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Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) CEO Leonard Armato has inked a deal with NBC Sports to broadcast two AVP events live in August, according to Gerry Khermouch of BUSINESSWEEK, who notes the seven-event season starts in late May. Armato also has a "commitment from Fox Sports to televise several tape-delayed" tournaments. Armato is "also landing blue-chip sponsors at about" $1M apiece — A-B's Michelob Light, PepsiCo's Gatorade and Microsoft's Xbox. Khermouch: "Next up: a possible deal with Nissan. Armato claims an agreement with an auto maker is imminent, and sports-marketing sources say the likeliest candidate is Nissan." Nissan VP/Marketing Steven Wilhite said, "I like the property, opportunity, and people." Khermouch writes that the "big question is whether Armato can turn the AVP into a reliable marketing vehicle for Corporate America." Armato is "requiring players to sign contracts precluding them from cutting the sort of side deals with rival brands that infuriated past sponsors like Miller Lite." Thus far, "most players have gone along, if sometimes grudgingly." Khermouch: "Still, most commitments remain modest and short-term. Gatorade and Microsoft have one-year deals. NBC is airing just the two events, at a time of year when it has to scramble to fill a sports-programming void." But with "more titillation in sports than ever, ... beach volleyball does seem well positioned." Armato: "It's an incredibly sexy sport" (BUSINESSWEEK, 4/22 issue). In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton reports Xbox' AVP deal is in the high six-figures and includes ads on NBC's two events as well as spots on FSN's telecasts (SBJ, 4/15).
125,000 Fans Pack Grand Prix Of Long Beach
Sunday's CART Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach "surpassed attendance projections," as an estimated 125,000 fans attended the race, according to Perez & Canalis of the Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, who adds the three-day attendance estimates were about 250,000, "making it one of the most successful weekends in the event's history." While the Long Beach Grand Prix Association (GPA) does not release official attendance figures, GPA President & CEO Jim Michaelian said, "We had a good walk-up on Sunday, and Saturday was a very thick day, as well" (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 4/16).
NASCAR: In Charlotte, David Poole writes that it is "unlikely" that the lawsuit filed against NASCAR and ISC by SMI shareholder Francis Ferko and NASCAR's possible relocation of The Winston from SMI's Lowe's Motor Speedway (LMS) "are completely unrelated." Poole thinks the SMI lawsuit "was filed to be a bargaining chip in negotiations" for a second race at Texas Motor Speedway, "or some bigger deal being discussed privately among SMI and ISC." But "countering the lawsuit, ISC [is] speaking through NASCAR to tell SMI to settle down and be happy with what [SMI's] got." Poole: "Not only will [SMI] not get a second Texas date, [SMI] might lose what amounts to a third Cup weekend" with The Winston at LMS (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/16). NASCAR VP/Corporate Communications Jim Hunter said of The Winston, "The original concept was to move it around. We're looking into it" (TIMES-DISPATCH, 4/14). In NC, Monte Dutton wondered whether attorney Johnnie Cochran, who is repping Ferko, "can get anyone to break ranks and provide evidence that NASCAR would actually manipulate the marketplace." Cochran "might talk to developers who could not get financing for their tracks because they could not guarantee" Winston Cup dates, or he "might investigate why all the tracks that did gets dates, with the exception of Las Vegas, eventually wound up in possession" of ISC (GASTON GAZETTE, 4/13)....ESPN.com's Jerry Bonkowski profiled the tenure of NASCAR President Mike Helton, who is the "first to admit he and his staff made some errors along the way, particularly at dealing with the media," concerning the death of Dale Earnhardt. Helton "understands why fingers of blame were pointed at him. But at the same time, those errors weren't intentional. ... Nevertheless, the often bitter and personal attacks on Helton did take a toll." Helton: "There were moments where it became very personal from different directions, and that's unfair" (ESPN.com, 4/11).
