SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Franchises

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  • Braves’ digital ‘bash’ draws more than 20K

    The Atlanta Braves drew more than 20,000 fans on Aug. 14 for a wide-ranging social media effort dubbed “#BravesBash,” featuring interaction with players on digital platforms.

    A live streaming event on the club’s Facebook page drew more than 13,000 fans, while a crowd of more than 2,200 listened in to a conference call with broadcaster Jim Powell and a series of players. More than 100 Skype video calls between fans and players were made and received, including one with the MLB Fan Cave, while more than 3,000 individual tweets were sent out with the #BravesBash hashtag.

    Derek Schiller, Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing, said the club plans to revive #BravesBash next year. “We believe this was successful enough and we learned enough that we’ll want to do it again,” he said. “We’re really pleased with how many people engaged with us, and what really made it work was having the participation of players and having all of these channels going on at once.”

    #BravesBash was a fundraiser for the Atlanta Braves Foundation. Auctions remained live last week, so a fundraising total was not available.

    — Eric Fisher


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  • Eagles add apps for fans with smartphones

    The Philadelphia Eagles are looking to make the game-day experience easier for fans with smartphones.

    The team’s tickets this year for the first time have quick response codes that fans can scan with smartphones to access information about game-day events. The team also this season is using in its club-seat level a smartphone ordering system for food.

    Fans can scan quick response codes to access info about game-day events.
    “As the number of people with smartphones grows, this can become a real value,” said Tim McDermott, the Eagles’ chief marketing officer. “We are looking at developing a whole library of apps.”

    The food ordering application is provided by Bypass Lane. This is the first time the company’s app is used for delivery of food rather than just quick access at concession lines. The company works with existing concessionaires, McDermott said.

    Aramark is the concessionaire at Lincoln Financial Field. Bypass Lane was one of four tech vendors the Eagles tested dating to the final regular-season home game of 2010. The Eagles ultimately chose Bypass Lane and conducted further tests at Lincoln Financial Field this summer for three concerts, an international soccer match and Monster Jam, a monster truck event.

    For the quick response code addition, fans have to download an app that allows their phone to scan the code. This then brings the fan to a page with all the game-day events, such as potential autograph signings, fan forums and sponsor events.

    The idea for scan information came from the team’s season-ticket advisory board, McDermott said. It is believed to be the first time an NFL team is using a quick response code on its tickets.

    Staff writer Don Muret contributed to this report.

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  • Settlement puts Nets games on YES Net through 2031-32

    YES Network and the New Jersey Nets quietly settled their cable rights fee dispute in May, several weeks before an arbitrator was due to rule on it.

    The new deal gives YES the Nets’ TV rights through the 2031-32 season – a 10-year extension that was the main reason why the Nets originally took the dispute to arbitration, sources said. In order to secure such a long-term extension, YES agreed to a healthy rights-fee increase, around $20 million a year initially, with moderate annual increases, sources said. It’s not known how much YES had been paying the Nets in the previous contract.

    YES and the Nets had been in the middle of a 20-year deal that originally was supposed to end with the 2021-22 season. That deal, which was signed when YES launched in 2002, contained a standard provision that allowed each side to reopen it and reset the rights after this past 2010-11 season.

    “We reached an amicable agreement with the Nets outside of the arbitration process, and we look forward to a long, productive relationship with them,” said YES Network spokesman Eric Handler.

    YES Network refused to comment further. The Nets also declined to comment.
    While cable rights fee disputes are common between RSNs and cable operators, it’s rare that they ever go to arbitration. In fact, it is believed that no fee dispute between an RSN and a cable operator has ever been resolved by an arbitrator. The Portland Trail Blazers are in arbitration with Comcast SportsNet Northwest, but that proceeding is about the RSN’s distribution and does not involve its rights fee, sources said.

    YES and the Nets had been negotiating a new deal earlier this year. They appeared to reach an agreement in February, but the Nets wound up walking away from the deal, resisting the 10-year extension, sources said. The team opted to seek an arbitrator to set the price; contract terms did not allow the Nets to shop its rights to other networks.

    Sources said the new deal does not differ much from the one that was on the table in February. YES would not have offered such big increases without the long-term extension.

    The long-term nature of the deal follows the Boston Celtics’ expected 20-year deal with Comcast SportsNet New England and the Los Angles Lakers’ recent 25-year deal with Time Warner Cable. The reason for the recent spate of these kind of long-term deals is a desire on both sides to provide cost certainty in the media rights marketplace.

    YES President and CEO Tracy Dolgin and Nets Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark led the negotiations for each side.

    The timing of the reset did not come at an opportune time for the Nets, which last season posted the NBA’s lowest local rating by far with a 0.29 rating. The second worst rating belonged to the Los Angeles Clippers with a 0.99 rating that still was three times higher than the Nets.

    Over the past three years, Nets ratings on YES have been lower than every MLB, NBA and NHL team, except the Florida Panthers.

