SBJ/January 21 - 27, 2002/Opinion

An even dozen ways we’ll rebound in 2002

The sports and entertainment industry, along with the U.S. economy and American morale, took a hit in 2001. I look for a rebound on all fronts in 2002 led by the positive impact of major events and a continued love affair with all things sports and entertainment-related.

Here's my list of the top 12 happenings for the current year. I've thrown in a couple from the entertainment world as that is a part of our business, too.

1. The Super Bowl and Winter Olympics will showcase America's patriotic fervor, soaking up sponsorship support and earning boffo viewership numbers at the expense of TV competitors like the NHL and NBA all-star games.

2. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig will change his posture on contraction after using it as a bargaining chip to extract significant concessions from the MLBPA.

3. Facility naming-rights agreements will continue to migrate to minor league venues. Naming rights will regain marketing prominence while bolstering sagging sponsorship fees.

4. Rookie New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's business savvy will enable him to cobble together corporate and taxpayer support to gain approval for over $1 billion worth of new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees.

5. As player-agent relations come under increased scrutiny, more athletes will elect to negotiate their own contracts, à la the Milwaukee Bucks' Ray Allen.

6. To combat the loss of NFL and NBA programming, NBC will expand its Internet sports presence via a partnership with a premier streaming sports provider and through enlargement of its online sports news coverage.

7. Confounding the doubters, including me, Michael Jordan will lead the Wizards to an early round of the playoffs and will regain the respect of Madison Avenue, receiving increased endorsement dollars from major corporate entities.

8. In an exciting prelude to the Salt Lake Olympics, surging viewership of this year's Winter X Games will help them be perceived as a "breakthrough event" for extreme sports with mainstream audiences and corporate sponsors.

9. Product placement in movies and TV shows will increase in 2002, as directors find more ingenious ways to include companies' products.

10. Corporate sponsorship of concert tours will become the rule, rather than the exception.

11. Tiger Woods will switch to Nike clubs, completing a marketing grand slam for the world's premier footwear and apparel maker.

12. "Need-based" ticket prices (to cover exploding player salaries) will create further sticker shock among core fans, causing them to retreat into their cocoon and causing teams to become even more reliant on corporate ticket plans.

The Bonham Line: I'm bullish on the business of sports in spite of the softening economy and the aftermath of Sept. 11, which changed the world of sports forever. My optimism is due to my unwavering belief in who we are as a society and how important sports are in our national makeup. May they continue to play a role in strengthening us as a nation and providing a much-needed diversion from the stress and strain of these troubling times.

Dean Bonham is president of the Bonham Group Inc., a sports consulting firm in Denver.

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