15 to watch (Week of 5.16.16)
Rick Horrow's "15 to watch"
CSN Bay Area Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow takes you off the field with his 15 top Biz Ball trends for the week of May 16.
1. After being named the Kia NBA MVP, the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry saw his NBA partners activated in celebration. Under Armour introduced fans to an upcoming “Back 2 Back” MVP shoe pack in honor of its marquee spokesman, and promptly sold out of the limited-edition shoes. Videogame 2K maxed out Steph’s overall rating (99) on NBA 2K16 for 30 hours, referencing his jersey number. Audio manufacturer Harman International Industries, the parent company of JBL audio, congratulated him with a special-motion graphic social media post, while Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente health care ran celebratory out of house creative in the Bay Area. Curry is the first player in NBA history to win by unanimous vote. The Warriors’ guard picked up his second NBA MVP trophy on the eve of the team’s NBA Western Conference Finals run against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
'Make the game safer'
2. Pop Warner, the nation's oldest youth football program, announced Thursday that it has become the first national football organization to eliminate kickoffs. The ban will take effect in its three youngest divisions when the season begins this fall – instead of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 35-yard line at the start of each half and after each score move is aimed at significantly reducing the number of full-speed, head-on impacts in games. Pop Warner also announced a further reduction of contact time in practice across all divisions, from 33% of practice time down to 25%. After the season, Pop Warner said it will evaluate the results and consider implementing the kickoff ban in older divisions as well. U.S. Pop Warner leagues have 225,000 football players, and another 100,000 youths in cheerleading/dance programs. "We are constantly working to make the game safer and better for our young athletes," said Jon Butler, Pop Warner's executive director. "Eliminating kickoffs at this level adds another layer of safety without changing the nature of this great game."
3. While FIFA has come under massive scrutiny over the past few years for corruption, scandal, and accepting bribes, the IOC may now find itself in trouble concerning Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid. French financial prosecutors confirmed they are investigating allegations of “corruption and money laundering” involving more than $2 million in suspicious payments apparently made by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid to a secret bank account linked to the son of disgraced former IAAF President Lamine Diack, according to the London Guardian. The prosecutors involved confirmed they are investigating payments made to the Black Tidings company under the title “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games bid.” From soccer’s international governing body to the Olympic’s reigning stewards, much more work needs to be done to ensure a level playing field for all nations, athletes, and sponsors of our most global of games.
Nquist attracts the crowd
4. In the wake of unbeaten Nyquist’s decisive Kentucky Derby win, ticket sales for the 141th Preakness Stakes are up 11% over the same time last year, and the event will likely sell out, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. The race drew a record crowd of 123,469 to Pimlico in 2014, which was "beat only a year later when 131,680 fans showed up" in 2015 to see American Pharaoh. Maryland Jockey Club General Manager Sal Sinatra said that an added section to Pimlico’s Turfside Terrace "allowed them to bring in 225 more seats." Pimlico also "increased the popular mug club by 1,500 tickets and brought in a big infield LED board to improve the race day experience." Black-Eyed Susan Day on Friday is also "expected to see higher than normal attendance." The Friday races typically draw "around 35,000 visitors at Old Hilltop, but Sinatra expects more than 40,000 people this year. As in all other sports, a winning streak = fans.
5. The inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup, to be held at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida on January 28, 2017, will become the world's richest thoroughbred race. A vision of Frank Stronach, founder of The Stronach Group, the Pegasus World Cup will be contested at 11/8 miles on dirt for horses 4 years old and up and is expected to attract the thoroughbred world's biggest stars. The Pegasus World Cup will have Grade 1 status and feature 12 entrants who will pay $1 million each to buy a starting gate spot on a first come, first serve basis. The entrant can then race, lease, contract, or share a starter or sell their place. All entrants will not only be competing for the world's largest purse, they will also share equally in 100% of the net income from handle, media rights, and sponsorships. The Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse currently stands as the world's richest Thoroughbred race with its $10 million purse.
