Pistons challenge fans to virtual game USA Swimming appeals to listmakers People: Executive transactions From the Field of Management Earnhardt open to career in broadcasting Yormark, Cooper form naming-rights venture Faces and Places Cartoon: The real winner The Sit-Down: Felix Palau, Tecate Skipper: There’s no liberal bias at ESPN
SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/This Weeks IssuePrint All
It took three days of deliberation last month for a federal jury in Boston to decide that trademark rights in the phrase "Green Monster" belong to the Boston Red Sox.
Three days? Who else could claim ownership in the nickname of Fenway Park's famed left-field wall?
Meet the D'Angelo brothers: Agostino, Paul and Peter. From 1986 to 1993, the hustling entrepreneurs sold T-shirts from a large hand-painted cart parked outside Fenway Park. A "Green Monster" shirt they designed was the brothers' hottest model, racking up sales of about 80,000 in the seven years, according to their lawyer, Joel Barshak.
In 1993, the Red Sox began producing their own "Green Monster" shirts. Soon, they'd used their superior merchandising and marketing muscle to nearly put the independent T-shirt vendor out of business.
A year later, the D'Angelos filed a lawsuit against the Red Sox in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts claiming trademark infringement in "Green Monster." In their suit, the D'Angelos argued they were first to make sustained use of "Green Monster" on T-shirts. As the first, they argued, their rights should trump those of the Red Sox, even though the team obtained a formal trademark for "Green Monster" in 1992.
Evidence of "first use" is a key factor in deciding trademark rights, so the Red Sox's attorneys faced a major challenge. Team lawyer Daniel Goldberg hit on the solution when he learned that the Red Sox had sold "Green Monster" novelties as early as the 1970s, a decade before the D'Angelos began hawking their shirts. The problem was proving it to a jury.
It would have been a simple matter for Goldberg to parade in front of the jury box with a "Green Monster" T-shirt circa 1970s — if he had one. A search of numerous memorabilia shops and Web auctions failed to turn up any.
"We're talking about having saved a T-shirt from the late 1970s or early '80s. It wasn't surprising we weren't able to locate any of the product," the team lawyer said.
Business records showing T-shirt orders and sales also couldn't be located. A fire in 1988 destroyed them, Goldberg said.
So, the Red Sox relied on testimony from witnesses, including former concession workers, ex-ballplayer Rico Petrocelli and team broadcaster Ken Coleman. Petrocelli testified he bought "Green Monster" shirts for his four sons at the ballpark before the D'Angelos began their business, Goldberg said. Others said they remembered "Green Monster" pennants, pins, buttons and other knickknacks for sale at Fenway Park.
The jury bought the Red Sox's case. Barshak, lawyer for the D'Angelo family, has his doubts.
He said the Red Sox tried to dazzle the jury with a lineup of star witnesses. "I'll guess that the Red Sox felt if they put famous, respected people on the stand like Mr. Petrocelli to say that 'Green Monster' had been used continuously by the team, it would be hard not to believe them," he said.
And Barshak has a problem with the jury instructions, which he claimed muddied the issue of whether a few, isolated uses of "Green Monster" by the Red Sox was enough to give the team trademark protection. He said his clients are weighing an appeal, though "It takes a lot of effort for little guys to go up against a big corporation."
It's not the first time a T-shirt vendor has tangled in court with a sports team or stadium landlord. In 1992, the Maryland Stadium Authority sued a T-shirt vendor who was hawking shirts that read "Camden Yards Means Baltimore."
The vendor, Roy Becker, began selling his shirts in July 1991, almost a year before the Camden Yards park opened and several months before it officially got its name. Becker sold the shirts at several locations, including Memorial Stadium, where the Orioles were playing their final season.
Becker argued that the authority's claim that it owned the Camden Yards site where the stadium was being built wasn't enough to create a trademark because the authority hadn't yet sold shirts or other merchandise with the Camden Yards name. And his lawyers pointed out that on the shirts there wasn't even a mention of a new stadium.
But the court rejected that argument. And in an opinion that reads like a page out of a Roger Angell New Yorker piece, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz wrote: "For any reasonable person to have made any association other than baseball with the Camden Yards name would have been as unlikely as Boog Powell hitting an inside-the-park home run, Paul Blair playing too deep, Brooks Robinson dropping a pop-up ... or Cal Ripken Jr. missing a game because of a cold. It is of such stuff that summary judgment is made."
Mark Hyman (Balthyman@aol.com) is a lawyer and a free-lance writer.
ABC Sports is seeking about $150,000, sources said, for a 30-second spot on its live prime-time broadcast of the Lincoln Financial Group Battle at Bighorn, a one-round, alternate-shot match pitting Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam against David Duval and Karrie Webb on July 30.
Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales, would not divulge the asking price. He did say, however, that almost 80 percent of the broadcast's advertising time has been sold.
Lincoln Financial was also the title sponsor of last year's prime-time Battle at Bighorn, which matched Woods against Sergio Garcia. Erhardt declined to divulge the cost of this year's title sponsorship, but industry sources said the price tag is about $3 million.
ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales has signed several advertisers for this year's event that did not buy commercial time on last year's Woods vs. Garcia match. Those advertisers include British Airways, National Car Rental, Siemens and the Williams Cos. Among those returning this year are MasterCard International, Titleist, Callaway Golf Co. and Coors Brewing Co., which again will have exclusivity in the beer category.
"I think [the event] is going to have very broad, mass appeal," Erhardt said. "It's going to bring in the Tiger audience, but it's also going to bring in casual golf viewers and sports fans in general."
ABC is estimating an 8.0 Nielsen household ratings average for the made-for-TV event, which is scheduled to tee off from the Canyons Course at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif., at 8 p.m. ET.
Last summer's Woods-Garcia duel delivered a 7.6 household ratings average, up 10 percent from the 6.9 average generated the previous year by the inaugural prime-time match that featured Woods vs. Duval.
Erhardt said next month's event, a partnership of IMG and ABC Sports, is attracting interest from companies that are not traditional golf advertisers — sponsors looking to reach either the adult demographic or female viewers.
"That's because it's in prime time and because it has a male/female crossover appeal," he said.
The PGA Tour, ABC and ESPN are teaming up to provide an unprecedented local/national one-two promotional punch for the New York City-area tourney that the networks will televise Thursday through Sunday, ranging from local late-night highlights programs to tie-ins with ABC TV shows.
If the campaign for the Buick Classic proves successful, it could lead to similar efforts between the PGA Tour and ABC/ ESPN for other tour events in major markets next season. It also could serve as a blueprint for similar projects in the future between the tour and its other television partners.
Elements of the PGA Tour/ ABC/ESPN project will include late-night (starting at 11:30 p.m. ET) Buick Classic highlights shows airing Thursday and Friday on New York City's WABC-TV, an ABC owned-and-operated station; live cut-ins on ABC's "Good Morning America" of Wednesday's pro-am event ("GMA's" Jack Ford will play with Tiger Woods in the pro-am); extensive on-site hospitality for clients and customers of the tour and ABC/ ESPN; a party Wednesday at Gracie Mansion, where New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani resides; tune-in ads Thursday in USA Today and The New York Times; Buick Classic scores cycled on the Times Square ticker; an appearance at the tournament by the ESPN interactive truck, which includes a replica of the "SportsCenter" set inside; and on-site tournament reports from a "SportsCenter" correspondent.
One other possibility: an appearance by a tour player this week on the ABC program "The View," which targets female viewers.
Promotional efforts are already under way at the ESPN Zone restaurant in Times Square, at espn.com and at New York-based WABC-AM and Radio Disney. In addition, Buick Classic promo ads have been running extensively on the Times Square JumboTron.
"It's an example of how an integrated marketing program and concept can work with a league and with an advertiser in a local market," said Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales. "We're looking at the potential of doing this in other markets with the tour." The most likely sites would be major advertising markets where ABC has an owned-and-operated station.
Beyond that, the idea could stretch to the tour's other TV partners. "It's something we would like to try to do with all of our television partners ultimately, in as many markets as we can," said Donna Orender, the PGA Tour's senior vice president of television, production and new media.
Erhardt and Orender refused to divulge the monetary value of the promotion, but industry sources estimate that it's in the low six figures.
In 1999, ABC/ESPN acquired the TV rights to the Buick Classic — which is run by the tour's Championship Management division — and since then, according to Orender, the tour has wanted "to take advantage of the New York market in a much bigger way."
On Friday, for example, ABC/ESPN will bus a group of New York-based ad agency media buyers and planners from Manhattan to the Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., site of the PGA Tour event. Tuesday, ABC/ESPN will hold a golf tournament at the Westchester Country Club for a group of its customers, including General Motors executives, as well as ad industry execs.
The NBA may have shattered its playoff attendance record, but its overall playoff television ratings are down compared with last year as the league prepares to enter into negotiations for a new TV contract later this summer.
According to the NBA, the league broke its total playoff attendance record, set last year, after Game 4 of the NBA Finals last Wednesday, pushing its total to 1,438,744, or 12,238 more fans than last year. This year's playoffs were averaging 20,553 fans a game through Game 4.
Helping break the attendance record were first- and second-round ticket discounts offered by the Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.
