SBD/December 19, 2012/2012 Year In ReviewPrint All
Beginning today and continuing through Friday, THE DAILY looks back at the sports business year of '12. Over the next three days, we will share with you our thoughts on the most important stories of the year. Today, we present six of the stories and people of the year, as well as some of the marketing and sponsorship highlights of '12. We also share a review of the busy year in sports media and some of the more memorable ads of the past 12 months. Additionally, we begin our annual list of best quotations of '12, which will continue tomorrow.
The SBD/SBJ editorial staff compiled the top sports business stories of '12, in no particular order. Today, we present six of them.
LONDON CALLING: Most people assumed the London Games would pale in comparison to the ’08 Beijing Games that preceded them. But the Brits -- and the athletes who competed -- proved the world wrong. From Danny Boyle’s distinctly British Opening Ceremony to Michael Phelps’ record-setting 18th Gold Medal and Usain Bolt’s captivating 100-meter sprint, the Olympics captured the imagination of the world and became the most-watched event in U.S. history in terms of total TV viewership. It also created breakout stars like gymnast Gabby Douglas and swimmer Missy Franklin who could be back in Rio in four years.
HISTORY REPEATING: The NHL implemented its second lockout in eight years, and the third in the 20-year tenure of Commissioner Gary Bettman. Taking its cue from recent labor agreements in the NFL and NBA, the NHL hopes to procure a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with the players. But getting to 50-50 -- and agreeing on core economic issues such as revenue sharing -- has not proven to be simple. The stalemate is now in its 95th day, and fans face the very real possibility of another year without the Stanley Cup.
PAINTING A NEW PICTURE: Expectations for the Dodgers were already high entering ‘12, with the club's sale expected to fetch the highest price ever for a baseball team. But Guggenheim Baseball Management wowed the sports industry with a whopping $2.15B purchase, nearly doubling the prior record for the sale of any North American sports franchise. The subsequent acquisition of high-priced talent like P Zack Greinke, 1B Adrian Gonzalez and SS Hanley Ramirez have many thinking the Dodgers -- and not the Yankees -- have MLB’s deepest pockets.
Some wondered who would have a checkbook big
enough to bid on Anschutz' AEG
CHANGING MAJORS: Yet another round of realignment takes place in ’12, with Maryland and Rutgers heading to the Big Ten and the non-FBS Big East schools breaking off to form their own basketball-centric conference. The moves reinforced the idea that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany wield enough power to flip college sports on its ear. The two men sit at the controls and will determine whether college sports enters an era of super conferences.
NO SLEEP ‘TIL BROOKLYN: The Nets finally moved across the Hudson River into the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The move -- along with a subsequent rebranding -- has revived the franchise. Also helping were the deep pockets of Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, which helped convince All-Star G Deron Williams to re-sign this summer and allowed for a trade for fellow All-Star G Joe Johnson. Bringing the NBA to Brooklyn has also helped stoke some interesting competition with MSG and the Knicks.
Many brands, execs and ideas caught our eye in ’12. Here are six that, for better or worse, made an impression this year.
UNIV. OF MARYLAND PRESIDENT WALLACE LOH: Loh was the driving force behind the school's surprise move to the Big Ten. Faced with an athletic department that was broke, Loh spearheaded the decision to leave the ACC, a conference that Maryland helped start. In doing so, Loh expects the department to be in good financial hands for the foreseeable future.
BROWNS OWNER JIMMY HASLAM III: Haslam may have wanted to buy his home state Titans, but ultimately “settled” for the Browns. Haslam bought the Browns from Randy Lerner, whose late father Al was the original owner of the Browns after they came back into the league in '99. Haslam, who must still sell his 12.5% interest in the Steelers, will need to energize a fan base that has grown tired of losing.
LOCOG CHAIR SEBASTIAN COE: The Olympic Gold Medalist’s stirring speech to the IOC in ‘05 was credited with clinching the votes that awarded London the ‘12 Olympics. Coe followed that by leading an organizing committee that hosted a memorable Summer Games, unblemished by any major issues.
MLBPA EXEC DIR MICHAEL WEINER: Weiner already had a reputation for a tireless work ethic, and little has changed following a shocking diagnosis in August of an inoperable brain tumor. While undergoing treatment, Weiner has kept a regular work schedule, traveled extensively during the postseason, and has been negotiating with MLB on changes to the sport’s drug policy.
GRIZZLIES OWNER ROBERT PERA: Pera and his ownership group paid a reported $377M to buy the Grizzlies from original Owner Michael Heisley. But the 34-year-old Pera added some heavy-hitting celebrities to the club's roster of stakeholders, including entertainer Justin Timberlake, former NBAer and Univ. of Memphis standout Penny Hardaway and the wife of Broncos QB Peyton Manning.
