15 to watch (Week of 8.1.16)
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 August 1.
'Flying off the racks'
1. Kevin Durant’s arrival in the Bay Area caused ripples around the NBA, and his new No. 35 jersey is now “flying off the rack,” according to Fanatics.com. In July, Durant was the “top-selling NBA player…overall and in 30 different states.” Ironically, Oklahoma, home to his former Oklahoma City Thunder team, is one of the 30 states in which Durant boasted the best-selling NBA jersey. The Golden State Warriors sold an incredible 2,000 KD jerseys within 24 hours of his signing. In comparison to another superstar’s free agency decision and jersey sales, Durant sold more jerseys in his first week with the Warriors, July 7-14, than Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James sold when he returned to the team in 2014. By signing Durant, the Warriors are the clear favorites to win the NBA Championship this coming season, despite falling to Cleveland in the NBA Finals in June.
Mr. Nice Guy
2. As his Cubs continue their march toward their first World Series trophy in over a century, Cubs manager Joe Maddon is in a charitable state of mind. On July 20, Maddon and his wife Jaye hosted the second annual Respect 90 Main Event at the Wintrust Bank Building in downtown Chicago. The sold-out charity boxing event featured several local youth boxers at various skill levels as well as a special main event bout. More than 300 guests sat ringside with Cubs players and enjoyed cocktails, spirits tasting stations, dinner from Chicago's iconic Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse and a premium auction including unique sports memorabilia. The event raised more than $270,000 for youth boxing programs in Chicago's underserved communities. Next up for Maddon: his “Try Not to Suck” Celebrity Golf Classic benefiting Hazelton Integration Project Charity and Respect 90 Charities, on August 15 – featuring the now infamous Maddon catchphrase, a result of the joking advice he gave Cubs infielder Javier Baez last year.
Reaping the benefits
3. Sitting atop the AL Central thanks largely to a 14-game winning streak, the Cleveland Indians have seen a massive spike in recent attendance. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business, a summer seven-game homestand "produced an average attendance of 28,235, which was almost 70% better than the norm of 16,656 for the Indians’ first 35 home dates." The team’s stellar performance as of late helped the club sell a combined 193,000 season, group and single-season tickets “in a 24-day span that started with the first victory of the winning streak on June 17 and concluded on July 10.” The front office firmly believes that “if the on-field product is really good, the fans will support it,” and that is exactly what is happening in Cleveland. The franchise’s two-year Progressive Field renovation is thought to have “vastly improved the fan experience,” so those attending are not only watching a winning team, but enjoying their experience thanks to the amenities provided.
Air Jordan takes a stand
4. Michael Jordan’s advocacy-motivated $2 million donation came as a surprise to many, but a pleasant surprise nonetheless. The “growing racial and social unrest” around the country pushed Jordan to announce “grants of $1 million each to two organizations that are working to build trust between law enforcement and the communities in which they work,” according to The Undefeated. In his letter to the website, Jordan wrote, “I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.” MJ has been criticized for a lack of social advocacy throughout his professional career, but his donations to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund come at a time when athletes need to speak out to spark positive change.
5. The NFL is ramping up its concussion protocol, with punishments for keeping a concussed player in the game reaching an all-time high. According to the Los Angeles Times, if approved, the “new ranges of punishment include a maximum $150,000 fine for a first violation, a minimum $100,000 violation for a second, and draft pick forfeitures and higher fines if it is determined the violation occurred so the team could keep a player in for competitive reasons.” The NFL and NFLPA plan on jointly investigating punishments for violations of the league’s current protocol, all aimed at improving player safety. Last year, the St. Louis Rams kept quarterback Case Keenum in the game after hitting his head on the turf and coming up “woozy.” That’s a prime example of a scenario in which a team would be fined if the new protocol is approved by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has the final say in the matter.
Bridges to cross
6. The Opening Ceremony at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics is less than a week away, but fewer than half of the buildings in the Athletes Village have passed adequate safety tests. ROCOG said that 12 of the 31 tower blocks in the village have been “checked and proved OK,” yet competitors have already begun moving into all of them. Numerous delegations are complaining about “flooded floors, broken elevators, and mold and holes in the ceiling.” While ROCOG President Carlos Nuzman said, "Every Olympic Village, because of their magnitude, needs some adjustments until it becomes perfect. The important thing is that everything will be resolved before the Games," the Italian National Olympic Committee took matters into its own hands by hiring “its own electricians, plumbers and construction workers so apartments could be brought up to standard as soon as possible.” Other countries including Australia have even decided to pull their athletes out of the Athletes Village.
Who is the top dog in golf?
7. Oklahoman by way of Texas Jimmy Walker wins the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, and all of a sudden, pro golf is no longer a debate about the “Big Three,” but a conversation about the “Big 6,” or “Big 8,” or is it the “Big 24”? Jimmy Walker is 37 years old, has been on the PGA Tour 10 years, played 187 tournaments before he won one, and played in 17 majors before he won the 98th PGA Championship. He needed a 67 on Sunday to beat Australian, Jason Day, the world’s No. 1 and leader of a couple dozen major-tournament contenders that will shape the game for years. Delighted are Walker’s sponsors FootJoy, Titleist, Insperity, Bellagio Las Vegas, JetLinx, and insurance leader Burns & Wilcox. And as golf’s Majors calendar finishes the year with four new winners of the four Slams, fans are counting down the days to the Olympics, the Ryder Cup, and the 2017 season.
