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The recent McDonald's spots mixing NBA stars and Warner Brothers characters is a "snapshot" of NBA Commissioner David Stern's vision for the league. In an interview in the latest ADVERTISING AGE, Stern calls the McDonald's spots the "best- crafted NBA (related) ad campaign I've ever seen. And it might give you an idea where we're headed." Stern's "stated ambition" is to make the NBA "a poor man's Disney" with the league is using its basic format as a professional sports league "as a springboard" to become a global provider of "entertainment content," whether it be programming or licensed products. Stern has offered the services of NBA Entertainment, a "key element" of his vision, to Hollywood studios to assist in developing "basketball-themed movies" -- including an upcoming Warner Jordan-Bugs Bunny film. Stern is also working toward establishing an NBA site on the World Wide Web, and has had "discussions" with Pacific Telesis and Bell Atlantic about participating in video dialtone network tests. All of this outreach is geared toward "establishing the NBA as a global brand." Stern: "We're determined to make the NBA a global marketing vehicle for global marketers" (Jeff Jensen, ADVERTISING AGE, 5/22). FROM PHOENIX TO HOLLYWOOD? One of the projects NBA Entertainment is providing support for is the upcoming Disney movie "Celtic Pride." According to the BOSTON HERALD, Disney officials are trying to sign Charles Barkley for the lead (Fee & Raposa, BOSTON HERALD, 5/22).
The Professional Bicycle League (PBL) will kick off its inaugural season on the weekend of July 8 with a race between the New York Tribe and the Miami Manatees. All races will take place on 1200 foot oval courses to be held outdoors at major sports facilities throughout the world. PBL's "principle" arenas include New York's Shea Stadium, Chicago's Soldier Field, Pasadena's Rose Bowl, and London's Wembley Stadium. The league will get broadcast coverage from ESPN2 and ESPN International, and initial charter sponsors include American Airlines, GT Bicycles and WINNING magazine (Professional Bicycle League).
Roller Hockey International held organizational meetings in Zurich, Switzerland last weekend and committed to six tour dates in Europe. League officials say "the climate looks very positive" for league play in '97. The tour will feature North American All-Stars against European All-Stars and will be scheduled between April 25-May 12, 1996. RHI-Europe Chair Dennis Murphy: "We have great partners in Europe, they are leaders in the ice hockey industry and have indicated the best exhibition buildings are open to us" (RHI).
Following reports that the NHL will award expansion franchises to Denver and Atlanta to begin play in the '96-97 season, Ted Turner has told the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION that "he doesn't want a team before the 1997-98 season and hopes the league won't announce anything this summer." Turner says he wants a new arena in place before a new team comes to Atlanta, and does not want to market a new team during the '96 Games. League sources told the TAMPA TRIBUNE that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "could make concessions to convince Turner to join the league in 1996-97." In Tampa, Tom Jones writes that "with new- found popularity, the NHL wants to capitalize on the momentum and expand as quickly as possible. Announcing two expansion teams -- 50 new jobs for players -- this summer would also help the bargaining agreement. And the board of governors will welcome expansion money." The TRIBUNE lists other scenarios for expansion: If Quebec moves to Denver, the NHL would expand to Atlanta and another city -- Portland, Phoenix or Seattle -- for '97-98; or, the NHL could award expansion franchises to Denver and another city for '96-97 and then expand to Atlanta "one or two years after that" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/23).
In Washington, Leonard Shapiro examines the state of the United Baseball League and writes that with less than a year to go before they begin play, UBL organizers "have yet to announce the identity of a single franchise owner, club executive or player, let alone what stadiums they've secured and whcih television entities -- if any -- will broadcast their games." UBL co-founder Robert Mrazek, who promises details "in due time": "I don't want to sound as if we're bewildered or befuddled because we're not. We're making progress. It's do or die for us in '96. We think the opportunity is there. We have an abundance of solid, serious investors. We'll be able to hire major league players. The most difficult problem is with stadiums." Shapiro notes, "With the new TV networks being formed by Paramount and Time Warner, with CBS out of the NFL, NBA, and major league baseball picture and with a 500-channel cable universe a virtual certainty, UBL officials are confident they can provide attractive programming." Agent Leigh Steinberg believes that cable outlets and some networks will be interested, but adds, "The key is do they have adequate money to cover their losses and have enough deep-pocketed owners who won't panic?" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/20). VIRGINIA BASEBALL THREATENED BY UBL? Virginia Baseball officials are reportedly "working behind the scenes, trying to get where St. Petersburg was in the most recent major league baseball expansion process -- in a secured position to be awarded the next team." The group is also pursuing the possibility of luring an existing team to the area. If that happens, RFK Stadium would be used as a temporary home until a new stadium is built. But RFK officials have been involved in negotiations with the UBL, which hopes to lease the stadium for its Washington franchise. Privately, DC officials "acknowledge that the best chance to bring baseball back to the Washington area is through Virginia Baseball, and they will be reluctant to make a deal" with the UBL if it endangers Virginia Baseball's chances of bringing a franchise to the Washington area. DC Sports Commission Dir Jim Dalrymple said he has had little contact recently with the UBL: "There's nothing really moving on that front" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/20).
As part of a week-long series, USA TODAY ran a poll on where the four major sports rank as fans' favorites, and charted the revenue-payroll performance of American League teams compared to '94. Look for both the AL and NL revenue and payroll numbers in THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY tomorrow. BREAKING DOWN U.S. SPORTS FANS: According to CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup surveys, the number of "so-called true baseball fans is at a two-year low" (USA TODAY, 5/23).DATEALL18-2930-4950+
14-May-9535%36%38%31% 26-Feb-9537383538 7-Sep-9435383534 9-Aug-9435393631 May-9339404135FOR ALL AGES? In an April CNN/USA
TODAY survey, fans were asked to name their
"favorite sport" (USA TODAY, 5/23).SPORTALL18-2930-4950-6465+
Football32%41%31%33%23% Baseball1610171523 Basketball1518161212 Hockey35432