SBJ/July 29-August 4, 2013/Media

Whistle gains lacrosse partner with MLL deal

Startup youth sports programmer The Whistle has extended its run of league partnerships with a new deal with Major League Lacrosse.

Youth sports programmer The Whistle was eager to add lacrosse.
In a deal similar to those The Whistle signed with the PGA Tour and the NFL, the Boston-based MLL will take a minority equity position in the company and participate in a comprehensive content and distribution agreement. MLL will provide The Whistle access to game highlights, behind-the-scenes footage and legacy content, and participate in the development of new programming such as instructional lacrosse segments.

The Whistle is also aligned on a non-equity basis with the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Soccer, IndyCar Entertainment and the Harlem Globetrotters, among others. But the MLL partnership hits The Whistle in a particularly sweet spot as lacrosse for years has been among the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. among youth athletes.

“More and more, leagues are seeing us as a place they want to be and place their content,” said Jeff Urban, The Whistle co-founder and chief marketing officer. “This deal is one we’ve been working on for a long time and wanted for some time given the influx of interest in lacrosse. And it’s something we think can help bring forward the personalities of the players in Major League Lacrosse a bit more.”

Financial terms were not disclosed. But the deal is centered in large part on MLL gaining equity in the company in exchange for allowing access to its video content and assets.

Other investors in The Whistle include former MLB President Bob DuPuy, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and Clear Channel Communications Chief Executive Bob Pittman, among others.

“We’re very eager to go after new ways to reach fans, and this is definitely one of them,” said David Gross, commissioner of MLL, founded 15 years ago in part by celebrity trainer and television personality Jake Steinfeld. “And any time you can position yourself along with other established brands, it certainly raises your visibility.”

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