SBJ/20100607/This Week's News

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  • After its Super Bowl success, Papa John’s signs on with NFL

    Papa John’s has signed on as the NFL’s official pizza for the next three years, expanding a deal that saw it rent those same rights in and around this year’s Super Bowl.

    The company said the new rights agreement was its largest sponsorship ever and that marketing around the Super Bowl helped it record its biggest sales day ever on Super Bowl Sunday, when it sold more than 900,000 pizzas in the United States.

    Under the deal, Papa John’s receives regular-season rights and official pizza sponsor designation for Super Bowl XLV, XLVI and XLVII. The NFL has not had a full-time quick-service restaurant corporate sponsor since Burger King in the 2007 season.

    While Papa John’s gets category exclusivity within the delivery, carryout and frozen-pizza categories, the NFL is free to cut other QSR sponsorship deals. Last year, the NFL did one-off QSR deals with IHOP, KFC, McDonald’s for the Pro Bowl, and Papa John’s for the Super Bowl.

    The pizza brand’s sports portfolio also includes NCAA sponsorship rights, naming rights to the University of Louisville’s football stadium, title sponsorship of the bowl game in Birmingham, Ala., and team sponsorships with 11 NFL clubs.

  • AHL rolling out its plans for 75th birthday

    The AHL this week plans to unveil a new logo to celebrate the league’s 75th year of operation and announce a series of marketing efforts designed to promote the league’s history.

    The red-white-and-blue logo features a large “75” set in a shield beneath the AHL logo and above the dates of the league’s inception (1936) and its 75th anniversary (2011). It will be featured as a patch on each team’s uniform and as a decal on each player’s helmet throughout the season.

    To promote its anniversary, the AHL scheduled a series of home-and-home games to open the season between its six oldest teams. Rochester will play Hershey, Syracuse will play Lake Erie and Springfield will play Providence. The teams will wear replica jerseys from earlier in their franchise history.

    The league also designed a special 75th anniversary jersey that will be worn by four teams during the season. The teams will wear the 75th logo on the chest of the jersey and match the rest of the jersey to their respective color scheme. They will be able to wear the jersey as many times as they want.

    “Jerseys are our primary licensing revenue and any time you have a new element, fans really gravitate to it,” said AHL Commissioner Dave Andrews.

    The league has developed a series of in-arena videos to support the 75th anniversary. It will provide its teams with videos that highlight important players, landmark games and significant moments in the league’s history. The AHL also hopes to have each team celebrate an anniversary night during which it honors some of the franchise’s past players.

    “It’s a significant accomplishment to be a league going into its 75th season of continuous play,” Andrews said. “Not a lot of leagues can say that. We’re very proud of the heritage of the league, and our history is an important part of our brand.”

    The AHL is coming off a strong 2009-10 season during which ticket revenue increased 4.6 percent. Season-ticket sales were down but teams made up the gap with group and partial sales, Andrews said.

    The league also saw its sponsorship revenue increase 3.5 percent. It recently signed an extension through 2015-16 with its supplier, Reebok, and a renewal with EA Sports that will see it featured alongside NHL teams in EA’s hockey game.

    The league has always wanted to have 30 teams, the same number as the NHL. It will achieve that goal next season when the Charlotte Checkers and Oklahoma City Barons join the league.

    “We’ve come through a tough economy and we’re confident we’re well-positioned now to continue to grow as the economy improves,” Andrews said.

  • Allstate close to keeping hands on Sugar Bowl

    Allstate is poised to be the first sponsor to renew its BCS bowl title sponsorship with ESPN.

    The insurance giant, which began title sponsoring the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans during the January 2007 game, is close to finalizing a deal that will keep its position on the game. The four-year deal would extend through the 2014 game.

    Allstate has been negotiating with ESPN, which is responsible for selling all sponsorship and advertising inventory around the BCS games. ESPN picked up those rights as part of its four-year, $495 million deal to carry the BCS games through January 2014.

    Allstate has been title sponsor of the New Orleans
    BCS game since the 2007 edition.

    Neither Allstate, which is consulting with IMG’s Chicago office, nor ESPN would comment on the deal, but industry insiders said both sides were in the process of finalizing the agreement.

    Financial terms were not available, but ESPN has been shopping BCS bowl game title sponsorships along with seasonlong advertising packages for a little less than $20 million a year, sources said.

    With the Sugar Bowl title sponsorship comes rights to the rotating national championship game, which is next scheduled to be in New Orleans in January 2012.

    ESPN remains in discussions with Tostitos for the Fiesta Bowl and Citi for the Rose Bowl. FedEx has opted out of the Orange Bowl after a 21-year run, but ESPN has been in deep negotiations with Hershey’s to put the Reese’s brand on the BCS game in Miami.

    With the new title sponsorship deal on the Sugar Bowl, Allstate will have a presence on ESPN’s college football coverage throughout the season.

    That arrangement complements Allstate’s “Good Hands” field goal nets program, which puts its logo on field goal nets behind the goal posts in college stadiums around the country. Allstate has agreements with more than 60 schools as the program enters its sixth season of the field goal nets program, which has been an important point of differentiation in a highly competitive category.

    State Farm is an NCAA corporate partner, which gives it considerable visibility around the men’s basketball tournament and other NCAA-sanctioned events. Geico is a major advertiser across many sports, including college football, while Nationwide spends healthy amounts in NASCAR and golf and has a significant partnership with Ohio State in its headquarters of Columbus.

  • Big Lead represents big jump in FSV strategy

    Fantasy Sports Ventures, fresh off its purchase last week of sports blog The Big Lead, is expanding its mission to go beyond simply aggregating fantasy sports news and content.

    Three-year-old FSV had already begun to veer away from its original business model of rolling up a network of fantasy-oriented websites against which to sell advertising, having acquired more-traditional destinations such as and the battery of sites operated by The Big Lead purchase, however, marks a significant step toward becoming the largest digital sports media entity not controlled by a league, network or major corporation.

    FSV already owns that title in terms of Web traffic, garnering 16.1 million unique users in April, according to comScore, fifth among sports sites. Company officials are now seeking to provide a broader swath of content and are taking aim at the sports online traffic leader, Yahoo!, which drew 34 million users in April.

    The site has up to 1M unique users a month.

    “Fantasy was very important in the beginning, and it definitely remains a key part of what we’re doing, but to take the next step, it’s important we broaden our focus,” said Chris Russo, FSV chief executive.

    Beyond the purchase of The Big Lead, a deal pegged by industry sources in the low seven figures, FSV in recent weeks has penned affiliation deals with sports media site Fang’s Bites, golf destination Wei Under Par and Amanda Rykoff’s

    FSV now has more than 600 sites in its network. The Big Lead joins The Huddle, KFFL, HoopsHype and the Sports-Reference sites as entities in which FSV has equity.

