SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/This Weeks Issue

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  • 2003 MLB draft first-round picks

  • DirecTV to put ESPN HD on new tier

    DirecTV plans to add ESPN HD to its service as part of a soon-to-launch high-definition tier.

    For $10.99 a month, DirecTV customers will receive ESPN HD, Discovery HD Theater, HD Net and HD Net Movies, starting on July 1.

    Mark Cuban's HD Net, which has rights to the NHL and MLS, had previously been available to DirecTV customers as part of the basic Total Choice package, but DirecTV has now added the HD Net Movies channel and put both on the HD tier.

    DirecTV has 180,000 customers who have special set-top boxes that enable them to receive high-definition signals. That represents roughly half the total high-definition pay television market, experts said. It is ESPN's largest distribution deal to date for ESPN HD, which launched in April and will carry about 100 live sporting events a year.

    A DirecTV spokesperson said the deal to carry ESPN HD is not part of any broader agreement that would restructure DirecTV's primary carriage agreement with ESPN and its affiliated networks. ESPN has floated a long-term proposal to cable and satellite operators that would reduce the annual price increases on ESPN in exchange for carrying ESPN HD and other services, but to date no operator has accepted the offer.

    — Andy Bernstein

    Print | Tags: ESPN, Hockey, MLS, NHL, Soccer
  • Eisen: End at ESPN ‘surprising’

    Rich Eisen says he never expected to leave ESPN and would have accepted an assignment to host the ESPN2 morning show "Cold Pizza" next season, but in the end he could not accept the contract terms ESPN offered.

    "I couldn't have envisioned a scenario under which things would fall apart," he said. "I found it disappointing and surprising."

    Eisen's contract with ESPN expired June 1, ending his seven-year tenure as a host of "SportsCenter."

    He would not comment specifically on what contract terms were unacceptable, but his agent, Lou Oppenheim, said money was not the main reason Eisen turned down ESPN's offer.


    Eisen, a former stand-up comedian, said he's interested in trying to get into "more than just sports," either hosting a talk show or pursuing some opportunity that will represent a progression in his career.

    ESPN had wanted Eisen to remain as a host of "SportsCenter," but late in the negotiating process the network presented the idea of hosting "Cold Pizza," a new morning show on ESPN2.

    Both sides say Eisen was willing to host the show and also make appearances on "SportsCenter," but they still could not come to terms.

    "We put an offer on the table for a commitment to 'Cold Pizza' and financial compensation to stay with the company," said Norby Williamson, ESPN's senior vice president and managing editor. "It came to terms of commitment to the show and finances, I'm assuming, where Rich made his decision to not take the opportunity."

    Eisen shared duties as the anchor of the 11 p.m. Eastern edition of "SportsCenter" with ESPN veteran Dan Patrick. Following Eisen's departure, ESPN reshuffled the lineup, moving Patrick to the 6 p.m. slot and Scott Van Pelt from 6 p.m. to 11.

    Both Eisen and Williamson stressed that the discussions were all amicable, and Eisen said he is in no way bitter.

    Print | Tags: ESPN
  • ESPN The Mag hires Times writer Olney

    ESPN The Magazine has added a dose of substance to its decidedly flashy publication by hiring former New York Times sports reporter Buster Olney.

    Olney, who covered the Yankees for four years before taking over as the New York Giants beat writer last season, is returning to his baseball roots as a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. He starts today.

    The hire runs counter to the image of a publication focused more on heavy graphics and an edgy tone than on serious journalism.

    ESPN recently formed an "Enterprise Team" to feature more investigative stories. While Olney is not officially part of that effort, his understated prose belies his new employer's in-your-face approach.

    "No matter what the magazine or newspaper, if you generate stuff that people think is interesting, then they'll like it," Olney said. "You can find a niche pretty much anywhere. That's the way I feel about going to ESPN."

    Olney first became interested in pursuing other opportunities in early April, when ESPN executive editor and senior vice president John Walsh called. Walsh got him excited, Olney said, about the opportunity to delve into magazine writing and to try his hand at TV, which his new job will include.

    ESPN had not made the announcement of Olney's hiring official when SportsBusiness Journal went to press, but an ESPN spokesperson confirmed Olney will be a senior writer and contribute on television and the Web.

    That the Times' credibility has been pummeled by the Jayson Blair scandal likely made Olney's decision easier, although he had nothing but good things to say about his former employer.

    "I'm going to miss the Times," he said.

    The Times is conducting an internal search for a new Giants beat writer and "does not have anything else to report at this time," according to a company spokesman.

    In addition to the magazine and television, Olney, who asked and received permission to cover some football for ESPN, also will contribute significantly to

    Print | Tags: Baseball, ESPN, Football, New York Giants, New York Yankees
  • Experts: Augusta National gives up as much as $15M

    Golf and television insiders say Augusta National Golf Club leaves as much as $15 million on the table each time it forgoes commercials in the Masters telecast, as it will do in 2004 for the second straight year.