FORMULA ONE: FIA President Max Mosley, on KirchGroup's financial troubles affecting Formula One: "I don't think it makes a great deal of difference, at least at the moment. It is a huge problem for football because there are a number of football teams that depend on Kirch for their income. Formula One is the other way around. ... Kirch gets money from Formula One" (SPEEDTV.com, 4/15).
In a letter sent to 35 golfers, 31 of whom are PGA Tour members, MCT Commissioner Terry Jastrow "promised players who commit to the new tour that he'll not reveal their names until at least 20 sign up," according to Ron Sirak of GOLF WORLD BUSINESS. The letter asked the players to commit to playing in at least 80% of MCT events, "so long as the [MCT] successfully" by November 29 finalizes negotiations with Fox, guarantees a minimum seven-event annual schedule with a purse of at least $2M per event, and finalizes negotiations "with appropriate host sites for the initial seven events." Jastrow's letter was accompanied by an 18-page MCT charter. Sirak: "Nowhere in the charter or in the commitment letter does it ask players to resign [their PGA Tour membership]." Included in the charter was the MCT's tentative '03 schedule, which has events opposite the following '02 PGA Tour stops: Honda, Shell Houston, Hilton Head, New Orleans, Colonial, Kemper and Memphis (GOLF WORLD BUSINESS, 4/15).
NHL: Total attendance over the 1,230-game NHL regular-season was 20,614,613, an increase of 1.2% from the previous high of 20,373,379 set last season. The per-game average of 16,760 exceeded the prior record of 16,564, also set last season (NHL)....In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes in response to a piece in USA Today by Mike Dodd last week on the attendance struggles of many NHL teams in the southern U.S. Brunt: "Any sport can become temporarily fashionable just about anywhere, through a combination of marketing, of novelty, of competitive success [as hockey did in L.A. and FL], but that doesn't mean it will be successful two seasons down the road. ... Why aren't Sun Belt Americans watching hockey? Because, by and large, those teams have been lousy, the products not worth the price. ... Why aren't fans lining up for baseball tickets in Montreal and Toronto? See above" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 4/16).
NBA: In Denver, Adam Thompson reported the NBA hosted a small group of Chinese and Japanese journalists in Dallas and Denver last week who were covering Mavericks C Wang Zhi Zhi and Nuggets C Mengke Bateer. NBA Asia Senior Dir of PR Cheong Sau Ching: "Right now, the most exciting market [for the NBA] would be China. We want to grow this market. Asia still overall, be it economy or what have you, represents a lot of potential" (DENVER POST, 4/15). NBA Commissioner David Stern, who favors int'l expansion, said that proposed arenas in Berlin and London each "meet and exceed NBA standards." Meanwhile, NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said that some NBA players don't want to play in this summer's World Championships in Indianapolis because they "see the Olympics as more prestigious, even though many countries view the World Championships as more important" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/14).
LPGA: The AP's Steve Wilstein, on whether marketing the sex appeal of its players would boost TV ratings or attendance for the LPGA: "Avid fans ... don't care much how the women look or what they do off the course. Similarly, people who don't care for golf aren't going to be drawn in to it in great numbers because of the players' sex appeal." Wilstein, noting Playboy.com's recent poll on the sexiest LPGA player, added, "A naked LPGA player might sell a few more magazines and get a little richer. But if she thinks she'll sell the sport, she's mistaken. What the LPGA needs is a great player with genuine charisma to charge up the fans and sponsors. Stripping won't do it" (AP, 4/15). LPGA Longs Drug Challenge Dir Brian Flajole, on LPGA Commissioner Ty Votaw wanting players to make themselves more marketable: "It was a positive step to sort of kick off the season with that kind of directive: Looking good and acting more personable. A lot of the players are using their game more than their personalities. Some of them ... have pretty good personalities" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/15).
GREY CUP: The Edmonton Grey Cup Committee has revealed the logo for the '02 game, set for November 24 at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium (Grey Cup).