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  • ACC turns to social media, student bloggers to promote title game

    The Atlantic Coast Conference has put the spotlight on student bloggers and their routine use of social media to promote the 2009 Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game in Tampa, an event whose attendance has declined significantly over its first four years in Florida.

    The ACC has revamped its Web site for the game, theroadtotampabay.com, to include links to campus correspondents reporting on their respective teams throughout the season through their “Road to Tampa Bay” blogs, Twitter accounts and Flickr photo pages.

    Other BCS conferences have jumped on the social network bandwagon as well, registering with Twitter and Facebook to get fans more engaged in conversing about their favorite college teams.

    Championship game Web page (left) and
    promos for the new RepresentACC.com

    For the ACC, integrating social media into online operations provides one stop for information, in addition to pushing ticket sales for the Dec. 5 game at Raymond James Stadium, said Michael Kelly, associate commissioner for football.

    A new site, RepresentACC.com, goes live Sept. 1 with advertising and ACC football videos, another asset to market the league, which in 2008 sent an NCAA record 10 of its 12 teams to bowl games.

    “I think sometimes [the league’s growth] gets lost,” Kelly said. “We need to pump up the accolades and bring more focus on the championship.”

    More than 50,000 tickets were sold for the 2008 Virginia Tech-Boston College title game at Raymond James, but fewer than 30,000 people attended.

    In Charlotte, where the ACC Football Championship will be played in 2010 and 2011 at Bank of America Stadium, the local organizing committee plans to launch its new Web site by October.

    Officials plan to use Twitter to post pre-sale offers 24 to 48 hours before tickets officially go on sale through traditional outlets, said Steve Swetoha, the group’s executive director.

    With eight ACC schools within 250 miles of Charlotte, the goal is to develop a vast community of “friends” on Facebook by tapping into the region’s large alumni base.

    Officials signed a two-year deal with Carbonhouse, a Charlotte-based Web design company whose principals include Brandon Lucas, the Charlotte Bobcats’ former director of marketing.

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  • A host of issues for hospitality

    Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

    Over a six-day span last September, as many as 40,000 spectators per day descended to Louisville, Ky., to watch the Ryder Cup unfold at the Valhalla Golf Club. Among the crowd were guests and employees of approximately 260 companies that spent up to $1 million each to give employees and guests the five-star treatment at the exclusive sporting event.

    Scattered among rows of white tents, executives from prominent global companies entertained clients on a course appropriately named for a hall in Norse mythology where Vikings partied with the gods.

    While the good times rolled at Valhalla, the financial industry was crumbling under the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy and the AIG bailout.

    By the morning of Sunday, Sept. 21, as the U.S. wrapped up an improbable win, government officials were making the rounds on Sunday talk shows to build support for a massive federal bailout of the financial industry. Two days later, on Sept. 23, a Senate committee held its first hearing on a $700 billion plan to bail out the financial markets.

    Looking back, some suggest, the Ryder Cup marked the end of a free-spending 15-year run that took corporate hospitality from a simple ticket and cold beer to filet mignon and half-million-dollar chalets.

    How did we get here?

    The clearest indicator of the impact the economic recession is having on sports is the cut in corporate hospitality, which was quickly labeled as an example of gross excess and became an easy target for members of Congress and the media.

    From U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., calling sports marketing “ego-boosts” to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd writing about Sheryl Crow entertaining guests of TARP recipient Northern Trust at its PGA Tour event in Los Angeles, corporate hospitality and spending on sports quickly carried a scarlet letter.

    “Hospitality has been one of the harder hit sectors of the marketing arena,” said David Abrutyn, head of global consulting at IMG, whose clients include Allstate, Coca-Cola, General Electric and Visa. “There’s a perception and a reality issue associated with hospitality that maybe doesn’t exist with some of the other investments.”

    The 2008 Ryder Cup sold out its $500K
    packages, but are those days gone?

    Corporate hospitality sales at weekly PGA Tour events are down by as much as 20 percent from last year. The U.S. Golf Association sold one-third fewer tents for the U.S. Open than it did in 2002, the last time the event was held at Bethpage State Park on Long Island.

    NASCAR speedways say their revenue from hospitality is down 20 percent this year. The biggest hit came from DuPont, which slashed its hospitality program from close to 20,000 guests a year across 37 NASCAR events to 2,000 guests this year at six events. NASCAR speedways have seen other sponsors pull back, albeit on a smaller scale than DuPont’s massive withdrawal.

    “We’re seeing a resetting of the industry,” said John Saunders, president of International Speedway Corp., which owns 13 tracks and hosts 19 Sprint Cup events. “Prices are coming down and we’re going to see lower barriers to entry.”

    Corporate hospitality is down 15 percent to 25 percent for packages sold on the secondary market by agencies like Premiere Corporate Events and RazorGator to events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four, BCS games and golf majors. Agencies based in Augusta, Ga., that sell corporate hospitality packages for the Masters said it was the worst year on record.

    Some of the premiere annual events did not see the same falloff as golf and NASCAR. The Super Bowl sold out hospitality packages at prices ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, said Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of events.

    Agencies that exclusively sell packages for the BCS, Final Four and Kentucky Derby said those events sold well, but at slightly reduced prices.

    Smaller, smarter packages

    Corporate sales have picked up since late spring and early summer for events in the third or fourth quarter, but companies are buying in a more measured approach than in recent years. What’s in are smaller, less expensive options, forcing agencies, events and properties to make additional sales calls to sell the same amount of inventory.

    Corporate hospitality sales at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships have picked up since the end of Wimbledon in early July. Organizers were able to hold prices by splitting up inventory and selling smaller packages to companies. Pierce O’Neil, USTA chief business officer, is selling more individual sessions instead of multisession packages than ever before.

    The USTA’s new Indoor Tennis Complex
    is hospitality HQ for the U.S. Open.

    “A year ago, a company might come in and want hospitality on 12 different sessions for 20 to 30 people for each one of those sessions,” Pierce said. “Now we’re doing a lot of deals that are a day here, a session there, kind of thing.”

    June marked the PGA Championship’s best sales month since the end of 2007, but organizers still expected last week’s event to fall short on corporate hospitality revenue. The tournament sold space to 110 companies this year, down from 140 when the event was last held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota in 2002.

    Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA of America, said one reason sales were lagging was because companies were buying smaller packages than in previous years.

    “I believe corporate America is going to be like every other business, in that they want to do more with less,” Steranka said. “They will still continue to invest in sports marketing and hospitality because it has proven to work, but they’ll spend less while they’re doing it.”

    Mimi Griffin, president of MSG Promotions, which sells hospitality for the U.S. Open of golf, estimates 75 percent of all companies buying corporate hospitality tents used to opt for the larger 100-person venues. She said that figure has dropped to 40 percent as more companies instead buy tents that accommodate 50 people or fewer.