    The number is significant, but it's dwarfed by what the club could fetch if it ever put the tournament up for formal bid, rather than maintain its open-ended series of one-year deals with CBS for the third and fourth rounds and its current relationship with the USA Network for the first two.

    "Augusta does it this way to keep control. They could sell the rights for between $30 million and $50 million [annually]," said one veteran golf marketer with strong network ties. Why is lost revenue not a problem for Augusta? "Hell, each member could buy the rights to the tournament himself," the marketer said.

    The club said last week that it would not have sponsors for next year's event. The club relieved Coca-Cola, Citigroup and IBM of their sponsor obligations for this year's telecast, saying it did not want them involved in the controversy with the National Council of Women's Organizations. CBS and Augusta National do not discuss terms of their relationship.

    Staff writer Langdon Brockinton contributed to this story.

    Print | Tags: Golf
  • Holt keeps Spurs riding high

    The words "San Antonio Spurs" and "NBA elite" are rarely mentioned in the same breath, but under owner Peter Holt's guidance, the low-profile team has established itself as one of the NBA's top franchises both on and off the court. The Spurs are in the Finals for the second time in five years, sit $14 million under the NBA salary cap and play in a new arena that Holt says is driving record profits.

    During the Spurs' shoot-around before Game 1 of the Finals last week, Holt spoke with staff writer John Lombardo about his team's quest for its second NBA crown.

    SBJ: Winning the championship in 1999 helped win support for your new arena. What does this Finals appearance mean for the franchise?

    Peter Holt is having a ball in San Antonio, where the Spurs have a new arena and a spot in the Finals.

    Holt: If we win the championship this time around, it helps with the money end of the business. It's more sponsorship sales and more season tickets, and just as important is that it will help us attract other players to San Antonio because we are $14 million under the salary cap.

    SBJ: What about the business side as it relates to the Finals? Will the team be profitable despite playing in an arena that's smaller than the Alamo-dome?

    Holt: We are going to be dramatically profitable, better than expected. We broke even last year, and the two previous seasons we lost a lot of money. And I had to borrow a certain amount of money to build the arena, so this year we will knock the borrowing way down. When we do our pro forma financials, we figure on one round of the playoffs, never any more, so these later rounds have put a lot of money in our pockets. It's been a beautiful run from a financial point of view. We are a winning team, but we are also financially efficient.

    SBJ: How does this year's Finals compare with 1999?

    Holt: In 1999, we swept most of the series, and I was a newer owner and didn't understand how hard it was to get to the Finals. Now I understand, and I'm a lot more appreciative of where we are today than I was in 1999.

    SBJ: There are three NBA teams in Texas, with the Mavericks having the highest profile, followed by the Rockets, who are seen as an up-and-coming team. Do you feel your team gets enough national recognition?

    Holt: We always wish we would get more, as much for the community as for the team. But right now, some owners have told me that we are the envy of the NBA. We are in the Finals and we are $14 million under the salary cap.

    SBJ: Your team isn't the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that the NBA and ABC would have loved to have in the Finals to help television ratings. Do you resent the sense outside of San Antonio that there is a lack of buzz around this year's Finals?

    Holt: We also heard that in 1999 and we just don't worry about it anymore. We're not Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, but we've got a great group of players and we are well-positioned as an organization for the future.

    SBJ: What's the biggest misperception that Americans have about San Antonio?

    Holt: That we are just a small town. And people aren't really sure where San Antonio is. But we are the 10th biggest city in the nation.

    SBJ: Could you envision a better basketball send-off for David Robinson? Do you plan to offer him a continued role with the Spurs?

    Holt: To get David back in the Finals has given us an emotional lift that we haven't had. He's like a kid in the candy store, and that's been fun to watch. We'll talk about any future roles with the team after the playoffs. He told me that he just wants to finish his career. I have no idea if he has any interest, but we'd love to have him. It's up to him.

    SBJ: Could an NBA Finals win propel any Spurs players to national marketing success?

    Holt: It depends on who shows up and breaks through. Tim Duncan is already there, and beyond Tim, there is Tony Parker. Any player recognition is a plus to give us more national recognition.

    SBJ: Speaking of Tony Parker, do you really think he is one of People's "Most Beautiful People"?

    Holt: You're not going to get me on that one, but we do call him "Pretty Boy" in practice.

    SBJ: How many old friends from high school and college have you heard from this week?

    Holt: Let's just say that all of a sudden, I'm real popular again. It's like this: One of our coaches was telling me that he's had calls from guys that he's had to go back and look up in his high school yearbook. That's just what happens. I'm just floating and enjoying the hell out it. It's been a lot more of that this time around.

    SBJ: Any superstitions or good luck charms?

    Holt: I've got so many superstitions. It's always, What clothes will I wear? Will I go with my wife to the game or not? Will I wear the pair of boots that has the Spurs logo embossed on them, or will I wear the belt buckle that I got when we won in 1999? Here I am, a 50-year-old guy, and these superstitions drive me nuts, but that's also what's fun.

    SBJ: Care to make any Finals predictions?