VIKINGS VP/PUBLIC AFFAIRS & STADIUM DEVELOPMENT LESTER BAGLEY: For 13 long years, Bagley toiled to land a new stadium for the Vikings. This year, his patience and persistence finally paid off. Bagley played a key role in getting a deal done with state officials to build a $975M stadium in Minneapolis, ensuring the team’s future in the Twin Cities.
There is no shortage of marketing issues that left their mark on the industry this year. Below are some of the people, campaigns and ideas that made headlines in '12.
JUST LIN, BABY: Linsanity took over the globe in February when Jeremy Lin became one of the most unlikely sports celebs in recent memory. The Knicks and the NBA were caught off guard when demand for Lin jerseys surpassed that of every other player both in the U.S. and in China. Volvo swooped in to sign the Harvard grad to an endorsement deal, while the Knicks capitalized on their sudden popularity in Asia by seeing Coca-Cola put Mandarin ads up at MSG and signing a deal with Japanese tire maker Maxxis International.
SPIN CYCLE: Notorious for standing by its athlete endorsers through thick and thin, Nike reversed course on cyclist Lance Armstrong after the USADA upheld doping allegations, leading to the revocation of his seven Tour de France titles. The shoe giant’s move started a domino effect for Armstrong, with Anheuser-Busch, Trek, FRS and Honey Stinger all following suit. However, Nike stopped short of cutting ties with the Armstrong-founded Livestrong line of apparel and shoes.
Keselowski made waves in the media for his post-
championship celebration in Miami
KISSED BY A ROSE: Longing to land a signature NBA player on which to hang its marketing efforts, adidas signed Bulls G Derrick Rose to a lifetime deal reportedly worth $25M annually. The deal immediately brought comparisons to the relationship a certain former Bulls player has had with Nike for three decades. Rose has yet to see the court this season after tearing his ACL in last season's playoffs, but adidas still pushed forward with a campaign focusing on Rose’s recovery. adidas also maximized its value with the release of a new shoe and apparel line.
NO BULL: Hailed as one of the most logical unions ever struck between a sports property and a brand, the PBR signed as its official beer … PBR. The three-year agreement included the Pabst Blue Ribbon Bull Award as well as in-arena activation at eight tour stops. The brewer drew the line at a media buy, citing company policy to not buy traditional, national TV advertising. Still, the brands synonymous in name finally became synchronized in business.
Sergio Tacchini dropped Djokovic eight years early,
claiming the tennis star had outgrown the brand
FIGHT CLUB: Jon “Bones” Jones became the first MMA fighter to sign a global sponsorship deal with Nike. While Nike previously had country-specific deals with fighters, including Anderson Silva in Brazil, the UFC hailed this agreement as a crossover moment for the sport. Nike later reaffirmed its commitment to the octagon by reaching a pact with UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER: The ever growing realm of social media in sports took flight when the Eagles became the first pro sports team to be featured in Rovio Entertainment’s popular Angry Birds gaming app. The clever deal featured the Mighty Philadelphia Eagles mascot prominently with 16 free levels that unlocked one at a time each week during the NFL season.
Here are some of the highlights from all things media we have seen over the past year.
ESPN waited until December to scale back
its coverage around Tim Tebow
EVERYBODY LOVES TIM: Throughout most of the year, it seemed like “SportsCenter” and other ESPN programs could not go 15 minutes without mentioning Jets QB Tim Tebow. Live training camp shots, televised birthday parties, entire debate shows centered around him -- you name it, the net had it. Forget the fact that Tebow has yet to sniff the Jets’ starting lineup. But as the year drew to a close, ESPN President John Skipper said enough was enough, telling producers to scale back their coverage of the NFL’s most famous backup.
SCORING BIG: It took nearly a decade, but NFL Network and Time Warner Cable finally agreed to a carriage deal in September. Some areas around the country did not get to enjoy it right away, though, as technical issues kept viewers from seeing the network or its “RedZone” channel when games began in Week 2 of the NFL season. The network’s expansion from seven to 13 Thursday night games “added impetus” to making a deal.
Andrews has expanded her role at Fox, working
NFL, MLB and college football broadcasts
NEWS JUDGMENT: The Big Ten Network was roundly criticized for not airing former FBI Dir Louis Freeh’s press conference detailing the results of Penn State’s internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. The net issued a statement saying it “is not and was never intended to be a news organization.” But when the NCAA issued sanctions two weeks later, BTN devoted four hours of coverage to the news and BTN President Mark Silverman expressed regret for not showing the earlier press conference.
