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With the dawn of a New Year, it's instinctive to try to forecast the next 12 months for the sports industry. But that doesn't make it easy.
As the year begins, marketers are spending again and TV advertising and sponsorship — two of sports' most basic economic engines — are back to pre-recession levels.
With many marketing budgets restored, rudimentary questions still are being asked about the sports economy: What legacy will the recession have on the sports business? And after the biggest economic pullback in years roiled an industry accustomed to more, more and even more, is the ice on the pond solid enough now to walk out to the center?
Many of the industry's top executives still aren't so sure.
"I don't think you can talk about legacies in such a short term, since I'm not sure that the recession is over," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "This is the second year in a row that our ticket prices are lower. It puts pressure on attendance in certain markets and focuses more on the business model and the ability to fund shortfalls."
Octagon President and CEO Rick Dudley said that his agency experienced solid growth in its North American marketing unit, and overseas, from events such as the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
But Dudley still sees many potential minefields.
"We've adjusted our risk tolerance when it comes to things like acquisitions and adding internal capabilities from a two or three to maybe a five," Dudley said. "I still don't think we are out of it completely yet. The Western slow-growth economy is chugging, not steaming. You see so many possible speed bumps, whether it is Korea, sovereign debt in Europe, or growing debt in the U.S., that we are still wary."
Executives also cite dangers specific to sports that could have the ultimate chilling effect. "There's a trend, or maybe even an insistence, on ROI now in sports," said Neil Glat, NFL senior vice president of corporate development. "But it's tough to accurately forecast 2011, especially with the possibility of a work stoppage in several sports. That aside, the sports and media marketplace is trying to figure out what's the new normal."
Defining that "new normal" is about as simple as picking winning lottery numbers, and it varies widely from sector to sector.
Pre-recession, there was growing demand by brands for better ROI on the sports assets they purchase. Now they are insisting on metrics to pass up their corporate food chain.
But after multiple rounds of cutting costs and employees, many big companies are beginning to look at marketing campaigns again to help move product. "Things were absolutely dead in the water," said Doug Shabelman, president of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, Evanston, Ill., which matches brands with sports and entertainment celebs. "[But] after a while, the big consumer goods companies said to themselves 'we still have to stimulate demand … and if we don't, we'll get buried by those that do.'"
As a result, both traditional and below-the-line marketing is healthy again, even if no one wants to proclaim "recovery" when unemployment is around 10 percent. Still, within areas that were moribund in the sports economy, there's a renaissance.
"Sponsorship business is back to being big business, in some cases bigger than ever," said Visa global sponsorship chief Michael Lynch. "On a global scale, you see governments more involved to landing big sports events, like the ones in Brazil, Russia and Qatar. And in some of the large categories, like banking and beer, you are seeing larger deals than ever."
Adds MLS Commissioner Don Garber, "We're seeing real areas of optimism and growth. Particularly in the area of sponsorship, companies are now willing to dive deeply back in. The difference now is that you'd better offer a much closer and direct consumer connection. It's not enough just to sell IP, you'd better be targeted, measurable, and have unique assets."
It's the same story for media companies, which are seeing ad revenue return to pre-recession levels.
Automobile advertising, in particular, has helped. Fox executives credit the auto sector for helping the Super Bowl broadcast become a virtual sellout early in the NFL regular season.
The automobile renaissance is helping other sports, as well.
"Luckily, we've overcome the legacy [of the recession] because the ad marketplace has come roaring back," said Fox Sports Networks President Randy Freer. "We could have been down for multiple years, but the marketplace has spun back."
ESPN President George Bodenheimer sounded a similar theme.
"Short-term, advertising sales obviously are back in a strong manner," he said. "Most notably, it affected our advertising sales and our advertising customers, many of whom cut back significantly during the early going of the recession."
Both Bodenheimer and Freer believe they earned good will from advertisers' during the recession by being flexible.
"We needed to be responsive to vendors who were having difficulty," Bodenheimer said. "I feel good about how ESPN weathered the storm."
Freer said the recession has changed the way FSN conducts its business.
"You can't sit there and assume that your advertising business is going to go up 5, 6, 7, 12 percent a year. If you provide more value and get closer to advertisers, you'll be rewarded with more business," he said. "Ultimately, what we learned from the recession is that we want to be in business with people. We don't just want to be a line item on a vendor list."
That kind of attitude, particularly from a sponsorship perspective, shows the maturation of a business that has long been accused of being "the corporate toy box."
"It's the progression of a business that started being about CEOs wanting tickets, suites, or to meet athletes," said Jim O'Connell, NASCAR vice president of corporate marketing. "The new reality is that you'd better be moving cases off shelves and have some way to demonstrate that."
Visa's Lynch called it "a natural evolution. … You are seeing newcomers, like P&G, get into this business now and that tells you that it can be an effective marketing tool, because they won't do anything that doesn't have a measured return."
Consumers and consumer marketers are struggling to define "value," the altered definition of which may be the ultimate legacy of the recession. "Retail has recovered, so that's helping anyone who sells products through that channel," said Mark Warsop, CEO of trading card licensee Panini America. For the trading card company, "the new normal" meant adjusting a mix of more cards per pack at a lower cost, with fewer of those including things like autographs and memorabilia. "We changed to adjust for where consumers are now," Warsop said.
Across sports and a multitude of consumer categories the same kind of transition is taking place.
When it comes to sports marketing, there's a mixed message. Pricey assets like Super Bowl ads are selling briskly, but title sponsorships, the ultimate big-ticket sports marketing sale, have been in the deep freeze. The Cowboys' new stadium in Dallas has received a multitude of accolades, but it still lacks a corporate moniker, even with the Super Bowl coming in a month. The new Jets/Giants stadium in North Jersey is also without a naming-rights deal. Value and the unwillingness of large corporations to take on title sponsorships while they are laying off employees are the two biggest impediments.
"It's poised to come back," said Rob Yowell of Gemini Sports Group, Phoenix, which is selling naming rights to the two-year-old home of the Arizona Diamondbacks' Class AAA affiliate in downtown Reno, Nev. Yowell noted smaller deals this year for retrofits like Sun Life Stadium or new venues like the arena in Louisville, Ky. "The larger domestic venues may take a while, but internationally the World Cups in Qatar and Brazil should produce some big deals. Domestically, you look at the dollars Chase is spending with MSG and it's just as big a number as the NFL stadiums want."
