as a desirable destination to a global audience. If Micronomics estimates are correct, the All-Star Game brought 40% more business to Los Angeles than it did to New Orleans last season. $116 million is a particularly impressive figure when you consider that the MLB All-Star Game played in Anaheim in 2010 generated just $85 million; no MLB All-Star Game (except the 2 recently hosted at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field) has ever made a larger impact on a host city. Los Angeles will host several other prominent sporting events over the next several years, including the 2022 Super Bowl, 2023 CFB National Championship Game, and the 2028 Summer Olympics.
The NBA went into the All-Star break hoping to level out tension between players and referees, but little was done to solve those problems. According to Bleacher Report, a meeting between the two opposing sides turned out to be “underwhelming, leaving many issues unresolved.” Just three referees and two players attended the meeting – Warriors forward Andre Iguodala and NBPA Vice President/Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie – along with NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts. The meeting was called “productive” in the aftermath, but the lack of player attendance, specifically star players, underwhelmed the referees hoping to mend the relationship. One of the main talking points at the meeting was the “use of certain gestures, such as the hand signal for a stop sign when a player begins arguing,” which many players consider demeaning. Additionally, players want to receive better education from the refs about rule changes. While the two sides are hoping to meet again before the end of the regular season, if the league’s marquee players don’t get involved, little progress will likely be made.
The Oakland A’s are still working to get a new ballpark despite the constant setbacks and rejections from Bay Area politicians and land owners. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, A’s Owner Dave Kaval is still aiming to “have a deal for a new ballpark – somewhere – by the year’s end.” The team is still working on and considering three potential sites in Oakland to construct a new stadium. In the past few months, the A’s got a “no go” from the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees about building on campus grounds and conflicting information from Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) General Manager Grace Crunican about building a station near a possible ballpark site at Howard Terminal. Kaval noted that the team’s third option of rebuilding a stadium at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is currently the front-runner. Any new stadium will most likely be 100% privately financed, through Kaval does not like the idea of building on the Coliseum site, which is five miles from downtown.
Ticket sales for May’s Indianapolis 500 are “booming,” according to Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles. Last year’s race drew a record crowd of 300,000 fans to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the largest crowd “IMS has welcomed in the last 20 years outside the 100th running in 2016,” which saw a crowd of 350,000 in attendance. Boles did not cite a specific number as IMS never reveals its ticket sales or attendance figures, though he did note that not only were sales ahead of last year’s marker, but they were “ahead by a considerable margin.” Boles and his team at IMS have been working hard to strategically promote and brand racer Danica Patrick, who is set to end her career at the Indy 500 on Sunday, May 27. Patrick’s final race of her career is expected to deliver a bigger bump to ticket sales and TV ratings for the famous racing event than Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso’s presence brought last year. The “Danica Bump” will also undoubtedly benefit the entire Verizon IndyCar Series, and up and coming drivers such as Andretti Autosports’ Zach Veach, sponsored for his first full Verizon IndyCar season by Group One Thousand One.
With the new MLB season just around the corner, the San Diego Padres are hoping break even financially in 2018. According to The Athletic, despite signing first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million contract just a week ago, the roughly $50 million in cash that the club is set to receive from Disney’s purchase of BAMTech is arriving “at a convenient time.” The deal for Hosmer nearly doubles the team’s previous free agency record. Speaking about the one-time payout that all clubs are getting from the league this season, Padres Executive Chair Ron Fowler said, “We’re going to spend a good portion of that. We’ve got $20 million in payroll here and we’ve got another $20 million we just added.” On top of the new mega contract for Hosmer, the team will be spending another $18 million on Petco Park to put up a new video board in right field, and recently installed the largest array of solar panels in baseball this offseason. As the only pro sports game in town, the Padres are under constant, massive scrutiny. Hopefully for the franchise the Hosmer acquisition and other upgrades will pay off come Opening Day.
The Golden State Warriors are planning to head north to Seattle for a preseason matchup against the Sacramento Kings. According to the Sacramento Bee, the exhibition game marks another opportunity “to re-ignite the intensely passionate discussion about bringing back the Sonics” via expansion or relocation. The game in Washington will be a return to the Pacific Northwest for former Supersonic Kevin Durant, who played his first NBA season with the club before the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City. Speaking on the potential of playing in Seattle, Durant said, “That’ll be amazing. I hope that goes through. The fans in Seattle definitely deserve basketball.” The game on October 6 is set to be played at KeyArena, the first NBA game inside the arena since April 13, 2008. KeyArena is currently set to undergo a $600 million renovation by the Oak View Group and should be finished in time for the 2020-2021 NHL season. While the Oak View Group and the city are currently more focused on landing an NHL franchise, the preseason game will serve as a realistic sounding board for Seattle’s fan interest in the NBA once again.