SERVING TOO MANY MASTERS? For all the benefits the Longhorn Network touted as bringing to Univ. of Texas athletics, football coach Mack Brown wondered aloud if he was spending precious time on air that could be used preparing for games. He also stressed concern that opponents may be gaining a competitive advantage from watching the network. Brown said, “There’s no question it takes away some of your time. And when you do a show, if your mind is somewhere else, you’re screwing that up, too.”
BLEACHER CREATURES: Turner Sports in August acquired Bleacher Report for an estimated $175M. The move strengthens Turner’s online presence after SI, the PGA Tour and NASCAR decided to take back more control of their websites. It also resulted in Bleacher Report gaining access to online highlights of Turner Sports content such as the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the NBA. The move is described as Time Warner taking steps to narrow the gap between itself and ESPN.
NEW ENGLISH CHANNEL: NBC finally landed another major property to draw viewers to its all-sports channel, as the peacock signed a multiyear deal for the U.S. EPL rights beginning with the ’13-14 season. NBC’s Mark Lazarus admitted the $80-85M annual price tag is steeper than what Fox and ESPN previously paid, but implied the move would pay off. The net does not plan on airing matches on tape-delay, but it will implement its Olympic strategy of putting games on multiple channels.
There was no shortage of comments from sports personalities this year that made us do a double take. Below are some of the more memorable quotes from '12 that had us scratching our heads.
CUBAN MISSLE CRISIS: The Marlins hoped Ozzie Guillen would help make a splash for them as they moved to a new ballpark in Miami, but he immediately alienated the area's Cuban community with comments on Fidel Castro. After saying to Time magazine, “I love Fidel Castro,” Guillen became the object of fan protests at the team’s new venue in Little Havana. He tried to backtrack and explain what he meant, but the damage already had been done. The team suspended him for five games, and the incident probably served as one of the reasons he was fired in September.
YOU TAKE THE GOOD, YOU TAKE THE BAD? Notre Dame will play for the BCS National Championship next month, but Allen Pinkett, the school’s football radio analyst, said prior to the season-opener that the Irish needed to recruit more "bad citizens" in order to be successful. The comments unsurprisingly went over poorly with the Notre Dame fan base, and school AD Jack Swarbrick said he “could not disagree more” with the assertion. Pinkett was suspended for the team’s first three games.
BELIEF SYSTEM: Tim Thomas chose not to visit the White House when the Bruins were honored for winning the '11 Stanley Cup, citing his beliefs that the federal government “has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties, and property of the people.” Thomas, who has made several political statements during his career, tried to explain that his snub was not due to politics or party affiliations. The Bruins did not suspend the Conn Smythe winner, but they did withhold him from a charity appearance in the immediate aftermath.
Costas' remarks on gun control were highly criticized
for coming at halftime of "SNF"
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: In the week leading up to UFC 149, fans inCalgary and on social media sites were blasting UFC President Dana White forwhat was perceived as a poor fight card. White spent the week before the showdefending the lineup, but when the event drew boos from the crowd after threestraight fights lumbered to decisions, White was not shy about sharing hisdispleasure. He said, “We can count on one hand how many shows suck. (Saturday) is one more finger on that hand.”
HE SAID WHAT? Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith have caused many heads to turn with what they have said on ESPN’s“First Take,” but Rob Parker questioning the “blackness” of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III turned into headline news. Parker was suspended for asking whether the ’11 Heisman Trophy winner is a “brother or is he a cornball brother.” ESPN President John Skipper noted that debate shows like “First Take” are “not journalism,” something Parker’s comments certainly seemed to validate.
THE LADIES’ MAN: Headlines followed U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte for his exploits both in and out of the pool during theLondon Games. However, it was Lochte’s mom that caused people to scratch their heads when she said the Gold Medalist onlyhas time for “one-night stands.” Lochte tried to clear up the faux pas by saying, “What she meant is that I’m not in a relationshipso I don’t go on dates. It’s not that negative part.”
RIGHT OR WRONG: Woody Johnson was a large supporter of Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House, and the Jets ownermade his priorities known when he stated he would rather see Romney win the November election than the Jets have a winningseason. The remarks caused a slight furor in N.Y., with SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis saying, “You own a professional teamin order to win championships. … The idea that it's not first at the top of the priority list to me would drive me crazy if I was a Jetfan!”
