15 to watch (Week of 5.2.16)
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 2.
Reasons to smile at Churchill Downs
1. While the odds are long that we'll see another Triple Crown winner this year, Churchill Downs still has ample reason to celebrate ahead of the 142nd Running of the Roses next Saturday Churchill Downs Inc. reported "record revenues and earnings" for the first quarter, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, and company executives "pointed to gains in its computer gaming business Big Fish Games, a surge of new players to its online horse betting site and boosts in racing and casino segments." Net revenue of$288.4 million represented a 15% gain over the prior year. Record adjusted earnings were $52.8 million, 6% higher than the year-ago period. Pre-tax earnings also grew $3 by million, with net income at $2.8 million. The starting gate will once again be full with 20 thoroughbreds, all vying to be the next American Pharoah.
Deep pockets for Wimbledon
2. Wimbledon is one of the world’s most exclusive and popular sporting events, and new prices for five-year debentures reflect just that. According to the London Independent, the All England Club has set the price of one debenture at $44,800; this number is more than double the cost of the present 2012-2016 issue. Each of the 1,000 debentures, good from 2017-2012, gives the holder a ticket on No. 1 Court for the first 10 days of the Championships. At Wimbledon, debenture holders are the only fans allowed to sell their tickets on the open market – often making a significant amount of money on their ticket sales. The current Centre Court debentures, which cost $72,300 each two years ago, were being traded earlier this year at an average price of $138,000. The new No. 1 Court debentures are expected to raise $36.2 million before expenses, which will go toward the cost of facilitating and installing a retractable roof over the court.
New brand identity
3. As the Sacramento Kings prepare to move into their new, state-of-the-art home – Golden 1 Center – the team has unveiled its new brand identity. During a special arena preview, owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé said, “This brand kicks off a new era for our franchise as we move into the most technologically-advanced, most environmentally-friendly arena in the world. As Sacramento becomes the next great American city, this identity honors our heritage while moving us forward.” The rebranding features a classic primary logo with a clean, modern look. Secondary logos feature the lion, paying tribute to the “unmatched pride and loyalty of the NBA’s best fans." Complementing the lion is a new crown logo, symbolizing the rich tradition of the team dating back to its origins. While the logos look great, they may draw criticism going forward because of their sharp resemblance to the logos of Orlando City FC, French carmaker Peugeot, and the new English Premier League lion.
VISA teams up with prospects
4. Credit giant VISA teamed up with STRIVR – a best-in-class virtual reality company – to give fans an unprecedented look at four of the NFL’s top prospects ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft. Together, the companies taped Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson), Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State), Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame), and Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis) to create immersive virtual reality 360 videos, so fans could be a “fly on the wall” and see how each prospect prepared for the draft. In Lawson’s video, fans can watch how the star defenseman prepared for the NFL Combine while discussing how he dedicates his game to his father, who passed away when he was 12. VISA featured the videos at VISA Draft Town Player Zone in Chicago over draft weekend and now displays them online; 2016 will go down as the year that VR became commonplace in sports marketing campaigns.
'Proud protection partner'
5. Liberty Mutual Insurance has elected to renew its USOC sponsorship, becoming the 11th sponsor to stay with Team USA through the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The Boston-based insurance company will continue to enjoy exclusivity in the property and casualty category, while also gaining a new marketing title as the “proud protection partner of Team USA Medals.” Liberty Mutual Exec VP and Chief Talent & Enterprise Services Officer Melanie Foley acknowledged a gold medal from the 2014 Sochi Games is valued at $600, but noted, “The greater value is the peace of mind that Liberty Mutual will help facilitate the process for [athletes]." Liberty Mutual will be allowed to use the Olympic rings in its marketing lead-up to the games and beyond; the company particularly benefits from this deal since it has found a special value in using Olympic and Paralympic athletes as guest speakers at corporate events, hosting 200 such meetings in the last four years.
Pro Rugby begins
6. The Professional Rugby Organization’s inaugural season is officially underway, and league officials were pleased with crowds on opening day. According to the N.Y. Times, the first two PRO matches were held in Denver and Sacramento, drawing an estimated 2,300 fans in Denver and 3,400 in Sacramento. Five teams are currently competing – other franchises exist in San Diego, San Francisco, and Obetz, Ohio – and Pro Rugby Founder Doug Schoninger is already planning on adding teams next year. The 12-game season is set to run through late July, and the league hopes to attract anywhere between 3,000-4,000 fans per game. While the league is still too small to attract major broadcasters or corporate sponsors, matches are being shown for free on AOL and are set to air on cable net One World Sports. Wages for Pro Rugby players are "smaller," with the "top tier making about $35,000 for the season.”
Raiders to Vegas?
7. Instead of trying to build a new stadium in Oakland, Raiders owner Mark Davis said he would move his franchise to Las Vegas if the city approves plans to build a new stadium on The Strip, according to multiple sources. The domed stadium would be backed by casino operator Las Vegas Sands and Majestic Realty, the real estate firm owned by NHL Kings co-owner Ed Roski. Vegas Sands officials have said that the project, "which also would serve as the new home for the UNLV football team, is economically viable and would move forward regardless of whether an NFL team moved here because it would attract new special events and increase visitation." Talks of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas have increased since the NFL announced the St. Louis Rams were moving to Los Angeles; Davis has made little progress with the city of Oakland and Alameda County in securing a new stadium there. The Raiders, however, would still have to overcome the NFL's longstanding policy of shunning any conceivable connection to gambling.