The sports sponsorship marketplace is cluttered enough that sponsors and potential sponsors are looking for new ways to conduct business, both physical and virtual. "We see a lot of money moving to the edges," said Wasserman Media Group founder Casey Wasserman. "The questions we're getting now are about how sponsors can improve the game for fans and get rewarded, and how sponsors take advantage of their investment with a sports property in a virtual/social media kind of way. Everyone's looking for those answers."
If there is a recovery in the sports economy, there are a couple of lagging indicators.
One is suites and other premium seating. It's a perception-reality problem. As a perceived corporate luxury, premium seating was among the first budgets eradicated by recession. Now, even with an improved economy, many corporations are loath to fully reinvest.
"The new normal for us is flexibility," said Peter Luukko, president and COO of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the NHL Flyers, NBA 76ers and Wells Fargo Center, among other assets. "You need to have a lot more packages. We've got more shares than we've ever had, so we'll do suite nights with dinner and wine for a corporation, and ones with pizza and soda for a youth hockey team."
Luukko says at least one corporate hospitality client could save itself money if it bought a year-round suite, instead of buying individual nights as it does now. But the client continues to piecemeal nights together because "it looks better in their budgets to assign a night to each client or department."
Another lagging indicator is with video distributors, who pay the TV networks, who, in turn, pay the leagues.
"We certainly saw unemployment impact us [with higher disconnects]," said Tom Cullen, Dish Network's executive vice president of sales, marketing and programming. "Foreclosures hurt us. We started seeing that in 2008, so you have an early warning system when you have non-paid disconnects."
But Cullen allowed that Dish is "seeing some encouraging signs recently," with more consumers buying subscriptions and fewer unpaid disconnects.
For the NBA's Stern, it's those types of encouraging signs that create some optimism.
"In some ways, we may have more people watching more games on television than ever before as consumers seek to be entertained," he said. "Viewing is not down. Sports does very well in that. So there's a mixed message."
Steady on the optimism
Each month, the Turnkey Sports Poll asks sports executives to describe their confidence level regarding the next 12 months for their own business. The percentage saying they were optimistic was nearly the same in December 2010 as it was in December 2009. However, the level of optimism rose through the final quarter of 2010. The highlights:
December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 December 2009 Optimistic 83% 80% 79% 84% Neither optimistic nor pessimistic 8% 9% 10% 8% Pessimistic 9% 10% 11% 8%
Source: Turnkey Sports Poll, conducted by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal. The survey covers more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.
On a cold day in mid-November, Josh Burgett and Dennis Bickmeier, Michigan International Speedway's top sales executives, met for the first time with a local account executive from ESPN.
After lunch at a tavern in East Lansing, Mich., the trio marched into the office of a large local corporation and pitched the company on a race title sponsorship. Burgett and Bickmeier explained signage and hospitality opportunities, and ESPN's Matt Tamborini fielded questions about the demographics of ESPN's race audience.
The meeting, which many in the sales industry might consider routine, represented a revolution in the world of race title sponsorship sales. It was one of the first jointly developed and delivered Sprint Cup race title sponsorship presentations in recent NASCAR history, and though Michigan and ESPN are still awaiting final word from the prospect, executives believe the pitch may have set a precedent for doing business in the sport.
"This opened a door for us," Burgett said. "It worked really well."
Historically, tracks sold title sponsorships independently and then handed partners over to networks that sold a supporting ad buy. If a title partner passed on buying TV time, a network would sell a presenting sponsorship for the race broadcast to another corporation and limit or even eliminate on-air references to the track's title partner.
As a result, spectators might have attended the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but viewers watched the Texas 500 presented by GoDaddy from Texas Motor Speedway on ESPN. AAA was only mentioned twice during the race broadcast in accordance with NASCAR's rights agreement with ESPN.
But the challenging ad market following the recent recession upended the every-man-for-himself approach that resulted in such a fragmented sponsorship landscape. As a result, tracks and networks have begun to collaborate more to pitch 2011 title sponsorships for Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World truck series races. Track and media executives say the joint sales pitch underscores the new, more unified effort.
"In the past, our needs were different, so we approached the marketplace differently," said Neil Mulcahy, Fox's executive vice president for sports sales. "As NASCAR has evolved to what it is today, economic realities dictate that we become more creative in our approach so we can build packages that include the more diverse array of assets that people are now looking for."
During NASCAR's boom in the early- and mid-2000s, selling title sponsorships independently worked, but that changed during the last few years when the high cost of a title sponsorship ran up against shrinking marketing budgets. Title sponsorships for Sprint Cup events aren't cheap. Tracks typically sell naming rights to a race for $1.5 million to $3 million. Networks then sell media packages that can cost as much as $3 million. Advertisers must buy both to get regional and national exposure.
That disjointed sales process can be costly at times, said Devron Jeffers, Texas Motor Speedway director of sales.
"We've lost sponsorships in some cases because a company can't come to terms with the network," Jeffers said. "It's important now more than ever that we join forces because we have the same clients and have to consider our clients' interests first now more than ever."
It often didn't work well for the client, either, as it would be pressured to spend more by both sides.
"They were putting all the pressure on the sponsor before," said Trip Wheeler, a former sales manager for motorsports production company World Sports Enterprises, who today is president of motorsports consultancy The Wheeler Co. "But if they work together, it's a much simpler, much cleaner offer and it has the potential to become a tent-pole event for a marketer and brand. That's added value for everybody."
As a result, track and media executives have begun collaborating to create more appealing packages that allowed each party to offer a sweetener they otherwise couldn't. In the case of tracks, the addition of media allowed them to offer a prospective sponsor national exposure. In the case of networks, the addition of tracks allowed them to offer hospitality, in-venue signage and on-the-ground activation opportunities.
By working with ESPN in 2010, Fritz Maskrey, Auto Club Speedway senior director of corporate sales and marketing, sold one of NASCAR's first multifaceted sponsorships to a movie studio. (In his position, Maskrey also represents International Speedway Corp. on the West Coast.) To help Sony Pictures promote its release of "The Green Hornet," Maskrey worked with ISC-owned Phoenix International Raceway and ESPN to craft a package that gave the movie exposure at track and on TV during the Kobalt Tools 500.
The movie's star, Seth Rogen, was featured in a tune-in message during the race broadcast; the car his character drives in the film, the "Black Beauty," drove a ceremonial pace lap; and several times when the race exited a caution, ESPN announcers said the race was going back to green, "brought to you by 'The Green Hornet.'"