    Holt: No, not from me. I'm too nervous and don't want to jinx myself. Just glad to be here.

    Print | Tags: ABC, Basketball, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, NBA, San Antonio Spurs
  • IMG, Creative Artists forge new partnership

    Sports agency IMG has formed a strategic alliance with entertainment powerhouse Creative Artists Agency to work together on speaker representation, licensing and corporate consulting.

    Bob Kain, co-CEO of IMG, and Richard Lovett, president of CAA, said the alliance is intended to grow business and offer more services to the companies' clients, which include athletes, actors, writers, directors, musicians and major corporations.

    "We believe we are offering a unique set of resources, services and expertise to a potential client," Lovett said. "To be able to marry CAA's access and expertise in the entertainment area to IMG's similar skills in the sports area ... is an entirely unique proposition."

    The deal will allow CAA's clients to take advantage of IMG's existing speakers bureau serving the lecture industry, as well as IMG Licensing, which bills itself as the world's largest licensing agency. Both companies have corporate consulting divisions and corporate clients.

    The deal followed more than a year of discussions between IMG's late founder, Mark McCormack, and Kain and Lovett. Lovett said he had talked with McCormack, whom he regarded as a mentor, for a couple of years. McCormack died May 16.

    "We got to know each other and we are friends and as we began to talk and compare notes about our businesses ... we thought it would be fun and benefit our clients on both sides," Lovett said.

    The deal is an alliance and not a merger of any kind, and neither IMG nor CAA will receive equity in the other company. The two companies will split profits, and executives of both companies will work together on specific projects, Kain said.

    The deal is exclusive, meaning CAA cannot work with another sports agency and IMG cannot work with another entertainment agency in the areas of licensing, speaker representation and corporate consulting, Kain said. There is no term length to the deal, Kain said.

    "The speakers bureau is the first step," he said, "and we will see how that will evolve."

    Lovett said he doesn't know which clients of CAA's will take advantage of the speakers bureau, since the alliance with IMG was just being announced today. However, he believes that acting, directing, writing and musical clients will likely be interested in speaking engagements.

    As far as the licensing agreement, IMG is already doing licensing deals for non-sports properties, Kain said. As an example of a potential licensing deal, CAA could have a "beautiful client" and IMG could come up with licensing for a line of perfume or cosmetics, Kain said.

    Kain noted that many worldwide companies that want to reach consumers through sports want to consult with firms that have inside information about the sports world. Likewise, companies that want to use entertainment to market their products, want to consult with industry leaders.

    "Most worldwide companies, they want that [inside knowledge] in sports and entertainment and we will never do that in entertainment the way that CAA can," Kain said. "If some companies want both, why not walk in together instead of separately?"

    The deal also comes after IMG executives thought long and hard about how best to take advantage of what has been called the convergence of sports and entertainment, Kain said. A lot has been written about how well the sports and entertainment worlds fit and work together.

    "In the primary business, I think that is kind of bogus," said Kain, "but in the ancillary business, that is pretty spot on."

    That is why the IMG-CAA alliance will focus on particular areas, such as licensing, and not the main business of representing sports and entertainment clients, he said.

    "In the management of entertainers, it would take us years to get the knowledge and build the relationships to do what CAA does," Kain said. "Tom Cruise is never going to let Bob Kain manage him and Pete Sampras is not going to have Richard Lovett manage him."

    For more on IMG and Creative Artists Agency, click here.

    Print | Tags: CAA, IMG, IndyCar, Motorsports, United Airlines, Verizon
  • Martin: IMTA could hurt ATP’s sponsorship sales

    The new International Men's Tennis Association could potentially hurt the ATP's ability to get sponsors and erode its fan base, ATP Player Council President Todd Martin said.

    "Why would a sponsor want to support a sport in which there are a bunch of players who want to break off?" Martin asked rhetorically. "If they signed a five-year deal, they wouldn't be 100 percent confident [the ATP] would be the same thing they agreed to in the first place."

    But IMTA spokesman Dan Wasserman scoffed at the comments.

    "The notion that the effective representation of athletes would lead to the Armageddon of the sport is alarmist and nonsense," he said. "The fact that the emergence of strong players associations has also coincided with enormous spurts in the growth and popularity of those sports should put that rumor to rest."

    The IMTA was launched in March by players who wanted more information on the business of the ATP and more of a voice in the running of the organization.

    The ATP board is made of three members representing ATP players, three members representing the ATP tournaments and ATP CEO Mark Miles. The three player members are appointed by the ATP Player Council. Martin told SportsBusiness Journal that he believes the IMTA wants to replace the ATP Player Council.

    "I think their ultimate goal is to overtake the world of men's professional tennis," Martin said last week in a telephone interview from the French Open. "I think they are becoming more and more aware that is not possible. Then their next option is to represent the players within the ATP and change the format of representation, and I am still fairly confident that won't happen.

    "Then the third [option] is to be sort of just looming and a bit of a thorn in the side of those of us who are trying to be constructive."

