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Continued allegations of corruption involving top FIFA officials have "called into question the integrity of Thursday’s votes that will decide the host countries" for the '18 and '22 World Cups, the latter of which is being sought by the U.S., according to Jere Longman of the N.Y. TIMES. The Swiss chapter of anticorruption organization Transparency Int'l has "called for the votes to be postponed until 'full light is shed' on a spate of recent bribery allegations published and broadcast by European news media." FIFA, which is based in Zurich and will host tomorrow's vote in the Swiss city, has given "no indication that it would delay" the voting (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). In DC, Steve Goff notes allegations that two FIFA officials "tried to sell their votes" are "casting a large shadow over the vote." While those two officials have been suspended, "others have also been accused of unethical behavior" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/1). Russia Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko, Chair of the country's bid for the '18 World Cup and one of 22 FIFA Exec Committee members scheduled to vote, said yesterday that if the "Spain-Portugal bid wins for 2018 and Qatar wins for 2022 there will be questions of whether the vote was fixed because of the unproved allegations of an alliance between those two bids." Mutko said, "We do not support any alliances or collusion. We would like that not to happen" (WSJ.com, 11/30).
Clinton Among U.S. Dignitaries
In Zurich Lobbying For '22 Bid
CASEY AT THE BAT: Former President Bill Clinton and WMG Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman flew last night to Zurich to join the delegation and lend support for the U.S. Bid Committee lobbying to bring the '22 World Cup to the U.S. Clinton, a long time friend of Wasserman, has been very public about his support for the U.S. to host the World Cup. Clinton and Wasserman are expected to arrive on Wasserman’s plane in Zurich in time for tomorrow's vote by FIFA, a source said. A spokesperson for Wasserman declined to comment on Wasserman’s or Clinton’s private travel plans. The U.S. is competing to host the event in '22 against Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea. Clinton is the honorary Chair of the bid committee and Wasserman is one of the committee's board members. L.A. is one of 18 U.S. cities that could host '22 World Cup matches, and the multi-purpose stadium Wasserman is working with AEG to develop in downtown L.A. could become a host site for those World Cup games. Wasserman joined the board of the U.S. Bid Committee for the FIFA World Cup long before concrete plans for a downtown L.A. NFL stadium surfaced in the media (Mullen & Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). Clinton, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, USSF President Sunil Gulati, Galaxy F Landon Donovan and actor Morgan Freeman were expected to be part of the bid's final presentation to FIFA's Exec Committee (AP, 11/29).
TOP OF THE TABLE: REUTERS' Mike Collett reported a confidential report prepared for FIFA by consulting firm McKinsey contends that World Cups held in England ('18) and the U.S. ('22) would "meet all of FIFA's projected revenue targets and deliver bigger profits to world soccer's governing body than any of their competitors." McKinsey awarded both England and the U.S. "an unbeatable overall 100 percent rating." FIFA commissioned the firm to "analyse each bid across five key revenue streams: sponsorship, ticketing, hospitality, licensing and media rights" (REUTERS, 11/30). In Newark, Frank Giase wrote it is "clear England, which hasn’t hosted a World Cup since 1966, and the United States are the frontrunners, but nothing is certain, and there is always the possibility of an anti-U.S. backlash despite the record revenue and attendance produced" at the '94 World Cup (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/30). Gulati said, "Different things matter to different people. This is an election. It’s not only about the reports" (WSJ.com, 11/30).
Qatar Making A Strong Case To Host '22 Event,
Largely Due To Financial Strengths
STIFF COMPETITION: In Philadelphia, Kerith Gabriel notes while "many experts believe the U.S. is the favorite" for the '22 World Cup, "Qatar in recent weeks has been viewed as a major competitor, promising to dump in excess of $50 billion toward building technologically advanced facilities should FIFA approve the nation of a little more than 1.69 million citizens" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 12/1). In L.A., Grahame Jones notes the "deep-pocket Qataris are the main worry" for the U.S. Qatar, which "wants the World Cup and has the financial clout to get it," already has "five extraordinary stadiums under construction" (L.A. TIMES, 12/1). FOXSPORTS.com's Ives Galarcep noted the FIFA report on the U.S. bid indicates that "there just isn't much FIFA can point to that's wrong with the bid." The Australian bid is the "only other bid that makes sense as a legitimate rival," since FIFA's study of Qatar's bid was "rife with serious questions" about its validity and the "ability of the Arab nation to deliver what it is promising" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/30).
