SBD/10/Leagues Governing Bodies

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  • ABL, PART I: LEAGUE SEEKS GREATER EXPOSURE IN SECOND SEASON

              The ABL opens its second season on Sunday with its
         first game on Fox Sports Net (FSN) between the Glory and the
         Blizzard.  The league has expanded to nine franchises, with
         the Long Beach StingRays joining over the offseason. Today,
         THE DAILY previews the upcoming season.  
              OPERATIONS: ABL CEO Gary Cavalli told THE DAILY the
         league plans to double its marketing budget this year to
         more than $3M and has increased its player budget from
         $5.75M to $8M.  The league will boost its TV advertising 
         with spots on ESPN, BET, FSN and on broadcast networks that
         feature a new campaign from NY-based Action Sports Adventure
         with the tagline "Real Basketball."  A print campaign will
         run nationally throughout the year in USA Today, Conde Nast
         Sports For Women, SI Women/Sport and Women's Sports &
         Fitness.  On the investment front, Cavalli said the ABL is
         in "serious talks" with four potential investment groups and
         that an announcement is "close" on a S.F. business exec
         interested in investing $3M in the league and an option in
         team operating rights, most likely for the Portland Power. 
         Also, a deposit has been retained for operating rights to
         the Philadelphia Rage, and a Seattle group is close to a
         deal for operating rights to the Reign.  Cavalli said the
         league will expand by either one or three teams in '98 and
         is eyeing Chicago; St. Louis; K.C.; Nashville; Dallas or
         Austin, TX; and Long Island, NY, as possible markets. 
         Cavalli acknowledged that the league still has "some obvious
         holes" in its national sponsorship inventory and while he
         would like to fill the soft drink, beer and fast food
         categories, the soft drink inventory has been released to
         the teams for this season.  Cavalli said that the ABL will
         lose $1.5M this season, but added, "Next year, we're
         projecting a little bit more than break-even" (THE DAILY).
              ADDED EXPOSURE: The ABL's broadcast partners will air
         up to 36 games this season.  BET will air 12 games, up from
         eight last year, on Saturdays at 7:00pm ET.  In a new deal,
         FSN will telecast 16 regular-season games Sunday nights at
         7:00pm ET, the All-Star Game and seven playoff contests. 
         Cavalli: "This year we're going to have consistent airtime
         and full distribution."  Cavalli said the league also talked
         to ABC and CBS prior to reaching a deal with FSN, and he
         believes the ABL possibly can gain one or two games on Fox
         this year and have an over-the-air broadcast partner next
         season.  Sally Jenkins, Senior Contributing Writer for Conde
         Nast Sports For Women, said the FSN package helps the ABL.
         Jenkins:  "Their single biggest problem is media perception
         and their profile in the media. ... This is a question of
         getting in people's heads and living rooms" (THE DAILY).
              OUTLOOK: Cavalli acknowledged that the WNBA's success
         in its first season makes year two "crucial" for the ABL:
         "We have to have a good season at the gate.  We have to do
         well on television.  We have to have good ratings."  Conde
         Nast's Jenkins sees coexistence between the two leagues for
         the next three to four years, aided by the emerging market
         for women's sports: "The female sports audience has been
         really a hidden one.  The trick for the ABL is to make sure
         the WNBA doesn't get the lion's share [of sponsorships]." 
         Fordham Univ. sports law professor Mark Conrad said the ABL
         needs to be more entrepreneurial than the WNBA: "Mr. Cavalli
         has to be a little more clever, a little more daring and,
         yes, a little more aggressive."  To increase its exposure,
         Jenkins said the ABL should aim to build in mass markets:
         "The grassroots thing is great and very fan friendly, but
         it's not necessarily as media friendly" (THE DAILY).
    
    

    Print | Tags: ABC, CBS, ESPN, Leagues and Governing Bodies, News Corp./Fox, Sports Illustrated, Viacom, Walt Disney, WNBA
  • ABL, PART II: LEAGUE ANNOUNCES STOCK OPTION PLAN FOR PLAYERS

              The ABL will offer a stock option program that will
         allow its players to own around 10% of the league.  ABL CEO
         Gary Cavalli said that all current players will be granted
         options that will vest over a three-year period.  Options
         will be granted based on contributions to the team and
         league, on and off the court.  New players entering the ABL
         will also receive options.  At the end of each season, about
         half of the players will receive additional performance-
         based grants (ABL).  Cavalli said that the ABL has 10
         million shares of stock, which have risen as high as $2.35
         per share (Dwain Price, FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/10).
              MORE ABL NEWS: Cavalli said season-ticket sales for the
         league have increased from 8-9,000 last year to more than
         13,000 (THE DAILY)....USA TODAY's Valerie Lister reported
         that ten of the 13 "top collegiate players" signed with the
         ABL over the offseason.  League sponsor Reebok, which will
         outfit all nine teams, will promote the ABL in print and TV
         ads (USA TODAY, 10/10)....Saudia Roundtree, the '96 college
         player of the year, has signed a three-year contract to
         remain with the Atlanta Glory (WASHINGTON POST, 10/10).
              NATIONAL AD: An ABL ad supplement appears in USA TODAY
         with the "Real Basketball" slogan on the cover.  League
         sponsors Reebok and Hartford-based Phoenix Home Life Mutual
         Insurance Co. took out ads (USA TODAY, 10/10).
    