Major League Soccer just launched a new brand campaign ahead of the 2018 season, titled “Our Soccer.” According to AdWeek, the goal of the campaign is to highlight the league’s unique soccer culture that has spread across the United States and Canada before the regular season kicks off on March 3. The 30-second spot was featured as part of the league’s first campaign from its new ad agency of record, Cornerstone. The ad stars USMNT and Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore alongside rapper 2 Chainz, comparing “soccer fandom to membership in a local club.” “This is the most diverse, progressive league in North America,” said Trevor Eld, Chief Creative Officer of Cornerstone. “We went inside the culture to discover these amazing qualities and bring them to life in an authentic way.” The campaign will be streamed extensively across North America by the league’s media rights partners, as well as by international and regional broadcast partners and digitally. Besides looking forward to sowing the fruits of their new ad agency relationship, MLS can count on another major outside influence during its 2018 season – it’s a World Cup year.
Surprisingly, as a late mover into the space, Manchester United will launch its own YouTube channel in an attempt to further build its brand and commercial income. According to the London Guardian, ManU is currently the only English Premier League club without its own YouTube channel, while also being the only major global soccer club to not have an exclusive channel, either. YouTube first launched in 2005 and has since grown into the world’s biggest video-sharing site. Historically, Manchester United has been able to monetize its digital fan base through its pay-TV channel, MUTV, its own online presence, and an official Facebook page with over 72 million followers from around the world. “The club’s vision is to be the largest and most engaged sports club in the world,” said a Manchester United spokesperson. “Our presence on platforms such as YouTube will allow us to achieve this vision.” This seems to be a lucrative no-brainer for both sides – an opportunity for ManU to continue to grow its global fan base, and for YouTube to capitalize on the most recognized sports franchise in the world.
Arsenal FC signs largest sponsorship deal in club history. Emirates will remain the shirt and training kit sponsor for Arsenal FC through 2023-2024, signing a deal worth “in excess of” $56 million/year,” the largest sponsorship deal in team history. The English soccer club and the Dubai-based airline maintain the longest running shirt partnership in the EPL, dating back to 2006. Emirates also owns the naming rights to Arsenal’s north London stadium through 2028, acquired in a prior transaction. While not exactly an apples to apples comparison, as La Liga/EPL shirts have corporate logos across the chest and NBA jerseys contain just a small corporate logo patch, there is a drastic difference in the revenue generated from uniform sponsorships between the leagues. The most lucrative NBA patch deal is a 3-year $60 million agreement between Rakuten and the Golden State Warriors. Rakuten is paying nearly 3x the amount annually, over a longer period ($58 million/year, 4-years), to be the shirt sponsor for FC Barcelona. ManU has the most lucrative jersey sponsorship deal in soccer, valued at $74 million/year (7 years).
This past season, college football experienced its largest per-game attendance drop in 34 years — and second-largest ever. Attendance among the 129 FBS schools was down an average of 1,409 fans per game from 2016, and get this: the most iconic league in the country, the SEC, saw the biggest drop of any Power Five conference (2,433 fans per game). This is not a fluke. Since establishing an all-time high in 2008, FBS average attendance has slipped an alarming 10.1% over the last nine years. And now, thanks to 2017, some very depressing history has been made: For the first time ever, average attendance has declined for four consecutive seasons. What seems to be the problem? Some blame college students: "This issue is with lack of involvement of the college students. They no longer view attending sporting events as part of the university experience. Others blame TV/technology and the comfort of being able to watch pretty much whatever game you want from the comfort of your own couch. Here's another theory: these days, college football has gotten so compelling that fans are just as interested in the national slate of games as they are in rooting on their own college team.
This is for you if your mother always told you to eat clean snow. According to Sports Internet, Lake Tahoe’s iconic Squaw Valley ski resort, and its sister resort, Alpine Meadows, plan to go 100% renewable energy by the end of this year and get a cleaner, more reliable and resilient grid — all at no added cost. Squaw Valley’s utility, Liberty Utilities, will supply the ski resorts with 100% solar, wind, hydropower, and other renewables under a special agreement, and the utility plans to buy and install a pack of Tesla batteries on the mountain that will provide backup power to the resorts and to the wider community. The improvements will allow the resorts to cut their carbon footprint by more than half, to less than 6,000 metric tons a year of carbon dioxide from 14,000 metric tons a year currently, and will provide much-needed electric reliability and resilience at no extra cost. Now if they could only manufacture more reliable and resilient snow pack -- unlike last year's El Nino, most Western ski resorts are hurting in this year's snow drought.
Tech Top 5
Hyperice launches vibration therapy device at the NFL Combine. At the NFL Combine this week, top college athletes will come to Indianapolis to show off their skills as NFL hopefuls. What goes into training, conditioning, and recovery is crucial for these athletes to go pro. Hyperice’s recovery devices are key for a successful training regimen, especially for players with pressure to perform at their very best. Hyper is used by NFL athletes such as Tom Brady, Patrick Peterson, Antonio Brown, and Myles Garrett. Hyperice will be present at the NFL Combine to debut their newest recovery product, a hand-held vibration massage device, which gives both athletes and consumers the ability to feel the benefits of vibration therapy. Hyperice was founded in 2010 and caught traction after Kobe Bryant used their products and endorsed them. Founder Anthony Katz said “Athletes use cold therapy to recovery from daily training or competition, treat an injury, and as a means of preventing injury by breaking the inflammation cycle in the body.”