Building his empire
6. Alongside Jordan Spieth’s incredible year on the course, he has focused on building his brand. According to a cover story in D CEO Magazine, the 22-year-old's brand-building "has been accelerating as fast as one of the golfer's 300-yard drives.” While Spieth’s endorsement value remains private, Golf Digest has estimated it at around $30 million. As his portfolio now stands, Under Armour, AT&T, and Coca-Cola are Spieth’s “big three” corporate partners. The Atlanta-based soft drink company is his newest addition, and he is now its first golf endorser since the 1980s. Spieth spoke about his marketability, saying, "I’m learning every day different aspects of what it takes to build my brand and, while I rely heavily on my team, the overall decisions are mine." Jordan’s father, Shawn Spieth, said that his son’s next step “might be adding a financial services company to the Spieth corporate empire, but there’s little rush.”
Six years short
7. In a surprising turn of events, EPL club Chelsea will end its kit deal with Adidas six years early, according to the Financial Times. The club plans to sign a more lucrative deal with a rival sportswear company, ending a partnership in place since 2006 and planned to run through June, 2023. Neither side has officially commented on why the deal was terminated prematurely; an unauthorized source claimed the decision "came after a review of Chelsea’s sponsorship deals led club executives to believe its arrangement with Adidas was well below current market value.” Chelsea currently receives about $43 million annually from Adidas. The German-based sportswear company will receive a payoff of at least $57 million as a result of the terminated contract, and characterized the move as illustrating a “strategy of partnering with fewer sports teams." Nike is a likely candidate to be Chelsea’s new outfitter, although no official announcement has been made.
One step closer to Sin City
8. Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman is confident that the Raiders could relocate to her city "if Nevada handles this properly." Appearing on ESPN.com's "Capital Games" podcast, Goodman said Raiders owner Mark Davis has assured city officials they are "not getting played" in a prospective stadium deal. The Raiders have pledged $500 million to a stadium, while the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Majestic Realty would contribute $150 million to the project. That leaves around $750 million to come from taxpayer money, and Goodman said, “As in most cities, there’s always pushback by the public to use public funding." She said the city is in the process of investigating the “different alternatives and ways for funding." While the $750 million funding gap is a legitimate concern, the bigger hurdle at present is likely the NFL’s reticence toward putting a franchise in a town filled with sports books earning close to $2 billion annually on its games, according to the American Gaming Association.
More money for MMA
9. Even though rumors continue to swirl that UFC is up for sale, that hasn’t stopped the MMA giant from selling product. Buffalo Wild Wings is offering customers a new UFC Takeout Pack that offers MMA fans around the country a new takeout offer during the weekends of UFC 198, 199, and 200. The promotion started May 13 and features 60 boneless or traditional wings, chips and salsa, and the option to upgrade to Chili Queso dip. To launch the promotion, the company released a new hidden camera video entitled “Takeout Fakeout” that features an unsuspecting UFC fan who arrives at a local Buffalo Wild Wings in Las Vegas and is greeted by UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin and current UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. The trio watches some of the UFC 197 preliminary fights before moving to the MGM Grand Garden Arena to meet UFC president Dana White. Once again, marketing creativity spreads its wings.
Trouble off the field
10. Despite the Chicago Cubs breezing through competition on the field thus far, the franchise has run into stiffer competition off the field. The Cubs requested a patio permit to sell liquor in an open-air plaza adjacent to renovated Wrigley Field, but Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney quickly shot the plan down, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The Cubs’ specific request was for a patio that would stay open from 11 a.m. until midnight, allowing people to drink pregame to postgame. Tunney decried the patio as “a public safety issue,” saying, “How does it make sense to allow a 4,000-person patio in a very small area adjacent to two of the busiest streets in the neighborhood?" Currently, Chicago’s largest outdoor patio allows a maximum capacity of 240 people. Mayor Rahm Emanuel still has the final say on the Cubs’ plans, and if he sides with Tunney, the patio permit will officially be blocked.