While television ratings of the NBA Finals on NBC have increased this year compared with last year, overall playoff ratings have fallen. According to NBC, the first four games of the Finals generated a 15.1 rating this year, compared with a 13.3 rating last year. Overall playoff games this year had generated an average 5.7 rating on NBC, a drop of 4.9 percent from last year's playoffs. Turner Sports' playoff game broadcasts generated a 2.3 rating this year compared with last year's 2.8 mark.
That's not good news for the league, which has seen its ratings fall every year since Michael Jordan retired after the 1997-98 season. Come September, the NBA will enter a 30-day exclusive negotiating window with NBC and Turner for a new TV deal. The current contract expires at the end of next season.
While overall playoff ratings have dipped, the league's Internet traffic on nba.com has been on the rise. On June 7, the day after the first game of the NBA Finals, nba.com set a single-day record for traffic with nearly 1.2 million visitors. Through Game 3 of the finals, nba.com had more than 5 million visitors, a 40 percent increase over the first three games of last year's Finals.
Jennifer Capriati could become the next female athlete to score a megabucks endorsement contract, on the heels of her French Open victory.
Capriati's agent, IMG, is renegotiating the tennis star's apparel and racket contracts. Capriati signed a three-year clothing and footwear contract with Fila in early 2000 when she was still working on a comeback that this year has seen her win the first two legs of the sport's Grand Slam.
That contract, sources said, pays her less than a six-figure annual guarantee, though performance bonuses could bring her close to $1 million this year if she wins several more major tournaments. That leaves her well behind many other top tennis players, even though she is now ranked No. 4 in the world and rising.
Venus Williams, for example, signed a five-year, nearly $40 million deal with Reebok last December, and Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis command $2 million to $3 million annual guarantees from their shoe and clothing sponsor (both are Adidas endorsers).
So the Fila talks are sure to revolve around substantial increases in money. Capriati's current contract gives both sides the option of ending the deal after this year.
"We anticipate we are going to reach an agreement that both parties are comfortable with," said Howe Burch, Fila's head of sports marketing. "But we haven't got into the numbers."
IMG's Barbara Perry, who manages Capriati, expressed hope that a deal could be concluded in several weeks.
"We are waiting for offers from these companies," she said of Fila and Capriati's racket company, Prince, which also is renegotiating its deal.
Timing could be everything. Were Capriati to win Wimbledon, which begins next Monday, the media attention leading up to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships would likely be enormous as she tried to complete the Grand Slam.
"The visibility for us is such a great story," Burch said of the coverage Capriati's French victory attracted. "Look at the front page of The New York Times, Washington Post front page. Every major publication in the world she is the lead sports story." Nearly all those stories featured photos of Capriati in a Fila cap and dress.
Fila planned a full-page ad promoting Capriati's affiliation with the Italian company in the Sports Illustrated that hit the stands late last week.
IMG's Perry also said she would try to negotiate some non-tennis deals for the 24-year-old Capriati. She endorsed a wireless phone company last year, but the firm entered bankruptcy proceedings, Perry said. That leaves her with just Prince and Fila.
No blockbuster deals are expected for the French Open men's winner, Gustavo Kuerten, whose plate is already quite full of deals with Diadora, Head, Banco do Brasil, Motorola and globo.com.
Kuerten's decision to skip Wimbledon because of a groin injury, and perhaps because of his stated dissatisfaction with the tournament's seeding plans, has caused no complaints from sponsors, said Jorge Salkeld, the Brazilian's agent with Octagon.
"They all understand what he is going through," Salkeld said.
Despite the recent devastation of Tropical Storm Allison, a Houston group bidding to bring the 2012 Olympic Games to the Texas city will not request a postponement of a July 16-19 evaluation visit by the U.S. Olympic Committee. More than 20 inches of rain flooded highways and neighborhoods, damaging an estimated 20,000 homes.
"It was the worst flood in anybody's memory," said Houston 2012 executive director Susan Bandy. "It was a very significant event. But everyone has pulled together."
An eight-member team of USOC staffers and volunteers is in Dallas this week, the second stop of a site evaluation tour of the eight U.S. cities poised to enter the global race to host the 2012 Games. The group launched its tour in Washington, D.C.
To come after Houston are Cincinnati (July 23-26); New York (July 30-Aug. 2); Tampa (Aug. 2-5); San Francisco (Aug. 20-23); and Los Angeles (Aug. 23-26).
Candidate cities are required to demonstrate that they can cover the costs of preparing for and hosting the Games, as well as deliver a plan for world-class facilities, organizational integrity, proximity between venues and transportation efficiency.
To meet preliminary requirements, city bid officials already have submitted budget projections to stage the 2012 Games. These range from just under $2 billion (Houston and Los Angeles) to more than $3 billion (New York).
Ultimately, the USOC must put forward a candidate capable of competing against some global heavyweights. If, as many predict, Beijing is awarded the 2008 Games, a U.S. candidate would face competition from the likes of Istanbul, Paris and Toronto. Most observers believe that if the 2008 Games are in Toronto, a U.S. city cannot be a serious contender until the vote for the 2016 Games in 2009.
THE GAMES BEGIN: Cabdrivers in the 2004 Olympic host city of Athens apparently embrace the Olympic tradition of "special prices," even with the Games three years away.
A visitor to Greece for recent meetings between organizers of the Games and representatives of the 10 global Olympic sponsors encountered one such driver. The passenger was given two options — a cheaper but longer route to his hotel for the flat fare of 6,000 drachma ($15), or the quicker, beachfront route for a higher fare of 8,000 drachma ($20). The metered fare, in another cab, was 2,500 drachma ($6.25).
REALITY CHECKS: Two of America's largest daily newspapers took recent aim on subjects with Olympic ties.
A Wall Street Journal editorial referenced Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in the context of China's recent confrontation with a U.S. spy plane. "Almost surely confirming in China's eyes that this is acceptable," the editorial stated, "the White House says it won't stand in the way of China's bid for the coveted 2008 Olympics."
In reality, a deliberate U.S. campaign to stop the Games from being awarded to Beijing would almost surely guarantee a Beijing victory in this July's voting by the 126 members of the International Olympic Committee. Fifty-nine IOC members are European, with the remaining balance largely spread among Asian and African nations. Only four IOC members are U.S. citizens. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, is an honorary, nonvoting member.
A Los Angeles Times editorial slammed a program enacted by organizers of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games to auction limited tickets via eBay's online marketplace: "What is democratic about ensuring that only royalty can afford a prime seat to these allegedly amateur games? ... [Mitt] Romney and his aides have worked valiantly to salvage Salt Lake's tarnished Olympics. Now they stand to tarnish it again, by winning the Olympic gold medal for gouging."
Not only does the IOC Charter contain zero references to the word "amateur," the original intent of so-called amateurism was to include only members of society's most affluent classes. Additionally, if a U.S. organizing committee has a budgetary shortfall, it can't look for a bailout from the national government, as in most places around the world where Olympics are staged. Here, deficits are covered by local or state taxpayers.
AFRICAN NATIONS FOR 199: Outgoing IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, 80, last week set out to fulfill his pledge to visit all 199 national Olympic committees before his 21-year reign ends. The three remaining on his list were Burundi, Comoros and Eritrea, which were scheduled stops during an African tour.
Send comments and advisories to SteveWoodwardHere@hotmail.com.
Let's say you're a thriving architectural company with a sports practice based in Florida.
You want to expand that sports facility business, though, so you study lists of potential clients and where they're located, maybe gawk awhile at a U.S. atlas for possible office sites and decide to strike off for ...
Sounds a bit odd, to say the least, considering that the Kansas City area contains at least seven major sports architecture companies — including three of the top four in recent yearly revenue.
"Some of my friends looked at me like I was crazy," said Bob Carlson, a lead project designer for DLR Group who relocated from Tampa to take over in May as the firm's sports business guru in Kansas City. "They say I'm just getting worse weather and all the competition in the world."
Nevertheless, Carlson and his DLR compatriots seem cheerfully confident as the new crew in town. They're also quick to point out that the Kansas City sports practice won't be left to stand on its own against the likes of HOK, Ellerbe Becket, HNTB, Heinlein Schrock Stearns and others.
"Since we were doing more business in sports, it made sense to have people in three areas of the country instead of just Florida," Carlson said. "Stan Meradith is still in charge in Tampa, and Michael Brady is handling sports projects in the western part of the country from our office in Sacramento."
Still, selecting Kansas City as the Midwest center seems a bit odd, especially considering that DLR's national headquarters sit only three hours up the highway in Omaha.
For another thing, although DLR has two offices in the Kansas City area, neither is more than 7 years old. Nor has DLR handled any previous sports business from its Kansas City locations.
"You want to hear an even funnier thing?" asked Carrie Stallwitz, DLR client service manager. "Our downtown office is about 80 yards away from HOK."
All chuckles aside, DLR is serious about the move.
The company's overall revenue last year ran to $83.2 million, of which about $4.75 million came from sports. This year, projections suggest that the sports and entertainment practice could reach $10 million.
Among DLR's recent sports design successes are — coincidentally — the just-opened Kansas Speedway, a 75,000-seat facility that will host its first Winston Cup race in September, and Haymarket Park, a spectacular minor league ballpark that is now home to the Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs.