    Besides buying smaller venues for shorter periods of time, most hospitality buyers are bypassing expensive add-ons like luxury hotels or private meals, opting for modest accommodations and dining.

    Under the tent

    Corporate hospitality packages are sold by properties, event organizers, facilities and/or agencies, depending on the event. NASCAR tracks and golf tournaments generally sell their own packages. The NFL and the Kentucky Derby license agencies to sell hospitality packages for their events.

    Packages for golf tournaments or NASCAR races generally come with an entertainment space such as a tent or chalet, tickets, parking passes and co-branded merchandise. Packages for events such as the Kentucky Derby and Super Bowl can include everything from transportation and accommodations to dinners, celebrity speakers and tee times.

    For events such as the Masters, which does not sell corporate packages, dozens of agencies secure tickets on the secondary market and sell all-inclusive deals with transportation, hotel, food and beverage, and entertainment.

    Costs usually start at a few hundred dollars per person, which include a ticket and a buffet lunch. The more expensive annual corporate packages at golf events can sell for upward of $500,000 and include 150-person, fully outfitted tents with tickets, parking passes, food and beverage, and golf outings on the host course after the tournament.

    A drop in corporate hospitality sales affects a number of areas, and results in revenue drops in merchandise and concessions. In the case of golf, it also can create a stigma about an event. New York City media outlets used the lagging hospitality sales at this year’s U.S. Open on Long Island as an example that corporate spending, specifically by banks, had not yet rebounded.

    Quint Events, the exclusive seller of hospitality at the Kentucky Derby, has traditionally sold most clients on all-inclusive food options that include jumbo shrimp, filet mignon and premium bar service. This year, however, two-thirds of those clients bought packages with access to cash lounges that served burgers, hot dogs and beer.

    “It’s a value-driven market now,” said Ken Murrah, partner in Quint Events. “It’s not just throw anything out there and customers will buy it.”

    Bank of America, a TARP recipient criticized earlier in the year for its sponsorship of the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl, cut the number and tone of events where it bought corporate hospitality in the first half of 2009.

    “You might have seen something a little more opulent in the past and you now see much more bare bones, which reflects the environment and the tone of the country right now,” said Ray Bednar, sports sponsorship executive at Bank of America.

    Bednar, along with sponsorship executives at AT&T, predicted a flight to higher-profile events. This year, Bank of America hosted clients at the Daytona 500, Super Bowl, Final Four and U.S. Open golf, but scaled back on the number of PGA Tour events it attended and parked its Champions Club hospitality venue that travels to NASCAR races. “I think we’re seeing that prudence is important and you have to look at every single event on its merit to see if it’s an honest-to-god revenue generator,” Bednar said.

    Conversely, some companies are entertaining on a regional basis by picking events closer to offices to avoid overnight travel. Premiere Corporate Events had a client in the technology industry that bought a significant package each year for the Daytona 500, but this year divided the money into seven races in different regions so employees and clients did not require a hotel.

    Companies and agencies said properties and events are doing a better job of adding value to packages without increasing the cost, but more still needs to be done. Use of facilities for business and networking meetings, already a staple of NASCAR deals, are becoming more common.

    Hospitality packages for events such the BCS
    championship game sold well, but
    at reduced prices.

    Special access to facilities, athletes, executives and coaches is also being offered. Golf majors are throwing in post-event access to courses. Daytona International Speedway is being flexible with ticket packages and menu choices for companies that buy suites for its two NASCAR races. “We’ve got sponsors that have been with us a long time and we’re not just going to let them go,” said John Guthrie, vice president of business development and partnerships at Daytona.

    Sponsors may also ask for additional hospitality to gain tangible assets when they renew deals, said corporate consultants. The USOC plans to double the size of its hospitality offerings for sponsors at the Vancouver Games (see story).

    However, properties are still faced with the negative perception associated with corporate entertaining at events, specifically golf, said industry executives. Anonymity, which was rarely requested in the past, is becoming prevalent among brands in the banking sector.

    Some financial institutions have asked event managers to remove their names from on-site placards. The PGA Championship replaced signage this year with customer service representatives to direct credentialed hospitality guests to their respective areas.

    Requests for privacy also extend to internal documents. Glass Entertainment Management, an agency that sells hospitality packages on the secondary market, was asked by a company to draw up a contract under “client event” instead of the MLB All-Star Game. “We’ve got to protect the client that we’re working for,” said owner Patrick Glass.

    What lies ahead?

    The next few months will paint a better picture of what to expect in 2010 and beyond. Most people predict single-digit percentage increases in the next 12 to 18 months. Some suggest a full recovery by 2011.

    At the Derby, the all-inclusive lounge (top)
    lost ground to the cash bar this year.

    Events such as the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach are scaling back sales forecasts in corporate hospitality for the next 12 months. The Super Bowl, which expects to sell out of hospitality packages again in 2010 in Miami, has fewer signed contracts at this point than it had in recent years, Supovitz said. But Quint’s sales for the Kentucky Derby are 50 percent ahead of where they were at this point last year.

    No consensus exists about which sectors will see more or less growth. IMG’s Abrutyn expects business-to-business brands to be flat or up in the next year, and believes there will be a dropoff in spending among consumer-product goods.

    Others are seeing new interest among tech companies and manufacturing, and expect financial companies to make a moderate return soon as they repay TARP loans and continue to post quarterly profits.

    Events, properties and agencies are optimistic that signs of improvements in the economy and corporate spending will have a positive impact on their bottom lines.

    “It has gotten better already,” said Pete Bevacqua, chief business officer of the USGA. “I feel better about it today than I did six months ago.”

    Staff writer Michael Smith contributed to this report.

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  • Airport shuttles carry USC, UCLA colors

    The Parking Spot, an off-airport shuttle service, gained a brand identity with its readily identifiable black-and-yellow spotted buses. Now shuttles serving Los Angeles International Airport will sport the colors of Southern Cal and UCLA as part of a three-year sponsorship agreement with the schools.

    The Chicago-based airport parking company, which has 19 locations nationally from Los Angeles to Atlanta, put the USC and UCLA shuttles into service this past week, and more could be on the way.

    Mark Wildman, The Parking Spot’s vice president of marketing, said the company is evaluating similar arrangements with professional and college teams across the company’s primary markets as part of a program that could put team colors on many of its shuttles. Other locations include Dallas, St. Louis, Houston, Kansas City, Phoenix, Orlando, Nashville and Austin, Texas.

    The Parking Spot is evaluating similar deals with
    teams across its primary markets.

    “We think there is a lot of potential, especially on the university side where the loyalty is so strong,” said Wildman, a former Miller Brewing executive.

    The Trojans’ cardinal and gold shuttles will work out of The Parking Spot’s Sepulveda Boulevard location, while the Bruins’ light blue and gold buses will work the Century Boulevard location. About 50,000 shuttle rides per month service the Sepulveda and Century locations going to and from LAX.

