SBD: Kauffman Close To Buying Ganassi Stake SBD: NBC, ESPN, Fox Expected To Bid On EPL SBG: Wayne Rooney Tops Wealth-X's EPL List SBD: Tod Leiweke To Become NFL COO SBD: NFL Owners Caught Off Guard By Leiweke Hiring SBJ: DraftKings closes on $300M funding round SBG: Chelsea Tops Big Spending Fans List SBJ: USF makes connections SBD: The Players' Tribune Continuing To Gain Momentum SBD: Kraft Blasts NFL For Handling Of Brady Suspension
July 27, 2015 10:00 AM
July 8, 2015 07:00 AM
The NFL has signed a 10-year agreement with Tottenham Hotspur FC to play two regular-season games annually at the Premier League club’s new London stadium starting in 2018, when the venue opens. The parties are scheduled to announce the deal today.
The agreement does not mean the NFL is moving away from Wembley Stadium, where it has staged regular-season games annually since 2007, including three last year. The league fully expects to renew its deal with Wembley, whose contract with the NFL ends after the 2016 season. A deal there would mean the NFL would play games beginning in 2018 at both venues.
“Wembley has been a great relationship for us,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president, international.
However, the league has had concerns about field wear and tear at Wembley, as has The Football Association, which owns the facility. Wembley hosts English national soccer games, and national team members have expressed criticism about the quality of the field in the wake of NFL games at the venue. Scheduling NFL games also is an issue at Wembley because of other special events that are scheduled at the venue, such as this fall’s Rugby World Cup.
At Tottenham, there will be two fields at the stadium: a permanent field for the NFL and, on top of that, a soccer field that can slide out of the venue.
The Tottenham deal also gives the NFL more flexibility in deciding whether to move a team to London or play a fuller slate of games with more teams, Waller said.
June 29, 2015 03:28 PM
SportsBusiness Journal this week offers a look at several members of the sports industry who spoke to college graduates at commencement ceremonies across the country this spring. Here are some additional speakers who shared anecdotes and words of encouragement with the members of the class of 2015.
Photo by:MIKE MORGAN PHOTOGRAPHY
National Basketball Players Association, COO
University of Maryland“I loved being a football player, but I always thought of myself as more, and luckily, I found more to do. The season I tore up my knee  was also the same year my daughter Avery was born and my wife was finishing up law school, so I put all of my energies into becoming a full-time dad. It was also the year that the players union of which I was first a rep then executive committee member then finally president started negotiating with the NFL. Talk about preconceived notions — first in the NFL and now in my role heading the day-to-day operations of the National Basketball Players Association. I have encountered more than a few who ask why athletes making millions need a union at all. I understand where that question comes from. As professional athletes, we are extremely fortunate, but we are not immune to being taken advantage of either. Workers’ compensation, rights for gay athletes, protection from corrupt agents and advisers — the issues are still one of respect and fundamental fairness. Dignity is a right for everyone, and sometimes it has to be fought for — and a power of a union or any group for that matter to demand those things comes from the cohesion of its members. That’s something I believe, and it drove my work with the NFLPA and now the NBPA.”
Photo by:JMU UNIVERSITY MARKETING PHOTOGRAPHY DEPARTMENT
James Madison University“For me, my passion, and it took me years to find this, is when I know someone I’m interviewing is sharing something special, something unique with me that they haven’t shared before. It’s like when an NFL player admits the toughest thing about success was to cut out lifelong friends that weren’t good influences. When the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski cried like a baby when he knew his injury could be so bad that he could never play football again. It’s when Dale Earnhardt Jr. told me that it takes him 10 beers to get him onto the dance floor. That’s what I chase, and that’s what I want you to continue to discover. This is not an overnight thing. Some of you may know it now, some of you it may take years down the road. But you need to find that feeling, what your ‘why’ is for doing what you do.”… Above all, be respectful and be kind to everyone. Everyone has a story. You don’t know that story. And that goes for anybody out there: the general manager of a Major League Baseball team or the man working security at an arena where you are broadcasting.”