DLR also is the architect for Omaha's new convention center complex, which will include a sports arena.
Carlson and DLR worked on the Kansas Speedway for more than four years, acting as design subcontractor to project manager HNTB and the track's owner, International Speedway Corp.
"The track brought us some publicity and awareness in Kansas City," Carlson said, "but that project originated when most of the DLR people involved were still in Tampa. Prior to that, we had done some planning studies for ISC, along with designs for suite and grandstand renovations at tracks in Daytona and Phoenix.
"ISC also had seen designs we'd done on several baseball spring training facilities in Florida and some other work as well, so they thought we would make a good partner for this speedway."
Thus, when Kansas Speedway opened to favorable reviews in May, DLR was able to share some of the kudos with HNTB, ISC and Turner Construction, the general contractor.
Carlson and other DLR principals praised HNTB, in particular, for making the collaboration so successful. They also concede the project was a swell marketing tool.
"Yes, it turned out to be a nice jump-start for our Kansas City-based Midwest sports practice," said Jim Galle, DLR principal, "but that was just a bit of fortunate timing. It wasn't what drove the decision to divide sports into three regions or Bob's move to Kansas City."
What remains to be seen is how serious a player DLR turns out to be in a community almost overrun with sports facility architects.
"We're going to stay underneath their radar," Carlson joked. "We're going to concentrate on the minor leagues, collegiate facilities and, obviously, motorsports. We're not in a position to bid for huge stadium projects, because at our size, it's simply too expensive."
On the other hand, DLR already has hired about a half-dozen designers away from other Kansas City-based firms, including four from HOK.
"Just because we understand our limitations and want to concentrate on what we do best," Galle said, "doesn't mean we're not serious about making this a profitable move. We're here, and we're definitely going to be out hustling work."
One new project already has hit the fast lane: DLR has contracted to design a $51 million, 40,000-seat auto track in Newton, Iowa. Track developers requested a state grant for that project last week, although $22.3 million of the funding will come from private sources.
"We've had confidence all along that financing would take shape on the Newton track," Carlson said. "It's an exciting project, and it can become a huge success. That's one of the reasons we've gotten so deeply into motorsports. These tracks all work if they're done right, and the Midwest is great auto racing country.
"Someday, people might not look at us as being quite so crazy for taking a share of our sports practice to Kansas City."
A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. has been named financial adviser and underwriter as the city of Albuquerque, N.M., prepares to sell $10 million in general obligation bonds to pay for the renovation of its 33-year-old Sports Stadium.
Albuquerque voters decided earlier this month to approve the expenditure, which paves the way for the Class AAA Calgary Cannons to move to New Mexico. In that same election, a proposal for a new downtown stadium was defeated.
A.G. Edwards & Sons already has been involved in this bid for the return of pro baseball to Albuquerque, having served as adviser in the deal between the city and the Cannons' ownership group.
Tim Offtermatt, managing director of investment banking at A.G. Edwards, said the bond sale probably will take place in the fourth quarter of this year.
— Steve Cameron
Conference USA has reached an agreement with ESPN Regional and Monarch Productions to produce and syndicate an 18-event package of games for the newly created Conference USA Television Network.
Under the agreement, ESPN and Monarch will jointly produce the games while Monarch, in conjunction with conference officials, will be responsible for syndication.
The 2001-02 network package includes 13 conference women's basketball games and five championship events in such sports as soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball. Conference officials are completing a schedule for the live telecasts.
Once the schedule is complete, Monarch and C-USA officials will send it to network and cable affiliates in member institutions' markets and outside markets, said John McNamara, an associate commissioner for C-USA.
Conference officials hope that having a package of events will make it easier to get multiple clearances on network affiliates, McNamara said. In addition to covering production costs of the games, the conference is giving 50 percent of available advertising inventory to networks that carry its games.
The remaining ad inventory will be used to promote the conference and its members or rolled into the conference's corporate marketing packages, McNamara said.
The main objective is to increase exposure for the conference and its sports, McNamara said. Conference officials have budgeted the television network to be a conference expense in its first year but are optimistic that they will break even and perhaps turn a profit on the network in two to three years. McNamara wouldn't disclose financial figures.
Athletic officials at the Air Force Academy finally have given the word: Let there be lights.
Almost as an afterthought to last week's announcement by Brad De-Austin, deputy athletic director, that the academy hopes to raise $5 million for a new baseball stadium and other projects, school officials confirmed that they intend to have $500,000 worth of lights installed at Falcon Stadium this summer.
ABC has contacted Air Force about televising its Sept. 1 season opener against defending national champion Oklahoma, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. local time in Colorado Springs, Colo. That game would be carried regionally, since ABC already has scheduled a Wisconsin-Oregon game for the same time and is considering another regional game involving a Big East team.
Whether the Oklahoma game reaches ABC or not, DeAustin indicated that installation of permanent lights makes fiscal sense, since evening telecasts have increased dramatically and the academy has had to pay a $60,000 rental fee for each night game at 40-year-old Falcon Stadium.
Concerning the baseball stadium fund drive, DeAustin said he hoped the 2,500-seat facility would be ready by 2006.
"There's no date set, but it's part of a five-year plan," DeAustin said. "Almost certainly, this would be privately funded. It would be a lot of small donations and maybe a couple of big donations."
The ballpark would be covered with Field Turf, since Air Force traditionally has struggled with bad weather early each baseball season, and include heating coils along with a first-rate drainage system.
Among the other upgrades in the works are a $1.2 million Falcons Nest Lounge in the field house and a $1.5 million Sports Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the biggest problem broadcasters have televising tennis is not knowing who will play: Pete Sampras makes the finals one week, but some no-name the next.
Now the powers behind the sport hope their decision to increase the number of seeds at Grand Slam events will at least mean that more stars make their way into the later rounds of major tournaments. By doubling the number of seeds from 16 to 32 (25 percent of the total field), no one ranked in the top 32 would play each other until round three.
At the French Open last month, 22nd-ranked Barbara Schett beat second-ranked Venus Williams in the first round. As it turns out, that was the last gasp of the old seeding regime.
"This provides a greater percentage chance of top players playing in week two of a tournament," said Arlen Kantarian, chief executive of professional tennis at the U.S. Tennis Association, which owns the U.S. Open, one of the four Grand Slams.
For example, Kantarian said, CBS Sports, which pays more than $30 million to televise two weekends of U.S. Open tennis, does not even begin broadcasting until the third round. It was at the request of broadcasters and others, Kantarian said, that the USTA lobbied for the change.
Gregg Picker, who produces tennis for USA Sports, a division of USA Network that televises weekday matches at the French and U.S. opens, said in the long run tennis would be better off. But he said some classic first-round matches would now go by the board. The early round Schett-Williams matchup, for example, was a boon to USA's French Open ratings, which were up 40 percent this year.
Kantarian sees sponsors benefiting from the new seeding system, too, because most of their hospitality is geared toward week two of the tournaments.
The decision to double the number of seeds at the French, Australian and U.S. opens and Wimbledon was made by the Grand Slam committee, which includes representatives from all four tournaments. The new seeding will take effect next week at Wimbledon.
That has not stopped some players with clay court expertise from threatening to boycott Wimbledon. Wimbledon is alone among the four Grand Slams in seeding players subjectively and not based on ATP or WTA rankings, using instead prowess on grass courts.
World No. 1-ranked tennis player Martina Hingis sued her former footwear and apparel company for $40 million, arguing its sneakers hurt her feet and forced her to withdraw from tournaments in 1998 and 1999.
Sergio Tacchini, the Italian fashion company, disputed the Hingis claim.
The lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of the state of New York on June 6, said Hingis signed a five-year, $5.6 million endorsement contract (plus performance bonuses) in 1996.
Two doctors in 1998 said the Tacchini sneakers Hingis was wearing caused her foot injuries, the lawsuit said. But she kept wearing the shoes until Tacchini terminated her contract in April 1999.
Hingis, who is represented by Octagon, now endorses Adidas. She was a client of IMG when she signed the Tacchini contract, until March 1999.
— Daniel Kaplan
Ignite Sports Media laid off roughly one-quarter of its 100-person staff last Wednesday, making it one of the last large sports-Web publishers to respond to the tough Internet economy.
The cuts affected all departments of the company, reaching as high as vice presidents, according to Hank Adams, Ignite CEO. The company has nearly 20 clients, including sports teams, leagues and media companies, but the cuts do not affect any Ignite employees working in-house at those clients, Adams said.
The company had been considering cuts for a few months, both because of the tight online advertising marketplace and because the company has reached a point where its publishing technology requires fewer hands.
Adams said the company is targeting clients outside pro sports teams and major governing bodies, including universities, radio stations, print publications and smaller governing bodies. He said this reflects several industry realities: that rights-fee deals with teams are a thing of the past and that developers must have fee-based deals to survive, but those deals must be economical for the clients. Fewer than half of Ignite's partners are fee-paying, Adams said.
The company existed on $5 million in private funding for its first two years and received an additional $17 million early this year. Adams said the cuts, which will mean a seven-figure yearly savings, keep the company in line to become profitable late next year.
"We're a very frugal shop, and this was driven by the marketplace," he said. "We have money."