Money on the tracks
11. International Speedway Corporation locked in its fifth founding partner at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). DIS inked Axalta Coating Systems to a deal that includes naming rights for the Center injector as well as branding rights within specific areas of the “World Center of Racing” zone, the central "neighborhood" overlooking the famed start/finish line inside the new stadium. “Axalta has been a long-standing and strong sponsor of our sport for many years and we’re thrilled to welcome them as a partner at Daytona International Speedway,” said ISC Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy. “Their activation will enable us to further enhance the fan and spectator experience which is a main focus of our new stadium.” Axalta joins other DIS injector sponsors Sunoco, Toyota, Florida Hospital, and Chevrolet. The injectors had asking prices of $2-2.5 million annually over 10-15 years, according to sources.
Let's play nine
12. Spurred by the success of its first two years, the USGA’s PLAY9 program is now expanding, encouraging more golfers to play nine holes during six scheduled “PLAY9 Days” on the ninth day of each month May through October. Since 2014, the USGA’s PLAY9 program has focused on the benefits of a nine-hole round as a quicker, less intimidating way for more golfers to fit the sport into their busy days – especially since nine-hole layouts make up more than 30 % of U.S. public courses, and 90% of 18-hole public facilities offer nine-hole rates. In its first year, the PLAY9 program sparked a 13% year-over-year increase in nine-hole scores posted to the USGA’s Golf Handicap and Information Network for the two months following the program’s launch. Nine-hole scores posted to GHIN increased another 11% in 2015. “What we love about PLAY9 is the opportunity to welcome more people – both recreational golfers and non-golfers alike – to enjoy the great game of golf,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis.
13. MLB is planning its inaugural “Play Ball Weekend,” a league-wide initiative to engage young baseball fans and celebrate youth participation in baseball and softball. The program launched May 14 and will see all 30 MLB clubs feature a slate of customized and unique ballpark elements, including pre-game parades of young players on the field and baseball cap giveaways. Additionally, MLB clubs will collectively distribute more than 320,000 plastic bat and ball sets throughout the U.S. and Canada, at ballparks and community events. Organizations such as USA Baseball, ESPN, Little League International, Ripken Baseball, and PONY Baseball/Softball also will support Play Ball Weekend. And in another sweet move sure to please young baseball fans, the Mets on Tuesday announced a partnership with Mars candy brand M&M’s, whose branding will be on the 102-seat left field area "formerly known as the Party City Deck," according to Newsday. The deal, which coincides with the brand’s 75th anniversary, will include M&M’s characters walking the concourse for photo opportunities.
No Madden curse here
14. While it is good to have the Force with you, Electronic Arts is showing that it can manage just fine without it. The Redwood City, CA-based videogame publisher posted a solid close to its fiscal year on Tuesday, with strong gains in revenue and operating income, once adjusted for deferred sales related to some online games. The performance was helped by “Star Wars Battlefront,” which launched in December. But the fiscal fourth quarter ended in March benefited even more from Ultimate Team, an online service for EA’s flagship sports properties like “FIFA” and “Madden NFL” that helped drive an 18% increase in adjusted digital revenue. And more than half the company’s revenue now comes from a digital side driven by expansion content and full-game downloads, which offer higher margins than games sold at retail. EA has become a well-diversified company, generating strong returns from its sports games and mobile offerings.
Olympic problems galore
15. Russia and Kenya won 27 medals at the London Olympics in track and field. Their total in Rio could be zero. The Olympic hopes of the powerhouse teams from both countries took serious blows Thursday after the World Anti-Doping Agency delivered stinging rebukes to attempts to clean up their drug-addled programs. The WADA foundation board suspended Kenya's anti-doping agency after determining a new law passed there to combat doping was "a complete mess." The agency also released new numbers out of Russia showing that testing by independent authorities has decreased by more than two-thirds in the past year. At the London Olympics, Russia won 16 medals and Kenya won 11. While Kenya has received a reprieve for now, the final call on whether either country's track team will be eligible for this summer’s Games is left to the sport's governing body, the IAAF, which is set to decide about Russia at a meeting on June 17. IAAF also has jurisdiction over the Kenyan track team.