    The agreement calls for The Parking Spot to receive multiple ad units on USC and UCLA radio broadcasts, signs at football and basketball venues, and tickets, which will be used for employees and customer giveaways. There is not a cash element to the deal, which is strictly an exchange of services.

    The arrangement with USC was negotiated with the Trojans’ athletic department, which handles its marketing in-house, while the UCLA deal was struck with the Bruins’ multimedia rights partner, ISP Sports.

    Previous agreements between the company and the schools, which date to 2004, focused on an exchange of shuttle service for promotional rights and signage at basketball venues.

    “There’s a really high overlap between the sports fan and those who travel a lot,” Wildman said. “When you think about reaching the fans of USC and UCLA, that’s really our target customers. And with our shuttles, we think we can be mobile ticket-selling machines for the schools.”

    Wildman said he came up with the idea last winter while watching the NHL’s Kings, another Los Angeles team that his company sponsors.

    “I’ve always wanted to put our spots on the Zamboni, but it’s something that has been beyond our budget, so we just took that idea and flipped it on its head,” Wildman said. “We started talking about putting a team’s colors on our spotted shuttles. Our spots are what has made us top-of-mind with the consumer, and with the team colors on the shuttles, it puts USC and UCLA in front of thousands of our customers.”

    When riders enter the team shuttles, a promotional spot for the school will play on a 26-inch flat-panel TV with a call-to-action to buy tickets.

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  • Airport shuttles carry USC, UCLA colors

    The Parking Spot, an off-airport shuttle service, gained a brand identity with its readily identifiable black-and-yellow spotted buses. Now shuttles serving Los Angeles International Airport will sport the colors of Southern Cal and UCLA as part of a three-year sponsorship agreement with the schools.

    The Chicago-based airport parking company, which has 19 locations nationally from Los Angeles to Atlanta, put the USC and UCLA shuttles into service this past week, and more could be on the way.

    Mark Wildman, The Parking Spot’s vice president of marketing, said the company is evaluating similar arrangements with professional and college teams across the company’s primary markets as part of a program that could put team colors on many of its shuttles. Other locations include Dallas, St. Louis, Houston, Kansas City, Phoenix, Orlando, Nashville and Austin, Texas.

    The Parking Spot is evaluating similar deals with
    teams across its primary markets.

    “We think there is a lot of potential, especially on the university side where the loyalty is so strong,” said Wildman, a former Miller Brewing executive.

    The Trojans’ cardinal and gold shuttles will work out of The Parking Spot’s Sepulveda Boulevard location, while the Bruins’ light blue and gold buses will work the Century Boulevard location. About 50,000 shuttle rides per month service the Sepulveda and Century locations going to and from LAX.

    The agreement calls for The Parking Spot to receive multiple ad units on USC and UCLA radio broadcasts, signs at football and basketball venues, and tickets, which will be used for employees and customer giveaways. There is not a cash element to the deal, which is strictly an exchange of services.

    The arrangement with USC was negotiated with the Trojans’ athletic department, which handles its marketing in-house, while the UCLA deal was struck with the Bruins’ multimedia rights partner, ISP Sports.

    Previous agreements between the company and the schools, which date to 2004, focused on an exchange of shuttle service for promotional rights and signage at basketball venues.

    “There’s a really high overlap between the sports fan and those who travel a lot,” Wildman said. “When you think about reaching the fans of USC and UCLA, that’s really our target customers. And with our shuttles, we think we can be mobile ticket-selling machines for the schools.”

    Wildman said he came up with the idea last winter while watching the NHL’s Kings, another Los Angeles team that his company sponsors.

    “I’ve always wanted to put our spots on the Zamboni, but it’s something that has been beyond our budget, so we just took that idea and flipped it on its head,” Wildman said. “We started talking about putting a team’s colors on our spotted shuttles. Our spots are what has made us top-of-mind with the consumer, and with the team colors on the shuttles, it puts USC and UCLA in front of thousands of our customers.”

    When riders enter the team shuttles, a promotional spot for the school will play on a 26-inch flat-panel TV with a call-to-action to buy tickets.

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  • Dial will depart P&G but wants to stay in sports

    Jason Dial, Procter & Gamble’s director of global sports marketing, is leaving the consumer-goods corporation after 18 years in hopes of joining a sports property or agency.

    “After 18 years with P&G, I’m excited to take on new challenges,” said Dial, who hasn’t decided what his next job will be. “What happened for me is that I’ve really come to appreciate connecting consumers to brands through sports, and I have a desire to do that on a more regular basis.”

    In two years as P&G’s global sports marketer, Dial was challenged to expand its sports marketing efforts. His achievements included a partnership with USA Gymnastics in which three female brands — Cover Girl, Gillette Venus and Secret — were able to align with the national governing body ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

    Dial

    He also was at the heart of the recently announced P&G deal with the NFL that will allow the company to put an “Official Locker Room Product of the NFL” label on a variety of products, including Old Spice deodorant and Febreze. P&G described the deal as the costliest in its history. A similar, multibrand deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee is pending.

    Dial developed a reputation for building a strong relationship with properties.

    USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny said, “He demonstrates great ability to bridge the corporate culture and sports culture by building relationships, a fundamental component of success in this business.”

    Mark Waller, the NFL’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, added, “Jason leads with a clear focus on driving alignment across multiple stakeholders, and creates strong working partnerships both internally and externally.”

    A P&G spokesman said that Dial will be missed and that his replacement will be announced at a later date.

    Dial, 40, had 12 assignments during his 18 years with P&G, including running the corporation’s Target marketing team. But he said he really enjoyed working with sports and would like to continue to work in the sports industry in the future. His last day at P&G is Aug. 31.

    “The skills I’ve developed are extremely transferable, and I’m excited to leverage that in the future,” Dial said. “This has been an incredible 18-year run and I want to be sure that the next step is the right one.”

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  • DirecTV testing NFL package on broadband

    DirecTV is testing its NFL Sunday Ticket Online broadband service in Manhattan this season, making it available to all of the borough’s 1.6 million residents.

    DirecTV is charging Manhattanites $349.99 for online access to its popular out-of-market NFL package. The offer is available only to new non-DirecTV customers.

    Manhattan residents can get
    Sunday Ticket.

    The test is part of a renewal the satellite operator signed with the league in March that gives DirecTV exclusive access to Sunday Ticket through 2014. DirecTV is paying $1 billion a year for those rights. At the time, DirecTV said it would launch a broadband version of the Sunday Ticket service by 2012.

    If this season’s test is successful, DirecTV plans to roll it out nationwide next season.

    The deal also gives DirecTV the right to market a broadband version of the package to consumers who are unable to subscribe to DirecTV.

    DirecTV executives view Manhattan as a controlled environment in which to conduct the test. Due to line-of-sight issues and apartment rules, most Manhattan residents could not subscribe to DirecTV even if they wanted to.