8. After 26 years at ESPN, Mike Tirico – regarded as one of the best voices in the sports world – is leaving the network. The broadcaster will be incredibly difficult to replace, as he was ESPN’s on-air face of the NFL, having served as the lead play-by-play announcer for “Monday Night Football” over the past decade. According to multiple sources, Tirico is set to head over to NBC; he is expected to be the lead play-by-play voice on NBC’s new “Thursday Night Football” package of five late-season NFL games. While it is unclear what his other roles at NBC will be, many expect him to cover an array of primetime events – just as he did at ESPN. Tirico will join a stacked roster of broadcasters: Al Michaels is lead the voice of “Sunday Night Football” and Bob Costas is an established Olympics host. NBC’s diverse portfolio – including deals with the PGA Tour and British Open – is likely to have helped lure Tirico away from ESPN.
Mutant race cars?
9. Building off its 2015 SpongeBob SquarePants 400 sponsorship at Kansas Speedway, Nickelodeon is now set to sponsor another NASCAR race: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. While financial terms were not available, Nickelodeon has reportedly signed a two-year deal with ISC-owned Chicagoland to give it title sponsorship rights. This announcement comes ahead of Paramount Pictures’ June theatrical release of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.” The September race is expected to help the TMNT brand tap into the massive NASCAR fan base and should help the network transition the image back to its animated series. Nickelodeon Senior VP/Sports Marketing & Development Anthony DiCosmo talked about this new sponsorship, saying, "If you're a Turtles fan, you're going to see a non-stop barrage of messaging around this movie for the next few months; it's going to be everywhere.”
10. Another week, another withdraw by a top-tier player from golf’s return to the Olympics. The latest player to drop is South African Charl Schwartzel, according to Golf.com. Similar to others who have taken their names out of the pool – Fiji’s Vijay Singh, Australia’s Adam Scott, and fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen all withdrew over the past few weeks – Schwartzel cited the PGA Tour’s busy schedule as the main factor in his decision. Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player took to Twitter following Schwartzel’s announcement to express his disappointment, writing, “I would have given anything to play in the Olympics.” With South Africa’s top two players skipping the tournament in Rio de Janeiro this summer, the second South African roster spot will now be given to Jaco Van Zyl, currently ranked No. 59 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
'Our biggest sports sponsorship ever'
11. Watchmaker Tag Heuer is set to become the first official time keeper and watch partner of the English Premier League after signing a three-year deal with the league. According to Bloomberg, Tag Heuer will pay $7.3 million annually to become one of the EPL's signature corporate sponsors. The Swiss company already has agreements with Germany’s Bundesliga and Major League Soccer in the U.S. Tag Heuer U.K. Manager Partner Rob Diver said the new agreement is “probably our biggest sports sponsorship ever.” The company’s logo will be used in TV broadcasts around the world and on the boards sideline officials use to display substitutions and stoppage time. Sponsorship terms were under negotiation for two years, but when the EPL stated it would not employ a title sponsor but sign a multitude of corporate sponsors instead, the deal-making process was accelerated. Alongside Tag Heuer, the Premier League "has Nike, Electronic Arts and Barclays on board as sponsors for next season."
MLS to Detroit
12. A pair of NBA owners are in the works to bring an MLS team to Detroit. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores are joining forces and seeking investors to partner in the project, according to the Detroit Free Press. The current plan is to a build a soccer-specific stadium at a still-to-be-determined site. A source said that Gores likely "would lead the soccer franchise," while Gilbert "would lead the procuring of the land, the development of the site and the building of the stadium." Detroit sits in the middle of a dense pack of cities vying for an MLS franchise; Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to add teams within the next few years, while Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, Miami, Minnesota, and Las Vegas are all hoping to be selected as one of the final two teams to round out MLS' 2020 expansion effort. MLS' current expansion fee is $100 million per club.
Rooney Rule for 49ers
13. In a move to better reflect the Bay Area's diversity and make a statement about the franchise's guiding principles, the San Francisco 49ers have become the first NFL organization to institute the Rooney Rule for women, according to ESPNW.com. The Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner and chairman of the league’s diversity committee Dan Rooney, is an NFL policy that requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs. In this instance, the 49ers will apply the rule to women and people of color for all business-side jobs, constituting about 75% of the team’s positions; the rule will not apply to football-operations positions such as coaching or scouting. Team General Counsel Hannah Gordon said that the team wanted to “concentrate on the business side so that they could execute well,” but that the goal “is to expand the policy over time.”
Reaping the benefits
14. Despite only signing the deal three months ago, JPMorgan Chase is already reaping the benefits of its naming rights deal for the new Golden State Warriors arena – The Chase Center. According to JPMorgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau and recent market research, the bank has seen a 13% rise in overall consideration since becoming the official rights holder. Similarly, there has been a “20-plus percent increase in agreement with prompts such as “Chase is the bank for someone like me,” and “someone I would invest with.” The Warriors incredible season, led by Steph Curry, definitely boosted JPMorgan Chase’s recognition in the Bay Area and around the world, reaffirming the bank’s decision to ink the deal. Lemkau said, “We’ve never seen any number like that for any partnership. It was stunning. Keep in mind, this is San Francisco and we’re a bank.”
Red, white, blue... and chocolate
15. The Hershey’s chocolate bar will change its classic silver lettering this summer for the first time in 122 years, switching to red, white, and blue to activate the candymaker’s new USOC sponsorship. The new packaging, which also will cover Hershey’s almond bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Kit Kat, and Payday, will be released in stores this week, according to the company. Hershey’s also announced it will sponsor three athletes for the Rio Olympic Games: wrestler Jordan Burroughs, two-time undefeated national champion from the University of Nebraska; Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann, from Minnesota; as well as David Nolan, a swimming hopeful from Hershey, Pennsylvania. Now that's what we call a sweet Olympic tie in.