Separately, Ignite has signed deals with two more NFL teams to represent their sites to the ad community on a commission basis. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders join the Philadelphia Eagles as Ignite-represented teams. Ignite does not develop those teams' sites. Ignite handles site-development and sales duties for 10 other NFL teams and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The New York Jets have chosen FieldTurf as a replacement for the old AstroTurf at their two practice fields at Hofstra University on Long Island.
The Jets will be covering more than 100,000 square feet on the two fields for a cost of about $500,000. Installation of the new turf is expected to be completed in time for training camp this summer.
Montreal-based FieldTurf also announced that the company has been selected by the expansion Houston Texans to provide the surface for one of the team's three practice fields. The Texans' indoor field is expected to cover about 90,000 square feet, making the FieldTurf purchase in the $450,000 range. Work is scheduled to begin in December.
Costs for FieldTurf range from $5.25 to $5.50 a square foot, depending on installation situations such as removal of old turf and whether there is an existing base for the new turf.
FieldTurf now has more than 300 clients worldwide, including several in the NFL. The surface is being used at the practice facilities of the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
— Steve Cameron
It's been a good few months for Action Performance Cos. CEO Fred Wagenhals. His company's stock, after a year in the tank, has rebounded from $2.50 a share to more than $20 a share. And now, he has unveiled a promotional program that he figures will sell more than $20 million worth of NASCAR-themed toy cars and
"This is going to be the big one — the biggest single program in the history of the sport," said Wagenhals, a salesman in full bloom. "It's got tremendous potential because it's got so much range and so many companies putting weight behind it."
The program brings together Chevrolet and Warner Bros., two companies that first worked in tandem in 1998, to slap Looney Tunes characters on seven cars that will run Sept. 8 in the Chevy Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond, Va.
Seven cars means seven drivers selling the program and seven sponsors — along with Chevy, Warner Bros. and NASCAR — promoting it. Drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Kevin Harvick, the wunderkind who has taken over Dale Earnhardt's Goodwrench ride, figure to give the promotion legs with collectors and fans.
All seven sponsors — DuPont, Goodwrench, Pennzoil, America Online, Kellogg's, Lowe's Home Improvement and Square D — will activate the promotion through sweepstakes and use it in their advertising, Wagenhals said.
"Everybody here will do a special program," Wagenhals said. "They all have the rights to put those characters in a promotion. You better believe they're going to use them."
It took two years for Chevy, Warner Bros. and Action to nail down the details of the promotion, which grew out of the initial thought of having Dale Earnhardt drive a Taz car and Gordon drive a Bugs Bunny car. Earnhardt met with all three parties at his Dale Earnhardt Inc. offices in January, but died after crashing at the Daytona 500 a month later.
The companies considered including Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the promotion but couldn't because his sponsor is Budweiser, which wasn't considered a good fit for the Looney Tunes characters.
The paint schemes differ from most one-race promotions in that the regular primary sponsors of the respective cars share real estate with Warner Bros., rather than ceding it to them. That means Pennzoil still will have its logo on a yellow car on which Sylvester stalks Tweety.
Chevrolet also will throw support behind the program.
"We're not going at any of this halfway," said Don Parkinson, brand manager for Monte Carlo, who plans to back the promotion with TV ads and billboards in the region. "We're running all of the marketing elements two or three weeks ahead of the race. When we get done, we'll see huge lifts in sales that we can attribute to this program."
On a standard race weekend, even without a promotion that carries the scope of the Warner Bros. program, Chevrolet sees a sales increase of 30 percent to 35 percent in a region when it activates its NASCAR sponsorship in conjunction with a Winston Cup race, Parkinson said.
"Believe me," Parkinson said, "the ROI [return on investment] is there."
Action Performance is expecting record returns, Wagenhals said. The largest one-race seller to date came from the Coca-Cola promotion that featured Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who raced each other for the first time in a postseason exhibition in Japan after the 1998 season. That promotion yielded $20 million in sales.
Based on advance orders from shopping channel QVC and other merchandise outlets, the Looney Tunes program is "already far beyond that," Wagenhals said.
Action Performance announced another program with an entertainment icon last week when it unveiled a paint scheme featuring Indiana native James Dean that Johnny Benson will drive Aug. 5 at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.
The LPGA, 17 tournaments into its 2001 season, is seeing significant jumps in its television viewership and use of its Web site.
On the television side, numbers are up in all areas, said Julie Tyson, director of broadcast affairs for the LPGA. The most accurate reflection of that is in comparing the numbers for the State Farm LPGA Series, a 12-tournament series that airs on ESPN and ESPN2 and culminates in early September with the tour's State Farm Rail Classic, Tyson said.
In the first 13 telecasts of series tournaments this year, the LPGA has increased its household impressions by 44 percent from 265,000 for the same period last year to 381,000 this year.
As for ratings, the association has seen a slight jump in average cable ratings from a 0.3 to a 0.4 for series events this year.
Meanwhile, the LPGA's recently relaunched Web site also is seeing increased traffic. Page views for May are up 90 percent from May 2000 to 2.74 million, said Julie Miller, the LPGA's marketing development manager for interactive media.
Data also shows that visitors to lpga.com are having average session rates of about 12.5 minutes, she said. That figure, while high for the LPGA, is lower than the user times for other sports sites. According to data from Nielsen/NetRatings, pgatour.com users are posting average session times of 24.5 minutes, nba.com users are at 16.5 minutes and wnba.com users are on its site for 13.7 minutes.
"I'm not sure we have an exact science to why this is happening," said Karen Durkin, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the LPGA.
In fact, Durkin thinks multiple factors — the increased popularity of golf and women's sports, telecast and Web enhancements such as miking players and introducing interactive elements on its Web site, and outside factors such as the Senior PGA Tour's move from ESPN and ESPN2 to CNBC — are contributing to the association's recent multimedia success.
But the two biggest factors, according to Durkin, are "No. 1, the increased emphasis the LPGA has put on brand relevance and capturing more audience, and No. 2, Annika 'Mrs. 59' Sorenstam and her rivalry with Karrie [Webb]."
And as Sorenstam and Webb gear up to play in prime time with Tiger Woods and David Duval next month, Durkin hopes the association will see continued growth.
"We're not done with the year yet, but we're getting the sense that things are going to continue to be on the upswing as far as our media equities go," she said.
MassMutual Financial Group and its Oppenheimer Funds Inc. affiliate have reached an agreement with women's sports agent and marketer Sue Rodin and officials from Game Face Productions to sponsor a photo exhibit that will feature images of women in amateur and professional sports.
The exhibit, titled "Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?" will open June 27 at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and be on display for six months. The collection will then travel to cities nationwide.
As sponsors for the exhibit, MassMutual and Oppenheimer Funds will fund most of the cost of creating the exhibit and travel costs for the collection, said Jane Gottesman of Game Face. The companies will also create community outreach programs to create sports awareness for girls and young women, she said.
VOLLEYBALL CITIES: The United States Professional Volleyball League is scheduled Tuesday to announce Chicago; Rochester, Minn.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and St. Louis as its first four team markets.
The league, which is scheduled to begin play with eight teams in February, is still deciding among other team markets, contracting with venues, identifying an investor group and developing team logos. Those developments, according to league spokesman Mike Miazga, should be announced during the next couple of months.
Miazga said the league has scheduled an athlete tryout camp for July at the league's training facility at the Prairie Station Sports and Wellness Center in Hoffman Estates, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. The camp will help determine players for the league's first draft.
ELFMAN ADDS TITLE: Lois Elfman, chief operating officer of Ashton International Media Inc. and editor in chief of International Figure Skating, an Ashton publication, was promoted to the additional role of editor in chief of Ashton's other publication, Women's Basketball.
As editor in chief of Women's Basketball, Elfman will oversee the work of about 20 writers and develop feature story ideas and Web site content for the magazine, said Mark Lund, president and CEO of Ashton. Elfman has been with the company since its inception in 1994.
Elfman was promoted in an effort to streamline the editorial process of the company's two publications, Lund said. Women's Basketball was launched almost two years ago. It is a bimonthly magazine with a circulation of 20,000; about 12,000 of that is paid.
Jennifer Lee can be reached at email@example.com.
Mattress Mac walks into a business meeting with Chet Gladchuk, the University of Houston athletic director. Mac's ad agency is there, too. Everyone's wearing pearls or a tie despite the June heat — except Mac, of course. He's resplendent in a baseball cap with a Gallery Furniture logo, and one of his red, white and blue Gallery Furniture polo shirts. He owns, by his estimate, "at least a thousand" articles of clothing that say Gallery Furniture. "That's all I wear," he says. "If it doesn't have Gallery Furniture on it, I throw it out."
Mac wants to brand Houston's first three home football games at Robertson Field this season as the Gallery Furniture Texas Trifecta. His furniture store will take tickets on consignment and sell them by the Barcaloungers. He'll give a Ferrari to the winner of a punt, pass and kick contest, held at halftime of the Texas game. He'll have a pep rally sponsored by the store, then get all those riled-up fans to chant his slogan, "I-will-save-you-money," and use it as a TV commercial. He'll sponsor the world's largest barbecue pit, and why not a Friday night event as well?
"I've learned to go for the whole enchilada," he tells the room. "What about the Gallery Furniture Jazz Festival? Can we get Dave Matthews?"
