• The NHL Shift: News and notes, 6/6/2014

    LOS ANGELES — News and notes from four days at the Stanley Cup Final …

    There will be a World Cup of Hockey in August and September of 2016. It will be sanctioned by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, which will divide a possible $100 million in revenue from the tournament. The event does not need to be sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet has reported that the entire 2016 World Cup of Hockey will take place in and around Toronto. Based on Chris’s reputation, his report is as good as gold. Expect an announcement close to the start of the 2014-15 season.

    NHL Wrap-Around Podcast:
    Christopher Botta and Alex Silverman discuss the week's hockey news before the start of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals

    Expansion: Seattle is not happening, at least not in this decade. There’s no arena and the people who want to build an arena there want an NBA team first. I’d like to see Quebec City become a reality. Canada deserves another franchise and Quebec City has an arena and fan base and is a beautiful place. But I believe we’re a few years from serious discussions about a return there.

    NHL COO John Collins before Game 1, on the blessing of a Los Angeles-New York Stanley Cup Final: “It’s the entertainment capital of the world against the media capital of the world. It’s the top two markets in the U.S. It’s two very good hockey markets trending into great hockey markets. If you want to know why this is good for hockey, try to get a look at who’s in the suites tonight.”

    Of all the variations of “Go Kings Go” signs fans have posted in front of homes, businesses and facilities throughout Los Angeles and surrounding neighborhoods, the best was the marquee in front of a Methodist church. “It reads, “God Saves Souls, Quick Saves Goals.”

    Stick Tap: To the Kings’ Twitter feed, @LAKings, which just keep getting better — not just with the comedy, but with content.

    Islanders Sale Update (or Non-Update)

    In on- and off-the-record discussions with high-level NHL executives who would know, the unanimous feedback was that an Islanders sale from Charles Wang to Andrew Barroway or anyone else is not close. In a one-on-one interview, Commissioner Gary Bettman made that clear with The Shift. When asked if a sale announcement was being delayed until the completion of the Stanley Cup Final, Bettman said “Absolutely not. There isn’t anything to announce.”

    In his formal press conference on Wednesday, Bettman added of Wang, “He is continuing to consider his options and decide what he wants to do. I don’t think he’s reached a firm conclusion yet as to whether or not he wants to sell, sell it all, sell a piece. Until he does, none of us will know what the ownership situation will be. He’s not under any pressure to do it. I think on an emotional level he’s trying to come to grips with what he wants to do, particularly with the impending move to Brooklyn.”

    By the Numbers

    28: New York-area newspaper writers — representing a total of eight newspapers — who traveled to Los Angeles to cover Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

    5: Celebrities in Gary Bettman’s suite for Game 1: actors Jon Hamm, Ellen Page, Catherine Keener, Kate Bosworth and film director Spike Jonze. Among other stars at the game: Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Larry David, broadcaster/Kings season-ticket holder Al Michaels and bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

    10,000: Estimated attendance at New York’s Bryant Park, which was packed to capacity for a viewing party of Game 1.

    4.78 million:
    Total viewership on NBC for Game 1. The game was No. 1 across broadcast and cable television with viewers between 18 and 49 years old. The game also drew 2.46 million on CBC in Canada.

    7.1: The local rating in Los Angeles for Game 1, up from a 4.2 when the Kings faced the Devils in Game 1 of the finals in 2012, proof that the fan base is growing in Los Angeles, a vital market for the NHL. (The game earned a 10.1 in New York — the best-ever rating for the NHL on NBC/NBCSN in that market.)

    And Finally …

    We’ll have more coverage from the Stanley Cup Final — including a look inside the Kings’ executive staff’s preparations for Game 1, along with news on NHL financials and event plans — in SportsBusiness Journal on Monday.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • TV Timeout: The L Word

    NFL Network's Willie McGinnest said of the NFL not using Roman numerals for Super Bowl 50, "The NFL is tastemakers. We create the category" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 6/4). ESPN's Keith Olbermann said, "I seriously doubt that after one year of freedom from the pretentious nonsense of the Roman numeral that we'll ever go back" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/4).

    POSITIVE FLOW: ESPN’s Barry Melrose, on the parity in the NHL: “Every organization is run very good business-wise. They’re there to make money, that’s the difference now. There’s no weak sisters you can pick clean and steal their assets. Those days are over" (“OTL,” ESPN, 6/4).