Photo by:DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY
ESPN analyst, former NBA player
Duke University, Fuqua School of Business“We lost four first-round draft picks to the  NBA draft. … The cupboard was bare. Everyone came out and said Duke was done, all they have is a bunch of role players and young freshman coming in. While I was working in a public relations firm in Chicago that summer, I got a call from Coach K one day. He said, ‘Shane, how you doing?,’ and I said, ‘Pretty good,’ and he said ‘Are you ready to lead us back to the Final Four next year?,’ and I said, ‘Well, coach —’ and, Click! He hung up on me. [He] calls back same time next day and says ‘Shane, sorry about yesterday. We must have gotten disconnected. Are you ready next year to average 20 points and 10 rebounds and to win the ACC tournament?’ And I said, ‘Coach, it’s pretty funny,” Click! I finally wised up the third time, when he called back and said ‘Shane, are you ready to lead us back to a national championship, a place where it’s about our standard of play?’ And I said, ‘Yes, coach. I am ready. I am ready to uphold the standards of what Duke basketball, what Duke University, is all about; the reason I came to the greatest school in the entire world. And he said, ‘That’s what I’m waiting for.’ That was a lesson that hit home to me.”
Photo by:RADFORD UNIVERSITY
Radford University“Learn to listen. If you learn to listen, it will benefit you. That one took me a lot of time I want to save you. Listen. Your parents, co-workers, friends, siblings: They all have interesting things to say. Be selfless and attentive that way. Shut up and listen a minute; you’ll be better for it. Some of the greatest leaders in our history were and are great listeners. In today’s world of constant pestering, great listeners stand out. Good listeners often demand attention and command respect. If you’re selective, they will be invariably attentive to you. That’s one reason I am where I am in sports journalism. …
“I urge you to help others. It’s the greatest professional reward in this life. It’s hard to understand right now, as you’re getting ready to have this diploma in your hand. It’s hard to understand what ‘paying it forward’ means, but as you age a little bit and have a greater context, I promise you, nothing feels better.”
Photo by:OHIO STATE ATHLETICS
Ohio State University, senior vice president of alumni relations
Ohio State University“Your failures in life do not define you. How you handle that adversity, how you pick yourself up off the ground and come back the next day is a true measure of your worth. … Consider this: Some of your classmates faced such a situation on Sept. 6, when Virginia Tech came into this very stadium and beat our beloved football Buckeyes. Remember that? All was lost, we thought. A season ended before it had properly begun. Well, someone forgot to tell the guys in Ohio State’s locker room. They buckled down and came together to overcome great odds, overcoming the loss to the Hokies, the season-ending injury of two quarterbacks, the unthinkable tragic death of a teammate, all while the outside world told them they had no chance at a championship. Yet, when the clock hit zeroes and the confetti fell, the Ohio State Buckeyes were national champions. The most remarkable season in the history of Ohio State football, and they were there because they believed in themselves, they supported each other, and they did not let their collective fumbles stop them from achieving their dreams.”
Photo by:BALTIMORE RAVENS
Baltimore Ravens, head coach
Stevenson UniversityNote: The following recounts a game from when Harbaugh was an assistant coach at Western Michigan University, working under his father, Jack, who was head coach.
“We’re down by six points with about a minute left in the game, and we’re driving for the winning score. We complete a 40- to 50-yard pass down the field, and things are looking good, and I look back and there’s a yellow flag flying in the air. Guy says ‘Holding against them,’ and I said ‘You’ve gotta be kidding!’ I did not agree with the call. (Does that surprise you?) We shook it off, offense goes back to the line, and we throw another pass that was completed again, and what do we get? Holding a second time in a row. It’s a conspiracy! So I ripped off my headset, turned around, and threw them as far as I could. I can picture it today: They’re twirling around like a helicopter, flying through the air over the team. They land right in front of the opposing team’s band and student section. I turn around, and there’s my dad, head coach. You know what he said? ‘Go get ’em.’ I said, ‘What? What??’ And he said, ‘The headphones.’… Never since have I thrown headphones. Sometimes we learn lessons the hard way.”