Jim McIngvale may not be the finest marketer in America, but he's probably the most obsessive. In two decades of owning and running the furniture store that has become Houston's largest, Mattress Mac — as everybody in Houston calls him — has purchased some 30,000 hours' worth of low-budget 30-second cable and broadcast television spots. Most of them feature Mac, in Gallery Furniture apparel, talking to the camera.
"When I first bought the Astros in '93, he's one of the first people I looked up," says Astros majority owner Drayton McLane. "He is his own brand. The first year I was in Houston, I made 150 speeches, and he made more than I did. Everywhere I went, he'd just been there."
It isn't a boast, just a fact, when Mac says he's Houston's most recognized face. "He sure makes the short list," says Bob Lanier, who retired in 1998 after three terms as the most popular mayor in the city's history. "He's an advertising phenomenon."
"Everybody I know knows him," adds George Postolos, the COO of the NBA's Houston Rockets. "When I was first thinking about coming to Houston, he's the one person that everyone I talked to mentioned to me. I'd bet he's the largest media buyer in the market. You ever visit his store? You walk in the door and he's right there, selling furniture."
Every city has its ubiquitous local marketers, car salesmen or personal-injury lawyers or furniture stores. What sets Mac apart is his use of sports to sell his product. From a standing start in the early 1980s, Gallery Furniture — a single store — now grosses $150 million annually, offering desks, chairs and beds that even Mac admits are pretty much the same as what his competitors have.
A big part of the store's success, Mac believes, comes from sports. His connection to local franchises such as the Rockets, the WNBA's Comets and MLB's Astros establishes his validity in the eyes of Houston's fans. "It's like our parents told us when we were little: Who you choose for your friends determines your life," McLane says. "He has made some wise friends with the professional sports teams."
At the same time, his branded equities, such as the Galleryfurniture.com football bowl game and Gallery Furniture Stakes thoroughbred races, have served as advertising to locals while spreading his name nationwide. The Saturday after last December's inaugural bowl game, Gallery sold and shipped $1 million of furniture. It was the best day in the history of the store, by 25 percent.
Gallery Furniture is part of a strip of furniture stores along a stretch of I-45 north of downtown Houston. It isn't especially different from competitors such as Furniture World, Furniture Selection and Landmark Furniture, other than the Elvis shrine (with his jogging suit, his stagehand's overalls and his hand-built 1956 Lincoln) Mac has amassed inside the store, and the display of Lady Di's jewels, and the sports memorabilia.
Gallery has been selling from its Web site for two years, but Internet sales constitute only a tiny percentage of its business. Local customers use the Web site to zero in on a bed or love seat they might want. Then they drive in to the 267,000-square-foot showroom and look it over.
But getting the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl in most every newspaper in the country still helps. Many visitors come to Houston having heard of the store because of the bowl game or the horse race or another of Mac's promotions or sponsorships, and they just might stop by for a look. Texans in outlying areas know the store from its advertising and media coverage, and many think nothing of a three-hour drive to Gallery to buy a chaise longue.
Mac has his eye on expansion: to Dallas, San Antonio, "or directly to the Big Apple," he says. "We're just trying to build name recognition. Trying to become the world's best-known furniture store."
Sports sponsorships alone didn't create McIngvale's empire, but when he wrote his first sports-related check — a $25,000 sponsorship of Bela Karolyi's Houston-area gymnasts in 1985 — the store was struggling. Since then, he has run an indoor track meet, a women's tennis tournament, a pro bowling event and thoroughbred stakes races, setting most of them in Houston and naming all of them after his store. "Branding, branding, branding," he says. "It's all about getting the name out there."
McIngvale has staged victory parties (one sanctioned, the other not) for the Houston Rockets' two NBA championships, created a charity basketball game and tennis exhibitions, even contracted Cynthia Cooper of the WNBA's Houston Comets to play a $25,000 game of H-O-R-S-E against one of his furniture salespeople.
He brought a bowl game back to Houston. He bought the rights to the U.S. Clay Court tennis championships and moved them to Houston's Westside Tennis Club, which he owns, and where he had already constructed a $3 million practice facility for the Rockets to use for free, writing off the cost as advertising. He sponsored Wrestlemania XVII.
"We ran thousands of TV and radio ads that said an event as big as Wrestlemania could only be brought to Houston by Gallery Furniture," McIngvale says, rolling down the highway in his modest SUV. "We sold lots of furniture. It was good. Wasn't quite as good as the football game, but it was good."
All of this for a total investment of about $20 million, the price of a halftime sponsorship at the Super Bowl. Mac estimates he has earned all of it back in ticket revenue from the events he has promoted. Meanwhile, the ancillary marketing benefits may well run into the tens of millions.
"Sports has served him very well, to the point where it has become part of his identity, even though I couldn't tell you for sure how he has accomplished it," Lanier says. "It reminds me of Mel Ott of the Giants, who used to have a hitting stance where he lifted his leg way up. Nobody understood how he did it, but he hit the ball like hell."
The relationship with the Rockets has been invaluable. "He really fastened himself to the Rockets at a propitious time," Lanier says. "They were in the midst of winning two NBA championships, and Houston had never had a real champion. He became identified with their success." Sitting behind the Rockets' bench with his wife during home games and even road playoff games — "We scalped tickets; whatever it took" — gave Mac a TV ad each time the camera panned his way. He's that recognizable, and even if he wasn't, that Gallery Furniture clothing would have made the point.
"He's so identified with the team that people think he owns part of it," says his wife, Linda.
Postolos characterizes McIngvale as an important marketing partner. "He's shown it in several ways, some of them conventional and some of them extraordinary, like actually building us a practice facility that has played a major role in terms of attracting players," he says. "Our fans and his customers understand that relationship between his store and the team, and they appreciate it."
Mac says he can't even count the number of times that fans have shown up at the store to tell him they saw him on television cheering for the Rockets. "Then," he says, "they buy furniture."
Nobody blinks an eye when energy heavyweights like Enron and Reliant invest tens of millions of dollars in naming rights for Houston's baseball and football stadiums, except perhaps at the size of the numbers. But Mac owns a single store, not even a chain of them, much less a huge corporation.
The economy of scale isn't there. Gallery's immersion in sports promotion works because of Mac. He's a latter-day Bill Veeck, but on a guerrilla scale. For the Galleryfurniture.com Stakes, he wants to raise the purse to more than a half-million dollars, making it one of the most important 2-year-old races in the country, with the proviso that only female jockeys take part. "Women are our customers," he says.
For the U.S. Clay Courts, he shipped in red clay from France, the same used at the French Open, at a cost of $3 million. He shuttled ticket holders from the parking lot to the courts in his wife's Bentley. "The idea is, if you like the way you're treated at the tennis tournament, you'll get the same kind of treatment at Gallery Furniture," he says. "It was good, because we ran the tournament, but in retrospect we should have been the title sponsor, too. That way, we'd have had a double-whammy."
He may just be getting started. In a two-hour span, Mac reveals plans for high school and college basketball tournaments (one or the other or both to be called the Galleryfurniture.com Classic), an international soccer tournament featuring South American club teams ("The Galleryfurniture.com Challenge"), a non-conference football game ("Maybe LSU against Texas A&M?") with the Gallery Furniture name to be played at Houston's new Reliant Stadium, even a potential Davis Cup tie at Westside. ("I've been assured we're at the top of the list.")
He stands in the foyer at Westside, watching Andy Roddick beat Michael Chang at the French Open on a big-screen TV, rooting hard for Roddick, who won his U.S. Clay Courts a few weeks before. "We're doing a sponsorship deal with him now," he says, as his wife dials up Roddick's parents on her cell phone. He swings by the grass courts to see WTA player Mashona Washington prepare for Wimbledon. Next he visits the Rockets' practice facility, where NBA power forward Shawn Kemp, now a Houston resident, is shooting baskets. "You need to come play for us here," he tells Kemp, then whispers: "He's my boy! Bought $30,000 of furniture from me already."
Mac has no marketing budget, he says, just an eye for opportunity. Maybe it will come next in pro football, where the expansion Texans give him another team to identify himself with. Maybe bowling, where he's looking to be hooked up with the new PBA hierarchy. Another try at a women's tennis tournament would be nice, what with Westside still aglow from the success of the Clay Courts. "I'm a marketing guy, and I could market the WTA in this town," he says.
"Slam, bang! I could fill the seats. I know I could."
As darkness falls, he heads to his ad agency to buy media time for the week. He screens a new commercial, shot from footage at the tennis tournament. Then Mac drives back up I-45 to the store, wearing his Gallery Furniture shirt and his Gallery Furniture hat. It's 7 o'clock, but he's ready to sell furniture.
Bruce Schoenfeld is senior correspondent for SportsBusiness Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dallas Mavericks are taking a page from Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer with marketing plans aiming to build a Hispanic fan base.
Unlike MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, and many MLS teams, NBA clubs typically don't tailor any major marketing plans toward the Hispanic community. According to an ESPN Sports Poll, 13.1 percent of NBA fans are Hispanics. But the Mavs are looking to build interest in the team within their local market's sizable Hispanic community, which represents 35 percent of the Dallas area's population.