Top tech NFL players are using in 2018. The NFL Players Association runs a tech accelerator designed to trade player licensing rights for equity. The accelerator is called One Team Collective, and is run by a mix of tech industry leaders and a player advisory board with nine current and former NFL players. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a big part in the athletic arena utilizing sports statistics databases and fan focused applications. Personalized fan experiences, speech analytics, and computer vision will all play a big part in AI. Consumer product innovation companies will also have a significant competitive advantage in 2018. The ability to embrace new technologies in activewear, nutrition, and fanwear have been established as key segments for emerging companies. Rep The Squad, a subscription service allowing fans to borrow expensive authentic sports jerseys, is the perfect example of new technology helping transform an old experience (wearing jerseys to games).
The LPGA is investing in a social media tool to help its pros better build their digital brands. The association has teamed up with Nebraska-based opendorse to give LPGA pros a way to build and monetize their social media channels. “Our players are our greatest spokespeople,” said Tina Barnes-Budd, Senior Director, LPGA Social Media Marketing and Communications. “We just had a successful pilot test at our first event of the season with the defending champion, Brittany Lincicome. She loved the ease of execution and thought it was great that she could ‘natively’ share LPGA-generated content with her fans.” Blake Lawrence, opendorse’s CEO, also sees the deal as something much bigger than just a streamlined way to deliver high-quality content. “The LPGA players and fans of tomorrow will be introduced to the game via social channels. As young golfers look for heroes in the sport, these players will be equipped to inspire that next generation of golfers.”
The esports revolution continues to attract big money. Vision Venture Partners (VVP), founded by former NBA star Rick Fox, has created an esports-only investment fund called Vision Esports L.P. that just announced of a $38 million capital raise. Investors in the capital raise include NFL star Odell Beckham Jr, NBA star Kevin Durant, and the St. Louis Cardinals. "We have been following the esports sector for several years," said St. Louis Cardinals Vice President Business Development, Dan Good. "In the last year, we have gotten to know the team at Vision Esports and felt this was an exciting investment opportunity…we were impressed with Vision’s depth of experience that is applicable to the new esports ecosystem; including, Stratton Sclavos’ experience with the San Jose Sharks, Jace Hall at Warner Brothers Interactive, Chris Nordling at MGM Resorts, and Mike Mossholder at the UFC.” Vision Esports team, Echo Fox, is in first place in the League of Legends Championship series and top ten in the world.
Omega installs player tracking for Olympics. When the U.S. women’s ice hockey team won the gold medal, they had small motion sensors weighing fewer than 10 grams stitched into their sweaters, installed by Omega. The sensors transmitted reams of data over dedicated frequency to antennas installed throughout the arena. The Omega Timing system uses camera-track of the puck to tally each player’s number of shifts, passes, speed, and time on the ice. Statistics are displayed on television broadcasts once they are generated, processed, and distributed. “The analytics and the statistics that we can generate through these sensors will allow to explain exactly how a goal was scored, how he got to the goal — for both teams, for the one scoring it and the one [allowing] it,” said Omega Timing CEO Alain Zobrist. “Those information will be available in real-time so we can have very accurate game analysis and player stats coming out of these sensors.” Omega debuted their technology at the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics and hopes to win a bid from the NHL when they implement their own tracking system in the 2019-2020 season.
Power of Sports 5
Norway wins Olympic medal count. At the Games’ conclusion, Norway consistently led the medal count at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. The country finished with 39 total medals, 8 more than second place Germany (which it tied for gold medals at 14), and ten more than third place Canada. The Norwegian government has a policy that every farmer, fisherman, and other citizen has the right to play sports. Norway will spend any amount of money to achieve that goal, and has built all-weather sports grounds everywhere around the country complete with warm locker rooms. Further, all Norwegian kids can be trained by coaches with diplomas for less than $150 a year. This broad culture and even-handed commitment from Norway is a leading factor of why the country continues to lead the medal count at the Winter Olympics every four years.
NFL brothers Devin and Jason McCourty top $1 million in fundraising. On Saturday, February 17, NFL stars and brothers, Devin and Jason McCourty organized their annual Tackle Sickle Cell Blood Drive at a local hospital near the Rutgers campus in New Jersey. Over 200 donors showed up to donate blood and participated in the charity’s Casino Night fundraiser. The McCourty twins founded the organization in 2013 to bring awareness to a disease that affects their aunt. Funds are being donated to Embrace Kids Foundation, a New Jersey based charity benefiting children with cancer and blood disorders. Over $1 million was donated to this cause from efforts throughout various fundraisers this year.