Sony Pictures' ability to buy both on-track and on-TV promotions were a major reason it signed on as an associate sponsor for the race. Without those efficiencies, it may not have invested marketing dollars against the Phoenix race.
"A bundled integration like this allows us to achieve our marketing objectives and goals both on air and at the actual event," Sony Pictures spokesman Steve Elzer said. "To us, the reach across all these properties provided excellent visibility and profile for our film."
Maskrey added, "NASCAR's the only sport where you can own multiple aspects of one weekend. You can get a major splash unprecedented in sports, but to do that, we all have to go in together and sell the sport."
Currently, Maskrey is working with ESPN to find a Nationwide title partner for Auto Club Speedway's March race and a Nationwide title sponsor for ISC-owned Chicagoland's fall race.
"We can go in together and say, 'We're going to take somewhat of a discount to obtain the business,' but that makes it turnkey and more customizable," Maskrey said. "We have to play together to grow the fruit."
Joint efforts allow tracks and networks to double their Rolodex. Networks can lean on a track's regional connections, and a track can lean on a network's connections with national ad-buying agencies.
Another benefit of working together is that it cuts time spent on an individual sale in half. Typically, a track will put in as many as 30 days developing a sales deck and pitch for a company. A network will put in a subsequent 30 days of work pitching the company on supporting ad buys.
By working together in November, Michigan International Speedway and ESPN cut the time invested from 60 days to 30. They also trimmed time spent answering follow-up questions by both being in the room.
"We were able to quickly answer questions about our [track] assets and ESPN assets," said Burgett, Michigan's director of corporate partnerships. "It wasn't, 'That's the TV side. You'll have to ask the broadcaster on that.' We could answer it all."
When it comes to engaging tracks, Fox-owned Speed has been one of the most progressive networks. It worked with tracks on the sale of three to five Camping World Truck Series title sponsorships in the last year. Speed's sales team even developed a media package that tracks could plug into pitches to prospective sponsors, enabling tracks to offer a fully integrated deal.
"That came with time and trust," said David Safran, Speed's vice president of sales. "We have a better working process and have had some success. We're confident we can do more of these things because we're in a position to be more out in front on it."
In 2011, the most likely opportunity for tracks and networks to work together will be around the Nationwide Series because those title sponsorships and supporting media cost less than Sprint Cup offers, said Andrew Feit, ESPN senior director of sports management. ESPN met with representatives from ISC and Speedway Motorsports Inc. in December in Las Vegas to outline a framework for working together, and Feit is confident that will result in joint Nationwide sales efforts this year.
"We're realizing that we're better off working jointly from the get-go, and I think we're moving more in that direction," Feit said.
On the Sprint Cup side, SMI is working with Turner to sell a title sponsorship for its first Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway in July, and Mike Burch, SMI vice president of business development, met with ESPN executives in Las Vegas about its other open Sprint Cup title sponsorship at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September.
ISC sales executive Terry Kalna said that the Michigan International Speedway pitch was the company's first joint pitch with a network. He expects there will be additional joint efforts this year for open title sponsorships at Richmond and Kansas.
"Race entitlements are the most efficient buy in racing if you do both track and media deals," said Kalna, ISC managing director, partnership sales and marketing. "In the next six months, you'll see a lot more joint presentations offering both."
Track and network sales executives are optimistic the joint efforts will help them become more effective in bringing new corporate dollars to the sport and be able to keep new partners involved longer by having a more turnkey sales approach.
"There was once a line in the sand where we were going to get our [track] money and TV needed to worry about theirs," Maskrey said. "As the money has tightened up, everyone is going, 'We have to work together.' Because entitlements are our prized asset, this is the future."
Before the Big Ten obtained the rights to its archived games from ESPN in 2007, conferences gave little thought to such ownership in the past.
Until then, networks typically kept the copyright to the broadcast games. The Big Ten, though, was on its way to creating a new TV network, and the conference knew those "classic" games would be critical to the 24/7 programming needs of a linear channel.
Since then, as conferences like the SEC and ACC negotiated new media deals, they made sure to get archival rights to their historical games. Even though those conferences decided not to start their own networks, they're viewing archived games as critical content and revenue-growing opportunities that are centerpieces to their digital strategy.
"Non-live rights, we believe, have a value of 10 percent of the live rights," said Kevin Schaff, CEO and founder of Thought Equity Motion, the Denver-based firm that works with leagues and other media entities to digitize and monetize their video content.
"This is a huge growth space for a lot of rights holders and their partners," Schaff said. "Our business is to increase the value of that content and make it a better ad unit for our partners."
Thought Equity and Raycom Sports last month unveiled the ACC Vault, a collection of old games that can be accessed online via the league's official website, TheACC.com, or Vault.TheACC.com.
"The appetite for these classic moments and games has been strong, and I believe that the Vault will be a valuable resource with incredible potential as we look to the future," said ACC Commissioner John Swofford.
The site launched with about 100 basketball games that have been televised by Raycom, the ACC's longtime media partner. The ACC Vault is expected to grow with more basketball and football games from other broadcasters as they're obtained and digitized by Thought Equity.
The firm also is behind the NCAA Vault (Vault.NCAA.com), which launched a year ago with a decade's worth of games from the Sweet 16 through the championship game of the NCAA tournament.
"The first year, we really didn't expect to generate revenue from the Vault," said the NCAA's Greg Weitekamp, director of broadcasting. "We did have a sponsorship with Capital One, sold through CBS, but future revenue will depend on the growth of the Vault. The way to grow is to continue adding new content and diversifying the content."
Thought Equity envisions mostly bloggers, social networkers and other professional writers using the ACC Vault's publishing guide to link highlights and moments that go with their stories and Internet posts.
"We think over 50 percent to two-thirds of the traffic will come from people utilizing links to help tell their stories," said Raycom's Colin Smith, vice president of new media and distribution. "There's a lot of content out there, but it's not always searchable and high quality. As people consume the content and share it socially, much of the traffic will come from places like Facebook."
One of Thought Equity's chief competitors is XOS Digital, which created the SEC Digital Network and has worked with the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to create a NACDA Vault.
XOS Digital's approach with the SEC has been different than Thought Equity's with the ACC. The SEC's old games are available via download from SECDigitalNetwork.com for $3.99 per full game, and the menu of games goes back to the 2009 season.
Most of XOS' energy has been spent in the "near-live" category — creating highlights from games that day or that week. For example, if users want to see Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's passing stats, which show that he completed 14 passes, they can click on the 14 and see each completed pass.