Last season, the Mavs hired Dallas-based Ornelas & Associates, a Hispanic-owned marketing company, which produced radio spots for the team. As the Mavs settle on next year's marketing strategy, the team is again using Ornelas & Associates to increase the reach to the Hispanic fan base. Part of the strategy includes Mexican-born Eduardo Najera, the Mavs' second-round pick last year.
"Hispanics don't know that much about professional basketball, but with Najera, there is an affiliation," said Victor Ornelas, president and CEO of Ornelas & Associates. "Last year, Najera was drafted and was in camp and there wasn't time to build a program around him."
Mavs officials said that using Najera in radio and television advertising spots to boost interest among Hispanics will be just one aspect of the marketing campaign they say is unique to the NBA.
"We are assessing last year's efforts and plan to continue to have a strong marketing presence in the Hispanic community," said Mavs marketing manager Will Patton. "We are working to strengthen our fan base across all demographic groups, including Hispanics. Najera, because of his heritage, is a natural to feature in our communication to Hispanics. However, he is just one member of our team, and we look forward to building fan connections with the entire team."
The Mavs would not disclose how much they will spend on their Hispanic marketing efforts, but said that the effort represents between 20 percent and 25 percent of the team's overall marketing budget.
This past season, the Mavericks had an average home attendance of 16,232 fans a game, an increase of 11 percent compared with the 1999-2000 NBA campaign. Mavs marketing officials could not break out the percentage of Hispanic fans in attendance.
"It's difficult to break out demographic ticket sales information, but from a visceral standpoint, we feel we attracted more Hispanics to Mavericks games this year," Patton said. "Spanish was more commonly heard on the concourse this year than ever before, we saw Mexican flags in the crowd, had tour groups from Mexico attend games, and for our Fiesta Nights and special Son By Four postgame concert, we drew large Hispanic crowds."
The Mavs also extended their Spanish-language radio broadcasts to cover all regular-season and postseason games.
One thing appears certain. The Boston Red Sox will choose a new owner from a who's who of the well-heeled.
Leading the moneyed pack is Cablevision Systems Corp. Chairman Charles Dolan, who is worth $3 billion and tied for 80th on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans. A distant but affluent second is Roger Marino, the former owner of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins and founder of EMC. Forbes pegs his worth at $1.2 billion.
Others who were authorized by Major League Baseball to review the Red Sox finances before making an offer include Delaware North Cos. President Jeremy Jacobs, who already owns the Boston Bruins and the FleetCenter, and Tom Werner, the television producer who created "The Cosby Show" and "Roseanne."
Justin Morreale, the attorney leading the search for the Red Sox, refused comment, saying the bidding process is private. MLB would not confirm the identity of the bidders. Sources said there were as many as eight.
"There are a bunch of them," MLB spokesman Vince Wladika said. "Now it's up to them to do their due diligence and decide whether they want to make an offer."
The process could take weeks or it could take months. The Red Sox choice must be approved by its limited partners and by major league owners, who twice in the past two years have refused to approve new owners for other teams. No deal is expected before the end of the season.
CEO John Harrington said last year that the Jean R. Yawkey Trust, which owns 53 percent of the team, would put its shares up for sale. Since then, observers have pegged their worth at $300 million to $400 million.
Others said to be approved by MLB include a group led by Joe O'Donnell, who runs the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred racetrack in East Boston, and concessionaire Aramark Corp., which is already a limited partner in the team.
None of the suspected bidders is a stranger to sports. Dolan's company controls Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks and Rangers, and Dolan's brother Larry owns the Cleveland Indians. Werner leads a group that includes former American Skiing Co. executive Leslie Otten, and he was managing partner of the San Diego Padres from 1990 to 1994.
Jacobs, who is not particularly popular as the Bruins owner, is already partners with the Red Sox in the New England Sports Network, the regional network that carries both the Red Sox and Bruins.
O'Donnell's group is the most local. It includes developer Steven Karp, Connecticut businessman Craig Stapleton and Concord, Mass., historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
A seven-game series between the teams with the best two regular-season records, along with the ultimate sports feel-good story in veteran Ray Bourque's quest for the Stanley Cup, did not lead to growth in television ratings for the NHL, as ABC's average ratings for the finals dropped 11 percent from a 3.7 to a 3.3.
The ratings were helped by the series going seven games, compared with six games last year. The final game posted a series-high 4.2, equal to 4,268,000 television households. It beat NBC's Saturday night movie June 9.
But Game 7 still ranked as only the 66th-rated prime-time program for the week of June 4-10. Game 5, which posted a 3.1, was ahead of only four other prime-time programs for the week on ABC, NBC and CBS.
The Stanley Cup Finals telecasts held their own in the male 18- to 34-year-old demographic group, a key target audience for advertisers that league officials often point to as the true measure for NHL hockey. Across both ABC and ESPN, ratings for that group inched up in the single digits.
Regarding the overall ratings, "I think they're good numbers for hockey, but marginal in the scheme of what ABC has to deliver," said Mike Trager, president of SFX Television Group.
By contrast, the first three games of the NBA Finals were the three highest-rated television shows of the week.
"Luckily for the NHL," Trager added, "this is a time of year when you can put low-rated programming in and not have a dramatic effect, because ratings are so low across the board this time of year."
Last season's Stanley Cup ratings were difficult to equal because two games went into multiple overtime periods in 2000, with ratings increasing by the hour. Prime-time ratings this year were identical to the year before. But the five games that aired on ABC this season also posted lower ratings than the three Stanley Cup Finals games shown on Fox in 1999, which averaged a 3.4.
ESPN also showed declines during this year's playoffs, down 12 percent for the 36 games it aired in total, to a 0.98. But the drop was negligible for the two Stanley Cup Finals it aired, a 1.91 compared with a 1.96 last year, and ratings for 24 early round games that aired on ESPN2 were up 4 percent.
An ESPN programming executive said NHL ratings were in line with expectations.
"When we look at the last barometer, the conference finals, we were even with last year despite both series only going five games," said Mark Quenzel, senior vice president of programming at ESPN. "In the early rounds, you suffer a little when good teams lose early. Detroit [which was upset in the first round by the Los Angeles Kings] traditionally gets the highest ratings for us."
He said the key to growing NHL ratings is showing games in consistent time slots.
To that end, ESPN will air regular-season NHL games mostly on Wednesday nights next season, a winter complement to ESPN's Wednesday night baseball coverage, he said. But for the playoffs, Quenzel said it's a question of building an audience that has a keen interest in the teams and players who are competing, a process that takes time and substantial effort.
"I do think there's room for significant ratings growth long term. But it's a battle. We need to have more teams and more players that are recognizable going in."
Bourque, who hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time after 22 years as one of the NHL's best defensemen, was a focal point of the ABC broadcasts, but his story never quite sizzled its way off the sports pages.
"It was a great emotional story, but I bet if Ray Bourque walks down the street today, most people aren't going to recognize him," Trager said.STANLEY CUP FINALS RATINGSABC (Games 3-7)*ESPN (Games 1-2)20012000% change20012000% change
Households3.33.7-11%1.911.96-3% Men 18-342.52.44%2.252.183% * ABC broadcast Games 3 through 6 in 2000.
Sources: ABC, ESPN
In the sensational battle that has become the talk of the sports-representation world, prominent agent Leigh Steinberg claims that he lost at least 18 NFL clients after former partner David Dunn bolted and that he is owed a million dollars.
Court papers filed by Steinberg say Dunn betrayed his former partners by coaxing athletes such as Ryan Leaf, John Lynch and Amani Toomer to dump Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn and join Dunn's new competing firm, Athletes First.
In declarations that support his court bid for an injunction, Steinberg and employees swear that Dunn and his pals downloaded sensitive client information from computers before they quit. Steinberg, in a declaration, said he has been given information on the process Dunn is using to get his NFL player clients to fire him.
In another declaration, which reads like a spy novel, an SMD executive in charge of technology said he uncovered secret files that were left behind on the hard drives and trash files on the company-owned computers of the fleeing employees.
The motion for a preliminary injunction seeks to enjoin Dunn and his fledgling firm from contacting any of SMD's former or current clients — a list that includes many NFL all-stars — and from engaging in the athlete representation business. A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for July 9 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
"A preliminary injunction must be issued to stop Dunn's wholesale raid on SMD's business," Steinberg's attorneys from the high-powered law firm of Gibson, Dunn (no relation to David Dunn) & Crutcher argue in court papers.
Dunn has not yet filed his response to the charges but will soon, said Dunn's attorney, Gerald Sauer. "We believe Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn will not be awarded any injunctive relief whatsoever."
Steinberg's lawyers have alleged that Dunn, who learned the sports business from Steinberg during a decade-long tenure at the firm, "masterminded" a plot to steal clients and trade secrets from the firm, in violation of California business codes. Dunn, lawyer Brian Murphy, and four other SMD employees left the firm in February.
Andrew Kim, attorney for Murphy, who is being sued in a separate case and is also an officer of Dunn's new company, said, "We deny any wrongdoing under any standard of law and we will prove that at the appropriate time."
The employees who stayed with SMD provide a number of new details on the actions Dunn and his alleged co-conspirators, Joby Branion and Murphy, took in the days before and after they left the firm. All three sent termination letters to SMD's parent company, Assante Corp., over the three-day Presidents' Day weekend in February.