    Tensions between the IMTA and the ATP Player Council escalated last week when the IMTA announced that it had been invited to attend a Grand Slam Committee meeting in Paris. "IMTA representatives expect to begin discussing topics such as scheduling, governance and financial issues that impact the sport," the IMTA said in a press release.

    Martin and Player Council vice president Todd Woodbridge fired back their own press release, stating: "The voice of players in dealing with the Grand Slams and other issues currently facing the game is the ATP player leadership elected by all ATP player members. We will not be deterred in pursuing our goal of achieving a fair investment in our sport from the Grand Slams."

    The IMTA also released a list of 62 members of the group, including No.1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt.

    Print | Tags: ATP
  • MLS ’Quakes shake up brand image

    Beginning next week, outdoor ad space will feature memorable imagery and a simple message to local fans: Think soccer.

    The television spot opens with a shot of an older man in his hotel bed reading a book titled "The Complete History of Salt." He's propped up against the bed board, which is right next to the wall. All of a sudden, he is jolted by something pounding against the wall of the adjoining room.

    It happens again and again — rhythmically. The man's expressions convey his confusion and frustration: What's banging his bed?

    Cut to a shot of the adjoining room, where San Jose Earthquakes stars Landon Donovan and Jeff Agoos are heading a soccer ball repeatedly against the wall. While a voice-over says, "Want more action? Think soccer," the ad cuts to footage of an Earthquakes game, culminating in a goal by Donovan, who celebrates shirtless.

    This is the Major League Soccer club's new TV spot, which was set to debut last Saturday on Fox Sports Net Bay Area's telecast of the Earthquakes' game. It's part of the team's brand-advertising campaign.

    The 30-second spot — an edgy and irreverent, but light-hearted ad titled "Bed Banging" — will run through the season on FSN Bay Area; on the San Jose-based Telemundo affiliate, KSTS; and, through a local deal with Comcast, on ESPN and ESPN2.

    The spot will run only during weeks in which the Earthquakes have home games, said James Eastwood, the team's director of advertising and marketing.

    In addition to the TV time, the club has secured outdoor advertising space on local buses, at area bus stops and at stops along the city's light-rail system. Those ads, most of which are designed to be irreverent and humorous, are slated to go up next week and remain in place throughout the season, Eastwood said. Their tag line: "Think soccer."

    The Earthquakes teamed with San Francisco ad agency Ad-Lib Creative to devise the brand-advertising campaign, which also features newspaper ads, radio spots and grassroots marketing initiatives. The latter, often tied to youth-soccer events in the community, are aimed primarily at soccer moms and kids.

    Earthquakes executives would not disclose the dollar size of the overall campaign.

    The "Bed Banging" spot, which contains no dialogue, is targeted largely at sports fans.

    "In Landon Donovan, we have both the most talented and marketable soccer player in the country," said Earthquakes general manager Johnny Moore. Donovan, 21, was a standout on the U.S. national team that reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. "We needed to create a campaign which helped us showcase him without having him become the Earthquakes' identity," Moore said.

    In addition to the "Think soccer" message, each of the outdoor ads features a single image.

    One is a close-up of a woman's rear end. She's wearing fishnet stockings and a leather thong, and her right cheek is actually a soccer ball.

    Among the other images showcased in the outdoor ads: a close-up of the back of a heavily tattooed man who has a soccer ball painted over his entire bald head; a shot of a garter belt-wearing woman getting a tattoo — a soccer ball with an arrow through it and an Earthquakes banner around it — on her thigh; and a close-up of a woman getting ready to eat an ice cream cone, in which the scoop of ice cream looks like a mini soccer ball. Each ad includes the team's logo and Web address and a phone number to call for Earthquakes game tickets.

    "The most effective advertising is engaging, simple and memorable," Moore said. "We feel that with the use of captivating images and a strong, consistent message, we can rise above the clutter of hundreds of busy, in-your-face ads."

    The campaign's newspaper ads debuted at the start of the MLS season in April and have been running solely in the San Jose Mercury News. Its radio spots are airing on local stations KNEW-AM, KEZR-FM, KYLD-FM and on the local Radio Unica affiliate.

    Print | Tags: Fox, MLS, San Jose Earthquakes, Soccer
  • MSU jumps through hoops for Ford Field contest

    Michigan State athletic department officials staged an ice hockey game in their football stadium in October 2001. Now they plan to pull off a basketball game against Kentucky at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions.

    The game, dubbed "The BasketBowl — Hoops on the 50" will be played Dec. 13 and will air on CBS.

    At capacity the game would beat the world record for basketball attendance of 75,000, set in 1951 by a Harlem Globetrotters game at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.

    The Breslin Center, the Spartans' home facility, seats only about 15,000 and regularly plays to sold-out crowds.

    "It's a celebration of basketball and it's an event that we think our fans want," said Mark Hollis, Michigan State's associate athletic director.

    The event came together in large part because of the relationship between Michigan State and the Lions, Hollis said. (Lions coach Steve Mariucci is Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo's best friend from childhood; the Lions' offensive coordinator, Sherman Lewis, is a former Michigan State player, and several on the Lions staff are graduates.)