    In fact, a Web page marketing the service reads, “Call an audible on your landlord.”

    The NFL Sunday Ticket Online service will stream every Sunday afternoon game and DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel. It also provides highlights and real-time scores and stats.

    The broadband service also allows subscribers to stream games to their mobile phone anywhere in the country.

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  • DirecTV testing NFL package on broadband

    DirecTV is testing its NFL Sunday Ticket Online broadband service in Manhattan this season, making it available to all of the borough’s 1.6 million residents.

    DirecTV is charging Manhattanites $349.99 for online access to its popular out-of-market NFL package. The offer is available only to new non-DirecTV customers.

    Manhattan residents can get
    Sunday Ticket.

    The test is part of a renewal the satellite operator signed with the league in March that gives DirecTV exclusive access to Sunday Ticket through 2014. DirecTV is paying $1 billion a year for those rights. At the time, DirecTV said it would launch a broadband version of the Sunday Ticket service by 2012.

    If this season’s test is successful, DirecTV plans to roll it out nationwide next season.

    The deal also gives DirecTV the right to market a broadband version of the package to consumers who are unable to subscribe to DirecTV.

    DirecTV executives view Manhattan as a controlled environment in which to conduct the test. Due to line-of-sight issues and apartment rules, most Manhattan residents could not subscribe to DirecTV even if they wanted to.

    In fact, a Web page marketing the service reads, “Call an audible on your landlord.”

    The NFL Sunday Ticket Online service will stream every Sunday afternoon game and DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel. It also provides highlights and real-time scores and stats.

    The broadband service also allows subscribers to stream games to their mobile phone anywhere in the country.

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  • Finance consultant Mitchell Ziets joins CAA’s Evolution

    Creative Artists Agency has made its first move into sports finance, continuing a push into sports that has seen it target labor, media and marketing in recent years.

    CAA finance vehicle Evolution Media Capital has hired Mitchell Ziets, who folded his consulting firm MZ Sports to take the job. He is working out of CAA’s New York office.

    CAA declined to comment. Reached by phone at CAA’s Manhattan location, Ziets also declined to comment.

    Ziets

    Ziets notified his clients and peers last week with an e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by SportsBusiness Journal.

    Ziets specializes in stadium leases, financing and franchise valuation, and is expected to be joined by additional hires. Over two decades, he has provided financing counsel on more than 40 new stadiums and arenas and advised buyers on acquisitions of teams including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Anaheim Ducks and Washington Nationals.

    EMC was founded by Bob Stanley upon leaving Merrill Lynch 15 months ago as head of its media and sports structured finance group. Stanley, however, has focused on media and intellectual property. Sports is a role Ziets is expected to fill.

    It is unclear if CAA will raise a fund for Ziets to be able to lend with or how he will work with the CAA Sports group.

    CAA does not own all of EMC, but it could not be determined who owns the rest.

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  • Fox goes local (and big) with pregame marketing

    The battle of the NFL’s pregame shows is about to be waged on billboards nationwide, as Fox has made a seven-figure commitment to market its “Fox NFL Sunday” in 25 markets.

    The billboards go up Sept. 4 and will run for four weeks.

    This is the second consecutive year that Fox has marketed its pregame show with an outdoor advertising campaign. This year, the network will be using only digital billboards, which allows Fox to tailor messages for each market. Last year, it used a handful of such boards; most were not digital.

    The digital billboards will allow Fox to tailor messages to specific markets and update them throughout the day. Most messages will highlight planned topics for the coming Sunday’s show. A billboard in New York, for example, could speculate as to whether rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez will start for the Jets.

    New York is one of four cities getting
    billboards set up like goal posts.

    Fox executives are hoping this campaign will establish a connection between the on-air studio hosts and local fans. They are hoping that fans will be more likely to tune in by seeing Fox’s studio hosts alongside local stadiums and home team logos.

    “Ours guys are connected to the community and team in each market,” said Eric Markgraf, executive vice president of marketing for Fox Sports. “The best part of our shows are the personalities.”

    The billboards will rotate messages and images during the week, pairing Terry Bradshaw and Curt Menefee; Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson; and Michael Strahan and Frank Caliendo.

    In four cities (New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Dallas), the billboards will be set up like goal posts, complete with two 10-foot yellow poles extending off the top of the billboard, with orange wind flags.

    Last season, Fox’s pregame show pulled a 3.3 rating, 22 percent higher than the show’s biggest competitor, CBS’s “NFL Today,” which had a 2.7 rating.

    The creative was produced in-house. Fox used media-buying agency New and Improved Media to handle the billboard purchases.

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  • Fox goes local (and big) with pregame marketing

    The battle of the NFL’s pregame shows is about to be waged on billboards nationwide, as Fox has made a seven-figure commitment to market its “Fox NFL Sunday” in 25 markets.

    The billboards go up Sept. 4 and will run for four weeks.

    This is the second consecutive year that Fox has marketed its pregame show with an outdoor advertising campaign. This year, the network will be using only digital billboards, which allows Fox to tailor messages for each market. Last year, it used a handful of such boards; most were not digital.

    The digital billboards will allow Fox to tailor messages to specific markets and update them throughout the day. Most messages will highlight planned topics for the coming Sunday’s show. A billboard in New York, for example, could speculate as to whether rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez will start for the Jets.

    New York is one of four cities getting
    billboards set up like goal posts.

    Fox executives are hoping this campaign will establish a connection between the on-air studio hosts and local fans. They are hoping that fans will be more likely to tune in by seeing Fox’s studio hosts alongside local stadiums and home team logos.

    “Ours guys are connected to the community and team in each market,” said Eric Markgraf, executive vice president of marketing for Fox Sports. “The best part of our shows are the personalities.”

    The billboards will rotate messages and images during the week, pairing Terry Bradshaw and Curt Menefee; Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson; and Michael Strahan and Frank Caliendo.

    In four cities (New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Dallas), the billboards will be set up like goal posts, complete with two 10-foot yellow poles extending off the top of the billboard, with orange wind flags.

    Last season, Fox’s pregame show pulled a 3.3 rating, 22 percent higher than the show’s biggest competitor, CBS’s “NFL Today,” which had a 2.7 rating.

    The creative was produced in-house. Fox used media-buying agency New and Improved Media to handle the billboard purchases.

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  • Hicks creditors look for response from NHL

    The more than three dozen creditors of Hicks Sports Group, the owner of the Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers that defaulted on its debt in March, sent a letter to the NHL four weeks ago asking the league how it planned to help address their concerns, according to financial sources, but there has been no response.

    At the same time, HSG owner Tom Hicks has suggested that he believes he can hold onto the Stars despite the default through August 2010, which is far later than the October deadline the creditors assumed existed for resolution of debt crisis, the sources said.

    A process to sell the MLB Rangers is under way, but no such activities are believed to be occurring around the Stars. The situation could shape up as a major battle between the creditors on one side and the NHL and Hicks on the other.