Among the new allegations detailed in the court filing:
New Orleans Saints running back Terrelle Smith was sent a pre-addressed form letter by Murphy, now the chief operating officer of Dunn's new firm, for his signature in which he would have fired Steinberg as his agent. Smith refused to sign it and instead gave it to Steinberg. That letter is now evidence offered by Steinberg.
Murphy, about two weeks before he quit the firm, created two computer files, titled "Money" and "Projections," that contained spreadsheets containing most if not all of SMD's 86 NFL clients, their salaries to be earned through 2005 and the fees the agent representing those players would earn.
Branion, who is now the executive director of Athletes First, in one of his last acts before he resigned, opened the confidential computer list of all SMD clients. That file, which was accessible only to SMD's most trusted employees, contained detailed personal information on athlete clients, including spouses' names, private telephone numbers and addresses.
Branion, days after resigning from the company, flew to the NFL Combine on SMD's dime. Steinberg's attorney, during a seven-hour meeting with Dunn and Murphy at Dunn's home, demanded that Branion return immediately and stop acting on behalf of SMD clients. But Murphy, according to the court documents, retorted that the rookies at the combine were not SMD clients, but clients of Athletes First.
Steinberg's attorney, David Cornwell, stated in his declaration that SMD quickly sent independent contractors Dennis Thurman and Frank Baskerville to Indianapolis to assist the SMD NFL draft prospect clients at the combine, but Branion "interfered with" Thurman and Baskerville's contacts with the draft picks.
Deanna Allen, spokeswoman for Assante Corp., said it is her understanding that Branion "physically moved his body in between" the clients and Baskerville and Thurman and that Branion "walked them away" from the two independent contractors, who were trying to talk to them.
Branion, through an assistant, declined to be interviewed for this story.
Allen also said that the $1 million was just a portion of the fees earned by SMD for last year's contracts, which were due at the beginning of the year, but she declined to quantify how large a portion. "It is a million dollars. It is a remarkable amount," she said.
But the damage may be only beginning. Steinberg, in his declaration, said in addition to the 18 clients who have sent termination letters (see chart), other clients have communicated that they are considering leaving SMD.
Steinberg also states that Dunn takes the position that he is the agent for 14 of the 18 clients who terminated him.
Other agents signed at least three of the 18 players listed in the lawsuit, according to industry sources. Jevon Kearse signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus; Reggie McGrew signed with agent Joel Segal; and Kynan Forney signed with agent Ralph Cindrich.
Meanwhile, Dunn appears to be going about the agent business in his new office, which is near SMD's offices in Newport Beach, Calif. Athletes First has launched a Web site at athletesfirst.net, in which the company outlined its strategy.
"We are Athletes First, the most prolific, effective, and client-focused representatives in sports management," the Web site states. "At the core of it all is the athlete ... as soon as you forget that, you've betrayed him. We develop lasting bonds with each athlete we represent."
The Web site also provides an icon titled "featured clients." Clicking on it reveals the message "coming soon."
But under another section, titled "charities we support," charities of some of the athlete clients who recently fired Steinberg are listed, as are charities of SMD clients who had not fired Steinberg as of the middle of last week.
For example, the charities of NFL quarterbacks Kerry Collins and Kordell Stewart were listed. It is not clear whether that is an indication that those two players plan to leave Steinberg for Dunn. The site also touts that Athletes First supports the charities of NBA players John Starks and Greg Anthony, who have been Steinberg clients, according to SportsBusiness Journal research.
The Steinberg-Dunn agent war has been the talk of the sports business since Steinberg filed his lawsuit against his former protégé in May. Some observers are wondering what Dunn's answer will be.
"Our position will become clear when we file our papers," said Dunn's attorney, Gerald Sauer.
Russ Sauer, no relation to Gerald Sauer, and a sports lawyer at the firm of Latham & Watkins who is not involved in the case, said the outcome of the preliminary injunction motion could be crucial in determining the fates of Steinberg and Dunn.
If Steinberg wins the injunction, Dunn would be effectively put out of business until the case is resolved, Sauer said. That process could take as long as two years — an eternity in the athlete representation game — and many clients supportive of Dunn could go back to Steinberg or to other third-party agents.
If Dunn wins, Steinberg may be awarded money if he wins the case in the end, but he will not be able to stop Dunn from wooing his clients.
"The preliminary injunction," Sauer said, "that's the ball game."
Player Team 2000 salaryPosition Drew Bledsoe* New England Patriots $8,542,700QB Jake Plummer* Arizona Cardinals $5,942,700QB Todd Lyght Detroit Lions $4,042,000CB John Lynch* Tampa Bay Buccaneers $3,309,300S Todd Steussie Carolina Panthers $3,258,800OT Darren Woodson Dallas Cowboys $3,001,600S Corey Dillon Cincinnati Bengals $3,000,000RB Ryan Leaf Tampa Bay Buccaneers $2,733,600QB Amani Toomer New York Giants $1,578,500WR Jevon Kearse Tennessee Titans $1,171,700DE Reggie McGrew San Francisco 49ers $857,100DT Derrick Rodgers Miami Dolphins $476,300LB Ahman Green Green Bay Packers $358,600RB Danny Farmer Cincinnati Bengals $193,000WR Kynan Forney Atlanta Falcons 2001 draft pickOG Jamal Reynolds Green Bay Packers 2001 draft pickDE A.J. Feeley Philadelphia Eagles 2001 draft pickQB Eric Bjornson Oakland Raiders N/ATE * Indicates athletes whose charitable foundations are listed
Sources: Documents filed by Steinberg Moorad & Dunn Inc.
with Superior Court in Los Angeles County, Street &
Smith's SportsBusiness Journal research, NFLPA, nfl.com
One of the greatest advantages of conducting business through the Internet is the unlimited global possibilities of the medium. But for many teams trying to sell tickets online, this strength is also a major weakness.
The worldwide accessibility of the Web makes it challenging for even the most Web-savvy ticket sales executive to market a local product on a global medium to a regional audience. Unlike the Internet, tickets have geographic boundaries. And when you want to reach a group in a given city, county or state, not being able to target by location can become a problem.
The key to succeeding at marketing tickets online in a specific city is to stop thinking like a ticket sales executives and start acting like an anthropologist. Just as anthropology is the study of beings in their natural environment, the secret to success in marketing locally online is in the fieldwork.
According to a report by The Zeff Group, a Virginia-based Internet advertising and marketing training firm, there are three steps in applying the lessons of anthropology to locally focused online sales.
Research (the initial and most important step). Teams need to learn as much as possible about a region's online community. This is as simple as finding the Web sites that people use and the traditional media from which they collect information. Inside these sites there is likely a thriving community.
There are online organizations that will allow teams to identify potential ticket buyers who are already savvy online. These nerve centers are the destinations of the local online communities to whom so many teams are trying to sell tickets through their sites.
Next, look for local e-mail newsletters or membership groups that target a specific geographic region or demographic. For example, on the Chicago Tribune's Web site is a link to the Chicago District Golf Association Web site. The CDGA's 300-plus area member clubs use the association's Web site as a vehicle to communicate with one another.
Organizations like this one are a logical tie-in for a team to launch a permission-based marketing campaign online to active area residents. Some teams have discussed pursuing relationships with local Chamber of Commerce groups and high-tech councils. But in the online world, niche and grassroots groups like the CDGA that are less structured sometimes present more opportunities.
Interview and observe the local community online and off-line. Have someone in the ticketing department join area online discussion lists and spend 10 minutes a day to find out what's happening locally in the online community.
Observe how local organizations make announcements to their members. If they have an online newsletter, can an outside organization make a special offer in the newsletter?
Finding, observing and then reaching out to these groups is crucial. They have their finger on the pulse of the local online community and in many cases hold the key to landing incremental group sales opportunities.
Participate. Once research and observation are complete, only then is a team ready to begin its online ticketing push. It is important at this step that teams do not try to forge a sense of community, because the online crowd will see it coming. And as Zeff points out, "In the online world, you don't have a second chance to make a first impression."
According to Zeff, taking the time to do fieldwork makes all the difference. If an executive from a team's ticket department can become a member of the area's online community, the transition from simply distributing marketing messages to information-sharing among community members will be complete.
And the online ticket sales are likely to follow.
Dan Migala is the author of "Web Sports Marketing."
The Sporting News is teaming with Major League Baseball to create a television special next month that will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the American League.
It's fitting that The Sporting News is involved. The publication, founded in 1886, provided support editorially for Ban Johnson's efforts 100 years ago to create a second major baseball league, which was the American League.
"Sporting News and Major League Baseball Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the American League" will air on Fox, running from 1 to 2 p.m. July 8, two days before the All-Star Game.
Major League Baseball Productions is producing the show, whose host will be Fox baseball announcer Joe Buck. To air the special, The Sporting News and MLB bought the programming time from Fox. TSN and MLB are jointly handling the program's sponsorship sales, said Stuart Marvin, TSN's vice president of marketing.