June 29, 2015 10:39 AM
ESPN on April 1 launched its redesigned web site, and the risk thus far has rewarded the Worldwide Leader. Below are insights from three ESPN execs that were not included in the original article of Thursday’s Daily:
*On the influence of mobile:
- ESPN VP/Digital Media Research & Analytics David Coletti: “60% of our total ESPN.com users only log on through their smart phones or tablets, and since people using smaller screens typically spend less time per visit, it’s become really critical to think about increasing the frequency of visits. The Now tab certainly fills that need because it’s in real time and users interact with it, giving people a reason to check back in often.”
- ESPN.com VP/Editorial Digital & Print Media Patrick Stiegman: “We’ve focused on content at the mobile site first and expanded that back out to the desktop as opposed to the other way around.”
*On striving for uniformity across platforms:
- Stiegman: “If you recall to our previous world, we had an app experience in mobile and we had a mobile web experience that did not look and feel or behave like the desktop browser experience, so we were literally programming three different content types. Now, we have essentially one seamless feed.”
- ESPN Senior VP/Digital Product Management Ryan Spoon: “Sometimes people tell me that they like the redesign or they like the mobile app, and they’re actually referring to the other one. To me, that’s a positive because it suggests that we have started to blend the universe, blend the way they look to a point where the content is starting to mirror itself.”
*On the evolution of ESPN.com’s purpose:
- Stiegman: “There was a time when what ESPN.com content was was created and posted by editors. What we are now is a doorway to all things ESPN. What that means is if you go to the NFL section of ESPN.com, you’re not just getting what the NFL editor of ESPN.com wants to post there or content that he or she is assigned. What you’re getting instead is content from all aspects of ESPN around the NFL.
*On different aspects of the redesigned site:
- Stiegman: “Deciding what and when to post to the Now feed versus the main-content feed has taken some getting used to because we don’t want to step on each others’ toes. But at the same time, it’s given us a lot more flexibility in terms of presenting content in a meaningful, real-time way.”
- Spoon: “There also are some pages, such as fantasy, that we have not rolled out total updates to and currently have a transitional experience -- one part modern and one part the older site. I had personal nerves as to whether this would make for a jagged experience, but it really hasn’t been problematic at all.”
*On overall takeaways:
- Spoon: “The more we can get people to log in and tell us who they want to root for, the more we can program and deliver great consumption points.”
- Coletti: “I think we’ve made some smart decisions highlighting the ability to personalize and highlighting more content in an accessible way. Users seem to be responding to it.”
June 29, 2015 08:15 AM
In a stunning development, Discovery Communications has landed Europe’s Olympic media rights through 2024 for $1.48 billion (€1.3 billion).
The U.S.-based Discovery now controls all European media rights – broadcast, pay-TV, digital and mobile – to four Olympic Games in 50 European countries and territories, excluding the Russian Federation. The deal takes effect with the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Discovery and the International Olympic Committee agreed on the deal about a week ago. It was announced formally this morning and covers 2018 in South Korea and 2020 in Tokyo. Sites for the 2022 and 2024 Games have not been announced.
The deal means that European broadcasters – the ARD and ZDF in Germany, for example – will have to sublicense Olympic packages from Discovery if they want over-the-air access to the Games. Plus, it marks a major step forward for Discovery’s Eurosport channel and online presences, which will be a main outlet for Olympic programming.
Previously, the IOC has sold rights to local European broadcasters. Or it has sold rights to other pan-European companies such as SportsFive International or the European Broadcasting Union, who turned around and sold them to local broadcasters. This deal is different in that Discovery expects to keep most of the rights, though it does plan to sublicense them in some markets.