    “There will be litigation for sure,” one of the sources said.

    Dallas Stars owner Hicks Sports Group, owned by
    Tom Hicks, defaulted on debt in March.

    The NHL declined to comment. Galatioto Sports Partners, believed to be the largest creditor in the more than $500 million debt deal, also declined to comment. A spokesman for Hicks said he had no comment.

    Hicks missed a $10 million quarterly interest payment on March 31. That led the creditors to believe Hicks had until October to resolve the default or the lenders could take over the team, because the NHL has a six-month standstill period in which teams are protected from bank takeover in the event of a default.

    However, the loan document that HSG, the league and the creditors signed has a different timetable, depending on when the clock starts ticking. According to the document, the sources said, if the default happens within six months of the start of an NHL regular season, the creditors then have to wait through that season, plus another 60 days.

    “This is not an unusual provision,” said Irwin Kishner, a partner with New York-based law firm Herrick, Feinstein, where he has negotiated these agreements, known as consent letters, in all four major sports leagues. “There is a very good business reason not to have creditors [taking over a team] during the regular season.”

    Six months from March 31 is right at the start of the regular season, but the loan had a five-day grace period for its payments, and starting from the end of those days, Hicks would meet the criteria for being within six months of the start of the season.

    The development comes as the NHL is embroiled in the Phoenix Coyotes’ contentious bankruptcy proceedings. Hicks also is one of the most influential owners in the NHL, serving as vice chairman of the board of governors and one of 11 owners on the league’s executive committee. He was one of the executive committee members to question Jim Balsillie, who is seeking to buy the Coyotes, in late July about Balsillie’s refusal to follow through with commitments he made regarding prospective ownership of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006. 

    Even if he is strapped, Hicks may still have the funding to keep the Stars going.

    The debt deal contains a $17 million interest reserve, one of the finance sources said, and despite the default, the team can still use it.

    It also is possible the situation never gets to October. Hicks could sell the Rangers and come up with the money to cure the default. He also owns half of Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League. He and co-owner George Gillett are seeking investors in that club, sources said, and success in that regard could free up cash for Hicks to solve his Texas issues.

    Staff writer Tripp Mickle contributed to this report.

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  • Hollywood nightclub gets spot at Staples

    AEG, looking to add some sizzle to Staples Center’s premium offerings, has formed a joint venture with Hollywood nightclub operator SBE to build a lounge on the arena’s upper suite level.

    The $1.3 million project, Hyde Lounge, is modeled after the SBE club of the same name that opened in April 2006 on Sunset Boulevard. Like that intimate nightspot, known as a magnet for young celebrities, principals hope the arena’s new club will attract a young crowd with plenty of disposable income.

    “We all do arena clubs and restaurants and dine-in views and sports lounges, but it’s the first time we have done … a high-end Hollywood nightclub like this, so it’s going to be an interesting experience,” said Tim Leiweke, AEG’s president and CEO. “If you look at the way [SBE] goes out and entertains people, the way they create an environment, it’s all about Hollywood and nightlife, and these guys do it better than anyone we saw.”

    The recession has put the hammer down on all big league teams as they struggle to renew suites and sign new accounts. AEG, in developing this velvet rope concept with a well-known local brand, will reduce the facility’s suite count by eight to 150.

    With Hyde Lounge, the focus is on pulling in the young and affluent local crowd drawn to the next trendy attraction. The joint venture aims to capture a portion of the age 21 to 35 demographic in Los Angeles that has the cash in hand to buy a $400 bottle of champagne served tableside but not the deep pockets to pay six figures annually for a traditional suite or a cushioned chair near Jack Nicholson’s spot on the hardwood.

    “By the pricing of the product we’re going to offer, it’s going to lend itself to a very high-energy, very affluent and very serious and exclusive customer base, which is a very small piece of the overall business model of Staples Center,” SBE Chief Executive Officer Sam Nazarian said.

    The original Hyde Lounge on Sunset Boulevard
    is known as a place to spot young celebs.

    Nazarian, 34, fits the profile of his clientele. He’s a native of Iran whose family fled the country during the 1979 revolution and settled in Southern California, where his father struck it rich after investing with telecommunications firm Qualcomm. The junior Nazarian has played himself on HBO’s hit series “Entourage” and frequently rubs elbows with Hollywood’s A-listers.

    SBE owns clubs, luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants. SBE-owned Katsuya, a collection of Japanese restaurants, recently opened a location at L.A. Live across the street from Staples Center, where AEG holds the development rights.

    The Staples Center version of Hyde Lounge will be designed in part by sports architect Rossetti, the firm planning other parts of the arena’s $10 million renovation this summer. It will have ledge seats overlooking the bowl and high-end leather furniture, rich fabrics, strong earth tones and hand-carved finishes.

    The 175-person lounge, opposite stage end, is to debut Oct. 27 for the Lakers’ home opener. Levy Restaurants, the arena’s food provider, will operate the club in tandem with on-site managers representing the two firms. Food will also be served with some of the same items on the menu at Katsuya and other SBE restaurants.

    In its first year the lounge will be open to courtside seat holders and suite owners. As part of the deal, AEG sold a block of tickets for Lakers, Clippers and Kings games and other events to SBE to distribute to its best customers to hang out at the new club, said Lee Zeidman, the arena’s executive vice president and general manager.

     In year two, the joint venture plans to sell memberships. Prices have yet to be determined.

    “We chose to go out of the gate conservatively to build the clientele and awareness and exclusivity of the club,” he said.

    If all goes well at Staples Center, there are opportunities to expand the partnership at AEG’s O2 arenas in London and Berlin, and in Las Vegas, where SBE bought the Sahara Hotel Casino in 2007 in a city where AEG wants to build an arena, Leiweke said.

    “My guess is this is a concept that if it works well, we will roll it out to other places,” he said.

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  • JPMorgan limits U.S. Open hospitality

    JPMorgan Chase & Co. will operate its corporate hospitality at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships for only the final six days of the two-week event this year, finance and tennis sources said, becoming the latest example of a bank minimizing its entertainment in sports.

    While JPMorgan is considered among the healthier companies in the troubled financial sector and in June repaid the $25 billion it borrowed from the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, financial institutions collectively remain under the public microscope.

    Both the bank and U.S. Open declined to comment. The tournament begins in two weeks.

    JPMorgan in 2007 signed a six-year, $90 million extension of its Open sponsorship. The company long has been the largest consumer of corporate hospitality at America’s premier tennis event, entertaining thousands of clients in what is the bank’s backyard.

    “If I am out there spending money, people will think I am doing well, and there will be a lot of negative publicity,” said Robert Tuchman, president of Premiere Corporate Events, which arranges corporate hospitality at major sporting events, including the Open. “I am sure they [JPMorgan] are saving money, but the reason that they are doing it, I am convinced, is perception.”