TSN and MLB are looking to sell integrated sponsorship packages that include commercial time on the TV special, ad time on Sporting News Radio, print ads in the magazine and an online presence, Marvin said. Also tying into the special is a consumer sweepstakes, whose prizes include American League memorabilia. He would not disclose the dollar value of packages, but sources said the cost is $200,000 and up, depending on how extensive the buy is.
TSN and MLB are closing in on a couple of integrated sponsorship deals, Marvin said.
"The 100th Anniversary of the American League" will open with a segment titled "100 years in 100 seconds." Other segments will take a look at the first 20 years of the league; the impact of Ty Cobb; the influence of Babe Ruth, who saved baseball in the wake of the Black Sox scandal; the evolution of American League teams; six seasons that define the league; the league's all-time best teams; characters of the game, such as Bill Veeck, Mark Fidrych and Bill "Spaceman" Lee; superb individual accomplishments; and the top 10 moments in American League history.
David Gavant, vice president and executive producer of MLB Productions, is the executive producer overseeing the project. David Check, senior coordinating producer at MLB Productions, and Jeff Spaulding, senior producer at MLB Productions, are the day-to-day producers for the project.
"We've gone back and unearthed a lot of vintage film and transferred it to a digital format" to use in the TV special, Check said. For example, there's film of Lou Gehrig talking about his batting stance.
The show will feature a host of new interviews, including one with Ty Cobb's only living teammate, who is 97 years old.
USA Baseball has expanded its sponsorship agreement with Eastbay Inc., giving the Wisconsin company the direct marketing rights to all its licensed merchandise.
Eastbay has handled the sale of USA Baseball branded merchandise through the organization's Web site since January under a deal signed last year that runs through the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
USA Baseball gear will now appear in the Eastbay "Fielder's Choice" catalog released every January. Merchandise also will appear on the Eastbay Web site, and Eastbay will receive promotional exposure at team events.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Eastbay is a subsidiary of Venator Group and distributes 86 million catalogs a year.
— John Rofé
Trash removal and recycling giant Waste Management Inc. is close to signing a multiyear sponsorship with NASCAR that it hopes will lead to tens of millions of dollars in business with NASCAR affiliates.
The company, which had $12 billion in revenue last year, already provides service to many companies with NASCAR ties, but more than half of the sport's sponsors are clients of competitors.
"When you take into account NASCAR sponsors, licensees, tracks and teams we don't have [as clients], we estimate there could be as much as $100 million in business out there," said Curt Knapp, Waste Management's vice president of marketing.
Knapp said Waste Management will spend "upwards of $2 million" on NASCAR-related activity next year, including rights fees, marketing programs and deals with racetracks.
NASCAR officials said Waste Management will be required to spend money with tracks under the terms of its sponsorship, and also will be allowed to sponsor a "Special Awards" program, offering a weekly cash prize for certain achievements on the track. The company can determine the criteria for the award and has the option of limiting participation to race teams that use Waste Management's services.
"They will use NASCAR as a link," said Brett Yormark, NASCAR's vice president of corporate marketing. "NASCAR people return favors. If you're marketing at a track, people are going to be doing business with you."
Using NASCAR as an employee morale builder while putting a public face on the sponsorship, the company eventually will outfit its nearly 30,000 attendants and drivers with uniforms that display the NASCAR logo. Knapp said Waste Management has the second-largest truck fleet of any company in the United States, behind only NASCAR sponsor UPS.
Waste Management doesn't plan to make NASCAR the focus of a major consumer ad campaign as UPS and several other sponsors have, but the company does see NASCAR as an important avenue to reach consumers as well as businesses, part of an overall corporate-branding initiative.
Born out of the 1998 merger between USA Waste Services and the once-struggling Waste Management, the company with which Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga made his fortune, the new Waste Management is the No. 1 solid waste removal and recycling company in the world. But its size and rather self-explanatory brand name have not translated into widespread name recognition.
"We're probably one of the least-known Fortune 200 companies," Knapp said. "Through images and words, we want people to understand who Waste Management is."
Next year, the company will launch its first national consumer advertising campaign. The creative will not be specifically linked to NASCAR but will likely run on NASCAR programming. Waste Management also may customize a few ads for NASCAR, Knapp said, especially for print publications.
At some tracks the clean-up crews that haul away debris after accidents may be branded by Waste Management.
To assist with its NASCAR-related programs and negotiate track agreements, the company has hired Millsport as its sports marketing agency.
Knapp said Waste Management is in talks to expand the scope of existing deals with tracks owned by International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. The company already has trackside advertising at Dover Downs International Speedway in Dover, Del., along with advertising or sponsorship deals with about a dozen Major League Baseball teams and an on-ice logo at the Pepsi Center, home of the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Most of those deals were cut on the local level, but Knapp and Waste Management's corporate office in Houston are spearheading all future negotiations. They just signed off on an advertising and stadium hospitality deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The motorsports plans also call for Waste Management to develop a NASCAR-specific slogan, one that will stress the company's positioning as a leader in recycling services. NASCAR officials stipulated that Waste Management must be positioned as an environmentally friendly company, not just someone who takes out the trash. Waste Management executives supported that idea.
"Environmental consciousness is very much a part of their culture, and we certainly felt there needed to be an appropriate reason for being [for the sponsorship]," Yormark said. "Our management met with their management and we came to a common ground."
The Jennifer Capriati comeback story provided a ratings boost for NBC's telecast of the French Open women's final, even though the network tape-delayed the epic match by five hours.
Capriati's marathon victory, in which she won the final set 12-10, scored a 3.3 rating in major markets June 9, up 43 percent from last year. NBC said that because of children's programming demands, it cannot show the match live on Saturday morning.
The men's final was shown live the following morning. Gustavo Kuerten's successful defense of his French Open crown fetched only a weak 2.0 rating, down 13 percent from the previous year.
"When you don't have [Andre] Agassi and [Pete] Sampras and some of those names, it loses some of the luster," said Harold Hecht, a free-lance producer who worked on NBC's telecast. "But Capriati has infused new life into tennis, and is going to make Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that much more exciting."
The higher women's rating continues a pattern of the women's final frequently topping the men's final.
French Open weekday telecasts scored gains on USA Network. The final number rose 40 percent to 0.7 from 0.5.
The New York Yankees have increased their sponsorship and stadium advertising revenue by more than 10 percent this season, but the ramped-up support is most evident outside the House That Ruth Built, where sponsors are using the Yankees as a marketing platform like never before.
McDonald's Corp., Verizon Wireless, the Coca-Cola Co. and Fleet Bank head a long list of sponsors using their Yankees rights to build retail promotions and sales-driving initiatives.
In a market where sports marketing generally means only a media buy, and few corporations have publicly attached themselves to the local teams beyond the purchase of signs, tickets and occasionally putting a team logo on the back of a truck, Yankees sponsors are embracing the idea of using the team to sell products.
It may sound elementary, but in this respect, New York is just starting to catch up to the rest of the country, and the Yankees are adjusting how they sell sponsorships accordingly.
"We have found that selling signage and a certain number of impressions in the outfield is the practice of yesteryear," said John Krimsky, president of YankeeNets Properties. "The impact sponsors want to make is so different than it has been in the past that we are really rewriting our sponsorship manuals, not only for baseball but for all our teams."
YankeeNets Properties also markets the New Jersey Nets and Devils and has marketing agreements with the New York Giants and soccer's Manchester United.
The Yankees list a whopping 48 sponsors, with deals ranging from as low as $150,000 to more than $5 million. But even letting the smallest advertisers call themselves sponsors has not kept the Yankees from commanding major dollars in robust categories. Ten sponsors spend $1 million or more with the team, Yankees officials said. Many of those companies will spend hundreds of thousands of additional dollars on related marketing programs.
Fleet Bank is featuring Derek Jeter, wearing his Yankee pinstripes, in an outdoor and television ad campaign.
McDonald's, which became a team sponsor this season, is planning a four- to six-week instant-win promotion at 650 area restaurants, offering 15,000 prizes ranging from Yankees tickets and merchandise to spring training vacations and chances to meet Yankees legends. The program will be backed by a major television and radio push, print and transit ads along with point-of-sale materials that include 40-foot store banners. Rival Burger King ran a trading card giveaway with the Yankees last season, but the McDonald's program represents the kind of support and exposure that even the world champion Yankees have never received from sponsors.
Coca-Cola has no advertising in the outfield or the stands at Yankee Stadium but buys tens of thousands of tickets a year to use for promotion and community outreach purchases. The activity stretches from suburbia, where it runs a special Yankees sweepstakes through a supermarket chain, to New York's inner-city neighborhoods. About a dozen times a season, Coca-Cola invites 1,000 community leaders from a particular neighborhood to a night out at the stadium. It also runs a contest through 2,000 "bodegas," small, privately owned grocery stores that dot New York City, giving away a four-pack of Yankees tickets and Coca-Cola products in each store.
When the Yankees win the World Series, as they have four of the last five seasons, Coca-Cola unleashes about 3 million commemorative cans within two days.
"We see the Yankees as a valuable business asset to help build the brand," said Mike Oringer, the vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola North America's New York division.
Verizon Wireless, which now has the largest outfield billboard in Yankee Stadium after taking that spot over from Hitachi, tested a program last month in which it gave a free pair of Yankee tickets with all new accounts during a three-day period. It also sent discount offers to 1.8 million customers along with their bills.