8. Despite state-sponsored doping allegations, the Russian Olympic delegation will be allowed to field a team for the upcoming Rio Games. In wake of this decision, “Olympic leaders "find themselves facing questions – if not outright criticism.” The IOC has never gone as far to ban an entire country for doping, but U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart commented, "The decision regarding Russian participation and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes." Olympians from around the world decried the IOC following this decision. British long jumper Greg Rutherford said, "What we have now is a messy, grey area that doesn't help anyone. This is a spineless attempt to appear as the nice guy to both sides." Russia is considered one of the Games’ “most important and influential members,” and many speculate that is why the IOC did not hand the country a full ban.
'Most hated club'
9. Chelsea FC is number one again, but for all the wrong reasons. Beating out bitter rival Manchester United, Chelsea has been named “the most hated club in the Premier League,” according to the London Daily Mirror. A survey sent out to nearly 10,000 fans across the league asked which club they loved the most and which they hated the most, “and the west London club came out as the most disliked club overall.” Manchester United finished in first place last year, but slid to second place just ahead of the 2016 EPL season. Rounding out the top five on the most hated list are Liverpool, Manchester City, and Arsenal. These five disliked clubs are also the league’s five most-lucrative and successful. Reigning champion Leicester City came in at second-to-last on the list, just behind Bournemouth, proving that “success alone isn’t enough to make rival fans hate your side.”
$1.1 billion goal
10. Spanish-side Barcelona FC has a goal of reaching $1.1 billion of revenue in 2021, and this past year’s financial results show that the club is well on its way to reaching that mark. Barca announced record revenues of $746 million for the 2015-2016 season, according to ESPN.com. After tax, the La Liga champions returned a net profit of $32 million. The club’s strategic plan calls for a hike in revenue each year until it surpasses the $1 billion threshold in five years. Also included in the strategic plan is the “Espai Barca” renovation project for the Camp Nou and the surrounding area. FCB is one of the world’s most recognizable sports brands, and the club’s escalating ability to sign lucrative sponsorship deals is a major contributing factor to the raise in revenue. Konami also reached a deal with the team to become a premium partner for the next three seasons.
Coming with a cost
11. Aroldis Chapman has talent. But his 30-game suspension following a domestic violence allegation earlier this season has called his character into question. And with his arrival in Chicago, the Cubs are now having their morality as a franchise doubted. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs, who have "boasted about acquiring solid citizens as well as good players," have made their “biggest statement about their will to win the World Series.” The team performed background checks that included Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts and Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein talking to the lefty pitcher about the domestic violence incident. Epstein defended the signing, saying, "We understand there will be lots of different perspectives on this…We decided it was appropriate to trade for a player who has accepted his discipline, already has been disciplined by MLB, has expressed his sorrow and regret for the incident."
Finding a new partner
12. CenturyLink’s deal with its Seattle venue is set to expire in 2018, so the Seahawks and Sounders have begun looking for a new naming rights partner, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Prior to CenturyLink, Qwest Communications had its name on the stadium from 2004-2011. CenturyLink is “unlikely” to renew its sponsorship, and the Seahawks “will handle the sales internally.” Naming rights deals have become increasingly lucrative over the past several years, especially for newer, state-of-the-art venues. The Los Angeles Rams are expected to sign a “record naming-rights deal” for their forthcoming stadium in Inglewood…along with a likely new stadium for either Oakland or San Diego or both.” The Seahawks regularly sell out home games in what is widely regarded as the league’s biggest home-field advantage, and the Sounders have MLS’s best attendance. With that, expect the Seattle franchises to get a big payday with their new shared sponsor.
Sale makes a scene
13. White Sox pitcher Chris Sale’s recent outburst over the team’s 1976 throwback uniforms was not the “core issue” behind his tirade. According to MLB.com, “putting business interests ahead of winning” is why Sale pushed back against the uniforms. “I'll never understand why we need to do something on the business side on the field that might impede us winning a game” said Sale. “For them to put business first over winning, that's when I lost it.” Pitchers are allowed to pick what uniform the team wears on a day they are scheduled to start, but Sale was forced to go with the untucked 1976 outfit because it was a designated throwback day at U.S. Cellular Field. Those days are “popular with the fans and often are accompanied by a spike in attendance,” though Sale mentioned that players “were not fans of this jersey overall.” Sale was handed a five-game suspension and fine by the Sox.
14. The NFL is continuing to push international competitions, with Mexico being one of the league’s key targets. The Houston Texans are set to play the Oakland Raiders on November 21 this year at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, and NFL Mexico Director Arturo Olivé thinks that the NFL could add another game to the venue annually, according to La Afición. There “could be two games per year in Mexico, but this will only be possible based on the needs of partners and the stadiums,” said Olivé. One game is scheduled per year for the next three seasons, but expansion could be evaluated for the years following. Olivé added that based on "the success selling tickets, five games per year could be scheduled," but one "must respect the stadium's schedule, as it is the home of Liga MX side América and the national team.” As the schedule stands, the NFL has regular-season games scheduled in Mexico and England.
MLS joins up with SeatGeek
15. In an attempt to revolutionize ticket purchasing, MLS has teamed up with ticket analytics company SeatGeek. The American soccer league is creating an "open ticketing network that will let third-party websites sell tickets to soccer games," effectively allowing fans to resell tickets on multiple sites at once, according to Bloomberg News. Any resale site will be able to "verify the seat and sell it, which means tickets can be listed in several places and removed once it is sold." Under terms of the deal, teams will use SeatGeek’s technology, through financial details of the agreement have not yet been disclosed. MLS wants to "remove any hurdle for fans to discover – or return to – the sport” by opening up their entire ticket ecosystem. This new network completely contradicts the traditional practices of the sports ticketing industry, but this innovative process is an attempt to grow interest in the budding league. This partnership makes SeatGeek the "first league-wide ticketing partner in MLS history."