Liberian President secures $500 million to develop sports. FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who was invited by French President Emmanuel Macron to the launch of his Development through Sports Program, was among a host of sports officials representing various institutions, including the National Basketball Association. The FIFA boss informed Liberian President George Weah that FIFA has allocated half a billion dollars towards the development of sports in Africa, and assured him that Liberia will be among the countries in Africa that will benefit from the pilot project. President Weah has secured US$5 million from the World Bank Social Protection Program to enhance his sports development agenda.
Blackhawks fans donate $20,000 to support Caps’ Devante Smith-Pelly. Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were ejected from the United Center after yelling racist taunts at Washington Capitals Devante Smith-Pelly. A week later, Blackhawks players are rallying together to donate money to a charity of Smith-Pelly’s choice, Fort Dupont Ice Arena. Fort Dupont is a not-for-profit charity that the Capitals’ Monumental Sports Foundation has supported for years. It’s the only full-size indoor ice arena in the District, and it is home to the Cannons, the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America. That program is also involved with the NHL’s Hockey Is for Everyone Initiative, a campaign that’s especially emphasized in February. The 501c3 charity also houses the Kids On Ice program. The goals of both are to teach young people discipline and self-esteem while instilling a sense of purpose and offering an incentive to excel academically. Over $20,000 has been raised toward this cause by Blackhawks players to date.
WWE announces charitable matchups. WWE has unveiled the 12 charitable organizations paired with WWE Superstars competing in Mixed Match Challenge, a single-elimination mixed tag-team tournament, in which the winning team will receive $100,000 for their charity of choice. Mixed Match Challenge is a 12-week tournament that will stream live in the United States exclusively on Facebook Watch. “Giving back is in WWE's DNA and part of our long history, so we are thrilled that each Mixed Match Challenge team will compete to win the grand prize of $100,000 to support organizations that are truly important to them,” Michelle Wilson, WWE Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer, said in a release. In addition to the $100,000 grand prize, each team's charitable organization will automatically receive $10,000. Charities range from Boys & Girls Clubs of America to UNICEF and the Special Olympics.
Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast: 2.22.18 Scott Hamilton on the Olympics
Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast: 2.22.18 Scott Hamilton on the Olympics
15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BUSINESS/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 19 with Jamie Swimmer & Tanner Simkins
1. The ongoing Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are being praised for their efficiency and fluidity through the first half of competitions. According to CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, South Korea was more than ready to host the global event. “They are so competent, they are so polite,” commented Quintanilla on the Korean organizing committee. “The Games have basically gone off without a hitch.” While Olympics operations are being lauded, weather has been one factor that organizing committee has been unable to control. In the first few days alone, several notable events were postponed or rescheduled, including Nordic combined, biathlon, and primetime Alpine skiing. On top of that, “more than 60 tents were damaged by winds with a speed of seven meters per second as organizers warned of flying debris.” Sixteen people, mostly journalists, staffers, and reporters, were injured in the event. Another factor the PyeongChang organizing committee hasn’t been able to control despite giving out thousands of free tickets – all those empty seats showing up on camera at virtually every event.
2. The United States is on track to record its worst Winter Olympics performance in two decades with its current showing in PyeongChang. According to Yahoo! Sports, through one week of events, Team USA had already fallen far behind the likes of Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada in the overall medal race. Back in 1998 at the Nagano Games in Japan, the U.S. finished sixth in the medal table after claiming “just 13 in 68 events,” good enough for 6.4% of available medals. Since then, Team USA has never finished outside the top two in the race for glory and has “never claimed fewer than 9.5 perfect of podium spots.” A few notable American athletes, such as Mikaela Shiffrin and Nathan Chen, were medal favorites heading into their respective competitions but delivered disappointing performances. This has resulted in the U.S. being on “an even lower pace than seen at Nagano.” The lack of medals also means a dearth of emerging stars – expect brands to fight long and hard for deals with U.S. snowboarders Chloe Kim and Red Gerard and women’s hockey team captain Meghan Duggan, among the brightest standouts in an otherwise lackluster American effort.
3. The absence of NHL players at the PyeongChang Olympics has been apparent. According to Yahoo! Sports, the opening days of Olympic men’s hockey were lackluster at best without the world’s top players. Every four years, the Olympic hockey tournament promises to be an “electrifying, star-studded event with NHL players.” But this year in South Korea, tournament rosters are filled with minor league journeymen and young players, prompting journalists to call the competition “unrecognizable compared to what it once was.” The United States opened their Olympic campaign with a disappointing 3-2 loss to Slovenia and Norway beat Sweden 4-0 in what would have likely been a competitive match had NHL players been there. “It’s bad that the NHL guys are not here,” said Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who currently plays in the KHL after spending 11 years in the NHL. “All the best players should play here because it’s a big event.” The NHL’s absence has been a boon for women’s hockey, however, as the USA’s gold medal match against Canada on Monday night will undoubtedly become the marquee hockey event of these Games.