"Your history is your history and that has value, but the real value is in the live rights," said Randy Eccker, co-founder and executive chairman for XOS Digital. "We're changing the way we talk about live versus non-live. If live events have the most value, near-live has the next most value. The key is getting the content from campus to the consumer as quickly as possible."
Thought Equity and Raycom are going with an ad-supported model that doesn't charge for access to archived games, but will provide selling opportunities for Raycom with new ad inventory.
"Traffic to TheACC.com is strong, but I don't think anyone is going to get rich right away by selling this transactionally," said Raycom's Smith. "What we're doing is packaging the digital properties with other sponsorship opportunities. That's where we see a much higher realization of real dollars put toward this, as part of an umbrella approach."
Thought Equity tags every frame of these archived games so that users can easily search and find specific moments. What Thought Equity's research shows is that users spend an average of 93 seconds on a site with games from start to finish. But sites that offer searchable moments and game highlights — for example, all of Michael Jordan's dunks at North Carolina against Duke — drive average consumption time up to 14 minutes.
"User control is why YouTube is so huge," said Dan Weiner, Thought Equity's vice president of marketing and products. "Users can pick what they want, when they want it."
Comcast is entering the New Year waiting to find out the conditions federal regulators will place on its NBC acquisition. But the cable operator still is dealing with conditions regulators imposed as part of its Adelphia acquisition 4 1/2 years ago.
Due to those conditions, at least three of Comcast's regional sports networks are in the middle of arbitration proceedings with the country's two national satellite providers: Dish Network and DirecTV.
As part of Comcast's 2006 Adelphia acquisition, the Federal Communications Commission, worried about Comcast's potential market power, allowed distributors to select a "baseball-style" arbitration option with Comcast's RSNs if they are unable to reach a carriage deal. That means an arbitrator picks the deal he feels is closer to fair market value; there is no compromise.
Dish Network has filed for arbitration against three of Comcast's RSNs: California, Mid-Atlantic and Chicago. DirecTV is in arbitration with one: Mid-Atlantic. Once a distributor files for arbitration, the channels have to stay on the air.
"This isn't buying a house. This is a hundred times worse than that," Comcast SportsNet President Jon Litner told an industry conference in November. "But ultimately, you get to the right place."
One week after making those comments, a federal arbitrator sided with Comcast in its CSN California arbitration proceeding with Dish Network.
That meant that Dish would have to pay an unknown rights fee increase and move the RSN to a better distributed tier. The problem for Dish is that once it moves CSN California to a better tier, it opens the door for other RSNs — typically among the most expensive channels on the lineup — to join that tier, as well.
Dish responded by dropping the network entirely, a move that infuriated Comcast executives, but was within the satellite provider's rights as part of the Adelphia conditions.
Two days before Christmas, Dish Network quietly filed an official appeal of the arbitrator's ruling — a filing that shed some light onto the arbitration process.
Dish's original affiliate deal with CSN California ended Oct. 1, 2009. The two sides worked out an extension until Dec. 29, 2009. But when they couldn't reach an agreement, Dish Network filed for arbitration.
Arbitration hearings were held in Washington, D.C., over the summer. On Nov. 23, the arbitrator ruled in favor of Comcast on CSN California. Dish's arbitration proceedings with CSN Chicago and CSN Mid-Atlantic are in a holding pattern until CSN California gets resolved.
Like most deals, the main issue revolves around cost and tiers. Dish Network complains that Comcast's proposed rate hike is too high (the actual price increase is not known).
Dish Network also is complaining that, thanks to the arbitrator's ruling, CSN California would become the only RSN on its expanded basic tier, AT-120. All other RSNs are on Dish's AT-200 tier.
In its appeal, Dish complained that "Comcast seeks to secure a competitive advantage for its cable affiliate by forcing Dish to either drop CSN California altogether or to change its business model and increase substantially the rates Dish would have to charge its own customers."
Few arbitration cases get this far. Previously, DirecTV went to arbitration over two Comcast RSNs: Bay Area and New England. Both of those cases were settled.
"Ultimately, we got to a resolution with Comcast without going through the entire arbitration process," said DirecTV's Derek Chang, speaking on the same panel as Litner. "But that's the intent of the process."
Litner agreed. "Ultimately, you get to the right place," he said. "Arbitration is designed to, in essence, encourage both sides to reach fair market value. That's what it's intended to do."
Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.
A new, multiplatform rights agreement with ESPN will make the American Le Mans Series the first motorsport to be featured on ESPN3.
The deal, which will be announced this week, gives the series coverage of nine races on ABC and ESPN2 complemented by live, beginning-to-end broadcasts of each race on ESPN3.com.
The ALMS' new partnership with ESPN follows a yearlong search by the series for a new television partner. The series' 12-year relationship with Speed ended last year, and it hired Chicago-based Intersport to help it negotiate a new media agreement.
The resulting partnership with ESPN, which was described as a time-buy agreement, takes the series from 40-plus hours of coverage on Speed and CBS in 2010 to 58 hours of programming in 2011 on ABC, ESPN2 and ESPN3. It also gives it more commercial inventory to sell to existing and new sponsors.
Highlights of the deal include a 90-minute ABC special on the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, two-hour specials of three other races on ABC, encore airings of those races on ESPN2 and prerace and postrace programming before each event on ESPN3.com.
"This is without question the best possible outcome for our future television platform," said ALMS Chief Executive Scott Atherton. "Coupling the core of traditional television, ESPN/ABC, with the future of media that is ESPN3 gives us best-in-class benchmark communication platforms for the future."
Intersport President and CEO Charlie Besser added, "The fact we could stream all of the races live is fantastic. It's a really critical element for these guys to be able to engage with their fans and build their brand."
Under terms of the ESPN partnership, ALMS will sell advertising inventory during the programming across all platforms. Intersport will support the advertising sales efforts and manage the production of the race programming.
Atherton said he believes the deal has the potential to be more financially lucrative for the series. He expects the new commercial inventory to offer existing sponsors more exposure, as well.
ABC and ESPN2 are available in 114.5 million and 99.5 million homes, respectively, while ESPN3 is currently available in roughly 65 million homes. Speed is available in more than 75 million homes.
Last season, ALMS averaged a 0.2 Nielsen rating and 237,000 viewers across nine telecasts on CBS and Speed. For the seven telecasts on Speed alone, the average was a 0.1 and 198,000 viewers.