“We have 26 years of doing business here in Europe,” Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav told SportsBusiness Journal/Daily. “We were investing all across Europe when most media companies were retreating. We feel like it is a perfect fit. If you put the Olympics together with Eurosport and our ten channels in every country and our broadcast networks, we could bring meaningful value to the events, and we could promote them across all of our platforms.”
The deal does not cover France and Britain in 2018 and 2020; previously, France Télévisions and the BBC picked up those rights. But Discovery will hold all rights in those markets in 2022 and 2024.
Another significant part of the deal will see the IOC partner on an Olympic TV channel with Discovery and Eurosport that will be distributed across Europe.
“Above all, this agreement ensures that sports fans in Europe will be able to enjoy excellent coverage of the Olympic Games and Olympic sports, both during and outside Games time, on their platform of choice,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in a prepared statement.
In fact, it was when Bach publicized his desire to launch an Olympic channel last summer that Zaslav looked into acquiring the rights and kicked off an eight-month negotiating process.
“When I read his comments [about an Olympic channel], I just thought, ‘This should be us,’” Zaslav said, pointing to Eurosport, which reaches 130 million homes with a heavy mix of Olympic sports content – more than 40 percent.
Upon reading Bach’s comments, Zaslav called his friend Dick Ebersol, the former head of NBC Sports who is closely associated with producing the Olympic Games in the United States. Ebersol agreed to be an unpaid adviser to help Zaslav get to know the executives who run the IOC. In late summer, the two met in Zaslav’s New York office, along with Discovery Networks International President JB Perrette, to develop a plan.
“They asked me to introduce them into the IOC world,” Ebersol said. “We came to Switzerland in October of last year, and I introduced them to Christophe De Kepper, who is the director general of the IOC. We sat down for about two-and-a-half hours, which gave David and JB the great opportunity – which they took more than full advantage of – of really showing De Kepper what they were all about.”
The IOC eventually hired IMG as a consultant and accepted bids for the European media rights June 15. Discovery placed one of the bids, but it is not known which other media companies participated.
For Zaslav, the long-term Olympic deal ensures that his European networks will have programming that generates huge ratings at least every other year.
“It clicked pretty early on because the ambition of the IOC was to look for someone who was going to invest substantially in the Olympics, but also to take the Olympics to every demographic on every platform and be committed to promote Olympic sports and Olympic athletes all year round,” said Zaslav. “When we look at the Olympics, we see it not just as sports content and not just as great content for Eurosport, but we also think it’s great IP for the future of our company. Unlike IP that’s related to movies, it’s dependable. You know that the Olympics every other year for 17 days is going to be a worldwide event. We have the ability to drive that and build it.”
Zaslav plans to use the Olympics association to grow Discovery’s European business.
“We think that we can use the Olympics to build Eurosport,” he said. “We could use it to enhance our overall presence here in Europe. And just being associated with the rings, with the IOC and with the Olympics, it’s a perfect fit for Discovery, which is a purpose-driven brand that has great values around quality content satisfying curiosity.”
Discovery owns the Eurosport TV channel, several broadcast networks and the Discovery suite of channels. Eurosport has a pan-European feed, and localized Eurosport channels in each country. That will allow Discovery to localize Olympic programming to each market.
Discovery says it operates an average of 10 channels in every European market, including a broadcast presence in Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Nordic countries.
As part of the deal, Discovery committed to put at least 200 hours of the Summer Games and 100 hours of the Winter Games on free-to-air television in Europe. Discovery has told the IOC that it will sublicense packages in many markets to maintain that commitment.
June 22, 2015 02:21 PM
SportsBusiness Journal this week looks at Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and the developments he’s spearheading with both the team and the city.