    For sports bloggers, FSV’s purchase of The Big Lead marks another victory, after the acquisitions of Pro Football Talk by NBC and by ESPN. The Big Lead editor Jason McIntyre started the site four years ago, and it quickly garnered audience and industry attention for its irreverent but informed mix of sports news, commentary and humor.

    The Big Lead generates between 500,000 and 1 million unique users a month.

    “I definitely want to be a big part of what FSV is doing,” said McIntyre, who will remain as editor and general manager of The Big Lead. “The thought of selling definitely came after [Pro Football Talk] and TrueHoop happened, but I didn’t want to overthink it and overvalue myself, so I kept working hard and held out for the best deal, and, for me, that was definitely FSV.”

  • users can click through to Univision’s Cup coverage has struck a deal with Univision to provide one-click access to the Spanish-language broadcaster’s live online coverage of the World Cup.

    Visitors to, which in April ranked fourth in comScore traffic rankings among sports sites with 21.1 million unique users, will see direct links to live streamed matches at The move is similar to the one-click access to March Madness On Demand CBS has provided to hundreds of other sites the last two years. It also presents an alternative to ESPN3’s online coverage of the World Cup.

    ESPN3 has an audience of more than 51 million homes.

    “We’re sort of staying true to the idea of MMOD but now playing the role of distributor,” said Jason Kint, senior vice president and general manager. “ESPN’s done a phenomenal job for soccer, but for somebody who’s on our site, and we’re obviously generating significant traffic, we believe we’ll provide our users a very simple option to access the games.”

    The move is aimed primarily at an in-office audience, as many of the games in South Africa will occur during U.S. business hours. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. CBS will not have any branding on the Univision video player.

    “This linking agreement allows CBS to provide value to their audience by providing them with access to Univision’s complete coverage and the live streaming of the 2010 FIFA World Cup games, and provides with additional reach, which helps expand our audience,” said Kevin Conroy, Univision Interactive Media president.

  • Commercial revenue drops again at NFLPA

    The NFL Players Association’s commercial business continued to suffer in its most recent fiscal year, with revenue having now dropped 15 percent in the last two years, to $115 million, according to an analysis of the union’s most recent annual report, or LM-2, filed with the Department of Labor. That decline in commercial business in turn led to a drop in payouts to players.

    Hit by declines in fantasy sports and trading card revenue, total commercial revenue fell by around $10 million, or 8 percent, in the most recent year. That follows a comparable decline the previous year, when revenue fell from $135 million to $125.6 million.

    Eli Manning was the top
    NFLPA earner, but overall
    figures were down.

    Total assets, meanwhile, rose 6 percent over the two-year span, increasing to $311 million from $293.2 million, and signaling that the union is steadily building a warchest for an expected labor disturbance next year.

    Assets as of the end of the union’s 2009 fiscal year had dropped to $276.7 million, but the union previously attributed that decline in part to a deferred compensation payout to late executive director Gene Upshaw’s estate.

    The most recent figures were disclosed in the union’s fiscal 2010 LM-2, filed late last month with the labor department. The filing covers the 12 months ending Feb. 28, 2010.

    The most recent LM-2 also provides the first glimpse at the compensation of DeMaurice Smith, the union’s new executive director. Smith was elected to his post in mid-March 2009, so while the document shows him earning a salary of $1.6 million, his annual take is likely a bit more because he started about a month into the covered period. His compensation is far below the more than $6 million that Upshaw earned in his full final year but comparable to what other sports union chiefs earn.


    Smith’s salary is not surprising, said Cathy Griffin, a senior level executive search consultant who specializes in the sports and entertainment industries. “Given that [the NFL] is the No. 1 sport in the United States and it is a major entertainment property … it is reasonable that it is a high-priced job.”

    The NFLPA has made no secret that it is building a warchest with the collective-bargaining agreement set to expire next year. In anticipation of a labor disturbance, the union has ceased rebating union dues as it customarily does during less turbulent times. It further appears that the union increased its dues, with the amount brought in from dues and agency fees rising 43 percent to $27.6 million, according to the annual filings. The union also enjoyed the benefits of a market rise in 2009, with its investments and Treasuries rising a collective $19 million.

    An NFLPA spokesman did not reply for comment by deadline. In the past, the NFLPA has noted that the LM-2s use cash accounting, as required by the federal government, whereas most businesses prefer to track their fortunes using accrual accounting.

    Top NFLPA salaries for fiscal 2010*
    Person Position Amount
    DeMaurice Smith Executive director $1.6 million
    Richard Berthelsen General counsel $866,385
    Tom DePaso Assistant general counsel $416,125
    Clark Gaines Assistant executive director $421,250
    Ira Fishman Managing director $351,000
    * The 12-month period ending Feb. 28, 2010
    Source: 2010 NFLPA LM-2

    The drop in revenue for the licensing and merchandising unit, NFL Players, was led in principal by trading cards. That revenue sum fell 32 percent, to $18.2 million, from $26.9 million the prior year, according to the LM-2s.

    The overall decline in revenue made income from the NFL an even larger share of NFLPA cash. Under an agreement with NFL Ventures, the union receives cuts of league sponsorships, to the tune of $43.8 million in fiscal 2010, according to the LM-2, or 38 percent of NFL Players’ total $115 million in revenue. When adding in Electronic Arts’ $31.1 million in licensing fees, the largest amount from a single outside licensee, the two areas represent 65 percent of the NFL Players revenue.

    As for the effect on players, who receive group licensing income from their union’s commercial unit, the number of active players who received at least $100,000 from NFL Players dropped to 63 in fiscal 2010 from 95 in 2009 and 114 in 2008. This income represents revenue to players from licensing deals involving six or more players, such as jersey and video game deals, and not individual deals.

    The top NFLPA earner was New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, at $1.4 million.

  • Dodge’s sponsorship of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series targets healthy lifestyle segment

    Chrysler’s Dodge unit’s first major sponsorship since emerging from bankruptcy protection last year is not a traditional stick and ball sport, but rather the thriving business of endurance running.

    Dodge will pay a mid- to high-seven-figure annual sum to sponsor the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series, which focuses on the amateur runner more than the professional one.

    “This is the first time that the brand is sponsoring endurance sports at this level,” said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge Brand, Chrysler Group, in an e-mail response to questions about the deal. “The running industry is completely in line with the Dodge Brand customer, and this partnership enables the brand to be completely integrated into these marathons from a comprehensive standpoint.”

    Dodge will unveil a new line of cars this fall with
    its sponsorship of the 14-city series.

    While Dodge’s current premier sponsorship, NASCAR, is geared toward auto racing enthusiasts, its new endurance racing sponsorship is directed at another category: the soccer mom.

    “They believe in the healthy lifestyle, well-educated, high household income we can deliver,” said Scott Dickey, president of the Competitor Group Inc., which owns the 14-city marathon series. “It’s split men and women, with a high propensity for marriage and kids.”