4. To compensate for Russian athletes having to wear neutral colors and play under the Olympic flag, Russian fans have brought an extra sense of pride and noise to PyeongChang to show their compatriots support. According to the AP, Russian fans have dressed in the country’s red, blue, and white colors and have shown a great sense of patriotism thus far. “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” the official title given to the permitted competitors from Russia, have been worried about breaking IOC sanctions that say they will not protest the ruling that turned Team Russia into OAR. As a result, the OAR delegation has been unwilling to take pictures with fans bearing Russian flags. Still, Russian fans have come out in full force in South Korea, “loud and proud” at events like hockey, biathlon, and figure skating, “wrapped in flags and chanting in Russian.” However, a Russian curler has been accused of doping and is currently under investigation, putting the entire OAR delegation under an unwanted spotlight. If convicted, the outcome could taint all OAR efforts.
5. Looking ahead, Tokyo2020 has already surpassed domestic sponsorship revenue for all prior Olympics. According to JohnWallStreet, the IOC is reporting domestic sponsors have already committed to spending $2.91 billion on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, three times their initial projections, with more partners expected to join the program. With the Games still more than two years away, 47 brands are already on board, and that figure does not include long-term IOC sponsors like Bridgestone, Panasonic, and Toyota. For comparison purposes, London raised just $1.1 billion for the 2012 Summer Games. Rio reported a figure that was slightly higher, but corruption linked to those Games puts the final total in question. The success of corporate sponsorship sales means that Tokyo’s organizing committee will be able to cover their projected budget of $5.6 billion “without recourse to public funding.” Japanese and Tokyo metropolitan governments will pay the remaining $7 billion. It’s worth noting that since 1960, the median cost overrun for Olympic cities has been 90%. PyeongChang is expected to go 61.5% over their projected budget.
6. Coming off All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, the city of Sacramento and the Kings are in the process of finalizing a bid to host the NBA All-Star Game in either 2022 or 2023. According to the Sacramento Bee, Kings Owner and Chair Vivek Ranadive will present the team’s bid to the league on February 23 with the hope of securing the right to host. Despite NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying back in October, 2016 that he was “determined to bring the All-Star Game to Sacramento,” Silver followed up those comments by noting that the city lacked thousands of hotel rooms that would be needed to accommodate all of the visitors. One potential way that Sacramento is trying to solve that problem is by accommodating fans on cruise ships docked in the Port of Sacramento in West Sacramento. The Kings have one of the league’s most cutting-edge arenas in the two-year-old Golden 1 Center – expect Silver to make good on his word and place the All-Star game there soon.
7. More and more NBA players are starting to focus on entertainment ventures off the court, following the trend that Michael Jordan started years ago. According to SportsBusiness Journal, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant are just three players who are trying to “tap into the billions of dollars that Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are pouring into original programming.” More recently, Tony Parker, Blake Griffin, and Steve Nash have all either produced or developed scripted projects. James’ SpringHill Entertainment and Bryant’s Granity Studios are considered the leading examples showing how serious players are taking their entertainment ventures. “LeBron has done such a great job so far,” said Durant. “It’s like, wow, this can actually be done.” The ease of content creation and distribution coupled with the increasing demand from fans around the world has created the perfect storm for more NBA players to take a crack at their own entertainment ventures.
8. The NFL has narrowed its list down to five cities that are competing to host the NFL Draft in either 2019 or 2020. According to the Denver Post, Cleveland-Canton, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Nashville have been announced as the finalists, with a decision expected to be made in May during the league’s spring meetings in Atlanta. Up until 2015, the NFL Draft had never been held anywhere outside of New York City. In 2015 and 2016 the draft was held in Chicago, where it was deemed a big success. Last year it was held outdoors in Philadelphia, and in 2018 it will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. One potentially interesting outcome would be if Las Vegas were awarded the right to host the draft in 2020, right before the Raiders’ arrival in Las Vegas. Raiders President Marc Badain thinks that Las Vegas has an edge over the other cities because “it is a notable visitor destination.” The NFL has traditionally awarded Super Bowls to teams after they open new stadiums, so awarding the Draft before the Raiders play their first game in Vegas would be a clear departure from protocol. Look for longstanding NFL cities to prevail.
9. Sacramento is trying to boost its chances of landing an MLS expansion team by adding more money to its ownership group. According to the Sacramento Bee, the group leading the city’s bidding effort recently “held serious conversations with several billionaires interested in becoming investors in the bid.” Sacramento is currently competing with Cincinnati and Detroit for the 26th spot in MLS, coming on the heels of Nashville and Miami both being awarded MLS franchises in the past months. The “several billionaires” would not only add financial backing for the $250 million in stadium construction costs and $150 million expansion fee that USL club Sacramento Republic would have to pay if awarded a MLS berth, but the investors would “solidify the team’s long-term viability as a major league franchise.” Sacramento was an early front-runner, but the city’s bid lost momentum late last year after it was revealed that the group lacked the “financial heft MLS wanted.”