In addition to helping manage broadcast production, Intersport was hired to assist with improving ALMS' social media efforts. Because many ALMS races have two drivers in a car, the agency plans to work with ALMS to have the secondary driver tweet during the event.
"No other racing can really put fans in the car like that," Besser said. "That's going to be really cool."
Coming off the best revenue year for the New York Yankees on YES, the regional sports network has already renewed eight sponsors for the 2011 MLB season.
Howard Levinson, YES senior vice president of ad sales, credited the record double-digit revenue increase in 2010 to renewed interest following the Yankees' 2009 World Series championship and from a recovery in the ad market, which saw previously moribund categories like auto attracting a fleet of advertisers. Yankees ratings on YES were down slightly, dipping from 4.62 to 4.48, but the male 24- to 54-year-old demographic was up 11 percent.
For 2011, renewals have been completed with WB Mason, which returns to sponsor the postgame show; Cablevision; Ford, which will be the pregame show sponsor; Phillips-Van Heusen/Izod; Acura; Bob's Discount Furniture; Fox news channels; and Bigelow Tea, which is sponsoring the "Post-Game Plus" show on YESNetwork.com.
Levinson said YES Network's ad sales figure is easily double digits ahead of last year at this time. With those kinds of results, he said additional Yankee programming on YES is under consideration. Looking ahead, he expects the financial services market to rebound this season, along with airlines.
The PGA Tour will announce this week that it has signed a four-year renewal with the Hawaii Tourism Authority to remain as an official marketing partner.
The HTA has been one of the tour's marketing partners since 2001, and the most recent deal will take the tourism group through the 2014 season. Official partnerships with the PGA Tour can range from the low to high seven figures annually, depending on how much media is included, but the HTA's deal will average $1.75 million a year for the next four years.
Hawaii spends more on tourism than any other state, about $70 million in 2009, according to analysis of state budgets by the U.S. Travel Association.
The state formed the HTA 13 years ago to service the multibillion-dollar tourism industry in the state and it has used the partnership with the PGA Tour as a cornerstone to those efforts. Hawaii features 70 golf courses across its islands, and Kapalua, the site of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions this week, has hosted the tour's first event since 1999. The tour's second event, the Sony Open, is the following week in Honolulu.
"We will leverage the partnership in a number of ways, but mostly with the warm weather and the beautiful views on TV at a time when many of our key markets are blanketed with snow," said Mike Story, the HTA's tourism brand manager.
Tourism suffered in 2009, Story said, when the number of visitors and their spending dropped, but 2010 has offered "a light at the end of the tunnel," Story said. "We're up, but that's based off of a down year in 2009. But it's been good to see some pick up."
The HTA will use ad units on Golf Channel that come with its marketing package to promote tourism in the state. Several PGA Tour golfers will be interviewed about what they enjoy best when visiting the islands.
Those interviews will be part of an ad campaign that started last year called "Nothing is more exciting than …"
"This partnership does a lot, in terms of guaranteeing Hawaii a level of security with scheduling that is almost impossible to find in this ever-changing world of golf," said NBC and Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing, a resident of the state and its unofficial ambassador of golf.
Rolfing's foundation is the host organization for the Hyundai event, which brought back the Tournament of Champions name this season. Rolfing was one of the HTA's original board members and helped arrange the first marketing partnership with the tour in 2001.
"For many years, there was just a single tournament in Hawaii that was mixed in as part of the West Coast swing," Rolfing said. "That just didn't work. Having the two tournaments in Hawaii really is the perfect way to open the season."
Rolfing also believes that returning to the Tournament of Champions name will elevate the stature of the opening event. The tournament formerly carried that name until 1994. It most recently was known as the SBS Championship.
"It will reinforce the importance of winning on tour," Rolfing said. "It's something I've really pounded the drum about ever since Tiger ([Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] skipped the event a few years ago. It wasn't that long ago that the Tournament of Champions really was like the fifth major, and that's where we need to get the tournament back to."
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has begun the search for a replacement for departing CEO Richard Peddie, who is leaving the organization after 13 years. An executive search committee comprising the seven-member MLSE board of directors — Peddie included — began looking for Peddie's replacement when he announced his impending departure on Nov. 30.
MLSE has hired Southern California-based executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry to assist with the search. A spokesman for the committee declined to discuss details of the search, other than to say Peddie would "provide input and assist the board" in its decision. Peddie said he would leave the organization as late as Dec. 31, 2011, but his departure could come earlier depending on the success of the search. He declined to comment on details of the process.
Maple Leafs President and general manager Brian Burke called Peddie's job "the most popular corporate job in Canada." He said, "It's too early to tell who will be on the short list. I'm sure they're going to get 5,000 résumés for [Peddie's] position."
Peddie, 63, became president of the Toronto Raptors in 1996 and was elevated to CEO of MLSE when Maple Leaf Gardens bought the Raptors in 1998. Under his guidance, MLSE has grown into one of the largest sports and entertainment companies in North America with an estimated value of $1.5 billion. The organization now includes the Major League Soccer team Toronto FC, the American Hockey League Toronto Marlies, Air Canada Centre, Maple Leaf Square real estate holdings and more than 2,500 full- and part-time employees.
"Richard is a complete detail man," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "Whether he is in talking to us about the NBA in Canada, TV or participation in board of governors meetings, he sees the big picture and the details, and I've always been impressed by that."
Peddie's triumphs in the business community did not always reflect on the ice and court, however. The Maple Leafs last qualified for the postseason in 2003-04, and the Raptors have never made the NBA Finals in the team's 15-year history.
"Whoever comes in to replace [Peddie] is going to face a challenge from the fans," said Chris Pandoff, executive vice president of Corus Entertainment, the Maple Leafs' radio broadcast partner. "MLSE is a very good corporate citizen, but I think most fans say it would be nice to bring home an NBA ring or a Stanley Cup."
A management-level source at MLSE said there is considerable internal support for Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer and executive vice president, to replace Peddie. "He's been [Peddie's] right-hand man through the growth of the company," the source said. "He knows the employees and the structure of the company, and we'd like him to get it."
Anselmi, who oversees marketing, ticket sales, corporate partnerships and communications for MLSE, declined to comment on the possibility of replacing Peddie, other than to say he feels "honored to be considered."
It's probably best that Russ Cline's original idea for the National Lacrosse League never got off the ground. His vision: Lacrosse played on roller blades. That was back in the mid-1980s when lacrosse was more of a Canadian passion and a northeast U.S. fascination.