  • TV Timeout: Career Move

    CBS’ Allie LaForce said of Dan Marino withdrawing his name from an NFL concussion lawsuit, “If you want to be able to get a job wherever, whether it’s broadcasting in the NFL or whatever you may choose, he will actually benefit and be eligible to collect the money from the eventual settlement, even though, he’s not involved in the lawsuit directly. … It kind of seems like a no-brainer to withdraw, although I agree, it’s not the bold stance to take” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 6/3). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said, “This whole Dan Marino inclusion in this and now exclusion in this really shouldn’t change people's way of thinking when it comes to the NFL and concussions" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/3).

    SECOND SERVING: Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist said of the Clippers sale, “This is replicating the Dodger deal more or less and it's on the assumption that the Clippers are going to get a TV contract like the Dodgers. That's not going to happen” (“MLB Now,” MLB Network, 6/3).

    BUFFALO SOLDIER: ESPN analyst and former Bills GM Bill Polian said of the Bills' future in Buffalo, “I don’t think that any of this is predictable in any way because a lot of what we hear is either unfounded or in many ways above the surface and the real work is going on below the surface” (DEMOCRATANDCHRONICLE.com, 6/3).

    TAKING STOCK: 49ers TE Vernon Davis, on Fantex, which offers stock in his career: “It was a wise decision for me to partner up with these guys because I definitely look forward to building my brand” ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 6/4).

  • SBJ/SBD's weekly NHL Wrap-Around podcast

    As the Stanley Cup Finals gear up, staff writers Christopher Botta and Alex Silverman discuss the latest hockey news in SBJ/SBD's "NHL Wrap-Around Podcast." Among the topics:

    What a coup it is for the league having New York vs. L.A. in the Finals.

    What the Panthers' front-office layoffs mean in Florida.

    The latest on the sale of the New York Islanders.

    And predictions for the Finals.

    Tags: NHL, Hockey, SBJSBD Podcast
  • TV Timeout: Final Countdown

    The Stanley Cup Final beginning tomorrow features the Rangers-Kings, a matchup of the two biggest media markets in the U.S. that has created significant buzz. ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "I really feel bad for hockey because the hockey playoffs again have been better than the basketball playoffs and what the Kings are doing is totally ridiculous (with) three Game Seven wins on the road over the teams they've beaten, top seven in the league”("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 6/2). N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman, on interest in the Stanley Cup Final: “The test that will give you an indication is the ratings put up against the NBA Finals” (“Daily News Live," SNY, 6/2). Modell's CEO Mitch Modell said, "We've sold more Ranger merchandise in the last three weeks than we did the last ten years combined” (“After The Bell,” Fox Business, 6/2).

    CAVALIER THINKING: FS1's Donny Marshall said of Japanese soccer club Omiya Ardija using cardboard cutouts so it appears as if more people are in the stands, "I wish they had done that when I played for the Cavaliers" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 6/3).

    SHORT STROKE: ESPN's Keith Olbermann said of talk about changing the Clippers name," The idea that the name Clippers is permanently tainted with racism just because [Donald] Sterling is, is not just a broad-brush, shallow thinking overreaction worthy of, well, Don Sterling, but it demeans those cases in which the team name itself connotes racism” ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/2).

    GIVE A LITTLE BIT: PFT's Mike Florio, on an NFL franchise moving to Los Angeles: “I think the NFL likes to keep the idea alive that L.A. is viable even if it isn’t. It allows owners in various cities to squeeze a little bit of the money out of public coffers in order to get new stadiums, under the threat, subtle or otherwise, that they’re going to move to L.A.” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 6/2).

  • TV Timeout: What It Takes

    Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s $2B bid to buy the Clippers has remained a big topic of conversation through the weekend. ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said of the selling price: “If I owned any team in the league at the moment, I would have to think about selling it” (“PTI,” ESPN, 5/30). CNBC's Robert Frank said of the Clippers purchase price, “This is Steve Ballmer just saying, 'I don't care what it takes.' This is a lights-out bid that no one else will rationally ever touch" ("Closing Bell," CNBC, 5/30). N.Y. Daily News’ Mike Lupica, on Clippers Owner Donald Sterling: “Being the most famous bigot in America doesn’t turn out to be nearly as bad for business as one would have thought” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 6/1).