10. LeBron James and Kevin Durant continue to use their platform as professional athletes to speak out about today’s political climate. According to the Washington Post, James and Durant both shared their dissent for President Donald Trump in a video produced by James’s Uninterrupted multimedia platform, which depicted them riding around in a car with ESPN’s Cari Champion. “At this time right now, with the president of the United States, it’s at a bad time, and while we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, that this is not the way,” said James. Since Trump was elected into office, James has been one of the leading voices for change across professional sports and has not been shy about commenting on his displeasure with the leadership in this country and the polarizing political climate. While James and Durant were disparaged by polarizing Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham, it’s clear that the leadership skills and large following they have developed on-court have earned them the right to use their considerable platform and not, as Ingraham bleated, “shut up and dribble.”
11. As MLB spring training gets underway in Florida and Arizona, former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is claiming a $0 net profit on the sale of the team. Loria has claimed a $141 million loss on the $1.2 billion sale of the Miami baseball team, a claim that nullifies a profit-sharing agreement with Little Havana (Miami) and Miami-Dade County, the entities responsible for financing most of the development associated with the construction of Marlins Stadium. A 2009 financing agreement between the Miami, Miami-Dade County, and Loria required the wealthy art dealer to return 5% of the sales’ proceeds (less deductions) to the local governments, in the event he sold the team within 10 years. However, Loria’s accountants have provided documentation claiming $0 in net proceeds after deducting $280 million in debt, $297 million in income tax on the sale, $375 million in franchise value appreciation, and $30 million in advisor fees. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says the County will contest the accounting, as it considers legal action to recoup a portion of the proceeds. Gimenez estimates Loria placed “hundreds of millions in (to) his pocket.” This is only the latest chapter in the long saga of questionable accounting that is the tale of Miami pro sports teams, as I have recounted time and again.
12. Amazon is expected to be one of multiple bidders for the English Premier League’s two remaining media rights packages. According to the London Times, the EPL is working to lure digital companies to bid, as made clear in the league’s tender document for the 2019-2022 rights. The EPL has promised that it will “help the broadcaster with live transmission of simultaneous or overlapping matches,” which is largely understood to mean that a digital company like Amazon would be able to avoid expensive production costs and stream the feed from the Premier League’s own production company if it held the rights. Sky and BT Sport were recently awarded the media rights to 160 games for a price tag of $6.29 billion. 40 games across two packages are still up for grabs; Package F consists of 10 matches from a bank-holiday program and 10 from a midweek program, and Package G comprises 20 matches covering two midweek programs. Digital sports delivery is now global, and we’ll see digital companies in local markets around the world picking up the practice begun in the U.S. by Amazon, Netflix, and the like.
13. A recent study by corporate finance advisors Duff & Phelps indicated that Manchester United would earn an additional $36.6 million per season in revenue if it were to sell the naming rights to Old Trafford Stadium. Manchester City currently has the league’s most valuable naming rights deal (with Etihad), worth $26.7 million per season. While naming right sponsorships are commonplace in the U.S. (only Arrowhead Stadium, Soldier Field and Lambeau Field remain; the Raiders will certainly have one in Las Vegas), they are an under-utilized revenue stream within Europe. Just eight of 20 EPL clubs have deals in place. Selling naming rights would be a prudent decision, regardless of the price, that would benefit EPL shareholders, but there is some debate as to how achievable the $36.6 million figure is. Historic venues will always be referred to by their original name, reducing the value of the building’s naming rights; sponsors pay a premium for new buildings with no prior association. They broke ground on Old Trafford in 1909 and the venue has hosted World Cup matches (1966), Euro 1996 and the 2003 Champions League Final. It is highly unlikely that an EPL sponsor would pay more than the $30 million/year for 20 years that the Rams and Chargers are seeking for their new stadium in Inglewood.
14. College football will be looking to rebound next season from one of the largest per-game attendance drops in history. According to CBSSports.com, regular season attendance was down an average of 1,409 fans per game in 2017 from 2016, marking the largest per-game drop in the last 34 years and the second-largest ever. The total average of 42,203 fans per game was also the NCAA’s lowest since the 1997 season. Despite being the country’s strongest conference, the SEC experienced the sharpest decline in fans – down an average of 2,433 per game – yet still led all FBS conferences in average attendance at 75,074 per game. Overall, attendance has been slipping in college football since 2008, when the record was set. While professional leagues have started making stadiums smaller to tailor to decreasing attendance levels and to “create a more premium ticket,” universities have generally not jumped on this trend. In light of the declining numbers, we’ll see the next wave of college stadiums mimicking the pros and opting for smaller, more elite venues.