    Ever since congressmen late last year began bashing banks for wining and dining at sporting events, companies have been pulling back out of fear of public derision. A source close to JPMorgan said cost-cutting was the primary reason for the move. Neither the bank nor the U.S. Tennis Association, which owns the Open, would say how much the company spends on corporate hospitality.

    That’s a complicated question, because some of the outlay is tied into the company’s sponsorship, which the bank is obligated to pay anyway. The bank will save on food and beverages with the hospitality reduction, though, and one tennis insider estimates the financial institution would save at least in the high six figures for going dark over eight days, which covers 16 sessions.

    JPMorgan has cut back on its Open exposure this year in other ways, as well. In the last four years, the bank has offered free tickets through in-bank promotions, and over the last two years, it has had seven-figure print and TV ad campaigns touting the giveaway. Some ATM receipts were redeemable for free tickets. Last year, the bank gave away 16,000 tickets; the year before, it gave away 8,000.

    This year, free tickets are available only for bank customers who have a qualifying checking account and make qualifying new-money deposits into a savings account. The bank advertised the offer in-branch only, and a bank spokesman said he did not have a figure for the number of tickets given away.

    Even with the reductions, the bank will still have a strong branding presence on-site for the Open, and it plans to keep its Arthur Ashe Stadium double suite, which can host up to 40 people a day.

    JPMorgan is not the only financial institution cutting back on its Open exposure. American Express, the event’s official credit card provider, is not sponsoring the giveaway of handheld TV devices as it did the last two years. Fans could use the devices to view action on other courts.

    AmEx is adding new features this year, including offering free on-site hitting with tennis pros for card members and an online audio broadcast of the event. Its sponsorship, however, has largely revolved around providing card members experiences and services, not corporate hospitality.

    The USTA opens its new indoor corporate hospitality center with this year’s tournament, showcasing a building that includes the indoor courts AmEx will utilize. Despite JPMorgan’s retrenchment, the USTA still expects a fairly healthy showing. The group has said that since Wimbledon, sales have picked up, and the event could equal last year, when the tournament pulled in about $5 million in sales.

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  • LPGA expects big year for Solheim

    The LPGA expects the Solheim Cup, the biennial women’s team event scheduled for this week, to set new highs in attendance and corporate support, beating records set in 2005, the last time the event was held on U.S. soil.

    The tournament starts on Friday at Rich Harvest Farms, about 45 miles west of Chicago. The 19-year-old event, named for Ping founder Karsten Solheim, features 12-person teams from the U.S. and Europe competing over three days in a Ryder Cup-style format.

    Based on sales of tickets and corporate sponsorship packages, organizers expect walk-up crowds to push seven-day attendance numbers past the previous record of 103,000 set in 2005 at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. The first Solheim Cup, held in Orlando in 1990, drew a few thousand fans for the week.

    Solheim Cup: By The Numbers
    Roughly 50 percent of ticket buyers in 2005 purchased tickets to this week’s event
    Half of all ticket buyers live outside the Chicago market
    About 80 percent of corporate buyers are from Chicago

    Unlike the 2005 event, which sold out eight months in advance by random drawing, there are still more than 10,000 tickets available for the three competition rounds. Capacity at Rich Harvest Farms is 10,000 more per day than at Crooked Stick.

    Tickets cost $125 for weekly grounds passes, $5 or $25 a day for the four practice rounds and $50 a day for the three competition rounds. Organizers sold all 8,000 of the most expensive daily tickets to the Ping Pavilion hospitality area, priced at $125 on competition days or $350 for the week.

    Kelly Hyne, tournament executive director since the 1998 event, said the expected record attendance figures are primarily due to a larger host course and a pair of firsts.

    “This is the first Solheim Cup where we’ve been on the ground planning for four years, and being in a major market for the first time certainly increased spectators and sponsors,” Hyne said.

    Hyne would not disclose corporate sales figures, but said the more than 100 companies buying ticket or hospitality packages purchased at higher price ranges than the same number of companies in 2005. Companies paid as little as $5,000 for group ticket packages to $1 million for hospitality tent and a la carte options such as expo tents and television ad units. The majority of packages sold for $30,000 to $100,000.

    There were four companies that bought the most expensive $250,000 sponsorship packages in 2005, up from just one at that level in 2002.

    The Solheim Cup is an important cash source for the LPGA, which uses profits from U.S.-based cups to help fund operations. Future events are scheduled for Killeen Castle Golf Resort in Ireland in 2011 and Colorado Golf Club in 2013.

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  • NeuLion clients relaunching sites

    Chris Wagner, executive vice president of NeuLion, asks his university clients a simple question: Do you want your official Web site to be a scoreboard or do you want it to make money?

    With an eye on enhanced video capabilities — and the enhanced revenue stream that the schools hope will follow — 14 NeuLion university Web sites will relaunch on the veritable eve of the college football season. What these sites have in common is an improved video player with a more dominant position on the front page and a deeper menu of video offerings.

    Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon and Nebraska are among the schools that are buying into the upgraded video technology that NeuLion believes will drive their Web revenue to higher levels.

    The relaunch incorporates several new design elements, including a cleaner front page and easier navigation. Revenue typically comes from subscriptions to insider content and advertising, and is shared between the school and the Internet manager, NeuLion.

    Among 14 new-look college sites: Georgia

    Some of the sites will feature their own TV page, such as Oregon’s GoDucks.TV, which offers programming options throughout the day. Georgia has similar ideas, including producing its own Bulldog “SportsCenter” type of show each day.

    “We want the experience of watching video on these sites to be just like turning on the TV at home,” Wagner said. “This has the potential to change how a fan interacts with the school. If you create something engaging, more fans will show up and they’ll stay longer. It also amplifies the brand and the Web site becomes more a part of the recruiting process.”

    NeuLion also is using the relaunch as an opportunity to rebrand from its former name JumpTV to NeuLion. The two companies merged in 2008, shortly after JumpTV had acquired the college Web site business from XOS Technologies.

    The JumpTV brand will be phased out as more of NeuLion’s sites relaunch with the new video technology and refreshed looks.

    With each new look will come a greater emphasis on the video. On Georgia’s site, for example, the video screen will stretch all the way across the front page. Other sites similarly will feature the video offerings in a more dominant position on the page, with less clutter around it.

    “We’ve gone through some redesigns and it’s gotten a little too fancy, a little too busy,” said Steve Malchow, a senior associate athletic director at Iowa State, one of the NeuLion schools updating its look and video technology. “The video becomes a huge anchor for the page and it gives your eye a place to start as you consume the front page.”

    Without getting overly technical, Wagner said NeuLion’s video, which will be delivered in high definition, has eliminated the time required for a video to buffer. “When you watch TV, the screen doesn’t have to buffer, so why should it when you’re watching TV on the Internet?” he said.