A HUGE MOMENT FOR THE U.S.: SI.com's Steve Davis noted MLS officials "recognize the spectacular growth opportunities World Cup 2022 could create for the league and domestic soccer in general." MLS Commissioner Don Garber: "If we do prevail, then between now and 2022 we will have a 12-year run that will change this league and the sport in America forever." Aside from the "boon to development of fans and players, it's mostly about leverage." Davis: "Imagine Garber and Gulati going to the networks for contract talks. Consider their favorable place at the bargaining table as they bundled MLS and national team matches with World Cup rights" (SI.com, 11/29). Garber: "If we win, we'll have over 10 years to work with cities, stadiums, sponsors, broadcasters and the entire soccer community to harness the whole power of the world's most popular sporting event" (SI.com, 11/30). He added, "Clearly for us, there is nothing that we could do in the United States, whether it be our federation or Major League Soccer, that would be more important than having the World Cup here in our country" (AP, 11/30).
Bernard Notes IndyCar Will Not Make Money
This Year, But Did Exceed Goals By 30%
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard yesterday discussed his first year on the job and the future of his racing league at SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s 11th annual Izod IndyCar Series Motorsports Marketing Forum.
Q: Summarize your first year at IndyCar.
Bernard: I assess great momentum for us. It started way before I got there when Izod signed as title sponsor. We’ve signed 14 new sponsors in the past 12 months, and (gross income) went from $34 million in 2009 to $81 million in 2010. We’ve made great progress.
Q: How was the transition from the Professional Bull Riders to IndyCar?
Bernard: It’s a lot different. Motorsports are such a bigger universe. There’s so much passion for open-wheel racing. In Indy, with every challenge I’ve wanted to learn the culture and tradition, and not offend traditionalists and purists.
Q: How difficult has it been working with traditionalists?
Bernard: There’s always someone who is a lot smarter about motor sports. My job has been to come in and listen, to understand the sport and the marketability of it, and to build it. My saving grace, besides Izod, was a great staff. I give them a lot of credit. When I came in we sat around, brainstormed together and made decisions. We redefined IndyCar in 75 days. That’s fascinating. I learned more in those meetings … that’s probably the best way to get educated.
Q: How does the day-to-day running of IndyCar compare to PBR?
Bernard: Many thought PBR was an acronym for Pabst Blue Ribbon when I started there. It didn’t have a brand. You call someone in New York and say you’re from the PBR, most of the time they wouldn’t take your call. The IndyCar Series has such a tradition and culture. It’s known everywhere … it’s pretty easy to get through the door. My day-to-day is not that much different. I like to think I work hard. I start early in the morning and finish late at night. I try to learn the business. I meet with everybody and anybody.
Q: Will you make money this year?
Bernard: No. We won’t make money this year. That wasn’t a realistic goal. We have certain parameters to hit, and we exceeded it by 30 percent. The physical number in 2011 looks promising. It’s a privately held company that has spent millions upon millions of dollars. The (Hulman/George) family won’t take shortcuts. There are expectations for the bottom line. The family is in this for the long haul.
Q: You’ve been outspoken that Versus is not in enough homes for greater distribution.
Bernard: I have said that many times. I think Versus does a great job. Of course, we want to be in more homes. But we have to do a better job delivering what we can do. Versus got a 3.9 rating for an NHL playoff game. If you have good content, people will find it. We have to create those story lines.
Q: What will the proposed Comcast-NBC merger do for your sport?
Bernard: I’ve had several conversations with Versus folks and Comcast folks. Hopefully by Dec. 31 the Department of Justice approves the acquisition. I’m optimistic it’ll come to NBC Sports. We’re a big fish in a small pond on Versus. If we can grow on Versus it’ll grow our long-term vision.
Q: What has the racing experience been like?
Bernard: In Brazil, in the first lap of the race there was a huge wreck. Marco Andretti ended up (under) Mario Moraes. I thought, 'My God. I had no idea how dangerous it was,' and in the first three minutes. I was like …
Bernard: I was sold before I took the job. Look where the sport was in 1995 and where it was in 2009. This sport is poised for success. There’s no reason why it can’t grow beyond our expectations. Very quickly I was sold on this sport, way before Brazil.
Joie Chitwood Says Tracks Like Daytona Not
Getting Public Subsidies Creates A Challenge
Potholes, camels and a dragstrip in Daytona were some of the wide-ranging talking points yesterday at the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s 11th annual Izod IndyCar Series Motorsports Marketing Forum. The panel discussion, “The State of Motorsports and How We Can Move the Industry Forward,” featured Anheuser-Busch Senior Dir of Sports Marketing Brad Brown, Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood, NHRA Funny Car Driver Bob Tasca, Team Epic and Velocity Sports & Entertainment Principal David Grant, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams President Steve Lauletta, and NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell. In talking about the $20M re-paving job at Daytona, designed to avert future pothole issues, Chitwood lamented racing not getting public subsidies available to other sports and their arenas. “It’s a challenge for motorsports,” he said. “No, we’re not moving to Deland, Fla. We’re there (in Daytona) for the duration. But it’s challenging dealing with aging infrastructure and how to keep relevant to what 140,000 fans expect at Daytona.” Some will like the new smooth surface, and others will not, but that debate should be good for the sport. “Opposing views create drama and interest,” Chitwood said. “It’ll get covered by media and fans.” The voice of that driver is what will matter, he said, and what fans will believe. Grant believes the Daytona track to be a viable story line. “But we’re not splitting atoms here,” he said. “It has to be understandable to fans.”
Tasca Noted NHRA's Good Fortune Of
Record Attendance During The '10 Season
NEXT QUESTION? It became a tad tense when the question was posed about IndyCar racing returning to ISC tracks, like Daytona. “We couldn’t find common ground,” Chitwood said. “We want to get to those tracks where great racing happens and there are big markets,” said Lauletta. He also mentioned Long Beach, “where they could race camels and there would be 100,000 people there.” As the situation tightened, Tasca asked Chitwood about building a dragstrip at Daytona and maybe starting the season and ending it in Florida. “We can talk after,” Chitwood said. “You heard it here, drag racing at Daytona,” Tasca said to scant reaction in the ballroom. “Maybe not,” he deadpanned a second later.
Marciani Notes Michael Waltrip's Avid Twitter
Use Helps The Racing Team Reach Fans
A panel yesterday at SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s 11th annual Izod IndyCar Series Motorsports Marketing Forum only needed to hear that Facebook page hits now equal Google’s to comprehend the value of social media. The discussion, “Social Media and its Role in Motorsports,” featured Sprint Nextel Dir of Sports Marketing Tim Considine, Intersport Senior VP/Strategic Partnerships Chuck Johnsen, NASCAR HOF Manager for Sales & Marketing Lauri Wilks, Michael Waltrip Racing VP/Sales & Marketing Chris Marciani, Mazda North American Operations Manager of Alternative Marketing Jim Jordan, and GMR Marketing Exec VP/Sports Marketing Mike Boykin. “It’s a new world,” Jordan said. “Internationally, Facebook is 25 percent of all page views in Europe. That’s an incredibly powerful medium.” NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip might be the prime example of someone who has embraced the newish interactive world. Boykin was golfing with Waltrip when Waltrip stepped aside two or three times to hunch over and tend to some business. They had not even played nine holes. Boykin asked Waltrip what he was doing. “Tweeting,” Waltrip said. Marciani confirmed that Waltrip tweets with regularity. The key is that it is Waltrip. “It’s a PR tool for business, and it helps us reach avid fans,” Marciani said. “Michael is passionate about it. I applaud him. Luckily, we haven’t been in trouble yet. But it has to be authentic. It has to be Michael.” True fans easily spot frauds, and artificial messages and disingenuous pitches, which can be detrimental to any race team. The message cannot be overly corporate, either. “You have to let the personality of the driver, or teams, come out,” Jordan said. Mazda’s Facebook presence is small, he said, and does not require too much oversight. “Good or bad, you take the hits,” Jordan said. “We’ve found that fans police it. There’s nothing more powerful than that peer-to-peer interaction.”
Jordan Says Nothing More Powerful
Than Peer Interaction On Facebook Page
REACHING OUT: Considine cited data that showed NASCAR’s Facebook followers are younger than the average NASCAR demographic, which bodes well for the future. Another test resulted in a 96% positive interaction rating, among 250 responses, with the Sprint brand. “That’s unheard of. What fans say confirms that the time and effort we’re putting into it is worthwhile for us,” Considine said. “It’s a huge positive.” Jordan found it remarkable when someone from the Mazda team sent out a tweet telling fans they could receive a Mazda key ring just for coming by the company’s area and showing their keys. “I was shocked how many came by,” Jordan said. “Little things like that bonds them to us and makes them feel special. Hey, Mazda cares. I’m part of the Mazda team. We have fun with that.” Travis Pastrana, an extreme sports legend on the motorcycle, had fun creating a video highlighting his debut in the '11 NASCAR Nationwide Series. “It got 150,000 views on YouTube right away,” said Marciani. The 27-year-old from Maryland has more than 1.5 million Facebook friends and quickly attracted 40,000 followers on his Twitter account. The panel on average believed that Pastrana will race in the Daytona 500 within the next four years. Marciani follows the NBA and marveled over its 6.7 million Facebook followers. From there, fans can tap into the pages of favorite players or college programs, high schools or the Basketball HOF. “You can go anywhere you want in the universe of basketball,” Marciani said. “The world of social media knows no boundaries. It’s 24/7, 365 days a year. We’re trying.” Finally, whom does the panel follow on Twitter or Facebook? “Carl Edwards,” said Considine. “Ozzie Guillen,” said Johnsen. “Miss Sprint and Denny Hamlin,” said Wilks. “Kim Kardashian,” said Marciani. “She has 5 million followers! That’s a pretty big city, if you think about it.”
Julie Sobieski Says ESPN Needs To Find New,
More Creative Ways To Deliver Motorsports
More effective marketing approaches and additional action between drivers, with a dramatic finish every year, would go far in boosting motor sports television ratings, panelists said yesterday afternoon at SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s 11th annual Izod IndyCar Series Motorsports Marketing Forum. The panel discussion, “Motorsports Media: An In-Depth Look at Driving Ratings and Increasing Viewership,” featured Fox Sports Exec VP/Research & Programming Bill Wanger, Turner Sports Senior VP & GM Matt Hong, Versus Senior VP/Production & Exec Producer Leon Schweir, ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Julie Sobieski, NASCAR Managing Dir of Market & Media Research Brian Moyer, and Speed President Hunter Nickell. “Give me a reason to care,” Nickell said. “Jimmie Johnson is a rock star, maybe the driver of the greatest team ever in NASCAR. We oughta be high-fiving him. He’s unbelievable.” Johnson became the first driver in the seven-year history of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship to overcome a points deficit in the season finale, winning his fifth consecutive title. It was the most competitive racing in the sport in 60 years, Nickell said. NASCAR viewership has dropped nearly 24% in four years, but some of the powers in the sport believe that can and will be rectified. Sobieski highlighted the 15 NASCAR and 33 IndyCar drivers ESPN shuttled to its headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and NHRA drivers it brought to its L.A. facilities, during the season to expose both sides to each other, for future familiarity and to bridge other media platforms. “To get their personalities and stories out,” Sobieski said. “It’s about getting creative, figuring ways to be flexible, selling entitlements to give us assets so we can sell media buys and converge with teams. It’s really about delivering more value and finding more creative ways to deliver that value.” ESPN's Chris Berman promoting Johnson during an NFL countdown or highlights show? To Schweir, that’s not a stretch. “During hockey in May, we’ll be pushing the Indy 500,” Schweir said.
Wanger Says While NASCAR Ratings Have
Been Down Recently, They Will Rebound
MUST-SEE TV: Nickell wants must-see events, like Sidney Crosby playing Alex Ovechkin in hockey. “Whether you go back to 'Days of Thunder,' ‘Hit the pace car, Kyle Busch, you hit everything else out there! I can’t miss this race because something is going to happen.’ That’s what we have to do,” Nickell said. Wanger believed not having to compete with the Winter Olympics, which occurred at the start of the '10 season, will help NASCAR at the start of '11 at Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas. And Fox will use the next Super Bowl to promote Daytona two weeks later. “That’s a big platform to jumpstart the season,” Wanger said. Hong placed a premium on keeping fans interested in racing developments during the week via slick fantasy options on the Internet, which has been responsible for added appeal to baseball and football. The downtrend in younger viewers notwithstanding, Moyer said the power of what NASCAR can do for advertisers should not be underestimated. Wanger compared the size of the past Daytona 500 audience to that for an NBA Finals game or CBS' "Two and a Half Men." “It’s a huge, massive, behemoth sport. Is it going through a downtrend right now? Yes. Will it correct itself? Yes.” Nickell enjoys seeing Carl Edwards go into the crowd after a victory. And when someone finishes second, he still wants to see emotion, which should draw viewers. “Five times in a season, I’d like to see a guy who finished second, in front of 5 million viewers, look into the camera and say, ‘I am pissed! I don’t want to talk to anybody!’” Nickell said. “You’d have a totally different perception on how hard these guys are trying.”