15. Details are finally beginning to emerge around the University of Texas’s new basketball arena. According to the Austin American-Statesman, UT plans on building a smaller facility than the Frank Erwin Center, which has a capacity of 16,734. The move to build a smaller arena is carried out in the hope of delivering a better home court advantage, and to decrease the ease for walk-up sales on game days. The new proposal calls for a maximum of 12,000 seats in the arena, a decrease of over 4,000 from the Frank Erwin Center. University Athletic Director Chris Del Conte noted that specific arrangements for the size of the building are “still in the discussion stage, but he smartly prefers smaller over bigger.” Building a smaller facility might help create a bigger home court advantage, but it could also hurt the arena’s chances of hosting big concerts and shows. Major music acts would likely pass over Austin to play at the 18,581-capacity AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Power of Sports Five
1. The NFL’s first female coach wants women to be empowered by football. In the summer of 2015, Jen Welter became the first woman ever to coach in the NFL, serving as a linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals. Before that, the passionate trailblazer also became the first woman to play running back in a men's professional football league in 2014. During a 14-year career in women’s professional football, Welter led her team to four National Championships and two gold medals as a member of Team USA in the 2010 and 2013 International Federation of American Football’s Women’s World Championship. The United Nations recognized her as Sports Pioneer of the Year on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, and espnW named her one of the “25 Most Influential Women in Sport” in 2015. Now, Welter is focused on increasing opportunities in football for women, particularly young women in underserved areas. She released her book, Play Big: Lessons in Being Limitless, last fall and her signature women’s program, “A Day in the Life” Camp – which provides women a chance to experience a day as a professional football player – debuted in 2015.
2. From meditation to mind runs, Olympians and Paralympians share tips for mental training. Athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games train more than just muscle to get this far. Some of the most decorated Olympians and Paralympians also focus on taking care of their minds and emotional needs in order to stay at the top of their respective games. A new video series called “My Focus,” presented by Milk Life, shows how athletes sharpened their mental skills for their quest to win gold at the Games. Olympic gold medalist freestyle skier Maddie Bowman knows that in order to be successful as an athlete, she has to take care of her herself both mentally and physically. Bowman talks about being comfortable in her own skin, and skiing with passion. Having sustained knee injuries and criticism since winning a gold medal in 2014 in Sochi, she says, “you have to find your own way. For me, I had to get comfortable with being vulnerable.”
3. A Chicago Cubs player attends candlelight vigil after shooting at his alma mater. Anthony Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs three-time All-Star first baseman, left spring training to attend a candlelight vigil at his alma mater, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On February 14, a 19- year-old armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon who had posted a series of racist and threatening messages online killed 17 students and faculty members. In one YouTube comment, he wrote that he aspired to become a “professional school shooter.” Rizzo, who graduated from Stoneman Douglas in 2007, was joined by thousands in attendance at the vigil on Thursday night. In a quavering and emotion-soaked voice, he thanked the teachers, students, administrators, and first responders, expressed his pride in the community, and promised to do whatever possible to help in the recovery. “I want you to know that you're not alone in your grief. We're all grieving with you,” Rizzo said. “So whatever comfort I can give, I will give.”
4. Nevada’s new sports teams may help boost philanthropic numbers. Speaking on a panel last Friday, Executive Director of the Raiders Foundation Chairman Chris Mallory said he anticipates a significant amount of fundraising in 2018. “All of that fundraising we’ll be doing in Las Vegas will stay in Las Vegas,” he told a crowd of about 400 business leaders involved with philanthropic giving and corporate social responsibility. “It is extremely important for us to give out as much as we can so when the team gets here in 2020, it’s just icing on the cake.” Mallory addressed a crowd at Las Vegas City Hall at the seventh annual Philanthropy Leaders Summit, hosted by Las Vegas philanthropy consulting firm Moonridge Group. “What has surprised me the most is youth and veteran homelessness,” he said. Among major cities, Las Vegas had the third-highest number of unaccompanied homeless youth (2,052) in 2017, according to a December report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “What we would look to do is help with that in terms of funding, as well as to let people know that this is going on,” Mallory said. John Coogan, president of the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation, echoed Mallory’s sentiments regarding Las Vegas’ number of homeless people.
5. John Stallworth has devoted his post-Steelers career to philanthropy. On February 21, Stallworth will receive the Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to his 14-year Hall of Fame career with the Steelers as a wide receiver, in which he won four Super Bowl rings and retired as the franchise leader in receptions with 537, Stallworth has had an impactful career as a businessman, one that enabled him to become a part-owner of the Steelers in 2009. He considers the establishment of the John Stallworth Foundation, which was founded in 1980 and has grown to provide over $490,000 in scholarship funding to more than 150 students at Alabama A&M, to be the highlight of his post-Steelers days. Stallworth knew his earnings from his playing career wouldn’t be enough to sustain his family. When he retired at the age of 35 in 1987, the average NFL salary was around $215,000 annually. So Stallworth earned an MBA while he was still a player, and in 1986 he launched his first company, Madison Research, A Huntsville, AL aerospace and military contracting firm. At its peak, Madison Research employed 750 people and grossed more than $80 million annually. Stallworth sold the company in 2006 for $69 million. Looking back, he credits his relationships with the Rooney family, the Croom family, and others for helping him open doors in the business world during his post-playing career.