    Dodge will pick up title sponsorship of five races next year and will be the official automotive partner and vehicle of the whole series. This year, it will have that designation for three events and one title.

    No media rights are attached to the sponsorship, Dickey said, though discussions are under way between the parties about a supplemental deal involving CGI’s magazines.

    Dodge, which will use the sponsorship to unveil a new line of cars coming out this fall, will get branding and vehicles on site, a presence in the health and wellness expos that occur prior to the races, and placement in all communications to runners. Dodge also plans a heavy emphasis on social media in its activation, the details of which are not yet available.

    Neither side used a sports marketing agency for the agreement. The deal, Dickey said, was triggered by a call from CGI’s lead East Coast representative, Rebecca McKinnon.

    After filing for bankruptcy protection in May 2009, Chrysler did away with some of its more-renowned sports sponsorships, including its title sponsorship of golf’s Bob Hope Classic and its longtime sponsorship of the right-field “baggie” wall at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

    Dodge chose to diminish its NASCAR programs, as it decreased both its financial commitments to teams and its on-track promotions. Penske Racing now represents Dodge’s lone effort in the top-level Sprint Cup Series.

    For CGI, the deal marks the latest business development, having quickly expanded the series in the last few years, adding sponsors like Brooks, Zappos and Amway. This week, CGI is expected to announce it has bought half-marathons in Pittsburgh and Columbus, as well.

    CGI is owned by New York investment fund Falconhead Capital.

  • FSN adds playlists to its playbook

    Fox Sports Net has developed a strategy to use popular music acts in its on-air promos as a way to bring a younger audience to its live sports telecasts.

    In March, FSN started a campaign on its regional networks incorporating the O.A.R. song “This Town” into its on-air marketing and promotional campaign. The campaign combines shots from an O.A.R. concert with highlights from FSN’s MLB, NBA and NHL games.

    The promos all are locally produced and typically cut to crowd shots featuring fans holding “This Town” signs.

    FSN also has used a song from The Beach Girl5 around the Pac-10 basketball tournament. It is in deep negotiations to use an artist from Capitol Records for its college football telecasts. And it’s a couple of months away from signing a deal with a “mega star” for its NBA telecasts.

    FSN began working “This Town” by
    O.A.R. into its promos in March.

    “This is all about taking music and building brands around our games,” said Chris Hannan, FSN’s senior vice president of marketing. “This elevates our brand and status. When you can get the biggest artists, it helps you reach younger audiences.”

    FSN is not the first TV network to market musicians this way. ESPN has had deals like this in place for years, featuring acts like Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, the Dave Matthews Band and, even, O.A.R.

    FSN is newer to the idea. In the past, it paid relatively small fees to license music that it would use on-air. Under terms of the new deal, no money changes hands, though Hannan said FSN may look to attach sponsors to the videos.

    “The music industry has changed so much. It’s archaic to solely rely on that license fee. You might be left behind,” Hannan said. “We’re offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in exposure. We’re providing marketing and advertising for the music industry.”

    Hannan said he is using MTV as his model, adding that his regional sports networks could become an established home for music videos.

    “Live games can be the future of music videos,” he said. “We can create a music video platform around our live games. We can offer unbelievable exposure and reach from our viewers.”

  • Leverage to sell deals for post-Cup soccer tournament

    The World Series of Football has tabbed The Leverage Agency to sell sponsorships around an international soccer tournament that will be held at Red Bull Arena two weeks after the World Cup.

    Leverage hired Larry Novenstern to consult
    on its New York Football Challenge efforts.

    Scheduled for July 22-25, the 2010 New York Football Challenge will be a four-team tournament with English clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, plus Sporting Clube de Portugal and the New York Red Bulls.

    World Series of Football CEO Bill Miles sold the tournament’s TV rights to Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Español in a barter deal where no money changed hands.

    Leverage will sell ad time around the event and split the revenue with the networks. Tournament organizers are telling potential advertisers that they expect to draw 378,000 viewers for the event across the two channels. Fox Soccer Channel’s highest-rated English Premier League game this season drew 442,000 viewers for a Feb. 7 game between Arsenal and Chelsea. Fox Sports en Español is not Nielsen rated.

    Tottenham Hotspur will be among
    the four teams playing at Red
    Bull Arena.

    Now, Leverage is focused on selling sponsorships around the event, and has brought on Larry Novenstern as a consultant to help. Novenstern left the ad buying agency Optimedia in March after a four-year run with the company and is now working as a consultant.

    Sponsorship sales face competition from other well-known international teams that will be touring the U.S. and Canada. For example, Manchester United kicks off a four-city U.S. tour July 16. Inter Milan will play Manchester City in Baltimore July 31. And Scottish rivals Rangers and Celtic have been trying to schedule a friendly in Boston at the end of July.

    Leverage’s main selling proposition is that the event will capitalize on increased interest in soccer directly coming out of the World Cup, which ends July 11.

    Leverage is looking to sell title rights for the event and smaller sponsorships, including stadium exposure from LED digital billboards to in-stadium commercials.

    The event also has available sponsorships around the trophy ceremony and game program.

  • NASCAR and Wal-Mart talk exclusive deal

    Wal-Mart is in deep discussions with NASCAR team and league officials about a wide-ranging deal that has both sponsorship and licensing implications.

    Senior-level Wal-Mart executives were guests of NASCAR at the May 22 Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte and returned this past week to tour race shops and meet more team executives as the mass retailer explores potential partnerships.

    While several scenarios are being considered and the talks remain fluid, industry sources say that Wal-Mart is discussing the potential of a direct license that would make it NASCAR’s exclusive retailer in the mass merchandise space. A direct license would give Wal-Mart the ability to select its suppliers and set prices for certain categories, such as hats and T-shirts.

    These negotiations are going on as NASCAR attempts to roll its team and league licensing rights into a trust, which would create a centralized licensing agency for the sport.

    Wal-Mart is believed to be exploring sponsorship opportunities with Hendrick Motorsports as well. Hendrick’s drivers — Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin — account for close to 75 percent of all licensed sales in the sport, industry analysts say, making it a logical team for Wal-Mart to sponsor.

    Landing Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, as part of an exclusive mass merchandise deal would be a significant coup for any sports property, especially if it entails a NASCAR store-within-a-store concept.

    This sort of hybrid sponsorship/licensing deal is also at the forefront of large deals of recent note, like the recent NFL/Verizon arrangement, which bundled content and sponsorship rights.

    Most retailers, particularly Wal-Mart, are loath to spend on sponsorships, so these deals, if completed, could generate major ripples across the industry.

    The Hendrick drivers (from left) — Dale Earnhardt Jr.,
    Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin —
    account for close to 75 percent of all licensed
    sales in NASCAR.