    A typical Michigan State basketball game generates between $200,000 and $250,000. The BasketBowl is expected to at least double that figure but could generate more than $1 million "depending on how it shakes out," Hollis said.

    Revenue would come from ticket sales, suite sales (each school will get four to 10 suites to sell), licensed merchandise sales and sponsorship sales, which Hollis estimates will be between $400,000 and $600,000. Michigan State will not get any additional TV revenue, since the game is part of the Big Ten's contract with CBS and conference television revenue is split among the league's 11 members.

    Kentucky, meanwhile, will get an increased payout of $100,000 for the game. The game, part of a home-and-home series between the schools, would have paid Kentucky $25,000 if played at the Breslin Center.

    Tickets will range from $8 to $125, with about 60 percent of the tickets costing less than $14, Hollis said. Tickets for home games normally run $20.

    Season-ticket holders and athletic department donors get first crack at buying tickets. An initial mailing to 3,000 donors and basketball season-ticket holders had sold 6,000 tickets as of last Monday.

    An additional 12,500-piece mailing was scheduled to go out to other donors and football season-ticket holders last week. General ticket sales will begin July 8.

    Michigan State will offer students the option of buying on-field tickets that would put them on the field in a concert "mosh-pit" type setup, Hollis said. The basketball court will be elevated about three feet off the field, so students on the field will be able to look up at the court.

    SWAC ON TRACK: The Southwestern Athletic Conference is making strides toward developing a revenue-sharing program for its 10 schools.

    The conference — under Commissioner Robert Vowels, who joined the conference in December — hired Home Town Sports Promotions to conduct a branding survey and develop a brand strategy for the conference. It also hired New Vision Sports Properties, an agency established to increase revenue streams for historically black colleges and universities, to develop a marketing strategy and sell sponsorships.

    The conference also recently reached a five-year, multimillion-dollar deal with the Major Broadcasting Cable network, which will broadcast 13 conference football games this year and 12 conference basketball games.

    The partnerships will help increase awareness of the conference and its members as well as develop new revenue streams for its members, Vowels said.

    New Vision has already secured a sponsorship with PSI 20/20, a premium item/promotions company, and an agreement with DaDa Footwear for the league, Vowels said. He would not disclose the value of the deals except to say that conference sponsorships sell for at least $100,000 annually.

    New Vision has similar agreements with two other historically black conferences, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

    SWEETER ORANGE: The 2003 Orange Bowl, which pitted Iowa against Southern California at Pro Player Stadium on Jan. 2, had a $65 million economic impact on the three-county area of Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach County, according to a report prepared by the Sport Management Research Institute for the Orange Bowl Committee. That figure is up almost $10 million from the $56.4 million economic impact reported for the 2001 game, which was the national title game that year. A main factor affecting the increase was about $8 million in spending in local communities and businesses, according to the report. The direct economic impact, which considers the

    New ad campaign from CSTV catches the passion of college sports.
    spending patterns of spectators, media, teams and conferences, was $39.3 million this year, compared with $34.1 million in 2001.

    CSTV HITS THE ROAD: College Sports Television will tout its new ad campaign at the National Cable Show in Chicago this week with an RV wrapped in the CSTV logo and the campaign's tag line: "College sports are just better."

    The campaign will be used in radio, print and television ads. Print ads in select magazines have already begun appearing. The ads feature athletes with thought lines that state why they are so passionate about their sports. An ad with a baseball player, for example, says "Passion never goes on strike."

    CSTV officials would not say how much they are spending on the campaign.

    Jennifer Lee can be reached at

    Print | Tags: Colleges, CBSSN, Detroit Lions
  • NFL boosts promo spending for Tokyo game

    The NFL is planning its largest promotion ever surrounding the American Bowl in Tokyo, the first game of the preseason. The league and the Tokyo Dome plan to spend close to $1 million advertising the event and host a major tailgate party prior to kickoff.

    The new initiatives are part of an effort by the league to recruit newer fans in Japan rather than rely on the hard-core faithful there.

    The face of the campaign is a story in itself. Bob Sapp is no relation to Warren Sapp, the boisterous defensive lineman who stars for the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will play the New York Jets on Aug. 2 in Tokyo. Bob Sapp, who played two games for the Minnesota Vikings in 1997, is today a martial-arts star in Japan, where he is nicknamed "the Beast."

    Ex-NFLer Bob Sapp, now a martial-arts star in Japan, is featured in American Bowl ads.

    The Beast will grace subways, bus stops and print ads throughout Japan and will appear personally to promote the game, the only NFL game outside the United States. Later this month he will tour Tokyo with cheerleaders, a procession dubbed "Beauty and the Beast."

    "It is the first time we have not used [current] players as part of our promotional campaign," said Gordon Smeaton, vice president of NFL International. "We think we will reach a different audience."