Jeff Vinik watches his son catch a foul ball ahead of Angels catcher Jeff Mathis during the 2007 ALDS between Boston and Los Angeles.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
During Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series between Boston and Los Angeles, the Red Sox trailed the Angels 3-2 in the fifth inning. With one out and two on, Red Sox star Manny Ramirez popped up a pitch between the dugout and the first base bag. As Angels catcher Jeff Mathis went to reach into the crowd to snag the foul ball, a teenager also reached out — and claimed the ball first. No catch. Ramirez went on to earn a walk to load the bases, Mike Lowell followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game, and Boston ultimately would go on to win the game, the series and the World Series.
Vinik, who had season tickets as one of the Red Sox’s minority-stake owners, was sitting right next to that teenager. It was his son Danny, who later threw out the first pitch at Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
— Ian Thomas
June 11, 2015 01:04 PM
GREETINGS FROM SANTA CLARA: More than 350 people are at the Hyatt Regency for the Veritix Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium presented by SBJ/SBD. The hotel is in a terrific spot, right beside Levi’s Stadium and Great America park. Don’t be too jealous yet, though — the weather so far hasn’t been great. We were told that it never rains in California, but the first day of the conference was cool and very wet. (Forecast today: Partly sunny and 84.) The event formally kicked off yesterday with a full schedule of ticketing talk. Today’s focus is on teams and buildings.
A STRONG SIX PACK: We’ll open today with a Presidents Panel featuring some of the top team leaders in sports. Among the talking points:
— Dolphins President & CEO Tom Garfinkel on massive renovations and enhancements to Sun Life Stadium;
— Cardinals President Michael Bidwill on the benefits of hosting Super Bowl XLIX;
— Celtics President Rich Gotham’s perspective on balancing tradition with innovation;
— Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten making some of his first remarks since Charter Communications began carrying Dodgers games on Sports Net LA;
— Real Salt Lake President Bill Manning on the team’s lucrative local media and jersey sponsorship;
— Hornets President and COO Fred Whitfield on what made that franchise a nominee for Sports Team of the Year.
TODAY’S PREVIEW TRAILER: Look for solid take-aways from a panel examining new trends in food and beverage; an inside look at Apple Pay from organizations that have used it (Royals, Magic, JPMorgan Chase); ideas from four brand executives opening up about what they look for in their venue partnerships; and info on trends in team stores and their effect on the bottom line.
TAKING IN AVAYA STADIUM: Tonight will be fun, too. On tap: an Evening At Avaya Stadium presented by the Earthquakes and HOK. Before a tour, SBJ’s Eric Fisher interviews A’s and Earthquakes Owner Lew Wolff. Later, guests will hit the Official Nightcap Reception hosted by Thornton Tomasetti.
GREATEST HITS FROM WEDNESDAY:
— Ticketmaster’s Cole Gahagan and StubHub’s Geoff Lester wouldn’t go near the two companies’ legal standoff, though Lester, responding at one point to an answer from Gahagan, deadpanned, “Sorry to disappoint, but I agree with a lot of what Cole said.” That doesn’t mean they had nothing to say on the topic of who owns tickets. Lester: “We all rely on large sellers or brokers. We all rely on millennials, who want to be able to do what they want to do. And we all rely on ticket sales. To limit that to one place is not a good experience for anybody. ... A monopoly is not good for anybody in this room.” For more on this subject, see yesterday’s Closing Bell. For a roundup of the rest of the panel discussion, see today’s DAILY.
— One more item from that opening panel, in case you had any doubt that mobile is the future of ticketing. Gahagan: "I don't know if there is anything more important that we're doing right now as a technology company than developing around mobile.” And Veritix’s Samuel Gerace: "Going online is going on the phone. Web is dead. We've reached the tipping point."
— The 49ers’ Al Guido, on what might be next for the team’s VenueNext app: “Could there be dynamic food and beverage pricing? Could we offer a single-game user … a discounted ticket to a future game? We are really beginning to shift the fan behavior in our building.”