  • 2014 IAS: Spotlight on NASCAR and HP

    Driving Innovation and Technology

    Tony Erickson, HP Enterprise Services
    Brett Jewkes, NASCAR

    During a featured presentation on the second day of the 2014 Intersport Activation Summit, NASCAR’s Brett Jewkes and Tony Erickson of HP Enterprise Services talked about how the league and the company have benefitted from the development of the Fan and Media Engagement Center housed at NASCAR’s Charlotte offices. Jewkes said that the Center, which monitors social and media conversations around everything related to the sport, resulted from a comprehensive review ordered by NASCAR Chairman Brian France during the economic downturn that focused on five areas: communications, event engagement, star power, the digital and social media landscape, and where the next generation of fans will come from. Jewkes: “He wanted it to be bare-knuckled and honest, and I can promise you that it was.”

    In 2011, Jewkes said, France understood that “there was so much content and volume of conversation about our sport, but no good way to capitalize on it.” France wanted something that would “be able to capture and understand the conversation quickly,” turn around data and push it to partners, and help “change the conversation around NASCAR as a place for technology to play.”
    After going through an RFP process that led to HP, the Fan and Media Engagement Center was built and staffed seven days a week, and now gives NASCAR “an incredible snapshot in time on everything from the quality of the racing to a comment a driver made, or even a bad call we’ve made from the tower, and it has allowed us to react to those things,” Jewkes said. He added that, because of the information gleaned from the Center, NASCAR often decides that the best course if not to react at all, saving a lot of time, expense and effort.

    Jewkes, noting that NASCAR is “on pace this year to deliver almost 900 reports to our industry partners,” added: “Probably the biggest surprise in all of this, besides the value we’re able to return back to our partners by having this tool, is that in the world of issues management, it’s been a game changer for us.”

    For HP, Erickson said, the Center has changed the perception of the company’s capabilities and market. Erickson: “We’re the largest technology company in the world. We were thought of as a consumer-based company … and we wanted to change that. We wanted to move into telling stories that solved business problems.”

    Through the partnership with NASCAR, Erickson said, “we were able to do something that hadn’t been done before. There was no real quantifiable ROI going into this, but now the ROI has been immense coming out of it.”

    He said HP has used a marketing campaign around the operation to create “a new face around HP” both in the sports industry and in other industries where companies share some of the same concerns about fan and consumer engagement.

  • 2014 IAS: Visa, Sochi and Brazil: Activation Lessons Learned and Applied

    Two of Visa’s top marketing executives walked attendees at the 2014 Intersport Activation Summit through the lessons they learned while creating a marketing campaign around the 2014 Winter Olympics and what they are doing around the World Cup in Brazil.

    Andrew Cohen, head of global Olympics sponsorship marketing, and Ricardo Fort, senior vice president of global sponsorship marketing, showed images and ads from both the Sochi Games and from 32 directors who were asked to create 90-second films showing how their country will celebrate the World Cup.

    Cohen talked about building a team for the Sochi games to activate around 37 athletes who worked with the company, and starting wit two newsrooms – one in Sochi and one in New York – and distribution channels in time zones and major cities worldwide that could capitalize on results no matter when they happened. “Producers in each market were responsible for distributing content to all of the social media outlets,” Cohen said.

    Cohen added that, to be successful at amplifying the brand within social media, Visa focused on several areas, including:

    Timing: Making sure that content was available when consumers were engaging with the Games and the athletes.

    Relevance: Creating content that worked not only from a timing perspective, but “also within the content we were promoting,” he said. “We had people monitoring to see that athletes and events people were interested in. When (for example) a Canadian story rose to the level of global interest, we were ready.”

    Visa also made sure that it had images ready within minutes of any of its athletes competing.

    Cohen said the Games were a success by all of the company’s key metrics, citing 28 million engagements, such as retweets, likes and shares; 574 million earned impressions; and an 8.78% engagement rate on Twitter.

    Among the lessons learned, he said, is that “digital first is a much. You have to build a strong campaign in digital, and, more importantly, you can succeed exclusively in digital.”

    Fort then focused on how those lessons are being applied to the company’s work around the World Cup, noting that though “few countries are as different as Russia and Brazil,” some things are the same, such as people “consuming sports the same way.” In both cases, he said, Visa will use the event as an amplifier for the company’s message.