Twenty-five years later, the National Lacrosse League is celebrating its silver anniversary with 10 teams across two countries, as well as a new marketing relationship with IMG and potentially a new TV deal that will enhance the league's visibility.
"When we started out, we didn't know how to play it and we weren't sure how to spell it, but we were sports entrepreneurs and we thought this was a great sport," said Cline, who co-founded the four-team Major Indoor Lacrosse League in 1987 with Chris Fritz. The two remain involved as co-owners of the Philadelphia Wings.
The MILL later became the NLL and it has flourished as a major league sport for lacrosse at minor league prices, says current NLL Commissioner George Daniel. Ticket prices start at $6 and average about $20 across the league, which plays its games in NBA and NHL arenas.
When the league begins the 2011 campaign this weekend, it will mark the 25th straight season for the indoor lacrosse league. Secondary leagues, even ones like the Arena Football League, which used to be considered the standard, just don't last that long.
"It's a real testament to the sport, the owners, and the passion of the lacrosse fans," Daniel said.
Reebok has been with the NLL since 2005 and recently extended its partnership as the league's official uniform, equipment and footwear supplier through 2013.
"The league really lends us a lot of credibility and authenticity in the marketplace," said Chad Wittman, senior product manager at Reebok and the brand's liaison with the NLL. "When the best lacrosse players in the world are using the equipment, that's a strong message when you launch new products and the players are helping you develop new products."
IMG also has agreed to represent the league in its TV talks and sponsorship negotiations beginning this year. While brands such as Dodge, Progressive Insurance and Super Cuts have been league partners in the past, the NLL is currently without official sponsors to help spread the word of its 25th anniversary.
IMG Media's Hillary Mandel, senior vice president of programming and distribution, has been leading talks with potential TV partners to carry an expanded schedule of regular-season and postseason games.
The NLL's title game last season was televised by Versus, while other broadcasts have been time-buys in the past.
"What we find encouraging is that we draw well, about 10,000 on average, for our games," Daniel said. "But we've had little to no TV presence over the years. If we're able to get on TV and build awareness, that could create a great upside for us."
When Converse recently asked pro skater Kenny Anderson if he would film a commercial with Dr. J, all Anderson could think was, "No way?"
No way was he getting a chance to share the spotlight with an NBA legend. No way was he going to meet a hoops star he loved to watch as a kid. There was just no way.
A decade ago, Anderson would have been right. The odds of him meeting his childhood hero, much less being showcased in a commercial alongside an NBA star were slim. But things have changed.
Today, brands not only want to feature action sports stars in their commercials, they increasingly want to feature them alongside some of the biggest names in sports.
Recent examples include Converse spotlighting Anderson alongside Dr. J in its "Join the Procession" commercial and Gatorade showing snowboarder Ellery Hollingsworth and skater Sean Malto in a spot with Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade and Serena Williams. Cisco also featured skater Ryan Sheckler in a Flip campaign that includes Drew Brees and Steve Nash, and Nike integrated skater Eric Koston into its "Boom" commercial with athletes such as LeBron James and Robinson Cano.
After years of being pigeonholed as the "stoked" snowboarder in the "extreme" Mountain Dew commercial, action sports stars have developed mainstream commercial appeal. Brands now feature skaters and snowboarders in multisport commercials and place commercials featuring action sports figures in popular, prime-time programming windows.
For action sports observers and enthusiasts, the shift has been a long time coming.
"I always thought of our sports, especially skateboarding, as just as athletic and difficult as other mainstream sports, so I never understood why there wasn't appreciation in a bigger picture," said skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. "Now I see guys at the top of our fields alongside mainstream ball athletes. That's what kids want to see."
Brands and marketers increasingly feature action sports stars because the number of brands committed to those sports is rising, longtime action sports fans are aging and, perhaps most importantly, action sports participation and cultural acceptance is surging.
Where parents once discouraged kids from dressing in the oversized baggy jeans that skateboarders wore in the 1990s, they now buy their kids the skinny jeans, plaid shirts and clunky shoes that skateboarders wear today.
Skaters, snowboarders and surfers increasingly ignite music and fashion trends that have converted action sports and its endemic brands from an activity into lifestyle.
"These sports have permeated our culture," said Erica Pergament, Pepsi sports marketing manager. The commercials featuring action sports stars reflect that, Pergament said, in part because, "More people in this country are skateboarding than participating in more traditional mainstream sports."
Over the last decade, skateboarding led all sports in participation increases, with total participants jumping from 5.8 million to 10.1 million between 1998 and 2007, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Gatorade research shows that today 2 million more kids ride skateboards than play baseball.
As a result, skateboarding and its cultural siblings, snowboarding, BMX and surfing, have hit a cultural tipping point. Sports marketers now consider those sports to be regular youth activities alongside baseball, football or soccer.
"Kids are interested in so many different things now, and it's totally cool to be interested in a lot of different things," said Geoff Cottrill, Converse's chief marketer. "If a brand can recognize and celebrate that, that's a good thing."
Cottrill said that was a major reason Converse worked Anderson, a Converse-supported skater, into its "Join the Procession" campaign. The goal was to develop a spot that showed all the sports and cultural activities that Converse supports, and the skateboarding community was an integral part of that and the brand's DNA.
Gatorade made a similar decision three years ago when it signed its first action sports athletes to its roster of stars. The move expanded the brand's portfolio of stars beyond the traditional mix of football, basketball and baseball players. It subsequently has put athletes like Hollingsworth and Malto alongside those stick-and-ball stars in commercials that validate them and underscore the brand's commitment to those sports.
"One thing we strive to do is allow consumers to see themselves in our brand," said Kenny Mitchell, Gatorade's action sports team manager. "The sports landscape has changed a lot. Kids today are growing up with skating and surfing and snowboarding as a primary option."
Morgan Flatley, director of consumer engagement at Gatorade, added, "[Hollingsworth and Malto] give us a way to talk to that audience credibly."
The same rationale compelled Cisco and Mountain Dew to feature Sheckler and Paul Rodriguez, respectively, in recent campaigns. But both brands took a different approach from Gatorade and Converse.
Rather than feature the skaters alongside other major sports stars, they put them in commercials of their own. Historically, action-sports-specific spots like that ran only during the X Games or Dew Tour, but Cisco and Mountain Dew placed the spots in non-endemic, prime-time-programming windows on Fox and ABC.