    The idea is that the longer fans stay on the site, the more apt they’ll be to buy stuff, whether it’s season tickets, the latest hat or T-shirt offering, or other school-branded gear.

    “I don’t know if the financial impact will be immediate, but it does open the door to create new revenue streams,” said Alan Thomas, Georgia’s associate AD for external affairs. Thomas said the Bulldogs will offer about 85 percent of its video for free and the other 15 percent will be available by subscription only.

    “We’ve all been slow to get to this point,” Thomas said of the college space. “The Web site has been more of a tool to put out a release. But it needs to be more of a destination.”

    NeuLion, whose clients also include the NHL, NFL, Professional Bull Riders and the Indy Racing League, will also roll out enhancements such as the Game Center and Game Tracker for fans who want to follow the game with the radio play-by-play. Ad space is incorporated into those elements.

    Most top schools aren’t able to stream live video of their games because broadcasters own those rights.

    The other NeuLion schools working on a relaunch or video upgrades this month include Boise State, Duke, Kansas State, Minnesota, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Virginia.

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  • NeuLion clients relaunching sites

    Chris Wagner, executive vice president of NeuLion, asks his university clients a simple question: Do you want your official Web site to be a scoreboard or do you want it to make money?

    With an eye on enhanced video capabilities — and the enhanced revenue stream that the schools hope will follow — 14 NeuLion university Web sites will relaunch on the veritable eve of the college football season. What these sites have in common is an improved video player with a more dominant position on the front page and a deeper menu of video offerings.

    Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon and Nebraska are among the schools that are buying into the upgraded video technology that NeuLion believes will drive their Web revenue to higher levels.

    The relaunch incorporates several new design elements, including a cleaner front page and easier navigation. Revenue typically comes from subscriptions to insider content and advertising, and is shared between the school and the Internet manager, NeuLion.

    Among 14 new-look college sites: Georgia

    Some of the sites will feature their own TV page, such as Oregon’s GoDucks.TV, which offers programming options throughout the day. Georgia has similar ideas, including producing its own Bulldog “SportsCenter” type of show each day.

    “We want the experience of watching video on these sites to be just like turning on the TV at home,” Wagner said. “This has the potential to change how a fan interacts with the school. If you create something engaging, more fans will show up and they’ll stay longer. It also amplifies the brand and the Web site becomes more a part of the recruiting process.”

    NeuLion also is using the relaunch as an opportunity to rebrand from its former name JumpTV to NeuLion. The two companies merged in 2008, shortly after JumpTV had acquired the college Web site business from XOS Technologies.

    The JumpTV brand will be phased out as more of NeuLion’s sites relaunch with the new video technology and refreshed looks.

    With each new look will come a greater emphasis on the video. On Georgia’s site, for example, the video screen will stretch all the way across the front page. Other sites similarly will feature the video offerings in a more dominant position on the page, with less clutter around it.

    “We’ve gone through some redesigns and it’s gotten a little too fancy, a little too busy,” said Steve Malchow, a senior associate athletic director at Iowa State, one of the NeuLion schools updating its look and video technology. “The video becomes a huge anchor for the page and it gives your eye a place to start as you consume the front page.”

    Without getting overly technical, Wagner said NeuLion’s video, which will be delivered in high definition, has eliminated the time required for a video to buffer. “When you watch TV, the screen doesn’t have to buffer, so why should it when you’re watching TV on the Internet?” he said.

    The idea is that the longer fans stay on the site, the more apt they’ll be to buy stuff, whether it’s season tickets, the latest hat or T-shirt offering, or other school-branded gear.

    “I don’t know if the financial impact will be immediate, but it does open the door to create new revenue streams,” said Alan Thomas, Georgia’s associate AD for external affairs. Thomas said the Bulldogs will offer about 85 percent of its video for free and the other 15 percent will be available by subscription only.

    “We’ve all been slow to get to this point,” Thomas said of the college space. “The Web site has been more of a tool to put out a release. But it needs to be more of a destination.”

    NeuLion, whose clients also include the NHL, NFL, Professional Bull Riders and the Indy Racing League, will also roll out enhancements such as the Game Center and Game Tracker for fans who want to follow the game with the radio play-by-play. Ad space is incorporated into those elements.

    Most top schools aren’t able to stream live video of their games because broadcasters own those rights.

    The other NeuLion schools working on a relaunch or video upgrades this month include Boise State, Duke, Kansas State, Minnesota, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Virginia.

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  • NFL RedZone cable channel cutting it close

    Just four weeks before the planned launch of the NFL RedZone channel, only one cable operator has agreed to carry it, thrusting the league into yet another round of carriage battles with the cable industry.

    When the channel launches Sept. 13, the first Sunday of the regular season, only Comcast, the country’s biggest cable operator, plans to roll out the channel on its sports and entertainment tier, which has close to 2 million subscribers.

    So far, little is known about the fledgling channel, which is mirrored after the Red Zone Channel from DirecTV’s popular Sunday Ticket service — right down to the same name, though with a different structure. Both services are tailored for fantasy football enthusiasts, providing live look-ins to the league’s Sunday afternoon games, plus updated statistics and scoring plays. 

    The league originally planned to launch its NFL RedZone in 2012, but that schedule was accelerated in May when the NFL extended its deals with CBS and Fox by two years (See SportsBusiness Journal, May 18-24). The NFL’s Sunday afternoon broadcast partners needed to give the league permission to use its game productions for a cable-only red zone channel.

    The league’s NFL RedZone will be produced by NFL Network and overseen by President Steve Bornstein. It is separate from DirecTV’s channel, which is part of its NFL Sunday Ticket service. The NFL is building a set for the channel at its NFL Network studios and has yet to settle on a host or other talent to work on the show. With distribution at launch expected to be low, the league isn’t expected to attach much advertising to the channel.

    But distribution looks to be an issue. So far, all cable operators besides Comcast have passed. Several cable executives who have seen the plans for NFL RedZone say the channel is too expensive — the same complaint used against NFL Network.

    Cable sources say the NFL’s initial offer is for about 25 cents per subscriber per month, a rate that puts NFL RedZone on par with Golf Channel.

    However, cable executives say it’s difficult to compare NFL RedZone to a network like Golf Channel. Golf Channel is a 24-hour, year-round channel and cable executives have been told that NFL RedZone will only exist during Sunday afternoon NFL games, from the start of the 1 p.m. ET games through the late afternoon games, which amounts to about seven or eight hours a week, 17 weeks a year.

    One holdup for several cable operators is the NFL’s demand that they agree to carry NFL Network in order to get access to NFL RedZone. Three of the five biggest cable operators, Time Warner, Charter and Cablevision, still have not struck deals to carry NFL Network, deals that were expected to be struck easily once Comcast signed its deal in May and presumably set the market. These cable operators are still balking at the NFL’s price (50 to 60 cents) and tiering (digital basic) demands for NFL Network.