    But the Nets, under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, are looking to revive their business with a move from their temporary home at the Prudential Center in Newark to the Barclays Center set to open next year in Brooklyn.

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  • Penguins motivated to sign Crons

    The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed a one-year partnership with Crons, a Pittsburgh-based uniform and apparel company that produces clothing emblazoned with motivational messages. Under the deal, which makes Crons the official motivational brand of the Penguins, Crons will sell its active wear at PensGear team stores in Consol Energy Center.

    Crons will also sell its branded protein nutrition bars at concession stands in the arena, and the company will become the presenting sponsor of the Penguins’ youth hockey camps.

    Representatives from Crons and the Penguins declined to discuss terms of the deal, but sources familiar with the deal valued it in the low-six-figure range.

    “The inspirational message Crons is conveying really resonates with the youth camps,” said David Peart, Penguins senior vice president of sales and service. “Being able to connect them with amateur athletes was appealing to them.”

    The partnership is the largest to date for Crons, which is an acronym for “Come Ready or Never Start.” The company was founded in 2005 by former University of Pittsburgh football and basketball player Pat Cavanaugh. Crons produces championship apparel for the Big South, Colonial Athletic Association and Atlantic 10 collegiate conferences, and provides uniforms and active wear to 500 high schools and regional colleges, such as Bethany College in West Virginia and Penn State Altoona. It also produces uniforms for the Baltimore Mariners arena football team as well as the Orlando Magic’s junior NBA program.

    RENEE ROSENSTEEL
    Active wear from Pittsburgh-based Crons will be sold at PensGear team stores in Consol Energy Center.
    Sotiris Aggelou, vice president of brand development for Crons, said the association with the youth hockey camps was a major selling point. The Penguins’ camps attract 6,000 to 7,000 youth players every year. Crons will provide camp-branded jerseys for youth players and athletic wear for coaches and staff.

    Aggelou said the company hopes the Penguins deal leads to further local partnerships with NBA and NHL teams. “It’s a big step for us to get into professional sports,” Aggelou said. “We are coming up with creative motivational sayings that are appropriate to hockey.”

    The NHL has allowed teams to sign local licensing deals with apparel manufacturers since 1990. The NHL declined to comment on the deal, but a league source said team jerseys and outerwear such as jackets and sweatshirts are exclusive to the league’s partnership with Reebok. Local apparel partners can brand active wear and casual clothing, such as T-shirts, the source said, but all logos must be approved by the league.

    The league approved the logos that will appear on the jerseys to be worn by Penguins youth hockey players, the source said.

    Aggelou said the company has yet to decide details of its apparel line, but it will probably sell between six and 12 individual pieces of active wear, including sweat-wicking clothing designed for exercise. The clothing will incorporate team colors and will feature the Penguins logo. Crons will also offer limited-edition active wear to Penguins season-ticket holders.

    In addition, Crons will sell four flavors of its “Come Ready” protein bars at concession stands. It will also receive signs in the arena and on the Penguins website.

    In 2010, the Penguins signed local apparel deals with Reebok, G-III and ’47 Brand, and all three brands sell products at Consol Energy Center.

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  • Warriors look to fill executive posts soon

    The Golden State Warriors expect to finish a major retooling of the team’s front office under owner Joe Lacob by mid-November.

    This month, the team has made major business-side changes. Dwayne Redmon, vice president of finance; Travis Stanley, executive vice president of marketing; and Neda Barrie, executive vice president of business operations have all left as Lacob works to put his own management in place.

    NBAE / GETTY  IMAGES
    Joe Lacob wants his top staff complete by mid-November.
    The departure of the three vice presidents follows the resignation in June of Robert Rowell, who worked for the Warriors for 16 years, the last eight as team president under former Warriors owner Chris Cohan.

    “The first nine months of our ownership has been an extremely active period of time and, obviously, consisted of some change,” Lacob said in an email to SportsBusiness Journal. “However, we anticipate having our entire management group — on both the basketball and business side of the organization — in place by our official one-year anniversary. Our goal is to build a world-class organization from top to bottom.”

    In July 2010, Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber paid a record $450 million for the Warriors. They won NBA approval of their purchase in November.

    After the Warriors’ 2010-11 season ended in April, Lacob began an overhaul of the team’s basketball operations, replacing former coach Keith Smart with Mark Jackson; adding former Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers executive Jerry West as an executive board member; and hiring a new assistant general manager in Bob Myers.

    This summer, Lacob, who will run the day-to-day operations of the franchise until he hires a new team president, has turned his attention to revamping the business side of the Warriors.

    Marty Glick has been hired as chief financial officer of the team, and Lacob added Jim Weyermann as vice president of franchise development. Weyermann primarily is responsible for running the Dakota Wizards, the NBA Development League franchise bought in June by Lacob and Guber.

    Lacob wants to hire a new team president by mid-November, which would mark a year since the team’s new ownership was approved. He did not disclose what kind of background he is seeking in candidates. Club officials did not comment on whether a search firm is being used to fill the post.

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