SBJ/Dec. 20-26, 2010/2010 Year in Review

Hits and misses

'30 For 30': Yes, it started in 2009, but the ESPN series continued to have legs even through 2010 and deserves significant props. From the start, it was positioned as an "unprecedented documentary series featuring thirty films from some of today's finest storytellers" and time and again, the productions over-delivered. It's almost impossible to find a series that matched the quality, show after show after show. There wasn't a dud in the bunch. From stories on Tim Richmond, to the Escobars, to the '04 Red Sox, a mix of fantastic storytelling with rare and dramatic footage led to overall outstanding productions. What if I told you — well, what more can be said?
MSG's blockbuster deal: If there were ever any doubts about Madison Square Garden's standing in the sports facility landscape, those were erased by a massive sponsorship with JPMorgan Chase valued at $300 million over 10 years or more. It's the most lucrative annual building/team sponsorship agreement to date. JPMorgan Chase gets rights to almost every asset in MSG, while the arena gets additional revenue that can go toward an $800 million phased renovation. That's reason enough for some serious boasting in the Big Apple.
Ready to rumble: Cowboys Stadium and Manny Pacquiao gave boxing a fighting chance to win over new fans with a pair of highly successful bouts in Big D. First of all, nearly 42,000 people came out to watch Pacquiao take on Joshua Clottey in March. Then a crowd of just over 40,000 watched the fighter take on Antonio Margarito in November. It was just the exposure boxing needed, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has his eyes on an even bigger prize, savoring the thought of a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight at the stadium. Said Jones: "There's no doubt in my mind that we'd break every record of attendance that anybody's ever seen for boxing."
'Hard Knocks' a big hit: From the time the New York Jets were announced as the subject of the 2010 edition of the HBO special, it was seen as a major brand play for the team. You had a mix of dynamic personalities, a colorful and boisterous coach, and the opening of a new $1.7 billion stadium getting weekly love from one of the top storytellers in television. Very little generated the buzz of late summer more than the Jets on "Hard Knocks" and the team became the story of the preseason. Ratings seemed to swell week after week (the highest since 2002), the show generated rare watercooler talk and attention outside of the normal sports windows, and HBO enjoyed the rebirth of a franchise.
Seeing green in red mittens: The official mittens of the Vancouver Games became the "it" item from the Winter Olympics. Fans snapped up more than 3.6 million pairs of the mittens, and some lined up outside the Hudson's Bay store in downtown Vancouver as early as 6 a.m. with hopes of landing a pair. Demand was so great that some fans bought the mittens, which retailed for $10, and flipped them on eBay, where they garnered bids topping $50. The mitten sales helped warm the spirits of the Vancouver organizing committee and helped avoid a huge budget deficit that some had feared heading into the event.

Trust factor: To get its merchandising sales out of neutral, NASCAR rolled out the Teams Licensing Trust, a centralized agency that will provide one-stop shopping for licensees and retailers. That's a big shift for NASCAR teams, which have traditionally handled their licensing independently. A 14-person board of directors, consisting mostly of team executives, will run the trust. The goal is to unite a previously fragmented system that has been cumbersome for licensees to navigate. That could attract more business and help teams boost their bottom lines.
Collegiate powerhouse: IMG's plan to become the major power player in the college space culminated with its $100 million deal to acquire ISP Sports, college sports' biggest multimedia rights holder. The deal added such high-profile programs as Duke, Georgia and UCLA to an IMG stable that already included the likes of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and Texas. IMG wanted enough scale to pool its campus rights into national sponsorships that could compete with the top sports leagues. Those plans are still unfolding, but IMG definitely has both barrels loaded.
A Classic at Fenway: The NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park was a success in itself, what with a sellout crowd of 38,112 watching the Boston Bruins take on the Philadelphia Flyers. But the event's success reached far beyond the game, thanks to efforts by Fenway and the NHL to extend its reach in the community. The temporary rink constructed inside Fenway was rented out for corporate events and pickup hockey games, a two-day fan festival led into the Classic, and a Frozen Fenway college hockey event was staged afterward.
'What should I do?': Nike has a history of provocative ads that get people talking. This time, it was LeBron James answering critics of his decision to leave Cleveland and the way he handled the announcement. Once again Nike ignited the passion of fans, regardless of whether they support the player or see him as an enigma. And in today's world of social media, several spoofs of the ad quickly hit the Internet. Even if some poked fun at the spot, fans were engaged, further demonstrating the power and polarization of Nike.