In an increasingly crowded marketplace, companies now more than ever want to create an advertisement or campaign that stands above the rest. Here are some ads that made an impression on us this year.I LOVE YOU, MAN: Hipster cool met ferocious linebacker in a series of ads for EA Sports’ “Madden NFL 13” featuring actor Paul Rudd and Ravens LB Ray Lewis. The two unlikely combatants spent their days trash-talking during their marathon “Madden” games, at one point playing “Game 192 of 201.” Rudd should be commended for his audacity at taunting one of the NFL’s most-feared hitters during their games, but their on-screen chemistry was clearly on display and the “Madden” franchise is the ultimate beneficiary.
IT’S GOOD TO BE KING: Heat F LeBron James has always been a marketing icon, but after finally winning his first NBA title in June, James' image has seemingly softened. The new-look LeBron clearly played out in his ads for the Samsung Galaxy Note II phone. In the spots, LeBron is seen having breakfast with his children, interacting with fans, getting a haircut at the local barbershop and generally appearing accessible and down-to-earth. The spot depicted a LeBron at ease with himself and his fame.
THAT’S TURRIBLE: Charles Barkley working in a company’s IT department? It happened in a series of ads for CDW. The Basketball HOFer is shown compensating for his lack of IT skills by showcasing his basketball prowess for the company’s hoops team as a “ringer.” However, Barkley in later spots displays his golf skills -- or more precisely lack thereof -- with company execs and clients. The affable Barkley always seems to shine on-camera despite the scarcity of dialogue he is given.
GREATNESS FOUND: Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” ad that ran repeatedly during the London Games featured an overweight 12-year-old boy running alone on a desolate road. The narrator in the commercial talked about how greatness is an abstract concept, something that is invented and not pre-ordained. Nike once again struck a nerve with consumers by creating a spot that resonates beyond just sports fans. The spot was widely lauded for its inspirational message.
THE 10 SPOT: Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III has taken the NFL by storm, carrying the Redskins to the precipice of the playoffs and carving out an impressive off-the-field endorsement portfolio. adidas’ spot for its adiZero 5-Star shoes featured Griffin much like his marketing persona: seemingly everywhere. The spot shows RGIII getting into the head of his opponent, causing him to see Griffin as the bus driver, police officer, team trainer and, of course, playing quarterback for the opposing team.
THE KID’S ALRIGHT: Rickie Fowler is no different than anyone else -- at least that’s what Crowne Plaza tried to prove in an ad that aired throughout the golf season. But who else has analyst Ian Baker-Finch providing commentary throughout such mundane activities as running on the treadmill and eating breakfast? Crowne Plaza became the latest company to hop on the Fowler bandwagon and hope his mass appeal to young fans rubs off on them.
Louis Vuitton wastes little time capitalizing on
Phelps' success at London Games
IN REAL TIME: AT&T deserved a medal itself for how the Olympic sponsor integrated record-breaking and award-winning performances of Team USA athletes, including Ryan Lochte, Rebecca Soni and Sanya Richards-Ross, into TV ads. The spots, created by BBDO, N.Y., aired the day of the respective event. The turnaround to produce the ads was quick, but the spots left a lasting impression. Adweek’s Tim Nudd indicated that the spots were a “clever way for advertisers to tap into the heartwarming sentiment generated by the Olympics.”
"Zdeno, you said you won't be picking all right wingers. Does this mean you won't be picking Tim Thomas?"
-- The Globe & Mail's David Shoalts, after Bruins D Zdeno Chara said his strategy for the NHL All-Star Game draft would be to choose from all positions and not load up on talent from one position, like right wing.
"I wanted to buy a baseball team; they were selling a media rights deal."
-- Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, on being eliminated from contention to buy the Dodgers.
"I really and truly believe that my time has come and gone, that the dynamics of the business -- of what it means to be involved in the sports business with all of the tweeting and the blogging, an audience with a different taste -- it’s not me anymore."
-- Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, explaining why he retired from his full-time position after the London Games.
"You can’t have Twitter determining anything. You got a bunch of people out there that can’t tell the difference between ‘you’re’ the contraction and ‘your’ the possessive, and now they’re going to determine the dunk contest champion?"
-- ESPN's J.A. Adande, on fan voting on social media outlets determining the winner of the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest this year.
"It was like meeting a hot girl that had an abusive boyfriend."
-- MLS Sounders investor Drew Carey, on the team's reception in Seattle following the departure of the Sonics.
"He's going to teach me cricket because I don't understand what's going on with that cricket thing."
-- President Obama, on helping teach basketball to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron during the Western Kentucky-Mississippi Valley State NCAA tournament game.
"We're going to end the season in September, then basically start it again a week later? We make all these changes so that the season ends before football starts, now we're back competing against football again? Dumbest thing I have ever heard."
-- Golfer J.B. Holmes, on schedule changes for the PGA Tour.