    The league is working hard to build football interest in Japan, where more than 10 percent of the country's 85 million TV households tuned in to watch the Super Bowl this year, Smeaton said. The game will start at 6 p.m. local time (5 a.m. Eastern) instead of in the late morning, as in previous years.

    The NFL even unveiled the concept of the tailgate party last month at a press conference, and will host the festivity starting three hours before the game. The party will feature largely American-style food.

    The ad campaign was developed by Tokyo-based agency Hakuhodo.

    The NFL has been playing the American Bowl since 1986, and this year will mark the 12th time in Japan.

    Print | Tags: Football, New York Jets, NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • NHL renews Nextel for 3 years, $9M

    The NHL has bagged its biggest sponsorship renewal of the year, with Nextel agreeing to a $9 million deal that will keep it as the league's "official wireless telecommunications provider" for the next three years.

    Sources said the deal, which includes an opt-out for Nextel after the 2004-05 season, is priced at $2.8 million next year, $3 million the following year and $3.2 million in the final year. The contract is for U.S. rights only. It includes a commitment for a TV buy, online media, a provision for a pass-through to cell phone equipment vendors and rights to the NHL Players' Association. Nextel has been an NHL sponsor for the last three years.

    Notably absent from the renewal is presenting sponsorship of the NHL All-Star Game, a million-dollar-plus per year expense by itself, but one that Nextel had taken on for the last two years.

    Michael Robichaud, Nextel's director of sports and event marketing, said his brand's huge media spend behind the NHL (it bought enough postseason ads on ESPN and ABC to garner "presenting sponsorship status" on those networks for the entire playoffs), along with 12 NHL team deals and local NHL broadcast buys, would mean that Nextel's total NHL spending next year would equal or exceed this year's outlay.

    "We'll still be very entrenched in the sport," Robichaud said. "With the sponsorship, we've increased brand awareness, and the NHL delivers us an audience that indexes well against technology-savvy consumers and business decision-makers — and we've been able to integrate the NHL well at retail."

    Along with the Nextel deal, the NHL has signed renewals over the past two years with Coca-Cola/Powerade, MasterCard, MBNA, Anheuser-Busch, Labatt (Canada only) and Esso (Canada only) that extend beyond its labor agreement, even though the league is facing a potential labor stoppage after its collective-bargaining agreement ends next year.

    "We expect [the league] to work it out and they've been accommodating with language that protects us if things aren't settled," Robichaud said.

    The NHL's deals with Dodge, another of its biggest sponsors, and Southwest Airlines expire after next season.

    "So far," said Andrew Judelson, NHL group vice president/corporate marketing, "we're providing our partners with the right comfort level."

    Print | Tags: ABC, Daimler AG, ESPN, Hockey, NHL
  • draws estimated 3.5M for May drew an estimated 3.5 million unique visitors in May, the last full month of a season in which, according to Keith Ritter, president of NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises, it built on several consecutive years of profitability. also upped subscription revenue.

    The May traffic, based on an estimate from measurement technology company RedSheriff, represents a 13 percent rise from the 3.1 million unique visitors in May 2002. In April, set a site record with 3.9 million unique visitors, according to Internet traffic measurement service netScore.

    Before this season, ramped up its subscription offerings in an effort to capitalize on heavy traffic and become less wedded to advertising dollars. The shift — which brought visitors three paid fantasy games and four subscription video packages — has added an important, if minor, revenue stream, Ritter said.

    Ritter would not provide specific numbers, but he did say that revenue from fantasy was up 30 percent this year and that revenue from all of the site's subscription offerings had doubled from a year ago.

    Ritter said close to 250,000 people this season registered for video content on, although some of the more basic video content is free. Ritter said only that "a lot" of those 250,000 users paid.

    The e-commerce revenue stream for hit eight figures this season, according to Ritter. Just four years ago, that number was in the low six figures.

    Sponsorship revenue, meanwhile, was up 15 percent over last year, Ritter said. One of the NHL's sponsors, Nextel, in March signed a multiyear deal that allows customers to receive a wireless version of on their phones. Since then, 500,000 people have signed up, Ritter said.

    Print | Tags: Hockey, NHL
  • Not as planned, but still a peak performance

    Ratings for OLN’s “Global Extremes” climbed when the participants scaled Mount Everest.

    Outdoor Life Network's "Global Extremes" was supposed to climax with live coverage of five amateur endurance athletes stepping onto the peak of Mount Everest. The network had to settle for some "live to tape" footage of two of the contestants standing there, without actually capturing the moment of those last climactic steps.

    In the end, though, OLN still completed one of the most ambitious projects in the history of television, setting up a live transmission studio at Everest base camp and scaling the 29,000-foot peak on the 50th anniversary of the historic ascent by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

    The final four-hour segment of the show did a 0.25 cable rating, paltry by the standards of sports event television but still a 79 percent increase over what OLN normally averages in the time slot.