    “This should create a feeding frenzy among teams and leagues,” said Darren Marshall, senior vice president of research at sports marketing agency rEvolution. Marshall also suggested that the NFL, in the throes of designing a new licensing program, and the U.S. Olympic Committee would be likely targets if Wal-Mart looks to expand its sports licensing base.

    When the trust is formed, NASCAR teams and drivers will have the ability to opt in or out of specific programs. Target, for one, sponsors Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR and IndyCar teams, but it’s uncertain how it might react to Wal-Mart’s moves.

    It’s a smart play because the Wal-Mart/NASCAR audiences have a lot of overlap,” said David Schreff, CEO of Bedare Sports and Entertainment, Greenwich, Conn., and the former president of the NBA’s media and marketing group. “As long as there is some guaranteed NASCAR media and guaranteed in-store promo and product placement, it’s a bold, acquisitive move.”

    Before Wal-Mart and NASCAR can move down the aisle together, NASCAR must finalize its trust, which will be a centralized licensing agency representing team, driver and league marks. In the past, each team managed its own licensing rights and licensees were required to do a different deal for each driver it wanted. Five licenses often meant five separate negotiations.

    Under the new NASCAR trust, which is believed to be in the final stages of the approval process, team licensing rights would be managed by the trust, and licensees would enjoy the first case of one-stop shopping in NASCAR. Paul Brooks, NASCAR’s senior vice president, and Blake Davidson, NASCAR’s managing director, licensed products, have been moderating the licensing talks with the teams.

    Wal-Mart is also thought to be considering a sponsorship arrangement with a team or multiple teams, with Hendrick Motorsports in the middle of those discussions. It’s unclear, though, if the mass retailer will settle on one car for a chunk of the season, sponsor multiple cars for a few races each, or perhaps put together several driver deals into a marketing platform, a la the Gillette Young Guns or the Coca-Cola family of drivers.

    One scenario, according to sources, has Wal-Mart sponsoring Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet for half of the season or more, as primary sponsor DuPont looks to scale back its spending. DuPont’s current primary sponsorship on the No. 24 car ends this season, and while the longtime sponsor is expected to remain in some form, it’s uncertain whether DuPont will remain the primary.

    Other industry insiders say it’s unlikely that Wal-Mart would sponsor a single driver because the retailer will potentially have licensing arrangements across a variety of drivers.

    All options are believed to be on the table. Wal-Mart’s agency of record is The Marketing Arm, which has its Millsport outlet in Charlotte that focuses on motorsports.

    While Wal-Mart has long been a primary outlet for NASCAR licensed goods, the store began giving thought to a deeper relationship earlier this year.

    Hendrick Motorsports drivers, including Earnhardt, Gordon, Johnson and Danica Patrick, who races part-time for JR Motorsports, a team jointly owned by Earnhardt and Rick Hendrick, visited Wal-Mart executives in Orlando in February. The drivers were there to talk about the importance of teamwork at a national sales meeting.

    At the same time, NASCAR issued a request for proposal for a company to take over the licensed apparel business from Motorsports Authentics, the slipping trackside licensee that had been running apparel and diecast. NASCAR and Wal-Mart discussions progressed from there through the spring.

  • ‘NASCAR Wives’ breaks down over creative split

    NASCAR’s attempt to ride the wave of “docu-soap” dramas hit a glitch when “NASCAR Wives” never made it to the air and the project was eventually canceled.

    TLC had ordered at least eight half-hour episodes of “NASCAR Wives” last year, including a one-hour launch show in 2009, with production handled by NASCAR Media Group. But the project was dropped because the shows weren’t controversial enough.

    “The network wanted situations created that were not true to how these women normally act. They wanted conflict, and we just weren’t willing to go down that road,” said Jay Abraham, NASCAR Media Group’s COO.

    The project cost NASCAR Media Group close to $200,000 in production costs, according to industry sources. Abraham wouldn’t confirm specific figures, but said his group had invested production expenses into filming and editing the first 60-minute episode.

    Multiple messages left for TLC officials were not returned. TLC is a Discovery Communications channel.

    DeLana Harvick, wife of Kevin, was one
    of the women slated to be featured on
    the show.

    Robert Thompson, a professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, said the genre of “Wives” shows are built on the drama between the cast of characters. If the show wasn’t interesting enough, it more than likely was a reflection of the women featured in the show, Thompson said.

    The subjects of “NASCAR Wives” were DeLana Harvick, wife of Kevin Harvick; Kelley Earnhardt, sister of Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Angie Skinner, wife of Mike Skinner; and Shana Mayfield, wife of Jeremy Mayfield, the driver who later sued NASCAR in a dispute over a failed drug test.

    “What makes these shows work is compelling characters,” Thompson said. “Compelling often manifests itself in high drama and high conflict. The fact that intriguing people end up on these reality shows is not by accident.

    “When they’re casting these shows, they’re looking for someone to do things without a script that’s interesting to watch. It’s a lot harder to make a hit when it’s about women who don’t have hissy fits.”

    In addition to eating those production costs, NASCAR Media Group sacrificed the revenue it would have received from TLC, the amount of which is uncertain.

    “We just had to go our separate ways,” Abraham said. “We were never able to agree on the creative approach for the project. We simply were not going to do anything to undermine the credibility and the relationships we have with our drivers. We were being asked to do things more in line with traditional reality programming and it wasn’t true to the nature and personality of our sport and the women involved.”

    At the time, the “Wives” genre of documentary shows ranged from Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” followed by New York City, Atlanta and New Jersey iterations, to Lifetime’s “Army Wives.”

    Kelley Earnhardt spoke at a
    press tour for the show in
    January 2009.

    TLC’s more recognizable docu-dramas have included “Jon & Kate Plus 8” and “American Chopper.”

    Amid heavy pre-show publicity, the series was considered a big break for the sport because it would have put NASCAR programming on a network where it would have access to scores of new fans.

    Thompson said “The Osbournes,” the MTV reality show about Ozzy Osbourne and his family, re-introduced the British rocker to younger fans who probably weren’t familiar with his earlier work as lead singer of Black Sabbath and his subsequent solo career. The show represented a rebirth for Osbourne’s music and showed the power of reality TV, Thompson said.

    “There were probably millions who had maybe heard Ozzy’s name, but had little idea of who he was or what his music was about,” Thompson said. “The reality show became a huge hit and it was a delivery system for a niche performer to a group of fans not familiar with him. NASCAR, likewise, could have been presented to tons of new viewers through this show and in a way that’s different from your typical Sunday afternoon race broadcast.”

    TLC had planned to launch the show with a one-hour special immediately following its broadcast of the Miss America Pageant, with more episodes scheduled for the spring and summer. That initial show never aired and the show just evaporated as TLC and NASCAR Media Group failed to resolve their creative differences.