— The Giants’ Russ Stanley, on the team doing everything it can, even to the point of “not maximizing revenue,” to extend a line of sellouts that dates back to October 1, 2010: “We’ve become a slave to the sellout streak.”
THE OTHER ‘M’ WORD: If it’s not ‘mobile’ being talked about, it’s likely.… Well, this tweet from @BrettDowling covers it: “First hour and I've already lost the over/under bet on the number of times the word "Millennial" is used.”
THANK GOODNESS FOR REDEYES: Give credit where it’s due: While Cavs CEO Len Komoroski was fully intending to present an inside look at the Cavs business on Wednesday, he had to punt at the last minute to stay in Cleveland for Game 3. But kudos to Senior Dir of Business Intelligence Kevin O’Toole and VP Ticket Sales and Service Dionna Widder for taking one for the team. The two took in Game 3 on Tuesday night, caught the first direct flight to SFO, gave their presentation and were taking a redeye back to Cleveland in time for Game 4 on Thursday. Widder had two hours of sleep before flying out, but no regrets. "The energy in the building was unmatched," she said. O'Toole nodded: "From beginning to end."
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM TUESDAY’S GAME 3: NBA’s Brandon Donohue bolted off a United Airlines flight, where the ABC feed wasn’t on the DirecTV package, and caught the last two minutes of the game in the airport … A small band of about 15 execs from Veritix gathered at Bourbon Steak & Pub -- chef Michael Mina's restaurant inside Levi's Stadium -- to watch the game. Veritix is one of Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert's properties. 49ers owner Jed York made his way through the restaurant during the game… Lots of other conference attendees gathered in the Hyatt’s crowded lobby bar. Spotted: Michael Neuman of Scout Sports. Unfortunately Not Spotted: the Burger King. (If you don’t know the connection between the two, click here.)
VIPS TAKE IN THE YAHOO LOUNGE: About 50 conference attendees attended a special Veritix VIP Dinner last night at the Yahoo Fantasy Sports Lounge at Levi’s Stadium. The food was plentiful and delicious, from the Maryland-style crab cakes and artisan cheese during cocktails to the surf-and-turf entree and dessert of fruit panna cotta, chocolate cake with apricot coulis and traditional NY cheesecake. The setting was equally satisfying, especially when the stadium lights came on as night descended on the gathering.
FOOD, WONDERFUL FOOD: And because we are journalists and love food (and also love to write things down), if you missed the buffet lunch on Day 1 of the conference, here’s what you didn’t get: caprese salad, grilled asparagus, Tuscan white bean soup, pan-seared Sea bass with eggplant olive relish, mascarpone gnocchi with basil pesto, seared polenta cakes, balsamic skirt steak and parmesan cauliflower with a red pepper gratin. It was as good as it sounds.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: Portland Timbers’ Mike Golub talking about the demographic differences between fans of the organization’s MLS team and NWSL Thorns….Dodgers’ CEO Stan Kasten and his wife, Helen, chatting in the lobby lounge…USF's Bill Sutton (a guest panel moderator) in the Speaker Room admitting that his summer will be less busy than usual due to a left knee replacement scheduled for next month… The Giants’ Stanley showing off his latest World Series ring and still beaming over the club's trip last week to the White House for a visit with President Obama. Winners of three of the last five World Series, the Giants have now made three such trips to visit the president. "It never gets old," Stanley said. "And before the actual photo op, we got a few minutes with Obama where he shook everybody's hand. It was really great.”
***** Up Next: Game Changers! You’ve got one month left to take advantage of our early registration offer for the 2015 Game Changers event in New York, featuring NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Ogilvy & Mather’s Shelly Lazarus. Get more event info by clicking here. *****
June 3, 2015 11:00 AM
The NFL has picked Yahoo to stream an over-the-top regular-season game in October, the first NFL game to be live streamed.