    One big difference in the marketing around the events is the use of individual athletes for Sochi, but not for the World Cup. “It is impossible to tell the Olympic story without athletes,” said Fort. Cohen: “But the World Cup is more more nationalistic. You can tell a country’s story through a team as opposed to a specific athlete. By aligning yourself with the passion of consumers, you’re going to get them more engaged. If they are engaged and aware of our sponsorship, they are much better consumers than people who are not engaged and aware.”

  • 2014 IAS: What's next for sports sponsorship and cross-platform activation

    The Future of Sports Sponsorship

    Chuck Browning, Farmers Insurance Group
    Tim Collins, Wells Fargo
    Dan Jones, Intersport
    Alex Kaplan, DirecTV
    Brian Oliver, PGA Tour

    Social media and mobile technology have become both the present and future of sponsorship activation. A panel of brand marketers speaking on the final panel at the 2014 Intersport Activation Summit today said that their companies increasingly make social media central to promoting a sponsorship.

    For example, Farmers Insurance tapped golfer Rickie Fowler to use social media last year to reach out to people in his home state of Oklahoma after a tornado leveled large parts of Moore, Okla. Farmers identified a boy who saved his dogs from the storm but lost his golf clubs and had Fowler meet with the boy and give him a new set of clubs. It tied that back to an appearance by the company’s CEO in the area signing claims. “We used the celebrity of Rickie bridging to what it is we do,” said Chuck Browning, head of sponsorships, events and corporate giving for Farmers Insurance.

    PGA Tour vice president Brian Oliver pointed to a social media campaign the property’s sponsor MasterCard did around the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year as an example of an effective social media activation. MasterCard created the hashtag #PricelessGolf and offered rewards to customers who tweeted it, including rebates on apparel and a meet-and-greet with Palmer. “It was a unique way of using social media plus onsite benefits to reward cardholders,” Oliver said.

    DirecTV last year took a different approach to tap into the power of social media. The company created a viral rap video featuring the Manning brothers. The video was shared across social media platforms by consumers and more than 10 million viewed it. “That was promoted through viral social and mobile channels,” said Alex Kaplan, vice president of marketing for DirecTV. “It was designed to have people watch on their phone. It worked for us. We had two times as many people watch through our mobile app as we did the year before.”

    Wells Fargo has taken a different approach to harness the power of mobile and social in its activation. It created a QR code on a point-of-sale poster for an affinity card featuring the Mexican national soccer team crest. Wells Fargo senior vice president Tim Collins said that the number of people using the QR code to request the affinity card had been overwhelming. “They just want this,” Collins said. “We’re putting out content they want instead of just creating advertising.”

    There were a host of other topics discussed during the 45-minute panel, including Steve Ballmer’s $2 billion offer for the Clippers, Farmer’s naming rights deal for the yet-to-be-built NFL stadium in Los Angeles, and cable and satellite cord cutting.

    On Steve Ballmer’s $2 billion offer for the Los Angeles Clippers, Collins said: “It’s evolved to the point where it’s less about the business model and more about the ego.. …I’m concerned as a brand the prices will be jacked up to justify that business model.” Browning added, “In some way we’re all going to pay the piper. A brand’s going to pay the price. A consumer’s going to pay the price. Somehow someway we’re all going to pay something.”

    On the Farmer’s Field naming rights deal, Browning said, “We’ve yet to write a check. We’ve had unprecedented media coverage. I’m sure this one will be studied forever and ever. From our position it is as it was designed. We took a risk. We convinced our board to allow us to go get this deal, yet we have some out clauses here. If there’s not a shovel in the ground at a given point in time, we have the ability to walk away. … But I sit here today as optimistic as I was three years ago that football will return to Los Angeles.”

    On cord cutting, Kaplan said he wasn’t concerned about the immediate future, but about what will happen in five or 10 years. He added, “What is concerning is there’s a subset of consumers we’re having trouble doing business with today. Those are people just graduating from college. They seem to be OK with a Netflix solution and watching some sports at a bar. … The onus is on the industry to evolve and create lower priced offerings that can compete with Netflix. The good news is sports does keep people in the pay ecosystem. There is some time to figure it out, but it’s going to be a challenge over the next five years.”