    The OLN summit attempt had been put off by eight days because of weather and because the OLN crew, which consisted of expert mountaineers, had to assist in a rescue of some climbers from other expeditions who were stranded on the mountain. Little of that life-and-death drama was caught on television, and by the time the weather had cleared and the OLN team was ready to try again, its satellite time in Tibet had expired. The crew had to drive a tape of the final climb to Kathmandu in Nepal to get it on the air two days later.

    Of the five people who were selected to scale Everest as part of the OLN team, three dropped out days before, and the two who made the climb did so faster than the camera men, meaning the OLN show never did get the shot that had been planned for months of the moment the featured participants completed their mission.

    The "Global Extremes" show consisted of 20 one-hour episodes chronicling the exploits of 50 contestants competing to be among the five to scale Everest. They engaged in a series of challenges and fitness tests in Moab, Utah, then in the Rockies, Costa Rica, South Africa and Iceland.

    Those shows averaged a 0.14 rating, about even with OLN's prime-time average.

    Seasonlong ratings "weren't as high as we anticipated," said Celeste Migliore, national truck SUV and van ad manager for lead sponsor Toyota. But she said that overall the sponsorship worked for Toyota on many levels.

    The company made the show and the Mount Everest theme a pillar of the launch of its 4Runner sport utility vehicle, whose name was incorporated into the show's subtitle "4Runners of Adventure." During the weekly episodes, the 4Runners were featured prominently whenever they were used for support or to ferry the participants activities that preceded their Everest climb.

    Outdoor Life Network CEO Roger Williams said "Global Extremes" cost about $5 million to produce, and that about 80 percent of the expenses were covered by Toyota and other sponsors.

    "At the end of the day, [the show] met all the financial benchmarks we set for it," he said. "While we always want to have bigger viewership, I'm happy with what we got."

  • Online jersey auction in Columbus comes to aid of diabetes research

    The Columbus Crew is creating Soccer Aid, a consumer program that will invite fans to log onto the team's Web site ( and bid on one-of-a-kind soccer jerseys, with all proceeds from the online auctions going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

    Columbus Crew coach Greg Andrulis, whose 8-year-old son, Austin, has diabetes, developed the idea for Soccer Aid.

    It's fashioned after a program in the United Kingdom called Football Aid, launched in 2001 to raise money for diabetes research there.

    The four-week Soccer Aid program, which starts today, will offer at least eight jerseys for bid each week. Bidding starts at $100.

    The list of players whose jerseys will be offered will include members of the Crew, a variety of Major League Soccer stars and several members of the U.S. national team that reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

    In addition to snagging the jerseys, winning bidders will get the opportunity to play in a 30-minute soccer match on the Columbus Crew Stadium field immediately before the Crew's July 19 home game.

    Each winning bidder also will receive a behind-the-scenes VIP tour of Crew Stadium on July 19. That tour is expected to include a meet-and-greet with the Crew coaching staff and some of the team's players.

    "The goal is to make this an annual program," said Andrew Kossoff, the Crew's vice president of corporate partnerships and business development. "It's for a worthy cause. And it's an opportunity that fans can't get anywhere else."

    Print | Tags: Columbus Crew, FIFA, Hockey
  • Reebok sued over shock-pad technology

    The inventor of a shock-absorbing cushion pad for shoes is suing Reebok, claiming the sneaker giant's DMX technology infringes on his patent.

    Mark Adams, holder of a 1991 patent, filed his lawsuit late last month in a San Francisco district court. He is seeking an injunction against Reebok and its subsidiary, the Rockport Co.

    "Reebok feels very confident that Mr. Adams' patent is invalid, which makes any issue of infringement a moot point," said Denise Kaigler, Reebok vice president of global communications. She wouldn't comment further.

    Adams' attorney, Edward King, said: "Patents are issued after the Patent and Trademark Office has done an investigation into whether a patent would be valid or not. The first defense of an infringer is always the claim that the patent is invalid. What would you expect? For Reebok just to write us a check?" King wouldn't comment further.

    Reebok launched its DMX shock-cushioning technology in 1997, and many of its footwear products contain the technology.

    Adams' lawsuit asks that Reebok be ordered to account for damages Adams may be entitled to and claims that "in view of [Reebok's] acts of willful infringement," those damages should be tripled.

    — Liz Mullen

    Print | Tags: Reebok
  • Top exec has no equity in CART, fueling questions and rumors

    Tucked away in financially sputtering Championship Auto Racing Team's annual proxy is a striking disclosure: Chief executive Chris Pook owns no company stock.

    Since he became CEO on Dec. 18, 2001, the company's share price has fallen 81 percent. Taken in that light, staying away from the stock is not a bad decision. But investors like to see the interests of management aligned with their own, which usually means CEOs and their underlings own company shares.

    "What is his stake in making things work?" asked Dennis McAlpine, a research analyst who follows auto racing companies. "It is not a good sign."

    Indeed. Few public companies of any kind have CEO's who are not equity holders, said Cheryl Gustitus, vice president with Institutional Shareholder Services, an investors rights group, in an e-mail. "Typically, it is more beneficial for shareholders when executives — certainly the CEO — have a personal stake in the company's performance."