"It’s tough when your fans get more excited about a slice of pizza than us winning."
-- Raptors coach Dwane Casey, on fans cheering after the team reached 100 points in a loss to the Magic. Fans receive a free piece of pizza when the Raptors reach the 100-point mark.
"He came to this city with a mouthful of promises and a pocketful of lies. He is a high-falutin, high-class huckster and hustler."
-- Newark Mayor Cory Booker, on Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek after an independent arbitration panel ruled the team should get $2.7M annually in Prudential Center parking revenues.
"This is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, and if you stare at it long enough you’ll start to like it."
-- ESPN's Michael Smith, on the home run sculpture at Marlins Park.
"It looks like it could have been worn on Soviet Union uniforms in basketball in the 1940s. I expected more from Jay-Z."
-- ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, on the Nets' new black and white logos.
"Why are you keeping that a secret from your audience? In the 21st century we have this thing called the Internet. People in Swaziland know a no-hitter is going on."
-- Dodgers radio announcer Charley Steiner, on the Angels' TV crew not mentioning P Jered Weaver was in the middle of a no-hitter.
The BCS National Championship game once again topped the list of the year’s most-viewed sports telecasts on cable TV, with the Alabama-LSU matchup averaging a 14.0 rating and 24.2 million viewers. The Auburn-Oregon BCS title game led all cable sports telecasts last year with a 15.3 rating and 27.3 million viewers. Taking the No. 2 spot once again was the Rose Bowl on ESPN, which drew a 10.2 rating and 17.6 million viewers for Oregon against Wisconsin. Those two games have topped the list of most-watched cable sports telecasts since the BCS games moved to cable TV in ’11. The 16 “MNF” telecasts to date occupy most of the spots in the top 25. This year’s most-viewed “MNF” to date was the Oct. 1 Cowboys-Bears matchup, which drew a 10.5 rating and 16.6 million viewers. The most-viewed non-football telecast on cable was ESPN's coverage of Game 7 of the Heat-Celtics NBA Eastern Conference Finals on June 9. That game ranked 10th overall with a 7.7 rating and 13.3 million viewers, while marking the NBA’s most-viewed game ever on cable TV. ESPN led all nets with 24 of the top 25 most-viewed cable TV telecasts. Only TNT’s Thunder-Spurs NBA Western Conference Finals Game Six cracked the top 25. See tomorrow’s issue for a ranking of the most-viewed sports telecasts on broadcast TV.MOST-VIEWED SPORTS TELECASTS ON CABLE TV THROUGH DEC. 17RKDATE
PROGRAMNETRAT.VIEWERS (000)11/9 BCS National Championship: Alabama-LSUESPN14.024,21421/2 Rose Bowl: Oregon-WisconsinESPN10.217,558310/1 "Monday Night Football": Bears-CowboysESPN10.516,616412/3 "Monday Night Football": Giants-RedskinsESPN10.216,20959/24 "Monday Night Football": Packers-SeahawksESPN10.316,16769/17 "Monday Night Football": Broncos-FalconsESPN10.015,515712/10 "Monday Night Football": Texans-PatriotsESPN9.014,483810/8 "Monday Night Football": Texans-JetsESPN9.014,04791/2 Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State-StanfordESPN8.413,684106/9 NBA Eastern Conf. Finals: Heat-Celtics: Game 7ESPN7.713,3461111/5 "Monday Night Football": Eagles-SaintsESPN8.212,8571210/15 "Monday Night Football": Broncos-ChargersESPN8.212,8411311/12 "Monday Night Football": Chiefs-SteelersESPN8.212,8241411/19 "Monday Night Football": Bears-49ersESPN7.912,472156/7 NBA Eastern Conf. Finals: Heat-Celtics: Game 6ESPN6.811,068166/3 NBA Eastern Conf. Finals: Heat-Celtics: Game 4ESPN6.811,068179/10 "Monday Night Football": Bengals-RavensESPN7.010,9041811/26 "Monday Night Football": Panthers-EaglesESPN7.010,7791910/29 "Monday Night Football": 49ers-CardinalsESPN6.810,7212010/22 "Monday Night Football": Lions-BearsESPN6.610,664219/10 "Monday Night Football": Chargers-RaidersESPN6.810,450226/5 NBA Eastern Conf. Finals: Heat-Celtics: Game 5ESPN6.310,2512312/17 "Monday Night Football": Jets-TitansESPN6.610,145241/3 Sugar Bowl: Michigan-Virginia TechESPN6.19,572256/6 NBA Western Conf. Finals: Thunder-Spurs: Game 6TNT6.09,498