  • 2014 IAS: NBA, partners on creating better experiences through sports and technology

    Spotlight NBA

    Chris Burton, SAP
    Emilio Collins, NBA
    Maria Dincel, Cisco
    Steve Gaffney, Sprint

    Friday’s “Spotlight NBA” panel at the ’14 Intersport Activation Summit brought together the league and three of its most significant technology partners on stage. The discussion centered on how those partners – Cisco, SAP and Sprint – are working with the NBA to give fans unprecedented access to information and content both in arenas and at home. SAP Group VP/Global Sponsorships Chris Burton discussed the company’s partnership with the NBA, in which it powers the league’s comprehensive online stats database. Burton: “We said, ‘What are your priorities and how can technology help you achieve those priorities?’ And they talked about providing more information to the fans. ... The league had that vision. What we were able to do was use our technology to help simplify the delivery of that vision.” Cisco Head of Global Sponsorships & Olympic Games Maria Dincel touted the brand’s collaboration with the NBA in implementing StadiumVision – a system that fans access on their mobile devices that offers access to everything from highlights to venue maps to post-game transit schedules – in Barclay’s Center, Oracle Arena and Staples Center. Sprint VP/Corporate Marketing Steve Gaffney touched on the brand’s NBA GameTime application, in-arena wireless networks and its partnerships with individual players like Thunder F Kevin Durant.

    ONUS ON OWNERS? The common thread between the three brands’ initiatives is the need for teams’ facilities to be equipped with the latest technological infrastructure. Dincel and Burton both pointed to team owners to keep the in-arena experience moving forward. Dincel: “We need the teams and the owners to take that next leap of faith and to invest in that. The NBA is an advocate and evangelizes best practices for the teams. ... We need to get them past that threshold. It’s a must-have. ... Now it’s a demand. It has to be. We need to get everyone on the same playing field. ... Everyone’s got to step up and play the game or they’re going to lose ticket sales.” Burton: “It really does start with the ownership because they look at the profit-loss statements and say, ‘Do we make this investment? Do we go paperless? Do we have the bandwidth?’ ... You have to have the connectivity. It’s the connectivity, it’s the infrastructure ... and there has to be one digital experience when you get into these venues.” NBA Exec VP/Global Marketing Partnerships Emilio Collins said that there is no need for the league to push its teams to stay on the cutting edge. Collins: “Fans are really using it, they’re demanding it and it will continue to grow. ... We don’t have to tell our owners what they have to do. They know what they have to do to continue to advance the fan experience.” Gaffney: “If you create a single experience, you set an expectation. And that experience has to be duplicated, replicated every other time that individual encounters or engages in that game experience. So if I go to Barclay’s and I have an amazing experience – great Wi-Fi, great connectivity, StadiumVision – every single venue I go to from that day forward, I have the expectation that that should be what my experience is. It’s not easy and it’s expensive to deploy it.”

    DYNAMIC DEALS: With technology advancing as quickly as it is, all three brand execs stressed the importance of flexibility in their agreements with sports properties. Gaffney even said that he would like to see more mid-deal tweaks in the NBA partnership. Gaffney: “On day one you hammer out a deal that has very specific rights and very specific limitations. ... I would love to know that we would constantly revisit over the course of a deal: working, not working, more important, less important. The levers need to be pulled. The league isn’t static, but the league’s business is not changing as aggressively as some of our businesses are changing.” Burton echoed the sentiment, saying, “I’m going to put my chips on that ‘Let’s reevaluate as we go along.” Collins responded, saying, “We pride ourselves on that, on making sure that we continue to reevaluate where we are. ... Everyone’s business is changing incredibly fast with the pace of technology today, and ours is, as well. ... We have to make sure we can constantly have that fluidity.”

    SILVER STAR: All four panelists touched on how smooth the transition from Commissioner David Stern to his successor Adam Silver has been. Burton: “I think we see his commitment to technology, and we knew that was coming. ... So we believe it’s a really unique opportunity to reach our two priorities: first and foremost global ... and also technology and how it can take the sport to the next level.” Dincel: “He’s all about innovation, he always has been. ... He’s supportive of how it’s going to move the game forward.” Gaffney: “It’s been completely seamless for us. ... We’re very anxious for Adam’s vision to be fully articulated.”

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