    But even operators that have deals to carry NFL Network, including Cox, are resisting the channel.

    An NFL Network spokesman said the league is in discussions with cable operators and other providers and hopes to have more signed up by its launch. NFL Network COO Kim Williams is taking the lead in the cable negotiations.

    Meanwhile, DirecTV is continuing to produce its own Red Zone Channel this season, having started rehearsals with channel host Andrew Siciliano earlier this month.

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  • Quail Hollow Championship gets down to details with buyers on improving packages

    The Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte, a tournament that gets a large portion of its revenue from the financial sector, isn’t waiting around to see if an uptick in the economy will automatically lead to a resurgence in hospitality spending around the event.

    Tents line the 18th green in Charlotte,
    where tournament staff members are
    meeting with hospitality buyers.

    Tournament staff, led by director Kym Hougham, met in late July with a hand-picked group of 12 corporate hospitality buyers to get advice about how the event could better meet their needs.

    What Hougham thought would be a two-hour lunch meeting that broadly touched on hospitality concerns stretched to three hours before the parties scheduled another meeting in September. That meeting will go into more detail on subjects such as food-and-beverage offerings, pro-ams and how to better serve companies’ clients.

    “Instead of us coming up with a package that we feel is right for them, we want them to tell us what they want and we’ll see if we can come up with a package that will fit,” Hougham said. “Too often they think we know what’s right for them, and too often I don’t think we do.”

    Suggestions, Hougham said, were less about reducing cost and more about getting added value for the same price, such as coordinating player meet-and-greets and being more flexible with ticket use. Companies were also concerned about the perception associated with entertaining at sporting events given the criticism that Northern Trust faced earlier this year. Hougham said there would probably be two or three more meetings before the end of the year.

    “Sometimes it’s not a bad thing when you have to step back and look at your business model,” he said.

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  • Shoemaker moving up to president at WTA Tour under Allaster

    The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is promoting David Shoemaker to president, the No. 2 position at the women’s tennis group. He takes over for Stacey Allaster, who was recently named the WTA’s chief executive.

    Shoemaker will continue overseeing
    the Asia-Pacific region for the tour.
    David Shoemaker
    Age: 38
    Organization: Sony Ericsson WTA Tour
    New title: President
    Current titles: Head of Asia-Pacific region, chief operating officer, general counsel
    Education: B.A., University of Toronto (Trinity College), 1992; LLB/JD, University of Western Ontario, 1996
    Career:
    1996-97: Law clerk for Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Canada
    1997-2001: Associate at Cravath Swaine & Moore
    2001-04: Associate at Proskauer Rose
    2004: Joined the WTA Tour as general counsel
    2005: Added COO role at the WTA
    2008: Added Asia-Pacific region responsibilities with opening of tour’s Beijing office
    2009: Promoted to WTA president

    Shoemaker, 38, will start work as president while continuing in his present role as head of the WTA Asia-Pacific region and both general counsel and chief operating officer for the tour, but he expects to drop those positions by the end of the year. The WTA plans to announce his promotion this week.

    “My new role as president is one that will involve overseeing significant businesses and microbusinesses of the tour, namely the broadcast media, TV and digital-media rights areas, the whole tournament and on-site operations areas, some of the major internal operations of the tour, and lastly, our whole Asia-Pacific region will remain under my responsibility and oversight,” Shoemaker said. He also will oversee the season-ending championships.

    Shoemaker had been a contender for the chief executive spot, though seen as a long shot for that. He pronounced himself thrilled with Allaster being selected to the position and plans to move to the WTA headquarters city, St. Petersburg, Fla., from Beijing by the end of the year.

    The WTA expects to find a new head of the nine-person Beijing office, with that person reporting to Shoemaker, as well as a new general counsel. Details about filling the COO slot were not immediately clear.

    Shoemaker and Allaster together give the WTA the unusual distinction of being a major sports organization with Canadians in its top two executive positions.

    Shoemaker got his start in sports with Proskauer Rose’s sports group before becoming the WTA’s general counsel in 2004. In May 2008, he moved to Beijing to run the tour’s burgeoning Asian operations. The sudden resignation of Chief Executive Larry Scott earlier this year opened the door for a reshuffling of responsibilities.

    In 2007, when his titles were COO and general counsel, Shoemaker earned $339,337, according to the group’s tax return for that year, the most recent available.

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  • USOC doubles its plans for Vancouver hospitality

    Anticipating above average interest among existing corporate partners in the Vancouver Olympics, the U.S. Olympic Committee will double the size of its hospitality offerings and set up two hospitality sites in Vancouver and Whistler in 2010.

    The total square footage of the sites in Vancouver (25,000 square feet) and Whistler (3,500 square feet) is twice as large as what the USOC offered for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City and Turin, Italy, in 2002 and 2006, respectively. It is the first time the USOC has offered two separate hospitality centers, as well. The hospitality center for last year’s Summer Games in Beijing was 42,000 square feet.

    USA House in Beijing in 2008 was 42,000 square
    feet. Two smaller sites are planned for 2010.

    The organization decided to offer two separate sites because of the two-hour drive between Vancouver and Whistler, the site of the skiing, bobsled, luge and skeleton events, and because it anticipates more corporate and business partners will visit a North American Games.

    “If we had been abroad, I don’t know that we would have made this decision,” said Jerri Foehrkolb, the USOC’s director of marketing and event services. “Vancouver is so close that even with the economy there’s a better opportunity for our sponsors to bring guests than they would if they took them abroad.”

    The USA House facilities, as they are known, host members of the USOC, the U.S. Olympic team, corporate partners, sponsors, suppliers and licensees. The first USA House was erected in Salt Lake City, and it has grown in each subsequent Olympics. It typically serves as a place where partners can conduct meetings, dine or attend after-hours athlete medal celebrations. More than 100 sponsor meetings were conducted at the USA House in Turin, according to the USOC.

    Talks are under way with sponsors about
    branded sections of the 2010 USA House.

    The USA House in Vancouver is located right outside of Yaletown near the city’s downtown in a contemporary apartment building. It will be on three floors. The first floor will feature a registration area, a Team USA store and a media work area. The second and third floors will feature open spaces where visitors can watch events and where USOC staff offices will be located. It will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

    The USA House in Whistler will be located in a private mountain home with a log cabin feel. It’s already been booked by national governing bodies and sponsors for select evenings.

    The USOC was able to incorporate sponsors into branded sections of the USA House in Beijing, offering a Hilton Hotels concierge service and AT&T wireless Internet access. It is in talks with six partners about being involved in branded sections of the 2010 USA House, Foehrkolb said.

    The USOC has lost a number of partners from the previous quadrennial, including General Motors, Bank of America, Home Depot and others, but Foehrkolb said interest in attending the Vancouver Games remains high.

    “We gauged interest from our sponsors and we’re still seeing a consistent level of interest in terms of bringing people to the Games,” Foehrkolb said.

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