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Michael Jordan is expected to take two weeks to get into shape before returning to play in the NBA with the Bulls, according to reports out of Chicago this morning. Jordan worked out with the Bulls on Wednesday and Thursday, but had no comment yesterday. His agent, David Falk, and team officials "played down reports, but none of them issued a denial." Bulls Coach Phil Jackson: "It's a reality, but it's still not a reality" (Mark Heisler, L.A. TIMES, 3/10). ESPN cited a source who said Jordan was done with baseball, and when he returns to the NBA, "it will be for the long haul perhaps even several years" ("SportsCenter," 3/9). CORPORATE MARKETER'S DREAM? Many speculate on what Jordan's return means to his already massive marketability. In Chicago, John Barron writes, "Jordan's endorsement deals, estimated to be worth $30 million, undoubtedly would be enhanced by his NBA exposure. Yet the sponsors downplay the importance of the potential shift back to basketball." Nike official Tom Feuer: "Jordan transcends the game he's playing at the moment. He can get attention drinking from a water fountain in Dubuque. He's a cultural icon. Whatever he does is noteworthy." Bill Schmidt, Gatorade's VP/Worldwide Sports Marketing: "He's as valuable as always, regardless of the uniform." While a return should increase corporate interest, Jordan could not field new offers. "He's covered most of the major categories" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/10). NBA'S ONE-MAN DREAM TEAM? Some believe Jordan's return would benefit the NBA more than anyone. Nova Lanktree, President of Lanktree Passport Celebrity Service: "Their TV ratings are down. With Jordan, the NBA gets back to where it was" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/10).
JOSEPH KIRCHNER has resigned as Chair and CEO of Apex One. The company's release cited differences of opinion with the board of director regarding the strategic direction of the company. He will remain a director of the company. MICHAEL LEWIS, formerly Exec VP, has assumed the positions of President & CEO (Apex One)....STEVE ROSSI has resigned as Dir of P.R. for the Sabres. JEFF HOLBROOK was named Interim Director (Mult., 3/10)....DON WADDELL was named GM of the new IHL Orlando Hockey Franchise. Waddell is currently GM of the IHL San Diego Gulls (Orlando Hockey)....DORIS DIXON was named the first NCAA Dir of Federal Relations. She will monitor legislation pertaining to intercollegiate athletics (NCAA)....The WOMEN'S SPORTS FOUNDATION SUMMIT '95 is scheduled for May 18-21 in Dallas. It will focus on education, development and promotion of female athletes (Women's Sports Foundation)....BOB COSTAS denied any involvement in the purchase of a minor league baseball team with BILL PARCELLS and BOBBY KNIGHT (BOSTON HERALD, 3/8).
Tracy Dolgin is Exec VP of Marketing for Fox Sports, which is set to debut its NHL coverage on April 2. THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with Dolgin yesterday on the network's plans on taking on its second pro sport. THE DAILY: Who do you expect to tune in to hockey and will your broadcasts be targeted to a specific audience? DOLGIN: We're shooting for a broad audience, but our entire campaign and everything we're trying to do with hockey is to gain new viewers. We assume that current hockey viewers are really very fanatical. Hockey has some of the strongest fans in the world and we assume these people will come back. So everything we're doing to start, from a marketing standpoint, is to try to attract new viewers. And, where we think the large percentage of those viewers comes from are young people. Probably the strongest will be the 18-34 demographic and the reason for this is the perfect viewer for hockey is actually the prototypical Fox viewer -- because the sport psychographically matches Fox programming. It's edgy, it's in your face, it's fast, it's aggressive. It's the same kind of appeal our programming has. So, we're going to be spending a huge amount of time on air to try to convince viewers who probably have never seen hockey or maybe at best casually viewed hockey they should give this sport a chance. THE DAILY: Do you think that the NHL will ever be able to take on an NBA-type strategy of banking on big names? Are the potential stars there for the league to do that? DOLGIN: That's half the strategy. You have to understand what you're starting with, which is a very strong regional sport that you're trying to make into a national sport. I think the biggest thing going for us is something that is unique in my mind in the history of sports television. Historically what has happened, in how sports have become popular, is a sport tends to be passed down from generation to generation. Not to be sexist, but the most typical case is from father to son. Hockey is a first, it's a new world out there, and for the first time you have a chance of going in the other direction. ... Kids today are not playing basketball like they used to, certainly not playing baseball like they used to because you need a big open field space, and a lot of people together. What they're playing is hockey. That's where I think the real growth opportunity is in hockey. We have these kids who are out there playing it . It used to be that the father or the mother would bring the child in to watch, and I think that you're going to see a lot of that go in the opposite direction. ... You have this whole waiting grassroots audience that's going to grab on to this. Luckily for us, the thing these young people are watching, that they think is hip and cool and aggressive and fits their attitude -- it's Fox. You have this natural marriage of where they watch TV and what they do, and they will bring in this adult audience with it. THE DAILY: As far as the presentation of the games themselves, are regular hockey fans going to feel welcome or is it going to be almost Hockey 101 where they might feel that the announcers are explaining a little too much? DOLGIN: It's the same game. We haven't invented a new game here and we're trying to make it as accessible and as fun and exciting to a new person, but at the same time, recognizing you have this core built in fan and you have to entertain them and you have to show them as good coverage of hockey that they're used to viewing. We have absolutely no worry about turning off or boring that core fan. And I don't think that core fan is going to be upset that the graphics look a little more younger and a little more video game-like to make that younger new viewer feel at home. I had much more fear going into the NFL. THE DAILY: What's your yardstick for measuring success? Is there going to be a ratings point at the end of the year that you'll be able to point to? DOLGIN: We're in this for the long term, so we're not going to be sitting there staring at the rating sheets when they come out in the first year because we have to grow this thing. We realize that we have to keep investing, investing, investing as this thing snowballs and then hits the critical mass that we need it to do. THE DAILY: Have you looked ahead to next season to expanding the schedule or will that all be done later? DOLGIN: Everything is going to be done at the end of the year. But our intent is to do more games next year than we did this year and more games the year after that and to really grow with this and to grow it underneath us. ... All the signs are in the right direction. It had to be put on the right network, and this is the right network. It had to be put on a network which would invest in it, which we are doing. Somebody just had to put their foot on the accelerator, and that's what we're doing with our partners.