"These days professional action sports athletes are celebrity role models just like professional football and basketball players are, and they're very relevant for our core target," Pergament said.
Fuse marketing executive Issa Sawabini said part of the reason those athletes are relevant is not just because of rising youth interest in action sports but also because of the aging of longtime action sports fans.
The X Games have been around for more than 15 years now, and, as a result, a generation of young people who grew up with them are now adults. Those people see them less as fringe sports, he said, and are more likely to accept and recognize stars like Sheckler and Rodriguez.
"Nobody's ever asked, 'Why are football athletes playing football in a commercial?'" Sawabini said. "Football is part of culture. With the action sports being featured now, it's a reflection of their continued growth and broader appeal."
The rise in brand acceptance is encouraging for action sports athletes and properties. As marketers increasingly see action sports as an important communication tool, the number of commercial deals offered to skaters and snowboarders will rise, and as the number of commercials increase, the visibility of those sports will continue to expand, Sawabini said.
"We've opened a door, but we've come nowhere near the top," he said. "In the future, action sports athletes will no longer appear because they're sponsored but will stand on their own as celebrity endorsers. That's coming next."
Business leaders in the sport of triathlon have created an industry advocacy group called Triathlon America, which they hope will become a clearinghouse for best business practices and promote the sport to more mainstream audiences.
Representatives from the Competitor Group, the Active Network, the World Triathlon Corp. and other retailers and manufacturers will meet at Triathlon America's first conference from Feb. 27 to March 1 in La Jolla, Calif.
"Triathlon is growing extremely quickly, which means we have had a lot of new folks come into the industry," said Dave Alberga, CEO of the Active Network. "We have needed some kind of event that gets everybody into the same room and talking. It just hasn't happened before this."
According to Alberga, triathlon previously relied on the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas and the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, as informal points of business. But the prohibitive cost of traveling to Kona and Interbike's cycling-dominant culture kept triathlon from embracing either venue as an industry-wide meeting point.
Jack Caress, race director for the Los Angeles Triathlon and Triathlon America's newly elected president and CEO, said the idea to start the group came from an informal meeting of industry heads in New York City in 2009. The group hoped to pattern itself after Running USA, the advocacy group for distance running.
Susan Weeks, CEO of Running USA, said a membership with the running group includes a regular e-mail blast of news from the industry, access to an annual conference and a healthy Rolodex of contacts.
Caress said an annual membership with Triathlon America ($95 for individuals, $295 for midsized companies and $495 for corporations) would include similar benefits. "We will be an advocate to the sport, but not a governing body," he said. "We'll hopefully be able to influence the sport in a way that a governing body can't."
Alberga is a keynote speaker at the conference, alongside Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi and outgoing Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, a top age-group triathlete and an advocate of endurance sports. Topics of discussion will include sponsorship sales, maximizing social media and mergers and acquisitions in the endurance sports lifestyle, among others.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum posted a net loss of $4.3 million in 2009, according to its recently filed tax return, its sixth such loss in eight years as the baseball shrine grappled with declining donations, attendance and overall revenue.
The Cooperstown, N.Y.-based hall generated $6.9 million in revenue for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2009, a 31 percent drop from the prior year and roughly a third of its record $20.79 million reported for 2007. The $4.3 million net loss is a 79 percent increase from the $2.4 million loss in 2008.
The continued fall in revenue and profit stems from several factors: attendance that fell from 301,755 in 2008 to 289,000 in 2009; charitable contributions and grants that shrank from $2.8 million in 2008 to $1.6 million in 2009; and licensing royalties that fell from $1.1 million to $200,832.
Hall executives, however, said the institution's overall financial outlook remains strong. Nonprofit accounting guidelines call for multiyear, charitable contributions to be recorded in the year they are pledged. As a result, there are differences between the apparent financial health of the museum as outlined in the tax return and what is actually happening in terms of operating cash flow.
"Our 990 is a snapshot in time, and in 2009 certainly was impacted by fluctuations in attendance and related revenue," said Brad Horn, the hall's senior director for communications and education. "But we're much more focused on the big picture, and with that, we are not concerned. What occurred in 2009 did not affect what we've done in 2010 in terms of programming and museum hours and such, and what we have planned going into 2011."
Horn additionally branded 2009 a "pivot year" with regard to licensing, and said a new partnership with CMG Worldwide struck in July 2010 will likely show higher revenue there in future tax returns.
The hall continues to pursue new events and programming in an effort to boost fan interest in its mission of preserving baseball history and honoring excellence in the sport. July's annual induction ceremonies, marking the yearly peak of fan visitation and interest in the hall, will be altered to include a parade of living hall of fame members and a new, separate ceremony devoted to its writing and broadcasting honorees.
Museum attendance for 2010 was about 281,000.
Jeff Idelson, hall president since early 2008, earned $353,711 in total compensation during 2009, up from $304,515 the year before.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame took a big step last month toward cutting nearly one-third of its operating budget.
That move follows earlier discussions of a reduction in the 20 percent range to help cope with rising deficits and slow ticket sales. Instead, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the operator of the hall of fame, is opting for what it bills as a worst-case scenario. The visitors authority budget committee recommended a $4.8 million cut to the $15.3 million operating budget, a reduction of 31 percent.
This month, the full visitors authority board will vote on the budget changes, which would take place immediately. The hall of fame operates on a fiscal calendar that ends June 30.
Last month, the visitors authority submitted a financial analysis to the Charlotte City Council outlining projections for the rest of the fiscal year. Based on expected attendance of 250,000 people — down from a projected 575,000 in the original budget — the visitors authority expects the hall of fame to lose $1.3 million during the current fiscal year. That figure represents a $2 million difference from the projected profit of $793,000 in the initial budget.
Along with revised spending, the committee recommended adjusting the anticipated revenue from ticket sales and other income sources by $6.9 million, to $9.2 million, from $16.1 million.
Cuts included lower royalty payments because of lagging attendance, reduced marketing and promotions and much lower spending on a range of contract services. The marketing budget loses one-third of its funding, dropping to $1.6 million from $2.4 million. Even the signature induction ceremony for the second hall of fame class in May will be a discounted version, with $225,000 pared from the $725,000 budget.
No jobs will be cut as part of the reduced budget. Winston Kelley, executive director at the hall of fame, said some savings have already been realized by adjusting the schedules of part-time workers as the traffic patterns of busier and slower times have become apparent. The hall of fame employs 27 people full time and has 100 part-time workers.