    While “NASCAR Wives” never got off the ground, NASCAR Media Group has two other promising projects that will launch this year.

    The first of eight one-hour episodes of “Changing Lanes” will air Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. on BET. The show chronicles the struggles and successes of NASCAR’s “Drive for Diversity” drivers at Revolution Racing.

    Also this fall, NASCAR Media Group will release “Petty Blue,” a 90-minute movie about the life of hall of famer Richard Petty that’s expected out on DVD in October. The movie will air on CMT in November as a two-hour program.

  • Nats welcome Strasburg’s arrival

    The Washington Nationals have been swept up in “Stras-mania” over this week’s scheduled MLB debut of pitcher Stephen Strasburg, and the franchise and its partners are reveling in the upsurge in attention.

    After two months of dominating Class AA and Class AAA ball, Strasburg, last year’s top pick in the MLB draft, is slated to make his major league debut on Tuesday against Pittsburgh. The game is a sellout, just the ninth ever at three-year-old Nationals Park, and will be shown nationally on the MLB Network, markers that follow heavy levels of fan interest during Strasburg’s minor league games (see chart below).

    “The attention this kid is getting is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some pretty good pitchers,” said Nationals President Stan Kasten. “Fortunately for us, the best possible marketing plan is the anticipation. There’s no one that isn’t following this.”

    Stephen Strasburg has boosted ratings
    and attendance during his short stay
    in the minors.

    MASN is expanding its postgame show from a half-hour to a full hour on Tuesday for its local-market coverage of Strasburg’s debut. Ad inventory for the broadcast is fully sold out, with rates doubling typical Nationals games, and network officials expect further spikes in ad sales as the season progresses.

    “Demand has pushed up across the board,” said MASN spokesman Todd Webster. “We’re seeing big increases everywhere.”

    Such gains are a reflection of a broader resurgence for the Nationals this year, following back-to-back 100-loss seasons. Washington has hovered around .500 for much of the season in a tight NL East race and has seen other young players ascend to starring roles. Because of that, club officials have seen an upsurge in advance single-game ticket sales and even some new purchases of pro-rated season-ticket plans.

    “There is an energized fan base and not just for Strasburg,” said Andy Feffer, Nationals chief operating officer. “The team is playing well, and I sense a buzz in town that goes beyond Strasburg and has not been there before.”

    But for the Strasburg game specifically, ticket demand has been particularly heavy. A special offer to Nationals season-ticket holders to buy up to four additional tickets to the game sold out within a half hour. On the secondary markets, average listing prices for Strasburg’s debut surged 47 percent in the 24 hours following the announcement of his scheduled start, according to ticket metasearch engine FanSnap, despite a similar increase in available inventory. At press time last week, FanSnap data showed 4,272 tickets — more than 10 percent of the ballpark capacity — available for resale, and peak listing prices of $999 per ticket.

    Strasburg merchandise, which anecdotally has already sold well during his minor league tour, will be supplemented with additional inventory Tuesday night, team officials said.

    EYES ON STRASBURG Stephen Strasburg’s last scheduled minor league start was televised by Versus last Thursday. It was the network’s first pro baseball game and capped a high-profile run for Strasburg through the minors. Following are highlights from his Class AAA stint with the Syracuse Chiefs.
    May 29 (Sat.) vs. Scranton / Wilkes-Barre 13,115 14,994 TV audience was for tape-delay broadcast that aired a day later (Sunday, 8:15 p.m.)
    May 24 (Mon.) vs. Toledo 13,288 21,015 Second-largest crowd in franchise history; live MASN telecast.
    May 19 (Wed.) at Rochester 12,590 7,472 11th-largest crowd in Rochester history, about 8,000 above the team’s May game average.
    May 12 (Wed.) vs. Norfolk 6,702 14,711 Fewer fans on night with rain, poor weather.
    May 7 (Fri.) vs. Gwinnett 13,766 17,746 Largest recorded crowd in the 135-year history of Syracuse baseball; about 30 media credentials issued, or roughly five times a normal game night.
    * Quarter-hour peak
    Note: MASN aired Strasburg’s Class AAA starts at 10:30 p.m. ET
    (tape delay) unless otherwise noted above.
    Compiled by David Broughton
    Sources: The Nielsen Co., Minor League Baseball

  • NHL sharpens European focus

    On Oct. 2, the Boston Bruins will put the strength of its city’s ethnic heritage to the test with a preseason game in Belfast against what will likely be a team of Irish all-stars at Odyssey Arena, marking the first visit by an NHL team to the Emerald Isle.

    As the NHL pushes its game onto the European continent as never before, it’s interesting to note that the Bruins will be playing hockey in a venue that also hosts international darts competitions and is situated on the former site of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which produced the Titanic. With a record 13 regular-season and exhibition games in Europe this fall, the NHL is hoping for slightly better luck than what befell the great ship.

    For years, the popularity of hockey in Northern Europe has been the league’s hole card. Now it is hoping to cash in and build a foundation for a European business that would see increased distribution of NHL games, more international competition and expansion of its consumer products business, all possibly leading to European franchises in the future.

    Old-time hockey

    It’s not a new thought. The first tour of the continent by NHL teams was in 1938, when the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings played nine games at three different arenas in Paris and London at the conclusion of the season.

    Now, 72 years later, Europe’s influence on the game is greater than ever. The NHL has 230 European players under contract, more than one-quarter of its rosters. The Stanley Cup finalist Philadelphia Flyers have five Europeans on their roster, while the Chicago Blackhawks have seven. Around 20 percent of traffic to comes from outside of North America, with fans from hockey-mad countries in Northern Europe like Finland, Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic among the most-frequent international visitors, consuming more video than North American visitors.

    London’s O2 Arena, controlled by AEG, would be
    a likely location for future competitions outside
    North America involving NHL teams.

    No small catalyst for the NHL’s fall European invasion is that its current European TV rights deal expires after next season, the same time as the league’s U.S. rights. Since 2005, ESPN Americas (the former NASN) has carried three to five games a week across Europe and sublicensed to domestic broadcasters in 54 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The league’s strategy of syncing its U.S. and international TV rights was designed to appeal to international broadcasters, like ESPN and Fox, a move that could push up the value of those offerings.

    “TV is the biggest marketing platform that any league has, and especially overseas, our brand is bigger than our business,” said the NHL’s John Collins, who recently added more international responsibilities to his role as the league’s COO. “Outside North America, it’s always been about our potential, but we can’t rest on that any more.”

    The U.S. plan the league has pursued in recent years combines broad-based media supported by direct-to-consumer pushes in broadband, satellite and enhanced digital media and driven by big events like the Winter Classic outdoor games. It’s all supported by an uptick in corporate activation and dollars.

    League officials say the European strategy won’t differ, but there’s some talk of adjusting starting times for select regular-season games in North America to accommodate a more viewer-friendly European schedule.