Tech Top 5
1. Greg Norman’s golf carts enable streaming of PGA Tour live content. Golfers enjoying their rounds will soon be able to follow PGA Tour action by streaming content through their golf carts. Greg Norman’s Shark Experience cars will roll out to select golf courses across the U.S. in the spring, enabling golfers to bring all the content they would have in a hotel room right to the course. By partnering with Shark Experience, the PGA Tour can distribute its live programming and on-demand coverage from more than 30 events via PGA Tour Live and through weekend telecasts from CBS and NBC Sports. “The PGA Tour is continually looking for avenues to grow the game and share our content,” Rick Anderson, Chief Media Officer at the PGA Tour, said in a statement. “Shark Experience is a perfect example of modernizing to move the game forward.” The golf cars from Club Car will use Verizon’s 4G LTE and include high-definition touchscreen displays and built-in speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. Besides the PGA Tour coverage curated by Verizon, golfers can also stream music via Slacker Radio and have access to other live sports and highlights, news and entertainment, yardage information, and golf tips from Norman himself.
2. TSA Pre✓ adds Fast Pass entrances to Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center. IdentoGO by IDEMIA, the exclusive provider of TSA Pre✓, has announced a new partnership with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment that will establish “fast pass’ entrances at the venue, which houses the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and NHL’s New York Islanders. As part of the deal, IdentoGO will offer enrollment into the TSA Pre✓ program from a retail location within Barclays Center that’s accessible from both the street and the arena’s main concourse. The two will also work together on developing future security enhancements at the venue. “Stadium and arena security as well as fan experience are important to us,” Ed Casey, Chief Executive Officer of IDEMIA Identity & Security USA, said in a statement. “We are excited that Barclays Center is the first arena to have a permanent IdentoGO retail location in it.” This partnership builds on similar initiatives IdentoGO launched last year with the NFL’s New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers. The Jets’ multi-year deal made the TSA Pre✓ parent the official identity security and biometric partner of the team, and enabled the two to collaborate on other ways to improve safety and fan engagement at MetLife Stadium through biometrics.
3. CBS Sports is upping golf coverage with technological additions. CBS Sports has beefed up their coverage with some robust technological advancements. The network’s coverage of 21 PGA Tour events in 2018 will make use of tools like Toptracer, SmartCart, Virtual Eye, and many others. “The basic pictures of the golf course from our cameras and the basic announcer commentary is the foundation of our coverage,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus told Sports Video Group. “The new technology just has a different way of showing what’s happening on the golf course and is something that viewers are becoming more and more used to seeing.” Toptracer is a Topgolf ball-tracking product that might be the most significant enhancement. It was used in 2017, but its deployment will be upped to 10 holes per tournament as opposed to four. Normally ball-tracking tech is exclusive to tee shots, but Toptracer allows wireless tracking of second and third shots as well. Virtual Eye will create 3D hole models to show shots while highlighting analytics like ball speed, arc and distance, while Smartcart will provide similar data and content.
4. Locast streams local sports channels to smartphones for free. A newly-launched nonprofit is seeking to solve a dilemma faced by the many sports fans weighing whether to cut the cable cord: it’s offering to stream local broadcast stations in high definition to users’ smartphones for free. That includes the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Locast.org, founded by longtime communications attorney and Sports Fans Coalition chairman David Goodfriend, offers a free streaming app for local broadcast stations that’s currently only available to users in New York. But Goodfriend says the company is using NYC, with its tall buildings and condensed living spaces that can disrupt over-the-air signals, as a test market, and plans to expand to other cities as soon as funding allows. The service, which launched earlier this year, streams broadcast channels such as NBC, CBS, and FOX without having to ask for broadcaster permission. In that sense, Locast borrows from the same tactics used by Aereo a few years ago. Aereo captured over-the-air TV signals that it streamed to customers for $8 per month before it was shut down in a U.S. Supreme Court dispute in 2014.
5. Daytona 500 race week featured an esports tournament on a mobile stage. As NASCAR’s best drivers started their engines for Sunday’s Daytona 500, esports players were firing up their game consoles. NASCAR announced its Heat Champions esports tournament, a mobile competition that started on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. Fans raced against each other for a shot at an Xbox One S, a VIP experience at the Daytona 500, and other prizes. The tournament itself took place on a mobile, truck-based production set called ESPORTS ARENA: DRIVE, which was introduced last month at CES. The 18-wheel truck can travel around the country and then transform easily into a competition and production set. Broadcaster Bill Carter hosted the tournament, whose final rounds were live streamed on Twitch on Sunday, ending a couple of hours before the start of the Daytona 500. The Heat Champions tournament isn’t NASCAR’s first foray into esports. Last week, Richmond Raceway became the first NASCAR track to field its own esports team, which will compete in the NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series for iRacing.