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, Reebok
  • NFL ATTORNEY PUTS EAGLETON ON THE SPOT OF SECRET FEE

              The Rams "kept secret" from the other 29 NFL teams an
         agreement with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors
         Commission (CVC) that the CVC "would pay up to" $7.5M of
         fees to relocate from CA, according to William Lhotka of the
         ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH.  Former U.S. Senator Thomas
         Eagleton, who lead the civic group FANS, Inc., said that the
         deal was "contained in a document separate" from documents
         that the Rams turned over to the NFL in its application to
         move in '95.  Lhotka reports the "admissions cast a cloud
         over the" CVC's $130M antitrust suit, which "contends that
         the NFL acted arbitrarily, and perhaps unethically, in
         forcing the city to pay" $20M of a $29M Rams relocation fee. 
         Eagleton confirmed that the fee was withheld from the NFL,
         since offering information "about the fee agreement would
         have been an invitation to the league to extract as much as
         it could."  In further questioning from NFL attorney Frank
         Rothman, Eagleton said the league never discouraged FANS,
         Inc. from talking to any NFL team or interfered with its
         talks with the Rams.  CVC attorney Alan Popkin has "alleged
         that the NFL, through its guidelines, rules and antitrust
         practices, had discouraged" teams from bidding on St. Louis
         and its new stadium which "forced" the city to give the Rams
         a "deal far superior than the team would have gotten in an
         open-market atmosphere" (POST-DISPATCH, 10/10).
    
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NFL, St. Louis Rams
  • NFL NOTES: LEAGUE FOCUS OF TWO NATIONAL FRONT-PAGE FEATURES

              The NFL's "high-tech blitz" is examined by USA TODAY's
         Bill Meyers in a page one cover story.  Meyers: "[N]o sport
         utilizes as much state-of-the-art technology as pro football
         -- from expensive, nonlinear video editing equipment to
         encrypted coach-to-quarterback radio transmitters to
         pulsating pain relief appliances run by microprocessors." 
         But the "high-tech blitz has unleashed a heated debate among
         team executives over pro football's future.  At stake:
         whether men or machines will control each game's outcome in
         the 21st century."  Giants GM George Young said that he has
         "no problems with teams using computers to prepare for
         games, but he won't allow PCs after kick-off."  Other
         technological advances featured include the Avid Sports
         statistical system; LED large-screen video display; Sport
         Grass playing surfaces and Vyvx interactive PC system which
         fans can use from their seats (USA TODAY, 10/10).
              JERSEY BOY: The NFL's tailgating experience, through
         the eyes of "Jersey John" Tobias, a Steelers fans who
         travels a total of 750 miles from New Jersey to Pittsburgh
         for home games, is profiled by Roger Thurow in a WALL STREET
         JOURNAL cover story.  Thurow: "[I]f you want to know what
         makes the league the business and cultural colossus that it
         is, don't study the fields of play ... linger in the parking
         lots surrounding those fields of play" (WSJ, 10/10).
              LEAGUE NOTES: Through 82 games, the NFL's average paid
         attendance is 62,222, which is up 1,052 per game from last
         year's average of 61,170 through 81 games (NFL)....Of the 82
         NFL games through the first six weeks of the season, 41% of
         them, 34 games, have been blacked out in their local market. 
         Nine teams have not had a home game televised locally:
         Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Bengals, Bills, Colts,
         Dolphins, Chargers and Seahawks (THE DAILY).
    
    

    Print | Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Vulcan Ventures
  • NHL TEAMS AIM TO FIRE UP INTEREST DESPITE WINTER BREAK

              The NHL's participation in the Olympics, which will
         shut the league down for 17 days in midseason, is "risky"
         because "marquee players could get hurt, and local fans
         could feel alienated," according to Stefan Fatsis of the
         WALL STREET JOURNAL.  But league officials say the Olympic
         exposure "will speed the goal of attracting new fans both in
         the U.S. and internationally."  NHL Commissioner Gary
         Bettman: "When people think of the Olympics, for two weeks
         they are going to have reasons to think of the NHL."  But
         Fatsis adds that the NHL's "biggest problem" during its
         regular season "will be closing down at about the time fan
         interest usually picks up."  For example, the Blues will
         play 25 home games through December but "only" 16 home games
         in the "peak" January to April months.  So the team has
         scheduled six promotional giveaways this month and has
         reduced ticket prices in two-thirds of the 19,260-seat Kiel
         Center.  Blues Marketing Exec Jim Woodcock: "We understand
         that any scheduling hardships are for the good of the game
         and the league.  But no question it does pose an early
         challenge for us."  Fatsis adds that "to ensure attendance
         doesn't slip after the Olympics, teams are planning
         promotions during the shutdown," including the Panthers
         hosting a black-tie dinner with players waiting tables, and
         the Blues offering 200 tickets for a Caribbean cruise with
         players (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/10). 
    
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NHL, St. Louis Blues
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