    “There’s always been an abundance of potential,” said Ken Yaffe, a 16-year league employee who has been dedicated to international business longer than anyone at the NHL and is currently senior vice president, NHL International. “We’ve just reached the point where we are confident enough domestically as a league where we can now pay full attention to business development opportunities outside of North America.”

    As Howard Baldwin, former owner of the Hartford Whalers and parts of the Minnesota North Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins, put it, “Europe is there more for the NHL than any league. Internationally, you’ve already got a level playing field in hockey.”

    European numbers

    In advance of negotiating its new European TV rights, the NHL has quietly hired CAA’s sports media advisory unit as its negotiator. With Phil Lines, former English Premier League director of media operations and international broadcasting, as part of a CAA group that includes heavyweights like Peter Kenyon and David O’Connor, the NHL is clearly looking for a big multiple, though perhaps not as heady as the one Lines orchestrated when he increased broadcast revenue around 80 percent to $1.6 billion with the launch of a global EPL TV network this year.

    The Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues
    faced off in Stockholm, Sweden, last
    October at the Ericsson Globe.

    The NHL’s last European rights deal doubled revenue, but what about this time around?

    “The quality of the league’s European players is very good and getting better. We also see TV sports rights continuing to rise in a fractured media environment, so we’re excited about the NHL’s potential,” said Alan Gold of CAA Sports Media Venture, a partnership between CAA and Evolution Media Capital (EMC).

    Of course, there are differing opinions. However bright the future looks, the NHL is now at the bottom of the big four leagues in international revenue, with $20 million in revenue from outside of North America.

    “To use a football analogy, when it comes to building a European business, the NHL is closer to the red zone than ever but still nearer to midfield than the end zone,” said David Abrutyn, IMG senior vice president and head of global consulting, who formerly had sales and marketing slots with the Washington Capitals and at the NHL league offices. “But it’s moving in the right direction. When they come out of the next CBA [the current collective-bargaining agreement expires in September 2011], that’s when you’ll see the NHL and its associated partners really moving forward internationally.”

    There are other numbers that make the NHL optimistic about European growth, as well. For all the NBA’s global prowess, this past season, with Yao Ming injured, the league had just two non-North American players in its 2010 All-Star Game. While hockey’s larger rosters make comparisons a bit unbalanced, the NHL had 14 such players in its 2009 midseason showcase. (The NHL did not stage a 2010 All-Star Game because of the Vancouver Olympics.)

    The potential has been there perhaps as far back as that 1938 European tour, but more recently it’s been simply a matter of priorities. The league is less than six years removed from a lockout that canceled a season and literally rewrote the NHL’s rules on and off the ice.

    Still, looking at the success the NBA has had in China, one can’t help but wonder if Northern Europe, especially the Nordic countries and Russia, can be for the NHL what China has been for the NBA. Some mitigating elements are the fact that the Nordic countries where hockey is king and the NHL is the top sports brand are relatively small, while Russia, the most populous hockey hotbed, has yet to produce a player with the broad fame that Yao enjoys both in his native China and in the United States. In addition, while economics dictate that the best Russian players will almost always play in the NHL, as a more developed economy than China and one with its developing Kontinental Hockey League, Russia is a more difficult proposition for the NHL than China was for the NBA.

    Continental divide

    All of the NHL’s fervent planning for European expansion comes as the hockey landscape on the continent has been shifting drastically. Leagues in Germany, Sweden, Finland and elsewhere have become more assertive and less deferential to their governing bodies. At the recent world championships in Germany, as many as 30 European clubs were talking about breaking from their respective leagues to form a pan-European super league.

    Russia’s two-year-old KHL also has talked about a super league that would include both Russian and European clubs, but most European teams have rebuffed those overtures. That hasn’t made the KHL change its goals, as it’s added a Ukrainian team. At a recent state of the league address, KHL President Alexander Medvedev said, “We continue to expand, looking for new hockey clubs from Europe. And we are confident that this trend is irreversible and in a couple of years we will see a first-class pan-European hockey league.”

    Swiss fans celebrate a Zurich goal against the
    Chicago Blackhawks in last September’s
    Victoria Cup match.

    Relations between the upstart KHL and NHL have been strained over player-transfer issues, among other things. Recently though, tensions have loosened enough that NHL teams this fall will play in Russia for the first time in 20 years.

    “We’re learning to coexist better,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

    However, at his recent state of the league briefing during the Stanley Cup Final, Commissioner Gary Bettman cautioned not to place too much significance into the scheduled exhibitions. “You can conclude we’re not so mad at them that we never talk to them,” he said. “But this doesn’t signal a fundamental change in our relationship.”

    It is onto this uneven European hockey landscape that the NHL will try to build a European foundation. The NHL is the only one of the four American stick and ball leagues without offices overseas, and the shifting European hockey politics could keep it that way for some time.

    “We have to stand back and see how this plays out,” Daly said. “The politics are too complicated for us go in right now and set up our own operation.”

    Event strategy

    To support a new and expanded European TV deal and to flex its muscles during a time of factionalism in the global hockey world, the NHL needs to be as big as it can be in Europe. So, as Collins puts it, “The biggest question is, What kind of events do we want to create that will leverage our size and reach across from North America through Europe?”

    While NHL players seem united in their support of NHL participation in the Olympics every four years, NHL ownership is not. Reflecting that ownership uncertainty over the Olympics’ benefit to the NHL, Bettman has said that Olympic participation in Sochi in 2014 is “up in the air.”

    With or without the Olympics, one scenario gaining increasing support within the league is the resurrection of the World Cup, a league-owned and -operated event that was last held in 2004, when Mario Lemieux and his Canadian teammates topped Finland 3-2 in a tournament held just before the NHL’s season was canceled.

    If there will be another World Cup, its place on the calendar is a key issue. Various industry sources say that a World Cup held during the season would bring in three times as much revenue as one held before the season. Accordingly, a World Cup tournament, which could be called by another name, staged during the league’s annual all-star break is one scenario gaining traction. Under the plan, which wouldn’t take effect until 2012 at the earliest and is subject to NHL Players’ Association approval, the NHL would extend its all-star break to seven days and play the tournament in one central city, with NHL players facing off on behalf of their countries. That type of competition could ultimately travel to Europe, where the AEG-controlled O2 arenas in London and Berlin are possible sites. AEG also owns the NHL Los Angeles Kings and two teams in Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga: the Berlin Ice Barons and the Hamburg Freezers.

    Holding that tournament along with, or instead of, an Olympic tournament, will be a tough balancing act for the NHL, which will also have to sell its players on the value of another mini-season.

    “Players like to have any opportunity to wear their country’s jersey,” said Brendan Shanahan, who won three Stanley Cups in 21 years as an NHL player and who has been the league’s vice president of hockey and business development since December. “When the Winter Classic was first proposed, no one jumped on it. Now, everyone wants to be in one. I’m sure the same was true of the first Canada Cup [in 1972].”

    However, for the NHL to expand its fan base in the region, it needs to convince European fans and players that the Stanley Cup is the “ultimate” hockey prize. Currently, that is not the case.

    “Unquestionably there’s NHL interest in Europe, more than ever,” said one-time NHL goalie Mike Liut, a former NHLPA general counsel who now holds the same title with Octagon’s hockey division. “But Olympics are at the top of the pyramid there, and annually, the European hockey season is geared to the [IIHF] World Championships. For players and fans there, that is the pinnacle. Before the NHL can monetize there to the same degree they do in North America, that mind-set needs to change.”

    COO, NHL

    Other ideas discussed include a champions hockey league, similar to the one in European soccer, where top clubs play each other in addition to their domestic schedule. While it’s clear which Euro soccer teams are the powers, the dilemma of which specific NHL teams would participate might be insurmountable. The NHL looked at buying the IIHF’s Champions Hockey League when the IIHF put it up for bid in 2009, hiring Dean Bonham to evaluate the opportunity, but it later decided not to bid because league officials didn’t believe financials for the CHL worked.

    Later this month in Los Angeles, league officials will present a blueprint for international growth to the board of governors for approval.

    “We know there should be a more robust business in Europe,” Collins said. “The biggest impediment there has been the lack of access to our game. We are the premier league in a global sport; we just have to act that way. There’s as much growth, if not more, for us outside of North America as there is here.”

  • Ohio University to offer master’s in sports management online

    The granddaddy of sports management schools will be the first of the better-known U.S. programs to offer a master’s degree online.

    Ohio University plunges into web-based education in the fall when it welcomes the first entering class to its online Master of Sports Administration (MSA) program, which it is billing as a way for early-career sports industry professionals to earn a master’s without leaving their jobs.

    The 21-month program, priced at $12,500 a year, will consist of 11 courses, two applied projects and three on-campus residencies, each built around three-day weekends. Candidates for the 25 slots must have at least three years of experience working in sports, along with three letters of recommendation, two of which must come from Ohio University’s network of more than 1,100 MSA alumni working in sports.


    “We think this is the next step in the evolution of the Ohio University program,” said Jim Kahler, executive director of the Center for Sports Administration at Ohio, who made the decision after 18 months of discussion with the school’s influential alumni advisory board. “The debate is whether this is brand extension or brand dilution. Where we came out was that if we do it right, it should be brand extension.”

    A handful of U.S. institutions offer online master’s degrees in sports administration, but Ohio’s degree will be the first by one of the generally acknowledged elite national programs. Not far behind, the University of Massachusetts plans to launch a blended MSA program in 2011 that will open with six weeks on campus in the summer followed by an academic year of online classes, said Lisa Masteralexis, head of that program. UMass will focus on college athletic administration, where many of the jobs require an advanced degree.

    Directors of the programs at Oregon and Central Florida say they, too, have investigated online education but haven’t landed on a direction yet.

    “We’ve looked at it, just like other programs have, but it’s a matter of figuring out how it fits into our program,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. “Maybe that’s an opportunity to grow our international interests at some point. But turning on a domestic-focused Warsaw Center 101 — that just doesn’t make sense for us.”

    The online program at Ohio will be headed by Heather Lawrence, an associate professor who has taught a blended online and face-to-face sports event management class through a university in Madrid, Spain.

    Online students will work in tandem with on-campus students on projects, giving students in Athens access to people already working in the field and the online students a pipeline into Ohio’s heralded network of alums.

    The initial target for the program is a blend of early-career workers in sports who want their master’s but don’t want to leave their jobs, along with aspiring college administrators who need the degree to advance.

    “This is your chance to pave the way for that senior-level position, to deepen your education and your credentials,” Kahler said. “And it’s also a way to get your master’s if you’re one of those people who thinks that one day you might want to teach.”

    Kahler and Masteralexis both said they wrestled with the impact an online program might have on their schools’ reputations, but have become more comfortable as online classes have become common at well-regarded universities.

    “I’d rather have Ohio and UMass doing it than some that are out there in the market already doing it,” Swangard said. “If this can bring some quality control to the market [for online sports education], I’m all for it.”

  • Rapid release: Tylenol won’t renew with NASCAR

    Tylenol, which has drastically cut its marketing and advertising in the wake of three product recalls in the last six months, will not renew its official partnership with NASCAR.

    The sport’s official pain reliever since the start of the 2007 season, Tylenol’s current deal with NASCAR runs through the 2010 season. But its parent company, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, has already notified NASCAR that it won’t continue its official partnership, a spokesman for the company said.

    NASCAR had no comment on Tylenol’s exit.

    Tylenol and its motorsports agency, Charlotte-based Millsport, which worked with the brand to create the Team Tylenol platform five years ago, also arranged track deals with International Speedway Corp. and Dover Motorsports. Those deals provided extensive signage for Tylenol, as well as rights to hand out samples and coupons. The ISC deal expired after the 2009 season, while the Dover deal ends this season.

    Tylenol activated against
    a Team Tylenol campaign
    that included several

    With the official partnership, track and driver deals, Tylenol’s total spend was in the $5 million to $6 million range annually, industry insiders said.

    The brand has not activated this year against its Team Tylenol campaign, which started in 2005 to coincide with the launch of its rapid-release gels. The program included personal-services agreements with seven drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, and the drivers together formed a fictional Team Tylenol in its ads.

    “We saw measurable gains in product purchase and product loyalty among NASCAR fans,” said Mike Mooney, Millsport vice president. “But their business has suffered its fair share of headaches recently, so while the NASCAR portfolio was driving sales, the brand management team had to make some tough decisions and one was to exit NASCAR.”

    Tylenol’s most recent recall came on April 30 when it issued a voluntary recall of children’s Tylenol products. McNeil, a division of Johnson & Johnson, shut down a Pennsylvania-based production facility last month because of poor quality control, as cited by the Food and Drug Administration.

    McNeil, which also produces Benadryl and Motrin, does not break out the revenue numbers of its different health care brands, but estimates by Johnson & Johnson have indicated that annual sales of the recalled brands could drop $200 million to $300 million this year.

    The April 30 recall of the children’s products came on the heels of two other recalls of Tylenol products, one in November 2009 for an arthritis product, and another in January for an adult Tylenol medication.

    Marketing and advertising have all but come to a stop because production and shipment have ceased while Tylenol takes “corrective actions,” the company said.

    It was November 2006 when Tylenol agreed to a two-year, low-seven-figure deal to become the official pain reliever of NASCAR, beginning with the 2007 season. It renewed for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

    NASCAR made the move from longtime sponsor Goody’s Headache Powder to Tylenol because the sanctioning body craved Tylenol’s national reach, compared with Goody’s strong base in the Southeast.

    Goody’s, a GlaxoSmithKline product, had been the official pain reliever of NASCAR since 1977, the same year it signed Richard Petty to be a spokesman. Goody’s, one of the sport’s first non-automotive sponsors, has been the title sponsor of the spring Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Va., since 1983.

  • Smucker’s renews LPGA sponsorship

    The LPGA renewed one of its longest standing sponsorships last week when it signed a two-year deal with the J.M. Smucker Co.

    A formal announcement will be made later this week. The LPGA would not divulge how much the renewal is worth.

    J.M. Smucker Co. has attached its Smucker’s brand to the LPGA’s Child Development Center since it first came on board as an LPGA sponsor in 1993.

    With the new deal, which goes through 2011, Smucker’s will take that sponsorship a step further. It will sponsor 15 mothers that play on the tour by using its Uncrustables  brand. Smucker’s is setting up Team Smucker’s Uncrustables, which is made up of the golf-playing mothers.

    The moms will carry trading cards and coupons that they will hand out to fans on the golf course. The golfers also will have a club head cover bearing the Team Smucker’s Uncrustables logo.

    As part of the deal, Uncrustables will become the official peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich of the LPGA.

    The golfers include Laura Diaz, Jackie Gallagher-Smith, Vicky Goetze-Ackerman, Hee-Won Han, Maria Hjorth, Pat Hurst, Leta Lindley, Stephanie Louden, Catriona Matthew, Janice Moodie, Karen Stupples and Kris Tschetter.

  • The show goes on

    New Meadowlands Stadium won’t have the Jets and Giants for a few months, but it’s already carving out a spot on the summer concert circuit. Bon Jovi, which played three shows there in May, is returning in July, not long after a stop by the Eagles.

    Stadiums and ballparks looking to pick up some revenue by booking summer concerts took a double hit this year, when country superstar Kenny Chesney decided to take the season off and front man Bono’s back problems forced rock juggernaut U2 to postpone North American dates in June and July. But the party will go on at a few big league outdoor facilities. Here’s a quick look at their dates for this summer.

    — Staff reports

    Aug. 14 Fenway Park Boston
    Bon Jovi
    9-Jul New Meadowlands Stadium East Rutherford, N.J.
    20-Jul Rogers Centre Toronto
    24-Jul Gillette Stadium Foxboro, Mass.
    30-Jul Soldier Field Chicago
    31-Jul Soldier Field Chicago
    Dave Matthews Band
    10-Jul PNC Park Pittsburgh
    16-Jul Citi Field New York City
    17-Jul Citi Field New York City
    23-Jul Nationals Park Washington, D.C.
    Aug. 15 Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Commerce City, Colo.
    8-Jun Rogers Centre Toronto
    10-Jun New Meadowlands Stadium East Rutherford, N.J.
    12-Jun Gillette Stadium Foxboro, Mass.
    19-Jun Soldier Field Chicago
    24-Jun Busch Stadium St. Louis
    Sept. 18 Pizza Hut Park Frisco, Texas
    Sept. 22 Rio Tinto Stadium Sandy, Utah
    Paul McCartney
    10-Jul AT&T Park San Francisco
    13-Jul Rio Tinto Stadium Sandy, Utah
    11-Jun Toyota Park Bridgeview, Ill.
    Rascal Flatts
    July 24 Pizza Hut Park Frisco, Texas

  • Univision stresses soccer experience

    About to embark on its ninth World Cup, Univision executives are hoping that U.S. viewers will value experience as they make their viewing decisions during this year’s tournament.

    While ESPN is in the midst of a glitzy marketing campaign complete with promos featuring rock star Bono and the Soweto gospel choir, Univision is preparing more quietly for its coverage of the event.

    In the fall of 2005, Univision paid $325 million for the U.S. Spanish-language rights to the 2010 and 2014 men’s World Cup and the 2007 and 2011 women’s World Cup. ESPN paid FIFA $100 million for the English-language rights to the same games.

    “We certainly respect what ESPN will be doing for this World Cup,” said Alina Falcon, president of news for Univision Communications. “But what they’re doing for this World Cup, we’ve been doing for more than 20 years.”

    Four years ago, more than 50 million viewers watched all or part of the tournament on Univision. The number that made its executives happiest was the makeup of the audience: 12 percent of its viewers were not Hispanic. “We expect that to be the same, if not bigger this year,” Falcon said.

    Univision’s plans call for telecasting every game of this year’s World Cup in HD. When games run at the same time, Univision’s sister network, TeleFutura, will broadcast the overflow matches. TeleFutura and another sister network, Galavision, plan to rebroadcast the best matches of the day in prime time.

    On the digital media side, Univision will make matches available on video-on-demand 24 hours after the conclusion. All matches will be streamed for free on, as well (see related story).

    Univision and its family of networks are planning to produce more hours (900) from South Africa than it has in the past. It will have two sets in Johannesburg, one in the International Broadcast Center and one at a local tourist destination, Melrose Arch.

    Each game will have at least a half-hour pregame show. For some games, the show will extend to an hour.

    Univision is planning to broadcast several non-sports shows from its Johannesburg sets, including a daily morning show (“Despierta America”), a daily afternoon entertainment show (“El Gordo y La Flaca”) and its 6:30 and 11:30 p.m. newscasts.

    “We’re the veterans and we are the experts at soccer and the World Cup. For millions of viewers every four years, we are the destination for the World Cup,” Falcon said. “We feel that this year will not be any different.”

  • Velocity, Vivid team in new agency

    Velocity Sports & Entertainment is uniting with Vivid Marketing and two other agencies owned by marketing communications holding company Aegis Group to form a single sports and entertainment agency operating under the name Team Epic.

    Joining Velocity and event agency Vivid are market research group SRi and a portion of the digital shop Isobar.

    The combined entity will have its own P&L, total more than 200 people and $30 million in billings with offices in Norwalk, Conn.; Atlanta; Charlotte; Boston; San Francisco; and London. It will tout a client list that includes AT&T, FedEx, IBM, Sports Illustrated, Charles Schwab and Mars.

    Team Epic will be run by a committee consisting of current Velocity principals David Grant, Mike Reisman, Bob Wilhelmy and Alex Nieroth, along with Vivid principals Erik Peterson and Andy Cook. Cook will be Team Epic’s chief creative officer. The combined service offering is intended to allow the firm to better compete against other competitors owned by communications conglomerates like Radiate Group and Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services.

    The Team Epic offering will have four lead offerings: strategy and campaign development, experiential marketing, digital marketing and measurement/analytics.

    “The relationship between brand and consumer is changing, and we wanted a new and seamless offering with capabilities to meet that changing landscape,” Reisman said. He added that Velocity, Vivid and SRi will remain as brands for the time being, but be merged eventually.

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