Hoop dreams: When the field was set for the NBA Finals, the league knew it had a winner on its hands. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have provided some of the greatest Finals moments of all time, and this season would be no different. The series went the full seven games and was a ratings hit, earning ABC a 15.6 final rating and 28.203 million viewers for Game 7, which was the highest-rated and most-viewed NBA game since 1998. And just as important, the Finals gave the league some serious momentum heading into the offseason.
Not a good fit: Wrangler commercials featuring Vikings quarterback Brett Favre seemed like a perfect marketing match. The tough-guy QB sporting Wranglers while tossing passes with friends became one of the most recognized spots shown during sports broadcasts. But then Favre became the target of an NFL investigation into whether he sent inappropriate messages and photos to former N.Y. Jets employee Jenn Sterger. "Saturday Night Live" even fueled the controversy by spoofing Wrangler's commercial with a spot touting "open fly" jeans. Wrangler scaled back its run of the commercials, but claimed the move had nothing to do with the controversy. To borrow from Wrangler's slogan: Real. Big. Mess.
All washed up: Officials with Montana-based Sun Mountain Sports were embarrassed after the rain suits that the golf company designed for the U.S. Ryder Cup team weren't able to hold off the downpour in Wales. The U.S. team ditched the custom outfits for rain gear they bought in a merchandise tent.
Big D's domain: The Dallas Cowboys forgot to renew their registration on the domain, so the site was pulled briefly, replaced with a generic page indicating the address was available for purchase from Network Solutions. The team quickly renewed the registration, but it took up to 48 hours for all Internet servers to recognize the renewal. As a result, some fans visiting the website eager for news were greeted with a stock image of two kids playing soccer.
Heads you lose: When the N.Y. Giants and Jets couldn't agree on who would open their new $1.8 billion stadium in the Meadowlands, the NFL settled the matter with a simple coin toss. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell flipped a coin in the league office in the presence of a member of his staff, but without team representatives present. Jets owner Woody Johnson questioned the integrity of the closed-door toss. Still, each team got to play at home on opening weekend, with the Giants playing on Sunday and the Jets on Monday night.
Under-whelming: During its broadcast of the Super Bowl, CBS somehow managed to show a spot from that highlighted office workers walking around the workplace in their skivvies, followed by a Dockers ad featuring men traipsing around outdoors in their underwear. That bit of scheduling left consumers confused, but the network made good and gave Dockers three spots during the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Hall lot of challenges: The $200 million NASCAR Hall of Fame has been an interesting case study in brand extensions and destination buildings. Opened in downtown Charlotte, the building has been an architectural success and part of an impressive building for NASCAR. But it has badly missed attendance and financial projections made by the project's leaders, failed to hit its sponsorship revenue, and has been mired in a PR battle from day one. While it's a city-run operation, NASCAR is dragged down by the hall's slow start.
Playoffs?!: The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the 2009-10 season with the second-worst record in the NBA, and they let their fans know through a marketing campaign that they held no illusions of a miraculous turnaround in the new season. In an open letter to fans, David Kahn, president of basketball operations, said: "Will we challenge for the NBA Championship this year? Not likely." The team said it was just trying to be more open and honest with fans.

Weren't you listening?:
Even as those blasted horns drove many World Cup viewers crazy, the Florida Marlins gave away 15,000 vuvuzelas before a June game against the Rays. Marlins President David Samson deemed the promotion a success and said the horns created a great atmosphere. In the clubhouse, however, some players wore earplugs. Said Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla: "That was the worst handout or giveaway I've ever been a part of in baseball."
Mascot mess: When the 2012 London Games officially unveiled their mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, the line was long to fire off critical comments. The characters (or creatures?) left some people wondering what the heck organizers were thinking. Are the mascots animals? Aliens? Actually, organizers say, the one-eyed characters represent droplets of steel used to build the Olympic stadium. Duh!
This lawsuit's for you: Major League Baseball and Anheuser-Busch go way back. Thirty years, in fact. So why is baseball's longtime corporate partner trying to drag MLB to court? A-B claims in a lawsuit that in April it reached an agreement with MLB to renew its league sponsorship rights. Then, a month later, A-B signed a blockbuster deal worth a reported $1 billion or more to also become the NFL's official beer sponsor. The company says MLB saw what the company was going to pay the NFL, wanted more money as well, and demanded to renegotiate. Can the old friends make up, or have they drained all of their good will?
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