    Pook has undertaken an aggressive and cash-guzzling strategy to turn around CART by getting the open-wheel sanctioning body into the race event promotion business.

    Top CART shareholders
    No. of shares
    Gerald Forsythe
    Fidelity Management
    Jon Vannini
    Fuller & Thaler Asset Management
    Source: CART proxy

    That risky maneuver has yet to bear fruit, and it led to 2002 losses of $14.5 million, compared with a 2001 shortfall of only $950,000. Meanwhile, the company's cash and short-term investments, a measure of its financial liquidity, skidded 39 percent to $71 million in the first 15 months of Pook's tenure.

    Company spokesman Adam Saal wouldn't comment on the shareless Pook.

    Questioned 13 months ago about the same issue, Pook replied, "Right now, they are getting 18 hours a day out of me. I think that is a pretty good interest in the company."

    There could be another, more recent reason why Pook still does not own any shares. When a material event is looming, company insiders are precluded under federal securities law from buying or selling shares. Rumors have swirled around CART that insiders will take the company private. If true, that would certainly constitute an event that would restrain Pook from buying shares.

    Even so, it's doubtful that would cover his entire 17½-month reign.

    Last year, Pook was given 250,000 options to buy shares at a price of $4.50. The stock today is at $3, making the options worthless. He received compensation totaling $564,000.

    Print | Tags: Motorsports
  • World of uncertainty for NFL Europe

    The NFL's costly experiment of exporting its game to soccer-crazy Europe is facing the off-field equivalent of a fourth-and-long.

    NFL Europe's current lease on life expires when the final gun fires Saturday at its championship game, World Bowl XI, and it's unclear whether it will return in its current form, or, indeed, in any form.

    During the summer and early fall the NFL will consider the fate of its six-team outpost, which costs the owners who rule America's favorite sport about $25 million annually. That's on top of the players union's annual $15 million contribution.

    The owners are scheduled to vote Sept. 17 on whether to continue funding their high-priced offspring, revamp it or perhaps even sound the final whistle (the NFLPA has no vote). Nothing, for the moment, is off the table.

    "The model doesn't work in terms of the way we have it structured," said Doug Quinn, senior vice president of NFL International, whose department's summer homework includes crafting a proposal to present to the owners. "We have looked at every model you can possibly imagine. It's like a Rubik's Cube: We turn it around and keep on looking at it."

    At the crux of the problem is NFL Europe's mission. Is it a development league for players, coaches, executives, referees and even broadcasters (Fox Sports' Troy Aikman cut his teeth overseas)? Or is it an audacious marketing initiative to bring the sport of football to the old country, where football means only one thing: soccer?

    When launched in 1991 as the World League, the answer was clear: Build an NFL commercial presence in Europe.

    "Overall it was a challenge, no question about that," said Oliver Luck, who ran the league for five years through 2000 and was a general manager for two teams in the early 1990s. "Europe has a number of indigenous sports, and American football is not one of them."

    Bleeding $40 million a year, the league today primarily points to NFL Europe's development benefits rather than to commercial appeal. Two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner toiled in Europe, and teams avoid expensive mistakes by seeing whether players flop overseas instead of as costly accessories to an NFL team payroll.

    At the same time, TV ratings in Europe and on Fox are weak, with 415,000 fewer viewers watching the regular-season games this year than in 1999, a 29 percent drop (see chart). Meanwhile, total viewers watching the World Bowl dropped more than 50 percent during that period.

    No NFL owners contacted for this story would comment, not surprising given that the league office has yet to put a proposal before them. But sources say there is growing dissatisfaction among ownership that the league costs them so much.

    Prior to an owners meeting last month, Pat Bowlen, the Denver Broncos owner, told SportsBusiness Journal: "The league has been very beneficial in the area of a training ground for both players and coaches, [but] we haven't gotten a lot of value in other areas. Could we operate it economically better? We certainly could."

    Wolfgang Pfeiffer, who covers the Rhein Fire for one of Germany's largest newspapers, Die Rheinpfalz, warns that if the league is shut down, as it was in 1993 and 1994, the sport will wither and die.

    "The fans won't come back," he said. "That is what the NFL owners must know."

    The Fire, which plays in Gelsenkirchen, and the Frankfurt Galaxy fare well, drawing crowds in the 30,000-40,000 range, in part due to their proximity to U.S. armed forces bases. But the Berlin franchise struggles, Pfeiffer said, and he described the Barcelona team as a disaster, despite its marketing alliance with soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona. The Scottish team struggles against rugby, and the Amsterdam team treads water, he added. Each team draws crowds between 10,000 and 20,000.

    Pfeiffer's prescription is no different from Quinn's: more teams. Rather than retrenching, the sport needs more rivalries and markets to work, they say.

    But how would the owners respond to a request for more funds?

    "Is profitability one of the primary goals?" Quinn asked. "It may not be. Making sure we have a broader footprint throughout Europe may be more important."

    Print | Tags: Denver Broncos, Football, Fox, NFL
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