Hotel taxes are the main funding source for the $200 million, publicly owned hall of fame. It opened in May and has endured a string of disappointments since then, starting with sluggish ticket and corporate-sponsor sales.
A visitors authority reserve fund will repay the anticipated operating deficit. If the hall of fame loses $1.3 million, as expected, the reserve fund would be left with $3.7 million, the visitors authority budget committee reported this week.
Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.
Pro Bull Riders Inc. has hired Charlotte-based event marketing agency JHE to provide game-day presentation equipment and assistance for the 2011 season.
JHE will send an engineer, a technician and a truck equipped with all of the PBR's technical, game-day presentation needs to each of the 29 stops on the PBR tour. The agreement is expected to help the PBR save time and resources spent unloading, installing and learning to work the equipment at the multiple venues it visits each year.
The truck is a 55-foot hauler that includes a control room that can manage the video boards or scoreboards at the multiple arenas the PBR visits. It allows the PBR to save on labor and improves its production abilities during events.
"It's a significant expansion of our capabilities on-site," said PBR President and COO Sean Gleason. "This allows us to integrate elements of our TV coverage into the live event."
The decision to hire JHE comes at a time when sports venues from Cowboys Stadium to Charlotte Motor Speedway are investing in equipment and technology to improve the game-day experience for fans. The PBR hired former NBC producer David Neal to produce its TV programming in 2011, and it hopes the JHE truck enables it to deliver some of that production to fans attending events.
The PBR is the first non-motorsports client to hire JHE in several years. Although the agency previously worked locally with the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers, its focus in recent years has been on motorsports clients. It manages the mobile stage that the Speed network erects at races and Sprint's on-site activation at NASCAR races.
President & CEO Topps Inc.
Seeing at least one home game for every professional team in the Greater New York area.
Chief Marketing Officer USA Water Polo
Sports business: To get both our National Team Fan Club and our new website launched in 2011.
In general: Hoping to see more coverage of women's sports on U.S. television and no NFL lockout.
Personal: To not flake on working out at least five times a week and to take a vacation outside the U.S. again for the first time since 2008.
Senior Director, Partnership Marketing EA Sports
I want to see no work stoppage in the NFL or NBA, and Tiger Woods win a major!
President Competitor Group
Sports business: "One-touch" all e-mails — reply, delete or file! 2) Get more of our runners to raise money for charity; 3) Take the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series global!
Personal: 1) Run more! And maybe even some of our own events — a novel idea; 2) Turn off the CrackBerry when at home with the family.
Vice President, Partnership Marketing MLS & Soccer United Marketing
From a business perspective, not necessarily a resolution but rather a priority — continually striving to push the commercial envelope in all that we do following a tremendous year (2010) for our sport. Beyond business, I've talked about running a marathon for years. Time to stop talking and take action. Could 2011 be my year?
Executive Vice President Turner Sports Ad Sales & Marketing
In 2011, the team and I hope to drive innovation and success for the newest addition to Turner Sports' portfolio, the NCAA March Madness Tournament, through our partnership with CBS.
Partner Arent Fox LLP
My sports business resolution for 2011 is to be involved in three positive sports transactions where all parties involved, including the fans, are happy with the outcome. Imagine how much fun the closing dinners would be.
My personal resolution is to make a real difference to more people (including my wife and three kids) than I ever have before — whether by donation of money, time or (preferably) both.
Senior Vice President, Head of U.S. Marketing Sun Life Financial
Continue to build momentum and brand awareness in the U.S. by leveraging the success of Sun Life's recent marketing efforts, including the "Sun Life Guys" advertising campaign and our naming-rights deal with Sun Life Stadium.
A successful sponsorship program is all in the activation.
So leveraging our existing Sun Life marketing assets in a way that facilitates customer engagement and that positively impacts the community is at the top of my list.
And last but not least is helping the "Sun Life Guys" realize their fondest wish to once and for all get Florida to change its nickname from the "Sunshine State" to the "Sun Life State."
Principal Team Epic
All about Thanksgiving — more thanks, more giving. n Hope to watch sports more like a fan and less like a marketer.
Hoping to see fewer bogus RFPs and more courage to walk away from them when they do surface.
Hope to see more media coverage of the positive things athletes do for their communities and less "gotcha" journalism.
Hoping for a few more wins for my Little League team this year.
Executive Vice President & Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
The sports business resolution I'm making heading into the New Year is to work toward building the exposure and interest of skiing and snowboarding to where we are domestically scalable as an annual business versus just an Olympic year business.
I'm also looking forward to watching the movement on the IOC's broadcast negotiations to see where it lands as we head into another Olympic quad. Maybe an early holiday present for us already was when the IOC considered four new events in our sports as potential Olympic inclusions. It will be interesting to watch the decisions unfold this year.
Finally, my personal resolution for 2011 is to work toward a greater work/life balance. Unfortunately, I anticipate this will be on the list again next year.
CEO Conover Tuttle Pace
I resolve to keep looking for the right balance among family, professional and personal interests. If I could borrow Hermione Granger's Time-Turner, that might help.
Vice President, Integrated Marketing Coca-Cola
As for a sports business New Year's resolution, I would like to see the industry move away from "selling stuff" to working with brands in a more collaborative model where the two organizations leverage the unique strengths of each, to create more value, more productively, than either partner could create separately — in other words, a true partnership.
Chief Business & Marketing Officer U.S. Tennis Association
Spend a few days with kids in need. I do some fundraising for a local tennis organization — Norwalk Grassroots Tennis. I'd like to try and spend more time on the courts with the kids, who are inspiring.
Make it to at least 10 of my son's and daughter's college tennis matches or lacrosse games. I am sold that Division III sports are a perfect concept for student athletes.
Learn yoga so I can touch at least my knees pain free.
Take a family vacation!
CEO Sports & Properties Inc.
I am extremely focused on the success of the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which is making its first visit ever to the Carolinas in January. If that event turns out well, it will make for a great start for the year. Beyond that, my resolution is to come up with other great clients and projects.
Chief Marketing Officer USA Swimming
Sports business: To make finding a place to learn to swim much easier in online searches!
Personal: As I type this … less e-mail, more conversation.
FOUNDER & CHIEF STRATEGIST URBAN MARKETING CORP. OF AMERICA
To enjoy myself at the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game, Final Four, MLB All-Star Game and U.S. Open! Compiled by Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson