SBD/December 22, 2011/2011 Year in Review

Easy Come, Easy Go: The Sports Business Hits And Misses In '11

Each year, some sports business concepts are an all-out success, while others fall somewhat short of that. Here are some ideas that were either a hit or a miss in '10.

HIT
: The NFL lockout threatened to destroy the love Americans have for their favorite game, but with one gentle embrace Robert Kraft and Jeff Saturday melted the hearts of football fans everywhere. The Patriots owner and Colts All-Pro were widely lauded for their roles in resolving the labor dispute and for keeping their sides focused on “what’s good for the game.” There was no shortage of rhetoric during the lockout, but it was that silent hug that conveyed the best message of all: football’s back.

Some pundits said Black Eyed Peas “might
have been better off lip-synching”

MISS: The ’11 Super Bowl halftime show featuring pop group the Black Eyed Peas received mixed reviews from critics. While some thought the NFL did a good job bringing in a “youthful energy,” others said the group “might have been better off lip-synching.” Several pundits thought R&B singer Usher, who made an appearance during the show, should have been the headliner as his dance moves made the Black Eyed Peas look “tentative, and tense.”

HIT: The Packers in their fifth stock offering in team history garnered immediate excitement, with 185,000 of the allotted 250,000 shares going in the first two days of the sale that is expected to last through Feb. 29. At $250 a pop, the shares offer no dividend and cannot be traded, yet fans near and far bought in to fund the team’s upcoming renovation to Lambeau Field.

MISS: MLB missed the mark in a big way when it denied the Mets’ request to wear baseball caps honoring N.Y. emergency service departments for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. League execs cited the need to “keep policy consistent,” but if there was ever a time to throw policy to the wind, wasn't this it? On a night when Americans were remembering one of the most tragic days in the country's history, MLB was worried about dress code violations.

McIlroy is moving from Ireland to Florida to play
more events on the U.S. schedule

HIT: With Tiger Woods struggling to regain his form for much of this year, Rory McIlroy led the charge of young golfers raising trophies on Sunday afternoons. His breakout win in the U.S. Open boosted his profile stateside. And he has reaffirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour, opting to move his residence from Ireland to Florida and play more events on the American schedule. McIlroy also made news off the course with his public separation from longtime agent Chubby Chandler.

MISS: The NHL partnered with comic book creator Stan Lee for “The Guardian Project” to create a group of superheroes based on NHL franchises. What started out as a clever way to attract more fans, has not really gotten off the ground. With the website under construction for months and very little merchandise featuring the characters released, Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski called the project “an epic failure” and one of the league's “most misguided, derided and ridiculed duds.”

HIT: Li Na becomes the first Chinese tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament, immediately increasing the sport’s popularity in her home country and opening doors to new marketing opportunities for her. Less than two weeks after her win, Li signs a three-year endorsement deal with Mercedes-Benz reportedly worth $1.5M a year. As endorsers see an opportunity to align themselves with China’s most popular athlete at the moment, Li is on the fast track to becoming the world’s wealthiest female athlete.

MISS: U.S. Open officials, namely tournament referee Brian Earley, came under fire from the game’s top players who argued the courts were too wet and unsafe when they were told to resume play after several rain delays. With wet weather being a consistent problem for the tournament in recent years, some argue a roof is needed on center court in the future. Meanwhile, the officials’ decisions prompt players to call for meetings to discuss creation of a union to protect their interests throughout the tennis season.
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