A source said that the deal involves a license fee that would match what TV networks pay for a regular-season NFL game, as the NFL and Yahoo calculated “fair market value” for what one NFL game is worth, based on what CBS and Fox pay for their packages. Since it’s an AFC game, CBS Sports will handle the game production, providing the announcers and behind-the-camera talent. Yahoo will make the Oct. 25 Bills-Jaguars game, which will be played in London as part of the NFL’s International Series, available at no extra cost on its properties, like Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Screen and Tumblr.
The game will be available on local TV in the Buffalo (WIVB) and Jacksonville (WTEV) markets. Vishal Shah, the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development, said the NFL was swayed by Yahoo’s global reach, which hits more than 1 billion monthly users, especially considering that the game kicks off at 9:30 a.m. ET. “Yahoo’s global reach really helps with that 9:30 kickoff,” Shah said. The NFL started looking for a partner in February and engaged other companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon. The league has long maintained that this OTT offering is as much of a test as anything else, considering that it’s the league’s first foray into live streaming a regular-season game.
“We know what we know, and we don’t know what we don’t know,” Shah said. “There will be lots of learnings from this. Digital distribution is far different from TV.”
Sources said that the NFL is shopping social media rights around this game that will help give it more promotion. An announcement with a social media partner, such as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat, is expected to be announced in the coming months.
June 3, 2015 10:57 AM
With Under Armour eyeing the $10 billion revenue mark by the end of the decade, CEO and founder Kevin Plank said the key to growth is staying true to the principles that the company was founded on 19 years ago.
During a featured interview on Day 1 of the ’15 Intersport Brand Engagement Summit, Plank said the $10B mark is reachable if his company averages 21 percent growth over the next five years. Plank was interviewed in front of a standing-room-only crowd by Intersport founder and CEO Charlie Besser.
Plank said one of the keys to Under Armour’s success has been finding employees who fit his vision. He pointed out that 12 of the first 20 people he hired are still with the company. “I think anyone successful would tell you their greatest trait, their greatest quality, is they’re unbelievable at picking teams,” Plank said. “They’re unbelievable at picking leaders. They’re unbelievable at picking the people. And not always just the smartest, not the one that would spit out on the other side of the Excel spreadsheet. … At the end of the day, it has to be a leader thing.”
Aligning with the right people is a priority of Plank’s not only when hiring staff members, but also when choosing endorsers. He cited Golden State’s Stephen Curry, whose appeal is related to both his recent MVP award and his status as one of the league’s most likable personalities, as one example of this emphasis. Plank said he wants Under Armour-sponsored athletes like Curry and golfer Jordan Spieth to play a hands-on role in the company. “We look at it in the context of, look at the great business we can build, not, how are we going to keep up with the Joneses and just write you a really big check,” Plank said. “But we’re looking and saying, ‘We had a … $100 million basketball business… Let’s go build a billion-dollar basketball business and let’s do it together.’ … I want him asking … ‘How are we doing in China? How are we doing in stores? How’s the new Chicago brand house?’”
Plank hit on a few other topics that are important to the company:
On the potential of biometrics:
“We want to be that place that people look and say, ‘Where is the defining destination for my health and fitness?’ Think about how little information we know about our own health, our most important asset. You know more about your car than you do about your own body. You know how much gas, how much oil, how far you went, the miles, all these things. You can pull up on your phone right now your bank balance. You can pull up the weather in Topeka, Kan. But I ask you, ‘Who knows their blood type in this room right now?’ And unless you are active military and stare at a dogtag every day with it on you, or you’re O positive, you probably have no concept.”
On targeting women and the campaign featuring ballet dancer Misty Copeland:
“2014 for us was really the year of the woman. [Copeland is] an incredibly powerful person. Her story of perseverance is something which is so incredibly Under Armour. I think it’s defining of what and who our brand is. We followed up with the story of Misty. There were 13 million YouTube views on it. It was a really commercial success for us. She followed up as being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People In the world this year. Misty did the hard work, we just simply helped her tell her story.”
On building a global brand:
“A year ago, at the beginning of ’14, we were in 62 markets. We will be in 88 markets by the end of this year. We will be in over 120 markets by the middle of ’17. We’re not just looking to open markets just to get them open. We made a great hire in Charlie Maurath. He joined us with industry experience, 20-plus years. He came on board and really helped us explode and get us to think about being a global brand.”
May 27, 2015 09:33 AM
CHICAGO STORY: The Intersport Brand Engagement Summit formally begins today at Westin Chicago River North, with almost 500 people expected for the two-day conference.
REALITY BYTES: This morning’s program kicked off at 7:45 a.m. CT with a private Virtual Reality demo with Reel FX’s Dan Ferguson showing how the new tech can affect fan engagement.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT: Before today’s serious business of brand engagement, 175-plus conference attendees hit Wrigley Field for last night’s Nats-Cubs tilt. Undeterred by the steady rain that pounded Chicago for a few hours in the afternoon — some called it a monsoon — the group was split between a couple of suites and the new outfield suite area, which featured a big spread that included hot dogs, sliced sirloin, chicken salad sandwiches, veggie options and, of course, libations. There was no count on how many attendees lasted until the Cubs’ walk-off hit, but those that did were given access to walk the hallowed grounds and take a group photo after the game.
IN THE FRIENDLY CONFINES: As with any gathering of sports execs, networking was in full swing before, during and after the game. In one suite for the rare 6:05 p.m. scheduled start (which turned into a 6:20 start due to a short rain delay) was Intersport’s Jason Langwell talking with Quicken Loans marketing executive Art Steiber. Sitting next to the Cubs dugout was Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and Magic EVP Charlie Freeman. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was spotted chatting up SBJ’s Richard Weiss and Abe Madkour.
Also spotted: Cubs President Crane Kenney; Cubs VP/Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner and his wife, Jaime, from Levy Restaurant’s E15; Cubs Senior VP/Strategy and Development Alex Sugarman, and Intersport CEO Charlie Besser.
And, hogging the front row of seats in Suite 14: Staff writer John Ourand and his 16-year-old son, John Leo. Dad hauled his son cross-country and put him to work as a “volunteer” at the conference to justify the week as an educational outing. We’re sure it’s just a coincidence that the duo is attending a lot of sporting events between Chicago and their home in D.C.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY: A number of notable speakers are on today’s agenda and you will want to keep an ear out for the following: Will A-B/InBev’s Eelco van der Noll offer insight into the company’s sports marketing strategy under new leadership at the brewery? And, in what is probably the most-anticipated session, Under Armour’s Kevin Plank will be questioned in a one-on-one by Intersport’s Besser. We expect Plank to discuss the company’s social initiatives and efforts around marketing to women. We’re most interested in hearing about UA’s recent red-hot approach to athlete deals with Masters champ Jordan Spieth and NBA MVP Stephen Curry. A big question: Will he touch on the controversy surrounding one of the brand’s top ambassadors, Tom Brady? And will this noted horseman speculate on American Pharoah’s chances for the Triple Crown? We need to place our bet, after all…
AFTERNOON DELIGHT?: We’re looking forward to seeing Umbel CEO H.O. Maycotte's high-energy presentation on how data can be a game changer for sports marketers. And you have to give credit to Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough for even wanting to be interviewed at a conference when his team is down 3-2 and faces a do-or-die Game Six in Chicago tonight. Our first question just might be whether he’s still chewing his fingernails.
IN THE AIR TONIGHT: Besser and his wife, Rebecca, will host a VIP dinner at their home, with more than 50 expected to attend….. We anticipate large contingents of attendees to hit such popular dinner spots as Hub 51, RPM Italian Harry Caray’s and Chicago Cut Steakhouse. …The Blackhawks are hosting an after-hour reception and viewing party around tonight’s Game Six at the Hana Lounge & Terrace in The Westin’s lobby. Expect a crowd. The game is a tough ticket.
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